CrimProf Blog

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

3rd Circuit: Batson Violation Upheld

From (The Legal Intelligencer): "The now-infamous videotape of a training session led by former Philadelphia homicide prosecutor Jack McMahon -- in which he discussed techniques to keep African-Americans off juries -- has resulted in yet anther court ruling that tosses out a murder conviction. This time, the author of the opinion is 3rd Circuit Judge Edward R. Becker, who faulted McMahon for engaging in improper jury selection tactics that violated the U.S. Supreme Court's Batson v. Kentucky ruling.

Becker found that the training video was 'compelling evidence' that McMahon "regularly acted with discriminatory animus toward African-American jurors."  In the case of Zachary Wilson -- who was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in a 1984 case prosecuted by McMahon -- Becker found there was ample evidence that McMahon improperly struck numerous African-Americans from the jury...

Becker's 29-page opinion in Wilson v. Beard is loaded with quotes from McMahon's training video, including one in which McMahon said: 'Let's face it ... the blacks from the low-income areas are less likely to convict...There is a resentment for law enforcement, there's a resentment for authority and, as a result, you don't want those people on your jury. And it may appear as if you're being racist or whatnot, but, again, you are just being realistic. You're just trying to win the case.'

[Assistant District Attorney Thomas] Dolgenos argued that Wilson had access to television in prison and therefore could have discovered the existence of the videotape as early as April 1, 1997... [To the contrary, Becker found that]...'no person in Wilson's position would reasonably expect that the local news would be a source of information relevant to his case, given that his conviction had occurred 13 years ago and his final appeal had been rejected by the Supreme Court the previous year.'...

The ruling upholds an April 2004 decision by U.S. District Judge John R. Padova that granted Wilson a new trial.  [The decision]...could add new issues to the death penalty case because the jury found that Wilson's prior murder conviction was an "aggravating factor" that supported his death sentence. Story... [Mark Godsey]

October 25, 2005 in Sentencing Corrections | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Chair at Memphis

Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at The University of Memphis

The Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at The University of Memphis invites nominations and applications for the Herff Chair of Excellence in Law.  Applicants must possess a J.D. (or equivalent) and have a distinguished record of classroom teaching, research and publication, and public service.  The School of Law encourages expressions of interest from applicants with diverse curricular interests who have established, or are establishing, national reputations as scholars and who are interested in promoting the public service mission of the School of Law. 

Since its founding in 1962, the School of Law has graduated approximately 5,000 students, who have assumed positions of responsibility and prominence as lawyers, judges and public officials in all 50 states. It currently graduates approximately 140 students per year with the degree of Juris Doctor and also participates in a joint J.D./M.B.A. program. The School of Law takes pride in its excellent classroom teaching and scholarship, the collegial relations of its faculty, its excellent student/faculty rapport and its active alumni support.

The School of Law is an integral part of a major metropolitan university in Memphis, the leading city of the Midsouth, with a metropolitan population in excess of one million, fine cultural institutions, and excellent neighborhoods.  The area is home to several national distribution and transportation entities, a significant health care services industry, and a growing technology and biotechnology sector.

The Herff Chair of Excellence in Law is funded by a substantial endowment created by the State of Tennessee Chair of Excellence program.  The holder of the Chair will assist in the planning for, and direction of, the endowment.

Salary will be commensurate with experience and qualifications, and the University offers an attractive benefits package.  The School of Law has a strong institutional commitment to the diversity of its faculty and is particularly interested in receiving expressions of interest from women and members of minority groups.  Review of applications and nominations will begin on November 21, 2005 and will continue until the position is filled.  Nominations should include complete contact information for nominees.  Nominations or applications should be sent to Professor Kevin H. Smith, Chair, Faculty Recruitment Committee, Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, The University of Memphis, Memphis 38152. Electronic submissions are strongly encouraged and should be sent to The University of Memphis, a Tennessee Board of Regents institution, is an EEO/AA University. The School of Law does not discriminate on the ground of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, handicap or disability, or sexual orientation.

October 25, 2005 in CrimProfs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

9th Circuit: Death Penalty Reversed for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

From "Forget the stoner judge and the fact that Warren Summerlin's first defense lawyer hooked up with the prosecutor. It was Summerlin's incredibly bad lawyer that gave the 9th Circuit reason to jettison Summerlin's death sentence Monday in an en banc ruling.

By not inquiring into Summerlin's history of mental illness -- and by failing to point out that his client was illiterate, functionally retarded and a diagnosed schizophrenic -- Arizona defense lawyer George Klink "utterly failed in his duty to investigate and develop potential mitigating evidence for presentation at the penalty phase," Judge Sidney Thomas wrote for a 10-1 panel.

Klink failed to tell the court about "Summerlin's tortured family history, including the fact that Summerlin's alcoholic mother beat him frequently and punished him by locking him in a room with ammonia fumes," wrote Thomas. Also, Klink never pointed out that his client received repeated electroshock treatments, had a severe learning disability, was illiterate and was prescribed anti-psychotic drugs.

As a result, the decision -- from which Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain was the lone dissenter -- ordered the case back to an Arizona trial court, where a jury may be convened to resentence Summerlin." Story...  The case is Summerlin v. Schriro C.D.O.S. 9041 [Mark Godsey]

October 25, 2005 in Sentencing Corrections | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

FBI Violates FISA Surveillance Regs

From  "All Things Considered, October 24, 2005 · The FBI has made a number of errors during surveillance operations intended to catch terrorists and spies. Newly released documents show FBI agents regularly continued wiretapping and physical searches long after legal authorization had expired.

The agents may have violated guidelines developed for special wiretaps and searches authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. That law allows surveillance of potential spies or terrorists before there's any evidence of a crime. But agents must follow a heavy set of rules, in order to avoid infringing on civil liberties. The Electronic Privacy Information Center requested the documents under the Freedom of Information Act."  Listen here. [Mark Godsey]

October 25, 2005 in Search and Seizure | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Stephen Bright to Speak at Wash U. Law

Nationally recognized attorney and human rights advocate Stephen Bright will discuss his views on the death penalty and the current state of the U.S. prison system in a talk entitled, "Crime, Prison, and the Death Penalty: The Influence of Race and Poverty." The talk, part of Washington University's Assembly Series and the School of Law's "Access to Justice" series, will be held at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 2 in the Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom, Anheuser-Busch Hall.

Bright is best known as Director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, based in Atlanta. This public interest legal project provides poor people who have been convicted of crimes or who are in prison with greater access to lawyers and more equal treatment in America's courts. The Center also provides legal representation to people facing the death penalty and to prisoners facing cruel and unconstitutional prison conditions.

As head of the Center since 1982, Bright has worked tirelessly to eliminate the inequality and racial discrimination that he sees poor people and minorities encounter in the judicial system. He believes that "The criminal justice system is the part of our society that [has] been the least effected by the civil rights movement."

Bright has also become one of the nation's most outspoken opponents of the death penalty, representing people facing the death penalty at trials and on appeals since 1979. In 1988, he argued the case of Amadeo v. Zant before the U.S. Supreme Court, in which the death sentence was set aside because of racial discrimination. He has testified before committees of Congress and at the state level in a number of southern states.

In addition, he has been involved in several programs to increase the quality and fairness of representation of poor people in the judicial courts. Bright served as a legal services attorney with the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund, representing poor people in the coal fields of eastern Kentucky in jail conditions, welfare rights and other civil litigation. In 1981, he also served as the executive director of the District of Columbia Law Students in Court Program, which gives law students the opportunity to provide legal assistance to the impoverished in civil and criminal cases.

Bright currently teaches courses on the death penalty and criminal law at Yale and Harvard law schools. He earned his bachelor's degree and his law degree at the University of Kentucky.

Bright has written extensively on the topics of criminal justice, corrections and judicial independence. His articles have been published in prominent law journals around the country, such as the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal.

Throughout his career, he has received numerous awards and honors, including the American Bar Association's Thurgood Marshall Award in 1998, the Roger-Baldwin Medal of Liberty presented by the American Civil Liberties Union in 1991, and the Kutak-Dodds Prize by the National Legal Aid and Defender Association in 1992.

Assembly Series lectures are free and open to the public. For more information, please call 935-4620 or go online to

October 25, 2005 in Conferences | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Americans Perceive More Crime Despite Falling Stats

(Angus Reid Global Scan) – Adults in the United States appear to be concerned about public safety, according to a poll by Gallup released by CNN and USA Today. 67 per cent of respondents say there is more crime in the U.S. than there was a year ago.

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) released by the U.S. Justice Department, the number of serious violent crimes—which include rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and homicide—fell from 1,829,900 in 2003, to 1,648,100 in 2004.

The Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)—which collect information on criminal activity and arrests reported by law enforcement authorities to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)—established the number of crimes in the U.S. at 1,168,000 in 2004, down from 1,179,000 in 2003. 47 per cent of respondents report more crime in their respective areas, up 10-points since October 2004.

Polling Data

Is there more crime in the U.S. than there was a year ago?

Oct. 2005

Oct. 2004

Oct. 2003









The same




Is there more crime in your area than there was a year ago?

Oct. 2005

Oct. 2004

Oct. 2003









The same




[Mark Godsey]

October 25, 2005 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 24, 2005

CrimProf and Insanity Defense

Santa Clara CrimProf Michelle Oberman is quoted in this article about the insanity defense. [Jack Chin]

October 24, 2005 in Criminal Law | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

RIP, Rosa Parks

As the photo on the CNN obit reminds me, segregation was a set of criminal controls. Here's the Conglomerate Blog's Post.  [Jack Chin]

October 24, 2005 in Civil Rights | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Findings Dispel Notion That Parks Attract Crime

From The Birmingham News:  "There is some interesting research going on at the University of Illinois. Scientists there are investigating differences in crime rates and the social interactions of people who live in areas adjacent to parks and green spaces.  The study looked at crime rates for urban apartment buildings that have varying amounts of vegetation around them. The participants in the study had similar demographic characteristics such as race and income and also lived in similar apartment complexes. The results were striking.  The study found that 48 percent fewer property crimes and 56 percent fewer violent crimes were reported in buildings with high amounts of vegetation surrounding them. In buildings that were surrounded by medium amounts of vegetation, there were 40 percent fewer property crimes and 44 percent fewer violent crimes.

These findings somewhat dispel the idea that parks and green spaces might attract the criminal element. It appears that overall, they shield against it. Earlier studies have shown that urban residents who live in areas that are landscaped, experience less littering, less graffiti, and fewer incivilities like noisy or disruptive neighbors. Studies have also shown that people reported feeling safer in residential areas that were green. Researchers in Austin, Texas, found that neighborhoods that had fewer plants on average as compared to other neighborhoods had more crime.  What do these statistics and numbers mean for the average citizen and policymaker? It seems that green is indeed good. No one is naive enough to think that crime will altogether disappear with landscaped communities, but it does seem that crime will be reduced. Is it worth the investment?  Ultimately, that may be for the number crunchers to decide. I think most psychologists and mental health workers would say that landscaping our communities would be a wise investment if they looked at the research.  In a study recently published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, researchers compared two groups of people who were given attention-demanding tasks to perform. One group was allowed to walk in a nature reserve after the test. The other group walked in an urban setting. A follow-up test showed improved results for the group that walked in the nature reserve. The urban walkers performed lower on the follow-up test and showed a higher degree of anger. Based on their studies and research, the University of Illinois scientists concluded that park-like surroundings increase neighborhood safety by removing mental fatigue and feelings of violence and aggression that result. They believe that time spent in nature and landscaped areas, helps to relieve that mental fatigue. Those of us who know the benefits of a walk in a park, down a shady street, or in the woods would whole heartily agree.

Botanical gardens, parks, and neighborhood green spaces must be maintained properly to bring out the best in people. A well maintained park or neighborhood shows that people care about the area. This sends a message to those who visit or pass by - this is an area that is appreciated and good people live here. Involving residents, garden clubs and beautification boards helps to establish a sense of ownership and stewardship of the community. Together, we can make our cites safer, more livable and more beautiful by landscaping them. At least that is what the research shows."  [Mark Godsey]

October 24, 2005 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Do Fatty Fish Fight Crime?

From ABC in Philly:  Can fatty fish fight crime? Norwegian researcher Anita Lill Hansen wants to know if there's a connection between eating oily fish and controlling violent outbursts.  Hansen is planning a study that involves giving a fish-heavy diet to prisoners who volunteer for the project, the ANB news agency reported Friday.  The research is being planned in cooperation with the national center for seafood research and the Norwegian prison authorities in western Norway.  "A lot of crimes are committed on impulse," Leif Waage, a prison service spokesman told ANB. If fatty oil found in fish "has a positive effect on people's impulse control, we hope it could result in a reduction in crime."  Waage said depending on the outcome of the study, Norwegian prisoners could face a lot more fatty fish on their dinner plates.  Hansen said earlier studies have indicated a link between the human heart rate and a person's ability to plan their actions, and that omega-3 fatty acid, a fish fat extract, is good for the heart."  [Mark Godsey]

October 24, 2005 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Women 25% of Arrestees; 7% of prisoners

Story here. [Jack Chin]

October 23, 2005 in Sentencing Corrections | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Mortgage Fraud on the Rise

Story here. [Jack Chin]

October 23, 2005 in Criminal Law | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

This Week's Top 5 Crim Papers

Ssrn_2 This week's top 5 crim papers, with number of recent downloads on SSRN, are:

(1) 493 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) 174 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) 159 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) 112 Repression and Denial in Criminal Lawyering
Susan Bandes,
DePaul University College of Law,
Date posted to database: August 26, 2005
Last Revised: September 16, 2005
(5) 97 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

October 23, 2005 in Weekly Top 5 SSRN Crim Downloads | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

AZ: Saga of Youg Rape Victim's Struggle to Get Emergency Contraception

Many drug stores do not carry prescription emergency contraception; others have it but pharmaacists refuse to supply it for moral reasons. [Jack Chin]

October 23, 2005 in Sex | Permalink | TrackBack (0)