Monday, February 24, 2014
The Georgia Supreme Court today shook its head at a trial court's recent denial of an inmates right to petition for the use of a law library. The AP reports:
In an opinion released Monday, the high court says a trial court erred when it barred an inmate from filing a petition to force prison officials to give him access to a law library.
Waseem Daker was convicted in 2012 of stabbing and strangling a woman and stabbing her 5-year-old son. He was sentenced to nearly 50 years in jail.
He has requested a new trial and said he plans additional legal action. He complained to prison officials about his lack of access to legal materials.
The trial judge said his petition was frivolous and wouldn't allow it to be filed. The high court says the trial court must allow the petition to be filed.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Missouri will have to wait to receive the drug cocktail for its upcoming execution until at least next week. Ohio recently employed the same drug--compounded pentobarbital--in the execution of Dennis McGuire on January 16, which lasted 26-minutes. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) has since delayed the state's next scheduled execution until the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction completes its review of McGuire's execution.
A US federal judge has temporarily blocked an Oklahoma compounding pharmacy from selling a drug to the Missouri department of corrections for use in an upcoming execution.
The restraining order was issued in a lawsuit filed a day earlier in US district court by the Missouri death row inmate Michael Taylor. His attorneys allege that the department contracts with the Apothecary Shoppe to provide the drug set to be used in Taylor’s 26 February lethal injection.
The lawsuit argues that several recent executions involving the drug, compounded pentobarbital, indicate it will likely cause Taylor “severe, unnecessary, lingering and ultimately inhumane pain”.
In his order on Wednesday Judge Terence Kern wrote that Taylor’s attorneys submitted “facts demonstrating that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to plaintiff before defendant can be heard in opposition”.
The judge set a hearing for Tuesday and ordered the pharmacy to submit a response to the injunction by Friday. He said the order would remain in effect at least until the hearing.
It was not immediately clear if the execution would be delayed because of the ruling. The state has not revealed the name of the compounding pharmacy supplying the drug and the Apothecary Shoppe previously declined to confirm or deny that it was the source of a drug used in an earlier Missouri execution.
CRL&P related posts:
- Union requests changes to Texas's solitary confinement policy for death row inmates
- NYTimes calls for end to 'barbaric, racist' death penalty
- When victims' families defend defendants against capital punishment
- Correcting a Fatal Lottery: A Proposal to Apply the Civil Discrimination Standards to the Death Penalty
- South Carolina Is Still Defending Its Neglectful Prisons
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
In When Victims Speak Up in Court--in Defense of the Criminals, The Atlantic's Andrew Cohen writes about the difficulties faced by prosecutors and judges when victims--or victims' families--defend defendants against the state's pursuit of certain punishments. In particular, Cohen examines the ongoing Colorado murder case in Colorado v. Montour in which the victim's family opposed the death penalty for the defendant. Cohen explains:
The last time [the defendant] faced trial for [the victim's] death, the victim's family supported the death penalty as an option. Not this time. This time, having educated themselves about capital punishment, and better understanding the nature of [the defendant's] mental illness at the time of [the victim's] death, the [the victim's family] have been vocally, stridently, ceaselessly against the imposition of death in this case. Earlier this month, for example, as potential jurors in the...case were lined up outside the courthouse waiting to learn about the case for which they were summoned, the [victim's family] picketed the line and pleaded with [the prosecutor] to spare their son's killer.
Episodes like this -- and the media attention they inevitably generated -- prompted....the prosecutor in the Montour case to remove the family from his preliminary list of witnesses to be called during the sentencing of the case. And that removal, in turn, has prompted [the defense] attorneys to ask the trial judge in the case to allow the [victim's family] to testify during sentencing. That prompted an aggressive response from [the prosecutor], arguing that Colorado's victims' rights laws don't apply to "mitigating" factors during sentencing but only to "aggravating factors." And that is where we stand today.
Capital punishment, of course, likely will subsume much of this controversy (perhaps at the expense of other much needed sentencing reforms), especially as questions as to its propriety have re-emerged nationally after the shameful Ohio execution that lasted 26 minutes. The executed man's family now is suing the state for its alleged violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishment." Meanwhile, several state senators have called for the reinstatement of firing squads in executions. Given these developments, Cohen's article is a particularly compelling read. It begins:
One of the most profound changes in criminal justice over the past 40 years has been the rise of the victims' lobby. Essentially shut out of the core of the process until the 1970s, the victims' rights movement today can cite legislation from sea to sea, chapter and verse under both federal and state laws, that broadens the rights of victims to participate in the trials of those accused of harming them or their families. The Department of Justice's 2012 "Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance," for example, totals 66 pages and barely scratches the surface of what similar state guidelines reveal.
The immutable trio that once existed in criminal cases— judge, prosecutor, and defendant—now almost always resembles a quartet. Victims have a voice—and they use it. All 50 states now allow some form of "victim impact statement" at sentencing. Because such statements are often so compelling to jurors, defense attorneys frequently seek ways to blunt their impact. But these efforts almost always fail. Even judges who are sympathetic to the constitutional rights of defendants, who fret about the prejudicial impact of victim testimony, say they are bound by legislative declarations broadening the scope of victim participation in criminal cases.
But a pending Colorado case raises a profound question that few judges (or prosecutors or jurors) ever have to confront: What happens when the victims of violent crime seek to speak out on behalf of the defendant and not the state? What happens when the family member of a murder victim seeks leave to beg jurors at sentencing to spare the life of the man who killed their son? What responsibility does the prosecutor have in that case? What obligations do the courts have? Do victims' rights sound only when they favor the government and the harshest sentence, or do they sound as well when they cry out for mercy?
So far, the prosecutor in the case, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, has answered those questions clearly: He wants to block one couple's efforts to speak out against the death penalty for the man who murdered their child. Brauchler has filed a motion in a pending case seeking to bar Bob and Lola Autobee from participating in the sentencing phase of the trial of Edward Montour, their son's killer. The law only guarantees the rights of victims to "discuss the harm that resulted from the crime," Brauchler argues. But I haven't been able to find a single victims' right advocate who believes that's true.
CRL&P related posts:
- Correcting a Fatal Lottery: A Proposal to Apply the Civil Discrimination Standards to the Death Penalty
- South Carolina Is Still Defending Its Neglectful Prisons
- There's an alarming number of deaths in US jails
Monday, January 27, 2014
Last week, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released this three year survey finding that the number of inmates reporting sexual abuse by prison and jail staff is growing--up more than 10 percent since its last survey. Of course, increased reporting could be the result of other systemic factors unrelated to the actual frequency of such crimes by correctional officers--e.g. improved complaint procedures and education about inmates' rights. But, as ProPublica's Joaquin Sapien reports, the survey's findings cast doubt as to the true efficacy of alerting correctional officers of allegations of sexual abuse--which, in turn, raises questions as to the likelihood that inmates would expose themselves to reporting processes quite possibly operated by those whose abuse caused the need for reporting in the first place. The title of this post comes from that report, which explains:
[E]ven in the rare cases where there is enough evidence to prove that sexual abuse occurred, and that a correctional officer is responsible for it, the perpetrator rarely faces prosecution. While most prison staff shown to be involved in sexual misconduct lost their jobs, fewer than half were referred for prosecution, and only 1 percent ultimately got convicted.
Roughly one-third of staff caught abusing prisoners are allowed to resign before the investigation comes to a close, the report concludes, meaning there’s no public record of what exactly transpired and nothing preventing them from getting a similar job at another facility.
“These findings point to a level of impunity in our prisons and jails that is simply unacceptable,” said Lovisa Stannow, Executive Director of Just Detention International, a prisoner advocacy group in California. “When corrections agencies don’t punish or choose to ignore sexual abuse committed by staff members— people who are paid by our tax dollars to keep inmates safe— they support criminal behavior.”
The lack of punishment may deter inmates from reporting. When the Justice Department has surveyed inmates directly, as opposed to the administrators that oversee them, the reports of abuse have been far greater. A 2013 survey estimated that more than 80,000 prisoners had been sexually victimized by fellow inmates or staff over a two-year period, roughly five times the rate reported by administrators.
“Inmates don’t report because of the way the institution handles these complaints: they’re afraid if they do report, then the staff will retaliate,” said Kim Shayo Buchanan, a law professor at the University of Southern California who studies the issue. “Even if you report and they believe you, which they probably won’t, the most likely thing to happen is that the person will be suspended or maybe fired.”
Calls for comment to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Association of State Correctional Administrators weren’t immediately returned.
CRL&P related posts:
- The Normativity of Using Prison to Control Hate Speech: The Hollowness of Waldron's Harm Theory
- Community based-mediation between youth offenders and their victims?
- There's an alarming number of deaths in US jails
- Imprisonment and Disenfranchisement of Disconnected Low-Income Men
- South Carolina Is Still Defending Its Neglectful Prisons
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Andrew Cohen's post today at The Atlantic lambastes South Carolina's "immoral appeal" of this recent decision in which the judge found that the state's prison conditions violate the state and federal Constitutions' protection against "cruel and unusual punishment." Cohen says "the state's motion is
remarkable for the assertions it makes that directly contradict the evidence in this case"; and, he later declares that the state's "assertions [on appeal] turn on their head the entire edifice of American law[.]" The title of this post comes from his piece, which begins:
Over the objections of the state's best editorial writers and some of its leading legislators, South Carolina has chosen to fight a recent court order declaring its prisons to be unconscionable (and unconstitutional) dens of abuse and neglect for mentally ill inmates housed there. Lawyers for the state filed a motion Tuesday with Judge Michael Baxley, the link to which can be found here, asking him to "alter or amend" his January 8th order in which he found that...
… inmates have died in the South Carolina Department of Corrections for lack of basic mental health care, an hundreds more remain substantially at risk for serious physical injury, mental decompensation, and profound, permanent mental illness.
The motion will be denied, as it should be, and then the legal dispute over the treatment of the inmates will move to the state's appellate courts. The process will take years. It will cost a great deal. And so long as state officials are litigating the matter, and proclaiming themselves aggrieved by the rule of law, there is little reason to think that the wretched lives of the inmates will be rendered any safer. They will instead remain citizens with grand rights but no remedies.
Thursday, January 9, 2014
The Urban Institute has this issue brief describing the disparate impact mass incarceration has had on African Americans and Hispanics. The title of this post comes from that brief, the abstract of which states:
Incarceration rates have risen over time and vary by race and ethnicity, reflecting changes in federal and state crime policies over the past few decades. In 2011, African American men were six times more likely and Hispanics nearly two and half times more likely to be imprisoned than white men. This brief summarizes some of the disparate impacts these policies have had on African American and Hispanic men and the consequences for their families and communities.
Sunday, December 29, 2013
The Guardian had this disturbing article early this week about the number of people who have died while in the custody of United States jails. The title of this post comes from the article, which begins:
Kyam Livingston begged for help. After seven hours of lying on the floor of a jail cell, the 38-year-old mother of two died, her calls unheeded by the correction officers providing security for the approximately 15 female inmates at Brooklyn "central booking" jail this past summer, according to witnesses and court documents.
Witnesses told the family that she had died in the cell among fetid conditions before she was taken to Brooklyn Hospital Health Center on 21 July 2013 where Livingston was pronounced dead at 6:58am, according to police reports. A witness, registered nurse Aleah Holland, told The Daily News, that police at Central Booking ignored her complaints of stomach pains and diarrhea. She said that when she and other inmates banged on the bars calling for help, officers told them Livingston was an alcoholic.
No one knows what happened, and no one wants to say. The NYPD told the family that she died of a seizure, but her family says she never suffered from seizures. This October the family sued the city, the NYPD, and the Department of Corrections in an effort to force systemic change and "responsibility" for her death.
Livingston was one of the few hundred jail deaths that happen across the country. In 2011, (the latest available numbers) 885 inmates died(pdf) in the custody of local jails, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics reported. Notice I said jails. These are different from prisons. Prisons are for people who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced. There are roughly 3,000 jails nationwide and each facility is set up to process people that have been arrested before they are arraigned or go to trial. Some will serve a misdemeanor sentence (of under a year). The majority will be let go because the charges against them won't stick as they move through the legal system. Others will remain in jails while waiting to go to trial too poor to make bail – yet to be convicted of anything. Regardless, they will be treated as criminals.
Also on CRL&P: How much does a public defender need to know about a client?
Friday, December 20, 2013
New Mexico legalizes same-sex marriages; could Indiana be the next state to do so? Ohioans are split on the issue; and, Texas gubernatorial candidate invites gay people to support his campaign even though 'anyone who participates in that activity' should be executed.
But, executions in U.S. reach the lowest point in 40 years; while heat on death row in Louisiana prison is cruel and unusual.
Pennsylvania woman files a federal lawsuit alleging the county sheriff prevented her from whistleblowing against local ambulance services; Miami Gardens PD face a civil rights lawsuit alleging a pattern of Fourth Amendment violations; and, former Des Moines officer faces civil rights charge for kicking a detainee in the head.
Texas's new voter registration cards riddled with errors.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
In Reducing Incarceration for Youthful Offenders with a Developmental Approach to Sentencing, Professor Samantha Buckingham argues that a community-based sentencing scheme would better serve youth offenders--and society at large--than our currently unsophisticated and inefficient one. Here's the abstract:
Current sentencing practices have proven to be an ineffective method of rehabilitating criminal defendants. Such practices are unresponsive to developmental science breakthroughs, fail to promote rehabilitation, and drain society’s limited resources. These deficiencies are most acute when dealing with youthful offenders. Incarcerating youthful offenders, who are amenable to rehabilitative efforts, under current sentencing practices only serves to ensure such individuals will never become productive members of society. Drawing on the author’s experiences as a public defender, studies in developmental psychology and neuroscience, and the Supreme Court’s recent line of cases that acknowledge youthful offenders’ biological differences from adult offenders, the author proposes a restorative-justice approach to replace current sentencing practices. This solution includes tailoring a youthful offender’s sentence to his or her developmental level and offering a community-based mediation between victims and offenders. The proposal counteracts a major deficiency of current sentencing practices — the failure to offer youthful offenders an opportunity to truly understand their crimes. Only by providing an opportunity to learn from an offense will a youthful offender be in a position to rehabilitate. This Article responds to possible critiques of the proposal, including concerns about the ability to accurately measure the success of a restorative-justice sentencing model, the fear of implicating the offender’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and the cost of implementing mediation-based efforts. Ultimately, this Article determines that a developmentally appropriate, community-based sentencing scheme — with restorative justice overtones — best addresses the unique situation youthful offenders find themselves in. A sentence for a youthful offender should — indeed, must — present meaningful opportunities for the youthful offender to rehabilitate, and age-appropriate sentences grounded in restorative-justice principles will do this effectively.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
NSA takes advantage of 'cookies' used for advertising to track surveillance targets.
Federal judge rejects California AG's request for dismissal in case challenging law requiring 10-day waiting period for gun owners.
Cruel and unusual punishment suit after prisoner placed in solitary confinement for one month could cost taxpayers.
American man claims discrimination after the California Department of Corrections denied him a job because he had previously used a false SSN, while in Illinois this guy still has a job.
Amendment aimed at protecting sexual assault victims scrapped as Congress passes the National Defense Authorization Act.
Bill introduced in the Senate to eliminate state laws regulating the sexual activity of people with HIV.
Chinese Law Prof is expelled for criticizing China's one-party government.
Man convicted of a hate crime after attacking a Sikh cab driver to serve more than three years in prison.
And, a six-year old is suspended after kissing a classmate on the cheek. I wonder if he would have received similar punishment if had hit her.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Allegedly illegal strip searches in Milwaukee jail could cost the city millions; man acquitted of drug charges files a civil rights suit against FBI alleging malicious prosecution; police face civil rights suit after officer pleads guilty to child porn; jail staff knew diabetic woman in their care needed insulin perhaps days before she died; Miami Gardens police allegedly used excessive force and denied medical treatment to arrestee; and, man was killed by a police officer who had accidently been tased by another officer.
Atlantic says Obama misled MSNBC's Chris Matthews on NSA surveillance; Guardian reflects on how the debate over surveillance has changed since Snowden's leaks; Nobel-winning writers say NSA surveillance is compromising freedom; Bill Clinton worries about the NSA's collection of economic data; and, NSA makes tech companies worry about profits.
Federal judge holds journalists have no constitutional right to be embedded with military; and, ACLU says prison officials violated the First Amendment by denying reporters access to prisoners after a riot.
Gun manufacturers doing better than before Newtown.
December 10, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, Excessive Force, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Freedom of Press, Freedom of Speech, Gun Policy, Prisons and Prisoners, Same-sex marriage, Strip Searches, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, December 9, 2013
Senate likely to extend ban on plastic guns, but nexus of gun-control debate has shifted to the states; and, four of five members of the city council in rural Rhode Island town face recalls after recommending changes to process for issuing concealed weapons permits.
Obama about ready to announce changes to NSA surveillance program; major tech companies submit open letter to Obama and Congress demanding new limits on NSA's freedom-harming surveillance; Snowden might testify before the EU Parliament's committee on civil liberties; local law enforcement is using software in NSA-style monitoring of cellphone data, and here's how it does it; and, Sen. Paul calls for a renewed commitment to the Fourth Amendment.
Rutger's basketball player alleges civil rights violations against former coach for allegedly repeated verbal and physical abuse; and, New Orleans settles civil rights lawsuit alleging man was falsely arrested and held for five months.
Editorial lambasts New Mexico prison for placing 71-year-old in solitary confinement for one month on suspicion of bringing meth into the facility.
Internet companies speak out against former Cincinatti Bengals cheerleader's defamation suit after federal judge allows it to proceed.
December 9, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Freedom of Speech, Gun Policy, Prisons and Prisoners, Revenge Porn, Universities and Colleges, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Milwaukee to file civil rights complaint against company that lost a flashdrive containing employees' personal information; and, DOE will not file civil rights complaint after a report finds rampant cheating in El Paso schools.
Virginia officials making preparations for new voter ID law.
Colorado baker must serve same-sex couples, Judge says.
Reason.com highlights three important on-going Second Amendment cases.
Virginia Restaurant owner says he can take video of customers using the bathroom.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Federal court hears case alleging the heat on death row in a Louisiana prison is unsafe; civil rights lawsuit filed alleging that a diabetic inmate died because the prison failed to provide adequate medical care; and, civil rights lawsuit alleges the police in a Miami suburb targeted African-Americans.
Fourth Circuit orders gun found on a convicted felon suppressed because it was obtained during an illegal search.
Americans are more deeply divided on gun policy than before Newtown; Plain Dealer columnist contrasts Newtown parents efforts to keep children safe from guns with those of gun-rights activists; and, Georgia man mistakingly kills a man suffering from Alzheimer's.
Iowa Supreme Court upholds law banning non-residents from hunting on property that they own.
December 7, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Gun Policy, Prisons and Prisoners, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The title of this post comes from this Raw Story article reporting that a New Mexico corrections officer used cruel and unusual punishment when she allegedly sprayed mace on an arrestee's genitals. Here's the story:
Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Marlene Tapia against Blanca Zapater, the corrections officer that Tapia alleges subjected her to cruel and unusual punishment while violating her right to due process.
According to the suit, on November 22, 2011, Zapater was arrested on a suspected parole violation. During a routine strip search, Zapater and another corrections officer “observed a plastic baggie protruding from Ms. Tapia’s vagina.”
Instead of asking her to remove the package, Zapater allegedly “sprayed a chemical agent directly on Ms. Tapia’s genitals twice,” despite the fact that “Ms. Tapia was not using or attempting to use any force against the corrections officers.”
The suit claims that this spraying “served no purpose other than to punish” and “would not cause the baggie to become dislodged.” The effects of the application of this chemical agent lasted for several weeks and included “burning, swollen genitals, painful urination, and pain and burning on Ms. Tapia’s face.”
The ACLU is seeking punitive damages, to be determined by a jury, for these alleged violations of Tapia’s Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
(h/t Jonathan Turley)
Sunday, November 24, 2013
NSA director doesn't really want to give the FBI and DEA access to surveillance data.
Federal appeals court upholds ruling requiring changes to NYC's stop-and-frisk policy.
Decades-long civil rights dispute over Little Rock schools could be nearing its conclusion.
Federal lawsuit over the use of Tasers by prison guards alleges 'callous and sadistic' constitutional violations.
Atlantic City PD face another civil rights suit alleging excessive force.
November 24, 2013 in 14th Amendment, Abortion, Civil Rights Litigation, Department of Justice, Equal Protection Clause, Excessive Force, Fourth Amendment, Prisons and Prisoners, Stop-and-frisk, Theories of Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, November 23, 2013
NSA actually sought to expand surveillance program.
Montgomery Advertiser calls for more ballot access for minor party candidates; PolitiFact calls North Carolina governor's claim that Democrats 'agree' with voter ID law 'mostly false'; and, Plain Dealer column argues that Ohio election reforms should not include photo ID.
Wisconsin Court of Appeals will not block probe into campaign spending and fundraising during this month's elections.
Inmate charged with double murder files a hand written civil rights lawsuit alleging unduly harsh prison conditions and First Amendment violations.
Seattle PD settle a civil rights suit for an illegal search resulting in arrest of ex-felon for illegally possessing a firearm.
November 23, 2013 in Civil Rights Litigation, Election Law, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Gun Policy, Prisons and Prisoners, Right to Vote, Same-sex marriage, Stop-and-frisk, Theories of Punishment, Voter ID | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, November 18, 2013
SCOTUS will not hear privacy group's challenge to NSA's collection of telephone information from Verizon customers; however, two lower courts will hear challenges to NSA's program; and, The New Republic explains how German support for granting asylum to Snowden could have an impact in NYC.
Federal judge schedules case over Texas's voter ID law for September 2014; another federal judge hears closing arguments in the case over Wisconsin's voter ID law; Alabama's voter ID law will be enforced; and the Atlanta Daily World says black voting rights are at a crossroads.
Muslim woman files a civil rights lawsuit alleging that co-workers at The New School in NYC harassed and discriminated against her.
Iowa Supreme Court decides to allow a man wrongfully convicted of sexual abuse to proceed with his wrongful imprisonment claim.
Texas school district will allow a picture in the school's yearbook of a transgender teen dressed in a tuxedo.
Cheney sisters spar over same-sex marriage on Facebook.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
The title of this post comes from this fascinating story about a death row inmate whose execution was delayed so that he could donate organs to his mother and sister. The story is particularly interesting because of the tension between the state's interest in administering justice and the benefit to the would-be recipients of inmates' organs. Here are the details:
Ronald Phillips, 40, was set to be executed Thursday for the 1993 murder of Sheila Marie Evans – the three-year-old daughter of his girlfriend.
Ohio Governor John Kasich rescheduled the execution for July 2, 2014 to allow the time needed to determine if Phillips can donate “non-vital” organs such as a kidney prior to his execution.
"I realize this is a bit of uncharted territory for Ohio, but if another life can be saved by his willingness to donate his organs and tissues then we should allow for that to happen,” Kasich said in a statement.
Phillips had initially requested that his organs be harvested after his death by lethal injection.
His mother has kidney disease and his sister has heart problems, but he said he wanted to donate his organs to “as many people as possible.”
Saturday, November 9, 2013
Authorities in New Mexico face another lawsuit over allegedly illegal body-cavity searches, as do police in Milwaukee.
Medical marijuana distributor files a civil rights lawsuit alleging that authorities targeted him for his "outspoken advocacy" of local taxation of medical marijuana.
Same-sex marriage will be legal in Hawaii when the governor signs legalization bill into law later this week.
Guardian editor will face questioning by British lawmakers for publication of NSA leaks.
3-D printer makes gun, raises production concerns.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Supreme Court scheduled to hear arguments over the constitutionality of prayer at public meetings.
Federal judge rules that protesters may occupy state property indefinitely.
Advocates likely to start pushing for adoption rights for LGBT couples.
Does ENDA support demonstrates the evolution of the GOP on LGBT issues?
AG Holder continues advocacy for criminal justice reform at prisoner reentry group's event.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
U.S. Senate takes up bill to provide more protection for sexual assualt victims in the military; The Atlantic says "[silent] epidemic" of domestic abuse in same-sex relationships requires more research; and The Week considers the utility and advisability of wearing anti-rape underwear.
TX Attorney General sues EEOC because the agency's hiring guidelines allegedly prohibit the state from denying certain jobs to former felons.
Excited dispute over TX voter ID law erupts at local county court.
Reuter's columnist laments GOP's continued efforts to block federal judicial appointments.
Monday, November 4, 2013
The Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of a man found guilty of killing three civil rights workers in 1963, a crime for which he was not convicted until 2005. The title of this post comes from this article from the Associated Press, which states:
The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of Edgar Ray Killen, convicted in 2005 for the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers in Mississippi.
The court ruled Monday that it won't review lower-court rulings that found no violations of Killen's constitutional rights during his trial in Mississippi.
Killen, now 88, was convicted of manslaughter 41 years to the day after the slayings of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman. He is serving 60 years.
On June 21, 1964, Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman disappeared in Neshoba County. The FBI found their bodies buried in an earthen dam Aug. 4, 1964, in what became known as the "Mississippi Burning" case.
Saturday, November 2, 2013
Employment Non-Discrimation Act (ENDA) has bipartisan support in the Senate, but It's unlikely to come up for a vote in the House. Since Supreme Court struck down parts of DOMA, gay rights activists have increased efforts in state legislatures and courts.
Snowden claims the U.S. 'seeks to criminalize political speech' and says he wants to testify before Congress.
Alabama inmate alleges that warden ignored assaults and rape.
Texas court strikes down ban on sexually explicit online conversations with minors as unconstitutionally overbroad.
Friday, November 1, 2013
Pro Publica breaks down the effects of the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County v. Holder.
At University of North Texas, students sign petitions to get rape-kit access.
NPR asks whether race affects stand your ground laws.
The title of this post comes from this report from the AP about one attorney's challenge to Ohio's new lethal injection cocktail. The article begins:
A death row inmate sentenced to die for raping and killing a 3-year-old girl was expected to testify at a hearing in federal court Friday as his lawyers challenge the state's new, never-tried lethal injection system.
Attorneys for condemned killer Ronald Phillips want a federal judge to delay Phillips' Nov. 14 execution while they gather evidence as part of their lawsuit against the two-drug process.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction announced a new execution policy last month and said Monday that it would use that system's second option: a combination of a sedative and painkiller never tried before in a U.S. execution.
Phillips' attorneys say the department's announcements came too close to the execution date to allow a meaningful challenge. The state says nothing is substantially different about the new system.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Earlier this month, CRL&P noted that a woman from Illinois had filed a civil rights lawsuit after a Skokie police officer shoved her face-first into a jailcell bench, causing serious injuries. Today, The Chicago Tribune reports that the police officer has been charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct. The title of this post comes from the article, which begins:
A Skokie police officer caught on video shoving a woman into a cell bench had become irate after she wouldn't look into the camera for her booking photo, according to prosecutors who have charged the officer with aggravated battery and official misconduct.
Officer Michael Hart pushed Cassandra Feuerstein so hard that it broke her eye socket, cut her cheek and loosened her teeth, prosecutors said. She needed reconstructive surgery to place a titanium plate in her cheek and still suffers vision problems and numbness in her face, her attorney said.
The charges came after Feuerstein's attorney, Torri Hamilton, filed a federal lawsuit this month alleging police brutality in the case and released a police video of the incident that attracted widespread attention on the Internet.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez announced the charges Wednesday, saying her office takes the case "very seriously."
"It's pretty clear that he stepped over the line," Alvarez said. "Obviously (police officers) are there because of the public trust. ... It's a sad day when we have to announce charges against a police officer."
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Bill before Ohio House would let nursing home patients set up hidden cameras to document poor treatment.
Sen. Portman paid prominent pollster to assess the effects of his new position on gay-marriage after his son announced that he was gay, and former Supreme Court Justice O'Connor performs same-sex wedding ceremony.
Support for the death penalty reaches its lowest point in more than fifty years.
Plain Dealer editorial argues for keeping convicted felons closer to home.
Al Sharpton and Barney's CEO have a productive meeting discussing recent racial profiling allegations, but that might not be enough for NY Attorney General.
Several hundred protesters denounce the killing of 13-year-old by FBI agent
The title of this post come from this article from The New York Times about recent efforts by states to pass legislation aimed at reducing the number of youth defendants charged as adults. The article begins:
James Stewart died alone.
The 17-year-old from Denver had committed a terrible act: while driving drunk, he slammed into another vehicle head on and killed its driver. Initially placed with other juvenile offenders, he was moved to the county lockup after the district attorney charged him as an adult. Left alone in his cell despite his frantic pleas to be with others, he tightened his bedsheets around his neck and killed himself.
His death, in 2008, was one of two suicides by young people in Colorado jails that helped spur a significant change in state law last year by narrowing the authority of prosecutors to charge juveniles as adults and to place them in adult jails, part of a wave of such laws nationwide.
In a reversal of the tough-on-crime legislation that swept the nation in the late 1980s and ’90s, nearly half of the states have now enacted one or more laws that nudge more young offenders into the juvenile justice system, divert them from being automatically tried as adults and keep them from being placed in adult jails and prisons.
Monday, October 28, 2013
Politico: N.Y. Times rejects Banksy op-ed
The title of this post comes from this recent article arguing that imposing prison sentences for hate speech is disproportionate to the harm stemming from such speech, and as a result is an injustice to the speaker. Here is the abstract:
We question the justice of using prison sentences to control hate speech. It is argued that prison sentences should be used only to deter offensive and hateful speech that harms others. However, the harm requirement cannot be satisfied merely by demonstrating theoretical harm in the abstract, as Jeremy Waldron does in his recent book. Instead, factual harm has to be demonstrated because prison is in fact very harmful for the expresser of the offensive and hateful speech. There is noting wrong with penal measures being used to deter this kind of speech, but harmful prison sentences should not be used to deter harmless speech. Waldron asserts that the United States should follow the British model, among others, of using prison to control and chill free (hate) speech. Waldron wants a model of unfree speech for some. We aim to show that the United States should resist enacting hate speech laws similar to the unjust laws found in Britain, where people have received long prison sentences for uttering offensive and hateful thoughts. To use prison sentences is to use a sledgehammer to crack a walnut: it is a grossly disproportionate and unjust penal response. Particular issue is taken with Waldron’s harm theory. The core element of the paper is the Waldron debate, because the type of vacuous harm theory he puts forward has the potential to be used by lawmakers to justify unjust penal responses such as harmful prison sentences for harmless (even though grossly offensive) speech.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
The Supreme Court will re-examine mental disability standards used to determine eligibility for death penalty.
Gov. Jindal condemns DOJ for denying request of four families to join state as defendants in civil rights case.
Des Moines Register editorial questions interrogations by state troopers during traffic stops.
In Iowa, former state employees allege "culture of discrimination and retaliation" in the workplace.
The Atlantic documents Sen. Wyden's efforts to reform the NSA's surveillance program.
Glenn Greenwald speaks with Newsweek about NSA leaks, governmental abuse of power, and future plans.
Sen.-elect Booker says he looks forward to working with Sen. Paul and others on reforming drug laws.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Andrew Cohen asks today at The Atlantic. Cohen reviews the N.J. Supreme Court's recent ruling in State v. Terrence Miller, a decision in which the court ruled that a criminal defendant's right to counsel under the 14th Amendment does not require very competent counsel. Cohen calls the court's decision "one of the most indefensible I have ever read." Here's how it begins:
Earlier this month, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a ruling in a case that didn't generate much publicity in the Garden State or anywhere else. It was just another opinion, about another indigent criminal defendant whose case was processed through a justice system that was relentlessly more concerned with efficiency than with justice. Sadly, it's not big news today when our nation's judges permit a person's fair trial rights to be violated in a way that both shocks the conscience and violates the Constitution.
In State v. Terrence Miller, four justices of the state supreme court—over a lone dissent—affirmed the conviction of a man indicted on drug charges who met his lawyer for the first time for a few minutes in a stairwell at the courthouse on the morning of trial. The lawyer had not tried a criminal case in seven years and had been appointed to Miller's case only four days before trial. He never spoke to any witnesses, or to Miller's former attorney, or to investigators in the public defender's office. He didn't know what his client would say on the witness stand.
Twice, the defense attorney asked the trial judge for a continuance so that he could adequately prepare for trial. Twice, the trial judge refused the request even though there were other cases he could have tried during that time. He had his docket schedule to worry about, the judge said, and the case was not complex. The judge was frustrated, court records revealed, with the "higher ups" in the public defenders office. He thought they were trying to play him. Lost in the middle of this turf war was Miller. He bore the brunt of the judge's frustration.
To their credit, prosecutors did not oppose the adjournment, but of course they did not complain when it was denied by the judge. The trial proceeded. Miller never had a chance to present his best defense, whatever it was, and was quickly convicted. All of this, the state supreme court declared, satisfied the defendant's constitutional right to counsel first expressed in Gideon v. Wainwright. Miller, the court said, got a fair trial. His trial judge, the justices concluded, should have delayed the trial but did not "abuse his discretion" when he didn't.
Opposition stymies gun legislation that would establish mandatory minimums for illegal gun possession
The Illinois House Judiciary Committee has axed a controversial measure from H.B. 2265 that would have established mandatory minimum sentences for illegal gun possession. According to The Chicago Tribune, "Supporters say the measure is aimed at felons, gang members and people in possession of weapons without a valid firearm owner permit." Opponents, however, worry that the measure will send people to jail for up to three years for a simple mistake. The NRA claims, "This specific provision incorrectly targets otherwise law-abiding citizens, rather than deterring violent criminals with harsher penalties[.]" The measure will be subject to further negotiation.
Both sides argee that Chicago has a gang problem. Gang activity in Chicago is increasing, and gang membership has reached 100,000. Gang-related violence is high and guns play a prominent role in much of that violence. One evening last September, for example, gang-related shootings killed 3 people and put 23 more in the hospital.
But the question of how to deal with that violence remains a difficult one. Mandatory minimums for illegal gun possession reportedly would have prevented as many as 19 deaths just this year, and one study estimates that the law would prevent nearly 4,000 crimes annually. According to DNAinfo Chicago:
The cost-benefit analysis found that more than 63 percent of those on probation for unlawful use of a weapon are arrested again for the same crime within a year, with 7 percent rearrested for a violent crime.
But, mandatory minimums may not be the answer. As the Chicago Sun Times editorial observed:
In the real world, this is what happens: Mandatory minimums, dictated by law, make it impossible for judges to use common-sense discretion when imposing sentences, so judges must nail some poor sap who simply made a foolish mistake with the same harsh sentence they would impose on a hardened criminal. But those mandatory minimums do nothing to reduce the ability of prosecutors to use discretion when deciding what charges — light or heavy — to file against a defendant. The indirect result is that prosecutors, not judges, set the sentence.
Whether establishing mandatory minimums would achieve desired outcomes is debatable, but one thing is certain: curbing gang-related gun violence requires social programs and community investment. As several Chicago officials have observed, social conditions such as high unemployement and underemployement exacerbate the problem. One group has protested South Chicago's "trauma care desert," noting that gunshot victims must be taken as far as 10 miles to receive care--sometimes with deadly consequences.
Some effots have been taken to ameliorate the situation facing youths in areas of high gang activity. In Chicago, city officials reportedly plan to provide social services such as GED programs and help securing jobs for former gang members. Others have tried to create dialogue between rival gangs. Father Michael Pfleger, for instance, has brought rival gang members together through a weekly basketball league. Reportedly, violence in his community has dropped.
Gun regulation likely would be valuable to curbing Chicago's gang violence, especially in conjuction with other efforts aimed at broader systemic problems. But mandatory minimums may be a short-term fix to long-term problems. Maybe not.
CRL&P related posts:
For more on manditory minimums see Sentencing Law and Policy.