- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Judges and prosecutors make mistakes, a Justice Department lawyer told the Supreme Court yesterday, but sometimes those errors are so minor that they don’t warrant reversing a conviction in a criminal case.

A jury convicted Juan Resendiz-Ponce of attempting to enter the United States illegally from Mexico. But the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overturned Mr. Resendiz-Ponce’s conviction because his indictment by a grand jury did not set out any specific acts showing how he tried to enter the United States.

The omission required automatic reversal of the conviction, the appellate court said.

Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben told justices yesterday, however, that Mr. Resendiz-Ponce received a fair trial at which the government proved that he had displayed two false pieces of identification to enter the country. Mr. Resendiz-Ponce presented his cousin’s green card and driver’s license when he approached an Arizona border crossing on June 1, 2003.

Mr. Dreeben conceded that prosecutors should have included more information in the indictment and, when they didn’t, the trial judge should have dismissed the charge before the trial began.

Even so, he said, the conviction should stand.

Upholding the appeals court ruling would force “the government to pay a tremendous penalty when a mistake is made in the indictment,” Mr. Dreeben said.

Some justices said they saw nothing wrong with the indictment.

“It doesn’t seem to me there’s any defect in this indictment,” Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said.

Mr. Resendiz-Ponce remains in jail while the government’s appeal is pending.

In other court action yesterday:

• Justices turned aside the case of Sandra Cano, one of the women behind the legalization of abortion, who had sought to reverse the victory she won 33 years ago.

Miss Cano says that she never wanted an abortion and that her difficult early life resulted in her becoming the anonymous plaintiff in Doe v. Bolton, the lesser-known case which the justices ruled on the same day in 1973 as the landmark Roe v. Wade.

• The court refused to intervene in a legal fight over same-sex “marriage,” declining an appeal from a homosexual California couple who were denied a license to wed.

The justices declined without comment to take the case of Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer of Mission Viejo, Calif. The men had sought a marriage license in Southern California’s Orange County in 2004 and, after they were turned down, filed a federal lawsuit that challenged federal and state laws against same-sex “marriage.”

• Justices turned down the case of a former guard at a Nazi slave camp suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

The Justice Department succeeded in revoking the U.S. citizenship of 86-year-old Iwan Mandycz of Sterling Heights, Mich., who could face deportation.

His lawyers say the right that prevents the government from prosecuting a mentally incompetent person also should apply to citizenship cases, which are civil proceedings.


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