CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, March 10, 2007

CrimProf Akira Itoda Criticizes Judge Who Gave Out Longer Sentence Than Prosecutor Requested

From Ritsumeikan University CrimProf Akira Itoda criticized Japanese Judge Tetsuya Okuda at the Nara District Court who recently corrected his ruling after a prosecutor pointed out that the sentence handed down was heavier than what prosecutors had demanded.

A legal expert criticized the judge for damaging the public's trust in courts. "It's unprecedented that a judge corrected his ruling after prosecutors pointed out a mistake. It could damage the public's trust in courts," said CrimProf Akira Itoda.

Judge Okuda sentenced a 46-year-old man on Wednesday to 18 months in prison, suspended for four years, over illegal gambling.

After the ruling, Okuda told the defendant in a personal message, "Don't do it again." The man replied, "Thank you very much," and bowed to the judge.

Shortly before Okuda was to declare that the court is adjourned, one of the prosecutors approached the judge and showed him documents where prosecutors had demanded that the defendant be jailed for one year. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 10, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 9, 2007

CrimProf Spotlight: Michelle Simon

Simon_smThis week the CrimProf Blog spotlights Pace Law School CrimProf Michelle Simon.

Michelle Simon joined the faculty in 1985. Prior to coming to Pace, she was a law clerk to Magistrate A. Simon Chrein in the Eastern District of New York, and an associate at the firm of Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman and Dicker. While with that firm, she specialized in products liability litigation.

She is an honors graduate of Syracuse University College of Law, where she served as Senior Lead Articles Editor of the Syracuse Law Review. Since 2001, she has been the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the law school, and teaches in the areas of criminal law, legal writing, and civil procedure. She has written extensively in all of those areas. [Mark Godsey]

March 9, 2007 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 8, 2007

New Gang Intervention Coalition Helps Remove Gang Tattoos

From Several Denver groups in the gang intervention and prevention business recently banded together to give new energy to the Metro Denver Gang Coalition, an old coalition that had gone defunct after losing funding.

"They are working in unprecedented ways," said Jeremy Bronson, Mayor John Hickenlooper's special assistant to the mayor for public safety. "Police, schools, service providers and the faith-based community: Everyone is at the table to say, 'I'm prepared to do what I can."'

The coalition is pushing to get new funding to revive a gang tattoo-removal program at Swedish Medical Center that went defunct last year because nobody had the $10,000 necessary to purchase insurance for the program.

It is said that hundreds of youths went through the program each year until the money dried up. In exchange for community service, the former gang members had their tattoos removed, a process that requires numerous laser treatments and normally costs as much as $3,000.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 8, 2007 in Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Jan Stiglitz and the Cali Innocence Project Fights for a Woman's Freedom

StiglitzCalifornia Innocence Project attorneys, such as California Western School of Law CrimProf Jan Stiglitz, are fighting for the release of Dolores Macias, who was convicted of murder because of her children’s false testimony.

In 1994 Macias was convicted of drowning her niece, 4-year-old Lynette Orozco, in a trial where the prosecution’s case was based solely on the testimony of Macias’s children, Gilbert, Melody, and Frankie Alvarez. Attorneys and students with the California Innocence Project of California Western School of Law have spent the past four years tracking down Macias’s children who all say the testimony they gave as children was false.

“Dolores is innocent. Her children were manipulated into testifying against her by their grandmother,” said Professor Jan Stiglitz, co-director of the California Innocence Project and Macias’s attorney.  “Science has shown that the testimony of children can be extremely unreliable and they often have a great deal of trouble determining the source of their memories.  Children will take what is told to them by adults and turn it into a memory.  We believe that is exactly what happened here.”

On Jan.19, 2007, Gilbert and Melody Alvarez took the stand in Los Angeles to say that they lied during the original trial and that their mother was not involved in the drowning. Frankie Alvarez is scheduled to testify Friday, March 9 at 10 a.m.

Gilbert Alvarez admits his grandmother manipulated him into implicating his mother. "My grandma was telling me what to say when I was younger," he said in the Los Angeles courtroom of Judge Stephen Marcus.  Gilbert, now 21, was 5 at the time of the incident and 8 at trial.

Lynette Orozco drowned in a small pool on July 21, 1990 in her backyard where she lived with her mother and Macias’s sister Olivia Orozco. Macias and Orozco were both at the house at the time of the drowning. Gilbert and his siblings were sent to stay with his paternal grandmother, Sara Alvarez, who was granted custody of the children just two days after the drowning. Macias wasn’t charged with the murder until her children had been living with Sara Alvarez for more than two years.

In addition to admitting that she had no memory of her mother drowning Lynette, Melody Alvarez, 21, testified in January that she recalls fighting with her cousin Lynette in the pool at the time of the drowning.  Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 8, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Nancy Combs Publishes Guilty Pleas in International Law: Constructing a Restorative Justice Approach

CombssmallWilliam and Mary School of Law International CrimProf Nancy Combs recently published a book with Stanford University Press titled Guilty Pleas in International Law: Constructing a Restorative Justice Approach.

Combs notes in her book that prosecutions for international crimes, like genocide and other crimes against humanity, are both costly and time-consuming. Whereas Nuremburg prosecutors were able to try 22 defendants in less than a year, more recent international trials, such as those prosecuting the atrocities that took place in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, frequently lasted upwards of two years for a few defendants and cost millions of dollars. Budget cuts and pressure from the United Nations Security Council to adopt an expeditious completion strategy has led the Tribunals to adopt various plans to dispose of cases more efficiently. One of those strategies is the use of plea bargaining to obtain guilty pleas.

As a result of the high cost and long length of international criminal trials, few trials are undertaken. “The vast majority of perpetrators of international crimes will never be tried,” Combs said during an interview. It is this fact that can justify the use of plea bargaining, according to Combs, because plea bargaining can increase the proportion of international perpetrators brought to justice.

“The practice of plea bargaining in American courts is much maligned,” she said, “since the domestic criminal justice system is founded on the presumption that violent crime will be investigated and, if appropriate, prosecuted. It is this unstated presumption that gives force to the arguments of plea bargaining’s opponents in the domestic context,” Combs said. “Plea bargaining in the domestic context is considered a dilution of the full justice that a criminal justice system ought to provide.”

Institutions prosecuting international crimes must attend as well to these concerns. However, they take on entirely different contours because the presumption of prosecution that is so central to domestic criminal justice systems does not exist for international crimes. And it is precisely because most international offenders are not prosecuted that Combs believes that guilty pleas have the potential to play such a valuable role in efforts to end impunity. More. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 8, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

France Abolishes the Death Penalty

From The French parliament voted to amend the country's Constitution to include an explicit ban on the death penalty. In a special joint session held at the Palace of Versailles, France's National Assembly and Senate passed the amendment by a vote of 828-26. T

he death penalty has been outlawed in France since 1981, but the recently passed amendment officially inscribes the prohibition into the constitution.  "We are accomplishing the wish of Victor Hugo in 1848, the pure, simple, irreversible abolition" of the death penalty, former Justice Minister Robert Badinter told lawmakers. More. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 7, 2007 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dallas County DA Allows Innocence Project to Review Cases for DNA Testing

From In an unprecedented act for any jurisdiction in the nation, New Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins recently announced he would allow the Texas affiliate of the Innocence Project to review hundreds of Dallas County cases dating back to 1970 to decide whether DNA tests should be conducted to validate past convictions.

At 12 in the past five years, Dallas has more post-conviction DNA exonerations than any county in the nation and more than at least two states. A 13th exoneration, of a Dallas County man, is expected to be announced within days.

By his own estimate, Watkins should not be occupying what he calls a "ten-gallon-hat, cowboy-boot-wearing, dip-chewin', lock-'em-up-and-throw-away-the-key" post in the ninth-largest city in the country. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 7, 2007 in DNA | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sex Offender Relapse Prevention=Slightly More Actual Relapses

From Similar to aspects of Alcoholics Anonymous, relapse prevention has sex offenders own up to wrongdoing and resign themselves to a lifelong day-to-day struggle with temptation. But one of the few authoritative studies of the method, conducted in California from 1985 to 2001, found that those who entered relapse prevention treatment were slightly more likely to offend again than those who got no therapy at all.

Clinicians who work with sex offenders cling to relapse prevention nonetheless, and its durability speaks volumes about the troubled, politically fraught science of treating sex offenders. Not only is relapse prevention of questionable value, but so are the tests to gauge whether sex offenders in treatment still get inappropriately aroused, the drugs used for so-called chemical castration and the methods of predicting risk of reoffending.

Treatment methods have become particularly topical as thousands of sex offenders are confined or restricted beyond their prison terms under civil commitment laws on the books in 19 states. The laws have been found constitutional in part because they aim to provide treatment if possible; New York legislators announced last week that the state would soon allow civil confinement.

On average, the civil commitment programs cost four times more than keeping sex offenders in prison. But too little research has been conducted into how to treat sex offenders, experts say, putting psychotherapists and others working in civil commitment centers at a distinct disadvantage.

“It has never been regarded as a legitimate and recognized topic for research by psychologists,” said Robert A. Prentky, director of research at the Justice Research Institute in Boston. “There is a very strong undercurrent of disrespect for this area of research and perhaps even skepticism, frankly.” Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 7, 2007 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Police Held in Contempt For Refusing to Return Medical Marijuana

From Police in the Northern California city of Santa Rosa will find themselves in an odd position Tuesday — in front of a Superior Court judge, defending themselves on contempt of court charges.

It all stems from the police department's refusal to give up 19 pounds of confiscated marijuana. And it highlights an interesting question: What are police supposed to do, when the California medicinal marijuana law conflicts with federal drug laws?

The case started when Shashon Jenkins was standing one day on the back balcony at his old apartment building, when the calm and quiet of one morning in suburban Santa Rosa was harshly interrupted.

"When I looked over, and peered over the balcony, officers were running into the next apartment, guns drawn," he said. "Officers ordered me back inside my house."

Police were raiding Jenkins' neighbor for narcotics. They caught sight of Jenkins on the balcony, holding a stem of marijuana in his hand. So after their raid next door, the officers crowded onto the stairwell outside Jenkins' apartment, and came knocking.

"It was very tense, seven firearms, very intense," Jenkins said.

Police raided Jenkins' home, arrested him, seized a number of lights for growing plants and 45 full-grown plants. In all, it was more than 19 pounds of pot. Later, at Jenkins' hearing, he produced witnesses and paperwork to confirm that he legally uses medicinal marijuana to treat chronic back pain. He also has caregiver status — that means he grows medical marijuana for those patients unable to grow it themselves — and so the district attorney dropped the case.

The judge ordered police to return Jenkins' belongings, including the armload of marijuana. Police said no. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 6, 2007 in Drugs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

False Confession Expert Richard Leo Speaks at UC Law

R_leoThe world's leading expert on false confessions, CrimProf Richard Leo, will speak at the University of Cincinnati School of Law Wednesday March 7th, at 3pm.

In this discussion, Richard will discuss the psychology of police interrogation, how and why it can and does lead to false confessions from the innocent, why the innocent false confess, the consequences of false confession in the American criminal justice system, and what reforms can be put in place to prevent and minimize false confessions from occurring in the first place."

Richard A. Leo, Ph.D., J.D. is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of San Francisco.  He was formerly an assistant professor of sociology and adjunct professor of law at the University of Colorado, Boulder (1994-1997) and an associate professor of criminology and an associate professor psychology at the University of California, Irvine (1997-2006). 

He is well-known as one of the nation's leading experts on the psychology and practice of police interrogation, psychological coercion and false confessions.  He has consulted and/or testified as an expert witness in hundreds of criminal and civil cases involving disputed interrogations and confessions; he also regularly lectures to criminal defense attorneys, judges, police, prosecutors and forensic psychologists across the United States and occasionally in other countries; and his research is often featured in the nation's print and electronic media. 

Over the last fifteen years, Dr. Leo has conducted many empirical studies and published numerous articles in leading social science journals and law reviews on the subjects of police interrogation, Miranda, false confessions, and wrongful convictions, among others. 

His research and writings have been repeatedly cited by appellate courts in the United States and Canada, including the United States Supreme Court. With George Thomas III, he has co-authored The Miranda Debate: Law, Justice and Policing (Northeastern University Press, 1998), and has just completed Police Interrogation and American Justice, which will be published by Harvard University Press in 2007. 

With Tom Wells, he is currently completing another book, Web of Lies: Murder and Injustice in Virginia, which will be published by The New Press in 2008.  He has won awards for research excellence and distinction from many professional organizations, including from the American Society of Criminology, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Forensic Psychology. [Mark Godsey]

March 6, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

New Article Spotlight: Institutional Rules, Strategic Behavior and the Legacy of Chief Justice William Rehnquist: Setting the Record Straight on Dickerson v. United States

From  University of Michigan CrimProf Daniel Martin Katz recently published "Institutional Rules, Strategic Behavior, and the Legacy ofChief Justice William Rehnquist: Setting the Record Straight on Dickerson v. United States."  Here is the abstract:

Why did Justice Rehnquist behave the way he did in Dickerson v. United States? As written, many prevailing accounts accept Justice Rehnquist's opinion in Dickerson v. United States at face value and disavow the potential of a strategic explanation. The difficulty with the non-strategic accounts is their failure to outline explicitly the evidence supporting the uniqueness of their theory. Specifically, these explanations largely ignore the alternative set of preferences which could have produced the Chief's decision. This is troubling because prior scholarship demonstrates that a chief justice possesses a unique set of institutional powers which provides significant incentive for him to behave sophisticatedly.

Many prevailing explanations for Dickerson at a minimum are incomplete because they fail to determine whether his vote and opinion were the result of moderation, fidelity to traditional legal principles, or, in fact, strategic behavior. This article pursues a uniqueness claim, arguing the gravamen of available evidence supports a strategic explanation for Justice Rehnquist's behavior in Dickerson. To do this, the article first reviews the methodological debate which exists within the social science scholarship, a debate relevant to the competing explanations for the Dickerson decision.

Next, the article explores the strategic or quasi-game theoretic approach by describing the multistage sophisticated process which produces all Supreme Court decisions. It culminates in Figure 1.1, a general diagram that is carried forward into Part II of the article. Part II directly considers the Dickerson decision. This section begins with a description of the Supreme Court's Miranda jurisprudence before reviewing the specific facts and procedural history of the case.

Next, Part II reviews Justice Rehnquist's Miranda-related decisions which, taken together, demonstrate the truly anomalous nature of the Dickerson opinion. The article then outlines its strategic account, an approach rejecting many prevailing explanations of Rehnquist's behavior. Strategic and non-strategic behaviors are often observationally equivalent.

Thus, in order firmly to support its strategic theory, this article concludes with a discussion of several important post-Dickerson decisions including Chavez v. Martinez, Missouri v. Seibert, and United States v. Patane, where the Chief Justice surprisingly supports the preservation of certain exceptions to Miranda even after his Dickerson opinion supposedly afforded Miranda full constitutional status. The cases are critical to the analysis because they help determine what end Chief Justice Rehnquist actually achieved in his Dickerson opinion. He successfully froze a set of pre-Dickerson Miranda exceptions which he personally developed during his thirty year tenure on the Court. It is from this perspective that commentators in fact are correct to argue that Dickerson is critical to understanding the legacy of the late Chief Justice. [Mark Godsey]

March 6, 2007 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Monday, March 5, 2007

Pot Growers Move to the Suburbs

From Raids on 40 houses in 12 suburban Georgia counties over the past two weeks are one recent sign of what police say is a national trend in marijuana marketing: growing the illicit crop year-round indoors, using suburban homes as "grow-houses."

Grow-houses – a spacious incarnation of the old grow-room – have proliferated like suburban-garden gnomes, as antidrug squads have chased growers off remote mountainsides and out of cornfields. In these basements, lights hum with thousands of watts across a sea of plants lodged in a hydroponic soup of nutrients. Upstairs, there's usually no furniture, police say, except a cot, a chair, and a rabbit-ear TV.

"It's the most impressive thing I've seen in 20 years of law enforcement," says Lt. Jody Thomas of the Fayette County Drug Taskforce.

Police say the 'burbs give growers a degree of solace and safety, protected by suburbia's premium on privacy and even a 2001 US Supreme Court ruling that prevents law officers from aiming heat-sensing equipment at homes unless they first obtain search warrants.

The trend also signals that "production is moving closer to consumption" – a path that leads straight to the suburbs, says Jon Gettman, editor of the Bulletin of Cannabis Reform in Lovettsville, Va., which promotes legalizing marijuana for medicinal use.

Alarm about suburban pot-growing is rising, and some worry that efforts to eradicate crops grown outdoors are driving the illicit industry to become more entrenched in middle-class America, a la Showtime's hit TV show "Weeds," about a suburban mom who sells pot.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 5, 2007 in Drugs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Prof Jane Aiken and Student will Argue Habeas for Woman Who Recieved Commutation But Denied Parole

AikenjWashington University Law School Clinic Prof Jane Aiken and third-year law student Olivia Bradbury will argue a habeas petition before the Missouri Supreme Court on March 8. Aiken, Bradbury, and the School of Law’s Civil Justice Clinic are representing a domestic violence victim who received a commutation from the governor, but then was denied parole. Bradbury is serving as second chair.

The oldest female inmate in Missouri, Shirley Lute, 76, has been incarcerated for more than 28 years for her role in the murder of her abusive husband. The clinic initially was successful in helping Lute obtain a commutation in part because her husband’s physical, psychological, and emotional abuse of her was not brought into evidence at the time of her original trial. These mitigating circumstances likely would have led to a lesser  sentence, had she been tried during today’s awareness of Battered Spouse Syndrome. Lute also already had served more than three times the average amount of time served for a violent felony in Missouri.

“Governor Holden commuted Ms. Lute’s sentence because he believed that she had served enough time in prison to satisfy the state’s interests in retribution, public safety, punishment, and deterrence,” Aiken noted. “The parole board grossly exceeded its authority, when it ignored the governor’s intent and instead of weighing the merits of her exit plan, focused on the commission of the original crime.

“Ms. Lute has been a model prisoner, has a support system of family and friends waiting for her release, and has a means of supporting herself financially,” Aiken said. “It is travesty of justice that more than two years after Governor Holden commuted her sentence to life with immediate possibility of parole, she remains incarcerated.”

In addition to Aiken, students in the Civil Justice Clinic, clinic attorney Stephen Ryals, and the Missouri Battered Women’s Clemency Coalition have worked on the case.

March 5, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

Three Peaceful Protestors Arrested in Washington State

From the AP: Police arrested three people early Monday during a protest of Iraq-bound Army vehicles at a Washington state port.

Several dozen people showed up at the Port of Tacoma to protest the shipment of Stryker vehicles and other equipment from Fort Lewis. Caitlin Esworthy, Walter Cuddeford and Jeffery Berryhill were arrested for investigation of assault.

Zoltan Grossman, a geography professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia who was observing the protest, said he didn't know what prompted the arrests. Esworthy is an Evergreen State student, and Cuddeford is a Navy veteran, he said.

''There were no rocks, no weapons. People were not carrying anything but signs,'' Grossman said. ''We were on public space, on gravel, and there was a white line that police had told us not to cross. I didn't see any of the protesters cross that line.''

Last May, hundreds of protesters objected to similar shipments at the Port of Olympia. Police pepper-sprayed some protesters who pulled down a port gate, and about three dozen people were arrested over several days.

Calls to police about Monday's arrest were not immediately returned. Esworthy, Cuddeford and Berryhill were being held on $10,000 bail each at the Pierce County Jail.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 5, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 4, 2007

CrimProf David Singleton Speaks at Dred Scott Symposium

SingletonMore than 170 local attorneys and Chase College of Law students, faculty, and staff attended the Northern Kentucky Law Review's spring symposium, "Looking Back: the Legacy of the Dred Scott Decision," on Friday morning, March 2, 2007. The symposium looked back at the legacy of the Supreme Court's 1856 decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford over the time that has passed up to the present day along legal, historical, political and social dimensions.

Five panelists were featured, including Dr. Roberta Alexander, former professor and director of the Prelaw Program at the University of Dayton; Professor Mark Graber of the University of Maryland School of Law; the Honorable Nathaniel Jones, former Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit; Chase adjunct professor, David Singleton, executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center and University of Cincinnati Adjunct CrimProf; and Chase professor John Valauri, symposium advisor. [Mark Godsey]

March 4, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Prof Hank Greely Participates in DNA Panel Discussion

Greely_hankFrom Stanford University Prof Hank Greely participated in a panel discussion on NPR's Day to Day about the admissibility of the DNA of a perpetrator's family member as evidence in a crime.

"It's one thing to say that it's okay to have felons have their DNA in the database, even those are disproportionately African-Americans,because they brought it on themselves by committing the crime, but now you're making suspects out of all of their relatives, and I think you could argue that that's unfair," said Greely. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 4, 2007 in DNA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NY's Decision to Hold Sex Offenders Indefinitely Sparks Debate

From The decision by New York to confine sex offenders beyond their prison terms places the state at the forefront of a growing national movement that is popular with politicians and voters. But such programs have almost never met a stated purpose of treating the worst criminals until they no longer pose a threat.

About 2,700 pedophiles, rapists and other sexual offenders are already being held indefinitely, mostly in special treatment centers, under so-called civil commitment programs in 19 states, which on average cost taxpayers four times more than keeping the offenders in prison.

In announcing a deal with legislative leaders on Thursday, Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, suggested that New York’s proposed civil commitment law would “become a national model” and go well beyond confining the most violent predators to also include mental health treatment and intensive supervised release for offenders.

“No one has a bill like this, nobody,” said State Senator Dale M. Volker, a Republican from western New York and a leading proponent in the Legislature of civil confinement.

But in state after state, such expectations have fallen short. The United States Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the laws in part because their aim is to furnish treatment if possible, not punish someone twice for the same crime. Yet only a small fraction of committed offenders have ever completed treatment to the point where they could be released free and clear.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 4, 2007 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)