By Robert A. Vella
Here are additional key court rulings from this week:
From Daily Kos – California becomes the first state to ban secret jury deliberations when police use lethal force:
Will this end police brutality? No, but it’s a huge effin deal.
Gov. Jerry Brown just signed a law making California the first state in the country to ban the secretive grand jury process in cases where police use lethal force.
SB 227, authored by state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), makes California the first state to ban the use of grand juries to decide whether law enforcement should face criminal charges in use-of-force cases. The ban, which will go into effect next year, comes after grand juries failed to indict police officers who killed unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, last year, heightening scrutiny of the process.
Mitchell argues that the grand jury process, during which evidence is presented to a panel of civilians in secret, fosters a lack of trust in the system.
From the Washington Post – It’s unconstitutional to ban the homeless from sleeping outside, the federal government says:
We all need sleep, which is a fact of life but also a legally important point. Last week, the Department of Justice argued as much in a statement of interest it filed in a relatively obscure case in Boise, Idaho, that could impact how cities regulate and punish homelessness.
Boise, like many cities — the number of which has swelled since the recession — has an ordinance banning sleeping or camping in public places. But such laws, the DOJ says, effectively criminalize homelessness itself in situations where people simply have nowhere else to sleep.
Such laws, the DOJ argues, violate the Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment, making them unconstitutional. By weighing in on this case, the DOJ’s first foray in two decades into this still-unsettled area of law, the federal government is warning cities far beyond Boise and backing up federal goals to treat homelessness more humanely.
From CNN – Connecticut’s highest court overturns its death penalty:
On Thursday, the Connecticut Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional, sparing the lives of the two killers and nine other convicts who were on death row when the state abolished capital punishment in 2012.
Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes were sentenced to death for the slayings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her daughters, Michaela and Hayley.
In 2012, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bill into law that abolished the death penalty, making the state the 17th in the nation to abandon capital punishment and the fifth in five years to usher in a repeal. But inmates already on death row when the law passed were considered exempt from the law and could be executed.