This week’s criminal cases before the U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUSblog provides “The Week Ahead” here. The Court will hear oral arguments in two high profile criminal cases this week.

On Tuesday, the Court will hear Irizarry v. United States, a case involving judges’ duty to notify parties before departing from the sentencing guidelines. Professor Berman, author of Sentencing Law and Policy, had this commentary on the case:

I have mentioned before that I think the sleeper SCOTUS sentencing case this term in Irizarry, which technically addresses a seemingly little issue concerning notice for imposing sentences outside the guidelines. However, as revealed in the amicus brief supporting the Eleventh Circuit’s ruling below (to which I contributed), the case presents an opportunity for the Justices to address more broadly the nature and status of departures and variances in the post- Booker world.

On Wednesday, the Court will hear Kennedy v. Louisiana, involving the constitutionality of imposing the death penalty for child rape. Many state officials and defendants’ rights groups are following this case, which is the first since 1977 to consider execution as a form of punishment for rape. Missouri has indicated that it may enact legislation if the Court permits the death penalty for child rape, and the New York Times reported here in January that in addition to Louisiana, Georgia, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas all have laws authorizing capital punishment for the rape of a child under the age of 12, although most require a previous conviction of sexual assault.

The Denver Post recently reported that state lawmakers rejected a bill allowing the execution of people who sexually assault children under the age of 13.

In advance of the arguments, the Court is expected to release orders from the Justices’ private conference last Friday. One to watch for is Wallace v. United States, a Due Process Clause case questioning whether a defendant who pleads guilty retains the right to appeal a pre-trial competency determination.

Update, April 14, 2008:  Orders are posted on SCOTUSblog and the Court will not hear Wallace v. United States.