May 5, 2007
Washington State Allows for Civilly Confining Sex Offenders
From NPR.com: Washington state's Supreme Court has ruled that it's permissible to confine sex offenders even after they've served their sentences, as long as they receive mental health treatment that could lead to their release.
A federal court had been monitoring the state's sex-crime confinement program since the 1990s, when allegations arose that the program was used to keep sex offenders off the streets indefinitely.
Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
May 4, 2007
CrimProf Spotlight: Christo Lassiter
In 1996, Professor Lassiter commented on the draft Civil Procedure Code of Ukraine as part of a project undertaken by the Supreme Court of Ohio. Since 1994, he has lectured and written annual updates on Supreme Court litigation for the Federal Public and Community Defenders Program, and has also led discussions at bench-bar conferences on improving the judicial process for the State Bar of Ohio since 1992.
Locally, Professor Lassiter served as a member of the Hamilton County Criminal Justice Task Force which studied and suggested legal reforms; Professor Lassiter served as the Task Force?s Trial Committee chair in 1992. Beginning in 1994, Professor Lassiter served on the Cincinnati Bar Association?s Law Day Committee as the script writer for a two hour televised discussion on constitutional issues of interest to high school students. The program received second place in the ABA 1996 Outstanding Law Day Activities Award competition when Professor Lassiter became chair of the Committee. In 1997, Professor Lassiter led a discussion on professional ethics in the CBA?s Cincinnati Academy of Leadership for Lawyers, and also lectured on ?The Death Penalty in the United States: Historically and Today? at a symposium sponsored by the College of Law. Professor Lassiter was a consultant for ?The Affair,? a joint HBO - BBC production concerning the U.S. military?s use of the death penalty for interracial rape during World War II.
Finally, in his most exciting and professionally rewarding endeavor, Professor Lassiter happily coached, ?Christo's Angels,? the law women's softball team to the All University Intramural Championship in 2000. [Mark Godsey]
May 3, 2007
House Votes to Expand Hate Crime to Homosexuality and Gender
From washingtonpost.com: The House voted Thursday to expand federal hate crime categories to include violent attacks against gays and people targeted because of gender, acting just hours after the White House threatened a veto.
The legislation, passed 237-180, also would make it easier for federal law enforcement to take part in or assist local prosecutions involving bias-motivated attacks. Similar legislation is also moving through the Senate, setting the stage for a possible veto showdown with President Bush.
"This is an important vote of conscience, of a statement of what America is, a society that understands that we accept differences," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the only openly gay man in the House, presided over the chamber as the final vote was taken.
The vote came after fierce lobbying from opposite sides by civil rights groups, who have been pushing for years for added protections against hate crimes, and social conservatives, who say the bill threatens the right to express moral opposition to homosexuality and singles out groups of citizens for special protection.
Ohio Takes DNA Power Away From Prosecutors
From cleveland.com: The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a portion of a state law that allowed local prosecutors to fully control which inmates requesting a DNA test in hopes of clearing their names were actually granted one.
Inmate advocates immediately celebrated the decision, saying it probably means more prisoners will be granted the tests and, in turn, more could be found innocent and freed from prison.
The unanimous court said a provision in Ohio's three-year-old post-conviction DNA testing law that made the local prosecutors' decision final and not appealable essentially gave prosecutors judicial powers, which is unconstitutional. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Police Officers Plead Guilty to Manslaughter of a 92 Year-old Woman
From ap: Two police officers pleaded guilty Thursday to manslaughter in the shooting death of a 92-year-old woman during a botched drug raid last fall. A third officer still faces charges.
Officer J.R. Smith told a state judge Thursday that he regretted what had happened.
"I'm sorry," the 35-year-old said, his voice barely audible. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter, violation of oath, criminal solicitation, making false statements and perjury, which was based on claims in a warrant.
Former Officer Gregg Junnier, 40, who retired from the Atlanta police in January, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, violation of oath, criminal solicitation and making false statements. Both men are expected to face more than 10 years in prison.
In a hearing later in federal court, both pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to violate a person's civil rights, resulting in death. Their state and federal sentences would run concurrently.
The charges followed a Nov. 21 "no-knock" drug raid on the home of Kathryn Johnston, 92. An informant had described buying drugs from a dealer there, police said. When the officers burst in without warning, Johnston fired at them, and they fired back, killing her. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
May 1, 2007
D.C.Madam Defends Her Business
From NPR.com: The alleged "D.C. Madam" says her business was a legal escort service in Washington, D.C. — not a high-dollar prostitution ring, as prosecutors say. Deborah Jeane Palfrey said she expects to enlist some of the capital's top power-brokers to help her case, whether they like it or not.
Palfrey, who faces charges of running an upscale call-girl ring in Washington from her California home, has given phone records to ABC News that could unveil thousands of clients.
Palfrey says she hopes that publicizing the list could lead some of those whose names are on it to testify in her defense — and to say that they did not use her service for sex.
A former top State Department official abruptly resigned after it was revealed that he was one of her clients. Randall Tobias, who ran foreign aid programs at the State Department, told ABC he only received legitimate services — like massages — from the escorts he hired. Palfrey wants Tobias and others to say that on the witness stand. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
MA Dept of Corrections Held Inmates Longer Than Their Sentences
From boston.com: The state Department of Correction, staggered by a string of disclosures about its wrongful confinement of at least 14 inmates, said yesterday it is scrapping its system for calculating inmate sentences and is devising new methods to make sure prisoners serve only their legal terms.
At the same time the department also revealed that an inmate previously described to the Globe as having been held 34 days too long was actually released more than two years -- 790 days -- after he should have been.
Lawrence R. Burhoe of Charlestown, who served time for armed robbery and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, learned of the mistake yesterday.
"How could they do that?" said Burhoe, who was released from prison last April. "I'm kind of overwhelmed. I had told them, 'I don't owe you any more time. My time is up.' "
The acknowledgement that the sentencing system will be overhauled comes eight days after Public Safety Secretary Kevin M. Burke said he was ordering a sweeping review of state prison operations after a Globe Spotlight Team report revealed a series of sentence miscalculations -- errors Burke called inexcusable. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Mexican Drug Lords are Multitasking
From denverpost.com: Mexican drug lords are taking over the business of smuggling immigrants into the United States, using them as human decoys to divert authorities from billions of dollars in cocaine shipments across the same border.
U.S. and Mexican law-enforcement officials told The Associated Press that drug traffickers, in response to a U.S. border crackdown, have seized control of the routes they once shared with human smugglers and in the process are transforming themselves into more diversified crime syndicates.
The drug gangs get protection money from the immigrants and then effectively use them to clear the trail for the flow of drugs.
Undocumented immigrants are used "to maneuver where they want us or don't want us to be," said Alonzo Pena, chief of investigations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Arizona.
Gustavo Soto, a spokesman for the U.S. Border Patrol in Tucson, said smugglers are carrying drugs along paths once used primarily by illegal immigrants. New fences and National Guard troops have helped seal the usual drug routes, and vehicle barriers are forcing traffickers to send more drugs north on the backs of cartel foot soldiers, he said.
The advent of drug-trafficking extortionists along the border also may be responsible for much of the drop in illegal immigration that U.S. officials have attributed more directly to better enforcement, Mexican officials and analysts say. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
April 30, 2007
SCOTUS Decides Scott v Harris
From washingtonpost.com: The Supreme Court today handed an important victory to police officers who are involved in high-speed chases, and took the unusual step of posting a videotape of the chase on its Web site to show that the now-paralyzed civilian driver was to blame.
The court ruled 8-1 in Scott v Harris that Georgia deputy sheriff Timothy Scott could not be sued for the accident that left then 19-year-old Victor Harris a quadriplegic. The high-speed chase down dark highways in 2001 -- which ended when Scott rammed Harris' Cadillac from behind and sent him down an embankment -- was captured on videotape by a camera in one of the pursuing police vehicles.
"Far from being the cautious and controlled driver the lower court depicts, what we see on the video more closely resembles a Hollywood-style car chase of the most frightening sort, placing police officers and innocent bystanders alike at great risk of serious injury," wrote Justice Antonin Scalia.
Scalia was incredulous that the lower courts had said Harris's case against Scott could proceed.
But Justice John Paul Stevens said from the bench that it was preferrable to let a jury see the tape and decide the case, rather than "elderly appellate judges." Stevens is the oldest member of the court at 87.
He said the court had "usurped the jury's factfinding function."
In this case, both a lower court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled in favor of Harris. The 11th Circuit said that Scott's actions constituted deadly force and that it was unreasonable because the officer had no reason to think Harris had done anything more than violate traffic laws. The police gave chase because they clocked him going 73 mph in a 55-mph zone.
In their opinions, Scalia and Stevens got into a battle of footnotes, which Scalia said the public could decide.
"Justice Stevens suggest that our reaction to the videotape is somehow idiosyncratic, and seems to believe we are misrepresenting its contents," Scalia wrote. "We are happy to allow the videotape for itself."
There follows a highly unusual cite for a court that rarely releases audiotapes of its oral arguments and remains steadfastly opposed to cameras in its courtroom. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
African Americans and Latinos are More Likely to be Searched and Arrested During Traffic Stops
From washingtonpost.com: Black, Hispanic and white drivers are equally likely to be pulled over by police, but blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to be searched and arrested, a federal study found.
Police were much more likely to threaten or use force against blacks and Hispanics than against whites in any encounter, whether at a traffic stop or elsewhere, according to the Justice Department.
The study, released Sunday by the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, covered police contacts with the public during 2005 and was based on interviews by the Census Bureau with nearly 64,000 people age 16 or over.
"The numbers are very consistent" with those found in a similar study of police-public contacts in 2002, bureau statistician Matthew R. Durose, the report's co-author, said in an interview. "There's some stability in the findings over these three years."
Traffic stops have become a politically volatile issue. Minority groups have complained that many stops and searches are based on race rather than on legitimate suspicions. Blacks in particular have complained of being pulled over for simply "driving while black."
"The available data is sketchy but deeply concerning," said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP's Washington bureau. The civil rights organization has done its own surveys of traffic stops, and he said the racial disparities grow larger, the deeper the studies delve. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
CrimProf Ian Weinstein Recieves NALP Award
Fordham Law School CrimProf Ian Weinstein, director of the Fordham Law clinical legal education program, received the Award of Distinction for Innovation from NALP, the Association for Legal Career Professionals.
The award was presented at NALP's Annual Education Conference, held April 25-28 in Keystone, Colorado. Weinstein was recognized for his work in spearheading the lawclinic.tv vlog, an online video project that documented the educational experience of students in Fordham Law clinics during the summer and fall of 2006.
"Ian is an incredible attorney and professor, and the lawclinic.tv project is just one more example of his dedication," said Dean and Professor of Law William M. Treanor. "His creative use of emerging technology to expand our students' experience truly is innovative, and I'm so pleased he has been recognized with this award."
Fordham Law's live-client clinical program is ranked #15 in the nation by the U.S. News and World Report survey. The program includes 12 clinics, ranging from securities arbitration to international justice.
Fordham is ranked among the nation's top twenty-five law schools according to U.S. News & World Report and is one of the most selective in the country. It is home to seven legal specialty areas that are ranked among the nation's top 25. Located next to Manhattan's Lincoln Center, Fordham Law will celebrate its 100th graduation in May of this year.
April 29, 2007
An Inside Look Into the Life of Justice Clarence Thomas
From washingtonpost.com: Drugs have been a persistent problem in Pin Point, Ga., a tiny rural settlement best known as the birthplace of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Neighborhood leaders tried everything to chase the scourge away -- a march, a warning sign along the main drag, even a pilgrimage by the local church congregation, which prayed for and sang hymns to the dealers one Sunday morning.
"The guys who were on the corner just walked away," said Bishop Thomas J. Sills, the pastor at Sweet Field of Eden Baptist Church. But they didn't stay gone.
One of the local dealers was Justice Clarence Thomas's nephew. Until his 30-year prison sentence began in 1999, Mark Elliot Martin, the son of Thomas's sister, had been part of Pin Point's drug problem. He had been in and out of trouble, and in and out of jail -- at least 12 arrests, according to court records. In 1997, the year Martin was convicted of pointing a pistol at another person, Thomas assumed custody of his nephew's son, with the nephew's permission. Mark Elliot Martin Jr. -- "Marky," they called him -- was a precocious, curly-haired 6-year-old. The justice promised to give Mark what Thomas's grandfather had given him at the same age -- opportunities to succeed beyond what the boy had in Pin Point.
When he began raising Mark -- Thomas has one adult son from a previous marriage -- he altered his Supreme Court schedule. He sent Mark to private schools, gave him extra homework to improve his math and reading, taught him to dribble with his left hand. And Mark responded. He excelled in school, became a Harry Potter fan and took up golf, and as a teenager he is comfortable around some of the most brilliant legal minds in the country. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Cincinnati Adopts the Boston Miracle
From enquirer.com: Cincinnati's new plan to cut gun violence could hit its key phase in July: face-to-face meetings between Cincinnati criminals, their grandmothers and other influential people.
The most important part of the project will be involvement by neighborhood residents and their insistence not only that violence is wrong, but also "that the community needs it to stop," said crime expert David Kennedy.
Kennedy is the anthropologist credited with the "Boston miracle," which cut homicides there in the 1990s. The Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence copies his plan.
Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, explained his work for the first time Saturday to the public in Cincinnati at the second annual Community Problem Oriented Policing Summit.
In some communities in Cincinnati, Kennedy said, the violence will continue "until their own say to them, 'There is no excuse for this. We know you're better than this. We didn't raise you like this.' "
That word has to come not only from grandmothers, Kennedy said, but elders on their blocks, old ex-convicts, mothers of murdered children and mothers of killers.
Their message will be delivered something like this: About 20 "gang bangers" - one each from previously identified groups that are known to commit murders - will be called to a meeting by their parole or probation officers. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
CrimProf Jules Epstein Co-Chairs Wider Law's "Cross Examination: The Great Engine?" Symposium
More than 100 people attended the daylong symposium "Cross Examination: The Great Engine?" at the Widener Law Delaware campus on Friday, April 20. The event, sponsored by the law school and its student-run Widener Law Review, included six panel discussions featuring academics, practitioners and judges from around the country who examined the idea of cross-examination as an engine for determining truth.
Widener Law CrimProf Jules Epstein, an expert on mistaken identification, co-chaired the conference with Widener Professor John F. Nivala, director of the school's Advocacy and Technology Institute. Epstein made welcome remarks at the start of the day. "Courts nationally have said cross-examination is the fix-it," he said. "It won't always fix everything, but it is a powerful tool."
The day's topics of discussion included the history of adversary trials and development of cross-examination, cross-examination as art and the future of cross-examination.
Presenter Kimberlianne Podlas, Esq., assistant professor at University of North Carolina in Greensboro, discussed the effects television and the media have had on juries and what jurors expect from cross-examination. "Very few people have walked into a courtroom. Millions have seen one on TV," she said, adding that jurors bring their assumptions, gleaned from "Law and Order" and "CSI," with them to jury duty. In the future legal climate, Podlas said, cross-examination can take on a greater role of storyteller to the jury, as opposed to truth-finder for the case.
"Empirical research shows jurors come up with their verdicts based on stories," she said. [Mark Godsey]