Supreme Court upholds conviction of a man for his role on an international hit team

Jun 23, 2023, 7:59 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The conviction of a man serving a life sentence for his role on an international “kill team” in a case about what happens when one person’s confession might also implicate someone else on trial.

Adam Samia’s lawyers had asked the court for a new trial in the killing of a real estate broker in the Philippines because they said he was convicted on the basis of a confession from another man with whom he was on trial.

The confession unfairly implicated Samia as the trigger man, in violation of his constitutional rights, Samia’s lawyers said. The co-defendant did not testify in his own defense so there was no opportunity for Samia’s trial lawyers to question the man.

But the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, said prosecutors had done enough to protect Samia’s rights. The confession was altered to substitute “someone” or “the other person” every time Samia’s name was mentioned. The jury also was told not to consider the confession in assessing Samia’s guilt.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his majority opinion that there was no violation of the constitutional provision that gives a defendant the right to confront his accuser.

Thomas said Samia did not deserve a new trial because the confession “did not directly inculpate the defendant and was subject to a proper limiting instruction.”

The court’s three liberal justices dissented. Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the majority decision “undermines a vital constitutional protection for the accused.”

Samia was tried with two other men who carried out the attack on the orders of Paul LeRoux, a South African who led an international crime organization and cooperated with federal authorities after his arrest in 2012.

LeRoux ordered the killing of the broker, Catherine Lee, because he believed Lee had stolen money from him.

The Supreme Court has previously imposed limits on the use of a confession in these circumstances, including that the defendant’s name has to be removed and cannot simply be replaced with the notation “redacted.” In Samia’s trial, he was described in the confession as “someone” and “the other person.”

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Supreme Court upholds conviction of a man for his role on an international hit team