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US Supreme Court Begins New Term  - 2004-10-04

The U.S. Supreme Court opens a new term Monday expected to yield decisions on federal sentencing rules, the death penalty for juveniles, and the medical use of marijuana.

The nine justices will hear arguments on the constitutionality of guidelines used to sentence thousands of criminals every year. The decision is meant to end confusion over their own ruling in June that declared unconstitutional a Washington state law similar to federal rules.

Later this month, the justices will consider whether the death penalty may be imposed on murderers who were 16 or 17 when they committed the crime. Such punishment is currently legal.

Next month, the court will hear arguments on whether the government can prosecute cancer patients whose doctors recommended they use marijuana to fight pain.