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Supreme Court considers insanity defense, will rehear 'knock and announce' case

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday heard oral arguments in Clark v. Arizona [Duke law case backgrounder; merits briefs], 05-5966, a case in which the Court will decide the constitutionality of Arizona statutes governing insanity defenses in criminal cases. In June 2000 at the age of 17, Eric Clark, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, shot and killed police officer Jeff Moritz because he allegedly believed that Moritz was an extraterrestrial. Clark was subsequently convicted of first-degree murder. The trial court prevented Clark from introducing evidence that he did not "knowingly and intentionally" commit the crime and ruled that it could only admit the evidence as part of an affirmative insanity defense. The court also held that the evidence did not satisfy the burden for an affirmative insanity defense, which requires defendants to prove that they "did not know the criminal act was wrong." The trial court's ruling was upheld on appeal [decision, PDF].

Clark's lawyers argued that the narrow standard for an affirmative insanity defense and the trial court's refusal to admit the evidence to negate mens rea both violated Clark's constitutional rights to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. State attorneys contend that the Arizona laws ensure that defendants are prosecuted for their crimes and argued against ruling in favor of a right to an insanity defense under the constitution. During arguments, the justices focused heavily on the particular facts of the case and could hand down a narrow ruling that will apply only to Clark, avoiding a decision which could require states to revisit their insanity defense statutes. AP has more.

Also Wednesday, the Court announced that it will rehear arguments in Hudson v. Michigan [Duke law case backgrounder; merits briefs], 04-1360, where police officers with a search warrant entered Hudson's home without first knocking and announcing their presence. Federal circuit and state courts are split on whether evidence seized after a violation of the Fourth Amendment "knock and announce" rule should be suppressed under the exclusionary rule or whether the inevitable discovery doctrine permits the evidence to be used at trial. Oral arguments were originally heard [JURIST report] in January while Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was on the court, and the rehearing is probably for the benefit of her replacement, Justice Samuel Alito. Reuters has more.

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