CrimProf Blog

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

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Latinos Extorted by Mississippi Officer

A Mississippi officer was arrested in a sting operation after accepting money to release an undercover officer he had stopped for a traffic offense without charges.  Members of the community said the arrested officer had a reputation for stopping latinos and letting them go for a fee.  Story here. [Jack Chin]

February 24, 2005 in Race | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Hofstra needs you!

Hofstra Law School will be looking for visitors for the 2005-06 AY. Possible areas include Bankruptcy and Commercial Law, Civil Procedure, Con Law, Contracts, Wills Trusts & Estates, Federal Income Tax, and Criminal Law.


Marshall E. Tracht
Vice Dean and Professor of Law
Hofstra Law School
121 Hofstra University
Hempstead, NY 11549
(516) 463-5858

February 24, 2005 in CrimProfs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Ringer on Crime Hotline Turned Off

A recent wave of sexual assaults in Denver was met with a request that citizens phone in tips to a crime hotline.  However, busy officers turned the ringer off and let them go to voicemail, which quickly filled up.  The ignored tips were as much as 4 weeks old by the time that they were collected. Meanwhile, in Ohio, jail inmates are being urged to submit tips to the hotline, in exchange for cash prizes.  [Jack Chin]

February 24, 2005 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

French Court: Killing Fetus Not Crime

A French appeals court has held that a man gultiy of manslaughter for killing a fellow moterist was not guilty of two counts even though the woman was pregnant. [Jack Chin]

February 24, 2005 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Contrasting Views on Lynne Stewart

CrimProf Marjorie Cohn of Thomas Jefferson, executive vice president of the National Lawyers Guild, offers some views here on the prosecution and conviction of criminal defense attorney Lynne Stewart.   Here are some contrasting perspectives from Andy McCarthy, a former AUSA in Manhattan who prosecuted terrorism cases and now writes for the National Review.  [Mark Godsey]

February 23, 2005 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

More on New Brainscan Technology to Detect Deception

A few months ago we reported here on new brainscan technology that some experts assert will replace polygraphs and voice stress in detecting deception--with a much higher rate of accuracy.  Now Prof Charles Keckler of George Mason has posted an article on SSRN about the uses of, and possible admissibility of, this new neuroimaging technology.  Article available here.  [Mark Godsey]

February 23, 2005 in Technology | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Kansas Debates Whether to Classify Killing a Fetus as Murder

In the wake of the Scott Peterson trial, the Kansas legislature is considering a bill that would make killing a fetus a crime in addition to the crime against the mother.  Thirty states, including California, currently have such laws on the books.  Pro-choice advocates in Kansas oppose the measure.  Details . . . [Mark Godsey]

February 23, 2005 in Criminal Law | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Recent Rash of Arrests for Biting Dogs

Here's a story about a man in Scotland who was arrested on animal cruelty charges for biting is seeing-eye dog in the middle of the street.  "An eyewitness said they saw the man dragging the eight-year-old bitch across the access road at Meadowbank Retail Park before biting its head and kicking the dog’s body. The sickened passer-by immediately contacted Lothians and Borders Police."  Here's one about a Florida man who arrested for biting his dog after it defacated in the house.  Apparently, the man claimed when arrested that he routinely bit his dog reasoning that since dogs bite, it's a punishment they can understand.  [Mark Godsey]

February 23, 2005 in News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New Supreme Court Decision Today: Constitutionality of Race Segregation in Prisons

From  "The U.S. Supreme Court on February 23rd decided one case related to the criminal justice system. In Johnson v. California, No. 03-636, the court ruled that the proper standard of review for an equal protection challenge to a California corrections department policy of racially segregating prisoners for up to 60 days when they enter a new prison is "strict scrutiny." The court declined to apply the deferential standard of Turner v. Safley, under which a prison policy that burdens inmates' fundamental rights may be upheld if it is rationally related to legitimate penological goals. It remanded the case to the lower courts for an application of the strict scrutiny standard."  Decision here.  More on the case from Crime & Federalism here.  [Mark Godsey]

February 23, 2005 in Civil Rights | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Conference: State Sentencing Policies and Prison Population

Who: Don Stemen and Andres Rengifo of the Vera Institute of Justice
What: National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Research in Progress Seminar
Where: 810 Seventh Street N.W., Third Floor, Washington, DC
When: March 7, 2-3:30 p.m.

RSVP: Attendees outside the Office of Justice Programs must e-mail an RSVP by March 2 with name and affiliation to

Over the past 30 years, State sentencing policies have changed dramatically and State incarceration rates in the United States have increased 324 percent. As States struggle to balance public safety with the need to curtail growth in prison populations, many policymakers seek a better understanding of those factors affecting incarceration rates, particularly the impact of sentencing and corrections policies.

Vera Institute of Justice researchers Don Stemen and Andres Rengifo are conducting a comprehensive survey of State-level sentencing and corrections policies implemented between 1975 and 2002 and assessing the ways in which various policies affected State prison populations during that period.

The researchers will discuss their NIJ-funded study and its early implications March 7 as part of the NIJ Research in Progress Seminar Series. Criminal justice professionals, researchers, and students are invited to bring questions and inform colleagues about this free event.

For more information on the research, please visit:

NIJ is the research, development, and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice and is dedicated to researching crime control and justice issues. For more information on NIJ, please visit

[Jack Chin]

February 23, 2005 in Conferences | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Supreme Court Grants Cert. In Assisted Suicide Case

The Supreme Court granted cert. yesterday in Gonzales v. Oregon, in which the federal government has challenged Oregon's "Death with Dignity" law.  The law gives Oregon doctors the authority to prescribe lethal substances to mentally competent, terminally ill patients who have less than six months to live. Since it took effect in 1998, 171 Oregonians have committed suicide under the law.  Although the federal district court and Ninth Circuit have upheld the law, Ashcroft challenged it last year, arguing that it violates federal criminal narcotics laws.  More . . .  [Mark Godsey]

February 23, 2005 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Pennsylvania Mine Operator Charged for Damaging Homes

A Pennsylvania mine operator who failed to notify homeowners before digging under their homes was criminally charged.  Of course, coal mines have a constitutional right to dig under residential areas if they have mineral rights, even if that might cause homes to colapse, but Pennsylvania law requires them to give notice.  [Jack Chin]

February 23, 2005 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Masachusetts Proposes GPS Monitoring For Domestic Violence Offenders

The Masachusetts Lt. Governor proposed to require those violating domestic violence restraining orders to be monitored by GPS devices. If the violator entered a restricted area, police would be notified. Story here. [Jack Chin]

February 23, 2005 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Serial Rapist Continues Because of DNA Computer Glitch

A serial rapist was able to continue his streak of rapes in Colorado because an FBI contractor failed to enter DNA from his first victim's crime scene into the state DNA database.  Had the contractor done so, he would have learned the identity of the rapist, Brent Brents, whose DNA was in the database from prior convictions.  Then, of course, the police would have been able to arrest Brents before he committed several more rapes.  Full story here.  [Mark Godsey]

February 22, 2005 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

New Article Spotlight: Gender and Racial Disparities in Sentencing

SchanzmaMax Schanzenbach of Northwestern Law has posted Racial and Gender Disparities in Prison Sentences:  The Effect of District-Level Judicial Demographics on SSRN. Here's the abstract:

Studies of federal prison sentences consistently find unexplained racial and gender disparities in the length of sentence and in the probability of receiving jail time and departures from the Sentencing Guidelines. These disparities disfavor blacks, Hispanics, and men. A problem with interpreting these studies is that the source of the disparities remains unidentified. The gravest concern is that sentencing disparities are the result of prejudice, but other explanations have not been ruled out. For example, wealth and quality of legal counsel are poorly controlled for and are undoubtedly correlated with race. This paper uses the political, racial, and gender composition of the district court bench to estimate the effect of judicial demographics on sentencing and on observed racial and gender disparities. The evidence presented here suggests that judicial demographics have little influence on prison sentences in general, but do impact racial and gender disparities. The findings regarding gender in the case of serious offenses are quite striking: the greater the proportion of female judges in a district, the lower the gender disparity for that district. I interpret this as evidence of a paternalistic bias among male judges that favors women. The racial composition of the bench has mixed effects that are open to different interpretations. The race and gender results suggest, however, that a judge's background affects his or her sentencing decisions. Finally, there is little evidence that the political composition of the district affects sentencing disparities.

To obtain a copy of the paper, click here.  [Mark Godsey]

February 22, 2005 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Breaking News: New Supreme Court Decision Today

From  "The U.S. Supreme Court today decided one case related to the criminal justice system. In Smith v. Massachusetts, No. 03-8661, the court held that a trial judge who ruled at the close of the prosecution's case that the defendant was not guilty on one of the several charges he faced due to insufficient evidence violated the Double Jeopardy Clause by resurrecting and submitting that charge to the jury after the defense had presented its case on the remaining charges."

Apparently what happened is that the state's evidence was insufficient on one charge when it ended its case, and the judge dimissed that charge.  After the defendants presented their case, the prosecution moved the court to reconsider its prior ruling dismissing the charge in light of some new precedent the prosecution was able to come up with in the interim, and the judge granted the motion.  The Supreme Court held that this process violates the double jeopardy clause.

Decision here (if link doesn't work, the westlaw cite is 2005 WL 405476).  [Mark Godsey]

February 22, 2005 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U Houston Criminal Justice Institite

Here's some background on the University of Houston Law Center's Criminal Justice Institute:

In order to enhance the strengths of the UH Law Center's criminal justice program, the faculty created the Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) in the spring of 2003. CJI's goal is to create the best program of its kind in the nation by promoting scholarship, engaging in research, and offering legal training. At the moment, CJI is organizing a symposium to be held at the UH in November of 2005. The symposium is organized in conjunction with the Houston Law Review and will address the Federal Sentencing Guidelines after Booker. Authors will include Nancy King, Frank Bowman, Doug Berman, and Ron Wright. Also participating as commentators are Marc Miller and Kevin Reitz, as well as representatives of the federal bench and bar.

Established programs encompassed within CJI are: The Texas Innocence Network, the Southwest Regional Juvenile Defender Center , the National Institute of Trial Advocacy Death Penalty Training Program, Clinical Programs such as the Criminal Defense Clinic, Juvenile Defense Clinic, and Criminal Prosecution Clinic, as well as a Criminal Trial Advocacy Program. In addition, CJI administers a J.D./Ph.D. in Criminology dual degree program in affiliation with Sam Houston State University. CJI also draws on the expertise of a Board of Advisors which includes representatives from every sector of the criminal justice legal community, including federal and state judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys. In collaboration with our advisory board, CJI now participates in organizing CLE programs for criminal practitioners, conferences and symposia, and a lecture series.

February 22, 2005 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Stories of Interest on NPR

NPR has posted two new stories of interest to CrimProfs:

Police Lineups Get a Second Look:  Twenty-five years of research by professor Gary Wells of Iowa State University is exposing the unreliability of witnesses asked to ID criminals in police lineups. Many local police departments are beginning to change the way they conduct lineups. Wells describes a new technique: the sequential lineup.  Listen to story here

Former Felons Seek to Regain Voting Rights:  A national movement is under way to give people convicted of felonies a better chance to regain their right to vote. A recent report shows that many states are still resistant to streamlining the process. And as the 2000 election in Florida demonstrated, there are political implications.  Listen to story here.  [Mark Godsey]

February 22, 2005 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Article Spotlight: Provocation Defense

Faculty_garvey_1 CrimProf Stephen Garvey of Cornell has posted Passion's Puzzle, forthcoming in the Iowa Law Review, on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

The puzzle of the provocation defense, otherwise known as the "heat of passion" defense, is to figure out how, if at all, each of the basic elements of the doctrine can be explained in a coherent and normatively attractive fashion. None of the prevailing theories of provocation succeeds in solving this puzzle. These theories either fail to explain one or more of the basic elements of the doctrine, or else end up committing the state to a decidedly illiberal course of action: punishing citizens not only for what they do (for their actions), but for who they are (for their characters).

I offer an alternative theory, called provocation as akrasia, which I suggest can solve the puzzle. According to this theory, the basic elements of the defense work in concert to achieve the normatively attractive goal of sorting actors who kill in defiance of the law (and who should therefore be convicted of murder) from those who kill in a moment of culpable ignorance of law or weakness of will (and who should therefore be convicted of the lesser crime of manslaughter). Insofar as this theory justifies and so defends the basic contours of existing provocation doctrine, it challenges those who view the doctrine, in some or all of its formulations, as a pernicious presence in the criminal law.

To obtain a copy of the paper, click here.  [Mark Godsey]

February 22, 2005 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Criminal Records and Employment in Canada

The Globe and Mail reports that 1 in 10 Canadians has a criminal record, and offers advice on getting employment in spite of a sheet. [Jack Chin]

February 22, 2005 in Civil Rights | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)