March 26, 2005
CrimProf Spotlight: Marquette's Michael O'Hear
"I attribute my interest (and academic career) in criminal law to Professor Dan Freed’s Sentencing Workshop, a remarkable year-long course I took as a student at Yale Law School. The Workshop involved both a considerable reading load of empirical legal scholarship and regular class sessions with a rotating group of judges, prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers, legislative staffers, and academics. Prior to the course, I had seen criminal law as an ugly agglomeration of archaic doctrines and irrational symbolic politics. Over the course of the year, however, I came to see criminal law as a fascinating, dynamic set of institutional relationships, involving a diverse array of actors with widely varying, but understandable – and often quite laudable – motivations. There was, I found, some method to the apparent madness of the criminal justice system. I was inspired, moreover, by Dan’s implicit confidence that all of the diverse actors could find common ground and that the system could be made more just through rational, open-minded dialogue. I have viewed my subsequent academic career as an attempt to contribute to that dialogue.
I grew up in Fort Wayne, IN. (I used to identify Fort Wayne as the hometown of Frank Burns, but I find that my cultural references from growing up in the 1970’s are increasingly lost on my students.) Both my undergraduate and law degrees are from Yale. After law school, I remained in Connecticut for another year to clerk for United States District Court Judge Janet Arterton, a wonderful mentor who inspired me with her dogged commitment to do justice in all cases. I then practiced for three years with the Chicago law firm Sonnenschein, Nath, and Rosenthal. As in many big firms, criminal practice opportunities were limited, but I took advantage of what was available, including a pro bono death penalty case that I continue to work on seven years later. I spent the majority of my time, though, on environmental matters, including criminal and civil litigation, regulatory work, and transactional due diligence.
In 2000, I fulfilled my long-time dream of becoming a full-time teacher and scholar by joining the faculty at Marquette Law School. (Fortunately, my ever-gracious wife Jennifer consented to the move to Milwaukee, an underrated city that both of us have since fallen in love with.) I have taught a number of environmental law classes, but my scholarship and, increasingly, my teaching have focused on criminal law. I now teach Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Sentencing, and Post-Conviction Remedies. My scholarship has concentrated on federal sentencing, with particular attention to some of the important institutional relationships that shape the criminal justice system, such as the relationship between federal judges and prosecutors and the relationship between federal and state law enforcement agencies. I often bring public choice analysis to bear in studying such relationships. I am also an editor of the Federal Sentencing Reporter and a co-author of a treatise on asset forfeiture. Last, and certainly not least, I am the proud father of a three-year old (Lauren) and a one-year old (Daniel).
My articles include the following: Sentencing the Green-Collar Criminal; Federalism and Drug Control; Statutory Interpretation and Direct Democracy: Lessons From the Drug Treatment Initiatives; National Uniformity / Local Uniformity: Reconsidering the Use of Departures to Reduce Federal-State Sentencing Disparities; Blue-Collar Crimes / White-Collar Criminals: Sentencing Elite Athletes Who Commit Violent Crimes; and Remorse, Cooperation, and “Acceptance of Responsibility.”
Each Saturday, CrimProf Blog will spotlight on one of the 1500+ criminal justice professors in America's law schools. We hope to help bring the many individual stories of scholarly achievements, teaching innovations, public service, and career moves within the criminal justice professorate to the attention of the broader criminal justice community. Please email us suggestions for future CrimProf profiles, particularly new professors in the field.
March 25, 2005
Scotland Diversion Program
Scotland is increasing the range of offenses subject to non-criminal diversion, in order to save minor offenders the consequences of criminal conviction and free up resources for more serious crimes. [Jack Chin]
Profile of Texas Bounty Hunters
Here. [Jack Chin]
Chinas' Death Vans
This article describes the death vans used to carry out capital sentences in China, one execution is described as taking place 14 minutes after sentencing. The article also reports that for the first time since 1949, there is discussion about the appropriateness of the death penalty. [Jack Chin]
The New, Old Slavery?
Former BTK Suspect Wants His DNA Sample Destroyed
At one point in the hunt for the BTK serial killer, Roger Valadez was a suspect. Police kicked down his door and hancuffed him as they aimed their guns ready to fire. Police obtained a warrant to search his home and seize items. Additionally, on December 1, 2004, while in their custody, police took a mouth swab from Valadez, which proved that he was not the killer. Valadez's mouth swab was just one of 1,300 tested in the BTK investigation. Police still have Valadez's sample, and he wants it destroyed along with its DNA profile if police have stored it in a database. Valadez's hearing is scheduled for April 1. Dan Monnat, Valadez's attorney commented, "Now that they claim the search for BTK is over, we cannot see any reason for them to continue to conceal from Roger Valadez why they were looking in his house and his mouth for BTK...DNA information is maybe the most intimate information about a person. There is no reason for that information to be unnecessarily in the government's files. Who knows what future use the 21st century will find for DNA?" Sam Walker, a University of Nebraska-Omaha professor and police corruption expert who has conducted a national study of DNA sweeps, has pointed out that Dennis Rader aka BTK's arrest didn't result from the DNA sweep, but rather "old-fashioned police investigation." After BTK sent a computer disk to a Witchita TV station, police traced the disk to the church where Rader served as council president. The Associated Press reports: "In Walker's study of 18 DNA sweeps, the tests identified a suspect in only one case - a 1998 sweep in Lawrence, Mass., where police investigating the rape of a comatose nursing home patient collected samples from 25 men who had access to her." While Walker and civil rights advocates criticize DNA sweeps, this technique has proven appealing to the public. This past November voters in California approved a law that will allow police, starting in 2008, to collect DNA samples from anyone arrested for a felony, regardless of whether the suspect is convicted. More... [Mark Godsey]
Oklahoma Prison Gang Fight Lasted Over Four Hours
The March 22 prison gang fight at the Cimarron Correctional Facility in Oklahoma that resulted in 1 inmate's death and the injury of 13 others involved an estimated 50 to 60 inmates and lasted over 4 hours--much longer than originally reported. The Arizona Department of Corrections investigated the prison riot and exposed its true time frame. The brawl erupted in the prison's gym giving inmates easy access to all sorts of equipment to use as weapons. Once officers from the state Department of Corrections arrived at the scene, the riot was calmed within 10 minutes. The Cimarron Correctional Facility holds about 970 inmates (445 of whom are considered violent) and is privately operated by Corrections Corporation of America ("CCA"). This Nashville-based company operates 4 prisons in OK and is the nation’s largest private corrections operator. In June 2004, a riot broke out between two gangs at CCA's Diomondback Correctional Facility in Watonga, OK, critically injuring two inmates. More... [Mark Godsey]
March 24, 2005
Celebrity Criminal News
The DA responsible for the unsuccessful Robert Blake murder trial called the jurors "incredibly stupid." for their decision to acquit. One of the key witnesses for the prosecution in the Michael Jackson trial was arrested for armed robbery in Nevada. Anti-semetic chess genius Bobby Fischer, wanted in the US for playing chess in violation of a trade embargo in Yugoslavia, has been granted Icelandic citizenship; Iceland has an extradition treaty with the US. [Jack Chin]
Computer Viruses Usually for Criminal Gain
Anti-Virus software maker Symantec reports that over half of the computer viruses circulating on the internet were written for criminal gain--either as part of extortion attempts or identity theft. [Jack Chin]
Florida Legislation to Clear Civil Rights Convictions
A number of people who protested Jim Crow in the south still have criminal convictions related to those activities, some of which have effects today. A bill pending in the Florida legislature would allow some of them to clear their criminal records. Story here. [Jack Chin]
More Female Law Students Going Into Criminal Law
This article features University of Arizona law students Alison Bachus and Laura Winsky Conover, who are headed for criminal practice; the story notes that a majority of the attorneys in the County Attorney's Office and Public Defender's Office are women. [Jack Chin]
In Texas, an assistant police chief accused of rape was exonerated by the DA's office on the ground that the charges were fabricated. The actual perpetrator of a rape for which North Carolinian Leo Waters served 21 years may have beenidentified through DNA. False rape stories from Green Bay and Scotland. [Jack Chin]
Jury Nullification in Virginia Drug Cases?
This article proposes that some juries may be acquitting guilty defendants because of potentially harsh penalties. [Jack Chin]
March 23, 2005
New York Reviews Courthouse Security Measures
According to the New York Post, in a review of courthouse security measures, city officials in New York City reported that in the last year, over 8,375 guns, 29,347 knives, and 25,000 scissors and razor blades were confiscated by court security officers during metal detector screenings taken in the city's 28 state courthouses. In the State of New York, last year also brought over 400 fights, 12 attempted escapes by prisoners, 130 threats to judges, and 385 arrests for assault. Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lipman says the statistics show not only "the danger, [but] also the comfort people can take from the fact that the job is being done." More... [Mark Godsey]
Bad Tow Truck Drivers
A Phoenix TV station taped tow truck operators pushing legally parked cars into tow zones and then holding them for ransom. Meanwhile, in Houston, tow truck drivers have to be licensed, and have to be separately licensed for the city's Safe Clear program, designed to get wrecked cars quickly off busy highways, and shuttle the drivers to safety. The City promised that all of the operators would undergo background checks. However, a TV station's study of the license holders showed that a third have criminal records, for such offenses as auto theft and murder. [Jack Chin]
Police Misconduct in South Carolina
St. Louis CrimProf Roger Goldman is cited in this article about how officers in South Carolina were retained or allowed to transfer to other departments despite misconduct or criminal behavior. [Jack Chin]
Profile of California Innocence Projects
Here's a profile of innocence projects at Cal Western, Golden Gate and Santa Clara. [Jack Chin]
March 22, 2005
Minnesota Shooter Used Police Equipment
The high school student who went on a Columbine-style rampage drove to the scene in a patrol car, wore a police bullet proof vest and used a service weapon to commit the crimes, according to the FBI. One of the first victims was a veteran tribal police officer, the shooter's grandfather. [Jack Chin]
Jews Kept off CA Juries?
A former Alameda county prosecutor testified yesterday that he conspired with a now deceased judge to exclude jews from a capital jury. The California Supreme Court order granting an evidentiary hearing is In re Freeman, 2004 Cal. LEXIS 6930 (Cal., July 28, 2004) [Jack Chin]
Easter Bunny Hops into Jail on Harrassment Charges
After a disturbance at a local mall in Council Bluffs, Iowa, police say the mall's Easter Bunny, enraged that someone threw water at him while he was having his photo taken, yelled at someone to "get out of the way" and scared a fellow employee as he reported that he was leaving the job. The patron and the bunny's fellow employee reportedly both felt threatened by the bunny's rage. The 36 year-old "bunny" is charged with two counts of harrassment. MSNBC.com's full story... [Mark Godsey]