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Supreme Court hears arguments on GPS tracking, prosecutorial misconduct

The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] in two cases on Tuesday. In US v. Jones [transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the court will decide whether the government's warrantless use of a global positioning systems (GPS) [JURIST news archive] tracking device on respondent's vehicle to monitor its movements on public streets violated the Fourth Amendment [text]. The government argued that under US v. Knotts [opinion text], a GPS tracker is as permissible as monitoring a car by using a beeper inside the car for tracking purposes. Respondent's attorney argued that placing the GPS in the car created a seizure of the vehicle: "You have an invasion of his possessory interest, placement on the car. Physical invasion of a possessory interest ... is more significant, has always been viewed by this Court as more invasive than mere video—mere visual surveillance."

In Smith v. Cain [transcript, PDF; JURIST report], formerly Smith v. Louisiana, the court heard the latest of several allegations of prosecutorial misconduct [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] out of the New Orleans District Attorney's office [official website], in this case whether a series of violations of case law violated Juan Smith's due process rights. Smith's attorney opened with an exhaustive list of impropriety in the case:

In Brady v. Maryland, this Court established the now-familiar principle that the prosecution must hand over all favorable material evidence to the defense before trial. This case presents a flagrant violation of that principle. The Orleans Parish district attorney's office produced almost no relevant evidence to the defense before Petitioner's trial, and Petitioner was convicted of first degree murder based solely on the testimony of a single eyewitness. Unbeknownst to the defense, however, that eyewitness had told the police on multiple occasions that he could not identify any of the perpetrators or, as he put it, that he would not know them if he saw them. The suppression of those statements alone justifies a new trial, but the district attorney's office in this case also engaged in the wholesale suppression of statements of numerous other witnesses, statements that further undermined the sole eyewitness identification of Petitioner and, more broadly, cast doubt on Petitioner's involvement and role in the shooting.
In response, the district attorney's office defended the charges and asserted that Smith's case was handled professionally. Juan Smith was convicted on five counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Smith's petition for review was denied by the Supreme Court of Louisiana [official website].

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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