CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Las Vegas Bans Feeding the Homeless in Parks

From The Las Vegas City Council passed an ordinance Wednesday that bans providing food or meals to the indigent for free or a nominal fee in parks.

The measure is an attempt to stop so-called "mobile soup kitchens" from operating in parks, where residents say they attract the homeless and render the city facilities unusable by families.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada called the ordinance blatantly unconstitutional, unenforceable and the latest attempt by the city to hide and harass the homeless instead of constructively addressing their plight. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

July 22, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 21, 2006

CrimProf Spotlight: Randolph Stone

StonerThis week, the CrimProf Blog spotlights  Randolph Stone from University of Chicago Law School.

Prior to his 1991 appointment to the Law School faculty as Director of the Mandel Clinic, Mr. Stone was the public defender of Cook County, Illinois, responsible for the management of a $32M budget and the leadership of a 750 person law office.  He has also served as deputy director and staff attorney for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, partner in the Chicago firm of Stone & Clark, clinical fellow for the Law School, staff attorney for the Criminal Defense Consortium of Cook County, and as a Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellow for the Neighborhood Legal Services Program in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Stone is a past chair of the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section, and serves on several boards and committees including The Sentencing Project, Inc., Treatment Alternatives for Special Clients (TASC), and the Illinois Capital Punishment Reform Study Committee.  In addition to
clinical legal education, his teaching and writing interests have included criminal law, juvenile justice, the legal profession, indigent defense, race and criminal justice, evidence, and trial advocacy.

Mr. Stone attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, was drafted by the U.S. Army and served in Viet Nam, received his B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and his J.D. from the University of Wisconsin.   [Mark Godsey]

July 21, 2006 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Congress Expected to Pass Sex Crime Bill

From Key members of Congress have agreed on a sweeping bill that would create the first national Internet database and laws designed to improve the tracking of convicted sex offenders. The bill aims to help police locate more than 100,000 such offenders who are registered but haven't updated their whereabouts. About 563,000 sex offenders are registered nationwide.

The compromise, reached this week after months of negotiation, would increase minimum sentences for molesters who cross state lines and allow the death penalty for those who murder child victims. It would also increase the number of investigators and prosecutors fighting child pornography.

The bill would also give states money to track high-risk offenders with Global Positioning System devices and require some convicted juveniles to register as sex offenders.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

July 20, 2006 in Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

RAND Study Finds No Racial Bias With Death Penalty

From DPIC and A recent RAND Corporation study of the federal death penalty from 1995 to 2000 found no evidence of racial bias. Even though the investigators found that the death penalty was more often sought against defendants who murdered white victims, researchers ultimately concluded that the characteristics of the crime, not the racial characteristics of the victim or the defendant, could be used to make accurate predictions of whether federal prosecutors would seek the death penalty.

The study found that the likelihood of a decision to seek the death penalty rose for murders that were particularly heinous – usually involving a number of aggravating circumstances such as the killing of several victims, sexual abuse of the victim, the killing of an elderly person or a child, premeditated murders where there was extensive planning, killings in which the victim was set on fire, and murders in which the victim was mutilated or dismembered.

"Our findings support the idea that race was not a factor in the decision to seek the death penalty once we adjusted for the circumstance of the crime," noted Stephen Klein, a RAND senior research scientist and co-leader of the project. “We were surprised by how well we could predict the decision to seek the death penalty based on the nature of the crime.” Rest of Article . . . [Mark Godsey]

July 20, 2006 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UC Berkeley School of Law CrimProf Angela Harris will Speak at "Gay Panic" Conference

FacultyphotoFrom This week, prosecutors and law enforcement officials from across the nation, including Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley CrimProf Angela Harris, will gather in San Francisco to discuss strategies to counter the "gay panic" or "transgender panic" defenses used in courtrooms to gain acquittals or reduced punishments for violent crimes.

Prosecutors and legal experts define gay or transgender panic as when a person is provoked to violent action against another person after learning the other person's sexual orientation or gender identity. Such provocation is used as an argument for justification of the action or for lessening the punishment for the action.

"The standard for these kinds of cases has been 'Would a reasonable person react that way?' " said Harris, who will speak at the conference. "Our culture being a very sexist and homophobic culture has said 'yes,' but now I think people are starting to say that's not where our culture is anymore."

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

CrimProf Bernard E. Harcourt Speaks About his New Book to French Daily

Harcourt_4From l' University of Chicago Law School CrimProf Bernard E. Harcourt's recent interview with French journalists was published in the daily, L'Humanité, in connection with the recent publication of his book, L'illusion de l'ordre:  Incivilités et violences urbaines : tolérance zéro? (Editions Descartes 2006).  Read Article en français. . . [Mark Godsey]

July 19, 2006 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NY Advisory Committee Ruled Judges Can Carry Firearms While Working

From The New York state Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics has ruled that it is permissible for judges to pack a pistol beneath their robes while on the bench.

"From an ethical standpoint, there is no prohibition ... barring you from carrying a firearm while performing your duties on the bench. This committee believes that keeping your firearm concealed and safeguarded on your person while you are on the bench is advisable," the committee said in a decision published in this week's New York Law Journal. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

July 19, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Jason Gillmer Helps Plan Conference in Gloucester, England

JgillmerTexas Wesleyan University School of Law CrimProf Jason Gillmer helped plan with the University of Gloucestershire, the Central Gloucester Initiative, and the City of Gloucester “Too Pure an Air: Law and the Quest for Freedom, Justice, and Equality Conference” recently in Gloucester, England.

The conference marked the 250th anniversary of the appointment of Lord Mansfield as Chief Justice of England (1756), who decided the important Somerset v. Stewart decision prohibiting slavery in England.

Approximately 70 scholars from countries such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and the United States attended the conference. Presenters not only celebrated the legacy of the Somerset case, but also discussed in depth the role that law plays in furthering social justice, racial and gender equality and human rights.

“Professor Frank Snyder, Jason Gillmer, Stephen Alton and I brainstormed the idea,” Texas Wesleyan Professor of Law and conference co-coordinator Reginald Oh said. “We wanted a topic that dealt with issues of civil and human rights in an interconnected, global society. Jason and I will be in charge of the substantive program, while Stephen will be in charge of logistics. We look forward to working with the City of Gloucester to create yet another wonderful conference.”

[Mark Godsey]

July 19, 2006 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bribery and Smuggling may be Increasing at Mexican Border

Frm Federal law enforcement officials are investigating a series of bribery and smuggling cases in what they fear is a sign of increased corruption among officers who patrol the Mexican border.

Authorities say two factors are causing concern that large problems may develop: The massive buildup of Border Patrol agents in recent years has led to worries that hiring standards have been lowered; and, as smugglers demand higher and higher fees to bring illegal immigrants into the United States, their efforts to bribe those guarding the border have intensified.

There is more pressure than ever on smuggling networks to find agents who will work with them," said Andrew Black, an FBI special agent with the multiagency Border Corruption Task Force in San Diego. "As a result, there's tremendous temptation for someone who is less than honest to work with them. Someone who is working on the border can make their salary in a couple of nights."

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

July 18, 2006 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Collecting DNA, as Required by State Law, Could Have Prevented Violence

From Raymont Hopewell entered the state prison in 2004 for attempting to sell $20 worth of cocaine. Under Maryland law, authorities should have taken a DNA sample to compare against evidence collected from unsolved cases. Had the DNA test been done, it would have matched evidence found at the scenes of two unsolved rapes and murders on Baltimore's west side. But Hopewell's DNA was not taken and he later escaped from prison and killed three more people, assaulted four others and raped one woman before he was arrested in September 2005.

Those who survived Hopewell's crime spree are asking why Hopewell wasn't arrested and charged sooner. They are upset that the state DNA law passed in 2002 - which required collection of DNA from felons - was not enforced when Hopewell entered prison in 2004.

State officials admit to failures in initial implementation of the DNA law. The Maryland State Police, charged with collecting the DNA, did not have the manpower to do the job. They say they have fixed the problem by enlisting state prison workers to help in collection.

"It's really, really tragic because had they tested early enough, they could have prevented these later crimes," said Lawrence Kobilinsky, a biology professor and associate provost of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. "Unfortunately, this is a case where tragedies could have been averted." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

July 18, 2006 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Summer Brings Rise to Portable Toilet Fires

From Of all the dark mysteries of the criminal mind, one bothers president of On Site Sanitation of Little Canada Dave Holm the most: Why do people burn portable toilets? 

According to Holm, the number of burned Porta-Potties usually increase in the summer. He expects to lose 35 units this year to fire, in addition to about 500 others tipped over by vandals or by windstorms.

Company officials willingly offer toilets as tools to fight diseases spread in big crowds and when vandals set fire to a toilet, the impact on public health and the environment is obvious. "We are sanitation workers. We protect the health and welfare of the public," Holm said

Ruined biffies sit in Holm's back lot like corpses in a morgue. He knelt beside a half-melted $2,000 toilet and examined the sparklers that set off the fire. "I just don't get the humor here," he muttered. "It's kind of pathetic." Rest of Article. . .  [Mark Godsey]

July 18, 2006 in Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Houston Plans Earlier Juvenile Curfew to Increase Communication With Youth

From Currently, the city of Houston has a juvile cerfew of midnight for all people age 18 and younger. The City Council is considering making that curfew earlier, and the proposal is fueling a debate about the value of curfews and the burden they put on police officers.

Under the proposal, curfew would begin at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and on the eve of school holidays. It would apply to those younger than 17.

The law's main purpose isn't to make police responsible for getting youths home at a certain time, said Houston Police Department Executive Assistant Chief Mike Thaler. Instead, the curfew gives officers a reason to question teenagers who may be getting into trouble. "It's not intended to go out there and do a sweep and get every young person off the streets at 10 p.m.," Thaler said. "It's merely the ability of officers to engage in a conversation with them." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

July 17, 2006 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

FBI Statistics: Violent Crime Spike is Most Dramatic in 2nd Tier Cities

From According to preliminary FBI statistics released in June, the current spike in violent crimes is most pronounced in communities beneath the top tier of America's largest cities.

Cities about the same size as Rochester, NY — from 100,000 to 249,999 people — had the highest percentage increase in murders at 13 percent. Those with populations between 250,000 and 499,999 had the largest average increase in overall violent crime at 9 percent.

Edmund McGarrell, a criminologist at Michigan State University and research director for the U.S. Justice Department's Project Safe Neighborhoods, has developed a working hypothesis that multiple factors put added strain on police, including:

  • Tighter municipal budgets have led to a reduction in the number of police in many cities.
  • Homeland security concerns raised by the 9/11 attacks are further stretching law enforcement resources.
  • Criminals are forming gangs in more small and mid-sized cities that did not have gang problems in the past.
  • Increased incarceration rates during the 1990s are now resulting in an increase in the number of convicted felons released from prisons.
  • A culture of violence in prisons has extended to urban streets.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

July 17, 2006 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cali Prison Special Master States Prison System is in Crisis and Governor is Politically Unmotivated to Help

From John Hagar, a special master overseeing California prison reforms for a federal judge, says California's correctional system is in crisis and the governor's election-year ambitions are bedeviling efforts to fix it.

As Hagar sees it, Schwarzenegger's bid for reelection has prompted his aides to improperly snuggle up to the prison guards union, a deep-pocket powerhouse in California politics. To sweeten relations, Hagar asserts, Schwarzenegger is granting the union clout over key decisions — and at least temporarily shelving his agenda of prison reform. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

July 17, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

New Article Spotlight: Manson v.Brathwaite Revisited: Towards a New Rule of Decision for Due Process Challenges to Eyewitness Identification Procedures

Shay_giovannaFrom  Yale Law School CrimProf Giovanna E. Shay and Timothy O'Toole from P.D.S. in D.C. recently published "Manson v. Brathwaite Revisited: Towards a New Rule of Decision for Due Process Challenges to Eyewitness Identification Procedures." Here is the abstract:

A major cause of wrongful convictions is mistaken eyewitness identification. The leading Supreme Court case governing due process challenges to identification procedures, Manson v. Brathwaite, is almost 30 years old, and does not account for decades of social science research on eyewitness identification. In fact, parts of the Manson test designed to ensure reliability run counter to research findings. In this piece, O'Toole and Shay describe the problems with the Manson test, and, drawing on a theoretical framework introduced by Professor Mitchell Berman and employed by Professor Kermit Roosevelt, propose a new rule of decision for due process challenges to identification procedures.

July 16, 2006 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.S. Lacks Information For Studying Crime

From New national FBI statistics show violent crime increased in 2005 -- the first jump in 14 years. For a public accustomed to the annual reassurance that the nation is becoming safer, this news is troubling. Does it signal another epidemic of violence, rivaling the worst of the 1980s? Or is it just a blip in a long trend toward safer streets? It's a situation easy to politicize but hard to explain.

For those who study crime, the answer is simple: We don't know. Even though information costs are dropping quickly, criminal justice data are harder than ever to find. Key sources, such as those tracking drug use patterns or describing each criminal incident, have been discontinued or underutilized.

This sorrowful and potentially dangerous lack of information aside, available data do allow some informed speculation. The statistics are straightforward: Murder and aggravated assault increased significantly between 2004 and 2005, particularly in middle- and large-size urban areas. Importantly, crime was down in the largest cities, the smallest cities, and rural areas. Property crimes also generally declined, as did rape. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

July 16, 2006 in Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Weekly Top 5 Crim Papers

Ssrn_17_10The top 5 crim papers for this week, with number of recent downloads, on SSRN are:

(1) 187 Killing in Good Conscience: Comments on Sunstein and Vermeule's Lesser Evil Argument for Capital Punishment and other Human Rights Violations
Eric D. Blumenson,
Suffolk University - Law School,
Date posted to database: April 25, 2006
Last Revised: July 5, 2006
(2) 175 Internal Separation of Powers: Checking Today's Most Dangerous Branch from Within
Neal Kumar Katyal,
Georgetown University Law Center,
Date posted to database: May 8, 2006
Last Revised: July 10, 2006
(3) 175 Defending the Right to Self Representation: An Empirical Look at the Pro Se Felony Defendant
Erica J. Hashimoto,
University of Georgia - School of Law,
Date posted to database: May 17, 2006
Last Revised: June 1, 2006
(4) 162 Child Sexual Abuse and the State: Applying Critical Outsider Methodologies to Legislative Policymaking
Ruby P. Andrew,
Southern University Law Center,
Date posted to database: May 24, 2006
Last Revised: May 25, 2006
(5) 93 Looking Deathworthy: Perceived Stereotypicality of Black Defendants Predicts Capital-Sentencing Outcomes
Sheri Lynn Johnson, Jennifer L. Eberhardt, Paul G. Davies, Valerie J. Purdie-Vaughns,
Cornell Law School, Stanford University, University of California, Los Angeles Department of Psychology, Yale University, Department of Psychology,
Date posted to database: May 10, 2006
Last Revised: May 10, 2006

July 16, 2006 in Weekly Top 5 SSRN Crim Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)