The Law: New 5-to-4 Majority

To critics who disliked the liberalism of the Warren Supreme Court, the biggest irritant was often the narrow margin of a 5-to-4 vote that tipped the balance in criminal cases toward the rights of the defendant. Last week, with two Nixon appointees now seated, the Burger court leaned the other way in its first criminal decision to be decided by a single vote.

The case came from Georgia and involved the fate of the hearsay rule in state trials. In general, that rule excludes statements made out of court. But the rule has many exceptions and qualifications. Georgia law, for example, sanctions...

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