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Passenger "Seized" in Traffic Stop

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The U.S. Supreme Court decided Brendlin v. California this morning, holding that a traffic stop of a vehicle amounts to a seizure of everyone in it. Hence, if the stop results in evidence incriminating a passenger, the passenger has standing to object to challenge the legality of the stop. No big surprise here. William Branigin has this report in the Washington Post. The decision was unanimous, written by Justice Souter.

In other SCOTUS action, the Court denied certiorari in Quarterman v. Nelson, No. 06-1254, which involved the Fifth Circuit's stunning conclusion that Penry error is "structural" and therefore never harmless no matter how strong the prosecution's case in aggravation or how weak the proffered mitigation.

In Barbour v. Allen, No. 06-10605, the Court once again refused to reconsider Murray v. Giarratano, 492 U.S. 1 (1989), which held there is no constitutional right to state-paid counsel in state habeas.

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With respect to the Texas death cases, it seems to me that there is probably a bit of exhaustion on the part of the federal judicial system with the old cases. Maybe, the idea is to kick all or most of them back, with the idea that a lot of them will simply go away.

Hopefully, some of the sentences will still be affirmed, e.g., Chambers.

The federal courts have really jerked Texas around, with nary a "sorry about that". The suffering of the victims' families, apparently, is not that much of a concern.

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