CrimProf Blog

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

Friday, January 5, 2007

CrimProf Spotlight: Martha Grace Duncan

DuncanThis Week the CrimProf Blog spotlights CrimProf Martha Grace Duncan of Emory School of Law.

Martha Grace  Duncan brings a rich array of experiences and credentials to her work at Emory Law School. As an undergraduate, she lived for six months in Bogota, Colombia, where she interviewed and traveled with members of the Alianza Nacional Popular, which was then Colombia's major opposition party. In graduate school, on a fellowship from the Latin American Institute of Columbia University, she journeyed to remote regions of Brazil to interview leaders of sugar worker unions and peasant movements.

For her doctoral thesis in political science, Duncan conducted in-depth interviews with life-long American activists to explore the genesis and meaning of radicalism in their lives. On the strength of this work, she was admitted as a post-doctoral candidate to the NYU Psychoanalytic Institute at New York University Medical Center.

In 1980, she matriculated at Yale Law School, where she was elected an Article and Book Review Editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL. Following graduation, she clerked for Judge Robert Bork on the United States Court of Appeals for the D. C. Circuit.

Professor Duncan has published articles and essays in a range of fields and genres, including political science, history, memoir, and law. Her latest law review article, "'So Young and So Untender': Remorseless Children and the Expectations of the Law," was published in the COLUMBIA LAW REVIEW, and her memoir "A Perfect Start" was selected as a "Notable Essay of 2004, in THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS OF 2005. Her book, ROMANTIC OUTLAWS, BELOVED PRISONS: THE UNCONSCIOUS MEANINGS OF CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (New York University Press) was reissued in paperback and received numerous favorable reviews.

January 5, 2007 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 4, 2007

When We Thought it Couldn't Get Any Worse, New Report Reveals More Guantanamo Horrors

From FBI agents documented more than two dozen incidents of possible mistreatment at the Guantanamo Bay military base, including one detainee whose head was wrapped in duct tape for chanting the Quran and another who pulled out his hair after hours in a sweltering room.

Documents released Tuesday by the FBI offered new details about the harsh interrogations practice used by military officials and contractors when questioning so-called enemy combatants.

The reports describe a female guard who detainees said handled their genitals and wiped menstrual blood on their face. Another interrogator reportedly bragged to an FBI agent about dressing as a Catholic priest and "baptizing" a prisoner.

Some military officials and contractors told FBI agents that the interrogation techniques had been approved by the Defense Department, including directly by former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The documents were released in response to a public records request by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing Rumsfeld and others on behalf of former military detainees who say they were abused. Many of the incidents in the FBI documents have already been reported and are summarized in the ACLU's lawsuit. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

January 4, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Person Who Recorded Saddam's Execution is Arrested

From The person believed to have recorded Saddam Hussein's execution on a cell phone camera was arrested Wednesday, an adviser to Iraq's prime minister said.

The adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, did not identify the person. But he said it was "an official who supervised the execution" and who is "now under investigation."

"In the past few hours, the government has arrested the person who made the video of Saddam's execution," the adviser said.

Iraqi state television aired an official video of the hanging, which had no audio and never showed Saddam's actual death. But the cell phone video showed the deposed leader being taunted in his final moments, with witnesses shouting "go to hell" before he dropped through the gallows floor and swung dead at the end of a rope.

The unruly scene aired on Al-Jazeera television and was posted on the Internet, prompting a worldwide outcry and big protests among Iraq's minority Sunnis, who lost their preferential status when Saddam was ousted in the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

January 4, 2007 in International | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Audit Reveals State Law Enforcement Depts Are Shortchanged by Feds

From Lax oversight of federal law enforcement grants tied up hundreds of millions of dollars for eight years and potentially shortchanged state and local crime-fighting programs, a Justice Department audit found Wednesday.

The report by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine found that leftover money from thousands of expired grants between October 1997 and December 2005 sat unused because officials failed to keep close track of the programs once they ended.

If the offices had dealt with expired grants in a timely fashion, "hundreds of millions of dollars in questioned costs could have been used to provide the DOJ with additional resources to fund other programs or returned to the federal government's general fund," the audit concluded.

A Justice Department spokesman did not have an immediate response.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

January 3, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

N.J. Commission Recommends the Death of the Death Sentence

From A legislative commission recommended on Tuesday that New Jersey become the first state to abolish the death penalty since states began reinstating their capital punishment laws 35 years ago. Its report found “no compelling evidence” that capital punishment serves a legitimate purpose, and increasing evidence that it “is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency.”

The report, whose lone dissenter was the original author of the state’s modern death penalty statute, came a year after New Jersey joined Illinois and Maryland in imposing moratoriums on executions, and amid growing unease among politicians and the public about capital punishment.

Eight other states, including New York, have also suspended executions in recent years, most because of court decisions. Maryland had lifted its moratorium in 2003, after a year, but a court essentially reinstated it last month. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

January 3, 2007 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

TX Launches First Public Defender Office for Mentally Ill

From A public defender's office solely representing the mentally ill — believed to be the first of its kind in the nation — will soon begin serving Travis County, TX criminal defendants afflicted with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression.

The county's Mental Health Public Defender Office, launching this year with a $500,000 state grant, aims to break the cycle of crime by steering seriously ill, indigent defendants to mental health services and treatment.

"It's kind of an experiment," said Keith Hampton, director of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. "The ultimate goal is to route them away from jails and prisons, and get them into hospitals and community-based programs."

Although other Texas counties such as Dallas and El Paso have public defenders with special mental health units, Travis County advocates for the mentally ill say they believe the mental health public defender will bring special attention to the mentally ill's needs.

Marshall Shelsy, staff attorney for Harris County criminal courts who monitors trends in the justice system, said officials in Houston will be watching the new program closely.

January 2, 2007 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Cinci has a Record High Year of Death

From With 86 homicides in 2006, the year was Cincinnati's deadliest since police began keeping consistent records in 1950. The record number of homicides follows the recent blueprint for violent deaths - drugs, weapons and broken families.

"Ninety percent of all homicides are drug-related," said Hamilton County Coroner O'dell Owens. "When you peel the onion back, even self-defense violence is because of drugs."

In the last three years, the number of female homicide victims has increased from 9 to 13, and the number of juveniles killed by violence increased from 4 to 13.

"The average age is certainly trimming down," Owens said. "We're also seeing more females involved. They're not just standing by anymore. They want to get involved and make the money."

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

January 2, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 1, 2007

CrimProf Michael Scharf Discusses the Validity of Hussein's Execution

Scharf_sm_4From Critics have questioned the validity of the proceedings that led to Saddam Hussein's execution. Case Western Reserve University CrimProf Michael Scharf, and co-author of the book Saddam on Trial: Understanding and Debating the Iraqi High Tribunal, looks at the role of war-crimes tribunals in international law. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

January 1, 2007 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Debate Grows Concerning Kinship DNA Searches

From FBI crime lab director Joseph A. DiZinno recently stated that, under a new policy, the FBI will leave it to the states to decide whether to release any identifying information about an offender whose DNA profile closely matches a crime scene sample from another state. An advisory board of scientists is now reviewing the interim policy and will recommend whether the change should be made permanent within a few months.

While the FBI will notify investigators about close matches it finds using its present software, DiZinno says the agency has no plans to search its crime database using new software being developed for so-called kinship or familial searches. The software will allow DNA samples from the relatives of missing people to be compared with the DNA profiles of unidentified remains in an FBI database. The British have been using the technique to identify suspects for years, with some success.

Proponents of familial or kinship searching say it would help maximize the potential of DNA offender databases. They note that it would effectively increase the size of the database three or more times because every profile that is entered into it would contain information about at least two other people—the donor’s parents, along with his or her siblings and children. They also cite studies showing that convicted felons are more likely to have a close relative who has been incarcerated than members of the general population.

Henry T. Greely, a professor of law and genetics at Stanford University, says the legal and policy arguments for not doing such searches are that they may reveal family secrets; they may violate promises of privacy or confidentiality to those who gave DNA samples voluntarily; they may invade the suspects’ privacy, particularly if the person hasn’t been convicted of any crime; and they may put people at risk of being investigated simply because they have a relative who has been convicted of a crime. And he says those arguments are all quite weak.

Yet the idea of using DNA from offenders to help catch their relatives is a little disconcerting, Greely says, particularly given the fact that blacks, who constitute about 13 percent of the U.S. population, make up about 40 percent of the people in the national DNA database. That would put blacks as a group under much greater investigative scrutiny than whites. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

January 1, 2007 in Evidence | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)