Affirmative Action Debate Renewed

A replica 18th century wooden square rigger sails as 'The Zong,' past Tower Bridge on the Thames Thursday, March 29, 2007 in London. The voyage was part of recognition of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade act. The Zong was at the center of a court case in 1783 after 133 slaves were thrown overboard in an insurance scam. The resulting public outrage led to the rise of the Abolitionist movement.
GETTY IMAGES/Peter Macdiarmid
The Supreme Court is getting back into the debate over affirmative action, on a day that saw a round of decisions touching on the death penalty, arbitration and NFL broadcast rights.

The justices are going to hear a case that deals with a federal program to help disadvantaged businesses. The issue before the court will be whether the program amounts to unlawful race discrimination.

Adarand Constructors Inc., won a major ruling in 1995 that sharply restricted federal affirmative action programs. On Monday, the justices said they will hear Adarand's challenge to the Transportation Department's revised highway-construction program.

The justices imposed significant limits on affirmative action in 1995, ruling that federal programs offering minorities special help to remedy past discrimination must meet a strict standard. The court said such aid must be narrowly tailored to meet a compelling government interest — a standard few programs can meet.

Adarand had sued over a 1990 Transportation Department program that gave bonuses to highway contractors if at least 10 percent of their subcontracts went to "disadvantaged business enterprises." Companies owned by racial minorities were presumed to be disadvantaged.

The Colorado-based Adarand, owned by a white man, said the program was unlawfully based on race.

After the 1995 ruling, Congress reauthorized the law and the Transportation Department revised the program. It kept the presumption that minority-owned businesses are disadvantaged and added a similar presumption for companies owned by women.

Is Executing The Retarded Constitutional?

The justices have agreed to consider whether the execution of a mentally-retarded person is "cruel and unusual" punishment.

The court says it will hear an appeal by a North Carolina death-row inmate.

The justices halted the execution of Ernest McCarver earlier this month — just hours before he was to be put to death.

Tuesday the high court will hear arguments in another case — one that involves Texas death-row inmate Johnny Paul Penry.

Penry is sentenced to die for the 1979 rape and slaying of Pamela Moseley Carpenter of Livingston. She was the sister of former Washington Redskins kicker Mark Moseley.

Penry's lawyers say he's mentally retarded and has the mind of a seven-year-old. They also contend the jurors who sentenced him lacked the chance to properly consider his mental capacity.

The Supreme Court used Penry's case in 1988 to rule that the Constitution allows the execution of mentally retarded killers. But the court threw out his first conviction.

Canadian Firm Can't Show NFL Games

A satellite television company lost a Supreme Court appeal Monday that sought the right to transmit National Football League games to customers i Canada.

The court, without comment, turned down the company's argument that it could transmit the games without violating the NFL's copyright.

PrimeTime 24 Joint Venture, based in New York, is a company that retransmits broadcast television signals to customers with satellite dishes.

The NFL holds the copyright to its broadcasts. But a federal law called the Satellite Home Viewer Act lets satellite companies deliver network signals to U.S. households that do not receive clear broadcast signals.

In 1998 the NFL sued PrimeTime in federal court, saying the company violated the league's copyright by transmitting games to satellite customers in Canada without permission.

PrimeTime argued that it was not violating the football league's copyright because the federal copyright law does not apply outside the United States.

Court Won't Reinstate Murder Conviction

The justices refused to reinstate a New York man's murder conviction and death sentence in a 1992 killing in Alabama.

The court, without comment Monday, turned down prosecutors' argument that Louis Griffin should not be allowed to present evidence that another person pleaded guilty to the crime. The Alabama Supreme Court granted him a new trial, saying he had been unlawfully barred from presenting his defense.

Griffin was convicted in the shooting death of Christopher Lynn Davis at a game room in Avondale, Ala., on Sept. 24, 1992. Prosecutors said Griffin was a "security man" for a New York street gang, the 142nd Street Lynch Mob Crew.

Two other men initially were arrested in the killing. Anthony Embry pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to prison, and Falanda Miles was tried and acquitted by a jury.

In 1996, Griffin pleaded guilty to racketeering violations in federal court in New York. During that plea, he admitted participating in Davis' death.

Embry then was cleared of the crime and Griffin was charged with murder in Alabama.

But at his trial, Griffin said he actually had not killed Davis but that he lied to the court in New York to get favorable treatment. He sought to present evidence of Embry's guilty plea, but the judge refused to allow it.

Griffin was convicted but the Alabama Supreme Court threw out his conviction last August. By barring the evidence of Embry's guilty plea, the trial court violated Griffin's constitutional right to present a defense, the state's top court said.

Georgia Death Row Appeal Rejected

The Supreme Court turned down an appeal from Georgia death row inmate Scotty Morrow.

Morrow was given a death sentence in 1999 for the shooting deaths of his ex-girlfriend and another woman in Gainesville in 1994.

Prosecutors said Morrow went to the home of his ex-girlfriend, Ann Young, to ask her to reconcile with him. When she and two of her frieds turned Morrow away, he pulled a 9mm handgun and opened fire, they said.

Young and Tonya Woods were shot in the head and died. The second friend also was shot but survived.

Court Will Hear Arbitration Follow-Up

Following up on its ruling that employers can force workers to resolve job disputes through arbitration, the Supreme Court agreed to decide if federal anti-discrimination enforcers can still try to win money or other damages for employees covered by arbitration agreements.

Sometime next fall, the court will hear the case of a South Carolina restaurant worker, Eric Scott Baker, who has a seizure disorder. After he had a seizure at work in 1994, Baker's boss at the West Columbia Waffle House told him not to return to his job as a grill operator. He was fired a few weeks later.

Like the Circuit City electronics salesman who lost his Supreme Court case last week, Baker's job application included an agreement to settle workplace disputes through arbitration instead of in the courts.

After he was fired, Baker complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He did not submit a claim for arbitration. The EEOC sued on Baker's behalf in federal court, alleging that Waffle House violated the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act.

The EEOC sought what it called "appropriate relief" for Baker, which could include back pay, reinstatement or other damages.

Waffle House argued that the case should be decided by an arbitrator, an independent third party whose decisions are final.

Texas Death Row Appeals Rejected

The court rejected appeals from three Texas death row inmates, including one man set to die later this week.

Michael Moore, 37, faces lethal injection Wednesday evening for the 1994 stabbing death of a Copperas Cove woman, Christa Bentley, at her home.

Authorities believed Moore was a stalker infatuated with high school girls. Bentley, 35, was fatally stabbed when she surprised Moore, whom she discovered inside her home. Her daughter was among the girls Moore was accused of stalking.

Moore, who grew up in the Buffalo, N.Y., area, was tied to the crime after police pulled him over following a car chase that reached speeds of 100 mph.

The high court Monday also refused appeals of Alva Curry and Coy Wesbrook.

Curry was condemned for the 1991 slaying of an Austin convenience store clerk. Wesbrook was condemned for killing five people in November 1997 at a party in east Harris County. Among the victims was Wesbrook's former wife.

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