CrimProf Blog

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

Friday, April 13, 2007

CrimProf Spotlight: Janet Ainsworth

JanThis week the CrimProf Blog spotlights Seattle University School of Law CrimProf Janet Ainsworth.

Janet Ainsworth recieved her B.A. magna cum laude Brandeis University in 1974: Phi Beta Kappa. She recieved her M.A. for Yale University 1977. She also recieved her J.D. cum laude Harvard Law School 1980.

Professor Ainsworth was employed by the King County (Seattle) Public Defender’s Office from 1980-88, where she was staff attorney in the felony and appellate divisions and later served as training coordinator.

She currently sits on the board of directors of the Public Defender Association, and has authored amicus curiae briefs in the state and federal courts and to the U.S. Supreme Court. She joined the faculty in 1988. [Mark Godsey]

April 13, 2007 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

VA Governor Vetoes Castration Bill

From Gov. Timothy M. Kaine vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have required state agencies to study whether Virginia should start castrating violent sex offenders instead of confining them, some for the rest of their lives.

The General Assembly, hoping to reduce the costs of housing the state's most dangerous sex offenders in prison or treatment facilities, overwhelmingly supported having state officials study whether criminals should have the option of "physical castration" in exchange for being released.

Kaine (D) vetoed the bill because, he said, he thinks health professionals, not legislators, are the most qualified people to determine how to treat sex offenders, some of whom might be mentally ill.

"This bill was overly prescriptive of matters best left to the professionals in our state mental health agency," Kaine said.

Also Tuesday, Kaine, as expected, vetoed a bill that would have eliminated nonsmoking areas in restaurants that posted "smoking permitted" signs at the front door. The governor plans to continue pushing for a total ban on smoking in restaurants.

Kaine's decision on the sex offender bill, however, put him in the midst of a national debate over the best way to deal with rapists, child molesters and other sexual predators.

Virginia is one of 17 states with a civil commitment law that calls for sex offenders who are deemed too dangerous to be released to be confined to a treatment center after they have served their prison sentences. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 12, 2007 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

A Review Of Three Books Focusing on One Problem: The U.S. Prison System

From New York Book Review Editor Jason DeParle recently published an article titled "The American Nightmare", in which he reviewed the following three books that focus on U.S. Prisons' Problems.

  • Punishment and Inequality in America, by Bruce Western at the Russell Sage Foundation
  • Confronting Confinement: A Report of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons, by John J. Gibbons and Nicholas de B. Katzenbach, co-chairs of Vera Institute of Justice.
  • Locked Out: Felon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy by Jeff Manza and Christopher Uggen. Oxford University Press

Read the Review. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 12, 2007 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Article Spotlight: "Reforming Complicity Law: Trivial Assistance as a Lesser Offense"

Dressler_joshuaFrom Ohio State University Moritz College of Law CrimProf Joshua Dressler recently released "Reforming Complicity Law: Trivial Assistance as a Lesser Offense."  Here is the abstract:

American accomplice law is a disgrace. It treats the accomplice in terms of guilt and, potentially, punishment, as if she were the perpetrator, even when her culpability is often less than that of the perpetrator and/or her involvement in the crime is tangential.

The subject of accomplice liability has received little scholarly attention in the United States except, coincidentally, for a flurry of intellectual activity in the mid-1980s. One of these articles, my own, proposed reform of complicity law in the form of what may be characterized as the "causation approach." The thesis of that article was that the criminal law fails to adequately distinguish between accomplices who are critical parties in a crime and those whose involvement is trivial. To alleviate this problem, the article recommended a statutory distinction between "causal" and "non-causal" accomplices: causal accomplices (persons but for whose assistance the offense would not have occurred) could continue to be convicted of the offense committed by the principal; non-causal accomplices would be convicted of a lesser offense and punished accordingly.

In this article I consider Professor Kadish's approach to complicity, which sees no place for causation in the analysis, and other criticisms directed at the causation approach. I argue here that, notwithstanding the criticisms, the causation approach to accomplice liability is conceptually justifiable and would still make for good legislative reform. However, the causation approach, although preferable to current law, does not go far enough to distinguish between parties and does not express community sentiment as well as it could. Therefore, I now suggest variations on the causation approach, which would also result in a more just system than the present one. [Mark Godsey]

April 12, 2007 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

OSJCL is Now Available

The new issue of the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law is now available online. 

The symposium for the issue, "Mercy and Clemency," was guest edited by Professor Stephen Garvey (Cornell), and includes articles by Stephanos Bibas, David Dolinko, R.A. Duff, Stephen Garvey, Heidi Hurd, Jeffrie Murphy, Mary Sigler, and John Tasiolas.

Also in this issue:

  • Judge Nancy Gertner, From Omnipotence to Impotence: American Judges and Sentencing.
  • An article by a current law student and parolee (James Binnall) commenting on the Supreme Court's recent Fourth Amendment Samson decision, which authorized suspicionless searches of parolees.
  • Professor Joan Krause's critique of an earlier Commentary by Joshua Dressler, on battered women.
  • Professor Dan Markel's critique of Professor Wayne Logan's University of Pennsylvania Law Review article, Horizontal Federalism in the Age of Criminal Justice Interconnectedness,  followed by a reply by Professor Logan.
  • Sociology professor Theresa Severance's intriguing description of her jury duty experience in a capital case (Practicing What I Preach: A Professor in the Venire).
  • Professor Christopher Slobogin's provocative essay, The Liberal Assault on the Fourth Amendment.
  • and Professor Thomas Davies's review (An Account of Mapp v. Ohio That Misses the Larger Exclusionary Rule Story) of Carolyn Long's book, Mapp v. Ohio: Guarding Against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures. [Mark Godsey]

April 11, 2007 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Teenage Inmate Sexual Abuse Case Ignored for 2 Years

From A grand jury indicts two former employees of the Texas Youth Commission. They're accused of sexually abusing teenage inmates. A Texas Ranger's report on the case two years ago was ignored at the time. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 11, 2007 in Sex | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Luiz Flavio Soares Discusses Criminals' Love For Brazil

From: South University of Santa Catarina CrimProf Luiz Flavio Soares discusses the long list of criminals who have sought refuge in Rio de Janeiro or neighboring Sao Paulo. Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, U.K. train robber Ronnie Biggs and American murder suspect Jesse James Hollywood, one of the youngest people to appear on the FBI's Ten Most-Wanted List, all fled to Brazil.

Dreams of disappearing in a carefree paradise and a sense that laws aren't rigidly enforced draw the fugitives. Corruption makes it easy to obtain false documents, and a thriving underground economy allows criminals to stay under cover for years, said CrimProf Luiz Flavio Soares.

"Brazil is a natural magnet,'' said Senator Romeu Tuma, 75, who worked for the country's federal police for 50 years. ``It's easier for foreign criminals to blend in here because they don't need to speak the language and can live with fake documents.''  Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 11, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

CrimProf Steve Mulroy Discusses Reasons for DA's Plea Bargain With a Murderer

MulroyFrom University of Memphis Law School CrimProf Steve Mulroy recently discussed the Shelby County, Tenn. District Attorney Bill Gibbons' decision to approve the deal that reduced a possible death penalty case to one in which defendant Dale Mardis got just 15 years for killing code enforcement officer Mickey Wright.

Gibbons says if he hadn't offered a plea bargain, Mardis could have gotten even less time or no time at all.   The critical factor was a witness the prosecution couldn't count on to provide a motive.  Law enforcement also never found Wright's body. So, they didn't have the evidence it could provide.

CrimProf Steve Mulroy says the district attorney has to give the jury the evidence to match the conviction he seeks.

"In our system the prosecutor represents the state, represents the people not the victims or the victim's family. Certainly the prosecution is going to pay attention to what the victims have to say, but at the end of the day the prosecutor needs to make the call," said Mulroy. Rest of Story. . . [Mark Godsey]

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

Canadian CrimProf Don Stuart Praises the Charter

Stuartprofilepicture From Queen’s University Faculty of Law CrimProf Don Stuart recently wrote an opinon piece discussing the fact that criminal justice is better under the Charter.  Here is a sample of the piece:

"The entrenchment of Charter rights for accused in 1982 with effective remedies for breach has indeed had a revolutionary effect on the criminal justice system.

Our criminal justice system is no longer just about whether guilt has been proved. Courts also insist on maintaining fundamental Charter standards of fairness respecting policing, prosecution, trials, sentencing, and release from custody.

The judicial assertion of entrenched Charter standards since 1982 has constituted the only real check against the lure of law-and-order politics by politicians of all stripes and the consequent unremittingly legislative trend to toughen the criminal law. There are no votes in being soft on crime. Politicians fall over each other to be tough even though criminologists have made it very clear that toughening penalties in the United States and elsewhere has had no effect on reducing crime.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has helped ensure that we have a balanced criminal justice system of which Canadians can be proud. The Charter protects minority rights against the tyranny of the majority. This includes rights of those accused of crimes, which tend to be unpopular until the moment we ourselves get charged.

Especially through the work of the Supreme Court of Canada, important and minimum standards have been put in place. Accused cannot be punished without a finding of fault. This is even so for most provincial offences. An accused can no longer be sent to jail for life under constructive murder provisions under which a killing during the commission of certain listed crimes was automatically murder even though the killing was accidental or even by someone other than the accused. There is no evidence that this has affected the murder." More. . . [Mark Godsey]

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

New Criminal Law Review Journal

University of California Press Journals + Digital Publishing is proud to announce that commencing with Volume 10, Issue 1, it will assume publication of New Criminal Law Review: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal. The journal, formerly known as Buffalo Criminal Law Review, is focused on examinations of crime and punishment in domestic, transnational, and international contexts. New Criminal Law Review provides timely, innovative commentary and in-depth scholarly analyses on a wide range of criminal law topics. The journal will move to a quarterly publication schedule and will release issues in January, April, July and October.
"The New Criminal Law Review picks up where the Buffalo Criminal Law Review left off, by providing an international and interdisciplinary outlet for cutting-edge scholarship on issues related to criminal law and state punishment, featuring a mix of articles, essays, commentaries, and book reviews, along with symposium issues on topics of theoretical and practical importance."  More Info. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 10, 2007 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Monday, April 9, 2007

SCOTUS Rejects Inmate Letter Publication Case

Supreme_court_20From The Supreme Court declined Monday to review a jury verdict against a newspaper for publishing a prison inmate's letter without verifying allegations it contained about a prosecutor.

The owners of the Buzz newspaper of Martinsville, Va., wanted the court to take their case to clarify whether media outlets have a duty to investigate claims made in letters to the editor or risk defamation lawsuits. The justices rejected the appeal without comment.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 9, 2007 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Philly Calls for Gun Control

From Seven months after a special two-day legislative session on crime in which more than a dozen gun-control bills were defeated, anti-crime advocates are hoping a new climate in Harrisburg will mean movement on long-stalled gun-control measures.

The drumbeat for tougher firearms laws, they say, is swelling from people in many quarters, including the governor.

The effort comes at a time when the number of slayings in Philadelphia is edging painfully upward - 105 at last count, the majority of them at the point of a gun. At least 15 bills are back in the pipeline; Gov. Rendell has turned up the volume on his pleas for stronger gun-control measures, and Democrats now control the state House. All this comes at a time when a new poll suggests a majority of Pennsylvanians are willing to accept handgun-sale limits.

But despite the renewed hope - and calls by Rendell, Mayor Street, and mayors from mid-size cities across the state for legislation to help educe gun violence - the bills face an uphill battle in the General Assembly, which is dominated by lawmakers who support gun rights.

From House Speaker Dennis O'Brien (R., Phila.), who blocked gun-control bills as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, to the current leaders of the committees in the House and Senate, there is reluctance to support gun bills for fear they will fail or bring lawmakers defeat in the next election.

Rep. Dan Surra (D., Elk) said that while he sympathized with residents living in high-crime areas, he could not support any gun-restriction bill because in certain quarters of his district, a hunting stronghold in the north-central part of the state, guns are a single-issue item at the polls.

"They will vote you out on this," Surra said. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 9, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Communities Collapse for Re-entry of Former Drug Cons

From In the 1980s and '90s, more than 1 million people in the United States were arrested each year on drug charges. Most went to prison. And for years, that's where they stayed… until now.

Hundreds of thousands of inmates, all by-products of a nearly four-decades-old war on drugs, are now pouring out of the nation's prisons. For the most part, they all return to the neighborhood they came from. Many of their communities are collapsing under the burden. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 9, 2007 in Drugs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

911 is in a State of Crisis

From As in many areas of the country, more 911 calls here come from cellphones than land lines. But 40 percent of the nation’s counties, most of them rural or small-town communities like this one, cannot yet pinpoint the location of cellphone callers, though the technology to do so has been available for at least five years.

Since the inception of 911 more than 30 years ago, the three-digit S O S has become universally familiar and relied upon. But the system has not kept pace with the nation’s rapidly changing communication habits. As it ages, it is cracking, with problems like system overload, understaffing, misrouted calls and bug-ridden databases leading to unanswered calls and dangerous errors.

At the same time, the number of calls continues to grow. In Cherokee County, for instance, the volume has increased by 20 percent a year.

Officials in places large and small have declared a 911 crisis. When 30,000 emergency calls went unanswered in Chattanooga, Tenn., where Bob Corker, the Republican candidate for United States Senate in 2006, had served as mayor, his Democratic opponent, Harold E. Ford Jr., made it a campaign issue.

Officials in Riverside County, Calif., fed up with misrouted calls, have been advising residents to call the sheriff or local fire department directly.

In Bessemer, Ala., city employees could not get through to their own 911 system when a colleague had a seizure, at a time when the city and others like it are struggling to upgrade their systems at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Yet even the newest systems cannot adequately handle Internet-based phone services or text messages, which emerged as the most reliable form of communication during Hurricane Katrina.

“Everyone expects 911 to work perfectly 100 percent of the time,” said Patrick Halley, the governmental affairs director for the National Emergency Number Association, whose state-by-state tracking shows that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are in the forefront of adopting new technology. “And the public doesn’t really care about 911 until they go to use it and expect it to work perfectly and it doesn’t.” Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 9, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Florida Places Sex offenders Under the Bridge

From The Florida Department of Corrections says there are fewer and fewer places in Miami-Dade County where sex offenders can live because the county has some of the strongest restrictions against this kind of criminal in the country.

Florida's solution: house the convicted felons under a bridge that forms one part of the causeway.

The Julia Tuttle Causeway, which links Miami to Miami Beach, offers no running water, no electricity and little protection from nasty weather. It's not an ideal solution, Department of Corrections Officials told CNN, but at least the state knows where the sex offenders are.

Nearly every day a state probation officer makes a predawn visit to the causeway. Those visits are part of the terms of the offenders' probation which mandates that they occupy a residence from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

But what if a sex offender can't find a place to live?

That is increasingly the case, say state officials, after several Florida cities enacted laws that prohibit convicted sexual offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks and other places where children might gather. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 8, 2007 in Sex | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

Crimprof Michael Mello Discusses Suicide by Court Case

From University of Vermont Crimprof Michael Mello recently discussed Like the case of Marco Allen Chapman wants to go ahead with his execution after admitting he brutally killed two children and left their sister and mother for dead.

What makes Chapman's case groundbreaking, lawyers say, is his decision to waive trial and sentencing by a jury, and then nearly beg to be sentenced to death. CrimProfs, such as Crimprof Mello, have found Chapman's case — and its potential implications for future defendants — disturbing.

His own lawyers say Chapman is trying to use the legal system to commit "suicide by court."

On Thursday, the Kentucky Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the legality of Chapman's request, part of the automatic appeals process in all death penalty cases.

The case has the unusual twist of putting prosecutors and Chapman on the same side arguing for the death sentence while Chapman's court-appointed defense attorneys seek to stop the lethal injection.

"This is a defense lawyer's worst nightmare," said CrimProf Michael Mello, who is also a former lawyer for death row inmates in Florida. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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