Published on: Tuesday, December 13, 2022

The Supreme Court on Tuesday morning added three new cases to its merits docket for the 2022-23 term. The justices considered all three cases – involving federal securities laws, the Sixth Amendment’s confrontation clause, and the proper remedy when a defendant is tried in the wrong place (article available here).

The high court agreed to review the case of Adam Samia – whom the federal government describes as a “hitman” who “committed an array of crimes worthy of a James Bond villain.” Samia acted at the behest of Paul LeRoux, a South African who led the crime organization and cooperated with federal authorities after his arrest in 2012. Samia was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the murder of Catherine Lee, a real estate agent in the Philippines.

Samia’s lawyers are challenging prosecutors’ use of a confession made by another man, a co-defendant in his murder trial, that they say implicated Samia in violation of his constitutional rights under the Sixth Amendment to confront the witnesses against him. The co-defendant did not testify in his own defense but implied in his statement that Samia was the person who pulled the trigger. Samia had no opportunity to question the co-defendant.

Samia has denied any involvement in the killing and his lawyers say no physical evidence links him to the crime.

In Smith v. United States, the justices will take up the case of Timothy Smith, an Alabama software engineer and avid fisherman who was indicted for hacking into the website of Strikelines, a Florida company that identifies and sells the locations of artificial fishing reefs (which fisherman normally do not share).

Smith was tried in the Northern District of Florida, where the company was located; he was convicted on two of the three counts on which he was indicated and sentenced to 18 months in prison and a year of supervised release. Smith argued that he was tried in the wrong place, because he lives in Alabama and the website’s servers were in the Middle District of Florida.

On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit agreed with Smith that one of the counts on which he had been convicted had been tried in the wrong place. The question that the Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to decide involves the remedy for that mistake. Smith contends that he should be acquitted on that count and cannot be retried anywhere, while the federal government counters (and the 11th Circuit ruled) that prosecutors can try him again somewhere else.