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

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Colorado Death Penalty Decisions

The Colorado Supreme Court vacated two death sentences this week.  In one case, deliberating jurors consulted the Bible, reading the passage prescribing an eye for an eye as punishment.  (Opinion here).  In the other case, a jury was mis-instructed on a capital sentence based on felony murder.  The defendant was arrested and in handcuffs when a confereate killed a police officer; the jury was not correctly instructed on the underlying crime of burglary, so that the defenant could have been convicted of felony murder without being guilty of burglary.  (Opinion here) [Jack Chin]

March 29, 2005 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Texas Sues After 911 Failure

The State of Texas has sued the internet phone company Vonage after a customer was unable to reach 911 during an home invasion robbery.  Vonage requires separate sign-up for 911 services; Texas alleges that this was not made clear when the services are sold. [Jack Chin]

March 29, 2005 in Technology | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Ohio Innocence Project News

Here and here are reports on the latest Ohio Innocence Project case, based on DNA, litigated by my co-blogger Mark Godsey. The defendant was sentenced to life based on the eyewitness testimony of a six-year old girl who saw the perp for a short period of time in the dark.  DNA tests prove that two men, and not the defendant, committed the crime.  [Jack Chin]

March 29, 2005 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sailor Charged With Crime for Refusal to Ship Out

A sailor from New York who refused to board his ship headed for the Persian Gulf because of his opposition to the Iraq war has been charged with a criminal offense.   When arrested, he wore a t-shirt saying "Like a Cabinet Member, I resign." Also last week, Canada denied political asylum to a U.S. deserter opposed to the war. [Jack Chin]

March 29, 2005 in Criminal Law | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Blocks an Execution on Grounds of Unclear Jury Instructions

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stopped the execution of Steven K. Staley, 42, which was scheduled for March 23.  He was granted reprieve five hours before he would have been executed, on the grounds that the jurors in his 1991 trial were given unclear instructions regarding whether they had to recommend Staley for the death penalty.  Staley was convicted for the 1989 killing of a restaurant manager in Forth Worth, TX; the killing was part of a robbery gone wrong.  Staley committed the crimes while on the lam from a Denver halfway house.  In other attempts to stop the execution, Staley's defense team argued to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans that Staley shouldn't be executed until his mental competency was fully reviewed in court.  According to the defense's expert, even Staley may have met the Supreme Court's standards that 1) he was aware that he was going to be put to death and 2) why he was going to be put to death, he is still psychotic--Staley claims that he invented the 1969 Chevrolet Impala and that he works part-time as a secret agent. The TX Court of Criminal Appeals sent Staley's case back to the trial court. More... [Mark Godsey]

March 29, 2005 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Capital Cases Pending in the Supreme Court

The DPIC has summaries of the 3 capital cases currently awaiting oral argument or decision in the Supreme Court here.  [Mark Godsey]

March 29, 2005 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 28, 2005

Crime-Ridden Prince George Apartment Complexes in Maryland: A Microcosm of Nationwide Crime Problem

Prince George County, Maryland Executive Jack B. Johnson reports that about 24 dilapidated apartment complexes generate most of the county's crime.  Johnson (D) told a local radio station (WTOP) that if these complexes fail to better secure their facilities, with better lighting and security guards, among other measures, he will encourage the use "of eminent domain to tear down some of these complexes."  According to Johnson, some of the complexes even allow people whose names aren't even listed on the leases to live in the units, deal drugs, and carry guns.  The Washington Post reports: "Johnson first raised the possibility of tearing down crime-ridden apartment complexes in January in his midterm address. He said then that a report, written by [Police Chief Melvin] High, identified 10 locations that accounted for 117,000 of the 500,000 calls for service received in 2004. The police department later said the figures were incorrect and taken out of context."  Back in the 60s, when they were built, most of these complexes were prosperous apartments, built to accommodate DC residents who no longer wanted to live in the city.  But by the late 90s, they were considered "breeding grounds for poverty and crime" and "warehouses of misery."  County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D), introduced a policy to city government to encourage their owners to tear down the units instead of rehabilitating them.  His theory, shared by Executive Johnson, is that if the number of these complexes are reduced--and their tenants forced to live elsewhere--this group of individuals responsible for a considerable portion of the County's homicides, robberies, and carjackings, would be dispersed, eventually improving the image and safety of the community held hostage by this concentrated group of criminals. The full story from Washington Post [Mark Godsey]

March 28, 2005 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

2006 US News Law School Rankings

The early scoop on the US News Law School ranking are available here.  (thanks to Volokh Conspiracy and TaxProf Blog for the tip) [Mark Godsey]

March 28, 2005 in Miscellaneous | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Supreme Court Hears Capital Case Today

Supreme_court_15The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in Medellin v. Dretke, No. 04-5928, on appeal from the 5th Circuit.  Questions presented:  (1) In a case brought by a Mexican national whose rights were adjudicated in the Avena Judgment, must a court in the United States apply as the rule of decision, notwithstanding any inconsistent United States precedent, the Avena holding that the United States courts must review and reconsider the national's conviction and sentence, without resort to procedural default doctrines? (2) In a case brought by a foreign national of a state party to the Vienna Convention, should a court in the United States give effect to the LaGrand and Avena Judgments as a matter of international judicial comity and in the interest of uniform treaty interpretation?  Details . . .  [Mark Godsey]

March 28, 2005 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New Article Spotlight

Spotlight_8Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule of Chicago have posted Is Capital Punishment Morally Required?  The Relevance of Life-Life Tradeoffs on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

Recent evidence suggests that capital punishment may have a significant deterrent effect, preventing as many eighteen or more murders for each execution. This evidence greatly unsettles moral objections to the death penalty, because it suggests that a refusal to impose that penalty condemns numerous innocent people to death. Capital punishment thus presents a life-life tradeoff, and a serious commitment to the sanctity of human life may well compel, rather than forbid, that form of punishment. Moral objections to the death penalty frequently depend on a distinction between acts and omissions, but that distinction is misleading in this context, because government is a special kind of moral agent. The familiar problems with capital punishment - potential error, irreversibility, arbitrariness, and racial skew - do not argue in favor of abolition, because the world of homicide suffers from those same problems in even more acute form. The widespread failure to appreciate the life-life tradeoffs involved in capital punishment may depend on cognitive processes that fail to treat "statistical lives" with the seriousness that they deserve.

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

March 28, 2005 in Scholarship | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Man Arrested For Soliciting Hitman in Schiavo Case

From CNN. com:  "Authorities said a North Carolina man was arrested Friday by FBI agents on charges of soliciting the murder of a judge and the husband of Terri Schiavo, the severely brain-damaged woman at the center of a legal and moral tug of war. Authorities said Richard Alan Meywes of Fairview, North Carolina, offered $250,000 for the killing of Michael Schiavo and another $50,000 for the death of Circuit Court Judge George Greer, who ordered Schiavo's feeding tube removed a week ago."  Details. . .  [Mark Godsey]

March 28, 2005 in News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

DNA Exoneration in Chicago

Juan Rivera, twice convicted of rape and murder based on a confession he claimed was coerced, was excluded based on DNA results obtained last week, according to Rivera's counsel, The Center for Wrongful Conviction at Northwestern represents Rivera. [Jack Chin]

March 28, 2005 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

RIP, The Honorable Bruce Wright

Retired New York State Supreme Court Justice Bruce Wright died last week.  Although he was labeled "Turn 'em loose Bruce" for his controvercial bail decisions, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York evaluated his performance as "decidedly better than average."  A graduate of New York Law School, he was the author of "Black Robes, White Justice." [Jack Chin]

March 28, 2005 in News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Connecticut Jurors Beg for Dismissal, for Fear of Their Safety

Connecticut's Senior U.S. District Judge Warren W. Eginton gave in to 8 jurors' pleadings for dismissal in the case Joseph Gibson III.  Judge Eginton declared a mistrial and dismissed the 8 jurors (6 men and 2 women), who said they feared for their safety after hearing the details of the case.  The Associated Press reports: "Gibson alleged in a lawsuit that prison officials failed to protect him from a reputed gang member who slashed his throat at Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers on Sept. 16, 1999.  Gibson said he was attacked because he was suspected of being an informer and a friend owed a gang drug money.  Gibson said he has had a host of medical problems from the attack and is seeking monetary damages."  After hearing the details of Gibson's case and being asked to look at Gibson's scar, the jurors really became "spooked," in the words of John Merely, Gibson's lawyer.  More... [Mark Godsey]

March 28, 2005 in News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Dying Declaration of Murder Victim Leads to Arrest of 70-Year Old Woman

From MSNBC.com:  "In Hickory Hills, a tidy mobile home community popular with retirees, 70-year-old Kathy MacClellan was known as a friendly woman who baked cookies for the neighbors and talked too much.  Nothing about the white-haired MacClellan suggested a capacity for violence. Which is why the accusation she now faces — that she bludgeoned her 84-year-old neighbor to death with a hammer — has come as such a shock to residents here.  Prosecutors are considering whether to make MacClellan one of the oldest U.S. defendants in modern times to stand trial on a capital murder charge.  MacClellan allegedly attacked Marguerite “Tuddy” Eyer with the claw end of a hammer Feb. 7. The victim, who was found in the kitchen of her home a few blocks away from the MacClellan house, told police that “Kathy Mc ... did it with a hammer,” according to court documents. She died 13 minutes after being rushed to the emergency room; the coroner said she had been struck in the head 37 times. Police said they found Eyer’s wallet and checkbook in MacClellan’s house, and MacClellan’s face, hair and orange stirrup pants were covered in Eyer’s blood.  “In the 13 years I’ve been DA, I never saw such brutality,” District Attorney John Morganelli said. “I was shocked when I saw the photos of this woman’s face. It was unrecognizable.”  Prosecutors have told a judge there are two aggravating circumstances that would allow them to seek a death sentence for MacClellan: robbery and torture.  If they go ahead with it, MacClellan would become one of the nation’s oldest defendants, and perhaps the oldest woman, to be tried in a capital murder case since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center."  Story . . .   [Mark Godsey]

March 27, 2005 in News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

UK Cops Urge Forced Marriage Offence

British Police are urging parliament to create a specific offence of forced marriage.  Their research suggests that forced marriages are related to honor killings.  Some womens' groups, however, fear that criminalization will make it more difficult for women to report the abuse, for fear of getting their families in trouble. [Jack Chin]

March 27, 2005 in Criminal Law | Permalink | TrackBack (0)