On Tuesday, July 5, the Supreme Court announces two new writs in criminal cases.

In Overbey v. Commonwealth, the court agrees to hear an appeal that, based on the assignments of error, may be remarkably similar to another case decided by the court in March. Overbey was convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, apparently based on a predicate offense that occurred while he was a juvenile. He contends that the juvenile conviction order (whether the document even qualifies as a conviction order is, in fact, one of the assignments of error) does not clearly specify whether he was convicted of burglary or petit larceny. The distinction is important because the latter charge is a misdemeanor, and thus would not bar Overbey from carrying a firearm. The Supreme Court recently considered, and reversed, a similar conviction in Palmer v. Commonwealth.

The other case is Smith v. Commonwealth, involving a Batson challenge to one of the Commonwealth’s peremptory strikes. In the venire summoned to hear Smith’s case, only one black venireman appeared; the Commonwealth struck that venireman; Smith objected; and the Commonwealth gave an explanation for the strike that satisfied the trial court but not Smith.

Since the creation of the Court of Appeals in 1985, the overwhelming majority of final criminal appeals have been handled in that court. Whenever the Supreme Court grants a writ in a criminal case, therefore, it’s news, and is worth watching.