Law Case Studies

Law Case Study Sample

Edwards v. South Carolina, 372 U.S. 229

Facts; the case relates to the arrest of the 187students on 2nd march 1961, for protesting despite the fact that the protests were undertaken in a peaceful manner. It was alleged that the students were advocating for “unpopular” views. The protests which were on the South Carolina state house grounds related to grievances on the discrimination and violation of their rights as African Americans (Findlaw.com, 2011). The protesters did not engage in any unlawful or violent behaviour and did not disrupt the ongoing activities of the town. Police officials however gave the protesters a time limit of fifteen minutes to disperse and since they did not comply but started to sing religious and patriotic songs, they were arrested and charged with the common law crime of breach of the peace. The case was first argued in December 13, 1962 and finally decided in February 25, 1963 (Findlaw.com, 2011). There was no direct evidence adduced in court but the police chief of Columbia and the city manager testified though their statements did not contain evidence that indicated the protesters guilt (Findlaw.com, 2011).

Issues present; the court had to use its discretion to determine if the activities of the students could be construed as breach of the peace under South Carolina law (Edelman, 1984). More so, if the petitioners’ constitutional rights of free speech, free assembly and freedom to petition for redress of their grievances had been violated. In relation to the aforesaid rights, the first amendment guaranteed them and they were protected under the fourteenth amendment from invasion by states (Edelman, 1984).

Decisions: the Supreme Court of South Carolina held that there was no precise definition of the offence of breach of peace (Scheb et al. 2007). In delivering the courts opinion justice Stewart stated that the constitutional rights of the petitioners had been infringed, and there was a violation of rights as they were first amendment freedoms and were protected by the fourteenth amendment from invasion of states (Scheb et al. 2007). Equally, this case illustrated how constitutional rights had to be experienced in their “most pristine and classic form”. The protesters had carried out their protest peacefully and did not pose any threat to other members of society. As such the criminal convictions against them could not stand (Findlaw.com, 2011).

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Rationale: the fourteenth amendment prohibits a state from criminalizing peaceful expressions of unpopular views. Freedom of speech does possess the qualities of being provocative, inviting dispute and causing arrest and thus it is protected under the laws unless it causes danger to the public and in this case, it was exercise with utmost respect and did not provoke public unrest or dispute (Edelman, 1984).

Dissenting opinions: according to Justice Clark in his dissent, the evidence of the city manager alleged that the protest had caused an interference with traffic and threatened the peace of the community and as such that construes a breach of the peace. The police officials acted in good faith as they apprehended the protesters since they suspected there would be imminent danger if the protests continued (Edelman, 1984).

Adderley v. Florida, 385 U.S. 39 (1966)

Facts; Harriet Louise Adderley and a group of students held a protest outside a non-public jail driveway opposing the arrest and segregation of their fellow students.  The sheriff who was also the jail custodian ordered them to disperse as they were trespassing but they refused to disperse. They were arrested and charged with trespass with a malicious and mischievous intent. The protest concerned the states policies of racial segregation which extended even to jails (Findlaw.com, 2011).

Issues present: the petitioners claimed that their constitutional rights of free speech, assembly, and petition as guaranteed under the first and fourteenth amendments had been infringed. There was lack of relevant evidence illustrating the infringement of rights of the petitioners. They also argued that the doctrine of abatement protected them (Findlaw.com, 2011).

Decisions: the court held that the petitioners were guilty of trespass as the property belonged to the county and therefore the arrest was as a result of the trespass and not the protest and the views they held. Therefore the state had not infringed the petitioners’ right and more so, the jails were for security purposes and not public property thus they were guilty of trespass (Scheb et al. 2007). The doctrine of abatement was not applicable as trespass on jail grounds was unlawful since they do not fall under the definition of places of public accommodation. Rationale: though the rights of free speech and assembly are protected by the law, they are subject to exceptions and these include the maintenance of public order and the security of the community at large (Scheb et al. 2007). Therefore the students posed a threat by demonstrating in jail grounds and further trespassed on private property, an issue which not even their constitutional right to liberty would protect them from (Findlaw.com, 2011).

Dissenting opinions: the Justices who dissented held that the charge of trespass was being used as a way of penalizing the exercise of a constitutional right and the argument that the arrest was conducted for reasons of trespass and not the protest was an excuse being used to silence the abuse of their rights. Further the issue of public/private property could not be used to curtail the constitutional rights provided for under the first and fourteenth amendments (Edelman, 1984).

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U.S. v. Wise, 221 F.3d 140 (5th Cir. 2000)

Facts: the defendants sent threatening emails to the federal government offices stating that they would use biological methods to attack unless their demands were met. The search conducted at their homes revealed evidence of their plan to attack (Findlaw.com, 2011).

Decision; the court ruled that they were guilty of the crime as they were not induced into its commission and furthermore there was evidence indicating their intent to commit the crime (Scheb et al. 2007).

Rationale: the intention of the defendants was all that needed to be proved in court and the fact that they even had drafted plans of the attack meant they had the mensrea to commit the crime (Findlaw.com, 2011).

Dissenting decision: there was no dissenting decision (Findlaw.com 2011).

U.S. v. Bailey, 444 U.S. 394 (1980)

Facts: the respondents escaped from the District of Columbia jail and they asserted that their reasons for doing so were the harsh jail conditions and the death threats they received (Findlaw.com, 2011).

Issues present: the query related to the initial departure of the respondents and if their escape was a continuing offence. Additionally could the respondents successfully claim the defences of duress and necessity as a result of the jail conditions? (Findlaw.com, 2011).

Decisions: escaping from federal custody could be construed as a continuing offence and therefore the respondents were guilty of the same. The court had to establish that the respondents had the mensrea and the intent to escape and they were found guilty (Findlaw.com, 2011).

Rationale: the court was of the opinion that the fact that the respondents had escaped, without permission meant that no amount of harsh conditions would justify their actions and they were therefore guilty (Findlaw.com, 2011).

Dissenting opinions: according to Justice Blackmun, some conditions in the prisons were so grave that they could not be ignored and therefore where a prisoner had escaped and later o after being arrested and tried he pleads the defence of necessity or duress it is the courts duty and that of the jury to look into the essential elements of the two defences and make a ruling (Findlaw.com, 2011).

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Disorderly conduct is a statutory crime which is broader in scope than breach of peace. There is no precise way of defining it as it varies in every jurisdiction but it basically revolves around disturbing the peace, security, morals, or health of a society. Equally any behaviour that results in disturbance of members of society can be considered as disorderly conduct (Edelman, 1984).

The protest of one group was upheld while the other was not due to the different circumstances that involved the case. According to Scheb et al. (2007), in the Edwards case there was direct infringement of their constitutional rights and the protest was undertaken peacefully and in public property while in the Adderley case, trespass was committed in private property thus their rights could not be asserted. The Adderley case contains an offence committed by the protesters an element which is lacking in the Edwards case (Scheb et al. 2007).

Will the government be successful and obtain a conviction?

The government will not succeed in convicting the students since there is no evidence indicating the students actually had the means of committing the crime. The absence of such evidence will then shift the burden of proof to the government an onus which will be hard without any form of evidence (Scheb et al. 2007). As in the case of U.S v Wise, there is need for evidence even in the form of documents or electronic sources that illustrate the intent to commit the crime but in this case, they are deficient. Therefore since the evidence against the students is wanting, the government may fail in obtaining a conviction (Scheb et al. 2007).

What charges can be brought against inmate Grady?

The provisions of 18 U.S.C. 751 (a) prohibit the escape from federal prison of any inmates and under 751(a), if there is proof that the inmate was aware of his intention to leave custody then he his guilty of the charges of leaving custody with the intent of avoiding confinement. Escape from federal custody as defined in 751 (a) is a continuing offence, and an escapee can be held liable for failure to return to custody as well as for his initial departure as held in the case of U.S v Bailey, where one of the respondents tried to communicate to the prison officials through telephone but in this case, since Grady did not attempt any form of communication after realizing he was lost indicates his intent to escape. Grady maybe charged with the intent to escape as he does not obtain permission from the wardens to stray and a search has to be conducted which makes the escape a continuous process. Since the guards have to establish his physical presence, Grady then is guilty of an attempt to escape and the defence of drunkard ness will be invalid so far as he cannot prove the alcohol disoriented his thinking. The fact that he does not return to jail after coming to indicates his intent. (Scheb et al. 2007).

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References

Edelman, Martin (1984). Democratic theories and the Constitution. SUNY Press.

Findlaw.com  (2011). Cases and codes. Available [Online]

http://www.findlaw.com/casecode/  April 26th 2011.

SCHEB, JOHN. M., II, OTIS H. STEPHENS, JR, (2007). AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL

LAW: CIVIL RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES. Cengage Learning

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