Transgender immigrants face significant biases that raise the chance of deportation and detention. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project put together an excellent chart explaining just a few of the barriers transgender immigrants must surmount, including fewer paths to legal immigration and greater risk for unwarranted encounters with the police. Inside, see how our nation's immigration policies fail to treat all immigrants equally with the dignity and respect they deserve.
The irony existing in many state statutes regarding access
to post-conviction DNA testing is that they require the petitioner to prove
their innocence in order to gain access to the DNA evidence needed to prove
their innocence. This leads to the logical next question – if the petitioner
needs access to the DNA evidence to prove their innocence, how can they prove
it prior to gaining this access?
Six states are currently without statutes that allow
post-conviction access to DNA evidence. Of the forty-four states that do have
statutes, these statutes often create barriers to access. For example, some
statutes require the petitioner to present additional evidence of their
innocence while other statutes bar access to those who originally plead guilty
or create procedures that drag the hearing process out for years.
The Supreme Court now has the opportunity to weigh in on
post-conviction DNA testing and to set a standard for states to follow. On
November 3rd the Supreme Court granted certiorari to District Attorney’s Office for the Third
Judicial District v. Osborne. The state of Alaska is appealing the Ninth Circuit Court
of Appeals decision granting petitioner William Osborne the right to
post-conviction DNA testing.
Judges consider a variety of factors when determining
whether to admit evidence during the sentencing phase of a trial. Is the
evidence probative in value? What does the evidence tell the jury about the
circumstances of the crime? Is the evidence unfairly prejudicial to the
defendant? Are there due process implications? Answering these questions can be
exceptionally complicated when the evidence is some form of a “victim impact” statement. The
court must balance the need to inform the jury the extent of the harm caused by
the crime against the likelihood the impact will be purely emotional and
prejudicial to the defendant.
On November 11th, 2008, the Supreme Court decided
not to accept for review Kelly v. California and Zamudio v. California by denying
both cases certiorari. In doing so, the Court denied itself the
opportunity to provide lower courts with guidance as to what types of “victim
impact” evidence may be put before jurors during the sentencing phase of a death
penalty trial. The thirty-seven states, and the federal government, which allow
the imposition of the death penalty all currently allow the prosecution to
present victim impact evidence in the sentencing phase of death penalty trials.
In Payne v. Tennessee(decided in 1991), the Supreme Court upheld the admission of “victim impact”
evidence, but did not provided the lower courts with any standard for
determining what constitutes “victim impact” evidence. Justices Breyer, Souter
and Stevens saw in these two recent cases, Kelly
and Zamudio, an opportunity for the
Court to finally clarify the decision in Payne.
They strongly objected to the majority’s decision to deny certiorari. The Court
now leaves open the door for lower courts to allow evidence that may prevent a
fair and impartial jury ruling.