CrimProf Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Consolidating Screening Programs Lead to Privacy Problems

From NPR.com: The Department of Homeland Security is trying to coordinate all the identification and screening programs it runs. Business interests want them consolidated so they don't have to go through so multiple bureaucracies just to cross the border.

But privacy rights groups worry that the more consolidated these programs and databases are, the more threatening they are to individual rights. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 30, 2006 in Homeland Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 29, 2006

CrimProf Spotlight: Kate Bloch

Bloch1This week the CrimProf Blog Spotlights University of California Hastings College of Law CrimProf Kate Bloch.

Kate Bloch received her undergraduate education at Washington University in St. Louis as an Arnold J. Lien merit scholar. Before departing Washington University, she completed an M.A. in French.

During her student days in St. Louis, she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and played on an intramural inner tube water polo team. Once in California, Professor Bloch attended Stanford Law School where she was a Senior Note Editor on the Stanford Law Review.

Following graduation and the California Bar, Professor Bloch clerked for the United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit. Prior to joining the Hastings Faculty, she represented the People of the State of California as a Deputy District Attorney for the County of Santa Clara

December 29, 2006 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Last Minute Efforts to Stay Saddam's Execution

From CNN.com: Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein could face execution within hours, according to the latest reports from Baghdad...However, attorneys for Hussein are seeking a temporary restraining order in a U.S. court to block the execution. A civil suit against Hussein has been filed--one that could effect his estate. And his lawyers are arguing that Saddam should have a chance to respond. It could be a brilliant strategy. Story from CNN.com here: http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/12/29/hussein/index.html
[Michele Berry]

December 29, 2006 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

7 Ton Pot Bust Highlights Houston as Narcotic Trafficking Hub

From chron.com: Authorities charged a truck driver with narcotics trafficking Thursday after seizing more than 7 tons of marijuana, highlighting what experts described as Houston's, in Harris County TX,  leading role as a distribution center for illicit drugs.

An anonymous tip led drug agents to the drab warehouse in northwest Harris County late Wednesday, where they said they found one of the largest marijuana stashes they've seen in recent memory.

Inside wooden crates were 502 bundles of marijuana that had been wrapped in plastic and coated with calcium carbonate to mask the odor. Authorities said the 15,000-pound haul had a street value of $25 million to $40 million.

"We've always been a major hub for narcotics trafficking," said Houston Police Capt. Stephen Smith. "Almost everything from Mexico comes through Houston." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 29, 2006 in Drugs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Decline in Domestic Violence: Silent Suffering or Steady Improvement?

From latimes.com: In a sweeping study of crime in the American household, the Justice Department reported Thursday that domestic violence, one of the most common offenses against women, has fallen by more than half since 1993.

Assaults, rapes, homicides and robberies against a current or former partner dropped from about 10 per 1,000 women in 1993 to four per 1,000 in 2004, researchers found.

The downward trend in violence by "intimate partners" — current and former spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends — mirrors an overall national decrease in violent crime since the early 1990s, justice officials said. While the study did not attempt to explain the decline in domestic violence, some experts have credited more vigorous law enforcement, increased education and an expanded network of services for battered partners, said Shannan Catalano, a bureau statistician and the report's author.

But she and others emphasized that the report may not reflect the actual level of violence taking place behind closed doors. Indeed, the apparent decline could mean that women are choosing to suffer in silence rather than seek help. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 29, 2006 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

LA Prison Systems are in a State of Crisis

From latimes.com: A Times investigation has found that thieves, drug offenders and other repeat criminals are cycling in and out of jail faster than ever.

Since 2000, the number of people booked two or more times into jails in Los Angeles County in a single year has jumped 73%, reaching 61,646 last year, according to a Times analysis. Repeat offenders now account for 42% of bookings, up from 26% in 2000.

Once booked, defendants enter a justice system whose resources have not kept pace with demand, even as crime has dropped in recent years.

There are not enough prosecutors to try them. There are not enough courts to sentence them. There are not enough jail or prison beds to house them. And there is not enough treatment to help them.

Instead, repeat offenders drain limited justice resources and are quickly back on the streets to get arrested again, taking up the time of police, prosecutors, public defenders and judges. Patrol cops are frustrated. Victims feel forgotten.

"Under any other definition of crisis, this would be an emergency," said Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who runs the nation's largest network of jails. "The system is collapsing because of its volume." A solution, top law enforcement officials say, would require far more money than lawmakers have been willing to commit.

"We didn't cure malaria until we started draining the swamps instead of just swatting at the mosquitoes," said Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton. "The resources have just not been committed to draining the swamps."

December 27, 2006 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Washington Post Columnist Picks Mentally Ill Death Row Inmate As Person of the Year

From washingtonpost.com: Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen picks  mentally ill death row inmate Gregory Thompson as his person of the year to call attention to the madness of the death penalty. Here is an excerpt from the article: 

"Thompson, 45, is delusional. He is also paranoid, schizophrenic and depressed. For these ailments, he receives daily doses of drugs and, twice a month, anti-psychotic injections. The state of Tennessee wants very much to put him to death for the horrendous 1985 murder of Brenda Blanton Lane, of which there is no doubt about his guilt. There is grave doubt, though, about the constitutionality, not to mention the decency, of executing an insane man. Thus the 12 pills Thompson takes every day. The idea, according to a recent account of his case in the Wall Street Journal, is to make him sane enough to be put to death.

Shortly before Justice Harry Blackmun retired from the Supreme Court in 1994, he reversed himself on the death penalty. Blackmun had been a lifelong supporter, but finally had had enough. In words that were to become famous, he wrote, "From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death." It's as if Blackmun had Thompson in mind, for in his case the tinkering occurs on a daily basis.

Blackmun was not the only Supreme Court justice to change his mind about capital punishment. Lewis Powell did something similar. He never got to the point where he considered it unconstitutional or immoral -- he just concluded there was no way to get it right.

Now, from Powell's point of view, matters have even worsened. The death penalty has become so necessarily cumbersome to implement, so full of essential safeguards, that it not only sometimes cannot be done -- note the recent suspensions of executions by lethal injection -- but it takes forever to do it. Thompson, you might have noticed, has been awaiting execution for nearly 22 years -- arguably cruel and unusual punishment in itself." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 27, 2006 in Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

New Justices Break Tradition By Talking to the Public

From USATODAY/AP: Many Supreme Court justices prize the anonymity that comes with their lifetime appointments and camera-free courtroom. Unrecognized, justices have snapped pictures for tourists in front of the court or been asked to move out of the way of a shot. On rare occasion, a justice might consent to an interview on the C-SPAN cable network to discuss a recent book or be shown addressing a lawyers' gathering somewhere.

Lately, however, some members of the court have been popping up in unusual places — including network television news programs — and talking about more than just the law.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer recently debated their competing views of the Constitution. Breyer and retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor have talked publicly and repeatedly about threats to judicial independence. Justice Samuel Alito proudly affirmed his membership in the conservative Federalist Society, speaking in a packed ballroom at its recent convention.

Perhaps most noteworthy, though, has been the media-friendly attitude adoped by new Chief Justice John Roberts, in contrast to his predecessor William Rehnquist. Roberts recently was featured on ABC News' Nightline discussing both his view of the court and his son Jack's Spiderman imitation at Roberts' introduction by President Bush.

"Roberts is putting a smiley face in the center chair," said Hutchinson, who recalled earlier eras in which chief justices rigorously avoided the press and looked askance at their colleagues who consented to the rare interview. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 26, 2006 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

High Powered Afghan Heroin Leads to Many American Deaths

From latimes.com: Supplies of highly potent Afghan heroin in the United States are growing so fast that the pure white powder is rapidly overtaking lower-quality Mexican heroin, prompting fears of increased addiction and overdoses.

Heroin-related deaths in Los Angeles County soared from 137 in 2002 to 239 in 2005, a jump of nearly 75% in three years, a period when other factors contributing to overdose deaths remained unchanged, experts said. The jump in deaths was especially prevalent among users older than 40, who lack the resilience to recover from an overdose of unexpectedly strong heroin, according to a study by the county's Office of Health Assessment and Epidemiology.

According to a Drug Enforcement Administration report obtained by The Times, Afghanistan's poppy fields have become the fastest-growing source of heroin in the United States. Its share of the U.S. market doubled from 7% in 2001, the year U.S. forces overthrew the Taliban, to 14% in 2004, the latest year studied. Another DEA report, released in October, said the 14% actually could be significantly higher. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 26, 2006 in Drugs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Republicans and Democrats May Work Together to Give Prisoners a Second Chance

From NYTimes.com: Not too long ago, you could tell whether an election was under way by watching prime-time television and counting the number of ominous recitatives about prisoners and ex-prisoners in the commercials. This fall, however, the seven million Americans who are in the custody of the state — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — did not loom large on nightly TV; in fact, as has been the case for nearly a decade, they barely received any notice at all. Prisoners are no longer the charged political symbols and campaign-season scapegoats they once were.

This may be due to a change of heart bythe Republican Party. A sign of this change of heart is the fact that the former Republican-controlled Congress came tantalizingly close to passing the Second Chance Act, a bill that focuses not on how to “lock them up” but on how to let them out. The bill may become law soon, if Democrats continue to welcome the new conservative interest in rehabilitation.

By some measures, the Second Chance Act is a small bill. It authorizes less than $100 million over two years to address a significant problem: about 700,000 ex-offenders (the population of a good-size American city) will leave prison in 2007 — and two-thirds of them are likely to be rearrested within three years. The bill would provide states with grants to develop model programs for prisoners returning to society. Those states that accept the grants will be asked to re-examine any laws and regulations that make it unreasonably difficult for ex-offenders to reintegrate themselves into their communities — the classic example is the ban on allowing felons to receive a barber’s license. The bill also provides money to faith-based organizations and other nonprofits for prisoner-mentoring programs. Finally, it requires states to measure how well their programs achieve the bill’s main goal: reducing the rate of recidivism among recently released prisoners.

No one expects the Second Chance Act to solve the prisoner-re-entry problem overnight. The bill’s authors are probably too confident that drug treatment, education and housing assistance can reduce recidivism on their own. Such services, many criminologists say, are effective only when paired with the tight supervision of ex-offenders. Some researchers point to the “broken windows” response to crime and suggest trying a similar approach with prisoner re-entry: quickly punish any small violations of the terms of a prisoner’s release with graduated sanctions while returning ex-offenders to prison only for new crimes, not for technical parole violations like missing a meeting with a probation officer. The Second Chance Act does nothing to support this sort of approach.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 26, 2006 in Congressional News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Robert Batey Comments on Nanny Cams

Batey_4From Daytona Beach News: Stetson University CrimProf Robert Batey recently commented on ababysitters' reactions to a Nanny Cams.

The discussion of Nanny Cams arose due to a Palm Coast case headed for trial in February, in which Brandon Jaffe, 16, was charged earlier this year with felony molestation after a hidden camera filmed him molesting two children he was baby-sitting, according to court documents.

Barbara Kline, who matches nannies with high-powered couples in Washington, D.C., through her agency White House Nannies, wrote about a sitter who becomes upset after finding out her employer hid a nanny cam in her bathroom and bedroom to spy on her. Her website, childcare.about.com, states baby sitters often don't necessarily oppose the videotaping, they'd just like to know about it as a matter of trust and deception.

My first reaction to that is that he could have no constitutional objection to that," CrimProf Robert Batey said during a phone interview in St. Petersburg. Batey said that when Jaffe went into his employers' home, a personal space, he ran the risk that somebody might be videotaping him in that space. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 26, 2006 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Delaware Joins National Program to Put Former Inmates Back to Work

From delawareonline.com: Convicted felon. These two words can quickly end a job interview.

Some may consider this appropriate punishment for someone who is a proven criminal. But if you are concerned about reducing the crime rate in Delaware and the nation, those are exactly the people who need jobs, says Jack McDonough, newly appointed chief of the U.S. Probation Office in Delaware.

So McDonough's office has joined a national push to get probationers employed. The effort, called the Workforce Development Program, is designed to reduce recidivism and get ex-offenders back into the mainstream.

McDonough believes if you get a former inmate gainful employment , he or she is less likely to return to old ways and statistics back up his theory. If a person has a job at the start and end of supervised release, federal court statistics show, the success rate is 85 percent, meaning no new arrests. National and Delaware statistics are almost the opposite for ex-offenders without jobs: More than 70 percent of unemployed probationers end up back in jail within three years.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 23, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 22, 2006

CrimProf Spotight: Celestine Richards McConville

Mcconville_cThis week the CrimProf Blog spotlights Chapman University School of Law CrimProf Celestine Richards McConville.

Professor McConville joined the Chapman faculty as an Associate Professor in August 2000. Before coming to Chapman, she was a visiting faculty member at Case Western Reserve School of Law, where she received the Student Bar Association's Teacher of the Year award for 1999, an honor determined by the graduating class. She earned her B.A. at Boston University, graduating magna cum laude, and her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, graduating magna cum laude in the top one percent of her class. She was selected for Order of the Coif and served as an editor for the Georgetown Law Journal's Criminal Procedure Project.

After law school, Professor McConville served as a law clerk to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist at the Supreme Court of the United States. She also clerked for Judge Cynthia Holcomb Hall on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and for Judge Donald C. Nugent on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

Following her clerkship on the Supreme Court, Professor McConville practiced law for three years as an associate with Shea & Gardner in Washington, D.C., working primarily on litigation matters involving constitutional, labor, banking, and aviation law issues. Professor McConville's current research and writing projects are in the constitutional law and death penalty areas. [Mark Godsey]

December 22, 2006 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The ABA and the NDAA Agree on Criminal Recommendations Reports

From abanet.org: The American Bar Association Commission has submitted for consideration by the ABA House six reports with recommendations. The reports deal with alternatives to incarceration and conviction; improvements in parole and probation supervision; employment and licensure of convicted persons; access to and use of criminal records for non-law enforcement purposes; representation relating to collateral consequences; and training in the exercise of discretion.

These six reports were originally submitted to the House last summer, but were withdrawn for further consideration and discussion with the National District Attorneys Association. As a result of the Commission's discussions with NDAA a number of revisions were made to the recommendations, and the NDAA agreed to co-sponsor four of the six sets of recommendations. The Criminal Justice Section and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association also renewed their co-sponsorship of the recommendations.

Among other things, the NDAA and the ABA agreed on recommending:

  • Community based alternatives to incarceration that also avoid a conviction record, including diversion and deferred adjudication, should be available to all but the most serious offenders;
  • People under community supervision should only be returned to prison for serious violations of their conditions of release, such as where a new crime has been committed or lesser sanctions have failed;
  • Public access to criminal records should in general be limited, in light of the government's interest in encouraging successful offender reentry and reintegration, people should be able to challenge the accuracy of their records, and only law enforcement agencies should have access to records of closed criminal cases that did not result in a conviction;
  • All criminal justice professionals -- including judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, probation and parole officers, and correctional officials -- should be trained in understanding, adopting and utilizing factors that promote the sound exercise of their discretion.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 21, 2006 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Seton Hall Prof Files Suit For Wrongly Accused Detainee

Azmy_baherSeton Hall University Prof Baher Azmy, who is also legal counsel to former Guantánamo detainee Murat Kurnaz, filed suit today in federal court to compel the Department of Defense to release transcripts relating to his client’s detention.

The government held Kurnaz, along with hundreds of other men, at Guantánamo Bay for over four years without charges or trial. Instead of a trial, the military held its own “combatant status review tribunals” and “administrative review board” hearings, with the military’s own officers to judge the detainees. It is the transcripts of these hearings – which purported to justify Kuna’s detention – that are sought by today’s suit, filed in federal district court for the Southern District of New York.

In January 2005, Judge Joyce Hens Green of federal district court in Washington, D.C. ruled that Kurnaz’s detention was illegal. She pointed to five exculpatory statements by U.S. intelligence authorities and questioned why the Defense Department had ignored them.

“Not only is Kurnaz obviously innocent of any wrongdoing, the United States actually knew of his innocence as early as 2002,” said Azmy. “Why wasn’t this evidence shared with him? How did the government justify detaining him in spite of this evidence? The government needs to come clean and explain to Murat Kurnaz and the American people why the military continued to detain a person who was never connected to terrorism.” Rest of Press Release. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 21, 2006 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Maryland Halts Executions

From CJJNCMaryland's highest court ordered a halt yesterday to executions in the state, ruling that procedures for putting prisoners to death were never submitted for the public review required by law, the Baltimore Sun reports. Under the ruling, state prison officials face the prospect of having to submit the execution protocols to a joint legislative committee. The court said the legislature could exempt the execution procedures from that review process - something one state senator characterized as "very unlikely."

One way or another, the legislature is going to need to look at the issue again," said University of Richmond law Prof. Carl Tobias, "They're going to want to have hearings, and that could potentially open up the whole death penalty issue for debate." Executions have been halted in Florida and California amid concerns that lethal injection, as carried out, violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Some death penalty opponents, legal experts, and capital defense attorneys said the court's decision has paved the way for a debate on the state's method of putting convicted killers to death.

Baltimore Sun story here.  [Mark Godsey]

December 21, 2006 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tying Hateful Language to Criminal Cases

From NPR:  News & Notes, December 20, 2006 · What is the role of race and language in the offenses branded as hate crimes? Columbia University law professor Patricia Williams and Farai Chideya take a closer look.  Listen to story here.  [Mark Godsey]

December 21, 2006 in Race | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Violent Crime Increases

From CJN:  A surge in violent crime that began last year accelerated in the first half of 2006, providing the clearest signal yet that the historic drop in the U.S. crime rate is being reversed, reports the Washington Post. Reports of homicides, assaults, and other violent offenses rose nearly 4 percent in the first six months of the year compared with the same period in 2005, says the FBI Uniform Crime Report. The numbers included an increase of nearly 10 percent for robberies, considered a leading indicator of trends. 

Many communities, particularly those in urbanized areas, may be headed into a period of sustained crime increases, some experts said. While no one is certain of the causes, they cited an increase in the number of young men in their crime-prone years, diminished crime-fighting assistance from the federal government, fewer jobs for people with marginal skills, and the ongoing growth in methamphetamine use in some places. Car thefts and other property crimes dropped 2.6 percent overall, but burglaries, another key indicator, rose 1.2 percent. A Justice Department spokesman said an ongoing federal study of crime trends in 18 cities will help determine "what is causing this increase" and "which crime-fighting efforts are most effective."

Washington Post article here.  [Mark Godsey]

December 20, 2006 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

UCLA CrimProf Wins Prize

LOS ANGELES—Mark Greenberg, acting professor of law and assistant professor of philosophy at UCLA, was recently selected as the winner of the 2007 Fred Berger Memorial Prize for outstanding article in the philosophy of law published in 2004-2005. Greenberg was honored for his article, "How Facts Make Law," which was published in Legal Theory in 2004.

The Berger Memorial Prize in the Philosophy of Law was established by the American Philosophical Association (APA) in memory of Professor Fred Berger of the University of California at Davis.  The prize is awarded every two years for an outstanding published article in the philosophy of law.  The winning selection is made by the APA Committee on Philosophy and Law.

Greenberg will be honored by the APA Committee at a special session for the Berger Prize at the APA Pacific meetings in San Francisco, April 4-8, 2007.

Rest of press release....

December 20, 2006 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Franklin Pierce Students Win Suppression Hearing

Students in the clinic get a 4th Amendment victory.

December 20, 2006 in Search and Seizure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)