The U.S. Supreme Court website provides podcasts that offer students the opportunity to hear the actual cases argued before the Supreme Court. In the subject podcast, a federal public defender argues that the residual clause of the violent felony definition of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) needs to be struck down by the Court because it is vague and leaves prosecutors with an unfair advantage during plea-bargaining. It is based on violation of the 8th Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment dealing with the severity of criminal punishments.
There are many learning points to be made in listening to the podcast. First and foremost is the opportunity to actually hear the arguments presented and the respective responses from the highest court in the U.S. In the subject case, it demonstrates the depth of legal representation afforded to offenders who are indigent as the case is argued by a federal public defender. It also provides listeners with the opportunity to discover the depth of our laws and criminal procedures. The ACCA was enacted in 1984. Over thirty years later, it is being challenged. It demonstrates how complex our legal system is. It also helps students understand the legal process beyond the initial arrest phase of a case. Lastly, for my students, it provides and opportunity to discover roles and careers in the criminal justice system beyond just law enforcement.