A FRACTURED Supreme Court April 7 said police cannot entice an
innocent person to crime and then convict him, strengthening the
defense against entrapment in a significant defeat for the
By a 5-to-4 margin - with Justice Clarence Thomas making a rare
split from his conservative colleagues to cast the deciding vote -
the court threw out the 1987 conviction of a Nebraska farmer and
Vietnam War veteran for receiving child pornography through the
The court said criminal suspects can successfully claim
entrapment whenever police launch an undercover investigation that
itself convinces them to break the law.
"In their zeal to enforce the law ... government agents may not
originate a criminal design, implant in an innocent person's mind
the disposition to commit a criminal act, and then induce
commission of the crime so that the government may prosecute,"
Justice Byron White wrote for the majority.
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, writing the dissent, said the court
was making it more difficult for police to do their work.
"Today, the court holds that government conduct may be
considered to create a predisposition to commit a crime, even
before any government action to induce the commission of the
crime," wrote Justice O'Connor. "In my view, this holding changes
Victory for airlines
The Supreme Court let stand a decision that two of the nation's
largest airlines did not violate antitrust laws by making
competitors pay to be listed in computerized reservation systems
now used by most travel agents.
The court, without comment, declined to disturb a ruling of the
9th US Circuit Court of Appeals that United Air Lines and American
Airlines are permitted to charge listing fees without violating the
Sherman Antitrust Act.
Appeal decision stands
The Supreme Court also let stand a decision that the government
forfeits its right to appeal a sentence when it enters a plea
agreement specifically barring the suspect from appealing.
The court, without comment, declined to review a ruling of the
4th US Circuit Court of Appeals prohibiting the government from
appealing the sentence given to a woman with whom it had reached a
The government believed the district court imposed too light a
sentence and appealed to have the sentence increased.
Under the precise arrangements of the plea bargain, the woman
was precluded from appealing if the sentence had been longer than
she expected, but there was no mention of such a restriction on the