Supreme Court rules statement to jailhouse informant can be used for impeachment

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday ruled [opinion, PDF] 7-2 in Kansas v. Ventris [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that a defendant's statement made without a knowing and voluntary waiver of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel may be used for impeachment purposes. The defendant made statements to a jailhouse informant that were later used to impeach his credibility. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled [opinion text] that such statements may not be used for any purposes, including impeachment purposes. In overturning the decision below, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, "We have held in every other context that tainted evidence — evidence whose very introduction does not constitute the constitutional violation, but whose obtaining was constitutionally invalid — is admissible for impeachment. We see no distinction that would alter the balance here." Justice John Paul Stevens filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Court ruled [opinion, PDF] 7-2 in Dean v. United States [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that the accidental discharge of a firearm during the commission of a felony crime subjects a defendant to a 10-year minimum sentence for the crime. Under 18 USC § 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) [text], the increased sentence attaches when a firearm is discharged, but the defendant argued that there must also be some showing that the discharge was intentional. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that the defendant should be subjected to the 10-year minimum sentence requirement. In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court affirmed the decision below: "Section 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) requires no separate proof of intent. The 10-year mandatory minimum applies if a gun is discharged in the course of a violent or drug trafficking crime, whether on purpose or by accident." and Justice Stephen Breyer filed dissenting opinions.

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