The U.S. Supreme Court Is Set to Hear Two Very Important Criminal Trials
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear two very important criminal cases in October; one involving the question of whether it is legal for a state to do away with the insanity defense, and the other examining whether the 14th Amendment confers one’s federal Sixth Amendment rights to an impartial (unanimous) jury verdict in state cases. The outcome of both of these cases will have significant impacts on defendants’ rights in criminal trials.
Kahler v. Kansas
The first case – Kahler v. Kansas– is a homicide case involving a defendant – Kraig Kahler – who murdered his two daughters, ex-wife, and ex-mother-in-law, and who was sentenced to death in 2009 as a result. Kahler could not assert the insanity defense as an affirmative defense during his trial because he was barred from doing so by a Kansas statute, which eliminates the defense. As a result, Kahler now argues that his eighth (cruel and unusual punishment) and 14th amendment (due process) rights were violated because he was unable to tell the difference between right and wrong when he committed these crimes. Kansas has responded that, although it has technically eliminated the insanity defense, its statute is still constitutional because it still allows defendants to present evidence of a mental defect or disease, thus allowing mentally ill defendants to be considered exempt from criminal liability. Kansas has also gone on to state that it reasonably feels that individuals who intentionally kill others are culpable even if they do not know whether their actions are right or wrong.
A number of law professors, philosophers, and the American Bar Association have filed amicus briefs arguing that Kansas’ statute is unconstitutional and unfair, as mentally ill defendants can form intent to commit a crime while still being unable to tell the difference between right and wrong, and fair societies do not punish those who cannot understand the consequences of their actions.
Ramos v. Louisiana
The other case – Ramos v. Louisiana– involves the question of whether the 14th Amendment incorporates the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a unanimous jury verdict against the states. At the heart of the case is the fact that, while Louisiana did repeal its law that allowed criminal defendants to be convicted without a unanimous verdict from the jury (except in capital cases), the repeal only applied to crimes committed after 2018.
If You Have Been Arrested for A Crime, Contact Our North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorneys
The outcome of both of these cases will be crucial in securing common law protections for criminal defendants. If you have been charged with a crime, it is crucial that your constitutional rights are protected from the outset of the process. Contact our North Carolina criminal attorneys at the Hauter Law Firm, PC to find out about our experience serving clients accused of crimes.