September 24, 2005
No Heroin Chic in Tucson
Whenever I hear about the police arresting a bunch of kids for drugs in a poor school, I always shake my head: "Why is it that they never go after kids at Old St. Grottlesex, who have more money and thus better drugs?" And yet, now that they have arrested some young women for heroin at the most affluent public high school in Tucson, I feel no better. Jail will be no help for the drug problem these kids have. [Jack Chin]
BREAKING NEWS: University of Cincinnati Law Students and CrimProf Blogger Claim DNA Exoneration
Ohio Innocence Project Director and CrimProf Blogger Mark Godsey and his students claim that they have proved that a man in prison for life for rape and murder is innocent. Clarence Elkins was convicted of murdering his mother in law and raping his niece. The niece has since recanted, and Elkins' wife--the daughter of the murder victim--offered an alibi. Most recently, the defense team developed an alternative suspect, a sex offender who lived a couple of doors down the street from the crime scene. The alternative suspect happened to be in prison with Elkins, and Elkins obtained a cigarette butt from the suspect, and mailed it to Godsey's co-counsel. DNA testing from the cigarette butt showed a match with DNA from the crime scene, including vaginal swabs and panties of the victims. Elkins has already been excluded as the source of the DNA from the crime scene. "We're hopeful the prosecution will be reasonable," Godsey said in the Cincinnati Enquirer. "The real perpetrator needs to be prosecuted, and Clarence needs to be released expeditiously." [Jack Chin]
Kidnapper Gets 9 to 30
A Philadelphia woman who kidnapped an infant during a fire and then raised the baby as her own for six years was sentneced to 9 to 30 years for kidnapping. The defendant, related to the natural parents by marraige, claimed that the father had given her the baby ro raise. [Jack Chin]
Iraq Issues Arrest Warrants for British Troops
The ones who killed an Iraqi cop while in plainclothes and then were broken out of jail by their colleagues. Story here. [Jack Chin]
September 23, 2005
CrimProf Blog Spotlight: Elizabeth Joh of UC Davis
A graduate of Yale University and New York University School of Law, Professor Joh clerked for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She obtained her Ph.D. (Law and Society) from New York University in 2004. Professor Joh teaches and writes in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, and sociology of law.
When asked why she's drawn to criminal law, Professor Joh says, "At every moment in history, whom, what, and how we decide to punish reflects our values and judgments as a society. These legal questions are compelling moral, political, and philosophical struggles. This is particularly so in our present circumstances, when so many of our social problems are addressed through criminal sanctions. The study of criminal law, then, is not just a study of rules and principles, but also an engagement in a conversation about the kind of society we are, and want to be. Lawyers entering the profession, whether or not they decide to work in the criminal justice system, will be leaders in their communities and must take part in that conversation."
For a list of Professor Joh's articles click here.
September 22, 2005
Nebraska: Refusal to Commute Sentence Leaves the AG Wanting to "Throw Up"
From the OmahaChannel.com: "A commutation hearing prompted Nebraska's attorney general to say government can be too tough on criminals, and sometimes it makes him sick.
State officials decided Wednesday that a man should continue to serve a life sentence for his role in a murder, but the parole board's decision is controversial because the man was 17 at the time, and didn't commit the murder himself. Jeremy Herman and Christopher Masters kidnapped Jeremy Drake, 15, in 1992. They were scuffling over stolen stereo speakers. Masters shot and killed Drake near Omaha's Hummel Park, while Herman said he just wanted to scare Drake.
But Herman pleaded guilty and under Nebraska law was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
On Wednesday, the Nebraska Board of Pardons held a rare hearing to decide whether or not to commute that sentence. Among the people in support of a lesser sentence was the victim's mother, who told the board the Herman didn't intend to hurt her son...
The issue sparked a heated debate during the hearing between the state's top officials.
"In my three years on this board, we have not commuted a single one," said Attorney General Jon Bruning. "And as I looked at this, I thought, this might be the single one."
In the end, two of the board's three members -- Gov. Dave Heineman and Secretary of State John Gale -- voted not to change Herman's sentence. That didn't end the argument over criminal sentencing.
"I'm tougher on crime -- I'm so tough it makes me want to throw up sometimes," Bruning said. "How tough on crime can we get before it gets to be ridiculous?"
"The Legislature is getting tougher and tougher, and Congress is getting tougher and tougher. More people are seeing more time," Gale said.
"And it's costing taxpayers more and more, and at some point it has to end," Bruning said.
"It's the voice of the people that's driving this issue," Gale said.
"It's the will of politicians trying to get re-elected," Bruning said. "We are continuously trying to get ourselves reelected, trying to be tougher than the next guy, and at some point it has got to end. And this commute is where it is."...Gale echoed that, and said the Wednesday's hearing has raised the issue of perhaps allowing more hearings on unusual cases...Herman can try again to have his sentence commuted. Full story... [Mark Godsey]
European Commission Proposes Increased Surveillance
From PCPro.co.uk: "The European Commission has accepted proposals to log details of all telephone, email and Internet traffic in an attempt to combat terrorism and serious crime.
The proposals, which are designed to harmonise data retention practices across the EU, will need the backing of all 25 member states. However some states believe they have been watered down in response to pressure from telecommunications firms and civil rights groups.
Under the EC proposals telecoms operators will be required to store data for one year and ISPs to retain it for six months. In the wake of the Madrid bombings, the EU's Council of Ministers had originally called for a three year retention period...Home Secretary Charles Clarke stressed the importance of a common approach. 'Getting some kind of uniformity across Europe is important because this is such an important technique in how we solve serious crimes and in dealing with counter-terrorism,' he said." Story... [Mark Godsey]
New Article Spotlight: Criminal Defense Lawyers as Cause Lawyers
Illinois CrimProf Margaret Etienne has posted on SSRN "The Ethics of Cause Lawyering: An Empirical Examination of Criminal Defense Lawyers as Cause Lawyers" Abstract:
Criminal defense attorneys are often motivated by an intricate set of moral and ideological principles that belie their reputations as amoral (if not immoral) "hired guns" who, for the right price, would do anything to get their guilty clients off. Using empirical data from interviews with forty criminal defense attorneys I consider the motivations that inform their decisions to enter the field of criminal defense and the values that influence the manner in which they do their jobs. I conclude that many criminal defense attorneys are in fact cause lawyers who are committed to individual clients but also the "cause" of legal reform in criminal law. These dual commitment - essentially to individual clients versus the collective group of criminal defendants - occasionally raise ethical conflicts that have largely gone under-examined and that the rules of ethics and professionalism are not well equipped to resolve. Although examined here through the lens of criminal defending, the ethical dilemma of cause lawyering is a noteworthy problem generally for activist lawyers because they continue to play an important role in socio-legal movements in this country.
SSRN Link: Here.
Katrina: Prisoners Left Behind in Jails?
Human Rights Watch reports that hundreds of prisoners in Templeman III, an Orleans Parish jail, were left behind in New Orleans after the evacuation, without food or water. They were not rescued until 4 days later, when the water was chest high. [Jack Chin]
September 21, 2005
Steal a Beaver, Guard a Beaver
Michael Ledford, 18, was convicted of stealing a 250 pound beaver statue in Xenia, Ohio. In response, the judge ordered Ledford to guard 25 similar beaver statues on the weekends until they are auctioned on October 15, 2005. While Ledford guards the beavers, police will guard Ledford. In addition to his beaver-guard duty, Ledford also had to partially reimburse the city for the cost of adding tracking devices to the beaver statues, as nine others have been vandalized or stolen while on display. Story... [Mark Godsey]
Conference and Competition Announcement: Asian Pacific American Law Faculty
CONFERENCE OF ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN LAW FACULTY (CAPALF)
Frank H. Wu, Dean of Wayne State University Law School, is pleased to announce it will host the 12th Conference of Asian Pacific American Law Faculty (CAPALF) on April 7-8, 2006. Registration forms and additional information will be forthcoming. Please feel free to contact Ms. Karen Tarnas, Assistant to the Dean (firstname.lastname@example.org) to be added to the mailing list or for details.
CAPALF is pleased to announce its inaugural legal scholarship competition. All papers on Asian Pacific Americans and the law, broadly construed, are eligible for consideration, provided the author is not a tenured full-time faculty member as of the time of submission (tenure-track full-time faculty are eligible) and the papers have not been published in any hard-copy format; co-authored papers are welcome (no author may be a tenured-full time faculty member). The winner will be invited to present his/her paper at the Conference and publish it in The Wayne Law Review, and s/he will receive an honorarium of $1500 and a travel stipend to the CAPALF conference; a runner-up also may be selected, in the discretion of the judges. Entries will be evaluated by the CAPALF Planning Committee consisting of the following (institutional affiliations shown for identification purposes only): Rashmi Dyal-Chand (Northeastern University School of Law); Elaine Chiu (St. John's University School of Law); Susan Kuo (Northern Illinois University College of Law); Daniel P. Tokaji (Ohio State University Moritz College of Law); and Tseming Yang (Vermont Law School). CAPALF invites submissions by January 27, 2006. Submissions should be sent electronically to Ms. Karen Tarnas, Assistant to the Dean, Wayne State University Law School (email@example.com) in MS Word-compatible format; all entries will be acknowledged. Manuscripts should contain identifying information (name, title, institutional affiliation if any, address, phone, and email) in a separate document, also in MS-Word compatible format and attached to the same message. There is no minimum or maximum length.
Crim-Related Fellowship at Yale
Information Society Project Yale Law School ISP Fellowship Announcement
The fellowship is designed for recent law graduates or Ph.Ds who are interested in careers in teaching and public service in any of the following areas: Internet and telecommunications law, first amendment law, media studies, intellectual property law, access to knowledge, cybercrime, cultural evolution, bioethics and biotechnology, and law and technology generally. This year we have a particular interest in hiring fellows interested in computer security and privacy issues as well as development and the information society.
Fellows receive a salary of approximately $37,000 plus Yale benefits. Fellows are expected to work on an independent scholarly project as well as help with administrative and scholarly work for the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. More information on the ISP is available at:http://islandia.law.yale.edu/isp/
The formal application materials including the following:
(1) A brief (one to five page) statement of the applicant's proposed scholarly research;
(2) A copy of the applicant's resume;
(3) A law school (or graduate school) transcript;
(4) At least one sample of recent scholarly writing;
(5) Two letters of recommendation.
Applications can be sent all year round as fellows are accepted on a rolling basis. Applications for the 2006-7 ISP fellowship must postmarked no later than Feb. 1, 2006.
The application materials should be sent (in hard copy) to:
Information Society Project Fellowship Program c/o Deborah Sestito, Room 333 Yale Law School 127 Wall Street P.O. Box 208215 New Haven CT 06520-8215
With Simon Wiesenthal Dead, Is the Era of Nazi Hunting Over?
Reuters says yes, although they quote a source saying hundreds of criminals are still around. Just a couple of weeks ago, the U.S. District Court in Chicago revoked the citizenship of a former Nazi. [Jack Chin]
September 20, 2005
Berkeley LawProf Comments on Sentencing for White-Collar Criminals
From NYTimes.com: In the post-Enron world, debate is ensuing about how much prison time is enough for white collar criminals, and how much is too much. "No lawyer is suggesting that white-collar criminals not serve time. Rather, lawyers and jurists are asking what the appropriate sentence is for white-collar crimes relative to punishments for other crimes in a post-Enron world.
Jonathan Simon, a professor of law [and associate dean] at the University of California, Berkeley, said: 'The most obvious comparison for the emerging attitude toward white-collar criminals is the harsh punishment we give to people involved in the drug trade. But both represent increasingly irrational and inhumane levels of punishment.' Noting that he considered Mr. Ebbers's sentence 'draconian,' he added that '25 years is more than most people would get for rape or a nonaggravated murder.'"
Along these lines, others have noted that 25 to 30 year sentences for chairmen and CEO's like Ebbers, the former Chairman of WorldCom, are tantamount to life sentences. "'[W]hite-collar workers are extraordinarily sensitive to threats since their whole socialization and environment encourage calculation of future benefit and cost,'" so whether lenghty sentences are necessary to provide a deterrent effect is questionable. Professor Simon suggests that "'it would be far more effective to impose a lot of short sentences on a wider group of offenders rather than the example model of harshly punishing a few celebrity cases while most potential offenders know that they are unlikely ever to be caught and punished.'" Story here... [Mark Godsey]
North Carolina: DNA Crime Lab Receives Two Federal Grants
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's DNA crime lab received two federal grants from the justice department, totaling over $92,000. The first grant will fund the testing needed to work through backlogged DNA cases, and the second grant will be used to enhance the lab's infrastructure to prevent future backlogs. The lab anticipates solving about 240 DNA cases this year. Story here... [Mark Godsey]
Boston: Controversy over Racial Composition of Jury Pools
Using registered voters and driver's license records to select jurors, skews your pool white and affluent. In addition, databases are maintained by localities rather than the state as a whole, and affluent communities have more accurate records, so more of them are findable. U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner is trying to increase the pool of eligible jurors, and it is controversial. Story here. [Jack Chin; thanks to Lester Roy Zipris]
Too Many Donuts for Florida Cops?
Some police agencies in Florida have announced plans to try to improve fitness of their officers, so they are fit enough to catch fleet-fotted suspects, and so they are less likely to get hurt on the job themselves. [Jack Chin]
Some of the most distinguished, interesting and provocative LawProfs around have started a group blog called Blackprof. Bloggers include Richard Banks (Stanford), Paul Butler (GW), Devon Carbado (UCLA), Darren Hutchinson (American), Sherrilyn Ifill (Maryland), Tracey Meares (Chicago), Spencer Overton (GW), Dorothy Roberts (Northwestern), and Adrien Wing (Iowa). Many of them write on criminal or related subjects; this will be a must-visit site. [Jack Chin]
September 19, 2005
KY: Assistant Police Chief Defrauds State with Fake Time Card; No Charges
The stresses of police work justify some leniency; a cop who drinks on duty or calls in sick unnecessarily may well be doing so for understandable reasons. Stealing money is another thing; a cop faking hours should be prosecuted just like any other state employee. Story here. [Jack Chin]
The Other CSI Effect
The New Scientist reports that forensic shows teach criminals techniques to avoid detection and capture--such as snatching public ashtrays full of cigarette butts and scattering them at the scene to create a bunch of potential suspects. [Jack Chin]