CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, October 14, 2006

CrimProf Deborah Ahrens Comments on the Transfer of Youths from Juvenile to Adult Prisons

AhrensFrom University of South Carolina School of Law CrimProf Deborah Ahrens recently commented on the transfer of a South Carolina youth from juvenile detention to adult prison.

Christopher Pittman's appeals to halt his transfer from a juvenile facility were rejected by the state Supreme Court and Gov. Mark Sanford this week. Pittman was 12 when he shot his grandparents while they slept and then set fire to their Chester County home. He is now 17 years old.

"We know from studies that have looked at this that children prosecuted as adults ... have a much higher rate of recidivism," said Deborah Ahrens, a visiting criminal law professor at the University of South Carolina. "Adult prisons just don't know what to do with these kids."

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 14, 2006 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 13, 2006

CrimProf Spotlight: Phyllis Goldfarb

Goldfarb3This week the Crimprof Blog spotlights Boston College Law School CrimProf Phyllis Goldfarb.

Phyllis Goldfarb joined the Boston College Law School faculty in 1986, becoming an associate professor with tenure in 1991 and a full professor in 1997. She has directed and administered the Criminal Process clinical program, developing and teaching a curriculum relating to students' criminal practice as they prosecute or defend cases in local criminal courts. She has also taught Criminal Procedure, Gender and Legal Theory, Death Penalty, and Introduction to Lawyering and Professional Responsibility.

Before her arrival at BCLS, Goldfarb taught at Northern Illinois University College of Law where she designed and taught in their first clinical program, the Appellate Defender Clinic. From 1982-1984, she was an E. Barrett Prettyman Fellow in Criminal Trial Advocacy and served as a supervising attorney and classroom instructor in the Juvenile Justice Clinic while earning an L.L.M. from Georgetown University. She has also taught courses at Georgetown University Law Center and at the University of Paris X, in Nanterre, France.

Goldfarb's scholarly focus is on the relationship between law practice and legal theory and the lessons this relationship holds for legal education. Although her publications and presentations have addressed divergent topics such as criminal procedure, jurisprudence, feminist theory, domestic violence, and clinical education, she consistently attempts to improve legal and pedagogical methods by addressing the contexts within which legal conflicts arise.

During her tenure as a professor, Goldfarb has represented a number of clients on a pro bono basis, including a Rhode Island woman seeking post-conviction relief from a possibly erroneous first degree murder conviction, a Georgia death row inmate, and one of the Framingham Eight, a group of women incarcerated in Massachusetts for killing their batterers. Aided by a team of BCLS faculty, students and alumni whom she had organized to assist in the Framingham Eight representation, she obtained parole for her client in 1995.

Based on her work with the Framingham Eight, Goldfarb wrote "Describing Without Circumscribing: Questioning the Construction of Gender in the Discourse of Intimate Violence," (George Washington Law Review 582-631, 1996). In it, she examined the unexamined gender assumptions within the dominant rhetoric of domestic violence and suggested ways to improve how people think and talk about it. She has also written "A Theory-Practice Spiral: The Ethics of Feminism and Clinical Education," (75 Minnesota Law Review 1599-1699, July, 1991) and a number of other articles as well

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

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The U.S. Lets the Dogs Out on Domestic Prisoners

Dog_1From Dogs are allowed to terrify and even bite unruly prisoners who refuse to leave their cells in five U.S. states, a human rights group report recently stated, comparing the policy to abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

If prisoners refuse to leave their cells when ordered in Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, South Dakota and Utah, officers may bring a dog to the cell "to terrify the prisoner into compliance," the 20-page report said.

If an inmate still refuses, the dog is allowed to bite. As the prisoner struggles to fend it off, officers restrain and then remove the prisoner from the cell, the report said.

"In some prisons ... the institutional culture permits cell extractions simply to show inmates 'who's in charge' or to retaliate against defiant inmates, even if there is no real emergency," the report said. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 12, 2006 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

SF Mayor Plans to Stop Trafficking of Women

From San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is developing a plan to fine and possibly jail landlords who let massage parlors operate as brothels in their buildings. His proposal is modeled after a similar effort in New York state that stemmed the illegal trafficking of women from other countries to work as sex slaves.

"It's time to let these traffickers know San Francisco is not the city to be operating in," Newsom said.

His idea is one of several options city leaders are considering to curb the illegal sex trade in San Francisco, part of the growing $8 billion international trafficking industry. City Hall also is preparing a public-awareness campaign for bus shelters and billboards, and Supervisor Fiona Ma wants a one-year moratorium on any new massage parlors in the city. Newsom said he's even open to the idea of putting pictures of johns on billboards -- something that has been tried in Oakland.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 12, 2006 in Sex | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Need a Gun?. . . Go to Washington State

From Washington is one of the more liberal states in the country when it comes to regulating citizens who want to carry a concealed weapon, experts say. The law, often referred to as a "shall issue" law, requires law-enforcement agencies to issue a concealed-weapons permit to all citizens who meet a specific list of requirements.

To carry a concealed pistol in Washington, applicants must be at least 21 years old, have no outstanding warrants, no felony convictions and no conviction or pending trial or sentence for fourth-degree assault, coercion, stalking, second-degree reckless endangerment, first-degree criminal trespass or violation of a protective order against a family member. The permit covers concealed handguns.

Though some states require that applicants complete training to carry a concealed pistol on themselves or in a car, Washington state has no such regulations. There is a background check, and licenses must be renewed after five years. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 12, 2006 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Face off: Strict Parole Boards v. Growing Parole Defense Bar

From The National Law Journal: Parole boards nationwide have become less generous with granting discretionary parole, denying nearly 80 percent of prisoners' requests in 2003, compared with 45 percent in 1980, according to the Department of Justice. But despite the dire statistics, a rush of court actions may be changing the odds. Parolees facing parole boards that are tough on crime are making headway in some federal and state courts with the help of parole defense attorneys.

Here are some current/recent actions:

In California, parolees got a boost from a 2005 lawsuit in which a federal judge held that parolees on revocation charges are entitled to legal representation and a timely hearing. Valdivia v. Schwarzenegger, No. 94-0671 (E.D. Calif.). Also in California, three law firms recently filed a class action in federal court against the California Board of Parole and state juvenile justice department, alleging that they systematically violate the constitutional rights of juvenile parolees in revocation proceedings. LH v. Schwarzenegger, No. S-06-2042 (E.D. Calif.). Finally, the California Association of Parole Defense Attorneys has grown from 20 members to over 100 members in the past three years.

In New York, a team of three solo practitioners has filed a class action against the New York State Board of Parole, alleging that the board has unfairly denied parole to scores of prisoners. The state sought a motion to dismiss, but it was recently denied. Graziano v. Pataki, No. 06 CIV 00480 (S.D.N.Y.). Also in New York, a growing number of state court judges are intervening in parole matters, ordering parole boards to rehear cases where they felt parole was unfairly denied. A judge recently ordered the board to rehear the case of a woman who plead guilty of second-degree murder 23 years ago and who had been denied parole four times, despite her "rehabilitation and exemplary record."

In Michigan, a class action is pending against the state parole board on behalf of 800 prisoners who allegedly have unfairly been denied parole. Foster-Bey v. Rubitschun, No. 05-CV-71318-DT (E.D. Mich.). More. . . [Michele Berry]

October 12, 2006 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Michigan: Graphic Crime Scene Photos Admissible

In Michigan, a Macomb County Circuit judge ruled this morning that graphic crime scene photos can be admitted as evidence against an accused murderer.  The defense attorney, of course, argued that the photos would prejudice the jury against his client, while the prosecutor argued that the jury needed to see the photos.   

Crime scene photos, like other forms of demonstrative evidence, are routinely the subject of 403 objections, but in most circuits, typically the gruesome nature of the photo isn't enough to render the photo inadmissible; the analysis usually hinges on whether the photo is relevant to a disputed point or assists a jury in a factual determination.  For example, in this case, graphic photos were admissible because the defendant was charged with mayhem and the photos related to an element of mayhem, which requires a showing that the body was seriously disfigured by mutilation. Here's another case collecting some law (which may not be current) from various circuits about the admissibility of graphic photographs. [None of the above is legal advice] [Michele Berry]

October 12, 2006 in Evidence | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

SCOTUS Heard Thomas v Musladin Yesterday

Supreme_court_20_4Yesterday the Supreme Court heard the oral argument in the Thomas v Musladin case.

Question presented: In the absence of controlling Supreme Court law, did the 9th Circuit exceed its authority under 28 U.S.C. sec. 2254(d)(1) by overturning Musladin's state conviction of murder on the ground that the courtroom spectators indluced three family members of the victim who wore buttons depicting the decesaed? Details. . . [Mark Godsey]  And here's some commentary from NPR

October 12, 2006 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

BJS Report: Majority of Inmates Abused Drugs Before Prison

p The latest Bureau of Justice Statistical Report presents data from the 2004 Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities on prisoners' prior use, dependence, and abuse of illegal drugs. Tables include trends in the levels of drug use, type of drugs used, and treatment reported by State and Federal prisoners since the last national survey was conducted in 1997. The report also presents measures of dependence and abuse by gender, race, Hispanic origin, and age. It provides data on the levels of prior drug use (with an in-depth look at methamphetamine use), dependence, and abuse by selected characteristics, such as family background, criminal record, type of drug used, and offense.

Highlights include the following:

  • Among drug dependent or abusing prisoners, 40% of State and 49% of Federal inmates took part in drug abuse treatment or programs since admission to prison.
  • Among both State and Federal prisoners, white inmates were at least 20 times more likely than black inmates to report recent methamphetamine use.
  • Violent offenders in State prison (50%) were less likely than drug (72%) and property (64%) offenders to have used drugs in the month prior to their offense.

Get Report. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 11, 2006 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

University of Chicago CrimProf's Client Recieves $1 Million for Wrongful Conviction

FuttermanAttorneys have reached a one million dollar settlement with the Chicago Police for Corethian Bell, a mentally disabled man who was coerced into confessing to the murder of his mother and spent 17 months in Cook County Jail for a crime he did not commit.

"This settlement helps to return some dignity to a man who was cruelly accused of killing his mother despite any evidence linking him to the heinous crime," said University of Chicago School of Law Clinical CrimProf Craig Futterman, who is also Bell's attorney at the Edwin F. Mandell Clinic at the Law School "Corethian's case has been a shocking example of police abuse and misconduct, and it's only right and fair that he be compensated for the egregious mishandling of the interrogation and subsequent investigation. We're extremely happy to find some justice for Corethian today."

Bell, a man with mental illness, found his murdered mother in her apartment on July 16, 2000, and immediately called the police to report the crime. He was wrongly charged in her murder after he gave a video taped confession that Chicago police elicited after more than 50 hours of interrogation during which Bell repeatedly said he did not commit the crime. The police had no evidence that Bell committed the murder.

Bell then spent 17 months in Cook County Jail while the case was pending. The Cook County State's attorney eventually dropped the charges against Bell after DNA evidence proved his innocence.

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

SCOTUS Hears Arguments on "Victim Buttons"

Today the Supreme Court heard arguments on whether a crime victim's family has the right to sit in court wearing buttons with pictures of the victim. The accused murderer's conviction was thrown out because the buttons may have had a prejudicial effect on the jury. Listen to commentary on . . [Michele Berry]

October 11, 2006 in Due Process, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"What Would Warren Do?"

From Commentator Jim Newton says that for the Supreme Court this session, the most urgent issue it will face this session is freedom during wartime. Jim Newton is the author of the book Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made. Listen to commentary here on the topic. . .  Find a collection of other articles on homeland security, detentions, search & seizure, and confessions & interrogation here and here. [Michele Berry]

October 11, 2006 in Homeland Security, Search and Seizure, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

SCOTUS Reviews CA's Sentencing Rules; CrimProf Jeffrey Fisher Weighs in

Today the Supreme Court heard the case Cunningham v. California.  The Court reviewed whether California's Determinate Sentencing Law, by permitting judges to impose enhanced (upper term) sentences based on determination of facts not found by jury or admitted by the defendant, violates the 6th and 14th Amendments. 

John Cunningham, a former Richmond police officer, was sentenced to a 16 year prision term for sexually abusing his son.  Under California's determinate sentencing law, which dates back to 1977, all felonies except murder and a few others punishable by up to life in prison are subject to three possible sentences. For Cunningham's crime, continuous sexual abuse of a child, the options are 6, 12 or 16 years. The defendant must be sentenced to the middle term unless the judge justifies the higher or lower term by finding specific factors. Only about 15 percent of defendants sentenced in California are in Cunningham's category -- those whose judges chose the longest of three possible sentences prescribed by a verdict. But according to Stanford CrimProf Jeffrey Fisher, the judge's power to select that term, based on information that never goes before a jury, gives prosecutors in many other cases leverage in charging decisions and plea-bargain negotiations.  CrimProf Fisher, who filed arguements supporting John Cunningham, says a ruling in Cunningham's favor will affect most felony prosecutions in the state.  More on the case. . . [Michele Berry]

October 11, 2006 in CrimProfs, Sentencing Corrections, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Texas: Project Pretty in Pink Blushes Would-be Criminals into Submission

If you've read the recent fashion magazines, you may have read that there's something "alluring" about the color pink.  Psychologically, it's known to have "calming effect."  It's complimentary to most skin tones, and a "man who wears pink exudes confidence, yet is sensitive."

Well, Sheriff Clint Low of Mason County, Texas was either reading Mens Fashion or dabbling in psychology when he came up with this bright idea for deterring repeat offenders--he bought pink jumpsuits for inmates in the county jail and painted the inside of the jail pink. (No word as to whether that's pastel or neon). Since "Project Pretty in Pink" (not the real name), he has estimated that repeat crime is down 70 percent.  But if what they say is true and real men aren't afraid to wear pink, what does that say about the men in Texas!?  Just kidding. But, while I'm all for crime deterrence, I do find myself questioning whether the county jail color scheme and wardrobe is in the forefront of the true criminal mind. [Michele Berry]

October 11, 2006 in Law Enforcement, News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Supreme Court Will Decide UT Law Capital Punishment Clinic Case

Jsteikersg The U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in a University of Texas at Austin School of Law Capital Punishment Clinic's case, agreeing on Friday to review a decision by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. This case marks the third time in three years that the Capital Punishment Clinic, ran by CrimProfs Rob Owen, Jordan Steiker, and Jim Marcus, will litigate in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case, Smith v. Texas, involves a Dallas County inmate, Laroyce Smith, who was sentenced to death in 1991. At Smith's trial, his defense counsel presented extensive mitigating evidence regarding Smith's intellectual impairments, learning Owen_robert disabilities, placement in special education, and difficult family background.

After he was convicted, Smith argued in state court habeas proceedings that the sentencing instructions did not allow jurors to consider such evidence, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed in a 2004 decision (Smith v. Texas, 543 U.S. 37). On remand, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals nonetheless concluded that Smith's death sentence could stand. It is that decision that the U.S. Supreme Court will review this Term.

Professor Steiker describes the current Supreme Court case "as involving an issue as old as the Constitution: whether state courts must adhere to the spirit and letter of decisions of the United States Supreme Court." Steiker and the clinic supervisors will involve students in the difficult task of briefing the case for the Court and preparing for the staggering range of federal and state issues that bear on the resolution of the case. [Mark Godsey]

October 10, 2006 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Release of "Relief from the Collateral Consequences of Conviction"

Attorney Margy Love recently released Relief from the Collateral Consequences of Conviction: A State-by-State Resource Guide.  Here is the summary:

The guide is the first comprensive survey U.S. laws and practices that allow an ex-offender to overcome or mitigate the collateral legal consequences of a criminal conviction. 

It begins with short analytical pieces on executive pardon, judicial expungement and sealing, deferred adjudication and set-aside, certificates of rehabilitation, and laws that limit consideration of conviction in connection with employment and licensing.  The heart of the guide is its detailed descriptions for each U.S. jurisdiction of available relief mechanisms and how they operate.  Also included are charts that allow easy state-to-state comparisons.

The guide is an invaluable resource for policymakers and researchers dealing with the legal barriers to offender reentry, and for practitioners at every level of the justice system, and for offenders who are trying to put their past behind them.  Check it out. . . [Mark Godsey] 

October 10, 2006 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Death Penalty Urged For Child Molesters

From With the election just a month away, politicians examining ways to stop violent sexual offenders from striking again are increasingly calling for laws that would allow states to execute repeat child molesters.

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is the latest to join the effort, proposing a plan Oct. 3 that would require a minimum mandatory prison sentence of 25 years for first-time offenders and the possibility of death for a second conviction.

In recent months, similar ideas have been pushed by lawmakers in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and even Minnesota, which doesn't have the death penalty. Most are modeled after Florida's Jessica's Law, a child-protection measure named for 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who was raped and killed by a registered sex offender in 2005. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 10, 2006 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 9, 2006

The University of Colorado School of Law Hosts "Cautions and Confessions: Miranda vs. Arizona After 40 Years"

The University of Colorado School of Law is hosting the Conference, "Cautions and Confessions: Miranda vs. Arizona After 40 Years," on October 20-21.

This conference will commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the Miranda decision with presentations of cutting-edge research and commentary by social scientists, historians, legal scholars, and judges on confessions, pre-trial investigative tactics, and the impact of Miranda on criminal procedure.

Nationally renowned experts in the field will address a variety of topics including: interrogation law during the War on Terror; the potential for technology, including videotaping, to make interrogation less coercive; whether Miranda is either doctrinally coherent or successful in protecting suspects' rights; and the nature of interrogations and confessions in the 18th and 19th centuries.   

Yale Kamisar will present the Keynote Address. Other scheduled speakers are Albert Alschuler, Margareth Etienne, Mark Godsey, Judge Morris Hoffman, Richard Leo, Wesley Oliver, John Parry, Jacqueline Ross, Bruce Smith, George Thomas III, Melissa Waters.  The commentators will be
Stephanos Bibas, William Pizzi, Michael Radelet, Carolyn Ramsey, and Bruce Smith.

More Information. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 9, 2006 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NYC Leads the Fight Against Flashers and Gropers with "Operation Exposure"

From Lewd public behavior — especially in the cramped confines of a subway car — has long been regarded as a quotidian hassle of New York living. But lately there are signs that the city is no longer taking it in stride, with the police and citizens turning their attention to exposing the culprits.

In the last few months, the New York Police Department has orchestrated undercover stings — including one called "Operation Exposure" — to catch gropers and flashers in the act.

With subway crime down overall this year — a 19% drop over last year — the transit bureau has been able to devote more resources to targeting lewd behavior, and now regularly deploys plainclothes officers onto the trains to look for gropers and flashers. In some cases, men have been caught after fondling female officers posing as businesswomen.

This year, police have made 245 arrests for forcible touching, lewd behavior or sexual abuse on the subways — an increase of 131% over last year. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 9, 2006 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Program Gives Arizona Prisoners the Victim's Perspective

From The Arizona Prsion System has started a pilot program to show inmates the impact of their crimes and to help them see the consequences from a victim's perspective.

Officials say the voluntary program not only could prevent inmates from committing new crimes when they are released but also be healing for victims. The program, called the Impact of Crime on Victims, is being piloted in six of Arizona's 10 prisons. It is expected to go statewide by the end of the year.

The program is part of a larger Restorative Justice initiative that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by crime and is becoming increasingly popular at prisons across the country. The idea is to create a different way of thinking about crime and to have offenders take responsibility for their actions and make amends for the harm they caused.

"For the inmate, it is frequently quite startling," state Corrections Director Dora Schriro said. "They begin to appreciate that their conduct has had profound impact on others, and it has not been good, and it lasts a long, long time." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 9, 2006 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)