Justice Alito: “[State Judges] must have greater imaginative powers than . . . I would have”

March 23rd, 2011

Justice Alito, showing a bit of wit, doubted Petitioner’s argument in J.D.B. v.  North Carolina that judges could determine whether a child with a lower IQ felt free to leave during interrogation. Petitioner, Ms. Blackman (no relation) argued that state Judges have beend oing this for decades. Justice Alito was incredulous:

JUSTICE ALITO: Are you asking trial judges to make — to do something that is realistic? Do you think — let’s take a hypothetical trial judge who, let’s say, is 60 years old and has an IQ of — that’s at least an average IQ. And now you’re asking this trial judge to decide whether under particular circumstances, let’s say, a 14-year-old with an IQ of 85 would appreciate under particular circumstances that he or she was free to leave?

MS. BLACKMAN: Your Honor –

JUSTICEALITO: You think a trial judge can really do that?

MS. BLACKMAN: State courts have been performing this analysis now for several decades, and they haven’t indicated that they have difficulty doing so. And to the extent that your –

JUSTICEALITO: They must have greater imaginative powers then.


JUSTICE ALITO: They must have greater imaginative powers than I think I would have under those circumstances.