The Supreme Court, which last week let illegally coerced confessions sometimes be used at criminal trials, Monday let stand the convictions of four men whose appeals raised related issues.
The justices, without comment, refused to hear arguments that in each of the four cases lower courts wrongly applied a "harmless error" test to asserted violations of the defendant's constitutional rights.In its decision last Tuesday, the high court ruled that criminal defendants whose coerced confessions wrongly are used as evidence against them are not always entitled to new trials.
Three of the cases acted on Monday involved convicted murderers sentenced to die for their crimes.
In other action Monday:
- The court ruled prosecutors who exclude blacks as jurors because of their race violate the rights of white defendants. By a 7-2 vote, the justices ordered further lower court hearings for Larry Joe Powers, a white Ohio man convicted of two murders by a state court jury after seven blacks were excluded from serving on the jury.
- The court agreed to decide if a state can indefinitely institutionalize a one-time criminal suspect who was found not guilty by reason of insanity, but who is later deemed sane.
- The Supreme Court announced it will decide if the Immigration and Naturalization Service can bar aliens from working while they await the outcome of often lengthy deportation hearings.
The court will review a decision of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that an INS regulation that would have allowed the government to systematically bar most aliens from working during deportation proceedings - and jailing without bond those who violate the policy - overstepped the rights given the agency by Congress.
The court let stand a decision that a state was within its rights when it failed to prove its case at a civil hearing, but then held a criminal trial involving the same allegations.
The court refused to review a decision of the Washington State Court of Appeals allowing the state to file criminal charges that led to a child sexual abuse conviction after it failed to prove similar allegations in civil proceedings.