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Supreme Court 2016 term: Criminal appeals, racial questions, one empty chair




The courtroom of he U.S. Supreme Court  is seen September 30, 2016 in Washington, DC.
The courtroom of he U.S. Supreme Court is seen September 30, 2016 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

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In a rare departure from recent years, the Supreme Court will hear several appeals focused on criminal  prosecutions within the first weeks of its new term.

Among the high profile criminal cases is Buck v. Davis. Stemming from Texas, the originating death penalty trial included an expert witness, presented by the defense, who said black men are more likely to present a risk of future danger. The high court is being asked to consider whether Buck may challenge his death sentence based on the ineffectiveness of his trial lawyer.

The court will also weigh racial bias among jurors in Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado. Plus, the standard for mental competency in death penalty cases will be argued in Moore v. Texas.

Recently granted cases include Lee v. Tam, which features a rock group known as The Slants whose right to patent their name is being challenged because of the corresponding racial slur, and Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District in which parents want a higher level of free education for their autistic child.

Guest:

Margaret Russell, Professor of Law at Santa Clara University. Her areas of expertise include constitutional law and the Supreme Court