CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Eternal Sunshine of the Thoughtless Witness Mind

Who said the movies never come true?  Reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, scientists are working on a "trauma pill" that could make memories of traumatic events, like rape or other crimes, less intense.  Sure, that may help victims in the long run, but think about the more immediate consequences.  Eye-witness identification has proven to be dangerously fallible, accounting for over 75% of postconviction DNA exonerations. [Mark Godsey]

January 14, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Too Old to Execute?

From SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- California's oldest death row inmate--a 75-year-old who is legally blind and nearly deaf--is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to do something it has never done before: block an execution because of the condemned man's advanced age and infirmity. Clarence Ray Allen's attorneys contend that executing a feeble old man amounts to cruel and unusual punishment banned by the U.S. Constitution. [Mark Godsey]

January 14, 2006 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 13, 2006

VT Judge Cashman Controversy Continues

From Vermont Judge Edward Cashman continues to stand behind the controversial 60 day sentence he handed down to a child molester, in hopes of expediting the convict's enrollment in sex offender treatment.  And it looks like that decision may cost the judge his robe. [Mark Godsey]

January 13, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack (1)

Movie Screening: After Innocence

The film After Innocence, which describes the exonerations and subsequent experiences of seven people, will be screened in the following locations:

1/13 LA, NuArt
1/13 Sacramento, Crest Theater
1/20 San Francisco, Lumiere
1/20 Berkeley, Act II
2/03 Chicago, Music Box
2/03 Cambridge, Kendall Square
2/03 Denver, Starz Center
2/10 San Diego, Ken
2/10 Seattle, Varsity
2/10 Waltham, MA, Embassy
2/17 Milwaukee, Oriental
2/17 Dallas, Inwood Theater
2/24 Pittsburgh, Harris Theater
2/24 Minneapolis, Lagoon
2/24 Austin, Dobie
2/24 Houston, River Oaks
2/24 Santa Fe, Moving Arts
3/03 Salt Lake City, Tower Theater
3/03 Indianapolis, Keystone Art
3/07 Detroit, Detroit Institute of Art
3/17 Atlanta, Midtown Art Cinema
3/24 St. Louis, Tivoli Theater

Here's the producer's webpage about the film:

January 13, 2006 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProfs Garrett and Solomonon the Innocence Cases

Virginia CrimProf Brandon Garrett and Georgia CrimProf Jason Solomon published this oped about the innocence cases pending in the U.S. Supreme Court--both involve suspect forensic evidence, and evidence of other potential killers tha the jury never heard. One of the problems the oped identifies is that in engaging in whatever harm analysis is required under the circumstances, "appellate judges are forced to speculate on the impact of evidence the jury never heard."  What's wrong with the argument that if there is newly discovered forensic or other evidence presenting a serious claim of innocence, the best method of determining what a jury would have done with all relevant evidence is present the case to a jury?  True, letting juries rather than appellate judges make the determination of the appropriate weight to be given to new evidence will result in more acquittals in close cases, but is that really objectionable?  [Jack Chin]

January 13, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Weekly CrimProf Spotlight: Wyoming's Eric Johnson

Johnsoneric_1Professor Eric A. Johnson teaches Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure and serves as director of the law school’s Prosecution Assistance Program. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Washington and his law degree from the University of Michigan. Before joining the University of Wyoming faculty in 2004, he worked in the offices of both the New York and Alaska attorneys general. From 2001 to 2004, he was an Assistant Solicitor General in the New York State Attorney General’s Office. Before that, he worked in Alaska’s Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, first as an Assistant Attorney General and then as Chief Assistant Attorney General. During his years in Alaska, he also served on the Alaska Supreme Court’s Advisory Committees on Criminal Pattern Jury Instructions and Appellate Rules.

Among the questions addressed in Johnson’s recent and forthcoming publications are whether the requirement of factual cause in criminal law is satisfied by proof of a “lost chance”; whether the morals rationale offered by Congress for the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 is consistent with Lawrence v. Texas; and whether proof of a reasonable mistake of fact really negates the culpable mental states of recklessness and negligence.

January 13, 2006 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mass: Fingerprint Technique Flunk Daubert

The court did not strike down fingerprint idetification per se.  But a technique of looking at a series of otherwise unidentifiable partials, based on the theory that they were left at the same time by the fingers of one person's hand.  Story here; case here. [Jack Chin--Thanks to Myrna Raeder]

January 13, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Hofstra CrimProf Testifies for Alito

Demleitner Hofstra CrimProf Nora Demleitner, who clerked for Alito on the Third Circuit several years ago, testified on his behalf before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.  More. . .  [Mark Godsey]

January 12, 2006 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sentencing Project Crack Study

What's happened since Booker? They've gone down, a bit.  Story here, report here. [Jack Chin]

January 12, 2006 in Sentencing Corrections | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Irish Murders Uncovered

Pretty clear the statute has run, though, on these 2,300 year old victims. [Jack Chin]

January 12, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Innocent Man Executed? UPDATED: NO

From  RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) -- Gov. Mark R. Warner on Thursday ordered DNA evidence retested to determine whether a man convicted of rape and murder was innocent when he was executed in 1992.  If the testing shows Roger Keith Coleman did not rape and kill his sister-in-law in 1981, it will mark the first time in the United States a person has been exonerated by scientific testing after his execution, according to death penalty opponents.  Warner said he ordered the tests because of technological advances that could provide a level of forensic certainty not available in the 1980s.

UPDATE:  NO.  DNA testing supports guilt.  But: One scientist explains the limits of DNA evidence; given other circumstances, the test could not be conclusive.

January 12, 2006 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Roberts Court Issues First Capital Decision

Doug Berman has the scoop on Brown v. Sanders here.  [Mark Godsey]

January 12, 2006 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Houston PD Crime Lab: Honest Mistakes or Intentional Framing?

After preliminary investigations of the Houston Police Department's crime laboratory revealed errors in approximately 1/3 of all cases, Michael Bromwich, former U.S. DOJ inspector general, is leading an investigation of 56 error-ridden DNA cases.  The investigation aims to uncover whether the errors resulted from honest mistakes or whether the crime labs tailored their faulty results to incriminate certain suspects. [Mark Godsey]

January 11, 2006 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Florida: Shock and Awe Youth Boot Camps Under Fire

A teen's death at a youth boot camp for juvenile delinquents is prompting Florida legislators to question the "shock and awe" method of crime prevention.  Although the boot camp's spokeman claims otherwise, the teen's family insists that he was abused, having sustained a cut lip and other facial abrasions.  Florida's Juvenile Justice Department records show that these camps have a 62% recidivism rate.  Story. . . [Mark Godsey]

January 11, 2006 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

DE: Capano Death Sentence Reversed

Former Attorney and Prosecutor Thomas Capano, sentenced to death for killing an ex-girlfriend, won a reversal because the jury recommending death was not unanimous.  The Delaware Supreme Court divided 3-2 on whether a new penalty phase was permissible; the majority said yes.  Ring v. Arizona, the key constitutional case for Capano's claim, was decided one week before the Supreme Court denied cert. on the Delaware Supreme Court's earlier affirmance of his conviction.  Accordingly, his case was still "pending on direct appeal" and the Delaware courts treated the principle as applicable in his new round of challenges.  Capano is one lucky jailbird.  Story here, opinion here. [Jack Chin]

January 11, 2006 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Traffic Cases in the News

Governor Arnold won't be cited for driving without a motorcycle license, notwithstanding that he had a child in a sidecar.  Meanwhile, in Arizona, a judge has ruled that a fetus doesn't count as a person for carpool lane purposes. [Jack Chin]

January 11, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Quoted CrimProfs

Loyola-LA CrimProf Alexandra Natapoff was quoted in Newsday about the anti-snitching movement-- including the prevalence of "stop snitching" t-shirts--that has become popular in some high-crime neighborhoods.

Drake CrimProf James Tomkovicz was quoted in the Des Moines Register about the line between legitimate photography of children and child porn.

Cumberland CrimProf Don Cochran was quoted in the Birmingham Business Journal about Scrushy trial and Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

January 11, 2006 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

SCOTUS Oral Argument with Serious Implications for Innocent Inmates

From On the Docket at Northwestern University

House, Paul Gregory v. Bell, Ricky (warden)

Docket: 04-8990
Term: 05-06
Appealed From: 6th Circuit Court of Appeals (Oct. 6, 2004)
Oral Argument: 01-11-06

Opinion Issued:

Subject: Capital case, habeas corpus, innocence

Questions presented: (1) Did the majority below err in applying the Supreme Court's decision in Schlup v. Delo to hold that petitioner's compelling new evidence, though presenting at the very least a colorable claim of actual innocence, was as a matter of law insufficient to excuse his failure to present that evidence before the state courts - merely because he had failed to negate each and every item of circumstantial evidence that had been offered against him at the original trial? (2) What constitutes a "truly persuasive showing of actual innocence" pursuant to Herrera v. Collins sufficient to warrant freestanding habeas relief?

More here.  [Mark Godsey]

January 11, 2006 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

SCOTUS Decides Two New Crim-Related Cases

On January 10th, SCOTUS released the following decisions (from

1. United States v. Georgia, Nos. 04-1203 & 04-1236 -- Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act validly abrogates state sovereign immunity insofar as it gives a disabled prisoner a private cause of action for money damages for the state's alleged violation of rights secured by the 14th
Amendment.   Decision here.

2. Evans v. Chavis, No. 04-721 -- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit erred in determining that a California prisoner's request for state appellate review, made more than three years after a state court denied collateral relief, was within a "reasonable time" so as to render it
timely under state law and thus effective to toll the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act's one-year statute of limitations on the prisoner's federal habeas corpus petition filed while the state appeal was pending.  Decision here.  [Mark Godsey]

January 11, 2006 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

NC: Bar Complaints for Hiding Evidence are Stale

Some prosecutors failed to disclose evidence in a NC murder case; the death row defendant got a new trial when it was disclosed.  But: A bar complaint had to be dismissed, according to th eboard, because the misconduct was too old.  From IsThatLegal. [Jack Chin]

January 10, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)