Tuesday, May 3, 2005
The son of a Rhode Island Supreme Court justice who resigned in 1987 amid allegations of consorting with mobsters has himself been convicted of criminal contempt for leaking a video (which was evidence in a corruption case), in spite of a gag order, and lying about it. The reporter to whom the tape was leaked spent 4 months in home confinement for contempt. Story here. [Jack Chin]
An Idaho criminal justice activist appointed by Attorney General John Ashcroft to the National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women has been charged with kidnapping and methamphetamine trafficking. Barbara Dehl became radicalized after her daughter died in a car crash, allegedly at the hands of an abusive boyfriend who was driving.
Dehl allegedly conspired with fellow meth traffickers to kidnap a couple believed to have stolen some of their drugs. Ms. Dehl was a guest at the White House in 2003 when the President announced some anti-crime initiatives. Here's her biography on her foundation's website. Here's the story she wrote in Good Housekeeping Magazine about her daugther's death; here's a rebuttal from her late daughter's ex-boyfriend's family. [Jack Chin]
From MSNBC.com: "Spurred by the killing of a 9-year-old girl, Gov. Jeb Bush on Monday signed a law imposing tougher penalties on child molesters and requiring many of those released from prison to wear satellite tracking devices for the rest of their lives. The measure gives Florida one of the toughest child-sex laws in the nation. The Jessica Lunsford Act was quickly drafted after Jessica’s death was discovered in March and was pushed through by lawmakers outraged that the man accused of killing her was a registered sex offender. It passed both the Senate and House unanimously.
It establishes a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life behind bars for people convicted of certain sex crimes against children 11 and younger, with lifetime tracking by global positioning satellite technology after they are freed. Until the new law goes into effect Sept. 1, molesting a child under 12 is punishable in most cases by up to 30 years in prison." Story . . . [Mark Godsey]
Monday, May 2, 2005
CrimProf Ric Simmons of Ohio State has posted The Two Unanswered Questions of Illinois v. Caballes: How to Make the World Safe for Binary Searches on SSRN. The paper is forthcoming in the Tulane Law Review. Here's the abstract:
This Article discusses the recent Supreme Court decision Illinois v. Caballes, which held that the Fourth Amendment does not bar the use of drug-detection dogs, even in the absence of reasonable suspicion. It argues that the Caballes case paves the way for widespread and indiscriminant use of a new type of surveillance known as a binary search. A binary search is defined as a search which provides the law enforcement official with no information about the subject other than whether or not illegal activity is present. Drug-detection dogs are one example of a binary search, but there are many others which are being developed, such as portable gun detectors or software protocols that sift through all e-mails passing through an internet service provider looking for child pornography.
Since the Caballes case did very little in the way of defining binary searches and discussing the appropriate limitations (if any) on their use, the Article seeks provide some guidance to courts in evaluating the constitutionality of binary searches in the future. The Article begins by discussing the history of the binary search doctrine, focusing on its application to drug-detection dogs, which up until now have been the most common form of binary search in use. The Article then analyzes the Caballes decision itself, examining what it does and does not resolve about the constitutionality of binary searches. Finally, the Article attempt to resolve the important unanswered questions in Caballes: first, how accurate does a surveillance technique have to be in order to be considered a binary search, and second, how does the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable seizures limit or prevent the widespread use of binary searches?
To obtain the paper, click here. [Mark Godsey]
From the DPIC:
"Scott Sundby's new book, "A Life and Death Decision: A Jury Weighs the Death Penalty" is an impartial look at capital jury deliberations through the examination of data collected by the Capital Jury Project and other studies of group decision-making. Drawing on the Capital Jury Project's interviews with more than 1,000 jurors from across the country who had taken part in death penalty cases, the book addresses crucial issues such as jury instructions, jury room setup, and voir dire procedures. While focusing on a single case, Sundby also sheds light on broader issues, including the roles of race, class, and gender in the justice system. (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).
Executed on a Technicality: Lethal Injustice on America's Death Row, by Professor David Dow, is a behind-the-scenes look at the death penalty through the lens of an attorney who formerly supported capital punishment. Dow, who teaches at the University of Houston Law Center and founded the Texas Innocence Network, provides case histories illustrating serious flaws in the death penalty system. He uses these cases to guide readers through a web of coerced confessions, incompetent representation, racist juries, and unfair judges, all of which he believes contribute to the arbitrariness of capital punishment. In many cases, obscure technicalities in the law prevented courts and juries from hearing evidence that would have prevented an execution or a death sentence. Dow relates the case of one man who was executed because the jury never heard from two eyewitnesses who swore he was not the murderer. In another case, a man was allowed to represent himself despite the fact that his mental imbalance - as evidenced by his attempts to issue a subpoena to Jesus Christ and dressing as a cowboy during the trial - was obvious. (Beacon Press, April 2005). [Mark Godsey]
The Supreme Court granted cert. in one criminal case yesterday. From BNA.com: "Lamarque v. Chavis, No. 04-721 -- Did the Ninth Circuit properly allow tolling of the one-year statute of limitations for filing a federal habeas corpus petition during the three-year interval between an intermediate state appellate court's denial of a prisoner's petition for state post-conviction relief and the California Supreme Court's summary denial of the petition?" [Mark Godsey]
The 32-year old who faked a kidnapping will not face criminal charges--the thousands of hours, millions of dollars and, presumably, multiple gunpoint stops of people fitting the fabricated description of the suspects must be disregarded in light of the fact that the woman faced a stressful wedding--only a cad would insist on the letter of the law. "She needed some time alone," empathized Albuquerque's Chief of Police. The Albuquerque Tribune reports that "authorities from several law enforcement agencies went beyond the call of duty - giving her a teddy bear, an FBI cap and polo shirt, a tote bag, meals and even a shoulder to cry on - to make her daylong stay in the city comfortable." Last year, Minnesota college student Audrey Seiler faked her kidnapping and got misdemeanor probation. On the other hand, the 19-year old college student who faked a racial incident is facing the hammer--the highest degree of all possible charges. After all, she selfishly disrupted the campus for her own personal reasons. [Jack Chin] UPDATE: Although apparently in the clear in New Mexico, where the false statements were made, the runaway bride may in fact face criminal charges in Georgia, according to prosecutors--even though Duluth, GA Police Chief Randy Belcher has been quoted as saying no charges would be filed. AND PS: I don't deal with the Wendy's hoaxer here because it is uncontroversial that scammers for profit are subject to prosecution. The more difficult problem is people who do this sort of thing for emotional reasons.
From the ACS Blog: "The Christian Science Monitor reports that a computer program designed by a team of criminologists and computer scientists is able to predict the outcome of death penalty cases with better than 90% accuracy. The program considers no law or legally significant facts in making its assessment, instead basing its analysis entirely on factors such as age, race, sex, and marital status of the offender and the date and type of offense.
The implication, says Dee Wood Harper, one of the researchers and a professor of criminal justice at Loyola University in New Orleans, is that "if this mindless software can determine who is going to die and who is not going to die, then there's some arbitrariness here in the [United States justice] system."" [Mark Godsey]
Sunday, May 1, 2005
Japan has evidently decided to add citizen involvement in trials for serious criminal offenses. The citizens called to service will act as lay judges, deciding cases with the professional judge. [Jack Chin] UPDATE: Here's an article on the topic by BC LawProf Robert Bloom; also Korea is also moving toward jury trials.
The legislature has enacted a statute permitting a person assailed outside their home to stand their ground rather than retreat before using deady or non-deadly force. PrawfBlawg has some discussion. [Jack Chin] UPDATE: Here's an interesting blogpost by Modern Esquire discussing Terri Schiavo, this statute and capital punishment in Florida.
A former Catholic priest convicted of exposing himself to male teens successfully challenged the statute; 4-3 the Missouri Supreme Court held that the statute was vague. The problematic language makes criminally liable a person who: "(1) Knowingly exposes the person's genitals to a child less than fourteen years of age in a manner that would cause a reasonable adult to believe that the conduct is likely to cause affront or alarm to a child less than fourteen years of age." Story here; opinion here. [Jack Chin]
DePaul CrimProf Cherif Bassiouni, appointed by the U.N. as a human rights investigator in Afghanistan, claims that his recent firing was the result of US efforts to cover up human rights abuses in that country. Story here. [Jack Chin]
After fighting DNA testing for ten years, prosecutors in a New Jersey case now say the no-hit result might be overturned by testing other samples. Of course, couldda done that ten years ago. A Washington State Patrol forensic employee is appealing his firing, based on testimony leading to several wrongful convictions while working in Montana. A UK court exonerated a man convicted of arson 18 years ago, saying his claim of police frame should have been investigated at the time. Here's an editorial on the WIllingham case, a possible instance of wrongful execution in Texas. Here's a story on exonerated people trying to reintegrate into free society after decades in prison. Another story on DNA backlogs. Here's a case where the death turned out to be accidental not a homicide. [Jack Chin]