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Supreme Court overturns Andersen Enron conviction

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court Tuesday overturned the conviction of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm for destroying documents related to the Enron collapse, citing faulty jury instructions. According to the Court, the instructions failed to convey properly the elements of a "corrup[t] persuas[ion]" conviction; specifically, the instructions did not convey the requisite state of consciousness. Read the opinion in Andersen v. US [backgrounder from Duke Law]. Bloomberg has more.

In another unanimous ruling Tuesday the Court held in Cutter v. Wilkinson [backgrounder from Duke Law] that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) [official website] gives Congress the power to require officials of state and local prisons and jails to find ways to allow prisoners to practice their religious beliefs. The unanimous opinion, however, relates only to the facial challenge, allowing prison officials to challenge an inmate's religious expression in the future as undermining safety or discipline among prisoners. Read the opinion. AP has more.

Finally, in Tory v. Cochran [backgrounder from Duke Law] the Court voted 7-2 to strike down an order in a libel case permanently forbidding public comments and picketing against Johnnie L. Cochran as it was overly broad. Substituting Cochran with his wife in the suit, the Court found Cochran's death did not render the issue moot. Read the opinion.

The Court also granted certiorari Tuesday in Kansas v. Marsh [Kansas Supreme Court opinion] on the constitutionality of Kansas' death penalty law. The main issue raised on appeal is whether an even balance between mitigating and aggrevating circumstances bars the death sentence. The Court also added two procedureal questions; does it have jurisdiction to review the Kansas Supreme Court decision and whether the state court's ruling was based on state law and thus immune to review. Reuters has more. Read the Court's full Order List [PDF].

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