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Diamond and Butler Sharpen Skills for U.S. Supreme Court Appearance

Two Law School alumni will square off against each other October 31 to argue a high-stakes case in a high-status venue: The U.S. Supreme Court.

Deputy County Attorney Patrick Diamond (class of 1986), with the Hennepin County Attorney's Office for 15 years, seeks to stifle the appeal of a Minneapolis man convicted in 1996 of first-degree criminal sexual conduct against a 6-year-old boy in Richfield. The man’s attorney is Assistant State Public Defender Benjamin Butler (class of 2001), a five-year veteran of law practice.

The case involves Stephen Danforth, whose accuser did not take the stand during the trial. Instead, the boy’s testimony was presented by way of a videotaped interview. Some years later, the U.S. Supreme Court placed restrictions on the use of out-of-court statements.

Danforth, a disbarred attorney serving a 26-year-sentence, now argues that state courts should be able to decide whether the Supreme Court ruling can be applied retroactively. Opinions from state courts differ on whether federal rules on retroactivity must be followed.

Diamond contends that all states should go by the same federal rule. Butler cites the right of the accused to cross-examine the accuser.

Despite the hours spent poring over briefs, studying legal opinions, and fervently making other preparations, Diamond and Butler look forward to their likely once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The U.S. Supreme Court reviews only about 1% of the 8,000 petitions it receives each year, according to an article in the Pioneer Press (Sept. 25). Hennepin County has not presented a case before the Supreme Court since 1993, when current Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman (class of 1974) gave the oral argument.