CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, November 12, 2005

South Carolina: Illegitimate Traffic Stops for Money

From "A state trooper was arrested Friday after authorities accused him of taking thousands of dollars from Hispanic motorists instead of issuing traffic tickets...Lexington County Sheriff James Metts said investigators were tipped off after a farmer asked if it was appropriate for police to stop migrant workers and take money without issuing a ticket.

Witnesses and victims spoke little to no English, the sheriff said. 'I think most of them were pulled over because they were Hispanic,' Metts said. 'This person wasn't interested in making legitimate stops in my opinion. He was interested in extracting money from these people.'" [Mark Godsey]

November 12, 2005 in Search and Seizure | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Save the Date: Midwest People of Color Conference in Tucson, May 31-June 4, 2006

"The Midwestern People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference will be holding its 2006 Annual Meeting from Wednesday, May 31, to Sunday, June 4, at the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona.  The La Paloma is holding a limited number of rooms at the conference rate of $149.00 per night. In order to ensure that you get a room at this special rate, please call the Westin reservation desk at 1-800-937-8461 to make your reservations as soon as possible."

November 12, 2005 in Conferences | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 11, 2005

CrimProf Blog Spotlight: California Western's Laurence Benner

Benner_1This week the CrimProf Blog spotlights Laurence Benner of California Western.

"Professor Benner has been an active participant, educator, and problem solver in the criminal justice arena for over three decades. His scholarship has been cited in the United States Supreme Court and excerpted in leading textbooks on criminal justice and procedure. The Other Face of Justice, which he co-authored, has been nationally recognized as a basic resource on the administration of criminal justice.

Joining California Western's faculty in 1985 following a distinguished career as a trial and appellate advocate, he formerly served as Director and Chief Trial Counsel of a Michigan public defender office, taught at the University of Chicago Law School in the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic and was Chief Legal Counsel to the Ombudsman Commission of Papua New Guinea, a constitutional office established to protect human rights. He was appointed to the U.S. Justice Department's National Study Commission on Criminal Defense Services, served on the American Bar Association Special Committee on Criminal Justice Administration, and is a past member of the Executive Commitee of the Association of American Law Schools Litigation Section.

Professor Benner co-founded California Western's Institute for Criminal Defense Advocacy, is a founding faculty member of the National Trial Skills Academy, and directs the law school's Bail Project and the San Diego Search Warrant Project."

Here is a link to an article about Benner's San Diego Search Warrant Project, Searching for Narcotics in San Diego: Preliminary Findings from the San Diego Search Warrant Project.  For a select list of his other publications, click here.

November 11, 2005 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New Article Spotlight: Are Expert Fingerprint Comparisons "Objective"? An Empirical Study

Here's a very interesting new article.  University of Southampton Profs Itiel E. Dror, David Charlton, and Ailsa E. Péron wrote Contextual Information Renders Experts Vulnerable to Making Erroneous Identifications, which is forthcoming in Forensic Science International.  The abstract: "We investigated whether experts can objectively focus on feature information in fingerprints without being misled by extraneous information, such as context. We took fingerprints that have previously been used to positively identify suspects. Then we presented these same fingerprints again, to the same experts, but gave a context that suggested that they were a no-match, and hence the suspects could not be identified. Within this new context, most of the fingerprint experts made different judgements, thus contradicting their own previous identification decisions. Cognitive aspects involved in biometric identification can explain why fingerprint experts are vulnerable to make erroneous matches."  Paper available here:

November 11, 2005 in Scholarship | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Editorial on Prison Rape

They're against it. [Jack Chin]

November 11, 2005 in Sentencing Corrections | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Two Officers and a Gentleman...and a Doughnut

In a sugar-coated twist of fate, two officers used a doughnut to bait a "gentleman" wanted on two felony warrants.  The gentleman--a man on a scavenger hunt, dressed in a pink frilly skirt, who hoped to snap a photo of a cop eating a doughnut at a police station.  One officer intended to play along, but a second officer recognized the scavenger as a man wanted on two felony warrants. So the two officers arrested him.  And as for the doughnut, that was just icing on the cake.  No word as to whether the two cops fought for the doughnut or divided it evenly after their tag-team effort. [Mark Godsey]

November 10, 2005 in Miscellaneous | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New Orleans' Crime Drowns in Katrina's Wake

From "There has not been a single killing in New Orleans [including its most violence-prone areas], since the chaos that immediately followed Hurricane Katrina subsided. New Orleans, the nation's most dangerous city, has suddenly become perhaps its safest, and what had easily been the country's murder capital now has a murder rate of exactly zero... Since [Hurricane Katrina] some 60,000 to 80,000 residents have returned, a fraction of the city's previous population of 450,000. What is remarkable to criminologists, though, is how few criminals seem to be among them.

Peter Scharf, executive director of the Center for Society, Law and Justice at the University of New Orleans, estimated that there were as many as 20,000 participants in the drug culture in the city before the storm. Those drug users and dealers were the engines of the city's crime, Mr. Scharf said, but are now largely absent. No one is certain where they wound up. Federal agents and police officials elsewhere say there have not been any noticeable spikes in crime in the cities that took in large numbers of hurricane refugees, including nearby Baton Rouge, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and other cities in the Southeast.

What is known is that many of the most impoverished, crime-ridden sections of New Orleans remain largely empty, in part because the expense of returning and repairing homes is beyond the means of previous residents. There is no precise precedent for this transformation in the crime rate, law enforcement officials and academic experts say. While the few residents who have returned are holding their breath to see how long it lasts, the sudden change has become a subject of intense interest for those who study crime.

"This is one of the most interesting experiments in crime we've ever seen," Mr. Scharf said. "Without effective courts, corrections or rehabilitation, we have reduced the crime rate by 100 percent."  Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Scharf continued, "was one of the greatest crime-control tools ever deployed against a high-crime city." Before the storm, New Orleans was reeling, with a daily round of killings and gunfire as bad as any in the city's history; Mr. Scharf projected that without the hurricane there would have been 316 killings there in 2005...

[Lawrence N. Powell, a historian at Tulane University, summarized the tragedy of the situation.] "We've solved our crime problem in a brutally Darwinian way." That, Mr. Powell said, was too high a price to pay. "The fact that it would take a world-historic tragedy to solve your crime problem does not speak well for the civic culture," he said." [Mark Godsey]

November 10, 2005 in News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Lawyer Implicated in Murder of Witness

The feds claim a witness in a drug case was murdered at the suggestion of a lawyer.  This sounds a bit fishy to me, because the lawyer was not charged, which would have happened if there was a prosecutable case.  Perhaps charges are coming; perhaps the lawyer just said something like "Boy, if Aida Escalera disappeared, that would sure help your case" or, more likely, "given Aida Escalera's testimony, the government has a very strong case," i.e., in the course of ordinary legal advice and evaluation, a client learned who a critical witness was.  Story here. [Jack Chin]

November 10, 2005 in News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Human Remains Found in DNA Exoneree's Yard

Story here. Now, he's charged with murder.  [Jack Chin]

November 10, 2005 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New Reentry Website

This looks like a good comprehensive resource for materials on prisoner reentry.  But . . . I hate requiring registration.   [Jack Chin]

November 10, 2005 in Sentencing Corrections | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Maryland-Baltimore Law Clinic Works to Educate Defendants About Their Pretrial Rights

University of Maryland-Baltimore School of Law:  Students in the Access to Justice Clinic and Doug Colbert, JD, their professor in the School of Law, have taken a radical approach in their efforts to help low-income detainees in the pretrial release system obtain a fair bail review-they have written the pamphlet, "Law Students' Guide to Maryland's Pretrial Release System: Things You Should Know." Colbert and his students unveiled the pamphlet at a news conference at the law school on Nov. 2.

Set for distribution to pretrial detention centers across the state of Maryland, the pamphlet is intended to provide access to justice for defendants when they first enter the criminal justice system. It attempts to fill a glaring gap in the state system, which does not provide counsel to lower income defendants when they first appear before a court commissioner and when they next appear at most bail review hearings. Indigent defendants are left to speak for themselves. A 2004 Maryland Court of Appeals ruling unanimously found that statements from an unrepresented defendant, who was not given Miranda warnings, are admissible at trial, despite a Maryland statute that provides for a public defender's representation at all stages of a criminal proceeding.

The pamphlet has been in the planning stages since the fall semester of 2004. Law students Dana Boston ('06) and Rommel Loria ('06) were surprised to learn that defendants are not automatically provided with counsel.  "When clients are represented in the early stages of the trial process, it does make a difference," said Boston.

Defense attorney Warren A. Brown lauded the students' efforts. "We are concerned about the protection of the individual," he said. Brown said that many detainees will, if they do not make bail, plead guilty even if innocent, in the hope of getting out of jail.

Colbert says the long-term goal behind the pamphlet is to ensure that indigent defendants' right to counsel extends to the bail stage and "to require the State to provide a lawyer when an accused first appears before a District Court commissioner and bail review judge."

During the drafting process, the students consulted with and received support and approval from Mary Ann Saar, secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services; Ben C. Clyburn, chief judge of the District Court of Baltimore City; Patricia C. Jessamy, state's attorney for Baltimore City; and the defense bar.

The pamphlets are being distributed to all Maryland detention centers and will eventually be translated into Spanish.

November 10, 2005 in Due Process | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

BC CrimProf Robert Bloom at ABA

Bcbloom Boston College CrimProf Robert Bloom served as a panelist for the Eyewitnesses and Informants discussion at the recent American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section Fall Meeting on November 4th in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Eyewitnesses and Informants Panel explored both the social scientific research and the on-the-ground reform efforts that have been made to minimize the risks of wrongful convictions being caused by mistaken eyewitness identifications and flawed informants’ testimony.

The American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section Fall Meeting is the national gathering place for prosecutors, defense lawyers, academics, judges and others involved in criminal justice. Because the Section gathers the perspectives of all the players in the criminal justice field, the conference provides a unique opportunity to obtain balanced knowledge and insight into the complex criminal justice issues that face the nation.

November 9, 2005 in CrimProfs, Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Richmond Police Boot Up the BatComputer

From  "The Richmond (Va.) Police Department is installing on Friday a map-based software application that forecasts locations most likely to experience crime in a specified time period based on historic and current criminal statistics.  The application combines SPSS Inc.'s predictive analytics with Information Builders’ enterprise business intelligence software, along with an analytical framework developed by the non-profit organization RTI International. It is designed to enable Richmond Police to use commercially available data mining tools to fight crime. "Law enforcement and intelligence data are ugly as sin itself, and they were never intended to be analyzed," said Colleen McCue, senior research scientist for RTI International, who has worked at the Richmond Police as the supervisor of the crime analysis unit. "It can be a nightmare."  The data to analyze where the local law enforcement agency should best deploy officers is pulled from records management systems and database repositories. These platforms hold information from citizen complaints received by 911 operators to crime reports. The data is processed and imported into the new framework built on SPSS' Clementine predictive analytics tool and Information Builders’ software.   The new software framework McCue designed enables the Richmond Police to pull law enforcement data into commercially available data mining tools and export the information into comprehensive reports.  Data mining software tools have been available to law enforcement in the past, but required clerks to extensively manipulate the information before being able to understand the statistical output after importing the raw data into a commercially available analytical software product such as Clementine."  [Mark Godsey]

November 9, 2005 in Technology | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New Article Spotlight: Adminstration of Disenfranchisement

CrimProf Alec Ewald of Union College has looked at the actual administration of disenfranchisement laws here. [Jack Chin]

November 9, 2005 in Scholarship | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Syracuse Legal Writing Jobs

Four Legal Research and Writing Faculty Positions Beginning Fall 2006

Syracuse University College of Law invites applicants for four Legal Writing Professor positions (one of which might be a half-time position), beginning Fall 2006.

JOB DESCRIPTION: The College of Law's legal research and writing program has been nationally recognized and is now undergoing a faculty-directed expansion to three semesters, resulting in the creation of these four new positions. Candidates will be expected to teach in the core first year program and, in subsequent years, to teach one or more sections of the upper-level research writing courses as well. These upper-level courses will stress the many different writing challenges faced by lawyers in practice, and will include sections on civil and criminal pre-trial drafting, transactional drafting, and judicial writing. Successful candidates will be encouraged to develop their own courses based on their practice experience.

JOB QUALIFICATIONS: Candidates should have an excellent academic record with at least a J.D. degree. Preferred post-J.D. experience and credentials include advanced degrees, judicial clerkships or similar experience, relevant legal practice or similar experience. A demonstrable commitment to excellent classroom teaching is required. Although scholarship is not a requirement for these positions, an interest in scholarship, particularly in the area of legal research and writing, is encouraged.

The research and writing program has a very low faculty turnover rate. Successful candidates will be offered two-year appointments that are renewable upon satisfactory performance. Salary and benefits are competitive and an allowance for faculty research is provided.

APPLICATION PROCEDURE: Applications will be accepted until the positions are filled, however, priority consideration will be given to applications received prior to November 21, 2005.  Interested applicants should send their full resume and the names of three references, including academic references in a position to assess the candidate's potential as a legal academic, to:

Faculty Appointments Committee
Syracuse University College of Law
Syracuse, New York 13244-1030

Some interviews will be scheduled during the Association of American Law Schools Faculty Recruitment Conference being held in Washington, D.C. in mid-November. Syracuse University is committed to diversity and is an AA/EOE.

November 9, 2005 in CrimProfs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tennessee Criminal Job

The University of Tennessee College of Law is seeking a visitor for the fall semester  to teach Criminal Law, a first year course with approximately 50 students, and an upper division Criminal Procedure (Bail to Jail) course.  Depending on mutual interest, the candidate could be considered for a full year's visit.  Interested applicants should contact John L. Sobieski, Jr., Lindsay Young Distinguished Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, at

November 9, 2005 in CrimProfs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Case CrimProf Scharf Blames the Victims

After a second lawyer was killed in the Saddam Hussein trial, there is some consideration of changing the venue out of Iraq.  But Professor Scharf says the killings are in part the fault of the lawyers:  "The defense attorneys in part brought this tragic situation upon themselves when they elected to have their faces and identities broadcast during the first day of the trial," said Scharf, professor and director of Frederick K. Cox International Law Center at Case Western Reserve University, in an interview. "Now they are seeking to exploit the tragic -- but not unforeseeable -- murders of their colleagues in an attempt to derail the proceedings." Fascinating for two reasons.  First, are there really defense lawyers willing to die for their clients?  I mean I liked my clients, and wanted to do a good job, but no matter how much it would have helped the case, that definitely would have been out of the question.  Second, things must be really bad in Iraq if every fool is expected to know that if you reveal your name in some official context, why then, of course, you have to anticipate being killed.  Story here. [Jack Chin]

November 9, 2005 in News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Oral Argument in 4th Amendment Consent Case

Yesterday, SCOTUS heard oral argument in Georgia v. Randolph.  Question presented:  Can police search a home when a co-habitant consents and the other co-habitant is present and does not consent?  Details here.  [Mark Godsey]

November 8, 2005 in Search and Seizure | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

A Campaign for Surveillance Cameras

From "In August, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced a deal in which the aeronautics giant Lockheed Martin lead a group of contractors in installing a $212 million, 1,000-camera surveillance system in the city's subway stations. The agreement, which also included 3,000 motion sensors and cellphone service in many stations, came on the heels of the London subway bombings in July.

But in Forest Hills, Queens, residents have long clamored for cameras. And they are still wondering when, or if, cameras will be installed, and why other stations have received cameras when theirs haven't." 

The simple answer, lack of funds.  But Community Council members in Queens are campaigning for the cameras; they point to a string of crimes in Queens subway stations that could have been resolved much sooner if they had cameras to catch people in the act. [Mark Godsey]

November 8, 2005 in Search and Seizure | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

France: Fast-track Trials for Alleged Rioters Raise Concerns about Accuracy

From "Human rights groups fear that fast-track trials...[held in France this week to bring justice to alleged rioters could]...fuel a sense of injustice among the defendants, most of them French-born children of Arab and black African immigrants who already feel shunned by a country that promised them ''liberty, equality, fraternity.''

Bands of teenage boys in sweat shirts, hoods pulled low over their eyes, shuffled through metal detectors to sit in on the hearings of friends or relatives arrested in the riots that have rocked the suburbs of Paris for nearly two weeks and have spread across France.

Armed policemen in bulletproof jackets, tear gas and cuffs at the ready, warily patrolled the courtrooms and waiting hall of the fortress-like red-brick building where the unusual crowds have created an atmosphere of electric tension."

Most of the boys claim they're victims of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  At least 1500 people have been arrested since the riots began; French magistrates are deciding about 60 riot related cases a day using fast-track procedures to deal with the mounting number of cases. [Mark Godsey]

November 8, 2005 in International | Permalink | TrackBack (0)