Legal News - Supremes hear 6th Amendment, campaign finance cases

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The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in Giles v. California, 07-6053, where the Court considered whether a criminal defendant can block the testimony of the person he allegedly killed if he did not kill her with the specific intent of preventing the witness from testifying. Dwayne Giles was convicted of first-degree murder for the death of his ex-girlfriend. He asserted that the killing was committed in self-defense, but the California court trying him admitted as evidence statements that the victim had previously given police that Giles had threatened to kill her. Giles is arguing that allowing the previous statements as evidence violated his constitutional rights under the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause. Giles' lawyers maintain that a defendant only forfeits his right to confront a deceased witness if the prosecution shows the defendant killed the witness with the specific intent of preventing their testimony. State prosecutors counter that the statements should be admissible under equitable principles of the forfeiture by wrongdoing doctrine if the defendant murdered the victim. Several Supreme Court justices seemed reluctant to grant such a broad exception to a defendant's right to confront his or her accuser.

The Supreme Court also heard oral arguments Tuesday in Davis v. Federal Election Commission, 07-320, on the constitutionality of the so-called millionaire's amendment, part of a 2002 campaign finance law that allows political candidates to accept larger contributions from supporters if an opponent is able to finance his campaign with his own money. New York Democratic Congressional candidate Jack Davis challenged the law, saying it violates his First Amendment rights. A three-judge panel of the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in August 2007 that the law, which is intended to ensure that independently wealthy candidates do not unfairly dominate elections, did not infringe Davis' right to free speech.

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