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The U.S. Supreme Court on June 19 and June 22 rendered the following decisions: The justices ruled unanimously that an out-of-court “excited utterance” made to a 911 operator is not testimonial and therefore can be admitted as evidence at trial. Davis v. Washington, No. 05-5224, and Hammon v. Indiana, No. 05-5705. However, statements made to police at a crime scene are testimonial and cannot be admitted at trial under the high court’s 2004 opinion, Crawford v. Washington, where the court said that the confrontation clause bars “admission of testimonial statements of a witness who did not appear at trial unless he was unavailable to testify, and the defendant had a prior opportunity for cross-examination.” A 911 operator ascertained from Michelle McCottry that she had been assaulted by her former boyfriend, Adrian Davis, who had just fled the scene. McCottry did not testify at Davis’ trial for felony violation of a domestic no-contact order, but the court admitted the 911 recording despite Davis’ objection, based on the Sixth Amendment’s confrontation clause. Davis was convicted. An intermediate appellate court affirmed, as did the Washington Supreme Court. Police responded to a reported domestic disturbance at the home of Amy and Hershel Hammon. Amy Hammon told them that nothing was wrong, but gave them permission to enter. Once inside, one officer kept Hershel Hammon in the kitchen while the other interviewed Amy elsewhere and had her complete and sign a battery affidavit. Amy Hammon did not appear at Hershel’s bench trial for domestic battery, but her affidavit was admitted over the defense’s objection that it had not been given the opportunity to cross-examine her. Hammon was convicted. An Indiana intermediate appellate court and the state high court affirmed. The justices affirmed in Davis but reversed in Hammon. Writing for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia said that statements are nontestimonial when the primary purpose of interrogation is to enable police to meet an ongoing emergency. But statements are testimonial when the purpose of the interrogation is to establish past events relevant to criminal prosecution. McCottry’s statements identifying Davis as her assailant were not testimonial, but were elicited to help police address an emergency. Amy Hammon’s statements were testimonial. The officer questioning her was seeking to determine what had happened. The purpose of the investigation was to investigate a possible crime. CRIMINAL LAW The justices ruled, 6-3, that California parolees can routinely be searched by police as a condition of their release from prison. They said that the 1996 law is a legitimate attempt by state officials to deal with a large population of repeat offenders who pose a danger the public. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, said that California has a “special governmental interest” to control its parolees, an interest that outweighs a parolee’s privacy. In California, most prisoners eventually receive parole. But before release, each parolee is required to consent in writing to searches by police during the term of their supervision. If they refuse, they are not allowed out of prison. Thomas said that parolees do not have any “expectation of privacy that society would recognize as legitimate” because of the danger posed by California’s large recidivist population. Samson v. California, 04-9728. Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter and Stephen Breyer dissented. The high court held, 7-2, that states can make it tougher for accused criminals to claim they were coerced into breaking the law. In an opinion written by Stevens, the justices ruled against a Texas woman who claimed her abusive boyfriend forced her to illegally buy him guns. The court looked at a single issue: whether the burden should have been on Keshia Dixon to show she was under duress or on the government to disprove it. The court said that criminal defendants must face that hurdle. The ruling clears the way for states to change their laws. Justices had been told that 29 states require their prosecutors to disprove a coercion defense. Justices Breyer and Souter dissented. Dixon v. U.S., No. 05-7053. HABEAS CORPUS In a 6-3 vote, the high court said that inmates must meet any filing deadlines in order to satisfy the requirement of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which requires that they exhaust administrative remedies before pursuing habeas corpus challenges to prison conditions. The ruling in Woodford v. Ngo, No. 05-416, written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., said that the exhaustion mandate includes satisfying all procedural rules. The justices said that because Viet Mike Ngo missed a state prison system deadline for grievances, he could not bring the federal court lawsuit. Ngo, who is serving a life sentence for murder, was barred from Bible study and from corresponding with a Catholic chapel volunteer after the alleged incidents at San Quentin State Prison in 2000. He attempted to file a grievance with prison officials, but he missed a 15-day deadline. Justices Stevens, Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented. IMMIGRATION By a vote of 8-1, the high court ruled that a change in federal immigration law in 1996 restricting the rights of aliens who return illegally to the United States after being deported does not apply retroactively. Fernandez-Vargas v. Gonzales, No. 04-1376. The court dealt a blow to some longtime illegal residents, upholding the deportation of a Mexican man who lived in the United States for 20 years. The justices said that Humberto Fernandez-Vargas, who was deported several times from the 1970s to 1981, is subject to a 1996 law Congress passed to streamline the legal process for expelling aliens who have been deported at least once before and returned. After his last deportation in 1981, Fernandez-Vargas returned to the United States, fathered a child, started a trucking company in Utah and eventually married his longtime companion, a U.S. citizen. See Page 1 for a story about the unanimous ruling in Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway v. White, No. 05-259, where the justices said that a worker complaining of retaliation on the job for reporting about bias may sue even if he or she has not been fired or denied promotion. Reassignment to a lesser job or suspension without pay can constitute retaliation, the court said. See Page 7 for a story on the high court’s 4-1-4 ruling in Rapanos v. U.S., No. 04-1034, and its companion case, Carabell v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, No. 04-1384, in which the splintered court rolled back coverage of the Clean Water Act, ruling that federal regulators had gone too far in protecting wetlands more than 10 miles from navigable waters.

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