Answer each discussion question thoroughly.
Discussion Question: The United States Supreme Court decides cases on as narrow of an issue as it can. This results in the need for additional litigation and in some cases results in rules that do not clearly fit together. Wouldn’t it be better if the Court took on the whole issue, such as search incident to arrest, and set forth comprehensive guidelines covered all frequently encountered situations?
Discussion Question: Federal Rule 403 allows a judge to exclude relevant evidence “if its probative value is substantially out-weighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by consideration of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.” Is this rule too vague? Does this rule vest too much discretion in the judge? Shouldn’t the defendant be allowed to introduce all relevant evidence of his/her innocence?
Discussion Question: Character is introduced at trial by calling a witness who testifies about a person’s reputation in the relevant community. The character witness summarizes what he/she has heard others say about the person in question. In another context, this might be called gossip. None of the people who the character witness is basing his/her opinion on testify in court; they are not under oath or subject to cross examination. Is this type of testimony sufficiently trustworthy to be allowed in a criminal case? Does the use of such secondhand evidence deprive the defendant of his/her right to confront his/her accusers?
Discussion Question: In the electronic age digital information is shared by many companies and government agencies. Hackers gain access to corporate databases and personal information. The Supreme Court has said that electronic monitoring devices that are in general use can be used by the police without a search warrant as long as they do not involve physical invasion of the home. Is the “reasonable expectation of privacy” still a viable standard to protect citizens from government intrusion? What standard would develop a better balance?
Terry v. Ohio allows officers to detain someone briefly for questioning if there is reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot. Should the police have the authority to take a more proactive role in crime prevention and intervene before the facts reach this level of suspicion?
In Kyllo v. United States the Supreme Court held that the Plain View Doctrine applies when officers use hi-tech equipment that is in general public use to conduct surveillance. In another case the court allowed the use of a technique that was in routine use. Both of these standards are rather vague and hard to apply. What would be a better standard that would help law enforcement determine whether they can legally use devices that enhance their five senses?
When Miranda was originally decided the normal police practice was to ask for an explicit waiver of the Miranda rights before beginning interrogation. More recent Supreme Court cases indicate that police may continue with the interrogation unless suspect invokes his/her rights if he/she understands the warnings. Discuss both sides of the issue of how a waiver should be obtained and decide which procedure is appropriate for the average citizen. Should the rule be different for the criminal who has been through the system before and is aware of his/her rights?
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