Saturday, September 16, 2006
CrimProf Jackie McMurtie's Innocent Project Won Washington's 1st Reversal of a Conviction Based on DNA
The Innocent Project Northwest Clinic, directed by University of Washington School of Law CrimProf Jackie McMurtie helped lead the path to the first reversal of a conviction based on DNA testing in Washington State's history.
In the ultimate pursuit of justice, the prosecutor was agreeable to DNA testing,” said Jackie McMurtrie. “He’s thrilled with the result and he’s innocent,” added McMurtrie.
Ted Bradford was convicted in 1996 for rape of a Yakima woman and confessed to the crime after eight hours of high pressure interrogation. He was convicted and sentenced to more than 10 years in prison despite the fact that Bradford did not match the description of the rapist; testimony from co-workers verified that he was at work at the time of the crime; and there were glaring discrepancies between his post-interrogation admissions and the victim’s description of the attack.
Since his conviction, new technology has made it possible to extract DNA from very small samples. Crime scene evidence from Bradford's case, including a mask which the perpetrator forced the victim to wear, was submitted to the Washington State Patrol's crime lab for DNA testing in 2005. The lab concluded that male DNA on black electrical tape used to cover the eyeholes of the mask was not Bradford’s. [Mark Godsey]
Friday, September 15, 2006
This week the CrimProf Blog spotlights Nancy Ehrenreich of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
Nancy Ehrenreich is a Midwesterner by birth, but has spent many years on the East Coast and in Colorado. She attended Mount Holyoke College before completing her undergraduate work at Yale, and later lived in Charlottesville, Va. for 13 years. After law school, she spent more than two years living in a small village in Togo, West Africa. She speaks Kabiye, the local language of that area, as well as fluent Spanish and rusty French.
Ehrenreich is a member of the national board of governors of the Society of American Law Teachers, which is the country's largest membership organization for law professors, and a leading voice in the legal academy for defending academic freedom and promoting social justice. She is also on the board of directors (and also co-chair-elect) of LatCrit Inc., a national organization dedicated to the development of critical scholarship and pedagogy, and a member of the National Lawyers Guild.
Ehrenreich joined the University of Denver Sturm College of Law in 1989. She was tenured in 1995 and promoted to full professor in 2002. In her spare time, she enjoys skiing, riding her horse and spending time with her daughter, dogs and cat. [Mark Godsey]
Tomorrow, the City of New Orleans will hold a Crime Prevention Summit featuring former Houston mayor and police chief Lee Brown. Brown, was Houston's police chief during the 1980s and served as the national drug czar in the Clinton administration. Now he is chairman and CEO of the Brown Group International consulting firm. The summit is an effort to take a holistic approach towards crime reduction. City officials have come to realize that locking people up isn't the key to reducing crime, but rather focusing on the core issues that motivate violences: drug trade, gang activity, and trauma caused by Katrina. The summit will feature presentations on the status of violent crime, economics and crime, the roles of race and class, and the roles of family and community in crime prevention. More from the Houston Chronicle. . .
Speaking from the roles of family and community in crime prevention, here's a case in point from Midvale Park, Tucson, AZ. The neighborhood was recently honored by the Tucson police for their cooperation with each other and law enforcement in fighting crime. Residents have made a concerted effort to get to know the members of their community by increasing participation in monthly homeowners association meetings. Participation in the meetings has grown 8x the level of participation during the neighborhood's most troubled times. More from Tucson Citizen. . . [Michele Berry]
Thursday, September 14, 2006
From newsday.com: Touro Law School CrimProf Richard Klein recently commented on the possible mishandling of a blood sample that New York prosecutors say shows that Martin Heidgen had as many as 14 drinks in his system on the night he drove the wrong way on the Meadowbrook Parkway.
Heidgen, 25, of Valley Stream, is being tried for second-degree murder, on charges that he drove drunk on July 2, 2005, when his pickup truck slammed into a limousine and killed driver Stanley Rabinowitz, 59, of Farmingdale, and 7-year-old Katie Flynn of Long Beach, who had just served as a flower girl in her aunt's wedding.
"It could be very significant," said Klein. Prosecutors may have other evidence showing Heidgen committed murder, Klein said, but the mishandled blood sample "definitely weakens the prosecutor's case." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
In what I call a structural reform prosecution, prosecutors secure the cooperation of an organization in adopting sweeping internal reforms rather than seek its conviction for criminal acts of its agents. Dozens of leading corporations in the past few years entered into demanding settlements with federal prosecutors, including AIG, American Online, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Computer Associates, HealthSouth, KPMG, MCI, Merrill Lynch & Co, Monsanto, and Time Warner.
Nevertheless, no scholars have considered the problem of prosecutors seeking structural reform remedies. I conducted the first empirical study of the terms in the agreements the DOJ has negotiated to date, which reveals that federal prosecutors consistently imposed deep governance reforms, but also unrelated terms indicating potential abuses of their power. Unlike in civil rights cases that long accomplished court-supervised institutional reform, prosecutors designed settlements to avoid judicial review of their terms or implementation. We should carefully examine this bold new prosecutorial mission because it fundamentally transforms federal criminal law, affects entire industries, and yet appears to lack any due process safeguards.
I frame and evaluate five models that prosecutors can adopt to pursue structural reforms. Prosecutors have chosen the model that departs most radically from prior federal organizational criminal law. I conclude that in time, however, judicial limits will constrain prosecutorial discretion and result in a more effective regime for deterring organizational crime. [Mark Godsey]
From latimes.com: Two years after California set out to create a vast DNA database to help unravel thousands of unsolved crimes, the program is being severely hampered by a lack of resources, officials across the state say.
The state crime lab has a backlog of more than a quarter-million DNA samples it is unable to process because of a funding shortfall and a lack of manpower, directors acknowledge. At its current rate, the lab would need 2 1/2 years to clear the backlog — if it received no more samples. But that is unlikely because it is taking in about 20,000 samples a month, officials said.
State officials, Los Angeles police officers and the director of a rape treatment center in Santa Monica say the backlog means that crimes are going unsolved and that criminals who could be arrested may still be walking the streets.
"There will come a time when we will be sitting on a case where we have the offender profile and we are waiting for a match in [the database] who is among the 300,000 unprocessed samples and this offender will strike again," said Tim Marcia, a veteran detective in the LAPD's cold-case unit who has used DNA to solve rapes and murders. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Guns or lovin'? That's the choice Colombian gang members are having thrust upon them in a united effort by their signficant others. It's the 'crossed legs' strike: drop all the guns or forget all the sex. From MSNBC.com: "After meeting with the mayor’s office in the Colombian city of Pereira to discuss a disarmament program, a group of women decided to deny their partners their conjugal rights and recorded a song for local radio to urge others to follow their example." More on the sex strike. . . [Michele Berry]
Just think of what'll happen if the hosts of Virginia's Ethics in Tune CLE get ahold of CalWestern's iPod format. The Ethics in Tune CLE, held September 26, is a "tuneful and nostalgic legal ethics seminar [that] presents complex legal ehtics scenarios as expertly performed parodies of some of the greatest rock-and-roll hits of the 60s, accompanied by acoustic guitar and sung by professional classic rock performers. The Beatles, The Who, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, and many others find their works transformed into tnew versions that tell stories of lawyers facing ethical difficulties while somehow retaining the flavor and spark of the original hit songs." (emphasis added)
Among the song parodies included and the issues addressed:
• Overture: “Tommy” Medley. Basic duties in the attorney-client relationship.
• The Ballad of Fagin Snow (“Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”). Supervisor/subordinate, deceptive tactics, candor toward the tribunal.
• A Day in the Court (“A Day in the Life”). Courtroom tactics, dirty tricks, fraud on the court, false evidence and misrepresentations.
• What 1.6 Is for (“When I’m Sixty-Four”). Ethical considerations when changing firms, conflicts, confidentiality.
• The Dentist (“The Boxer”). Joint representations, hearing too much, conflicts, confidentiality, the incompetent client.
• Scum and Pain (“Fire and Rain”). Former clients, duty to warn, confidentiality, conflicts, competing duties.
• The Day My Ethics Died (“American Pie”). Sarbanes-Oxley, communication, honesty, organization representation, and more. [Michele Berry]
CrimProf Justin Brooks and constitutional LawProf Marilyn Ireland debuted California Western's new service, Law in 10. Law in 10, a weekly podcast broadcast on iPod, allows professors to provide legal analysis on current news topics, all in 10 minutes or less. Brooks, who also directs the California Innocence Project, discussed media coverage, false confessions, and DNA testing concerning the 10-year-old JonBenet Ramsey murder. Listeners of Law in 10 are able to receive a free weekly subscription using RSS feeds, with aggregators such as iTunes, Google, and Yahoo. Listeners may also listen to podcasts directly from the California Western Web site at http://www.cwsl.edu/Lawin10. More about Law in 10. . . [Michele Berry]
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
From DeathPenaltyInfo.org: According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics Study released September 6, more than half of all prison and jail inmates, including 56% of state prisoners, 45% of federal prisoners, and 64% of local jail inmates have mental health problems.
The study was based on reporting of symptoms by inmates rather than through medical diagnosis. Among state prisoners with mental problems, 43% had symptoms of mania, 23% had major depression, and 15% had psychotic disorders. Having mental health problems was closely correlated with violence and past criminal activity.
Other significant findings regarding those prisoners with mental problems included:
- 74% of those in state prison were dependent on or abusing drugs or alcohol in the year before their admission
- 13% of those in state prison were homeless in the year before their incarceration
- 27% of those in state prison reported past physical or sexual abuse.
Get Study. . . [Mark Godsey]
Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law is sponsoring a symposium on Friday, October 6, 2006, in honor of the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Miranda v. Arizona at OSU Moritz College of Law.
The symposium will feature a panel of experts on the decision, and on constitutional criminal procedure more generally, who will discuss the past controversy surrounding this landmark decision and its future.
Speakers include some of the country's foremost experts on Miranda:
- Professor Yale Kamisar (University of Michigan Law School and University of San Diego School of Law)
- Professor Ronald Allen (Northwestern University School of Law)
- The Hon. Gerard E. Lynch (U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and Columbia Law School)
- Professor George Thomas (Rutgers School of Law)
Boston Globe Supreme Court Reporter Charles Savage will moderate the event. Papers by the speakers, along with an introduction by Symposium Guest Editor, Professor Marc Spindelman (Moritz College of Law), will be published in the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law. For More Info. . .
Carolina Academic Press (CAP) is beginning a series of comparative law texts called the “Contextual Approach Series” (CAS) and is looking for U.S. law professors in a variety of subject areas to serve as lead authors for entries in the series.
The goal of the CAS is to create a series of interesting, student-friendly, self-contained, accessible comparative law books that—using co-authors from the U.S. and two other countries—clearly and concisely explain how law works in practice around the world in different subject areas. The books will be paperbound and roughly 200 pages.
The first book, Practical Global Tort Litigation: U.S., Germany and Argentina (McClurg, Koyuncu and Sprovieri), is in publication production and available for use as a model. Detailed guidelines for authors in the series also are available.
As the title of the series suggests, each book will be based on a set of case or problem facts raising prototypical, universal legal issues in the particular subject area. This contextual approach is intended to bring comparative law to life and make it digestible and understandable to law students by giving them a foundation to attach the law to.
If you have an interest in becoming an author in this series, please send a preliminary inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org [Mark Godsey]
Here's a picture from an Arizona newspaper showing a group of cops after they found a pot farm and decided to burn all 1,000 plants on the spot. Note the cops standing downwind from the massive cloud of pot smoke billowing past them. [Mark Godsey]
From National Law Journal: Nationally, circuits have been grappling with how much leeway to give trial judges in fashioning sentences that are either more or less lenient than the traditional guideline range established by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The 8th Circuit's decision in U.S. v. McDonald, No. 05-1617 is just one recent example.
The 8th Circuit overturned the 11-year prison term for repeat offender Jeffrey A. McDonald in a methamphetamine case because it was less than half the recommended sentencing guideline range of 22 to 27 years and just one year more than the law's minimum limit. The court ordered resentencing without such an extreme variance.
Since the Booker decision, which gave judges discretion to shape reasonable sentences, the 8th Circuit has reversed 25 sentences below the guideline range while affirming four, yet affirmed 16 sentences above guideline range while reversing just one. 8th Circuit Judge Kermit Bye pointed this out in his dissent. "If we fail to implement the promise of Booker and do not relinquish greater discretion to experienced district court judges whose proximity to sentencing renders them eminently more qualified to appreciate the subtleties of each case, we will find ourselves the architects of a new -- and equally unconstitutional -- de facto mandatory sentencing system crafted from the ashes of the last," Bye wrote. More. . . [Michele Berry]
UPDATED: Here's another perspective from the SanFrancisco Chronicle: "Community, Not Just Technology, Needed in Crime Prevention"
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced last week that the city will install 50 surveillance cameras in high-crime public housing projects around the city in attempts to to reduce the recent influx of violence. But in a society where surveillance cameras seem to have become ubiquitous, and in a major city that lags far behind other cities of its size in terms of camera presence, the Mayor's announcement has generated staunch criticism.
This column criticizes the critics. Here's an excerpt: "Several public officials have decried the use of the security devices as an infringement on civil liberties — no matter how many criminals they help catch. And those people with thick rap sheets aren't happy about them either. I have always been against more government interference in personal privacy, but that is hardly a big issue here. Nor is the use of surveillance cameras in general. They are not being installed in living rooms — just in the places where a lot of innocent people are terrorized.
San Francisco, reputedly one of the nation’s most technologically advanced towns, lags well behind big cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles in using the electronic eyes as a crime deterrent. Those cities have had success in reducing crime — which is why they have put cameras in hot spots. Some San Francisco officials have their knickers in a twist over a desire to install less than 100. Supervisor Jake McGoldrick called the installation of surveillance cameras a “case of mistaken strategy...The mayor says he’s doing 50 other [things] to fight crime and I think he should focus on the other 49,” McGoldrick said.
And while I can applaud his unshakeable ideological stance, it flies in the face of reason. Surveillance cameras are so ubiquitous in our daily lives, we’ve come to take them for granted. There is hardly a place where anyone can go today where they aren’t electronically monitored — department stores, supermarkets, ATMs, elevators. In a post-9/11 world, is anyone really objecting that cameras have become a security staple on transportation lines, including BART and Muni?" More from The Examiner. . . [Michele Berry]
Northwestern LawProf Anthony D'Amato's essay Porn Up, Rape Down is taking a beating by scholars who call the essay "jingoist zealotry" based on statistics that "don't reflect what is truly happening in sex related crimes." According to Dr. Judith Reisman, president of the Institute for Media Education and author of Kinsey, Crimes, & Consequences, rape stats may be lower, but the reduction is a consequence of unreported incidents and law enforcement agencies either under-reporting their crime stats to the FBI or reclassifying sex crimes with "non-crime codes." More from WorldNetDaily. . . [Michele Berry]
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Fromdeathpenaltyinfor.org/ojp.usdoj.gov: According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics Report released on September 10, violent crime in the United States decreased slightly in 2005, continuing a decade-long trend in fewer victimizations. Comparing two-year periods, violent crime was lowest in the Northeast region of the country in 2004-05, and that region also experienced the largest decrease in violent crime from 2002-03 to 2004-05. Since 1993, violent crime has decreased by about 58% in the U.S.
The BJS survey of crime victimization does not include homicides. However, the report did cite figures from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report for 2004 and preliminary numbers for 2005. In that survey, the national murder rate decreased by 2.4% in 2004, but increased by 4.8% in 2005. Blacks and whites were about equally represented among victims of homicide. More. . . [Mark Godsey]