U.S. Supreme Court denies new trial to Mich. killer - Supreme Court Justice Warns Law Is Now In "Shambles" Over New Ruling

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U.S. Supreme Court denies new trial to Mich. killer - Supreme Court Justice Warns Law Is Now In "Shambles" Over New Ruling

Post  jesuitsdidit2 on Tue Mar 01, 2011 8:02 pm



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http://www.freep.com/article/20110301/NEWS01/103010364/U-S-Supreme-Court-denies-new-trial-Mich-killer


U.S. Supreme Court denies new trial to Mich. killer
5:22 AM, Mar. 1, 2011

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court reversed on Monday a ruling in which the Michigan Supreme Court had ordered a new murder trial for a man convicted in a 2001 shooting in Detroit.

Prosecutors had appealed the state Supreme Court's ruling that Richard Bryant deserved a new trial in the death of Anthony Covington.

The Michigan court had determined that police should not have been allowed to testify at Bryant's trial that Covington had identified him as the shooter.

Because Covington was dead, Bryant's lawyers did not have the ability to question that secondhand testimony, the state court found -- a violation of a suspect's right to confront his accuser.

But in Monday's 6-2 majority opinion (with Justice Elena Kagan not taking part), Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that Covington's statements to police -- given to them at a gas station parking lot in Detroit as he was dying -- weren't intended as hearsay testimony but had as their primary purpose "to enable police assistance to meet an ongoing emergency."

When "the police responded to the call that a man had been shot and found Covington bleeding on the gas station parking lot, 'they did not know who Covington was, whether the shooting had occurred at the gas station or at a different location, who the assailant was, or whether the assailant posed a continuing threat,' " Sotomayor wrote, quoting the argument made by the state in its appeal.

The majority found that since the statements were in response to what could have been a continuing public safety emergency, they did not run afoul of the constitution's confrontation clause.

In a blistering dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said the majority's "vain attempt to make the incredible plausible ... distorts our Confrontation Clause jurisprudence and leaves it in a shambles."

Covington, Scalia said, knew that the shooting had ended at Bryant's home and that "the shooting was the work of a drug dealer, not a spree killer who might randomly threaten others."

Scalia wrote, "Because almost 90% of murders involve a single victim ... I think it is certain ... that the officers viewed their encounter with Covington for what it was: an investment into a past crime with no ongoing or immediate consequences."

According to the state Corrections Department, Bryant, 40, remains at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson on a second-degree murder charge. His earliest release date is in 2028.
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