October 30, 2004
First DNA indictment in New York
CNN reports that the first suspect indicted based on a DNA profile has been arrested in New York. I suppose the controversy over indictments based on DNA has to be evaluated in light of the alternative of solving the problem by eliminating statutes of limitation entirely as some states have done for crimes where DNA might prove useful.
An article in the New York Times reports that DNA indictments are not as useful as might have been hoped: Out of 600 rape kits from 1994 tested to beat the deadline yielding "a viable DNA profile, only 34 have resulted in John Doe indictments . . . Fifty percent were not eligible because the victim knew the defendant, a circumstance that shortens the statute of limitations to five years under state law. In 20 percent, the police paperwork was not available (many of the rapes ... took place in housing projects, which were policed by a separate agency until 1995). In another 20 percent, the victims would not cooperate. And in 10 percent, the victim could not be found or had died."
Of course, as DNA testing is performed as part of the initial investigation itself, these problems should diminish.
October 29, 2004
Congress and Criminal Defendants
Craig Lerner of George Mason has an interesting article coming out in the Illinois Law Review:
Legislators as the 'American Criminal Class': Why Congress (Sometimes) Protects the Rights of Defendants
A piece of the abstract: "It is an axiom of faith among criminal procedure scholars that legislatures are hostile to criminal defendants. Many have gestured towards an alleged "legislative default" in criminal procedure to support judicial activism to ensure fairness in the criminal process. This article, taking its cue from Mark Twain's insight that Congress is our "distinctly native American criminal class," questions the prevailing wisdom and argues that legislatures are sometimes sympathetic to criminal defendants. Over the centuries, legislators have been menaced by criminal prosecution, and this prospect has, on significant occasions, shaped the development of Anglo-American criminal procedure."
Judge throws party as she sentences man
AP reports that "A judge welcomed a former fugitive back to her courtroom with balloons, streamers and a cake before sentencing him to life in prison."
Update: Judge defends courtroom party for prisoner
Getting a criminal off the street is reason to celebrate.
October 27, 2004
BJS Report: Characteristics of Non-Violent Offenders Exiting State Prisons
Profile of Nonviolent Offenders Exiting State Prisons
Provides a description of the general characteristics of prison populations serving time for nonviolent crimes as they exit State prisons. Nonviolent crimes are defined as property, drug, and public order offenses that do not involve a threat of harm or an actual attack upon a victim. To conduct this analysis, BJS used data collected under two statistical programs, the National Recidivism Reporting Program that last collected data on those discharged from prisons in 15 States in 1994 and the Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities last conducted in 1997. This report examines the responses of inmates who indicated to interviewers that they expected to be released within 6 months. 10/04 NCJ 207081
October 26, 2004
Domestic Violence Research
An interesting new NIJ report:
When Violence Hits Home:How Economics and Neighborhood Play a Role
The study asks: "Does intimate partner violence occur more in disadvantaged neighborhoods? Are couples facing job instability or other economic distress more susceptible to intimate violence? Is the combination of individual money problems and living in a tough neighborhood a catalyst for higher levels of violence? An NIJ-sponsored study summarized in this Research in Brief answers yes to all three questions."
The full text is available on line: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/pubs-sum/205004.htm
October 25, 2004
Law Clerk Zachary Price argues in the Fordham Law Review that the rule of lenity is justified on separation of powers grounds. He explains "Whereas the conventional rationales have focused on the perspective of criminal defendants, seeking to guarantee them fair warning and political access, my analysis will shift to the perspective of voters, emphasizing lenity's role in advancing the democratic accountability of criminal justice."
The Rule of Lenity as a Rule of Structure, 72 Fordham L. Rev. 885 (March, 2004).