The U.S. Supreme Court announced its fall agenda on Tuesday. As expected, California’s Proposition 8 was not among the cases the High Court will take up in its first session. Neither was the Defense of Marriage Act.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held up a lower court decision that overturned Proposition 8, which eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry. Georgetown Law School Professor Mike Seidman says the Supreme Court could still consider Prop 8 later in the year. He says there are four justices "who really, really, really want to reverse the 9th Circuit on this."
The Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman and denies federal spousal benefits to those in same sex unions, could also be taken up later. The High Court only released its scheduled cases through Nov. 7.
Justices will consider three other California cases this fall. On the first Wednesday of October, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Tara Williams, who was 20 years old in 1993 when she drove the getaway car during a Long Beach liquor store robbery. One of her companions shot and killed the clerk. She denied knowing about the plan to rob the store.
The jury deadlocked after two days of deliberations. The jury foreman told the judge one juror was holding out, saying there wasn't enough evidence to convict Williams of murder and mentioned cases where juries rejected laws they thought were unjust. The judge talked to the juror, who denied the allegations of the jury foreman. The judge agreed with the prosecutor and dismissed the juror. The jury agreed on a guilty verdict the next day. Williams was sentenced to life in prison.
Williams appealed, saying her Sixth Amendment rights to an impartial jury were violated.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned both her conviction and the life sentence, saying the Sixth Amendment guarantees a juror's "freedom to deliberate without coercion." Judge Stephen Reinhardt said a stubborn juror can't be removed if there's a "reasonable possibility" the deadlock is due to a difference of opinion about the evidence. The High Court will now weigh in.
The court will also hear California cases that ask whether a burglary is a “serious felony” for purposes of calculating additional penalties under federal law, and whether the L.A. River, in its concrete channel, is “navigable” under the Clean Water Act.