Supreme Court hears hallucinogenic tea, police interrogation cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments in two cases Tuesday, with newly appointed Chief Justice John Roberts [JURIST news archive] taking an active role in both. Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal [Duke Law backgrounder] involves a religious dispute over the use of hallucinogenic tea used by a small Brazil-based church. While the church maintains that the tea is part of its communion ritual, the Bush administration argues that the tea, which contains an illegal drug called DMT, violates a federal narcotics law and a US treaty which promised to block the importation of DMT. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor seemed skeptical of the government position in exchanges with attorneys, but as she's retiring pending the appointment of a replacement she may not ultimately have a say in the eventual decision. AP has more. The second case, Maryland v. Blake [Duke Law backgrounder], is expected to lay out guidelines for authorities during police interrogations when the suspect talks without waiting for a lawyer. Leeander Jerome Blake, charged with murder, claims he suffered from police abuse when he was tricked into answering questions without his lawyer. In oral argument Tuesday, Justice Anthony Kennedy seemed unpersuaded by Blake's position that improper questioning, once started, could be later corrected. The outcome of this case will clarify how much discretion authorities have to interrogate a suspect who reinitiates questioning without counsel present. AP has more.



 

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