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Overcrowding has been a large problem in California's prison system. In fact, lawsuits tracing back to 1990 challenging overcrowding issues led a district court to order the state to reduce its prison population. California took the matter to the highest court in the land. A Santa Cruz criminal defense attorney knows that individuals charged with crimes in the state have the constitutional right to challenge the state's case at trial. However, people convicted of crimes who are placed in the state's prison system also retain certain constitutional rights.

Monday the United States Supreme Court agreed that California's overcrowded prisons are a matter of constitutional importance. The Court handed down a five-to-four ruling that concludes the state has failed to correct "serious constitutional violations" in the prison system related to overcrowding.

The state prison system was designed to hold a maximum capacity of roughly 80,000 people when the federal litigation began in 1990. Two separate class-action lawsuits were filed over more than a decade in an effort to correct the constitutional flaws in the prison system. Populations in the state's prison grew to more than double the intended capacity of the system.

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The United States Supreme Court ruled on Monday that statements made during an ongoing emergency may be introduced as evidence in a criminal trial even if the person that made the statements has died before the trial. Santa Cruz criminal defense attorneys know that the Sixth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant the right to confront the witnesses against the defendant at trial. The right to confrontation includes the right to cross examine the witness.

Monday's Supreme Court ruling says the statements introduced at trial of an alleged murder victim through the testimony of police officers did not violate the defendant's right to confrontation. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a scathing dissent. Justice Scalia says Monday's ruling distorts the high court's "Confrontation Clause jurisprudence and leaves it in a shambles." Justice Scalia goes on to say majority opinion demeans the Supreme Court.

The case arose out of an incident that happened in Detroit in 2001. Police responded to a report of a shooting. Several police officers responded and found a man who had been shot lying near his car in a gas station parking lot. Each officer asked the man several questions. The man reportedly told police the identity of the man who allegedly shot him. The man died later that morning at the hospital.

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