July 2, 2005
Report on the Troubled Houston Crime Lab
Florida Extends Speedy Trial Right To Victims and State
From NPR.com: "Under a new Florida law, crime victims and prosecutors will also have a right to a speedy trial -- a right traditionally reserved for defendants. Critics say the move will clog the courts with appeals and lead to more convictions being overturned later." Listen to story here. [Mark Godsey]
Boston Globe on Criminal Records Checks
Here. Meanwhile, in Mississippi, a minister may lose his position on a charity's board because of a 43 year old felony (stealing from a vending machine). And in Bulgaria, a prosecutor says that members of parliament with criminal records should be removed. [Jack Chin]
Prosecutor Tells Jury Not to Believe Defendant Because He is Islamic
From Law.com: "In a recent criminal trial in Virginia, the prosecutor told the jury that the defendant couldn't be trusted to tell the truth, that he would lie to their faces -- all because of his religious beliefs. The defendant, an American citizen accused of supporting terrorism, was convicted. The religion in question, of course, was Islam. Now, the Virginia attorney representing Ali Al-Timimi is pushing for a new trial, saying that prosecutors secured the guilty verdict by appealing to religious bigotry against Muslims." Story . . . [Mark Godsey]
Texas Governor Creates Advisory Council To Study Possible Changes To Criminal Justice System
The criminal justice system in Texas has been rocked in recent years with crime lab scandals and racial profiling charges. The advisory council includes judges, a prosecutor, a criminal defense attorney, several legislators and others. Story here. [Mark Godsey]
July 1, 2005
O'Connor Announces Retirement
Story here. [Mark Godsey]
Louisiana Judge Convicted of Taking Bribes
From CNN.com: "NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) -- A state judge was convicted Wednesday of a charge related to bribes he allegedly took from a bail bond company in exchange for setting affordable bonds for criminal defendants. However, a federal jury deadlocked on six other charges, including the two most serious facing Judge Alan Green -- conspiracy to commit mail fraud and racketeering. A mistrial was declared on all six counts. Green was convicted of a single count of mail fraud. He could get up to five years in prison and be removed from the bench. Green, based in suburban New Orleans, was accused of taking more than $20,000 in cash, meals and golf outings from Bail Bonds Unlimited in exchange for setting affordable bonds for criminal defendants -- some of them charged with violent crimes -- with the business going to the company. Videotapes from a hidden camera in Green's office showed him taking the money. Green testified that it was a common practice in the courthouse for people who did business with the court to take staff members and judges out to eat. Green also said the cash he took was campaign contributions. Green is the second state judge to face charges stemming from a long-running federal corruption probe called "Operation Wrinkled Robe." Former judge Ronald Bodenheimer is serving a 46-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to taking bribes from Bail Bonds Unlimited, as well as fixing a child-custody case and scheming to frame an FBI informant on a drug charge." [Mark Godsey]
Chicago CrimProf Harcourt Testifies Before Congress
Cable Guys Join Forces With Law Enforcement in Florida
From Tampa Bay's 10 News: Law enforcement officers can't be everywhere, that's why many people rely on neighborhood watch programs to act as additional eyes and ears in the community. Now there are 500 extra sets of eyes on 'crime patrol'. Five hundred Bright House Networks service technicians are now being trained to keep a look-out for crime. Whether it's a thief casing a home to burglarize, to crimes that could be going on inside someone's home. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office went over some of the basics with the employees.
Ron Spurgeon, service technician:
"They talked about using common sense, use sights and smells to make sure everything's alright. (For example) if you suspect child abuse, or see kids that have more than the number of bruises than they should have; the elderly, checking on them (to make sure they're not being neglected)."
The employees will not carry weapons, nor be able to make arrests, nor will they take the place of law enforcement officers.
Dan Ballister, Bright House Networks:
"Our people are not going to be vigilantes, we're not asking them to be in harm's way. We don't want people chasing after cable vehicles, and they're not going to go on high-speed chases after suspected criminals, they're going to do the right thing, call law enforcement agencies get them involved."
The Sheriff's office has about 350 deputies on the streets, and Sheriff Jim Coats says the extra sets of eyes will make a difference, since criminals won't even be aware they are being watched.
Sheriff Jim Coats, Pinellas County Sheriff's Office:
"They're always looking for someone in uniform presence, in this case you've got folks in plain clothes working on behalf of the law enforcement and community."
The technicians will be armed with a list of emergency law enforcement numbers. By year's end, 2,500 cable employees will be trained in seven counties. [Mark Godsey]
June 30, 2005
KS: Computer Diary Entries Lead to Murder Conviction
Story here. [Jack Chin]
Illegal Drugs Constitute Nearly 1% of World's GDP
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has revealed that in 2003, illegal drugs comprised 0.9% of the world's gross domestic product. The retail value of illegal drugs on the market in 2003 eclipsed the GDP of 88% of the countries in the world. [Mark Godsey]
Kentucky Intensive Parole Program Criticized
In Kentucky a program whereby those on parole who are believed to be particularly dangerous are returned to prison for violations such as missing curfew was criticized; most of those selected for participation are black. [Jack Chin]
"Hanging Judge" Speaks Out Against Death Penalty
Story here. [Mark Godsey]
Female Gang Members Strip to Distract Police From Arresting Other Gang Members
Female members of a "timber gang" in India have resorted to stripping naked when the police pursue male members of the gang who illegally chop down trees in India's forests. Officials say the tactic is working: “It is proving tough to deal with these women,” Jharkhand forest official B.K. Singh said. “It has almost become a regular practice for them to strip.” Story from MSNBC.com . . .
Also in India, a crime reporter has been arrested for using information gained through his reporting job to go on a crime spree. Story from MSNBC.com . . . [Mark Godsey]
June 29, 2005
Colorado Supreme Court Holds That Jurors May Question Witnesses in Criminal Cases
Improper questions allowed by the judge are reviewed under a harmless error standard. Decision here. [Mark Godsey]
Wayne State CrimProf Moran Wins Supreme Court Case
From a press release: In a decision announced June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed with WSU Law Professor David Moran’s argument in Halbert v. Michigan that a person who has pleaded guilty to a crime and seeks permission to appeal has a constitutional right to state-provided counsel. The ruling was 6-3. The opinion is available at http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/04slipopinion.html
Professor Moran argued the case on April 25, 2005 before the highest court in the nation as an ACLU cooperating attorney. Since 1999 Michigan has been the only state with a law barring judges from appointing counsel for indigents who pleaded guilty. Other states were closely watching the case, and 17 other states had filed friend of the court briefs in support. “I’m very pleased that the Court has rejected Michigan’s attempt to gut the fundamental right to an attorney on a first appeal from a criminal conviction, a right that every American state, except Michigan, has scrupulously honored for than 40 years,” said Moran. According to the ACLU, over 90% of all felony convictions are obtained by guilty plea, and lack of counsel on appeal could mean errors in sentencing would remain uncorrected.
David Moran is currently Assistant Professor of Law at the Wayne State University Law School, a position he has held since 2000. He teaches a wide range of criminal law cases and evidence, and also serves as the faculty advisor for the School’s Moot Court. His students have awarded him “Teacher of the Year” honors six times, and he has been honored by both the Law School and the University for his superior teaching. Prior to joining the Law School, Moran worked as an assistant defender for the State Appellate Defender Office in Detroit. [Mark Godsey]
Justice Thomas Suggests Rumors of Rehnquist's Retirement Are Not True
Story here. [Mark Godsey]
Scrushy Acquitted on All Counts
June 28, 2005
SCOTUS Grants Cert. In Two More Crim Cases, Including Important DNA Case
House v. Bell, 04-8990:
Summary of Ruling Below: In capital case in which circumstantial evidence was clearly sufficient to support habeas corpus petitioner's murder conviction, petitioner has not made sufficient showing of actual innocence that would permit him to revive his procedurally defaulted claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, because, although petitioner made colorable claim of actual innocence, his evidence, which raised questions about reliability of portions of trial testimony and manner in which physical evidence was handled or analyzed, did not satisfy test of Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298 (1995), which requires petitioner to show that it is more likely than not that no reasonable jury would have convicted him in light of his new evidence.
Question(s) Presented: (1) Did majority below err in applying this court's decision in Schlup v. Delo to hold that petitioner's compelling new evidence, though presenting at very least colorable claim of actual innocence, was as matter of law insufficient to excuse his failure to present that evidence before state courts merely because he had failed to negate each and every item of circumstantial evidence that had been offered against him at original trial? (2) What constitutes "truly persuasive showing of actual innocence" pursuant to Herrera v. Collins, 503 U.S. 390 (1993), sufficient to warrant freestanding habeas relief?
House v. Bell raises important issues about the how new DNA evidence of innocence impacts an inmates right to a new trial. CNN discussion here.
Rice v. Collins, 04-52
Ruling Below: (9th Cir., 365 F.3d 667)
Summary of Ruling Below: State court's determination that prosecutor did not exercise two peremptory strikes in racially discriminatory manner, without addressing substantial indications that prosecutor's race-neutral explanation for each strike was pretext for racially motivated discrimination, was objectively unreasonable determination of facts in light of evidence presented as well as objectively unreasonable application of clearly established federal law, and thus state court committed constitutional error that warrants grant of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
Question(s) Presented: Does 28 U.S.C. § 2254 allow federal habeas corpus court to reject presumption of correctness for state factfinding, and condemn state-court adjudication as unreasonable determination of facts, when rational factfinder could have determined facts as did state court?
COPS Program Winding Down
The thousands of new cops put on the street by President Clinton's COPS program will not be joined by many others as Congress and the Bush Administration wind down the program. Story here. [Jack Chin]