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Supreme Court hears arguments on false claims of military honors

The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] in two cases on Tuesday. In United States v. Alvarez [transcript; JURIST report], the court heard arguments on the constitutionality of the Stolen Valor Act (SVA) [text]. Xavier Alvarez was convicted under the SVA in 2007 after he announced at a public water district board meeting that he was a retired Marine and had received the Congressional Medal of Honor. His attorney argued that that the law criminalized, at its base, a white lie: "The Stolen Valor Act criminalizes pure speech in the form of bare falsity, a mere telling of a lie. It doesn't matter whether the lie was told in a public meeting or in a private conversation with a friend or family member. And the law punishes false claims to a military award regardless of whether harm results or even is likely to result in an individual case." The Solicitor General argued that the law was narrowly drawn to protect the substantial government interest of upholding the standard of military honors. Since the case came before the court out of a Ninth Circuit decision striking down the law, there has been a Tenth Circuit decision [JURIST reports] that upheld the law. JURIST assistant editor Kimberly Bennett analyzed the act [JURIST op-ed] and also argued that it is unconstitutional.

The court also considered Blueford v. Arkansas [transcript, PDF; JURIST report] to decide whether the Double Jeopardy [Cornell LII backgrounder] clause prevents the re-prosecution of a greater offense if a jury deadlocks on a lesser-included offense. Alex Blueford's attorney contends that jeopardy attaches to all of the jury's determinations, even if dead-locked on one. He argued that the foreperson's announcement establishes the verdict, and thus is what jeopardy attaches to. When the foreperson announced Blueford was not guilty on capital murder, it implied not guilty on all charges, even though the jury was dead-locked on first degree murder. He also argued that there was no "manifest necessity" to try on the same charges. The state of Arkansas argued that since the jury was free to re-visit the charges after dead-lock, clearly double jeopardy did not attach.

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About Paper Chase

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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