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Murderer gets new hearing because judge took bribes

Supreme Court ruling June 9, 1997
Web posted at: 1:06 p.m. EDT (1706 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A convicted murderer is entitled to a new hearing because the judge in his case was convicted of taking bribes in other cases, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday.

In a unanimous decision, the court ruled in favor of William Bracy, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death for his role in an execution-type triple murder in Cook County, Illinois, in 1981.

Twelve years later, the state judge in his case, Thomas Maloney, was convicted on racketeering and other charges based on evidence he accepted bribes in at least three other murder cases.

Bracy, the condemned man, asked for a federal hearing to overturn his conviction, claiming he had not had a fair trial because the judge was corrupt. Bracy claimed that Maloney had an interest in making sure he was convicted, to deflect suspicion that he was taking bribes in other cases.

A federal trial judge rejected Bracy's appeal of his conviction, as did the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

But the Supreme Court, without saying whether the judge had been biased at the time of Bracy's trial, said Bracy had presented enough preliminary evidence to justify a full hearing, and sent the case back to a lower court.

In other action Monday, the court:

  • rejected, without comment, a challenge to a federal law protecting access to abortion clinics;

  • without comment, agreed with lower court rulings barring Jersey City, New Jersey, from displaying a nativity scene and a menorah on the grounds of City Hall;

  • ruled unanimously that state agencies are not required to grant employees a hearing before issuing a suspension without pay;

  • ruled unanimously that government officials who are denied immunity when they are sued in state courts can be barred from filing an immediate appeal;

  • agreed to hear another case that would clarify when city lawmakers may be granted immunity from lawsuits filed over their government actions;

  • agreed to decided if same-sex sexual harassment in employment is illegal;

  • without comment, rejected arguments by an Illinois newspaper that two larger newspapers' exclusive contracts with news and feature services unfairly stifled smaller papers;

  • rejected without comment the appeal of a convicted murderer who slept through nearly three-quarters of his trial;

  • agreed to decide if some South Dakota land must be considered a reservation of the Yankton Sioux tribe;

  • agreed to decide whether a law making it illegal to lie to a federal agency applies to people who just say "no" when asked a potentially incriminating question.

Correspondent Anthony Collings and Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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