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Carey v. Musladin
Hearing date: October 11
At issue: Did a convicted murderer receive due process after the crime victim's family wore buttons picturing the deceased at the trial?
The case and arguments: Mathew Musladin was convicted of shooting Tom Studer, the fiancÚ of his estranged wife, to death in San Jose, California, in May 1994. During the two-week trial, at least three members of Studer's family sat in the front row wearing buttons showing the smiling victim in his Navy uniform. The two-to-four inch diameter buttons were in clear sight of the jurors, and the judge denied a defense motion to prevent the family from wearing them in court. The defendant's lawyer's appealed, saying the buttons prejudiced the jury. State courts rejected the appeal, but a federal court intervened and ordered a new trial.
The impact: The justices will decide the larger question of whether a state judge's error allowing the buttons was so severe that a federal court was right to step in and toss out the conviction.