Several criminal law cases are on the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket as the 2005-6 term begins next Monday, reports Lawyers Weekly USA. The opening of the term marks John Roberts’ first as chief justice, replacing the late William Rehnquist. A White House nomination to replace the retiring Sandra Day O’Connor is due soon. In one of them, the question is whether an officer’s comment to a defendant about talking to the police after he has invoked his right to counsel constitute “interrogation” in violation of the Miranda ruling, even if the defendant later waived his right to counsel? The court will review a decision from Maryland’s highest court suppressing Leeander Jerome Blake’s statement to police. James Tomkovicz, a criminal law and procedure professor at the University of Iowa College of Law, said a waiver of Miranda rights under these circumstances is clearly suspicious. “The law is clear: if a suspect invokes the right to counsel, the government cannot interrogate him, but also may not initiate interrogation,” he explained.
Another case raises the issue of whether one spouse can give valid consent for a police search of the common areas of the marital residence when the other spouse is present and objects? The Court will review a Georgia Supreme Court decision invalidating a search and suppressing the evidence seized. The defendant, Scott Fitz Randolph,and his wife had equal authority to give consent for a search of the home. The wife agreed, but the defendant, who was also present, refused. The police went ahead with the search. Another case asks whether a businesswoman can pursue a civil lawsuit against the U.S. government for violating her Fifth Amendment rights when her office computers were seized and damaged. Susan Hallock operated a business out of her home. Federal customs agents involved in a child pornography investigation of her husband obtained a search warrant for the premises. The agents seized the plaintiff’s business computers. When the allegations against the plaintiff’s husband proved unfounded, the government returned the computers. Several were unusable, and business records on others had been irretrievably lost due to damaged hard disk drives. As a result, the plaintiff was forced to close her business. She sued the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act for the negligent destruction of her property. A federal judge dismissed the claim.