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Professor Joel S. Johnson, "Supreme Court Cases of Interest" Fall 2023 -- ABA Criminal Justice Magazine

Professor Joel S. Johnson's fall 2023 installment of his quarterly column, "Supreme Court Cases of Interest" is published in the ABA Criminal Justice Magazine. The column previews pending Supreme Court criminal law and procedure cases.

From Supreme Court Cases of Interest:

Many of the term’s early decisions favored criminal defendants, but several later decisions came out on the side of the government. Those decisions were also some of the most significant. In United States v. Samia, the Court limited the scope of the Confrontation Clause’s protection against out-of-court statements by co-defendants that inculpate the defendant, diminishing the practical impact of the Court’s prior decisions on the topic. Under Bruton v. United States, the admission of such a statement is not allowed if it specifically names the defendant. Under Gray v. Maryland, the same rule applies when the prosecution has merely redacted the defendant’s name from the statement. In a 6-3 decision in Samia, the Court held that those precedents did not prevent prosecutors from altering the statement by changing the defendant’s name to the generic term “other person.” The majority concluded that Bruton was satisfied because the statement did not contain the defendant’s name and that Gray was satisfied because a replacement term was used instead of a blank space. In a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Sotomayor and Jackson, Justice Kagan accused the Court of “elevating form over substance” to “permit[] an end-run around” Bruton and Gray. Writing separately, Justice Jackson criticized the majority for “invert[ing]” the analysis by treating the Confrontation Clause’s protection as the exception rather than the default rule. The Court’s holding in Samia is narrow because it did not overrule Bruton or Gray. But it will sap those holdings of practical significance, making joint trials significantly easier for prosecutors.

The complete column may be found at American Bar Association