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Supreme Court takes 17 cases for October Term 2007

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday granted certiorari [orders list, PDF] in 17 cases for the October Term 2007, among them notable cases dealing with lethal injection, voter ID laws and subsequently seized evidence. In Baze v. Rees (07-5439) [docket; cert. petition], the Court will consider whether lethal injections of death row inmates constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. At issue is the three-drug mixture [DPIC backgrounder] of an anesthetic, a muscle paralyzer and a substance to stop the heart used in Kentucky and 36 other states. Opponents of the method claim that it does not contain enough anesthetic to relieve pain; however, the Kentucky Supreme Court in upholding the injection [JURIST report] last November ruled that the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment does not ban all pain. Last week, a federal judge in Tennessee held [JURIST report] that the state's execution protocols, which use the same three-drug cocktail, violate the Eighth Amendment because they do not ensure that prisoners are properly anesthetized before they receive a lethal injection. AP has more.

In two other cases, the Court will hear challenges to the constitutionality of Indiana's controversial voter identification statute [Indiana SOS backgrounder, PDF] that requires voters to present photo identification as a prerequisite to voting. The cases, Crawford v. Marion City Election Board (07-21) [docket; cert. petition], and Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita (07-25) [docket; cert. petition], pit those who believe the law prevents voter fraud against opponents who believe the legislation makes it difficult for minorities and impoverished voters to participate in elections. In January, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld [JURIST report] the law, ruling that it does not put an undue burden on the right to vote and therefore does not violate the US Constitution. The US Supreme Court confronted the issue of voter ID laws last term. In October 2006, the Court ruled in a per curiam opinion [PDF text] that Arizona could enforce its voter ID law [JURIST report], which requires voters to show government-issued voter ID cards [JURIST news archive] at the polls. Last month, a federal judge held [JURIST report] that the same Arizona voter ID law did not operate as an illegal poll tax. AP has more.

In Virginia v. Moore (06-1082) [docket; cert. petition], the Court will consider whether a court must suppress evidence seized after an arrest that violated state law. The Virginia Supreme Court ruled that David Lee Moore, who was arrested on a suspended license charge, should have been released and issued a summons, making the subsequent search, which turned up crack cocaine, illegal and all evidence inadmissible. Other state courts have held that subsequently seized evidence does not have to be suppressed. AP has more.

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