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October 06, 2003

Tale of Two Court Reviews

High Court Tosses Philip Morris Judgment:

The Supreme Court on Monday threw out an $80 million verdict against cigarette-maker Philip Morris. The verdict, for the family of an Oregon janitor who died in 1997 of lung cancer, should be reviewed by lower courts to ensure it is not unconstitutionally excessive, justices said.
But the Supreme Court did not think it worth wasting its time reviewing this case:
The Supreme Court refused Monday to consider the case of a woman sentenced to 12 years in prison for murder after drugs were found in the system of her stillborn daughter.

Regina McKnight was convicted under South Carolina's homicide by child abuse law for the 1999 death. Her lawyers say she is the first woman convicted of homicide for suffering a stillbirth.

The South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the conviction and sentence earlier this year, ruling that the punishment was not too harsh because McKnight should have known taking cocaine could harm her baby.

So lower courts are instructed to be extra cautious in imposing too harsh monetary fines against corporations, but no constitutional review is necessary for a precedent-setting criminalization of pregnancy or other excess criminal sanctions.

Kind of like this pair of decisions last Spring.

Posted by Nathan at October 6, 2003 03:29 PM