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The U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 17 refused to allow the Bush administration to pursue a $280 billion penalty against tobacco companies on claims that it had misled the public about the dangers of smoking. United States v. Philip Morris, No. 05-92. The case concerns the amount of money the companies would have to pay if the federal judge who has presided over the nine-month trial rules that the companies violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The government has said that the $280 billion is an estimate of money that the companies earned illegally through fraudulent activities. The defendants in the lawsuit are Philip Morris USA Inc. and its parent, Altria Group Inc.; R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co.; British American Tobacco Ltd.; Lorillard Tobacco Co.; Liggett Group Inc.; and the Tobacco Institute. The justices have also cleared the way for a Missouri prison inmate to terminate her pregnancy, ruling that Missouri corrections officials must drive the woman to a clinic to have the procedure. Crawford v. Roe, No. 05-A333. Missouri’s law forbids the spending of tax dollars to facilitate an abortion, but a federal judge had ruled that the prison system in Missouri was blocking the woman from exercising her rights. Justice Clarence Thomas had issued a temporary stay of the judge’s order, but the justices’ ruling upholding the judge’s order was unanimous. The justices declined to consider reversing an 8th Circuit order revoking a former Nazi concentration camp guard’s U.S. citizenship, thus opening the way for his deportation. Friedrich v. United States, No. 05-345. The 8th Circuit found that Romanian-born Adam Friedrich, a retired St. Louis clothing manufacturing worker, had not revealed his past, including participation in death marches of Jewish prisoners, when he applied for U.S. citizenship. The justices said that death row inmates do not automatically have a right to a jury trial to determine whether they are mentally retarded and therefore ineligible for execution. Schriro v. Smith, No. 04-1475. In 2002, the justices barred executions of the mentally retarded, but left it up to states to determine whether inmates are retarded. In an unsigned opinion, the justices reiterated that states have discretion to set up their own systems. The decision overturns a 9th Circuit ruling that said that Arizona death row inmate Robert Smith was entitled to a jury trial on his claims that he is mentally retarded. Smith is on death row for the 1980 murder of a mentally ill woman who had asked him for a ride to the food stamp office in Tucson, Ariz. Also on Oct. 17, the Supreme Court agreed to review the constitutionality of a Washington firearm-enhancement law. After assaulting his wife while holding a gun, Arturo Recuenco was found guilty by a jury of assault with a deadly weapon. Upon sentencing, however, the trial court added a sentence enhancement based on Recuenco’s use of firearm. An intermediate appellate court affirmed the sentence, but the Washington Supreme Court vacated the sentence, finding that the enhancement violated Recuenco’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. Washington v. Recuenco, No. 05-83.

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