Wednesday, July 20, 2005
From CNN.com: Chicago, IL (AP): U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow "has made a low-key return to the bench, just months after the murders of her husband and mother by a disgruntled litigant. (She)...vowed she would continue working despite the February 28 shootings at her Chicago home, committed by a man upset with her decision to dismiss his medical malpractice lawsuit. Bart Ross, an unemployed Chicago electrician, confessed to the murders in a suicide note. Lefkow appeared relaxed in court where she presided over several routine civil cases Tuesday (July 12). She plans to work on a limited basis during the next several months before returning full time in the fall." Story... [Mark Godsey]
From KansasCity.com: (The Kansas City Star): Jefferson City, MO (AP): "Missouri's experiment with softer sentencing laws came to an end Wednesday (July 13) as Gov. Matt Blunt repealed a two-year-old law that had allowed some drug offenders, burglars and drunken drivers to get out of prison early. Instead, Blunt enacted bills defining more than three dozen new or enhanced crimes that could result in more Missourians being sent to prison and kept there longer. 'For public safety, people need to serve as much of their sentence as they can,' Blunt, a Republican, said while undoing a law signed in 2003 by Democratic Gov. Bob Holden.
Passed at a time when prison populations were soaring and state revenues were shrinking, the law allowed certain nonviolent felons with no prior prison time to seek release after serving 120 days behind bars - even though their sentences might have called for up to seven years. The law was intended to save money and get drug offenders into treatment programs. But it met criticism both for doing too little and too much." Story... [Mark Godsey]
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
A Harvard student convicted of manslaughter in the killing of a Cambridge resident in 2003 won a new trial. A recent Supreme Judicial Court decision led the trial judge to conclude that the decedent's extensive criminal record was, in fact, relevant to the self-defense claim, even though the defendant didn't know about it. [Jack Chin]
From washingtonpost.com: "Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said...that his administration will look into increasing the use of surveillance cameras in the District, as part of a study of lessons from...the (July 7) terrorist bombings in London. The D.C. police department has 14 such cameras, most of them in the downtown area, that feed images to a high-tech operations center. Williams said he would like to see them turned on and monitored more often, and he also proposed adding cameras to neighborhoods, parks, recreation centers and commercial areas throughout the city....The mayor's comments reopen a debate that broke out three years ago after D.C. Council members learned about the camera system, which had been installed without their knowledge. In response to concerns from the council and some members of Congress, the police department came up with guidelines designed to ensure that privacy rights would not be abused." Story... [Mark Godsey]
From MSNBC.com: "WASHINGTON - President Bush chose federal appeals court judge John G. Roberts Jr. on Tuesday as his first nominee for the Supreme Court...Roberts has been on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since June 2003 after being picked for that seat by Bush...
Advocacy groups on the right say that Roberts, a 50-year-old native of Buffalo, N.Y., who attended Harvard Law School, is a bright judge with strong conservative credentials he burnished in the administrations of former Presidents Bush and Reagan. While he has been a federal judge for just a little more than two years, legal experts say that whatever experience he lacks on the bench is offset by his many years arguing cases before the Supreme Court.
Liberal groups, however, say Roberts has taken positions in cases involving free speech and religious liberty that endanger those rights. Abortion rights groups allege that Roberts is hostile to women’s reproductive freedom and cite a brief he co-wrote in 1990 that suggested the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade..." Story... and Here is CNN.com's coverage. [Mark Godsey]
From MSNBC.com: New York (AP): "Tens of thousands of female jail inmates were told to submit to gynecological exams or be sent to medical isolation, under a policy that the city is now dropping, according to lawyers and court documents. In a legal settlement June 21, the city agreed to begin informing women inmates that they have the right to refuse the exams without retaliation. The city also agreed to pay millions of dollars to people who were strip-searched in city jails after arrests on suspicion of misdemeanor charges or violations such as traffic infractions. The city for years had told every woman admitted to the Rikers Island jail that she had to undergo a pelvic exam, a Pap smear and a breast exam or move into isolation....Cardinale (the lead-attorney in the class action lawsuit) said the gynecological exams were not meant to protect other female inmates and were medically unnecessary in many cases. Women inmates did not know they had the right to refuse, he said. 'Those things have nothing to do with security or spreading diseases,' Cardinale said. 'I have yet to meet a person who has refused ... Nobody ever complained about it because everybody thought that it was allowed.'" Story... [Mark Godsey]
From CNN.com: "Nearly 8 ouf ot 10 respondents to a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll said they liked the idea that a woman replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Thirteen percent said it was 'essential' that another woman replace O'Connor, who announced her resignation plans earlier this month; 65 percent said they felt it was a 'good idea but not essential.' Nineteen percent said the gender of the next justice doesn't matter to them; 2 percent said it was a 'bad idea' for a woman to get the seat; 1 percent had no opinion. The poll interviewed 1,006 adult Americans via telephone July 7-10. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Asked about the prospects of a Hispanic on the Supreme Court, 63 percent said it would be a 'good idea but not essential.' Twenty-seven percent said it doesn't matter to them. Four percent said it was 'essential' for a Hispanic to get picked, while another 4 percent said it was a 'bad idea.' Two percent expressed no opinion." Story...
In other news about the Changing Court: From Law.com: (AP): Bush Says He's Willing to Look Beyond Bench for Supreme Court Nominee: "President Bush said Wednesday (July 13) that he would consider nominating a woman or someone with no experience as a judge to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. 'We're considering all kinds of people -- judges, non-judges,' Bush said, adding that he also is open to picking a woman -- something that Laura Bush said she hoped he would do." [Mark Godsey]
Monday, July 18, 2005
NACDL.com: From 10 News, Tampa Bay, FL: "Hillsborough County has approved a new policy banning registered sex offenders and predators from using any of the county's hurricane shelters. Sheriff David Gee of Hillsborough County [advised], "My advice (for sex offenders) is to make arrangements in advance and go somewhere else because I think it's going to be a problem."
At least one family has challenged the law on the basis that a youthful offender may later reform himself, father a family, and have nowhere safe to take his family based on his juvenile offenses. Story... [Mark Godsey]
U Hawai'i CrimProf Virginia Hench is quoted in this article about that state's new DNA testing law. Harvard's Alan Dershowitz is interviewed here about the continued incarceration of spy Johnathan Pollard, who, Professor Dershowitz says, is the only person to serve a life sentence for spying on an ally. [Jack Chin]
From Findlaw.com: Portland, OR (AP): "The day before a Portland attorney was wrongly arrested on suspicion of involvement in the Madrid train bombings, an FBI official stated in an e-mail that the agency did not have enough evidence to arrest the man on criminal charges. The recently declassified e-mail, written by Portland FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele in May 2004, also noted that the attorney, Brandon Mayfield, was a Muslim convert. And it said the FBI had a plan to arrest Mayfield 'if and when' his supposed link to the March 2004 terrorist attack 'gets outed by the media.'
Mayfield was arrested a day later under the material witness law, which allows the arrest and detention of witnesses who might flee before testifying in criminal cases. The FBI said at the time that fingerprints found on a bag of detonators near the bombings had been matched to Mayfield. Two weeks later, the FBI admitted the fingerprints belonged to someone else, freed Mayfield and apologized to him.
Mayfield, 38, has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, alleging he was singled out as a Muslim, and that the government violated his constitutional rights by wrongly arresting him, as well as by wiretapping his house prior to his arrest. Michael Greenberger, a former Justice Department official who heads the University of Maryland's Center for Health and Homeland Security, said: 'This e-mail corroborates what is already widely known - that when the Justice Department does not have probable cause to make a criminal arrest, but they have a suspicion that someone is involved in terrorist activities, one tactic is to arrest them as a material witness.' Such use of the material witness law raises constitutional problems,' he said, because the person can be held for long periods without access to legal protections that come with a normal arrest." Story... [Mark Godsey]
From MSNBC.com: Philadelphia, PA (AP): "Police said Thursday they have made an arrest in the shooting death of a woman on a downtown sidewalk moments after she stepped off a bus — a killing caught on tape by surveillance cameras. Juan Covington, a subcontractor at the hospital where Patricia McDermott worked as an X-ray technician, was charged with killing her May 17. Police said they had video of him at Pennsylvania Hospital shortly after the shooting, wearing clothes matching the description of the killer. McDermott, 48, was shot in the head in the pre-dawn hours as she walked from the downtown bus stop to her job. Video taken from cameras mounted on several buildings showed the killing...Investigators released portions of the grainy surveillance footage in the hope that someone might recognize the shooter." Story... [Mark Godsey]
Sunday, July 17, 2005
From MSNBC.com: Snellville, GA (AP): Deep in debt, William Crutchfield was "looking for a way out. Authorities say Crutchfield apparently watched with envy as Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph was headed to prison for life and aspired to the same fate — allowing him to live off the government while behind bars. So he allegedly hatched a twisted plan: Kill a federal employee. Two weeks ago, Crutchfield walked down his driveway carrying a .380-caliber pistol and greeted his mail carrier at the curb. He then opened fire on Lazenby (firing one shot to the mailman's arm and six shots to his abdomen), drove to the police station...and told the secretary, 'I just shot the letter carrier.'
On TV, he (Crutchfield) followed the case of Rudolph — who pleaded guilty this spring in a deal that will send him to prison for life — and wanted the same fate. 'He was saying that he wanted to be cared for by the federal government, that he was in poor health and wanted to be taken care of,' said Atlanta postal inspector Tracey Jefferson. Crutchfield, a 60-year-old electrical contractor who lived alone, claimed $90,000 in medical debts for an unspecified ailment and feared losing his home. 'He felt that it was better to be in federal prison than out on the street,' postal inspector Jessica Wagner said.
The explanation makes no sense to the Lazenbys (the mailman's family). 'If all he wanted to do was commit a federal crime, all he had to do was walk into a bank with an empty gun and point it at them and say, ‘Give me your money.’ And that’s your federal crime, and no one gets hurt,' the letter carrier said. 'Instead of trying to kill the mailman.'" Story... [Mark Godsey]
Paul Ciolino, the innocence community's favorite private investigator, has published In The Company of Giants : The Ultimate Investigation Guide for Legal Professionals, Activists, Journalists & the Wrongfully Convicted. Paul popped five innocent men from death row, and had a hand in the emptying of Illinois' death row. [Jack Chin]
From MSNBC.com: (AP)- Boston, MA: "A man arrested when police showed up to break up a New Year’s Eve party at a friend’s house has filed a lawsuit, arguing he had a constitutional right to get drunk on private property as long as he didn’t cause a public disturbance. Eric Laverriere, 25, of Portland, Maine, was taken into protective custody by Waltham police and locked in a cell for nine hours until the effects of the alcohol wore off. Legal experts said his lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Boston, is the first to challenge a state law allowing police to lock up drunk people against their will for their own protection...The Protective Custody Law, enacted in 1971, replaced a Colonial-era law that made public drunkenness a crime. It authorizes police to hold people against their will for up to 12 hours if they are drunk and a danger to themselves or others." Laverriere's suit challenges the law on the basis of a constitutional right to get drunk on private property. Story here... [Mark Godsey]