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Supreme Court hears blame-shifting evidence case

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments Wednesday in Holmes v. South Carolina [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], a case in which it will decide whether state courts can preclude defendants from presenting evidence that inculpates others for their crimes in capital trials. Holmes, who allegedly beat, robbed, raped, and murdered 86-year-old Mary Stewart, attempted to present evidence that pointed to a different perpetrator, but the Supreme Court of South Carolina [official website] prevented him, ruling that the prosecution’s forensic evidence prevents a reasonable inference of the defendant’s innocence. Chief Justice John Roberts [OYEZ profile] and Justice Antonin Scalia [OYEZ profile] seemed to agree that states should be able to stop defendants from presenting such evidence because it may confuse the jury. Justice Samuel Alito [OYEZ profile] voiced concern about expanding the role of judges into deciding the merits of evidence and witnesses, which is the bailiwick of juries.

The Court also heard arguments Wednesday in a case about the Fourth Amendment rights of parolees. In Samson v. California [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], a police officer searched a parolee without a warrant and uncovered illegal substances. The defendant claims the search violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures since the officer only searched him because of his status as a parolee. AP has more.

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