WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court, reinvigorating language it used in a ruling 202 years ago, today threw out some of a Texas man's convictions for sexually assaulting his stepdaughter.
The justices, by a 5-4 vote, ruled that four of Scott Carmell's 15 convictions wrongly were based on a Texas law enacted after he allegedly committed the crimes.
At issue was an aspect of the Constitution's ban on laws that criminalize acts, or alter the evidence needed for a conviction, after the crime occurs.
Carmell was convicted in a Denton County court in 1997 on 15 counts of indecency with a child, sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault.
He was sentenced to life in prison on two convictions of aggravated sexual assault that were not at issue in today's case. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison on the other charges.
The four convictions in question today involved alleged assaults that took place at a time when Texas law said that a suspect could not be convicted merely on the testimony of the victim, unless she was under 14. At the time the girl was aged 14 or 15.
That law was later changed and Carmell was convicted under the new law, an action the court ruled to be unconstitutional.
In another case today, the court agreed to clarify whether police can keep people from going inside their homes alone while officers seek a search warrant.
The court said it will hear Illinois prosecutors' argument that they should be allowed to use as evidence the marijuana seized from a man's home. Illinois courts said police violated the constitutional ban on unreasonable searches and seizures by temporarily keeping him outside, even though he admitted that it allowed to return he would have destroyed the evidence.
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