This morning the Supreme Court issued orders from last week’s private conference. The justices granted four cases from that conference on Friday afternoon, so they did not add new cases to their docket today.
The justices denied review in the case of Victor Saldano, an Argentinian citizen who has been on death row in Texas for over 30 years. Saldano was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of Paul King, who was on his way to buy food for a Thanksgiving lunch for his fellow employees at a Best Buy store. Saldano’s case had drawn intense interest from Argentina, which (along with other Central and South American countries) had filed a “friend of the court” brief arguing that Saldano’s treatment violated international law and urging the justices to take up his case.
The justices also turned down a petition from Martin Shkreli, who was sentenced to seven years in prison and ordered to pay fines, forfeiture and restitution totaling nearly eight million dollars after he was convicted of securities fraud.
Two years ago, in Honeycutt v. United States, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that, under a criminal-forfeiture statute for drug offenses, a defendant can only be required to forfeit property that he actually acquired as a result of the crime. Today the justices denied a petition from a mother-son pair who were convicted of violating drug and financial conspiracy laws, and who were challenging an order that would require them to collectively forfeit over a million dollars. Sharon Elder and Allen Peithman told the justices that the courts of appeals are divided on whether the Supreme Court’s ruling in Honeycutt applies to forfeitures under a more general criminal forfeiture statute. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled that it does not, reasoning that the language of the more general statute at issue in Elder and Peithman’s case is “broader” than the statute at issue in Honeycutt and “less focused on” whether the defendant owned the property to be forfeited.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the court’s decision not to hear Elder and Peithman’s case. She pointed out that the government now concedes that the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Honeycutt also applies to the statute at issue in this case, even if there is another reason to uphold the lower courts’ ruling. She would have sent the case back “to allow the Eighth Circuit to reconsider its decision in light of the Government’s concession.”
The Supreme Court did not act on the case of Texas death-row inmate Rodney Reed, who was convicted of the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites but has consistently maintained that he is innocent. Reed’s execution was scheduled for later this week, but on Friday a state appeals court blocked his execution and sent the case back to the trial court for it to consider new evidence.
The justices’ next conference is scheduled for Friday, November 22.
This post is also published at SCOTUSblog.