October 22, 2005
Federal Habeas Review Debate Intensifies
From Law.com: (The National Law Journal): "If the chief judges of state and federal appellate courts, the national bar and a host of others say a bill that would strip the federal courts of nearly all authority to review state convictions and sentences is a mistake, you'd think the bill's proponents might back down. Think again. Lawmakers are seeking the most sweeping changes to federal habeas review in a decade. Judges have urged study into whether there really is unwarranted delay in resolving habeas petitions. But the Senate is ready to act." Story... [Mark Godsey]
FLorida DUI Defendants Seek Intoxilyzer Source Code
Story here. [Jack Chin]
Art Looting Conference at American
Contact: Kathy Thompson, AU WCL Public Relations, 202-274-4279; Cell Phone: 703-855-5556
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 21, 2005) – Criminal legal experts will discuss “Addressing a Global Criminal Operation: The Looting of Rare Map, Manuscript and Book Collections, and the United States’ Response.” The event will be held in Room 603 of American University Washington College of Law, 4801 Massachusetts Ave., NW, from 4:30 p.m. until 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 25. These experts in the field will address issues such as recent thefts from the National Archives and from the Vatican and Yale libraries.
Topics and Panelists include:
“The FBI Art Crime’s Team Perspective on the Looting of Maps, Manuscripts and Books”
· Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, Art Theft Program, FBI Art Crime Team
“Using the Archaeological Resources Protection Act to Prosecute Theft of Illuminated Manuscript Pages from the Vatican Library and the Cathedral Libraries of Toledo and Tortosa, Spain”
· Dennis Kenney, former assistant U.S. attorney
“Using the Theft of Major Art Work Statute to Prosecute Theft of Manuscript Pages from the National Archives”
· Sarah T. Chasson, assistant U.S. attorney
· Kelly Maltagliati, assistant inspector general, National Archives
This event is co-sponsored by American University Washington College of Law; the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation; the National Park Service Law Enforcement & Emergency Services; and Cultural Resources. The event is free and open to the public.
To arrange to attend the discussion or for other media assistance, contact Kathy Thompson, director of public relations, 202-274-4279; Cell Phone: 703-855-5556; or E-mail: kthompson@WCL.american.edu.
October 21, 2005
CrimProf Blog Spotlight: Katherine Barnes of Washington St. Louis
"Prof. Barnes came to Washington University after clerking for Judge Sonia Sotomayor, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She is an expert on statistical evidence and forms of proof, including two recent studies on racial profiling and traffic stops in the state of Maryland. Her professional interests also span discrimination law, labor and employment law, civil procedure, and criminal procedure. During her clerkship with Judge Sotomayor, Barnes focused on cases related to disability discrimination and criminal procedure. Barnes previously clerked for Judge Vaughn Walker, United States District Court for the Northern District of California. While clerking for Judge Walker, she worked on several empirical projects, including analyzing the benefits of bidding for class counsel in securities class actions and discussing forms of proof in selective prosecution cases.
Barnes' most recent article, "Assessing the Counterfactual: The Efficacy of Drug Interdiction Absent Racial Profiling" in the Duke Law Journal, empirically estimates the potential benefits (if any) to racial profiling in the context of highway stops, and quantifies some of the costs of such a program. Her current empirical projects include an investigation of the charging decisions of Missouri prosecutors in death-eligible cases and a project entitled "Making a Federal Case of It: Federal Homicides Prosecutions" that investigates the decision making of federal prosecutors in homicide cases. Barnes is also continuing her statistics research into Bayesian selection models. Barnes is also the co-author of "Road Work: Racial Profiling and Drug Interdiction on the Highway." She has also written on the relationship between crime rates and American attitudes toward the death penalty and on deterrence and the death penalty. Barnes has presented her recent work at several conferences, including the International Conference on Forensic Statistics, the Joint Interface and Classification Society meeting, and annual meetings of the Law & Society Association.
Barnes received her law degree in 2000 from the University of Michigan Law School, where she was article editor and executive editor of the Michigan Journal of Law Reform, and her Ph.D. in statistics from the University of Minnesota in 2003. Her dissertation focused on "Bayesian Inference in Spatial Clustering Models of Crime Data." Barnes received her bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College in 1993. After graduating from Swarthmore and prior to attending law school, she taught mathematics, physics, and computer science at Westover School in Connecticut." For links to two of Professor Barnes' articles, click here.
A Carjacker who is not very good at his job . . .
was slammed by his target's car door, burned by hot coffee, found himself looking down the wrong end of his own gun and was forced to run away. Hey, at least the victim didn't take the robber's wallet. [Jack Chin]
Kansas Supreme Court Strikes Down Harsher Penalties for Gay Statutory Rape
An 18 year old guy was having sex with a 14 year old guy; if one of them had been a female, the maximum sentence would have been 15 months; instead, the dude got 17 years. The Kansas Supreme Court unanimously held that punishnent of gay underage sex much more harshly than straight underage sex was unconstitutional. Story here, opinion here. [Jack Chin]
October 20, 2005
Should Have Been a Michael Jordan Fan
Larry Bird and Jailbird Eric James Torpy have one thing in common. The number 33 marks their legendary feats. Or at least that's what Torpy believes. He requested a prison term of 33 years, even though the prosecutors and defense attorneys already had agreed to 30 years. Torpy said 'if he was going to go down [for shooting with an intent to kill and robbery], he was going to go down in Larry Bird's jersey,' Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott said Wednesday. 'We accommodated his request and he was just as happy as he could be.'"
Judging from Torpy's list of tattoos, he's no stranger to symbolic gestures, and his request for an extended sentence truly was a heartfelt tribute. Maybe he should have been a Michael Jordan fan (#23), but good thing it wasn't Wayne Gretzky (#99) he wanted to honor. Story... [Mark Godsey]
Law Enforcement Forum Issues Taser Guidelines
From Findlaw.com: Houston (AP): "A national law enforcement organization recommended Wednesday that police use Taser stun guns only on people who actively resist officers and for only five seconds at a time. The Police Executive Research Forum issued a total of 50 recommendations for proper use of the weapons, which deliver a 50,000-volt shock to immobilize people temporarily. [The recommendations were based on the consensus of a two-day conference held in Houston].
The recommendations suggest that only one officer use a Taser on a suspect at any one time and that only a five-second charge be used before police re-evaluate the situation.
The guidelines were issued amid criticism of police for using the stun guns too often, allegedly with deadly results. Amnesty International has compiled a list of more than 100 people the group says have died after being shocked in scuffles with lawmen...
'It has to be controlled, but to say there should be a moratorium on it, that would throw us back to the days of giving an officer a choice between a service baton and deadly force,' [Chuck Wexler, executive director of the forum] said. 'We need to have some middle ground.'
About 6,000 of the nation's 18,000 law enforcement agencies use Tasers, including the Houston Police Department. Police Chief Harold Hurtt [of Houston's Police Department] said he first began equipping officers with Tasers while he was police chief in Phoenix, which saw an almost 50 percent decline in fatal police shootings between 2002 and 2003 after adopting the stuns guns." Story... [Mark Godsey]
Russia: Moscow Police Smoke Counterfeit Cigarette Ring
From Mosnews.com: "The Moscow police department for combating economic crime has broken up the activities of a large organized crime group engaged in manufacturing counterfeit cigarettes of well-known global brands and selling them in Russia and Western European countries." Story... [Mark Godsey]
9th Circuit: Murder Conviction Reversed Based on Defendant's Distrust of His Lawyer
The Ninth Circuit reversed Larry James Plumlee's murder conviction based on distrust that arose between Plumlee and his appointed attorney. (Plumlee discovered that the chief deputy public defender was friends with Plumlee's roommate, who also was a suspect in the murder case). The opinion provoked a strong dissent, and the State intends to petition for rehearing and an en banc hearing. If upheld Plumlee will either walk free or stand a new trial in Nevada.
From Law.com: "'The resulting distrust that arose between Plumlee and his appointed attorney was such that the attorney himself likened his representation of Plumlee to no representation at all,' [Judge Betty Fletcher] wrote. Plumlee ended up representing himself at trial and was eventually convicted and sentenced to two life terms...
Perhaps it's fitting that the contentious case originated in the courtroom of former Washoe County Judge Mills Lane III, best known as the boxing referee whose catchphrase -- "let's get it on" -- kicked off dozens of boxing matches. Most notoriously, he officiated the 1997 fight in which Mike Tyson gnawed off a piece of Evander Holyfield's ear.
In the Plumlee case, Lane expressed clear discomfort with the defendant's relationship with public defenders, most notably the fact that Plumlee's roommate -- and suspect in the murder -- John Dewey was a close friend of Shelly O'Neill, the chief deputy public defender. Plumlee became convinced that O'Neill was leaking information to Dewey...But Lane said he was constrained from addressing that issue by an earlier Nevada Supreme Court review of the case.
In addition to the friendship between his roommate and the defender's office, Plumlee's suspicion was stoked when he found that his initial defense lawyer was leaving to become a prosecutor, and that his second public defender suggested that Plumlee might need psychiatric treatment.
In his dissent, [Judge Carlos Bea] said the majority opinion relied too heavily on the defendant's subjective beliefs. 'The majority disregards the voluminous evidence suggesting Plumlee's distrust was based on incidents that either did not occur or were fabricated by Plumlee,' he wrote...
By allowing Plumlee's distrust to be an "irreconcilable conflict" requiring a change of counsel, Bea wrote, 'the majority sets forth a rudderless, subjective rule for finding an 'irreconcilable conflict' between a criminal defendant and his counsel.'... If upheld, he added, the opinion would create 'a new, unworkable rule which raises to constitutional dimensions a defendant's unfounded suspicions.'" Story... [Mark Godsey]
Vermont: Judge Apologizes for Releasing Suspected Criminals
"A Vermont judge has apologized for punishing a tardy prosecutor by throwing out all charges against four criminal suspects.
District Court Judge Michael Kupersmith took that action last week because he was irritated after a prosecutor was four minutes late for a court hearing. The state's attorney said Kupersmith's response was unfortunate because it punished only the public and the police. The judge...reportedly admitted that he over-reacted.
As for the suspects: two have been cited to appear to be re-charged. The other two, an alleged New York City drug dealer and a woman who was released from prison, have apparently disappeared." Story... [Mark Godsey]
You Can Go to DC, Have a Drink, and Not End Up in the Slammer...or Can You?
From Washingtonpost.com: "The D.C. Council voted [on Tuesday] to relax the city's "zero tolerance" drunken driving law, which allows drivers to be prosecuted for minimal amounts of alcohol in the bloodstream. D.C. law gives police the authority to arrest drivers with blood alcohol levels above .01 but below .08, the level at which a driver is considered legally intoxicated in the District. The council voted 9 to 3 for emergency legislation under which drivers with less than .05 blood alcohol would be presumed to be not intoxicated. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D)...has 10 days to decide whether to veto it...
Council members introduced the measure after news reports highlighted cases in which drivers were arrested after drinking as little as a glass of wine. Members said they were worried about a drop-off in business for District bars and restaurants and concerned that the city's law was becoming a national joke...
Schwartz [(R-At Large) and author of the legislation] said her office has been inundated with calls, letters and e-mails since The Washington Post published the story last week of Debra Bolton, a 45-year-old energy lawyer and single mother of two, who was arrested in the District and spent five months fighting a charge of driving under the influence after drinking one glass of wine with dinner. Her blood alcohol level was .03...Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5) said participants at a recent business meeting were jokingly warned not to have a glass of wine lest they be carted away. "We need to send a clear and unequivocal message that you can come to the District of Columbia, have a drink and not end up in the slammer," Graham [D-Ward 1] said." Story... [Mark Godsey]
October 19, 2005
New Article Spotlight: Home As a Legal Concept
Benjamin Barros of Widener has posted Home as a Legal Concept on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This article, which is the first comprehensive discussion of the American legal concept of home, makes two major contributions. First, the article systematically examines how homes are treated more favorably than other types of property in a wide range of legal contexts, including criminal law and procedure, torts, privacy, landlord-tenant, debtor-creditor, family law, and income taxation. Second, the article considers the normative issue of whether this favorable treatment is justified. The article draws from material on the psychological concept of home and the cultural history of home throughout this analysis, providing insight into the interests at stake in various legal issues involving the home.
The article concludes that homes are different from other types of property and give rise to legal interests deserving of special legal protection, but that these interests can be outweighed by competing interests in particular legal contexts. The result is that in many contexts special legal treatment of homes is justified. In other contexts, for example residential rent control, the strength of competing interests means that the law overprotects the home. In still other contexts, for example eminent domain law as embodied by the Supreme Court's recent decision in Kelo v. New London, the law tends to underprotect the home.
To obtain the paper, click here. [Mark Godsey]
Chapman Jobs--Not Criminal
CHAPMAN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW invites both beginning and experienced faculty members to apply for tenure-track positions commencing with the 2006-07 academic year. The School of Law especially seeks candidates capable of teaching Remedies, Commercial Law, Corporate Law, Evidence, and Sales, but also welcomes those specializing in Clinical Teaching, Conflicts of Law, Employment and Labor Law, Entertainment Law, Family Law, Immigration Law, Intellectual Property, or Wills and Trusts.
Chapman University is an Equal Opportunity Employer, committed to providing career opportunities to all people, without regard to race, color, religion, gender, age, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or veteran status. Please submit letters of interest and resumes to Kurt Eggert, Professor of Law, Chapman University School of Law, One University Drive, Orange, CA 92866 or contact him directly at email@example.com.
New Juvenile Justice Website
OJJDP Web Site Offers Expanded Coverage and Targeted Services
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has launched a redesigned home page on its Web site. Enhancements include expanded coverage of news, publications, and events and links to tools designed to assist specific users such as first-time visitors and students. Aid for those seeking funding information or the latest data is also provided.
Resources: Access the OJJDP Web site's redesigned home page at
James Hathaway's Book on Refugee Law
Lawsuit Filed Over Crime Victim Visas
Congress authorized new visas for noncitizens who cooperate with police in investigations of violent crimes. The rationale seems to be that a noncitizen, faced with the risk of deportation, might instead choose to disappear (See Robert Blake story). However, no visas have been issued, and no regulations about how to get one; laawyers have now brought a lawsuit. Story here. [Jack Chin]
Blake Trial Update
His alibi, essentially, is: "I was going to get my gun when my wife was shot." He says three witnesses saw him and perhaps could support that alibi, but they disappeared. They were Latino-looking busboys, and, he speculates, undocumented noncitizens, so perhaps they were afraid to go to the police. Story here. [Jack Chin].
UK; Law Lord Criticizes Politicization of Crime
The government should not blame judges for the effects of their own "half-baked" legislation, one of Britain's law lords said last night.
Lord Steyn said there had been a flood of legislation about crime over the past 20 years, making the issue a "political football" – often to little effect.
The judge also condemned military action in Iraq, saying the government had been "driven to scrape the bottom of the legal barrel" to find justification for it.
Lord Steyn was speaking at a meeting of human rights group Justice, of which he has recently been appointed chairman of the council, and used the opportunity to respond to Tony Blair's increasing vocal concerns about the court system.
Story here. [Jack Chin]
October 18, 2005
"Stop Snitchin" Shirts Stop Two Criminal Trials: CrimProf Natapoff on the "Snitching" Phenomenon
From Pittsburgh's Post-gazette.com: "Two criminal trials this month were disrupted by an article of clothing. A witness called to testify against three men on trial for conspiring to kill him was ejected from Allegheny County Common Pleas Court because he came in wearing a T-shirt that said "Stop Snitchin." Without his testimony, prosecutors were forced to withdraw charges against the three defendants.
The following day, during the sentencing phase of a federal drug case, an assistant U.S. Attorney paused to show the judge two T-shirts vilifying witnesses who gave prosecutors information about a cocaine kingpin. One shirt had a photograph of a witness, an admitted drug dealer, who eventually won a reduced sentence for cooperating with authorities. Above his image and a photo of another cooperating witness were the words "No snitching allowed." On the opposite side, it read "Niggas Just Looking For a Deal" and, once again, "Stop Snitchin."
The back-to-back incidents were no coincidence. The shirts belong to an urban fashion trend that hit Boston and Baltimore about a year ago and is now taking hold on the streets of Pittsburgh...
Going to police with information about a buddy who's breaking the law is taboo in gang culture and it almost implicitly means you're asking for retribution, according to police and gang experts. But since the War on Drugs in the 1980s, law enforcement officials have relied more heavily on informants in their sting operations, said [CrimProf Alexandra Natapoff of Loyola Law School] who published a University of Cincinnati Law Review article on the phenomenon. She said sentencing laws have pushed more people to snitch to save themselves from spending years behind bars.
With mandatory sentences attached to drug crimes, there are more incentives for low-level players to snitch on the top dogs. Informants who help prosecutors significantly can sometimes meet a standard called "substantial assistance" and qualify for significantly shorter sentences.
Garry P. Smith...the man sentenced in federal court here this month -- and pictured on the T-shirt -- testified despite the anti-snitching shirts people were wearing around his neighborhood and despite a reputed $100,000 bounty on his head. Because of his cooperation, Mr. Smith got his sentence cut from 20 years to seven...
According to data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 40 percent of drug trafficking prosecutions in which defendants got a sentence of 10 years or more involved "substantial assistance to authorities" from informants. Dr. Natapoff found that the pressure to become an informant has a disproportionate effect on the black community, because one in three black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are under court supervision at any time. In her article, she estimated that more than a quarter of black men in poor communities are under pressure to inform on their peers.
"Snitching becomes a fact of life," she said. "At every barbecue, at every holiday party, someone is under law enforcement pressure to snitch. That in my mind is a destructive public policy."
The Stop Snitching movement took root in the wake of those prosecutions. A handful of rap stars, like Young Jeezy, helped spread the message with lyrics that shunned the idea of turning on your fellow gangstas. Rapper Jim Jones' video was banned in Canada because people in the video were donning the now-famous T-shirts. Carmelo Anthony of professional basketball's Denver Nuggets appeared in "Stop Snitchin," an underground documentary for sale on DVD that profiled drug dealers in his hometown of Baltimore talking about the dangers of "ratting" on people.
The anti-snitching T-shirts took off from there, promoted on Web sites like by AntonioAnsaldi.com and StopSnitching.com." Full Story... [Mark Godsey]