Monday, April 30, 2007
From washingtonpost.com: The Supreme Court today handed an important victory to police officers who are involved in high-speed chases, and took the unusual step of posting a videotape of the chase on its Web site to show that the now-paralyzed civilian driver was to blame.
The court ruled 8-1 in Scott v Harris that Georgia deputy sheriff Timothy Scott could not be sued for the accident that left then 19-year-old Victor Harris a quadriplegic. The high-speed chase down dark highways in 2001 -- which ended when Scott rammed Harris' Cadillac from behind and sent him down an embankment -- was captured on videotape by a camera in one of the pursuing police vehicles.
"Far from being the cautious and controlled driver the lower court depicts, what we see on the video more closely resembles a Hollywood-style car chase of the most frightening sort, placing police officers and innocent bystanders alike at great risk of serious injury," wrote Justice Antonin Scalia.
Scalia was incredulous that the lower courts had said Harris's case against Scott could proceed.
But Justice John Paul Stevens said from the bench that it was preferrable to let a jury see the tape and decide the case, rather than "elderly appellate judges." Stevens is the oldest member of the court at 87.
He said the court had "usurped the jury's factfinding function."
In this case, both a lower court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled in favor of Harris. The 11th Circuit said that Scott's actions constituted deadly force and that it was unreasonable because the officer had no reason to think Harris had done anything more than violate traffic laws. The police gave chase because they clocked him going 73 mph in a 55-mph zone.
In their opinions, Scalia and Stevens got into a battle of footnotes, which Scalia said the public could decide.
"Justice Stevens suggest that our reaction to the videotape is somehow idiosyncratic, and seems to believe we are misrepresenting its contents," Scalia wrote. "We are happy to allow the videotape for itself."
There follows a highly unusual cite for a court that rarely releases audiotapes of its oral arguments and remains steadfastly opposed to cameras in its courtroom. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From washingtonpost.com: Black, Hispanic and white drivers are equally likely to be pulled over by police, but blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to be searched and arrested, a federal study found.
Police were much more likely to threaten or use force against blacks and Hispanics than against whites in any encounter, whether at a traffic stop or elsewhere, according to the Justice Department.
The study, released Sunday by the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, covered police contacts with the public during 2005 and was based on interviews by the Census Bureau with nearly 64,000 people age 16 or over.
"The numbers are very consistent" with those found in a similar study of police-public contacts in 2002, bureau statistician Matthew R. Durose, the report's co-author, said in an interview. "There's some stability in the findings over these three years."
Traffic stops have become a politically volatile issue. Minority groups have complained that many stops and searches are based on race rather than on legitimate suspicions. Blacks in particular have complained of being pulled over for simply "driving while black."
"The available data is sketchy but deeply concerning," said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP's Washington bureau. The civil rights organization has done its own surveys of traffic stops, and he said the racial disparities grow larger, the deeper the studies delve. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Fordham Law School CrimProf Ian Weinstein, director of the Fordham Law clinical legal education program, received the Award of Distinction for Innovation from NALP, the Association for Legal Career Professionals.
The award was presented at NALP's Annual Education Conference, held April 25-28 in Keystone, Colorado. Weinstein was recognized for his work in spearheading the lawclinic.tv vlog, an online video project that documented the educational experience of students in Fordham Law clinics during the summer and fall of 2006.
"Ian is an incredible attorney and professor, and the lawclinic.tv project is just one more example of his dedication," said Dean and Professor of Law William M. Treanor. "His creative use of emerging technology to expand our students' experience truly is innovative, and I'm so pleased he has been recognized with this award."
Fordham Law's live-client clinical program is ranked #15 in the nation by the U.S. News and World Report survey. The program includes 12 clinics, ranging from securities arbitration to international justice.
Fordham is ranked among the nation's top twenty-five law schools according to U.S. News & World Report and is one of the most selective in the country. It is home to seven legal specialty areas that are ranked among the nation's top 25. Located next to Manhattan's Lincoln Center, Fordham Law will celebrate its 100th graduation in May of this year.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
From washingtonpost.com: Drugs have been a persistent problem in Pin Point, Ga., a tiny rural settlement best known as the birthplace of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Neighborhood leaders tried everything to chase the scourge away -- a march, a warning sign along the main drag, even a pilgrimage by the local church congregation, which prayed for and sang hymns to the dealers one Sunday morning.
"The guys who were on the corner just walked away," said Bishop Thomas J. Sills, the pastor at Sweet Field of Eden Baptist Church. But they didn't stay gone.
One of the local dealers was Justice Clarence Thomas's nephew. Until his 30-year prison sentence began in 1999, Mark Elliot Martin, the son of Thomas's sister, had been part of Pin Point's drug problem. He had been in and out of trouble, and in and out of jail -- at least 12 arrests, according to court records. In 1997, the year Martin was convicted of pointing a pistol at another person, Thomas assumed custody of his nephew's son, with the nephew's permission. Mark Elliot Martin Jr. -- "Marky," they called him -- was a precocious, curly-haired 6-year-old. The justice promised to give Mark what Thomas's grandfather had given him at the same age -- opportunities to succeed beyond what the boy had in Pin Point.
When he began raising Mark -- Thomas has one adult son from a previous marriage -- he altered his Supreme Court schedule. He sent Mark to private schools, gave him extra homework to improve his math and reading, taught him to dribble with his left hand. And Mark responded. He excelled in school, became a Harry Potter fan and took up golf, and as a teenager he is comfortable around some of the most brilliant legal minds in the country. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From enquirer.com: Cincinnati's new plan to cut gun violence could hit its key phase in July: face-to-face meetings between Cincinnati criminals, their grandmothers and other influential people.
The most important part of the project will be involvement by neighborhood residents and their insistence not only that violence is wrong, but also "that the community needs it to stop," said crime expert David Kennedy.
Kennedy is the anthropologist credited with the "Boston miracle," which cut homicides there in the 1990s. The Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence copies his plan.
Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, explained his work for the first time Saturday to the public in Cincinnati at the second annual Community Problem Oriented Policing Summit.
In some communities in Cincinnati, Kennedy said, the violence will continue "until their own say to them, 'There is no excuse for this. We know you're better than this. We didn't raise you like this.' "
That word has to come not only from grandmothers, Kennedy said, but elders on their blocks, old ex-convicts, mothers of murdered children and mothers of killers.
Their message will be delivered something like this: About 20 "gang bangers" - one each from previously identified groups that are known to commit murders - will be called to a meeting by their parole or probation officers. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
More than 100 people attended the daylong symposium "Cross Examination: The Great Engine?" at the Widener Law Delaware campus on Friday, April 20. The event, sponsored by the law school and its student-run Widener Law Review, included six panel discussions featuring academics, practitioners and judges from around the country who examined the idea of cross-examination as an engine for determining truth.
Widener Law CrimProf Jules Epstein, an expert on mistaken identification, co-chaired the conference with Widener Professor John F. Nivala, director of the school's Advocacy and Technology Institute. Epstein made welcome remarks at the start of the day. "Courts nationally have said cross-examination is the fix-it," he said. "It won't always fix everything, but it is a powerful tool."
The day's topics of discussion included the history of adversary trials and development of cross-examination, cross-examination as art and the future of cross-examination.
Presenter Kimberlianne Podlas, Esq., assistant professor at University of North Carolina in Greensboro, discussed the effects television and the media have had on juries and what jurors expect from cross-examination. "Very few people have walked into a courtroom. Millions have seen one on TV," she said, adding that jurors bring their assumptions, gleaned from "Law and Order" and "CSI," with them to jury duty. In the future legal climate, Podlas said, cross-examination can take on a greater role of storyteller to the jury, as opposed to truth-finder for the case.
"Empirical research shows jurors come up with their verdicts based on stories," she said. [Mark Godsey]
Saturday, April 28, 2007
From NPR.com: Last week, the FBI did something unusual: It invited civil liberties groups to FBI headquarters to work on a draft of new guidelines for the use of National Security Letters. The letters are special subpoenas the FBI can issue, without a court order, that permit agents to search telephone, e-mail and financial records. Nobody expected to leave the room satisfied and happy, but just the fact that the two sides sat down together marked a big change. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
Friday, April 27, 2007
At first glance, David Chang’s reserved exterior belies the deep feelings he has for righting society’s wrongs, especially with regard to racial discrimination. But his passion and commitment to addressing these issues quickly become clear not only through his conversation and writings, but also through his actions.
Former cochair of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, Professor Chang worked hard to combat some of the City’s most heinous incidents of brutality and to push for legislative remedies through the passage of anti-hate crimes statutes.
“Hate-motivated violence is perhaps the most fundamental denial of community and human rights,” he says with conviction. He has written extensively on hate crimes legislation and the constitutionality of affirmative action policies, finding himself “almost obsessed with the problems of achieving racial justice in a fundamentally racist society.” He has also worked with the Los Angeles-based Center for Law in the Public Interest. He is now chairman of the Board of Directors of Pratt Area Community Council, an organization that serves a wide range of housing-related needs for low- and moderate-income residents of Brooklyn.
His scholarship has been recognized as outstanding. In 1992, New York Law School presented the Walter M. Jeffords Distinguished Writing Award to Professor Chang for his article, “Discriminatory Impact, Affirmative Action, and Innocent Victims: Judicial Conservatism or Conservative Justices?” (Columbia Law Review, 1991) and in 2001, the Otto L. Walter Distinguished Writing Award for his article, “Selling the Market-Driven Message: Commercial Television, Consumer Sovereignty, and the First Amendment” (Minnesota Law Review, 2000).
While at Yale Law School, where he received a J.D. in 1982, Professor Chang became interested in First Amendment issues and constitutional litigation, due in part to a summer internship with the in-house counsel at The Washington Post. He also realized during his first year at law school that he wanted to teach, finding his Yale professors inspiring. “I found that I enjoyed the academic approach to exploring questions; to coming up with better ways of thinking about problems,” he explains.
Professor Chang, who has been on the New York Law School faculty since 1983, brings this appreciation for intellectual development into his classroom.
“I am very impressed with New York Law School students, and find them serious and committed. Their accomplishments, especially among the Evening Division students, are often amazing,” he says.
Outside of academics, Professor Chang also has many passions, including restoration of his Victorian-style brownstone in Brooklyn, pool, golf, photography, and his dog Kenya. [Mark Godsey]
Thursday, April 26, 2007
From chicagotribune.com: Told to express emotion for a creative-writing class, high school senior Allen Lee penned an essay so disturbing to his teacher, school administrators and police that he was charged with disorderly conduct, officials said Wednesday.
Lee, 18, a straight-A student at Cary-Grove High School, was arrested Tuesday near his home and charged with the misdemeanor for an essay police described as violently disturbing but not directed toward any specific person or location.
Neither police nor the school would release a copy of the essay written Monday. School officials declined to say whether Lee had any previous disciplinary problems, but said he was an excellent student. Authorities said Lee had never been in trouble with the police.Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From NYTimes.com: The Justice Department has asked a federal appeals court to impose tighter restrictions on the hundreds of lawyers who represent detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and the request has become a central issue in a new legal battle over the administration’s detention policies.
Saying that visits by civilian lawyers and attorney-client mail have caused “intractable problems and threats to security at Guantánamo,” a Justice Department filing proposes new limits on the lawyers’ contact with their clients and access to evidence in their cases that would replace more expansive rules that have governed them since they began visiting Guantánamo detainees in large numbers in 2004.
The filing says the lawyers have caused unrest among the detainees and have improperly served as a conduit to the news media, assertions that have drawn angry responses from some of the lawyers.
The dispute is the latest and perhaps the most significant clash over the role of lawyers for the detainees. “There is no right on the part of counsel to access to detained aliens on a secure military base in a foreign country,” the Justice Department filing argued. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
The U.S. Supreme Court on April 25 issued three habeas corpus rulings overturning death sentences imposed in Texas.
In Abdul Kabir v. Quarterman, No. 05-11284, and Brewer v. Quarterman, 05-11287, the court held that Texas courts' rulings that the state's former capital sentencing scheme allowed penalty phase jurors to give constitutionally adequate consideration to mitigating evidence of mental impairment or childhood neglect and abuse constituted, for purposes of the federal habeas corpus statute, an "unreasonable application" of Penry v. Lynaugh and other Supreme Court caselaw interpreting the Eighth Amendment.
In Smith v. Texas, No. 05-11304, the court reaffirmed an earlier ruling that the petitioner's death sentence was fatally flawed under the same Texas sentencing scheme, and it decided that the state courts misunderstood the basis of court's prior ruling when they applied a rigorous standard of review en route to upholding the sentence on remand. [Mark Godsey]
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
From orlandosentinel.com: Inmates put to death by lethal injection are supposed to die quickly and painlessly, but they actually might suffocate aware and in agony, a team of researchers concluded in a study released Monday.
In the report in the online publication "PloS Medicine," the eight-member team said the lethal drug cocktail used by dozens of states, including Florida, is flawed because the mixture doesn't necessarily work as intended.
"The reason that polls show most people support lethal injection is because they believe it is a humane medical procedure," said Teresa Zimmers, lead author of the study and a molecular biologist at the University of Miami's Leonard Miller School of Medicine. "We provide more evidence that it might be anything but. There's no question it's not a medical procedure. That is a sham."
Under the lethal-injection protocol, which Florida and most states copied from Oklahoma, three drugs are meant to work in combination to render inmates unconscious and then cause death by respiratory and cardiac arrest. Each drug is also supposed to be lethal on its own.
But the researchers, who analyzed drug dosages and the time between injection and death in 42 executions in North Carolina and eight in California, found that the first drug, an ultra-fast-acting barbiturate, might not be fatal or sufficient to keep inmates unconscious for the duration of their executions.
They also found that the third and final drug, potassium chloride, did not always induce cardiac arrest as intended. As a result, the researchers said, potentially aware inmates might die through painful asphyxiation induced by the second drug, pancuronium, which paralyzes the muscles. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From NPR.com: Federal law prohibits many people with mental illness from buying a gun. Their names are supposed to be stored by the FBI. But critics say the bureau's database is full of holes. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
A 77-year-old victim of domestic violence will be released from prison thanks to the tireless efforts of Washington University in St. Louis CrimProf Jane Aiken and the Civil Justice Clinic. After Aiken and third-year law student Olivia Bradbury successfully argued a habeas petition, the Missouri Supreme Court has ordered that the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole set conditions of parole for the clinic's client.
The oldest female inmate in Missouri, Shirley Lute has been incarcerated for 29 years for her role in the murder of her abusive husband. The clinic initially was successful in helping Lute obtain a commutation from Governor Holden, but she then was denied parole.
Aiken and Bradbury, who served as second chair, argued that “the parole board grossly exceeded its authority, when it ignored the governor’s intent and instead of weighing the merits of Shirley Lute’s exit plan, focused on the commission of the original crime,” Aiken said.
Aiken, the William M. Van Cleve Professor of Law and clinic director, said the Supreme Courts’ April 17 ruling is gratifying. “We are thrilled that our client will finally receive the justice she deserves. It has been a long time coming, but we are relieved that the Court has followed Governor Holden’s intent. Ms. Lute has been a model prisoner and has more than served enough time to satisfy the state’s interests in retribution, public safety, punishment, and deterrence. This is an important victory for victims of domestic violence.”
Bradbury added: "It has been an amazing experience to be involved in this case and to work so closely with Professor Aiken. It is a tremendous feeling that, as part of my law school education, I was able to help bring justice to Shirley Lute. I eagerly await the day she walks out of prison." Rest of Story. . . [Mark Godsey]
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
University of Miami Law School CrimProf Stephen I. Vladeck participated in a symposium at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, titled "Crimes, War Crimes, and the War on Terror." Professor Vladeck was in a panel titled "The Other Criminal Process: War Crimes, Military Commissions, and Habeas Corpus," where he will present a new paper, titled "Enemy Aliens, Enemy Property, and Access to the Courts."
In this paper, Professor Vladeck examines the underexplored jurisprudence concerning who the "enemy" is, comparing the jurisprudence under the Alien Enemy Act of 1798, the Trading With the Enemy Act of 1917, and the so-called "enemy property" doctrine. The paper argues that courts have long played a central role in adjudicating claims by individuals that they are not, in fact, "enemies," and that the current debate over "enemy combatants" and access to the courts has completely neglected these earlier--and important--precedents. [Mark Godsey]
From USATODAY.com: University of Cincinnati CrimProf Bonnie Fisher's 2000 Stalking Study was referred to in USA Today in a discussion on the problem of stalking.
The most widely cited national survey, published in 2000, found that 13% of college women said they had been stalked in the previous seven months, says the study's primary author, CrimProf Bonnie Fisher. Stalking is generally defined as a repeated pattern of behavior or conduct that causes a reasonable person to feel fear, she says.
The problem has not diminished since that survey, says Mary Lou Leary, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime. Specialists in violence against women still quote the survey.
"Stalking is definitely a problem on college campuses," says Alison Kiss, program director for the non-profit group Security on Campus. "And it usually escalates, just like dating violence." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From goodmagazine.com: According to Good Magazine, Nearly half a million women are married to men in prison. Maintaining these relationships involves a constant struggle with an often unsupportive penal system, despite growing evidence that a healthy marriage is one of the best tools for rehabilitation. Welcome to the intersection of prisons, love and politics.
In a national climate where the promotion of marriage is prioritized and new incarceration initiatives are being introduced across the country, the intersection of prisoners and matrimony appears to be a political blind spot. The wives of inmates are still largely without resources or assistance, grappling with often exorbitant phone rates, long distances to be travelled for visits, hypervigilant visitation rules, and restricted access to information about their husbands’ well-being. Right now, according to a report by a leading scholar named Creasie Finney Hairston, “The correctional policies and practices that govern contact between prisoners and their families often impede, rather than support, the maintenance of family ties.”
As it stands, the only major institutional assistance for these couples is an unlikely offshoot of government support for marriage. In 1996, Bill Clinton signed into law a welfare-reform act that supported the idea that marriage is a tool for overcoming poverty, calling “marriage … the foundation of a successful society.” President Bush recently upped the ante with the Healthy Marriage Initiative, committing $750 million over five years to marriage promotion, some of which is going to marital programs in prisons. Marriage, the argument goes, has been shown time and again to benefit the country in measurable ways: married couples have markedly lower instances of poverty and crime. For prisoners, it also helps lower rates of recidivism, a big deal in a country with a soaring prison population that recently passed the two million mark and where 67 percent of ex-convicts end up back in prison. According to a recent study, a steady marriage was the number one factor preventing recidivism. Now, 24 states are teaching prisoners and their spouses how to listen, express their feelings, and resolve conflict.
Faith-based groups have been doing similar work in prisons for decades. Sometimes called Marriage Encounters, these weekend marriage seminars are hosted by several guards, the prison chaplain, and volunteer instructors, like Wayne and Marcia Kessler in Las Vegas. “The first thing we do,” says Marcia, “is teach about talking on a feeling level and how feelings are different from thoughts and judgments. That no feeling is right or wrong. Anger isn’t wrong, but smacking someone is.”
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Monday, April 23, 2007
From USATODAY.com: A former Army cook who spent nearly 25 years in prison for a rape he did not commit is scheduled today to become the 200th person exonerated by DNA evidence, underscoring the quickening pace of overturned convictions, according to the Innocence Project.
The New York-based legal group says the 100th exoneration occurred in January 2002, 13 years after the first exoneration. It took just more than five years for the number to double.
"Five years ago, people said that the number (of exonerations) was going to dry up because there just weren't many wrongful convictions," said lawyer Barry Scheck, who co-founded the Innocence Project in 1992 to help prisoners prove their innocence through DNA evidence. "But clearly, there are plenty of innocent persons still in prison. There's no way you can look at this data without believing that."
David Lazer, a Harvard University public policy professor who specializes in DNA issues, says improved testing technology and an increase in the number of lawyers who are taking on DNA cases should result in a continued increase in the number of wrongful convictions that are set aside.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From law.com: A continuing wave of exonerations and revelations about wrongful convictions linked to false eyewitness identification has led more states to consider reforming their lineup procedures with new guidelines and legislation.
A key factor is the order in which lineups should be shown as more states consider whether to replace the traditional simultaneous method with the sequential procedure, during which people or photographs are shown one after another rather than all at once.
Another common feature of the new procedures calls for a "blind" lineup, meaning the person administering it does not know who the suspect is. A movement to reform eyewitness identification procedures has been building in momentum for the last few years.
A reform bill in West Virginia has been awaiting the governor's approval and was one of 16 bills on eyewitness identification proposed in 10 states this legislative session, said Scott Ehlers, state legislative affairs director for the Washington-based National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
In Illinois, a civil lawsuit over the issue was filed in February. And in New Mexico, an eyewitness identification bill was proposed for the first time this year.
"Bills seem to have been going further this year than in the past," Ehlers said. "Exonerations and the wrongful convictions: I think that is really pushing the issue." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From cbsnews.com: In most communities, a person who sees a murder and helps the police put the killer behind bars is called a witness. But in many inner-city neighborhoods in this country that person is called a "snitch."
"Stop snitchin'" is a catchy hip-hop slogan that embodies and encourages this attitude. You can find it on everything from rap music videos to clothing. "Stop snitchin'" once meant "don’t tell on others if you’re caught committing a crime."
But as CNN's Anderson Cooper reports for 60 Minutes, it has come to mean something much more dangerous: "don’t cooperate with the police – no matter who you are."
As a result, police say, witnesses are not coming forward. Murders are going unsolved.
Reluctance to talk to police has always been a problem in poor, predominantly African-American communities, but cops and criminologists say in recent years something has changed: fueled by hip-hop music, promoted by major corporations, what was once a backroom code of silence among criminals, is now being marketed like never before. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]