A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Constitutional Law

Newt Gingrich Debates Constitutional Law

By LASIS Staff

At last night’s Republican debate, moderator Scott Pelley and presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich vehemently disagreed about whether or not the killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was lawful.

LASIS recently published two pieces on this very subject, with our own authors disagreeing vehemently, themselves.

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Can a Murderer be Convicted After He was Acquitted Without Violating the Law Against Double Jeopardy?

By Jeremy Potter

On April 9, a military court found Army Master Sgt. Timothy Hennis guilty of murdering Kathryn Eastburn and her two daughters, ages three and five.  Eastburn was raped and all three were stabbed to death in their home just outside Fort Bragg, NC, while father and husband Gary Eastburn, an officer in the Air Force, was deployed at officers training in Alabama.

Hennis had adopted the Eastburn family dog two days before the murders; he was identified by an eyewitness in the original trial and convicted for the triple-homicide and sentenced to death in 1986.  Three years later, he was acquitted on appeal.

A free man, Hennis returned to the Army, eventually serving in Operation Desert Storm; he retired in 2004.  DNA evidence that was not available in the 1980s came to light in 2006, when authorities were able to match the DNA of the stored sample Hennis had voluntarily provided.

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Why Bin Laden Might Not Need Miranda’s “Right to Remain Silent”

By the LASIS Staff

On April 14, CNN’s political ticker noted that Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee that there was no need to read Miranda rights to Osama Bin Laden upon his capture because there already exists enough evidence against the al Qaeda leader to convict him at trial.

Miranda rights, of course, are the “right to remain silent” and the “right to an attorney” that, if you watch TV cop shows, a police officer grunts victoriously into a suspect’s ear as the officer cuffs the perp and slams him against the hood of his patrol car. This is purely for entertainment and dramatic effect; a criminal suspect doesn’t need to be read his Miranda rights until law enforcement has placed him under arrest and is ready to question him about his alleged crimes. If law enforcement never plans to question a suspect, then the suspect never has to be read his Miranda rights. (For a more complete explanation about how Miranda warnings work, check out the helpful NOLO guide here.)

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Remembering Justice Stevens’ Role in New York City’s War Against XXX-Rated Entertainment

By Adam Rich

Perhaps you don’t associate retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens with prurient indulgence, but back in the summer of 1998, he was the hero of New York City’s adult entertainment business.

The New York Times recently recalled that Scores, the infamous “gentleman’s club,” paid tribute that year by renaming its Champagne Room the John Paul Stevens Room. Stevens earned the honor after he handed the City’s adult industry a rare (and temporary) legal win in its war of attrition with then Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

But other than noting that the City eventually won, the Times didn’t tell readers anything about the case.   The reporter even wrote that he was unable to confirm whether the Stevens Room lives on.

We flesh out the details.

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Politicians, Hot for Nullification, Skate on Legally Thin Ice

By Dominic Mauro

A recent New York Times article describes a new addition to the political playbook in many parts of the country: the declaration of state sovereignty over the federal government. Not even the most ambitious demagogue would try to assert complete sovereignty though. The last time some of us tried to break away from the federal government altogether, it didn’t go very smoothly. (Although the revolution went pretty well.)

This endorsement of states’ rights is hardly hollow, but it would probably be more accurate to say that disgruntled state officials have rediscovered an old playbook questioning the federal government’s constitutional authority. The Constitution is far from perfectly clear about where federal power ends and state power begins. The Times article notes that some have taken up residence in this constitutional vagary, proclaiming the proposition that the Tenth Amendment empowers individual states to deny federal authority. However, the Times neglects to point out that without exception, these claims are based on interpretations of constitutional law that can most charitably be described as “unique.”

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