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Abstract

The last Term of the Supreme Court addressed the constitutionally protected rights of criminal defendants not only at trial but at the post-conviction stage as well. The Court dealt with the defendant's rights to a speedy trial and effective assistance of counsel in Vermont v. Brillon; the claim was that these constitutional protections were substantially frustrated by underfunded public defender offices, thereby leaving the defendant improperly incarcerated for three years. The Court also considered a case wherein the State had utilized a jailhouse snitch to elicit inculpatory statements from a defendant in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Post conviction relief was a matter before the court; the defendant in In reDavis sought to challenge his conviction which was based on witnesses who had subsequently recanted. In District Attorney's Office v. Osborne, the defendant was seeking to conduct a new DNA test of the critical evidence in the case against him. Accountability of lab experts was at the forefront in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts. Lastly, in Baze v. Rees, the Court had held that the risk of pain from the maladministration of an otherwise humane three-drug cocktail method of lethal execution does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth amendment. Subsequent to Baze, the first single-drug lethal injection anywhere in the United States was administered in Ohio, thus stirring heated debate within the legal community. This context frames this Article's discussion of the Supreme Court's criminal law jurisprudence of the 2008 Term.

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