CrimProf Blog

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

Friday, March 30, 2007

Alabama Indigent Defense System to face Review in SCOTUS

Alabama is the only state that does not provide attorneys for indigent death row inmates throughout their state appeal.  Lawyers representing some of those on death row in the state will soon ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case challenging this practice. The attorneys will ask the Court to determine whether people facing execution have a constitutional right to an attorney as part of their right of meaningful access to the courts. Alabama maintains that it should be able to go it alone in this area despite the life and death risks at stake. 

In Alabama, where 200 people are on death row and few have legal training or money to hire attorneys, a judge has the option, but is not required, to appoint an attorney who can assist those facing execution. The cap on compensation for this court-appointed attorney is $1,000, which must cover expenses associated with hundreds of hours of work that goes into a habeas petition. This means that many Alabama defense attorneys must agree to receive less than the minimum wage for the hours they spend reviewing the trial transcript and appellate record, conducting witness interviews, and completing other investigation and extensive legal research. If those on death row are forced to represent themselves, they have only one year to master the state's rules of criminal procedure, conduct investigations from prison, and prepare and file their own petitions for post-conviction relief. More. . . [Michele Berry]

March 30, 2007 in Capital Punishment, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Add the 198th Name to the List of People Exonerated Through DNA Evidence

Yesterday, the Innocence Project, working with the Missouri State Public Defender's Office, exonerated Antonio Beaver of his first-degree robbery conviction. DNA evidence proved that Antonio did not commit a violent carjacking near the Gateway Arch in St. Louis for which he was convicted in 1997 and sentenced to 18 years in prison.  Beaver’s exoneration comes a decade after he was convicted and more than five years after he began seeking DNA testing to prove his innocence.

Beaver's story:  In August 1996, a man approached a woman’s car as she parked at the Gateway Arch. He told her he was the attendant in the parking lot and that she needed to move her car. As she got back into the car, he threatened her with a screwdriver; a struggle ensued, and the man was cut and bled on the interior of the car. The victim, fearing for her life, stopped fighting and told the man to take her car. Later, she provided a detailed description to police and helped prepare a composite sketch. Although Beaver did not match the victim’s description or the sketch, she ultimately identified him during a substantially flawed police lineup. Although fingerprints in the car (including on the rearview mirror) came from neither Beaver nor the victim, he was tried and convicted in April 1997.

Beaver is the fifth St. Louis County man in five years exonerated by DNA evidence after being wrongfully convicted based on eyewitness misidentification. [Michele Berry]

March 30, 2007 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy, Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Guantanamo Confessions Scrutinized under the World's Microscope

Just how significant were the recent Guantanamo confessions?  Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney with NYU Law's Brennan Center for Justice, who represents Guantanamo prisoners calls the confessions the result of "justice on the fly" while Berkeley LawProf John Yoo views the confessions as the result of a balance between protecting national security/gathering wartime intelligence and administering a fair trial with due process protections. Full story. . . [Michele Berry] 

March 29, 2007 in Confessions and Interrogation, Homeland Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Colorado Considers Legal Fake Addresses...

for domestic violence victims.  Story....

March 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bump Keys

From CJNCentral Florida law enforcers believe that some burglars are using cheap, readily available tools called bump keys to rob homes, says the Orlando Sentinel. Burglars use these ground-down keys to open nearly any lock they fit into by giving them a tap -- or "bump" -- with a blunt object. The method leaves little, if any, evidence that a lock has been tampered with. The Orange County Sheriff's Office has identified members of a suspected bump-key ring, including a mother and son arrested in January.

Because it is difficult to find evidence of bump-key use, it is virtually impossible for law enforcement to track the number of burglaries involving the tool. Bump-key burglars tend to break into multiple-family housing units, where all doors are constructed with the same type of lock. At first, law-enforcement agencies suspected maintenance workers were burglarizing apartment and condominium complexes where they worked. Information about the keys, including how to make and use them, is widely available on the Internet. Some Web sites sell professionally made bump keys for as little as $3.  Story..

March 28, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Prosecutor Screw Up Costs U.S. $100 Million

From  WASHINGTON - Poorly written Justice Department documents cost the federal government more than $100 million in what was supposed to have been the crowning moment of the biggest tax prosecution ever.  Walter Anderson, the telecommunications entrepreneur who admitted hiding hundreds of millions of dollars from the IRS and District of Columbia tax collectors, was sentenced Tuesday to nine years in prison and ordered to repay about $23 million to the city.  But U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said he couldn’t order Anderson to repay the federal government $100 million to $175 million because the Justice Department’s binding plea agreement with Anderson listed the wrong statute.  Rest of story...

March 28, 2007 in White Collar | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Chicago Tribune...

reverses its position and calls for abolition of capital punishment

March 28, 2007 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kangaroo Skinner at Guantanamo

From NPR:  All Things Considered, March 26, 2007 · Leigh Sales, Australian Broadcasting Corporation's national security correspondent and author of the book The Worst of the Worst: The Case of David Hicks. Sales talks about how a kangaroo-skinner found himself at Guantanamo Bay, on trial for providing material support for terrorism.  Listen here.

March 28, 2007 in Homeland Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

New Article Spotlight: Orin Kerr

CrimProf Orin Kerr has posted Four Models of Fourth Amendment Protection on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

The Fourth Amendment protects reasonable expectations of privacy, but the Supreme Court has repeatedly refused to provide a consistent explanation for what makes an expectation of privacy reasonable. The Court's refusal has disappointed scholars and frustrated students for four decades. This article explains why the Supreme Court cannot provide an answer. It shows that there are four different tests for what makes an expectation of privacy reasonable, not one, and it argues that the Supreme Court has declined to give a single answer because the reasonable expectation of privacy framework is a bottom-up rather than top-down regulatory system. The exclusionary rule requires hundreds and even thousands of narrow rules explaining when an expectation of privacy is reasonable, and the Supreme Court hears too few cases to generate them. The Supreme Court must delegate the process of rule-creation to decentralized lower courts, and the lower courts must announce rules case-by-case. No one top-down approach can regulate this decentralized, bottom-up system, which means that the Supreme Court cannot provide a single answer to what makes an expectation of privacy reasonable. On the other hand, the existing four models reflect the needs of the bottom-up system far better than any single test. The four models provide the tools lower courts need to create localized Fourth Amendment rules that accurately identify reasonable police practices.

Obtain paper here

March 27, 2007 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Video of Bait Cars

From NPR:  All Things Considered, March 23, 2007 · Police departments all over the United States are adopting a new method of catching car thieves in the act: the bait car. Bait cars — or decoy cars — are designed to look like the most typically stolen model in a given area.

But they're also rigged with GPS tracking, a remote-control "kill" device that allows police to cut off the engine and lock the doors, and hidden cameras. In one video, two thieves are seen driving away, giggling incessantly and fiddling with the radio.  Watch video here.

March 27, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wanted Posters on Pizza Boxes

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Habeas Hearing to Be Held at OSU Moritz College of Law

A panel of judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit will be holding an official session of the Court on Tuesday, April 3 at the OSU Moritz College of Law.

Judges Boyce Martin, R. Guy Cole and Jeff Sutton '90 will hear a complicated federal habeas case in which an Ohio death row prisoner has brought a series of constitutional challenges to the Ohio state court proceedings that resulted in his conviction and death sentence for a murder committed in Summit County, Ohio in the mid-1990s.

The argument will take place at 2 p.m. and members of the public can RSVP to Laura Landy Carr at by Thursday, March 29 to reserve seats. Judicial clerks working for Judges Cole, Martin, and Sutton will offer a panel discussion for students after the judges hear arguments.

[Mark Godsey]

March 25, 2007 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

One Case is Causing Georgia PD System to Run Low on Cash

From The public defender system in Georgia is running short of money — because of one huge case. The defense of Brian Nichols, charged with killing four people after breaking out of a courthouse two years ago, has cost $1.4 million dollars so far — and it hasn't gone to trial yet.

The case is prompting some people to rethink their whole system for public defenders. Public defenders fear they won't have enough money to represent dozens of indigents all over the state.

This week, the judge in the case postponed Nichols' trial for six months because of the funding issue.

Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 25, 2007 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Janine Benedet Explains Monetary Compensation is Unlikely for Acquitted Jet Crash Defendant

Benedet_res2From The chances of success of Ripudaman Singh Malik, one of the two Sikhs acquitted in the 1985 Air India jumbo jet crash case, in his suits against the Canadian government as well as that of British Columbia for malicious prosecution are extremely low, experts, such as University of British Columbia CrimProf Janine Benedet, said.

'It's possible, but it requires not just that you were tried and found not guilty and suffered damages,' CrimProf Janine Benedet was quoted as saying by the Globe and Mail newspaper.

Singh and co-accused Ajaib Singh Bagri were arrested in October 2000, 15 years after Air India flight 182 crashed off the coast of Ireland, killing all 329 passengers and crew. He spent approximately four years in jail and millions of dollars defending himself in the case.

'Defendants who are acquitted are not ordinarily entitled to damages, even though they spent time in jail and may have suffered personally. Showing that evidence was fabricated would not be enough,' CrimProf Benedet said. 'The court would also require evidence of an improper purpose,' she added. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 25, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)