- 50th Anniversary
- Online Edition
- Print Edition
- Donahue Lecture Series
The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees an individual the right against self-incrimination. The compulsion component protects individuals from particular coercive threats or penalties that the State imposes upon an individual refusing to testify against himself. In McKune v. Lile, the Court considered whether an inmate, who refused based on his privilege against self-incrimination to participate in a required rehabilitation program, was unconstitutionally compelled when the prison threatened to transfer him to a maximum security facility. The Court concluded that the rehabilitation program requirements and consequences for nonparticipation did not amount to a prohibited compulsion under the Fifth Amendment. . . .
Like the year 1929, history will remember the year 2001 as one of failed companies, market disruption, and scandalous allegations. Enron Corp. (Enron) and WorldCom Inc. (WorldCom) exemplify the pattern of corporate greed that emerged. Enron and WorldCom rank among the largest American companies and sat atop the stock market until the discovery of massive accounting irregularities.
As Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan observed, in recent years, stock market players shifted focus from dividend yields to corporate earnings. While Enron and WorldCom reported impressive revenues, the reports also contained hidden clues to the true state of affairs. Enron boosted revenues to $101 billion by including revenue figures of partnership ventures and inflated estimates of contract values.7 The comparatively paltry profit figure of $6.3 billion reflects the exclusion of the partnerships’ liabilities from Enron’s balance sheet.8 At WorldCom, employees discovered a trail of phony transactions amounting to over $7 billion in improper revenue shifting. . . .
The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States grants jury trial rights to criminal defendants. In Ring v. Arizona, the Court considered whether a trial judge may impose the death penalty and therefore increase a criminal defendant’s jury imposed sentence after a jury finds the defendant guilty of first-degree murder. The Court held that it was unconstitutional for a sentencing judge, sitting without a jury, to increase a defendant’s sentence. In doing so, the Court partially overruled its prior decision in Walton v. Arizona, which held constitutional the judicial consideration of aggravating and mitigating factors in criminal sentencing. . . .
The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the imposition of cruel and unusual punishments. The Eighth Amendment also bars ”excessive” punishment that is not graduated and proportioned to the offense. Courts must look to prevailing societal standards of decency when determining the Constitutional definition of “excessive.” In Atkins v. Virginia, the Court considered whether a ”national consensus” existed with regard to the execution of mentally retarded offenders, thus making such executions a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The Court held that a “national consensus” reflected that the execution of mentally retarded criminals did not advance the goals of retribution and deterrence and thus was cruel and unusual under the Eighth Amendment. . . .
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees all criminal defendants the right to counsel. Due to the confusion that existed as to whether the right to ”counsel” meant the right to “effective counsel,” the United States Supreme Court established guidelines for the lower courts to follow. In Bell v. Cone, the Court considered whether an attorney who waived closing arguments and offered no mitigating evidence, in a capital sentencing hearing, met the Court’s definition of ineffective counsel. The Court concluded that it was not unreasonable for the state appeals court to interpret the attorney’s conduct as strategic, and therefore effective. . . .