The First Amendment cases sit atop the Supreme Court docket as the apex court prepares to begin a new term with a new judge on board. It is also the first time that the Supreme Court would have three women on the bench.
One of the lawsuits that the Supreme Court is set to hear involves anti-gay protests at a military funeral, wherein both the sides argue that their First Amendment rights must be allowed to prevail upon the rights of the opposite party under the same Amendment.
Matthew A. Snyder, was killed during the combat operations in Al Anbar Province in Iraq, and was being cremated when the members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka picketed Snyder's contending that it was America's tolerant attitude towards homosexuality that brought God's wrath upon the nation resulting in deaths and misery.
Snyder argues his rights to free exercise of religion and assembly, whereas the Westboro church counters it with its own right to free speech.
Another case that the Supreme Court is set to hear, centers around a different aspect of the First Amendment - the Separation of Church and State. The Supreme Court has been called upon to decide whether Arizona's income tax credit scholarship program actually has the effect of directing State money to religious schools in contravention of the doctrine of Separation of Church and State enshrined in the First Amendment.
It has been noted that under Chief Justice John Roberts the apex court has been leaning towards blurring of the line separating government and religion so long as the State action does not smack of preferential treatment to one religion over another.
Court blocks execution amidst lethal drug shortage
In an unusual situation, the unavailability of the drug used in lethal injection together with the State Supreme Court's blocking the execution to consider the legality of death penalty by lethal injection has effectively deferred the execution of a California prisoner to next year, if not any further.
In 1982, Albert Greenwood Brown, who has a criminal history, was sentenced to death for raping and killing 15-year-old Susan Jordan. After raping and killing Jordan he placed a call on her mother to tell that she would never see her daughter again. He was convicted on February 4, 1982. However, it was not Brown's first conviction. He had been previously found guilty of raping a 14-year-old girl and was convicted on May 4, 1978 with a sentence of four years in State prison. However, he was released on parole on June 14, 1980.
The delay in the execution has aroused quite a lot of dissatisfaction in the family of the victim. "The appeals process in California has proven to be nothing more than a never-ending war of attrition against justice and the rights of victims and their families," Karen Jordan Brown, the sister of the victim reportedly said. "The distress that this process has brought upon the Jordan family is profound and unfathomable, but has only tempered our convictions in favor of capital punishment," she added.
The Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger was approached for with a clemency plea, which was declined by the Governor, who said, "Albert Brown was sentenced to death for committing the most heinous and unconscionable crimes. He was convicted and sentenced to death by a jury of his peers, and now 30 years later the State is still unable to carry out his execution. It is absurd that our legal system continues to prevent the State from carrying out the will of the people."
Canada SC upholds conviction in child murder case
Mothers, even stepmothers, are not often as cruel as Marcia Dooley turned out to be. And the Canadian Supreme Court was in no mood to interfere with the convictions of Marcia and her husband for the second-degree murder of their son, Randal Dooley, in one of Canada's worst child-abuse cases.
Seven-year-old Dooley died in September, 1998, from a brain injury, which was most likely caused by either a hard blow to the head or a good deal of shaking that he might have gotten from his stepmother. Dooley had bruises all over with 13 fractured ribs, a damaged liver, four brain injuries and a broken tooth that was found in his stomach. A jury trial was held resulting in the convictions of both Tony and Marcia Dooley in 2002.
The little fellow had come to Canada to live with his father just 11 months before. The couple had argued before the Ontario Court of Appeal that they should be granted a new trial because the trial judge failed to instruct the jury in a manner that would ensure the impartiality and unprejudiced approach of the jury members. The duo was referring to the use of expressions such as "cruel stepmother" and "worst case of a battered child in Canadian penal history", which, in their opinion prejudiced the jury against them resulting in a verdict based more on emotion than evidence.
The Supreme Court was not impressed by the argument and dismissed the appeal without giving reasons, which is not unusual.