Friday, January 28, 2005

This week in law and policy

Dog sniffs without suspicion of drug activity do not violate Fourth Amendment

The Court ruled that a person who is in possession of contraband has no reasonable expectation of privacy, thus rejecting the Illinois Supreme Court's ruling that a dog sniff performed without suspicion of possession enlarges a traffic stop into a drug investigation.
Accordingly, the use of a well-trained narcotics-detection dog —one that "does not expose noncontraband items that otherwise would remain hidden from public view," Place , 462 U.S., at 707 —during a lawful traffic stop, generally does not implicate legitimate privacy interests. In this case, the dog sniff was performed on the exterior of respondent’s car while he was lawfully seized for a traffic violation. Any intrusion on respondent ’s privacy expectations does not rise to the level of a constitutionally cognizable infringement.
Illinois v. Caballes, Supreme Court of the United States, Justice Stevens, January 24

Execution delayed despite Supreme Court ruling

The would-be first execution in New England in 45 years was delayed this morning despite a previous Supreme Court ruling allowing it to continue as questions were raised about possible conflicts of interest regarding his lawyer. Michael Ross, the convicted person originally scheduled to die at 2:01 this morning, has been trying to stop the process of appeal, insisting that he is prepared to die.

First convicted and sentenced to die in 1987 for four murders of women and girls, Ross eventually confessed to eight murders and stated that he often raped his victims before killing them. While Ross has stated that he wants his execution to continue so that victims' relatives can gain some measure of peace, opponents of the death penalty have claimed that he is simply masking the desire to commit suicide. While Ross did not support further appeals, his father and others argued that he was not mentally competent to waive his rights.

Elections in Iraq set for Sunday

Ahead of Jan. 30 elections, security measures in Iraq have escalated sharply. Baghdad's airport will close tomorrow, along with Iraq's borders with six neighboring countries. Driving between 7 pm and 6 am is now prohibited. On election day, Iraqi police and American military forces will guard polling places. Meanwhile, insurgents have attacked eight polling places; one attack in Khanaqin, a Kurdish town on the Iranian border 70 miles northeast of Baghdad, killed eight Iraqis. In addition, seven American soldiers were killed on Friday in the area around Baghdad.

Abu Ghraib updates

German federal prosecutor Kay Nehm may not pursue war crimes charges filed against US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The charges, filed on behalf of four Iraqi citizens, allege that he was aware of and approved the torture of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison facility in Iraq. The German press reports that charges may be pursued only if Germans are directly involved.

In Britain, an ongoing court martial revealed that a British soldier witnessed the torture at Abu Ghraib but failed to report it. The court martial involves three British soldiers accused of abusing and assaulting Iraqi prisoners. Meanwhile, the soldiers have accused their commanding officer of issuing orders for them to perform the acts of which they are accused.

Law reform will be taken up by Congress

Watch for tort reform and asbestos reform measures to come up for debate this week.

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