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News Scan

SCOTUS  Bars Warrantess Cell Phone Searches:  In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police officers may not search a criminal suspect's cell phone during an arrest without a warrant.  Bill Mears of CNN reports that the nine  justices determined that cell phones were not in the same broad category as wallets or vehicles, which are generally searchable as long as an officer has probable cause.  It is still unclear whether or not the ruling will be retroactive and affect defendants who have been convicted using cell phone evidence.

Condemned Inmate to Be Resentenced:  An Arizona man who was sentenced to death in 2001 after pleading guilty to two brutal murders, will receive a new sentencing hearing after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the state's appeal of a lower court ruling. Julianne Defilippis of Cronkite News Service reports that Michael Murdaugh is one of 21 capital defendants in Arizona who were sentenced to death by a judge, rather than a jury, prior to the Court's  2002 holding that the practice was unconstitutional.  After the ruling, the Arizona Supreme Court found 19 of the 21 murderers were eligible for re-sentencing, but held Murdaugh's case did not require a second hearing due to the extremely vicious nature of his crimes.  The 9th Circuit of Appeals later ruled in Murdaugh's favor.     

Arkansas to Ease Prison Overcrowding: In an effort to ease prison overcrowding, the Arkansas Board of Corrections has voted in favor of an Emergency Powers Act, which will allow more than 100 inmates to be eligible for parole up to 90 days ahead of schedule.  The Arkansas News Bureau reports that the inmates set to be released early had already been approved for parole, the Emergency Powers Act will allow officials to expedite the process.  Nearly 300 male inmates and 100 female inmates will be eligible for early parole dates.

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