Saturday, September 9, 2006
The Elon University School of Law recently hosted a meeting of national experts on eyewitness identification. The meeting was organized by the American Judicature Society’s Institute of Forensic Science and Public Policy.
At the meeting, the scientists contributed their expertise to the development of field studies to test the effectiveness of procedures that have improved the accuracy of eyewitness identification in controlled lab studies conducted by social scientists.
Mistaken identification was the leading cause of wrongful conviction in more than 75 percent of the 183 DNA exonerations in the United States to date. Through laboratory studies, scientists have identified procedural controls which may increase the reliability of eyewitness identifications, but there have been few scientifically sound field studies that evaluate the procedures in actual police practice. The AJS Institute of Forensic Science and Public Policy hopes the meeting will help to design controlled field studies that can test the procedures in practice.
The field study protocols, as well as their results, will be reviewed by the AJS Commission on Forensic Science and Public Policy, a commission of leading scientists, judges, lawyers, and law enforcement professionals. The American Judicature Society established the Institute and appointed the Commission to address critical issues at the intersection of science and the law. The Commission is co-chaired by former Attorney General Janet Reno, former FBI director William Webster, and leading scientist Steve Feinberg of Carnegie Mellon University. [Mark Godsey]
Friday, September 8, 2006
This week, the CrimProf Blog spotlights Marina Angel from Temple University Beasley School of Law.
As a writer, teacher, and scholar, Professor Marina Angel has dedicated herself to improving the status of women and minorities in the legal profession and reforming the profession in order to make their advancement possible. Even more importantly, she has selflessly devoted herself to aiding countless individual colleagues and students in supporting and counseling them step-by-step along the paths of their careers.
In 1965, Professor Angel earned a bachelor's degree from Barnard College and began her legal career in 1969, when she received a law degree (magna cum laude) from Columbia Law School. While in law school, Professor Angel worked as a law clerk at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. After graduating, she worked as an attorney for the Philadelphia Voluntary Association and completed an L.L.M. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. In 1973, she served as an associate at Gordon & Schetman, P.C., in New York, where she represented professional unions and handled major sex discrimination cases.
In 1978, Professor Angel joined the faculty of Temple University Law School, and immediately began to venture into previously uncharted territory as she researched and wrote about women's legal rights and the status of women in the law. Professor Angel's writings have focused on sexual harassment, abuse and violence against women and girls, legal education, criminal law, and labor and employment law.
In her research, she has analyzed the psychiatric and legal issues relating to sexual harassment. She document, for the first time, the nature and the scope of sexual harassment perpetrated by judges. Later, she focused on abuse and violence against women and girls and the criminal justice systems responses, analyzing the relationship between gender stereotypes and violence. She has over thirty publications to her credit.
Professor Angel chaired the Association of American Law Schools' (AALS) Section on Women in Legal Education and organizes a networking dinner at each AALS Annual Meeting. In 1995, she became General Counsel to the Modern Greek Studies Association and the Greek American Women?s Network in New York.
Active in the American Bar Association (ABA), Professor Angel has served on seven ABA law school accreditation site inspection teams. She is a member of the bar associations of New York City, Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania and has served on the Philadelphia Bar's Gender Bias Task Force and other committees concerning women.
Since 2001, Professor Angel has compiled statistics on the status of women in the legal profession within the state of Pennsylvania. The results and findings from this information are presented in the Pennsylvania Bar Association's "Annual Report Card."
The Philadelphia Bar Association awarded Professor Angel the Sandra Day O'Connor Award in 1996 in recognition of her legal, academic, and mentoring contributions to the legal profession. The Pennsylvania Bar Association's Commission on women presented Professor Angel with the Anne X. Alpern Award in 1998. In 2003, the PBA gave he a Special Achievement Award in recognition of her many accomplishments.
In 2004, Professor Angel received the American Bar Association's Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award. In the tradition of Margaret Brent, Professor Angel's life work embodies an unfailing commitment to advocating for women and minorities in the profession. She has pioneered in legal scholarship, excelling in the quality and extent of her contributions and in her continually forthright stands for equal rights.
Professor Marina Angel and Diane Yu, Chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, with the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award.
Thursday, September 7, 2006
From Taipeitimes.com: What do AT&T, Boeing, Com-verse Technology, Prudential Financial, Medtronic, Schering-Plough and Tenet Healthcare have in common?
In recent months, they have all been charged with fraudulent conduct by the US Justice Department's Corporate Fraud Task Force, or with serious misconduct by government prosecutors.
Among other charges, the companies were accused of deceptive stock trading, improper billing, falsification of drug prices, kickbacks to doctors and the creation of a "secret stock options slush fund."
The total cost of their misconduct in fines and effective penalties to shareholders? A cool US$2.6 billion. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
sfgate.com: Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley CrimProf Franklin Zimring recently commented about the controvery surrounding and Oakland mother's creation of a Web site at MySpace as a repository to gather comments and well-wishes for her daughter who faces trial on murder charges at the end of next month.
Unknowingly, the Oakland mom ventured into the chasm between cyberspace and the rules on pretrial publicity, and her actions have raised questions about what, if anything, courts can do to place restrictions in the vast confines of the Internet.
"The question of the Web site is one that will not be going away," Franklin Zimring said.
"It's the democratization of the capacity to publish," Zimring said. "Not too many people in San Francisco own newspapers, but everyone and his mother can own a Web site, and I can say that between now and this time next year, this will happen more and more.
"These are new wrinkles, and sooner or later some power will be given to the courts and some limits litigated on its use, but neither has happened yet to my knowledge," he added. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From SSRN.com: Vanderbilt University School of Law Crimprof Nita A. Farahany and Duke University School of Law CrimProf James Coleman recently released Genetics and Responsibility: To Know the Criminal From the Crime. Here is the Abstract:
This article discusses the use of behavioral genetics in criminal cases and argues, contrary to the conventional view, that criminal responsibility theory limits the role behavioral predisposition testimony should play in assessing criminal responsibility.
We proceed by reviewing criminal cases in which behavioral genetics and neurological evidence has been introduced - including claims that a defendant acted involuntarily, lacked the requisite mens rea, satisfied the mental defect element of an insanity defense, or was entitled to differential sentencing. This review reveals that courts have rejected the majority of these claims, but primarily because of the inadequacy of the science thereby leaving open the door for the introduction of such evidence in future criminal cases as the science further develops.
The article then offers a more robust rationale for rejecting behavioral predisposition evidence when assessing a defendant's criminal responsibility. Using behavioral genetics as a tool, we explain why criminal responsibility theory clashes with defenses based on behavioral predispositions. We argue that the two components of criminal responsibility - liability and justifications and excuses to liability - operate with little regard to the infirmities of a criminal defendant. In so doing, we elucidate the fundamental characteristics underlying these components including the assumptions of legal free will and human agency, the voluntary act requirement, mens rea, and the reasonable person standard.
We explain why seemingly anomalous defenses such as provocation and battered woman syndrome do not meaningfully challenge whether criminal responsibility operates without regard to a defendant's unique mental infirmities. Because liability and justifications and excuses to liability do not turn on individual infirmities, we conclude that behavioral genetics should not inform criminal responsibility.
Just kidding, but speaking of the FBI cracking mafia codes, here's an article by FBI Forensic Cryptanalyst Daniel Olson about cryptology, the scientific study of solving criminal codes and ciphers. It briefly describes everything from sports and horse racing bookmarking codes to drug and pager codes. [Michele Berry]
You're caught speeding on camera. Should you: a) pay the fine; b) fight the ticket in court; c) chop the camera down with an axe; or d) blow up the camera with welding equipment? See what really happened from BBC.com... [Michele Berry]
FBI code-breaking experts are helping Italian investigators to determine whether a Bible found on the Mafia’s "boss of bosses" Bernardo Provenzano, hides a secret code. Bernardo, who spent 43 years on the run, had underlined passages in his personal copy of the Bible that he was found with during his April arrest. Investigators believe that deciphering any encoded messages in these passages could hold the key to other encoded messages found at his rural hideout in Corleone, the Italian city made famous by the Godfather movies. Full story... [Michele Berry]
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
From toledoblade.com: An Ohio legislative panel yesterday rubber-stamped an unprecedented process that would allow sex offenders to be publicly identified and tracked even if they've never been charged with a crime.
A recently enacted law allows county prosecutors, the state attorney general, or, as a last resort, alleged victims to ask judges to civilly declare someone to be a sex offender even when there has been no criminal verdict or successful lawsuit.
The rules spell out how the untried process would work. It would largely treat a person placed on the civil registry the same way a convicted sex offender is treated under Ohio's so-called Megan's Law.
The person's name, address, and photograph would be placed on a new Internet database and the person would be subjected to the same registration and community notification requirements and restrictions on where he could live.
A civilly declared offender, however, could petition the court to have the person's name removed from the new list after six years if there have been no new problems and the judge believes the person is unlikely to abuse again. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From SighOnSanDiego.com: Fantasy Kids Resort in Japan has all the basic amenities of a park for young children, with a few extras: uniformed monitors, security cameras and sterilized sand. Visitors spray their stroller wheels with antiseptic soap.
The new indoor park near Tokyo – one of at least a dozen like it around Japan – might seem an overly protective environment for children in one of the world's safest societies. But for many Japanese parents, parks like this are a logical, high-security response to a string of dramatic crimes against children that are fixating the nation. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From news.Scotsman.com: Scotland's fingerprint service recently announced a radical overhaul in the way crime- scene evidence is assessed.
For the last 50 years, Scottish experts have used a standard for studying fingerprints which requires at least 16 matching characteristics between two prints for them to be considered a match. But the Scottish Fingerprint Service has recently announced the replacement of this points-based system with a non-numeric standard.
Introduced in England five years ago and also used in the US, the non-numeric system is based on a detailed assessment of the quality and uniqueness of the print, rather than the number of points which are the same. The non-numeric standard was a key commitment in the Scottish Fingerprint Service Action Plan for Excellence published in April.
The grand jury leaks in the baseball doping probe, (the BALCO case), previously blogged on here, make news again. This time, two San Francisco Chronicle reporters are appealing a judge's order to tell a federal grand jury who leaked them secret testimony from Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and other baseball players caught up in the steroid probe. The reporters quoted from Bonds' grand jury testimony in violation of Criminal Procedure Rule 6e, the rule forbidding improper disclosure of grand jury materials. So government officials, BALCO defendants, and their attorneys all could face perjury and obstruction of justice charges for violating Criminal Procedure Rule 6(e) which forbids improper disclosure of grand jury materials. [Michele Berry]
A new DNA unit at the lab in Wausau including five analysts and a technician, a second shift at the Madison lab, and two additional lab technicians at the labs in Madison and Milwaukee are some of the changes that may be in store for Wisconsin's crime lab scene. Wisconsin AG Peg Lautenschlager says requests for DNA testing in Wisconsin have risen 18% compared to last year because more juries expect DNA evidence to reach a verdict. If her plan is greeted with governor and legislature approval, the changes will be effective July 2007. Story... [Michele Berry]
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
From boston.com: World-leading opium cultivation rose a "staggering" 59 percent in Afghanistan this year, the UN antidrugs chief announced yesterday in urging the government to crack down on large traffickers and remove corrupt officials and police.
The record crop yielded 6,100 tons of opium, or enough to make 610 tons of heroin -- outstripping the demand of the world's heroin users by a third, according to UN figures.
Officials warned that the illicit trade is undermining the Afghan government, which is under attack by Islamic militants that a US-led offensive helped drive from power in late 2001. "The news is very bad. On the opium front today in some of the provinces of Afghanistan, we face a state of emergency," Antonio Maria Costa, chief of the U N Office on Drugs and Crime, said at a news conference. "In the southern provinces, the situation is out of control." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
New Article Spotlight: Two Types of Consequentialism, Two Types of Formalism: Reconsidering Bordenkircher in Light of Apprendi
From SSRN.com: Marquette University School of Law CrimProf Michael M. O'Hear recently published Two Types of Consequentialism, Two Types of Formalism: Reconsidering Bordenkircher in Light of Apprendi. Here is the abstract:
While the Supreme Court approved of the use of charging threats nearly thirty years ago in Bordenkircher v. Hayes, a more recent line of cases has subtly undermined key premises of that landmark decision. In order to induce guilty pleas, prosecutors might use any of a number of different tactics. A prosecutor might, for instance, charge aggressively in the first instance and then promise to drop the most serious charges in return for a guilty plea to a lesser offense.
Bordenkircher addressed the mirror-image of this tactic: the prosecutor filed relatively minor charges at first, but then threatened to pursue more serious charges if the defendant did not plead guilty. The Supreme Court approved of such charging threats based on two considerations: the efficiency benefits of resolving cases by plea instead of jury trial, and the possibility that prosecutors would evade a ban on threats by charging more aggressively in the first instance.
The Court's reasoning, however, is inconsistent with Apprendi v. New Jersey and its progeny. Apprendi rejected the use of both efficiency considerations and evasion concerns as grounds for impairing access to juries. Apprendi instead emphasized a need for robust checks and balances within the criminal justice system. Because the Apprendi line of cases addressed sentencing procedures, not plea bargaining, their relevance to Bordenkircher has thus far escaped notice.
The Article argues, however, that the Court should now overturn Bordenkircher in light of the values it embraced in Apprendi. The Article also proposes a new test for evaluating the constitutionality of charging threats. [Mark Godsey]
From msnbc.com: After a decade of decline, violent crime is on the rise across the United States. Assault rose 2 percent between 2004 and 2005, according to the FBI’s latest report of national crime trends. Murder and robbery are up nearly 5 percent — the sharpest increase since 1991. Medium-sized cities of between 50,000 and 500,000 have been the bloodiest.
So many police chiefs have expressed concern that the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington-based think tank, held a national crime summit on Aug. 30. Mayors and law enforcement officials from 45 cities — both those hit with a rise in violence and those, like Dallas and Chicago, that have so far escaped an increase — arrived seeking answers to a troubling riddle.
“We’ve been watching crime decrease or flatten out for the last 10 years,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the forum. “But last year we started hearing from police chiefs (about increasing violence) ... enough of them, that we started to wonder, what’s going on?" Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
So interest in white collar crime may be up, but white collar prosecutions have decreased 27% since 9/11. The NYPost blames the decline on bureaucratic structure and budget priorities--the responsibility for developing white collar cases is "split between the SEC, which does the investigating, and the DOJ, which decides whether to prosecute." But this piece from Dealbreaker discusses the political climate behind the decline in white collar prosecutions and stabs at the Bush Administration for lack of interest in bringing criminal charges against corporate executives and Wall Street. Commentary from Dealbreaker... [Michele Berry]
Let's hope the surge in forensic science classes includes some specialty classes in bullet analysis. In Indianapolis, even after the courts have given Marion County enough money to hire two firearms experts, the lab is still left shorthanded and backlogged. Marion Superior Court issued an emergency order Aug. 9 that authorizes the crime lab to hire two more examiners and pay them up to $80,000 a year -- about $20,000 more than the typical salary. For once, it's not a lack of money--there just aren't enough of these highly sought experts who match bullets to the guns that fired them. Currently, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives runs the only school in the country, and it graduates 12 students each year. Read the story here from IndyStar.com...[Michele Berry]
Monday, September 4, 2006
From Law.com: Last week's arrest of a Connecticut lawyer in the fatal stabbing of a neighbor he allegedly believed had sexually assaulted his 2-year-old daughter has captured the attention of the state's legal community, which has seen several of its members convicted of theft and embezzlement, but few for crimes of passion.
In the days after Fairfield patent attorney Jonathon Edington's Aug. 28 arrest in the slaying of Barry James, the intrigue over the alleged murder turned to questions over Edington's possible defense strategy. To M. Hatcher "Reese" Norris, of Butler Norris & Gold in Hartford, Edington's case is strongly reminiscent of one he had 14 years ago, where evidence of Extreme Emotional Disturbance convinced the prosecutor to let the defendant plead to manslaughter.
EED, a rarely successful statutory affirmative defense available only in murder cases, permits defendants to be found guilty of manslaughter if they can show that, at the time of the crime, they were so overwhelmed by a triggering event that they could not conform to the requirements of the law, New Haven Public Defender Thomas Ullmann explained. Successful EED defenses don't permit acquittals -- only a reduction to manslaughter. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
washingtonpost.com: A civil jury in Prince George's County awarded nearly $6.4 million yesterday to a man who spent more than eight months in jail after he was interrogated for over 38 hours by homicide detectives, who then charged him with murdering his wife based solely on statements he allegedly made during the marathon interviews.
The award to Keith Longtin after the two-week trial is believed to be the largest ever made by a jury in a civil case involving abuse by Prince George's police. Longtin, now 50, was released from jail only after DNA evidence found in his slain wife was matched with a serial rapist. The sexual offender was later convicted of the murder.
The jury found that county detectives engaged in a pattern of violating the rights of defendants, said Cary J. Hansel, one of Longtin's attorneys. "We hope this signals the end of lengthy, coercive police interrogations in Prince George's County," said Timothy F. Maloney, Longtin's other attorney.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]