The Supreme Court on Friday upheld 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 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 a co-defendant, the Associated Press reports. 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 so there was no opportunity for Samia’s trial lawyers to question the man.
The high 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.”