Today in the Supreme Court
In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court decided today that a lawyer in a death penalty case who concedes her client's guilt during the trial's guilt phase (at least when evidence of guilt is overwhelming) in order to preserve her credibility in making a case against death during the penalty phase does not automatically fail to provide the effective assistance of counsel required by the Sixth Amendment. A syllabus of the decision in Florida v. Nixon is here (pdf).
The Court also decided that the reasonableness of an officer's use of deadly force was sufficiently murky (in light of Fourth Amendment precedent in existence in 1999) to shield the officer from a lawsuit. The officer shot a man in the back as he was attempting to elude an arrest for drug offenses and property crimes. In a per curiam opinion, with only Justice Stevens dissenting, the Court held that the officer was immune from suit, regardless of whether the shooting was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment (a question the Court unhelpfully chose not to decide), because the law was insufficiently clear to place the officer on notice that he shouldn't have killed the fleeing man. The decision is here (pdf).
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