CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, November 11, 2006

CrimProf Philip Heymann is Surprised by FBI's New War Against Political Corruption

Heyman03From Harvard University Law School CrimProf and former Justice Department Criminal Division Chief Philip Heymann discusses the New FBI Criminal Division Chief's plan to stop corruption in Congress. 

The new chief of the FBI’s Criminal Division says they might run an undercover sting on Congress. So much evidence of wrongdoing is surfacing in the nation’s capital that the FBI has also recently committed to adding a fourth 15- to 20-member public corruption squad to the FBI’s Washington field office.

CrimProf Heymann, who oversaw the Abscam investigation as chief of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division during the Carter administration, expressed surprise to learn of the FBI’s willingness to attempt another congressional sting after the outcry from Capitol Hill over Abscam.

“It shows courage at the FBI,” said Heymann. He said he concluded, after watching a recent public television documentary and listening to experts, that “there is more corruption (on Capitol Hill) than I ever thought imaginable” and that a single FBI sting “might result in very large numbers of prosecutions.” Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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

Friday, November 10, 2006

CrimProf Spotlight: Sandra Guerra Thompson

SandrathompsonThis week the CrimProf Blog spotlights CrimProf Sandra Guerra Thompson of The University of Houston School of Law.

Professor Sandra Guerra Thompson is a graduate of Yale University, where she earned a B.A. in Economics in 1985 and a J.D. from the Yale Law School in 1988. She served as an Assistant District Attorney in the New York County (Manhattan) District Attorney's Office where she practiced both trial and appellate criminal law from 1988-1990.

She joined the faculty of the University of Houston Law Center in 1990. She teaches Criminal Law, Federal Criminal Law, Evidence, Criminal Procedure, Sentencing, and Prisoners' Rights and Prison Reform. She was also Director of the Mexican Legal Studies Program in 2000, and taught a course for that program called "Criminal Law Issues in U.S.-Mexico Relations."

Professor Thompson has authored numerous articles on criminal law issues, focusing especially on drug sentencing, asset forfeiture and federal law enforcement. She has co-authored a treatise entitled, "The Law of Asset Forfeiture." Professor Thompson's service activities have included serving as the co-principal investigator for the University of Houston Law Center Keck Professionalism Initiative. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute and was appointed to the Board of Advisors for the American Law Institute's project entitled "Model Penal Code: Sentencing."

She has served on the planning committee for the Houston Bar Association's Criminal Bench-Bar Conference. She is a long-standing member of the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Bar Association. She is a former Chair of the Criminal Justice Section of the Association of American Law Schools.

November 10, 2006 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Thursday, November 9, 2006

China Convicts all but 0.66% of Criminal Defendants

From China, with a judicial system widely seen as designed only for conviction, has found nearly all six million defendants in criminal cases guilty in the past nine years, state media said on Thursday.

Human rights groups have accused Beijing of lagging far behind international standards on criminal justice with widespread police torture, lack of due process in court trials and the absence of presumption of innocence.

Chinese newspapers regularly report details of a defendant's guilt before a verdict has been reached, and courts are commonly viewed as venues merely for passing sentence.

"A total of 41,038 people have been acquitted from January 1998 to September 2006, accounting for 0.66 percent of the 6.2 million defendants in criminal cases that have closed,'' the People's Court Daily said. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 9, 2006 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Police Reports Indicate 7 Year Old Gangsters in Charlotte

From  Police have documented more than 1,600 gang members and 115 different gangs in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Police also said they have documented gang members in Charlotte as young as 7 years old.

The number of crimes attributed to gangs is on the rise, Fran Cook, head of Gang of One, the police department's anti-gang program, told parents and community activists during a community workshop last week.

Kids are also getting into gangs at a much younger age, often during middle-school years. It's not that they're looking to commit crimes, police officers and youth workers say. Many of them are isolated, either by poverty, by language or by neglect, and are looking for somewhere to belong.

Police Chief Darrel Stephens explained it this way in an interview last year. "The breeding ground for gangs is non-supervised out-of-school time," he told a reporter, and many young people at risk of gang involvement are simply "looking for companionship and substitutes for engaged parents."

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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

Federal Judge Halts Enforcement of Jessica's Law Based on Constitutionality

From U.S District Court Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco on Wednesday halted enforcement of a Jessica's Law intended, among other provisions, to bar sex offenders from living near California's parks and schools.

One day after 70 percent of voters passed it, Illston ruled a controversial provision of Proposition 83 -- also known as Jessica's Law -- had a ``substantial likelihood'' of being unconstitutional.

Banishing a sex offender from living in his or her home could be ``punitive in design and effect'' and deprive the already-punished offender of their rights, Illston said in ruling on a lawsuit filed by an anonymous sex offender who lives in the Bay Area.

A full hearing on the matter is scheduled for Nov. 27. If Illston finds the law is indeed unconstitutional, it could protect the 60,000-plus offenders already living throughout the state from having to comply with the restriction.

Legal challenges were widely expected against the proposition, which has caused much confusion over its legality, practicality, cost and effectiveness in stopping predatory sex crimes against children. Critics have said the 2,000-foot ``Predator Free Zones'' would push thousands of sex offenders out of cities and into homelessness or underground. More lawsuits are likely to be filed in coming weeks against other facets of the proposition, which also requires electronic monitoring of offenders. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

PA Appoints First Dog Law Prosecutor in Effort to Stop Puppy Mills

PuppyFrom Former assistant district attorney Jeffrey Paladina is Pennsylvania's first special prosecutor for dog-law enforcement.

Much of his work on the new job will involve the administrative appeals of kennels that have had their state operating licenses revoked. He also expects to be involved in the state's proposed crackdown on unlicensed kennels. Mr. Paladina will also be prosecuting animal cruelty cases according to Jessie Smith, named to the newly created post of special deputy secretary for dog law enforcement.

Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states that have the dubious distinction of being targeted by a number of animal rights groups for operating puppy mills. Puppy mills are breeding facilities that raise hundreds of puppies -- or more -- per year. Such puppies are raised in kennels, not in the homes of the breeder. Critics charge that the puppies are not properly socialized or handled, which can result in personality and temperament problems, and do not receive good veterinary care.

The appointment of Mr. Paladina and Ms. Smith are part of what the governor earlier in October called "proposed sweeping changes to the state's dog law and related state regulations to improve the conditions under which dogs are bred and sold in Pennsylvania." 

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 8, 2006 in Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Texas Death Row Inmates Are On A Hunger Strike

From Likening themselves to prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, a dozen inmates on death row in Texas have staged hunger strikes over the last month to protest what they call abusive conditions, including 23 hours a day of isolation in their cells.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said that the first inmates began refusing food Oct. 8 and that two were still on hunger strikes in the Polunsky prison unit in Livingston, about 45 miles east of the execution unit in Huntsville. The Polunsky Unit houses death-row inmates until their executions. As of Tuesday, one inmate had missed 35 consecutive meals and one 17 meals, but no one has yet been force-fed, said a department spokeswoman, Michelle Lyons.

Two other prisoners who had not eaten since Oct. 8 began taking food Oct. 27 and Nov. 4, Ms. Lyons said, and others abandoned their protests after a short time.

But Vickie McCuistion, program coordinator of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said some inmates had been reported as eating when they were still refusing food. Ms. Lyons said that a prisoner needed to miss nine meals to be considered on hunger strike and that some who had refused meals had eaten snacks at visiting sessions.

“Either conditions will improve, or we will starve to death,” vowed one of the first hunger strikers, Steven Woods, in an Internet posting put up by groups opposed to the death penalty. Since death row was moved from an older and more open facility in 2000, he said, “We lost all our group recreation, art programs, and supplies” in addition to “work programs, televisions and religious services.” Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 8, 2006 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

California Votes For Lifetime Satellite Monitoring of Sex Offenders

From An initiative cracking down on sex offenders won a resounding victory Tuesday in California. Known as "Jessica's Law" for child victim Jessica Lunsford, the measure will require more prison time, lifetime satellite monitoring and new limitations on how close sex offenders can live to schools or parks.

Proponents said the initiative would save lives. It includes sentences of 15 years to life for crimes such as rape and child molestation.

Opponents countered that much of what's in Proposition 83 is covered by recent legislation, and that the costs of monitoring tracking devices worn by offenders and building and maintaining institutions would be too high. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 8, 2006 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Marijuana Delivery: A Growing Trend With NYC's Elite

From In a city where you can get just about anything delivered to your door — groceries, dry cleaning, Chinese food — pot smokers are increasingly ordering takeout marijuana from drug rings that operate with remarkable corporate-style attention to customer satisfaction.

An untold number of otherwise law-abiding professionals in New York City are having their pot delivered to their homes instead of visiting drug dens or hanging out on street corners.

The phenomenon isn't new. It has long been the case around the country that those with enough money and the right connections could get cocaine or other drugs discreetly delivered to their homes and places of business.

But experts say home delivery has been growing in popularity, thanks to a shrewder, corporate style of dealing designed to put customers at ease and avoid the messy turf wars associated with other drugs. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 7, 2006 in Drugs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Article Spotlight: Extraordinary Crimes at Ordinary Times: International Justice Beyond Crisis Situations

SonjaFrom Climenko Fellow at Harvard Law School and aspiring CrimProf Sonja Starr recently published "Extraordinary Crimes at Ordinary Times: International Justice Beyond Crisis Situations."  Here is the abstract:

International criminal tribunals have focused exclusively on crimes arising from crisis situations - war crimes and mass atrocities. International criminal law scholarship has generally taken this crisis focus for granted, emphasizing the objectives of transitional justice in the wake of extraordinary social upheaval. Meanwhile, extremely serious crimes committed on a longer-term, daily basis have been excluded from the agenda of international criminal law.

This article examines the history and impact of this crisis emphasis and explores alternative approaches in light of tribunals' institutional capacities and resource constraints. Using the principal example of catastrophic "grand" governmental corruption, it makes a practical, theoretical, and doctrinal case for international prosecution of some non-crisis-linked crimes, and concludes that tribunals' exclusive crisis focus is indefensible as a permanent condition.

However, for reasons of legitimacy and political strategy, it recommends a gradual approach toward expanding that focus, taking advantage of the transformative effect of crises in building acceptance of legal principles that can then be applied in other situations. [Mark Godsey]

November 7, 2006 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Poll Volunteer Turned Violent in Kentucky

From A poll worker in south Louisville, Kentucky was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with assault and interfering with an election, an official said.

Paula McCraney, a spokeswoman for the Jefferson County Clerk, said the poll worker was accused of choking and pushing the voter out of the door. Election officials called the police and when an officer arrived, the voter wanted to press charges. 

It was one of a few problems reported around the state with polling places as the future is decided for candidates for about 4,000 elected positions around Kentucky.

Other problems in Jefferson County included two polling places that opened about 20 minutes late, said Les Fugate a spokesman for Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson. In central Kentucky's Bourbon County, a school board race was inadvertently left off the ballot in two precincts, requiring the county clerk to make paper ballots on the spot, Fugate said. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 7, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 6, 2006

Easing the Stress of Death: Inmates Often Recieve Anti-Anxiety Drugs Before Execution

From At least 19 of the country's 38 death penalty states offer sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs to condemned inmates before execution.

Though the practice does not violate national ethics standards for doctors and nurses who prescribe or administer the sedatives, it makes some death penalty opponents uneasy.

Condemned inmates in 11 states have received sedatives or anti-anxiety drugs before executions going back at least 12 years, according to a review by The Associated Press. Four death penalty states prohibit the drugs, including Texas, which has the country's busiest execution chamber.

Eight of 24 inmates put to death since Ohio resumed executions in 1999 took medication before they died by injection, according to logs of each prisoner's last 24 hours, which were obtained through a public-records request by the AP. Five inmates declined the drugs, and records don't indicate if drugs were offered in the remaining cases. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 6, 2006 in Drugs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

SCOTUS Will Hear Alphonso v. U.S. Today

Supreme_court_20_8The Supreme Court will hear Alphonso v. U.S. today.

Question presented: Whether the 11th Circuit erred by holding that all convictions in Florida for attempted burglary qualify as a violent felony under 18 U.S.C. sec. 924(e)?

Details. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 6, 2006 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

SCOTUS Will Hear Burton v. Waddington Today

Supreme_court_20_7The Supreme Court will hear the oral argument in Burton v. Waddington today.

Questions presented: (1) Is the holding in Blakely v. Washington a new rule or was it dictated by Apprendi v. New Jersey? (2) If Blakely is a new rule, does its requirement that facts resulting in an enhanced statutory maximum be proved beyond a reasonable doubt apply retroactively?  Details. . . [Mark Godsey] 

November 6, 2006 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 5, 2006

This Week's Top Five Crim Papers

Ssrn_17The top 5 crim papers for this week, with number of recent downloads, from SSRN are:

(1) 204 The Fourth Amendment in Cyberspace: Can Encryption Create a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy?
Orin S. Kerr,
George Washington University - Law School,
Date posted to database: September 4, 2006
Last Revised: September 5, 2006
(2) 146 Therapeutic Jurisprudence and Readiness for Rehabilitation
David B. Wexler,
University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law,
Date posted to database: September 8, 2006
Last Revised: September 14, 2006
(3) 86 Structural Reform Prosecution
Brandon L. Garrett,
University of Virginia - School of Law,
Date posted to database: September 20, 2006
Last Revised: September 24, 2006
(4) 52 The Constitutional Infirmity of Warrantless NSA Surveillance: The Abuse of Presidential Power and the Injury to the Fourth Amendment
Robert M. Bloom, William J. Dunn,
Boston College - Law School, Boston College Law School,
Date posted to database: August 29, 2006
Last Revised: August 29, 2006
(5) 50 Whimsical Punishment: The Vice of Federal Intervention, Constitutionalization, and Substantive Due Process in Punitive Damages Law
Jenny Miao Jiang,
University of California, Berkeley - School of Law (Boalt Hall),
Date posted to database: October 12, 2006
Last Revised: October 30, 2006

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

SCOTUS to Hear Wallace v. Kato Today

Supreme_court_20_3Today the Supreme Court will here the oral argument in the Wallace v. Kato case. 

Question presented: When does a claim for damages arising out of a false arrest or other search or seizure forbidden by the 4th Amendment accrue when the fruits of the search were introduced in a person's criminal trial and he was convicted?
Details. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 5, 2006 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Andrew D. Levy Discusses Defense Strategies Behind Request for Unsealing Child Records

AlevyFrom University of Maryland School of Law CrimProf Andrew D. Levy discusses the possible reason the attorney representing a 35-year-old Harford County man accused in the killing of an Baltimore woman asked that records documenting childhood abuse and neglect of the suspect be unsealed.

A grand jury recently indicted Charles Eugene Burns in the killing of Lillian Abramowicz Phelps, 43, of Elkton. Her body was one of four found in remote areas around Aberdeen in recent months - crimes that authorities have said might be linked.

In a motion, the defense asked a judge to unseal records from the Harford County Department of Social Services describing abuse and neglect of Burns as a minor. A family member said that Burns' biological mother had several children and was unable to care for him. Burns bounced from home to home before being adopted, the family member said. 

Levy said the motion could indicate that the defense is considering an insanity defense in the assault cases. "It's possible that they are at least considering or investigating whether there is a possibility of an insanity defense," Levy said. "Evidence of his terrible childhood would not be admissible on the issue of whether he committed these murders." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 5, 2006 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)