CrimProf Blog

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Why British Cops Wagged the Dog

From Rotherham, England (AP)-- "Buster the German shepherd could have had a great career as a British police dog had it not been for...[h]is complete lack of interest in fighting crime...and [his] fondness for making friends with rowdy drunkards...

"He has a lack of drive and motivation when asked to do operational work," Stephenson [the Police Constable] told The Associated Press. "He's just a lovely pet." Two-year-old Buster performed well at the start of his 14-week training program, but his work gradually deteriorated and the problem worsened once he started patrolling the streets, he said...

On one occasion, Buster walked straight past a suspected criminal hiding in the garden of a house late at night and went off to cock his leg. "I searched the garden myself and found the bloke. The dog had walked past the spot where I found him," Stephenson said. "You would have expected him to use his nose to locate him."

During a separate tracking operation, also in the early hours of the morning, Buster gave up while in mid-chase across a golf course. "He just downed tools," Stephenson said. "He just lay down and there was nothing we could do. He has got a very low drive for finding people."...

When patrolling Rotherham at pub closing times — when the streets are often crowded with drunken revelers — Buster wagged his tail when people came up to him and ate their fries, instead of deterring potential trouble makers, his former handler said." Since being forced into early retirement, Buster has moved in with a family in Northern England. Story... [Mark Godsey]

October 18, 2005 in Miscellaneous | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Story Behind Three Exonerations

The story of how the late forensic scientist Mary Jane Burton's meticulous work led to three exonerations...

From Richmond, VA (AP)--"The forensic scientist cut off the tip of a cotton swab and taped it to a lab sheet next to a snippet of stained clothing.  Always save a piece of what you test, Mary Jane Burton instructed her watchful trainee.

But why? This was 1977, years before the invention of DNA testing. Yet day after day, she repeated this seemingly pointless procedure...taping swabs smeared with blood, semen and saliva and inserting them into their case files...[S]he retired from the Virginia state crime lab [and passed away in 1999], leaving behind scores of forgotten files, each holding samples imprinted with nature’s barcode.

The lab she worked in is gone now, but a few miles a cavernous warehouse where 17 numbered rows of metal shelves tower 28 feet to the ceiling. They hold 75,000 covered cardboard boxes — more than 4,000 of them the property of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science.  Many of the tiny pieces of bloodied clothing and cotton swabs that Burton taped down were tucked inside their manila folders, filed away in boxes scattered throughout the room.

There they remained undisturbed for years, waiting for science to catch up with them — and waiting for someone to discover that they are there." Years later, that's what happened.... [Mark Godsey]

October 18, 2005 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Harcourt Debates Thacher on Broken Windows Theory

Harcourt_1 Today, major cities from New York to Los Angeles are vigorously enforcing laws against vagrancy, panhandling, and other quality-of-life crimes. This practice is based on the "broken windows" theory of policing, which suggests that a reduction in minor crimes will lead to a decrease in violent ones.

While "broken windows" policing has grown steadily in popularity in the last 25 years, recent analyses suggest that the results don't support its claims.  Critics have begun to argue that, by chasing jaywalkers, cities are wasting resources. Is it time to forget about broken windows?

Chicago CrimProf Bernard Harcourt (pictured above) debates Professor David Thacher of the University of Michigan this week on the web site of the Legal Affairs Debate Club.  [Mark Godsey]

October 18, 2005 in Criminal Justice Policy, CrimProfs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 17, 2005

2004 Crime Stats: Rape Up, Murder Down

From Washington (AP)-- "Murders across the United States fell for the first time in five years, while rapes increased slightly last year, the FBI reported Monday.  Overall, the number of violent crimes, which also include aggravated assaults and robberies, fell by 1.2 percent last year...

There were 16,137 murders in the United States in 2004, the last full year for which statistics are available. That was about 350 fewer than in 2003...Chicago was largely responsible for the drop, recording 150 fewer murders in 2004 than in 2003.  The number of rapes, however, has increased in three of the past four years, according to the FBI data." More Stats... [Mark Godsey] 

October 17, 2005 in DOJ News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thomas Jefferson CrimProf Offers Insight on Trial Strategies

CohnYesterday marked the beginning of the death-penalty trial of Adrian Camacho, a man accused of killing a police officer in Oceanside, CA.  Rumors that a potential juror criticized the slain officer's police department, sparked discussion about jury selection and trial strategies.  CrimProf Marjorie Cohn of Thomas Jefferson Law commented.

From "Cohn said it is a common defense tactic in death-penalty cases to narrow the jury's focus to what crime the defendant is guilty of committing. 'This is not a whodunit. This is a question of why he did it,' Cohn said. 'The mental state can change the level of the offense and whether or not he is guilty of the crime charged by the prosecution.'" Story... [Mark Godsey] 

October 17, 2005 in CrimProfs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Endowed Visiting Chair, South Texas

Fred Parks Chair in Law

South Texas College of Law is soliciting nominations and applications for the Fred Parks Chair in Law. Created by the Board of Directors and Faculty, this endowed Chair honors Mr. Parks, a lawyer, entrepreneur and philanthropist. The Parks Chair is being offered as a Distinguished Visitorship.


South Texas would like to appoint a nationally recognized legal scholar for the visitorship. Candidates for the position should have a distinguished record of scholarly achievement, a genuine interest in mentoring younger faculty and a demonstrated commitment to teaching excellence. The Distinguished Visitor will serve for the 2006-2007 academic year and receive a competitive salary and benefits, a generous travel allowance and research assistance. The Chair will be expected to participate in the academic life of the College and will be provided the opportunity to conduct a scholarly conference on a topic of his or her choosing.


Applications and nominations should be submitted along with a cover letter containing a statement of research, teaching and conference interests no later than January 15, 2006 to:

Professor Cherie O. Taylor
Chair, Fred Parks Chair Search Committee
South Texas College of Law
1303 San Jacinto Street
Houston, TX 77002

FURTHER INFORMATION: More information on South Texas College of Law can be found at

. South Texas College of law is an Equal Opportunity Employer. We encourage all qualified applicants to apply, including minorities, women, and persons with disabilities.

October 17, 2005 in CrimProfs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

LA Times Oped: Packing Prisons No Solution

Story here. [Jack Chin]

October 17, 2005 in News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sweden: Discrimination in Police Investigations

A Swedish radio station's investigation into police practices showed that complaints made by men and by people without foreign sounding names were more likely to be presented to prosecutors for investigation.  Story here. [Jack Chin]

October 17, 2005 in News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

This Week's Top 5 Crim Papers

This week's top 5 crim papers, with number of recent downloads, are:

(1) 469 The Political Constitution of Criminal Justice
William J. Stuntz,
Harvard Law School,
Date posted to database: August 14, 2005
Last Revised: October 6, 2005
(2) 160 Rescue Without Law: An Empirical Perspective on the Duty to Rescue
David A. Hyman,
University of Illinois College of Law,
Date posted to database: September 7, 2005
Last Revised: September 20, 2005
(3) 141 Reasonable Suspicion and Mere Hunches
Craig S. Lerner,
George Mason University - School of Law,
Date posted to database: August 25, 2005
Last Revised: September 1, 2005
(4) 91 Fourth Amendment Codification and Professor Kerr's Misguided Call for Judicial Deference
Daniel J. Solove,
The George Washington University Law School,
Date posted to database: August 19, 2005
Last Revised: August 28, 2005
(5) 84 Reformulating the Miranda Warnings in Light of Contemporary Law and Understandings
Mark Godsey,
University of Cincinnati College of Law,
Date posted to database: August 26, 2005
Last Revised: October 6, 2005

October 17, 2005 in Weekly Top 5 SSRN Crim Downloads | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law

A note from Ohio State CrimProf Joshua Dressler:

As many of you hopefully know, the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law includes a Commentary section---a section in which we publish shorter, less formal, and often nontraditional, essays.

In that spirit, we are planning a Commentary Symposium, "Criminal Law Nuggets," which we would expect to publish in either the Fall 2006 issue (Volume 4, No. 1), or the Spring 2007 issue (4:2).  (This Commentary Symposium is separate from our regular Commentary articles, which we will also publish in those issues; and, of course, each issue will include a regular symposium.  Our Fall 2006 symposium is "Blakely and the States," with Professors Doug Berman and Steve Chanenson serving as Guest Editors.)

What we are looking for here are substantive criminal law nuggets: essays describing cases with which most of us are unfamiliar (they don't show up in the casebooks) that you believe we ought to know about, as well as "the real story" behind cases we do know about.  Thus, we are looking for nuggets --- cases and background information --- that you think constitute a little bit of criminal law gold that you would like to share with your criminal law colleagues.

How will we distinguish the nuggets from fool's gold?  (We are getting as tired of the metaphor as you are.  Sorry.)  Well, frankly, we are not sure.  But, the key here is that there is something unique, special, funny, or just plain interesting about the case (or background information).   Maybe the case involves fascinating facts (just the type for a criminal law essay exam question?), or perhaps the court took dry and ordinary facts and did something remarkable---or funny, or literary---with them.  Or, maybe you are aware of "hidden" facts about a famous case---what led to the prosecution, or what happened to the parties after the case was resolved or ???---that would interest your colleagues.  (We can imagine that there could be a "war story" out there of interest---an unpublished case---but we would want the story to be a nugget in the telling [compelling, as a story being told], but there also should be a "moral to the story".)

Now, nuggets are, after all, just tidbits.  Therefore, we not only are not looking for traditional-length articles, or even ordinary "Commentary-sized" essays (5000-7000 words).  The tidbits should be 750-2500 words in length, and 2500 is the absolute---stress, absolute--- maximum.  And, that word count includes any footnotes.  (Obviously, we would expect zero or very, very few footnotes.)

If you are inspired to offer us a nugget, please send it electronically (Word preferred; WordPerfect acceptable) to the OSJCL at <>.  (You may also want to look at our new-and-improved website at <>.  We have links to all of our previously published articles, as well as other information, including subscription [hint! hint!] details.) 

We have no idea if we will receive an avalanche, or just a trickle, of publish-worthy submissions.   So, the timing of this special Commentary Symposium remains uncertain.  But, whatever happens, we expect you will find it fun writing up your nugget, and we will have fun reading about it.

By the way, our Fall 2005 issue of the OSJCL will be out very soon.  Our symposium (The Warren Court Criminal Justice Revolution: Reflections a Generation Later) includes articles written by Morgan Cloud, Donald Dripps, Richard Frase, Yale Kamisar, Tracey Meares, and Guest Editor George Thomas). 

We have five  Commentaries  essays (David Givelber on a Certiorari Clinic; Ken Graham on the Confrontation Clause; Judge Morris Hoffman, et al, reporting on an empricial study of public defender effectiveness; New Zealand law professor Scott Optican on "lessons from down under" comparing NZ and US search-and-seizure law; and Austin Sarat on mercy, clemency, and capital punishment.)

And, we have two review essays, by Douglas Husak on a recent Jeremy Horder book ("Excusing Crime"), and Cynthia Lee responding to Victoria Nourse's recent OSJCL review of Lee's book, "Murder and the Reasonable Man."

(We also have a Letter to the Journal from Gary Stuart, whose book on Miranda was critically reviewed in an earlier OSJCL issue.)

October 17, 2005 in Scholarship | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Yale CrimProf Defends Mobster

Duke From  "Yale Law School Professor Steven Duke made a career out of counseling prison inmates. Now he is trying to free one of New Jersey's most notrious mobsters."  Story . . .   Here's Duke's letter to the editor regarding this story from the Yale Daily News: 

The article in your paper on Friday the 14th of October is filled with inaccuracies but I write only to correct a few of them and to protest the bias that it reflects.

         First, the headline  of the article, “Law Professor Defends Mobster.”  How does your reporter know that my client is a “mobster,” much less the “notorious mobster” that  he is called  in the body of the piece?  My client has been in prison for twelve years.  Whatever he may have been in the past – as to which there is no reliable evidence that I am aware of – surely twelve years in prison is enough to at least raise a question about what he is now.  Why not a headline, “Law Professor Defends the Constitution”? Or “Law Professor Defends Innocent Man”?  After all, the article reflects an apparent  awareness that I filed half a dozen affidavits  (and sixteen FBI reports) attesting to my client’s innocence of the crimes he was convicted of.  It is also a matter of public record that my client was previously tried for a murder that the FBI knew he had not committed.   Thus, not once but twice was an innocent man put to trial by authorities who knew he was not guilty. There is an implicit message in the article and its headline that it is improper or sleazy to defend someone who is reputedly a “mobster,” no matter how innocent he may be, no matter how corrupt the system that put him in prison for life.  The surgeon that tried to repair my client’s face that was broken in prison is, thankfully, not painted with the same fetid brush that is applied to his lawyer.

        The article also says that I “made a career out of counseling prison inmates.”  I have no idea where that information came from.  I have made a career out of teaching law students and writing about legal issues, in dozens of publications; in briefing and arguing issues of constitutional law in the Supreme Court and lower courts across the land and, yes, occasionally representing people in prison or threatened with prison.  I have not often counseled prison inmates but I much admire those who do.  The criminal justice system in the United States is gravely sick and puts thousands of innocent people in prison every year.  Once a person is convicted of a crime and loses his appeal (which, despite common assumptions to the contrary, almost always happens), he rarely has any lawyer to come to his aid.  He has no money and the system rarely will hire a lawyer for him.  He typically relies on other inmates who picked up a bit of legal jargon in the course of their incarceration.  They usually write his briefs for him, which are often incomprehensible.  In addition to denying the prisoner a competent lawyer, the system has erected many other barriers to prevent the prisoner from getting a review of his conviction in court or getting access to exculpatory evidence that was withheld from him during his trial.  If my representation of Martin Taccetta can contribute to awareness of the disease that afflicts the system, I am grateful for that opportunity. Being labeled a “mob lawyer” is a small price to pay for defending the Constitution.

October 17, 2005 in CrimProfs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Spanish Police Search for Nazi Doctor

As we hear about Nazi marches in Toledo (and as a Republican in Virginia accuses his Democratic opponent of being soft on Hitler for opposing the death penalty), the search for Aribert Heim, a 91-year-old Nazi doctor who exterimented on concentration camp residents continues in Europe.  Police hot on his trail believe he may have fled to Spain or Denmark. [Jack Chin]

October 16, 2005 in News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

John Dean on DeLay Indictment

He's got links to the documents. [Jack Chin]

October 16, 2005 in News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wife of Criminal Defense Attorney/TV Analyst Murdered

The wife of Daniel Horowitz, a frequent TV commentator and criminal defense lawyer was murdered in San Francisco.  Story here. Horowitz is representing Susan Polk, a 45 year old woman accused of killing her 70 year old psychologist-husband, who started sleeping with her when she was a teenage patient. [Jack Chin]

October 16, 2005 in News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)