CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, September 3, 2005

BREAKING NEWS: Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 80, Dies Saturday Evening

From AP (Washington): "Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died Saturday evening at his home in suburban Virginia, said Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg.  A statement from the spokeswoman said he was surrounded by his three children when he died in Arlington. 'The Chief Justice battled thyroid cancer since being diagnosed last October and continued to perform his dues on the court until a precipitous decline in his health the last couple of days,' she said.

Rehnquist was appointed to the Supreme Court as an associate justice in 1971 by President Nixon and took his seat on Jan. 7, 1982. He was elevated to chief justice by President Reagan in 1986...Rehnquist said in July that he wanted to stay on the bench as long as his health would allow...On the court's final meeting day of the last term, June 27, Rehnquist appeared gaunt and had difficulty as he announced the last decision of the term -- an opinion he wrote upholding a Ten Commandments display in Texas." More... [Mark Godsey]   

September 3, 2005 in Supreme Court | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

FBI Abandons Tests Matching Bullets by Lead Content

Back in March, I blogged here about the National Academy of Sciences (a Congressionally-funded advising institution to the government) seriously questioning the FBI's chemical bullet lab analysis.  A New Jersey court of appeals overturned a murder conviction that used this technique, known as "chaining," to connect the bullets to the defendant, deeming the technique "erroneous" in its "scientific foundations."  Now, as of September 1, the FBI has decided to completely stop all tests that match bullets by lead content.

From (Washington): "The bureau said it was informing 300 state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies that had received positive match reports from the FBI Laboratory since 1966. The FBI said it had not determined those results were wrong, but informed them so they could take whatever action they deem appropriate.

Criminal defense attorneys have contended that re-evaluation of these tests could affect some convictions on appeal. One New Jersey defendant has been granted a new trial because of questions about the bullet test analysis, and a convicted double murderer in New Zealand has requested a pardon based on questions about the test.

Jack King, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers spokesman, said defense attorneys will track down most defendants in those 300 cases. 'Now, we need the FBI to provide a live witness, a scientist from the FBI Lab, to testify at post-conviction hearings on these old cases,' King said. 'Some of these guys have sat in jail for decades, and it’s about time they got a fair hearing.'  Story here... [Mark Godsey]

September 3, 2005 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 2, 2005

CrimProf Blog Spotlight: Wisconsin Law's Krista Ralston

RalstonThis week the CrimProf Blog spotlights Krista Ralston of Wisconsin.

"Krista Ralston was born in Austria but grew up in Southern California, where she got her undergraduate degree, married Richard Ralston, had two sons, David and Michael, and became an avid tennis player during her spare time. The Ralstons lived in Rochester, N.Y. and Menlo Park, CA. before moving to Madison, WI. in 1975. She received her law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1979. Following graduation she served as the first law clerk for the Hon. Barbara B. Crabb, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, and then practiced law in both the public and private sectors for 10 years before becoming the full-time Director of the University of Wisconsin Law School Legal Defense Program (LDP) in January, 1990. (See the LDP web page for a program description).

In addition to administering the LDP clinic and supervising LDP students in their representation of indigent criminal defendants, Prof. Ralston teaches one or more litigation oriented classes each semester and is the faculty advisor for the law school's national mock-trial competition teams. She has also been active in a number of professional and community organizations, including serving as Chair of the Criminal Law Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin for two years and as a past member of the Board of Directors of the Urban League of Greater Madison.

Prof. Ralston has presented papers and participated as a panelist in various national and international law conferences and has been a visiting law professor at the Justus-Liebig Universitat in Giessen, Germany. Her primary areas of research focus on how charging decisions, jury deliberations and sentencing considerations are affected by issues of poverty, race or ethnicity, and mental health concerns.

Prof. Ralston believes very strongly in the importance of high quality clinical programs in the law school curriculum. She recommends LDP to any student interested in helping indigent defendants while learning the art of litigation and client representation. She also strongly advocates maintaining a sense of humor while in law school and afterwards. Too many law students and lawyers take themselves too seriously."

September 2, 2005 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Looting Not Criminal Says Psychologist

Story.  [Mark Godsey]

September 2, 2005 in Criminal Law | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New Crim Program at Illinois

Illinios Law Announces the Creation of the New Program in Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure, Co-Directed by CrimProfs Andy Leipold and Richard McAdams

From a press release:  For decades the College of Law has enjoyed renown in the areas of criminal law and criminal procedure. Today, twelve faculty members--almost a quarter of the faculty!--write about or teach domestic and international criminal law and criminal procedure. As a means of fostering synergies amongst this group, Professors Andy Leipold and Richard McAdams have launched a new Program in Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure with an ambitious agenda that extends from faculty enrichment to curricular innovation. Partnering with Professors Margareth Etienne and Patrick Keenan, who initiated a lively criminal law discussion group two years ago, Professors Leipold and McAdams intend to sponsor public lectures, conferences, and debates about the use of the criminal law to address society's most pressing social problems. They are contemplating the development of new courses and seminars and an expansion of the College's clinical and experiential opportunities that would supplement the innovative live-client Prisoners's Rights Research Project that is supervised by Professor Kit Kinports and the popular Appellate Defender course taught by Daniel Yuhas.

The Program is off to a tremendous start, with a slate of impressive scholars scheduled to speak at the College in the coming weeks: Professors Bill Stuntz (Harvard), Leo Katz (Penn), Ron Allen (Northwestern), Sara Beale (Duke), Jeannine Bell (Indiana), Anne Coughlin (Virginia), Tino Cuellar (Stanford), John Donohue (Yale), Sam Gross (Michigan), Susan Klein (Texas), Tracey Meares (Chicago), Paul Robinson (Penn), and Jim Whitman (Yale).  [Mark Godsey]

September 2, 2005 in CrimProfs, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

FBI to Conduct "Threat Assessments" to Find Inmates Radicalized While in Prison to Commit Extremist Violence

From (Sacramento): "FBI agents nationwide have been ordered to conduct 'threat assessments' of inmates who may have become radicalized in prison and could commit extremist violence upon their release, according to an FBI letter obtained by The Associated Press.  'The primary goal of these efforts is to assess and disrupt the recruitment and conversion of inmates to radicalized ideologies which advocate violence,' according to a letter from the acting assistant chief of the FBI's Los Angeles office, Randy D. Parsons.

The agency has been concerned since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that groups with extremist ideologies may be targeting felons as prime candidates for conversion during their time in prison.  The agency has worked with prison officials to identify potentially disruptive groups for 'some time,' according to the letter. 'However, recent investigations have identified a clear need to increase the FBI's focus and commitment in this area,' Parsons wrote in the letter, dated Friday and obtained Tuesday by the AP.  He said the FBI wants to increase its efforts to 'identify, report, analyze and disrupt efforts by extremist persons or groups to radicalize, recruit or advocate for the purpose of violence within correctional facilities.'" Story here... [Mark Godsey]

September 2, 2005 in Homeland Security | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Why Hasn't This Salacious Murder Trial Received Its Fair Share of Sensational Coverage? UPDATED

A rich American woman kills her husband, a Merrill Lynch banker in Hong Kong, with a poison milk shake, has the body disposed of by servants, and claims both amnesia and self-defense against a sexually insatiable husband, and this story is the first I've heard of it.  (She also invoked the Jean Harris defense, that the poison research she had done on the Internet was designed to find information to help her commit suicide; although she obtained the necessary drugs, somehow they wound up in her husband rather than her.)  Just what do you have to do, exactly, to get some tabloid attention these days?  [Jack Chin]  Guilty verdict, life sentence. [Jack Chin]

September 1, 2005 in International | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Times-Picayune: Criminal Cases Likely Collapse

Story here. [Jack Chin]

September 1, 2005 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New Article Spotlight: Reformulating the Miranda Warnings

My newest piece is entitled Reformulating the Miranda Warnings in Light of Contemporary Law and Understandings.  I just accepted an offer to publish it at the Minnesota Law Review.  Here's the abstract:

Since Miranda v. Arizona was decided in 1966, much scholarly attention has been devoted to both the theoretical underpinnings and the real world impact of that decision. Little attention, however, has been paid to the substance or content of the warnings. The Supreme Court has often stated that the Miranda warnings requirement is a prophylactic rule that can change and evolve. However, in spite of 40 years of legal developments and practical experience, the content of these famous four warnings has never been modified or even been subjected to systematic scrutiny.

This Article proposes that the substance of the Miranda warnings should be reconsidered as the rules of law underlying the warnings substantially evolve, and as we gain new insights into their effectiveness (or lack thereof). In light of the significant legal changes of the last four decades, and the real world experience that we have gained with the warnings during this time, Miranda's 40th anniversary presents an opportune time to reexamine the content of the warnings to ensure that they remain consistent with and continue to reflect the evolving legal principles that support and justify their existence, and to reaffirm that they remain effective in upholding and enforcing the constitutional rights of suspects.

A close examination of the warnings suggests that they are out of date. This Article argues that if the warnings were redesigned today, by a Court as mindful of properly balancing the competing interests as was the Miranda Court, they would take a different form. The first two warnings, relating to the right to remain silent, would certainly be included. However, these warnings should be buttressed by a third right to silence warning that would provide something to the effect of: If you choose to remain silent at the beginning or at any time during the interview, your silence will not be used against use as evidence to suggest that you committed a crime simply because you refused to speak.

Furthermore, the third and fourth warnings, relating to the right to counsel, would not make the updated list. In place of the two right to counsel warnings would be three new requirements, reflecting legal developments and practical lessons that have come to light since 1966. The first requirement would be a new warning as follows: If you choose to talk, you may change your mind and remain silent at any time, even if you have already spoken. The second requirement would be a rule mandating that the police to re-instruct suspects of the new Miranda warnings at intervals throughout lengthy interrogations. Finally, the police would be required to videotape all interrogations. These three new requirements would more effectively achieve the intended policy goals of the right to counsel warnings, and thus, should replace the right to counsel warnings in the prophylactic scheme.

Obtain a rough draft of the paper here.  I welcome any comments.  [Mark Godsey]

September 1, 2005 in Confessions and Interrogation, Scholarship | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"Operation Wildfire" Leads to over 400 Arrests in Nationwide Meth Crackdown

From (Washington): "Police around the country have arrested more than 400 people in the first nationally coordinated operation aimed at producers and sellers of methamphetamine, officials said Tuesday.  Police in more than 200 cities and the Drug Enforcement Administration took part over the past week in Operation Wildfire, which also resulted in the seizure of more than 200 pounds of the drug and 56 labs where it was made.

The arrests follow intense criticism from members of Congress and local law enforcement that the federal government is not doing enough to combat the use of methamphetamine. More than the half the 500 sheriffs in a recent survey called meth their top problem, far surpassing cocaine and marijuana." Story here... [Mark Godsey]

September 1, 2005 in DOJ News, Drugs, Law Enforcement | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

PA Attorney General's Panel, Chaired by CrimProf, Restructures Camden Police Strategy

From "As part of a major reorganization to be rolled out this year, Camden police will divide the city into four districts and assign a captain to be personally accountable for each area.  The changes are designed to transform a department battered by criticism and best known for shuttling between 911 calls into a model for policing a medium-size city, officials said yesterday in interviews. 

They follow the recommendations of a panel created during a disastrous year for Camden that included a sharp spike in homicides, a serial rapist in the downtown business district, and a research firm designating the city as the "most dangerous" in America...The changes to the department come through the work of a blue-ribbon panel appointed in 2004 by the state Attorney General's Office. The panel, chaired by Charles Rogovin, a criminal-law professor at Temple University, includes several national police experts." Story here... [Mark Godsey]

August 31, 2005 in Criminal Justice Policy, CrimProfs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Illinois Prof Bruce Smith to Present at W&L

Bsmith On September 9th, Illinois Associate Professor Bruce P. Smith will present "Miranda's Paradoxical Prehistory" at Washington and Lee.  The workshop is sponsored by W&L's Center for Law & History. 

[Mark Godsey]

August 31, 2005 in Conferences | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wisconsin Awards Chairs to 2 CrimProfs

Wisconsin Law recently awarded chairs to two crimprofs.  Victoria F. Nourse is now the Burrus-Bascom Professor, and Michael E. Smith is the Haight-Bascom Professor.  Congratulations!  [Mark Godsey]

August 31, 2005 in CrimProfs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Hurricane Katrina: Legal System Effects

CrimProf Michelle Ghetti of Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, posted these sobering thoughts on a listserv and gave us permission to reprint them:


I know your hearts, in particular, are for lawyers. Think of this... 5,000 - 6,000 lawyers (1/3 of the lawyers in Louisiana) have lost their offices, their libraries, their computers with all information thereon, their client files - possibly their clients, as one attorney who e-mailed me noted. As I mentioned before, they are scattered from Florida to Arizona and have nothing to return to. Their children's schools are gone and, optimistically, the school systems in 8 parishes/counties won't be re-opened until after December. They must re-locate their lives.

Our state supreme court is under some water - with all appellate files and evidence folders/boxes along with it. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals building is under some water - with the same effect. Right now there may only be 3-4 feet of standing water but, if you think about it, most files are kept in the basements or lower floors of courthouses. What effect will that have on the lives of citizens and lawyers throughout this state and this area of the country? And on the law? The city and district courts in as many as 8 parishes/counties are under water, as well as 3 of our circuit courts - with evidence/files at each of them ruined. The law enforcement offices in those areas are under water - again, with evidence ruined. 6,000 prisoners in 2 prisons and one juvenile facility are having to be securely relocated. We already have over-crowding at most Louisiana prisons and juvenile facilities. What effect will this have? And what happens when the evidence in their cases has been destroyed? Will the guilty be released upon the communities? Will the innocent not be able to prove their innocence?

Our state bar offices are under water. Our state disciplinary offices are under water - again with evidence ruined. Our state disciplinary offices are located on Veteran's Blvd. in Metairie. Those of you who have been watching the news, they continue to show Veteran's Blvd. It's the shot with the destroyed Target store and shopping center under water and that looks like a long canal. Our Committee on Bar Admissions is located there and would have been housing the bar exams which have been turned in from the recent July bar exam (this is one time I'll pray the examiners were late in turning them in - we were set to meet in 2 weeks to go over the results). Will all of those new graduates have to retake the bar exam? Two of the 4 law schools in Louisiana are located in New Orleans (Loyola and Tulane - the 2 private ones that students have already paid about $8,000+ for this semester to attend). Another 1,000+ lawyers-to-be whose lives have been detoured. I've contacted professors at both schools but they can't reach anyone at those schools and don't know the amount of damage they've taken. Certainly, at least, this semester is over. I'm trying to reach the Chancellor's at Southern and LSU here in Baton Rouge to see if there's anything we can do to take in the students and/or the professors. I think I mentioned before, students from out of state have beens stranded at at least 2 of the other universities in New Orleans - they're moving up floor after floor as the water rises. Our local news station received a call from some medical students at Tulane Medical Center who were now on the 5th floor of the dormitories as the water had risen. One of them had had a heart attack and they had no medical supplies and couldn't reach anyone - 911 was busy, local law enforcement couldn't be reached, they were going through the phone book and reached a news station 90 miles away!! It took the station almost 45 minutes to finally find someone with FEMA to try to get in to them!!

And, then, there are the clients whose files are lost, whose cases are stymied. Their lives, too, are derailed. Of course, the vast majority live in the area and that's the least of their worries. But, the New Orleans firms also have a large national and international client base. For example, I received an e-mail from one attorney friend who I work with on some crucial domestic violence (spousal and child) cases around the nation - those clients could be seriously impacted by the loss, even temporarily, of their attorney - and he can't get to them and is having difficulty contacting the many courts around the nation where his cases are pending. Large corporate clients may have their files blowing in the wind where the high rise buildings had windows blown out.

I woke up this morning to the picture of Veteran's Blvd which made me think of my students who just took the bar. My thoughts wandered from there to the effect on the Disciplinary Offices. Then my thoughts continued on. I'm sure I'm still missing a big part of the future picture. It's just devastating. Can you imagine something of this dimension in your state?

August 31, 2005 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Times-Picayune: New Orleans Police Participate in Looting

Story here. [Jack Chin]

August 31, 2005 in News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New Mexico CrimProf Bergman to Head NACDL

Bergman From a press release:  "Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols and the Jimmy Carter White House are among former clients of Barbara Bergman.  Now the University of New Mexico Law School professor is planning an offense for the defense.  She replaced Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck as president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers this month. That role, and a visiting professorship at Catholic University teaching evidence and criminal procedure, are taking her back to Washington, D.C., for the next year.  She is fully aware that the road ahead is not exactly gleaming.  For openers, there's proposed legislation in Congress called the Streamlined Procedures Act. The bill would curtail access to the courts for virtually all state prisoners seeking to set aside their convictions through habeas corpus petitions.

"It would bury the truly innocent under a welter of state and federal procedural bars (and) undermine efforts to raise the low standard of representation tolerated by state courts," she told the association membership recently. "Inevitably, by keeping the innocent in prison and out of court, it will leave the real perpetrators to commit more crimes."

Bergman views that as particularly alarming in an age when DNA testing and other forms of proof have demonstrated that more innocent people are wrongly convicted than anyone suspected.  Exonerations have proliferated in the last 16 years, largely because of DNA testing, but Bergman warns that isn't a panacea. DNA is a tool available only in about 20 percent of cases.  More, not less, must be done to correct the weaknesses in our fact-finding system, she said.

Bergman, a deputy counsel in the Carter administration, hopes to build on projects launched by Scheck. Those include seeking state legislation to fix flawed photo array procedures and encouraging law enforcement techniques that reduce false confessions, like requiring taped suspect interrogations.  The association will continue to tackle problems with false convictions resulting from forensic labs that do faulty work like that exposed in Texas, Oklahoma, Montana and West Virginia, where one forensic examiner testified about tests he'd never performed.

"You've had the whole problem with the Albuquerque evidence room," she said. "We've got to make sure these labs are independent and neutral and have quality control, and hopefully are accredited. That's another area where you get wrongful convictions, because you have bad evidence."

Bergman also wants to bring new attention to mental health and juvenile issues.  "When we closed down a lot of the institutions, we didn't provide a lot of alternatives for people with mental illness, and in effect what's happened is that our prisons and jails have become our asylums. We house people with mental illness that we don't know what else to do with. Some don't need to be in those facilities and others who perhaps need to be restrained or incarcerated may need more help," she said.  Bergman wants more attention on kids who are being sent through the adult criminal justice system.

Bergman is the organization's 47th president and the third woman to head it. Albuquerque attorney Nancy Hollander was the first woman president.  Over the years, it has evolved from a networking body to one more involved in seeking policy changes. Its membership has grown to almost 13,000 direct members and 28,000 in state affiliates."  [Mark Godsey]

August 31, 2005 in CrimProfs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Case Western Launches Global Security Website

The Case Western Reserve University School of Law has launched an interactive Web site for its Institute for Global Security, Law and Policy, designed to stimulate public debate and provide a comprehensive hub for addressing security and counterterrorism issues.  The site,, features a blog providing analysis of critical global security issues and links to legal and policy commentary, other blogs and news summaries across the Internet. By using the collaborative nature of blogging, the site encourages individuals within and outside the Institute to comment on legal and policy issues. Students enrolled in the Counterterrorism Law course, co-taught by Professor Amos Guiora and Adjunct Professor Jonathan Leiken, will submit weekly blog entries to the site.  “The site reflects the Case School of Law’s commitment that the Institute becomes the leading national and international resource and research center for issues of global security,” said Amos Guiora, professor of law and director of the Institute. Guiora is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Israel Defense Forces with extensive experience in counterterrorism.  “This Web site will increase the Institute’s visibility and add to its reputation as the world’s leading center for the study of global security issues,” said Gerald Korngold, dean and McCurdy Professor of Law.   [Mark Godsey, taken from a Case Western press release]

August 30, 2005 in Homeland Security | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Japan: Officer Dumps Complaints

I thought this was usually letter carriers who dumped mail, but here's a story of an officer who took police reports and did nothing with them, holding some so long that the statute ran.  Story here. [Jack Chin]

August 30, 2005 in International | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Emmett Till Update

Here's a profile of the prosecutor handling the revived investigation. Here's our previous bloggage. [Jack Chin]

August 30, 2005 in News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

BREAKING NEWS: Martial Law Declared in New Orleans Because of Hurricane Katrina

Story here. Wikipedia entry on martial law here. Here's a live feed from a New Orleans TV station, broadcasting from Mississippi.  [Jack Chin]  Here's a report saying that martial law wasn't really declared.

August 30, 2005 in News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)