CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

MA Gets Electronic Fingerprinting for Gun Shops

FingerprintThe Massachusetts Instant Record Check System is operating in three gun shops and about 140 police departments across Massachusetts.  The system enables gun shop owners to know almost instantaneously, with the quick scan of a customer's fingerprint, who is authorized to purchase firearms.  The system efficiently operates using a statewide collection of fingerprints, photographs, and relevant legal documents (such as arrest warrants and restraining orders), all available to gun shop owners and the local police, who act as the licensing authority.  Arrest warrants, restraining orders, and fingerprints scanned into the system at gun shops or by the police upon arrest are instantly entered into the system, eliminating the delay of informing the appropriate authorities of who is authorized to become licensed or purchase a firearm.

With the new technology, MA becomes the first state equipped with biometric-based firearms license and sales applications.  By next summer, the system will operate in all gun shops and police departments in MA.  More...  [Mark Godsey]

December 8, 2004 in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

CrimProf Barry Scheck Blasts Mandatory Minimums in Washington Post

ScheckpIn an editorial appearing in today's Washington Post, CrimProf Barry Scheck blasts mandatory minimum sentencing schemes.  Scheck argues that if the Supreme Court invalidates the federal sentencing guidelines in Booker and Fanfan, forcing Congress to go back to the drawing board, it will present Congress with a new opportunity to revisit the issue of mandatory minimums that should not be passed up.  To see the editorial, click here and go to page 25.  [Mark Godsey]

December 7, 2004 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Breaking Case News: Ninth Circuit Holds Warrant Invalid If Affidavit Not Presented To Resident Along With Warrant Itself

Ninth_circuit_1The Ninth Circuit ruled yesterday in U.S. v. Grubbs that an anticipatory search warrant is not valid if the facts triggering the search are set forth only in the affidavit, and the affidavit is not formally presented  to the residents along with the warrant itself.  The court stated:  "We have long held . . . that the purpose of the particularity requirement is not limited to the prevention of general searches. A particular warrant also assures the individual whose property is searched or seized of the lawful authority of the executing officer, his need to search, and the limits of his power to search."  In addition, "[W]e have unequivocally held that the defect is not cured if the officers fail to present the affidavit--that is, an affidavit that is not shown to the persons being subjected to the search does not have a curative effect on a facially defective warrant."  This holding is required because "[i]f the officers conducting the search were not required to present the affidavit to the residents of the house being searched, law enforcement personnel would be free to search as they like, and homeowners and others would have no effective way to ensure that the search of their premises conformed to the lawful constraints approved by an impartial magistrate."  Because the triggering facts in the anticipatory warrant were contained only in the affidavit, and the affidavit was present with the officers during the search but not formally presented to the occupants along with the warrant, the search violated the Fourth Amendment.  [Mark Godsey]

December 7, 2004 in Search and Seizure | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

The Lucrative False Claims Act

Whistle AP reports on whistleblowers who made crimes of others pay by collecting a hefty share of the amount recovered by the federal government thanks to their tips. [Jack Chin]

December 7, 2004 in Criminal Justice Policy, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Will Brainscans Replace Polygraphs?

BrainscanNPR reports that new brainscan technology provides a more accurate test for deception than polygraph tests currently in use by law enforcement agencies across the country.  To listen, click here.  [Mark Godsey]

December 7, 2004 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


Sentencing Law and Policy has an interesting post about Colorado CrimProf William Pizzi's article on sentencing discrimination against people with Afro-centric features, and a post about the litigator who won both Blakely and Crawford. White Collar Crime Prof has a post about an internal investigation of an AUSA in ED MI who blew a terrorism prosecution and may have engaged in misconduct in other cases.  Crime and Federalism offers some sound advice, and an entry on privatizing tax enforcement. [Jack Chin]

December 7, 2004 in Blog Watch | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NYC Participates in Cities for Life: International Campaign Against the Death Penalty Event in Rome

Citiesforliferome On November 30, more than 300 cities participated in the "Cities for Life--Cities Against the Death Penalty" campaign which held its annual event in Rome, Italy.  The date, November 30, commemorates the day in 1786 when the death penalty was first abolished in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.  New York, Amsterdam, Paris, Buenos Aires, Berlin, and Hiroshima are among the 300 cities supporting the international campaign, which holds events worldwide. (photo of the Coliseum in Rome during the event). [Mark Godsey]   

December 7, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 6, 2004

Exoneration Roundup

Cuffs_2 A Wisconsin man who spent 18 years in prison before being released based on a DNA test was awarded $25,000 by the state claims board, the statutory maximum; a lawsuit seeking more is pending.  A Missouri man filed a wrongful conviction lawsuit claiming he was deliberately framed after spending 17 years on death row.  An article discusses the no-compensation policy of Pennsylvania law.  An Amarillo lawyer is seeking to clear Johnny Frank Garrett, executed 12 years ago, by doing DNA testing on evidence that still exists.  Legislators in North Carolina hope that a death penalty moratorium bill has a chance of passage this year after two high-profile exonerations; in one of those cases, Willard Brown pleaded guilty to a murder that Darryl Hunt served 18 years for before being exonerated by DNA.  [Jack Chin]

December 6, 2004 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Seventh Circuit Rules That Feds Acted in Bad Faith in Denying Sentence Reduction to Defendant

Seventh_circuitIn U.S. v. Wilson, issued last week, the Seventh Circuit found that federal prosecutors acted in bad faith in denying a sentence reduction to a defendant for "substantial assistance."  The court overruled the district court's finding of good faith, holding that the feds had withheld the reduction, to which Wilson was entitled, in order to coerce "Wilson to abandon his effort to redress [in a separate civil case] the extra two years he spent in prison on another case because of apparent negligence by government employees."  The decision is of importance because a finding of bad faith in the exercise of sentencing discretion by federal prosecutors is very rare indeed.  [Mark Godsey]

December 6, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

William & Mary Law Students Teach Literature and Law Classes to Virginia Inmates

ClassinjailPaul Marcus, a CrimProf at William & Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law, has helped some of his law students become teachers to a non-traditional group of students--a group of 17 inmates at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail.  The law students lead discussion among the inmates about literature involving legal issues.  This past week, the class discussed Sister Helen Prejean's Dead Man Walking, a book that looks at the human consequences of the death penalty. 

Third-year law student Janelle Lyons asked her discussion group, "What do you think about the statement that race, poverty and geography determine who gets the death penalty?"  "Do you think there's a way to make the system fair?" she asked.  Inmate Josi Smiley doesn't think so.  "Money or power could tip the scales in someone's favor," said Smiley, who is in jail for forgery and passing bad checks.  Lyons has found the inmates are "much more intelligent than most people probably believe...Just because they're in jail doesn't mean they don't have a love of learning."

"It's one thing to read opinions that look at the same set of facts and come up with conclusions," said David Lacy, a third-year law student. "But it's another thing to hear someone who knows what it's like to be incarcerated or knows what it's like to deal with the system...It's good to hear someone with real life experience," he said. "We are - I don't want to say - sheltered," but leading the discussions has offered the law-students valuable real-world experience.  More... [Mark Godsey]

December 6, 2004 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Supreme Court to Hear Two Criminal Cases Today

MillerelMiller-El v. Dretke
On Monday December 6, the Supreme Court will hear an appeal from a Texas death row inmate, Thomas Miller-El, claiming Texas prosecutors improperly struck minorities from his jury.  This is the second time in 2 years the Supreme Court will hear an appeal on Miller-El's behalf on this issue.  The last case resulted in an 8 to 1 decision instructing the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the "substantial evidence" suggesting that prosecutors in Miller-El's case systematically excluded black jurors from his jury that convicted him in 1985 of killing a hotel clerk in Dallas.  Prosecutors used 10 out of 11 peremptory challenges to strike black jurors from the jury and they used a local procedure called "jury shuffle" to move blacks eligible for jury duty lower on the list of potential jurors for the case.  In response to the Supreme Court's instruction to reconsider this evidence, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Miller-El's claim in a decision "lifted" without attribution from Clarence Thomas' lone dissent in the 8 to 1 Supreme Court decision.  The issue presented the second time around:  Whether the Court of Appeals, in reinstating on remand from this Court its prior rejection of petitioner’s claim that the prosecution had purposefully excluded African-Americans from his capital jury in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), so contravened this Court’s decision and analysis of the evidence in Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 E.S. 322 (2003), that an exercise of this Court’s supervisory powers under Supreme Court Rule 10(a) is required to sustain the protections against invidious discrimination set forth in Batson and Miller-El and the safeguards against arbitrary fact-finding set forth in 28 U.S.C. 2254(d)(2) and (e)(1)?  More...

Wilkinson v. Dotson, 03-0287

Questions presented:  (1) Whether a prisoner may bring a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 claiming that his parole proceedings violate due process, even though success on the merits of the claim would result only in a new parole hearing and would not necessarily guarantee earlier release from prison? (2) Does a federal court judgment ordering a new parole hearing "necessarily imply the invalidity of" the decision at the previous parole hearing?  More . . .    [Mark Godsey]

December 6, 2004 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 5, 2004

I Hope Not Department

Robert_blake When asked if he knew anything about the case, a prospective juror in the Robert Blake murder trial replied "I think there was something about a glove being found." [Jack Chin]

December 5, 2004 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Book Club: Murder and the Reasonable Man

Lee Check out GW CrimProf Cynthia Lee's NYU Press book Murder and the Reasonable Man. Wayne State Dean Frank Wu calls the book "Provocative and persuasive. In this well-written and meticulously documented book, Cynthia Lee demonstrates how the law has defined 'reasonableness' in criminal law to favor men against women, straight men against gay men, and whites against blacks. Lee's synthesis of many seemingly different examples, with thoughtful responses to the various objections that might be raised, is legal scholarship that can make a difference in our social practices. This is a serious and compelling book that should lead to reform."  Link to NYU Press site here, link to her SSRN author page here. [Jack Chin]

December 5, 2004 in Book Club | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)