CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Archiving Security Cameras to Catch Suspected Criminals

From In an attempt to capitalize on the ubiquity of security cameras, police are trying to search thousands of videos for suspected criminals. They input specific criteria — the name of a weapon or a region — and the computer determines if any of the images are a match.

But there is too much video to sort through. With new equipment, police in Cincinnati and in a handful of other cities will be able to archive and find videos based on certain specifications, as in: all female bank robbers using shotguns; convenience store hold-ups where the suspect wears a blue baseball cap; and other cross-referenced criteria. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 21, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 20, 2007

CrimProf Spotlight: Charles Bobis

Bobis This week the Crimprof Blog spotlights St. John's University School of Law CrimProf Charles Bobis.

Professor Bobis served as law clerk to Justice Benjamin J. Rabin of the New York State Appellate Division, First Judicial Department and as Law Assistant to the Justices of the same court. He later practiced for ten years as a trial attorney with the Criminal Defense Division of the Legal Aid Society of the City of New York before joining the law faculty.

He is a member of the American Bar Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and serves on the faculty of several trial advocacy programs in New York City.

He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Criminal Law Institute of the School of Law. Professor Bobis is co-author of Real Estate Brokerage-Law and Practice. He teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Legal Method. [Mark Godsey]

April 20, 2007 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

16 Exonerated Death Row Inmates, Barry Scheck, and Former TX Prosecutor Call for End of Penn. Executions

From During a press conference near the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, 16 former death row inmates whose convictions were overturned joined noted attorney Barry Scheck and former Texas prosecutor Sam Millsap in calling for a moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania. Harold C. Wilson , the most recent of six death row exonerees in the state, noted that he spent 16 years on death row for a murder he did not commit. "If it had been up to the State of Pennsylvania, I would be dead today," Wilson told those who gathered to launch the Pennsylvania Moratorium Coalition, a group devoted to halting executions in the state while a review of capital punishment laws is conducted.

Wilson and fifteen other former death row inmates from around the country are part of Witness to Innocence, a group established by Sister Helen Prejean to assist wrongly convicted individuals who have been released from death row. They all signed a "Declaration of Innocence" as they urged lawmakers to halt executions.

Scheck, who heads the Innocence Project in New York City, stated that Pennsylvania has executed three men and freed six wrongly convicted men from death row since it reinstated capital punishment. "If the death penalty doesn't deter, if the death penalty is more expensive, and you have the risk of executing the innocent, is it a good policy? No," Scheck stated. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 19, 2007 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Help Wanted: New Orleans Public Defender

From A judge in New Orleans has released 42 inmates who were suspected of drug crimes. They lack legal counsel, so they can't be tried. The public defender's office has been in crisis since Hurricane Katrina. Listen . . . [Mark Godsey]

April 19, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UT Law Clinic Helps with Panneti SCOTUS Case

Levin_maurie Students and faculty in the Capital Punishment Clinic at The University of Texas School of Law assisted in a death penalty case, Panetti v. Quarterman, that was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court today. This is the fourth Supreme Court case that the Clinic has been involved in this 2006–2007 term.

During its most recent term the Supreme Court agreed to hear only 78 of the 8,517 cases filed, or less than one percent. Of the cases selected for review this term, students and faculty in the Supreme Court Clinic and the Capital Punishment Clinic have been involved in five–an unprecedented number of active Supreme Court cases at any law school in a single term.

Students in the Capital Punishment Clinic worked on the Panetti case under the supervision of CrimProf Maurie Levin and CrimProf Jim Marcus, who served as co-counsel in the case.

Rest of Story. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 19, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

NY Prisoners will Recieve Better Treatment

From Thousands of severely mentally ill inmates in New York's prisons will receive more treatment as part of a landmark settlement in a federal lawsuit brought by prisoner advocates.

The agreement is expected to be signed April 27 by a federal judge and the parties involved.

It was negotiated after five years of litigation and two weeks of a nonjury trial before U.S. District Judge Gerard E. Lynch in New York City.

"This greatly expands the mental health services available within the prison system," said Cliff Zucker, executive director of Disability Advocates, a not-for-profit group in Albany that was the plaintiff.

About 8,000 of the state's 63,000 inmates have been diagnosed with serious mental illness. Hundreds are kept in solitary confinement and studies have shown they are far more likely to commit suicide or injure themselves.

Along with adding staff, resources and new beds for mentally ill inmates, the settlement bans some seemingly barbaric prison practices, such as:

  • Stripping naked mentally inmates suffering an acute psychotic episode, segregating them in a Plexiglas-walled cubicle and leaving them with nothing but a thin pad on a cement floor.
  • The use of punitive "restricted diets," a loaf made from bread and cabbage, for punishment.
  • Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

    April 18, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    SCOTUS Decides James v. United States

    Supreme_court_20_2 In James v. United States, No. 05-9264, the Supreme Court ruled that a prior conviction for an attempt crime may count as a predicate "violent felony" for purposes of the Armed Career Criminal Act if it qualifies under the ACCA's "residual" clause by virtue of the fact that it "otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another." More. . . [Mark Godsey]

    April 18, 2007 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    SCOTUS Decides Gonzales v Carhart

    Supreme_court_20From U.S. Supreme Court recently decided Gonzales v. Carhart, No. 05-380, a 5-4 majority of the court rejected facial constitutional challenges to the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 , which authorizes criminal penalties for performing so-called "partial birth" second-trimester abortions.

    Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that opponents of the Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003 "have not demonstrated that the Act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases." "Today's decision is alarming,"

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in dissent with justices Stephen Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens. She said the ruling "refuses to take ... seriously" previous Supreme Court decisions on abortion. But the American Center for Law and Justice, which litigates pro-life issues, called the ruling "an important shift in the ongoing battle to protect human life." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

    April 18, 2007 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

    Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    Mass. Reconsiders Ban on Hunting for Suspects Using Kin DNA

    From The Massachusetts State Police crime laboratory is considering expanding the use of its DNA database to search for close relatives of suspects whose DNA is recovered from crime scenes, a controversial crime-fighting technique that prosecutors say would help them solve more cases but that critics say would target innocent people, many of them members of minority groups.

    Currently, the lab takes DNA found at crime scenes and compares it with DNA samples from convicted felons in hope of finding a perfect match and a suspect. The lab does not permit employees to seek or report close matches, which could give investigators an important lead by indicating the suspect may be related to a felon in the database, according to officials at the state's Executive Office of Public Safety.

    But Mary Kate McGilvray, the new acting director of the lab, recently told the annual meeting of state prosecutors that the lab was reconsidering the ban. The possible change, which reflects an emerging national trend, is part of a private $267,000 review prompted by the suspension in January of the civilian database administrator, Robert E. Pino, partly for allegedly violating a ban on so-called familial searches. He was fired Friday.

    McGilvray and other public safety officials declined to say why there were considering lifting the ban on familial searches or how the reassessment related to the Jan. 11 suspension of Pino.

    McGilvray also met last month with district attorneys to discuss the possibility of allowing familial DNA searching, according to Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, who welcomed the development.

    "I think it has the capability of solving serious crimes and getting seriously dangerous individuals off the street and that it would be perhaps unconscionable not to go down this road," Conley said. "Science advances, and it's simply responsible on our part to follow any investigative leads."

    But defense lawyers and civil libertarians condemn the idea, saying investigations resulting from partial DNA matches would inevitably cast suspicion on some law-abiding citizens

    Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

    April 17, 2007 in DNA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    Tragedy May Renew Gun Control Debate

    From Monday's deadly rampage at Virginia Tech sparked a largely one-sided response in the long-running debate over guns.

    Gun control advocates said the shootings pointed to the need for tougher laws, while supporters of gun rights generally kept their heads down.

    And leaders of both major political parties expressed sympathy for victims and their families, while avoiding comment on gun control.

    In brief remarks from the White House, President Bush expressed the nation's grief over the carnage in Blacksburg, Va. "Schools should be places of sanctuary and learning," he said. "When that sanctuary is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom and every American community."

    Bush, a longtime champion of the right to bear arms, said nothing about the gun control debate.

    Similarly, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco expressed sorrow about the shootings but remained silent on gun control. In the past, Democrats often have led the fight for tighter gun laws, but recently the party has been trying to broaden its appeal to hunters and others who oppose more controls.

    However, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y), whose husband was among six people killed by a gunman who opened fire on a Long Island Rail Road train in 1993, added a political note to her statement of sympathy. "The unfortunate situation in Virginia could have been avoided if congressional leaders stood up to the gun lobby." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

    April 17, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    University of Texas Hosts "Re-examining Incarceration: A Discussion on Civil Rights and the Prison System"

    The Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights presented its annual symposium, “Re-examining Incarceration: A Discussion on Civil Rights and the Prison System,” on Tuesday, April 17, at The University of Texas School of Law.

    The event featureed a critical discussion of civil rights issues surrounding incarcerated persons in Texas.

    The special guest speaker  was Kerry Max Cook, the author of Chasing Justice, who was exonerated after spending two decades on Texas’ death row for a crime he didn’t commit. Cook’s long struggle for freedom and exoneration is said to be the result of one of the worst cases of prosecutorial misconduct in American history. He will tell his story.

    Two panels followed in the Law School’s Eidman Courtroom, one discussing the state of juvenile justice in Texas and the second discussing how civil society can work to effect change within the Texas prison system. They included:

      Scott Medlock, Texas Civil Rights Project, Will Harrell, ACLU of Texas, and Isela Gutierrez, Texas Coalition Advocating for Juvenile Justice
      Nicole Porter, American Civil Liberties Union of Texas; Michele Deitch, Professor, LBJ School of Public Policy, The University of Texas; J. Rogue, AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power; Andria Shively, Inside Books Project [Mark Godsey]

    April 17, 2007 in Symposiums | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    Monday, April 16, 2007

    Fighting for Your Right to. . . Online Gamble?

    From Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, wants Congress to repeal a law that effectively bans online gambling by making it illegal for credit card companies to process online gaming receipts. The World Trade Organization rejected the law, enacted in 2006. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

    April 16, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

    SCOTUS Rejects Inmate Letter Publication Case

    Supreme_court_20_2 From 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 16, 2007 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    New Article Spotlight: Entrapment and Terrorism

    StevensondruFrom South Texas College of Law CrimProf Dru D. Stevenson recently released "Entrapment and Terrorism." Here is the abstract:

    The thesis of this article is that the unique nature of terrorist crime requires a tweaking of the entrapment rules. The entrapment defense is our legal system's primary mechanism for regulating government sting operations.

    I argue that sting operations and surveillance are conceptually distinct (or rival) methods of law enforcement, which compete for resource allocation. If an enforcement agency favors one method, it shifts resources away from the other. To the extent that we dislike panoptic government surveillance, we can steer enforcement agencies away from it by encouraging targeted stings; and we can achieve this, in part, by adapting the rules for the entrapment defense as applied to terrorism prosecutions.

    Due to the unique nature of terror-related crimes, combating them with surveillance necessitates non-specific, panoptic surveillance, something much more invasive than was necessary with traditional victimless crimes like trafficking in drugs or sex, etc. This changed circumstance results from the greater emphasis on prevention, as opposed to punishment, and the nature of the organizations involved.

    In order to be effective against terrorism, surveillance would have to be so intrusive, expansive, and expensive that it warrants a consideration of alternative methods in this context. Adapting the legal rules surrounding entrapment would facilitate a beneficial and efficient shift in methodologies.  [Mark Godsey]

    April 16, 2007 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    Sunday, April 15, 2007

    Lewis & Clark Law School Hosts "Crimes, War Crimes, and the War on Terror"

    Valerie Caproni, Chief Counsel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is one of 15 legal experts from around the country to join the Lewis & Clark Law School Spring 2007 Law Review Symposium. The symposium, titled “Crimes, War Crimes, and the War on Terror,” takes place on Friday, April 20, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. at Lewis & Clark Law School.

    Panel discussion topics include:

    • “Domestic Law and National Security,”
    • “The other criminal Process: War Crimes, Military Commissions, and Habeas Corpus,”
    • “Perspectives from International Law,”
    • “Surveillance and Transparency.”

    Lewis & Clark Law School faculty panelists include

    • Prof Bill Funk
    • CrimProf John Kroger
    • CrimProf John Parry
    • Prof Juliet Stumpf
    • CrimProf Susan Mandiberg.

    All events will be held at Lewis & Clark Law School in Classroom. Registration begins at 8 a.m. Symposium fee includes materials, continental breakfast, and lunch. Cost varies based on private practice, governmental and academic affiliations. [Mark Godsey]

    April 15, 2007 in Symposiums | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    University of Texas Launches Actual Innocence Database

    The Tarlton Law Library at The University of Texas at Austin has compiled an Actual Innocence awareness database which contains citations, and links where possible, to current articles, scholarship, legislation and other materials in the area of wrongful convictions.

    The materials are classified into what are considered the primary causes of wrongful conviction. They include forensics/DNA; eyewitness identification; false confessions; jailhouse informants; police and/or prosecutorial misconduct; and ineffective representation. There is also a “general” category for those items which defy further categorization.

    The project developed out of a need to support the Texas Center for Actual Innocence and the Actual Innocence Clinic at The University of Texas Law School, as well as other innocence projects around the country.

    “We hope that the database will be a valuable resource to the community of attorneys, scholars and students who work tirelessly to release those who have been wrongly convicted,” said Melissa Bernstein, the reference librarian in the Tarlton Law Library who compiled the materials.

    The purpose of the database is to create a type of “virtual library” that brings together and organizes the overwhelming amount of material that is now available on wrongful convictions, from popular media (such as newspaper articles and segments on television news magazines), to journal articles, books, reports, legislation and websites. Materials from approximately the last 10 years have been included in the database, which was designed by Scott Webel, print and digital publications designer in the Tarlton Law Library. [Mark Godsey]

    April 15, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

    CrimProf Jospeph Kennedy Writes Article About Prosecuting the Duke Lacrosse Prosecutor

    J_kennedyFrom University of North Carolina School of Law CrimProf Joseph Kennedy recently had an article titled: "Prosecuting the Prosecutor: Did the DA in the DUke Lacrosse Case Commit a Crime?" published on  Here is an excerpt frm the article:

    When does a prosecution itself become a crime? It is well understood that prosecutors enjoy broad immunity from civil suit for their actions as prosecutors. That immunity, however, does not protect them from criminal liability. North Carolina District Attorney Mike Nifong faces possible disbarment for allegedly violating the rules of legal ethics in the Duke lacrosse case A number of members of Congress have asked the Department of Justice to investigate his conduct, and the North Carolina attorney general has not ruled out criminal charges. Should Nifong face prosecution for his handling of the case?

    Maybe. Nifong has not yet had a chance to present his defense to the ethics charges—that will happen in mid-June. But if Nifong indeed committed all of the acts alleged in the ethics complaint, he may also have obstructed justice in violation of state law and committed a federal civil rights crime.

    The strongest basis for a prosecution on either charge would probably be the allegations that Nifong tried to suppress DNA test results that suggested the innocence of the defendants (three Duke lacrosse players he charged with raping a dancer whom the team hired to perform). Those results ruled out the defendants as the sources of DNA material found in the clothes and on the body of the accuser. Obstruction of justice extends to actions by attorneys aimed at suppressing evidence in criminal cases. Such cases are unusual but not completely unheard of. Last year, the Department of Justice charged one of its own prosecutors with obstruction of justice for allegedly failing to disclose exculpatory evidence. In that case, the prosecutor argued in a terrorism trial that he had sketches by the defendants of a Jordanian hospital targeted for attack. The charge is that the prosecutor also had photographs of the hospital that contradicted his claims about the sketches, and that he didn't disclose them. This may be the first time that a prosecutor has been charged with obstructing justice for failing to turn over exculpatory materials—evidence that suggests a defendant's innocence."

    Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]


    April 15, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)