CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Penn SC Rules that the First Amendment Requires Access to Jury Names

From Reaffirming the long tradition of making public the names of jurors, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the First Amendment required access to juror identities in most cases - but not their addresses.

"Disclosing jurors' names furthers the objective of a fair trial to the defendant and gives assurances of fairness to society as a whole," Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy wrote in a 20-page opinion.

The 5-0 decision came in a case that focused on the 2003 western Pennsylvania murder trial of a podiatrist accused of suffocating his wife.

The Westmoreland County trial judge withheld the names of jurors. The state Superior Court upheld that ruling, and two Pittsburgh news organizations appealed to the state's highest court.

What to do about juror identities is an issue of growing importance to judges nationwide as more high-profile trials play out on cable and network television - often with jurors interviewed as soon as the verdict is in.

Some judges have tried to shield jurors from media inquiries, worrying that jurors might feel harassed or that comments made by jurors in interviews might become issues on appeal. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

June 2, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Friday, June 1, 2007

CrimProf Blog Spotlight: Blaine LeCesne

BlecesneThis week the CrimProf Blog spotlights Loyola University School of Law CrimProf Blaine LeCesne.

Professor LeCesne was employed by the New York law firms of LeBoeuf, Lamb, Leiby & MacRae (1980-1983), and Weil, Gotshal & Manges (1983-1987).

He served as Deputy City Attorney for the City Attorney of New Orleans from 1987-1989 and was a partner with the law firm of Brook, Morial, Cassibry, Fraiche & Pizza from 1989-1991.

He began his career at Loyola in 1991. Professor LeCesne teaches Louisiana Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, Torts, and Trial Advocacy. [Mark Godsey]

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

Thursday, May 31, 2007

CrimProf Michael Ware Appointed Special Assistant Prosecutor

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins ‘94 announced that Texas Wesleyan University School of Law Adjunct CrimProf and Wesleyan Innocence Project Director Michael Ware has been appointed as special assistant prosecutor responsible for overseeing DNA evidence and conviction integrity in the Dallas County D.A.’s office.

The announcement was made at the law school during the Innocence Project of Texas’ training seminar on Friday, May 25. To prepare for the review of almost 400 cases involving questionable DNA evidence, students from the Wesleyan Innocence Project attended a training seminar that included information on DNA evidence and case management.

Watkins arrived at the training around mid-day to make the announcement and to talk about the work of the Innocence Project.

“We’re not freeing the guilty, but working to free the innocent and bring credibility to the justice system in


,” Watkins said. “What I’m doing is the right thing. I’m not just dispensing justice.”

Ware’s new position as special assistant prosecutor was made possible when



commissioners recently approved almost $360,000 for hiring a special prosecutor and staff to review cases with questionable evidence.

“I’m {really} impressed with what Craig Watkins has brought to the office,” Ware said. “He has asked me to be part of something historic.”

Watkins called the work of the Wesleyan Innocence Project invaluable. He reminded students that they have a responsibility to their law degree and that responsibility should be exercised wisely. Wesleyan Innocence Project students work on a pro bono basis, receiving no credit or payment for their time.

[Mark Godsey]

May 31, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

CrimProf Michael Scharf and Students Assist in Prosecution of Former Liberian President

Scharf_smCase Western Reserve University School of Law CrimProf Michael Scharf and students have played a central role in the events leading to the international trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, which is set to start on June 4. Taylor will be tried by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (sitting at the International Criminal Court in The Hague) for his role in the commission of crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone, which were portrayed in the Academy Award-nominated film "Blood Diamond" starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Shortly after the Special Court for Sierra Leone was established by an agreement between the United Nations and Sierra Leone in 2002, its chief prosecutor, David Crane, contacted Case law professor Michael Scharf requesting assistance. Scharf, a former U.S. State Department official who knew Crane from Crane's days as dean of the Army JAG School, runs the War Crimes Research Office at Case, which provides legal assistance to several international tribunals. Scharf has also provided training to the judges of the Rwanda Tribunal, the Iraqi High Tribunal that recently convicted the late former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and most recently the Cambodia Tribunal.

With a scant budget, small staff, and no library, Crane and his colleagues in Freetown relied on the students at Case to write lengthy research memoranda on the most difficult legal issues facing the Tribunal. Since then, the Case War Crimes Research Office has produced more than 30 memoranda for the Tribunal, including one that Crane has said "was absolutely critical to proving that the former Liberian president was not protected by the doctrine of Head of State Immunity."

Armed with the Case memo, Crane issued a controversial indictment of Taylor while Taylor was attending a peace negotiation in Ghana in June 2003. Citing the authorities that the Case students supplied, the Tribunal held that Taylor did not have immunity, setting the stage for his eventual arrest and trial. [Mark Godsey]

May 31, 2007 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ACLU Sues Boeing for Profiting from Torture

From The American Civil Liberties Union is suing a subsidiary of Boeing, for helping the CIA fly suspected terrorists as part of its "extraordinary rendition" program. The ACLU says this is a first for them — to accuse a blue-chip American company of "profiting from torture." The lawsuit claims the company, Jeppesen Dataplan, provided planes and logistical help for at least 70 flights. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 31, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Brutal Interrogation Tactics Critcized By Experts

From As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable.

The psychologists and other specialists, commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board, make the case that more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has yet to create an elite corps of interrogators trained to glean secrets from terrorism

Some of the study participants argue that interrogation should be restructured using lessons from many fields, including the tricks of veteran homicide detectives, the persuasive techniques of sophisticated marketing and models from American history. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 30, 2007 in Homeland Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

USC Law CrimProf Carrie Hempel Says There Will Be More Women Freed Due To Abuse Testimony Law

ChempelFrom After spending 16 years in prison, Hudie Joyce Walker walked out of a Pomona, CA courtroom Tuesday a free woman — a sign of how much the law has changed for battered women who strike back.

Walker was the beneficiary of the first appellate court decision to interpret a 2002 state law that allows inmates to reopen their cases if they can show that expert testimony on abuse probably would have changed the outcome.

USC CrimProf Carrie Hempel said the decision marks the right of a battered person to get a new trial if she was convicted of homicide before the law recognized the importance of expert testimony on the effects of battering. It could help 50 or 60 other cases. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 30, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

What do We Owe Exonerees?

BarryFrom Last month, the 200th person was exonerated due to DNA evidence, but the majority of those released have gotten nothing but an apology – and sometimes not even that.

"We are exonerating people who did not commit crimes, spent two decades in prison or time on death row, and when they get out, there are fewer reentry services for these people than for individuals who actually committed crimes," says Barry Scheck, codirector of the Innocence Project at Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, which is dedicated to exonerating the wrongfully convicted. "It's a measure of decency."

As DNA exonerations become more plentiful – and more publicized – some states are moving on the compensation front. Of the 200 men who have been exonerated based on DNA evidence, about 45 percent have received some sort of compensation, according to the Innocence Project, with amounts that range from $25,000 to $12.2 million.

Twenty-one states, along with the federal government and the District of Columbia, now have standardized compensation laws on the books – offering exonerees amounts ranging from $15,000 total to $50,000 per year of imprisonment. Thirteen states have introduced bills this year to either create or improve compensation for the wrongfully convicted. Some of those bills, like the one that gave Mr. Tillman $5 million, dealt only with individual prisoners, but other states are trying to standardize the compensation. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 30, 2007 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

LAPD Issues a Report About May Mishap

From The Los Angeles Police Commission issues a report on its investigation of alleged police misconduct during the May 1 MacArthur Park pro-immigration rally and march. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 29, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NY Prison Has Center for Dementia

From Prisons have been dealing with the special needs of older prisoners for years, but the one in Fishkill, New York state prison is considered unique because it specializes in dementia-related conditions.

The unit _ 30 beds on the third floor of the prison's medical center _ is a first for New York and possibly the nation, though experts say it likely won't be the last as more people grow old behind bars.

The unit has the clean-white-wall feel of a nursing home _ but for the prison bars. A marker board in the day room includes a picture of a sun with a smiley face and a reminder to "Have a great day." The activity calendar lists puppies on Thursday and bingo on Friday. As long as they behave, patients can wander from their rooms to the day room.

"They're still in prison," said Fishkill superintendent William Connolly. "This is just a unique environment within a prison environment."

Connolly said the men's crimes are not considered in the screening process, though their prison record matters. The idea is to provide proper care and a safe environment. Rest of Article. . . [Mrk Godsey]

May 29, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Stan Goldman Praises Crime Scene Investigator Henry Lee

GoldmanFrom Loyola Law School CrimProf Stan Goldman recently said that in the real world of CSI – crime scene investigation – Henry Lee is a superstar.

Lee, 68, former chief criminalist for the state of Connecticut, has had roles in numerous high-profile investigations, including the Kobe Bryant rape case, the JonBenet Ramsey slaying and the suicide of Vincent Foster, a deputy counsel to former President Clinton.

Lee's testimony that “something's wrong” with evidence in the O.J. Simpson murder case helped acquit the football star.

A judge has found that something is wrong with Lee's latest foray into celebrity crime: the Phil Spector murder trial. The case may take some luster off the forensic expert's world-famous credentials. If Lee's credibility is damaged, it could undermine the linchpin of Spector's defense: that the woman he is accused of murdering, actress Lana Clarkson, shot and killed herself. Spector's murder trial continues today.

Last week, the Spector trial judge ruled that Lee took a possible piece of evidence – prosecutors say it is a piece of one of Clarkson's fake fingernails – from the scene where she died and didn't turn it over to prosecutors.

In testimony this month, Lee vehemently denied collecting such evidence. Three other witnesses testified that some type of potential evidence was handled at the crime scene when Spector's former defense attorneys – he has a new set of lawyers – were there along with Lee and others the day after Clarkson's Feb. 3, 2003, death.  Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 29, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Innocence Project of Texas Director Michael Ware Named DNA Special Assistant

Mike_edited From Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins has appointed a new special assistant responsible for overseeing DNA evidence and conviction integrity.

Michael Ware, a Fort Worth lawyer and director of the Innocence Project of Texas at the Texas Wesleyan University School of Law, will be introduced as special assistant today at the law school.

The appointment comes after public criticism of Dallas County's high number of wrongful convictions in recent years. More than a dozen people – most of whom were sentenced for felonies before 1990 – have been freed after modern DNA testing proved their innocence.

Mr. Watkins, who took office in January, has said that correcting wrongful convictions is a priority.

Mr. Ware's "expertise and professional experience are certain to be an asset to our justice system as we focus resources toward making sure we convict people who are indeed guilty of crimes," Mr. Watkins said in a prepared statement. "Equally important is the assurance that innocent people are not wrongfully imprisoned, and having Mr. Ware on board will help us in these critical areas."

Mr. Ware's other duties will include overseeing community prosecution, expunctions, public information, public integrity, evidence destruction, mental health and computer crimes. He also will oversee the appellate division and the federal division. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 28, 2007 in DNA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Mark Brodin's Law Review Article Helps Transform Tenn.'s View of Eyewitness ID and the Death Penalty

BrodinBoston College CrimProf Mark Brodin's scholarship has played a pivotal role in a wide variety of matters concerning the law of evidence and the law of civil and criminal procedure.  Most recently, his work has been influential in the outcome of an important case involving eyewitness testimony in a death penalty matter. 

In the case, Tennessee v. Copeland, the Supreme Court of Tennessee reversed a lower court conviction and death penalty sentence, in part, on the grounds that the trial court erred by disallowing expert testimony on the issue of the reliability of eyewitness identification.  This ruling drew on Professor Brodin's University of Cincinnati Law Review article, Behavioral Science Evidence in the Age of Daubert: Reflections of a Skeptic.

The Court went on to conclude that the trial court's error in failing to allow a defense expert to testify as to the reliability of eyewitness identification was not harmless. [Mark Godsey]

May 28, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Deborah Denno Criticizes Ohio's Lethal Injections

DdennoFrom With the two most troubled lethal injections in the country on its record, Ohio should scrupulously review or halt executions, a national expert and Fordham University School of Law CrimProf Deborah Denno said yesterday.

CrimProf Denno concluded that in light of delays in Thursday's execution of Christopher J. Newton, "problems with lethal injection in Ohio have been recurring and only becoming worse."

"The state's protocol revisions, paltry to begin with, are entirely ineffective," she told The Dispatch. "Even when the Department of (Rehabilitation and) Correction is doing what it thinks is its very best, and people know they're being watched, it's not working well."

Newton, 37, died by injection at 11:53 a.m. Thursday after a 90-minute delay in which prison paramedics struggled to attach intravenous lines to begin the flow of deadly chemicals.

Problems also delayed Joseph Clark's execution for an hour last May. Paramedics initially were able to insert a single IV line, but when the vein collapsed, Clark's execution was stopped until new lines were attached.

JoEllen Lyons, spokeswoman for the prison agency, said officials "do not believe that our process was flawed or this was a botched execution." She said the issues in the Newton and Clark executions were very different.

"We believe the process works because we removed the artificial time restraints from those team members which now allows them to take their time and do the job that they're there to do," Lyons said.

Gov. Ted Strickland, who said he saw no reason to change his death-penalty position as a result of Newton's execution, got another clemency case yesterday.

The Ohio Parole Board, in a 6-3 vote, recommended against sparing the life of Clarence Carter. The 45-year-old Cincinnati man is scheduled to be executed July 10 for the savage beating death of his cellmate at the Hamilton. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 28, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

CrimProf John M. Burkoff Discusses Unborn Fetus Case

BurkoffjFrom University of Pittsburgh CrimProf John M. Burkoff recently commented on the prosecution of a Bloomfield, PA woman who hid her stillborn fetus in a freezer. District Judge Oscar J. Petite Jr. found enough evidence yesterday to hold the woman for trial on two misdemeanor counts, abusing a corpse and concealing the death of a child.

CrimProf Burkoff said he thinks the defense has a strong argument with concern to the concealment charge.

"There's every chance that the statute as it now exists would be held unconstitutional," but the matter has not been taken up specifically by the Supreme Court.

The abuse charge might also get tossed out at the Common Pleas level. "My guess is what the defense counsel is saying is correct," Mr. Burkoff said. "The key question is what is a corpse? Do you have to have been alive to be a corpse?" Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 27, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)