CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, June 9, 2007

CrimProf John R. Kroger Recieves Leo Levenson Award

JohnkrogerThe graduating class at Lewis & Clark Law School has awarded the 2007 Leo Levenson Award for Teaching Excellence to  CrimProf John R. Kroger.

Kroger joined the law school faculty in 2002. Prior to teaching at Lewis & Clark, Kroger worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York, prosecuting the mafia, drug kingpins, and corrupt public officials. He also served as a trial attorney on the U.S. Justice Department’s Enron Task Force. Kroger earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Yale University and his law degree from Harvard. Prior to going to college, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Interim Dean Lydia Loren noted that this is the second time Professor Kroger has been selected by a graduating class for the Levenson award. "Professor Kroger's commitment to excellence inside the classroom inspires our students as they enter their legal careers. He is a gifted teacher with a passion for sharing his knowledge. I am pleased this year's graduating class selected Professor Kroger for this award."

Leo Levenson (1903-1981) was a distinguished attorney and member of the Oregon state bar for 56 years. Levenson was a highly respected instructor at the law school for many years. The award in his name honors excellence in teaching. It is presented annually to a faculty member selected by the graduating class. Kroger previously won the award in 2004.  [Mark Godsey]

June 9, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 8, 2007

CrimProf Spotlight: Erik Luna

LunaThis week the CrimProf Blog spotlights University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law CrimProf Erik Luna

CrimProf Luna graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California, and he received his J.D. with honors from Stanford Law School, where he was an editor of the Stanford Law Review.

Upon graduation, Professor Luna was a prosecutor in the San Diego District Attorney's Office and a fellow and lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. He has served as the senior Fulbright Scholar to New Zealand, where he taught at Victoria University Law School and conducted research on restorative justice. He has also been a visiting professor at the University of Havana Law School and has taught U.S. constitutional law and criminal justice to judges and attorneys in Cuba.

Professor Luna is the co-director of the Utah Criminal Justice Center, a partnership among the colleges of law, social and behavioral science, and social work, to foster interdisciplinary research and study in criminal justice. Among other professional activities, he serves on the board of directors for the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center and the Salt Lake Legal Defenders Association, and he is a member of the Utah Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure and the Utah Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Criminal Jury Instructions.

Professor Luna teaches criminal law, criminal procedure, constitutional law, advanced criminal procedure, comparative criminal justice, and juvenile justice. [Mark Godsey]

June 8, 2007 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

CrimProf Loewy Faces the Reality of Wrongful Convictions

LowleyFrom Texas Tech Law School CrimProf Arnold H. Loewy recently wrote a piece about how innocent people actually do get wrongly convicted.  Here is an excerpt:

"We have recently learned about the apparent tragedy of Timothy Cole, a possibly innocent man, who died in prison and may have been wrongly convicted of rape. Regardless of the particulars of this case, it is not an uncommon occurrence for an innocent person to be convicted. Why does this happen?

The most common cause is misidentification. A victim is absolutely sure of her identification (e.g. "I'll never forget those eyes.") The jury quite naturally believes the witness who is being fully truthful but unfortunately wrong. That may have been the problem in the Cole case.

Additionally, innocent people are sometimes convicted because of false confessions. Most people believe that an innocent person would never confess, but it sometimes happens.

Still others have been wrongly convicted on the basis of bad forensics, that is cases in which an "expert" inadvertently (or in rare cases, intentionally) misreads blood or fingerprint tests." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

June 7, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

University of Indonesia CrimProf Ali Hamzah Tries to Save Three Members of the Bali Nine

From Three members of the Bali Nine on death row should be spared the death penalty because the prosecutor in their case never requested the maximum penalty at trial, says University of Indonesia CrimProf and former prosecutor Ali Hamzah.

He testified yesterday in the Denpasar District Court that it was "not normal" under law for their sentences to be increased, under appeal, from 20 years to death.

The trio – Matthew Norman, Si Yi Chen and Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen – were all convicted of their role in the 8.2kg heroin haul and sentenced originally to life behind bars.

On appeal the sentence was cut to 20 years but on a further prosecution appeal to the Supreme Court, the country's highest court, it was increased to the death penalty. Six members of the Bali Nine are on death row. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

June 7, 2007 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Clemency Specialist Margaret Love Comments on the Possibility of Libby's Pardon

Pardonlaw_pic2From Specialist in executive clemency and restoration of rights, sentencing and corrections policy, and legal and government ethics Margaret Love recently wrote an opinion piece in the LA Times concerning the possibility of Bush pardoning Libby.  Here is an excerpt:

"As speculation grows about whether President Bush will pardon I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, or at least commute his prison sentence, it's important to remember the hundreds of ordinary people who have been patiently standing in line, some for many years, waiting for presidential forgiveness. In a sense, it is these largely anonymous applicants for executive clemency (of which pardon and commutation are subsets) who hold the key to the president's ability to help the well-connected Mr. Libby.

This is not so much a matter of fairness as it is of political common sense.

Many of those with pending applications for clemency were convicted long ago of garden-variety crimes and have fully served their time; many others are still serving lengthy mandatory prison terms from which there is no hope of parole (parole having been eliminated from federal sentencing).

One such applicant is my client, Willie Mays Aikens, whose addiction to crack cocaine ruined a brilliant major league baseball career and who is now in the 13th year of a 20-year prison term for selling drugs to an undercover policewoman — an extraordinarily harsh sentence for a relatively minor, nonviolent drug offense.

There are countless others in similar positions. If the president is unwilling to look favorably on deserving applicants for clemency like Aikens, how can he justify helping Libby?" Rest of Article. . . Love's Blog. . . [Mark Godsey]

June 7, 2007 in Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Oregon Felony Rates Dramatically Decrease

From Murder and mayhem may be on the rise in a number of big cities across the country -- but not here in Portland.

This week the FBI released its latest national report that said murder had sharply increased in cities of more than 1 million people. But in Portland and across the nation, crime has been falling. The rate of robbery, rape and murder now stands at a 40 year low.

Why the dramatic drop?

Many would like to take credit, starting with Measure 11 proponents. But social scientists and law enforcement experts say it is impossible to attribute success to any one reason because many factors influence the crime rate. The drop in crime is so sweeping, no single city can claim the winning strategy. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

June 6, 2007 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NY Ct of Appeals Finds That the Governor Exceeded Boundaries

From For the second time in eight months, New York's highest court ruled Tuesday that former Gov. George Pataki exceeded his authority when he tried to keep sex offenders locked up after completing their criminal sentences.

In a 7-0 ruling, the Court of Appeals said the former governor erred when he tried to invoke a section of the state's mental hygiene law to transfer 10 offenders directly from prison to a mental-health facility after finishing their sentences.

The prisoners, in fact, were still under the weight of the state corrections law, not the mental hygiene law, the court said, and, therefore, they should have, at minimum, been granted hearings to determine whether they were a danger to society.

" ... inmates transferred directly from a correctional facility to a (mental health) hospital on a non-emergency basis are entitled to the procedural steps outlined in (state corrections law) even if they are nearing completion or have just completed their sentences," Judge Victoria Graffeo wrote for the court.

The court sent the case back to a local court to conduct the necessary hearings. This mirrors the decision and action reached by the court in a similar case last fall. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

June 6, 2007 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Guantanamo Detainees Charges Dismissed

From Charges against two Guantanamo detainees accused of chauffeuring Osama bin Laden and allegedly killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan were dismissed Monday. In both cases, military judges ruled that only "unlawful" enemy combatants can be tried by the military trials. The ruling is a major setback for the Bush administration. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

June 5, 2007 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The ACLU Wants Executioners' Names

From Ohio has found itself in the cross hairs of the latest national debate over the death penalty: Should executioners' identities be protected?

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio raised the question with a wide-ranging request for state records seeking information on the May 24 execution of an inmate whose veins took 90 minutes to find and whose death came a record-setting 16 minutes after the toxic drugs began to flow.

Among other things, the ACLU asked for the names of Christopher Newton's execution team - a group of volunteer medics and guards whose identities are routinely shielded by the state.

Though the hooded executioner is so common as to be iconic, the ACLU and other death penalty opponents say they have new cause for seeking complete information on the people carrying out state-sanctioned deaths by injection. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

June 5, 2007 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Missouri is Back in the Execution Business

From Federal appeals judges in St. Louis put Missouri back in the execution business Monday, finding there are sufficient safeguards to protect the condemned against pain from lethal injection.

State officials pledged to resume the process immediately but could not say who would go next, or when.

Lawyers for Michael A. Taylor, a Kansas City killer whose appeal is at the center of the case, began preparing to seek a reconsideration by the full 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. If that fails, they said, they will seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Such an appeal could take until fall.

Lethal injection, the primary method used by 37 of the 38 states with the death penalty, is under heavy assault by critics who claim the combination of drugs used could simultaneously cause excruciating pain and mask it. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

June 5, 2007 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Oregon's Felony Rate Dramatically Dropped

From Murder and mayhem may be on the rise in a number of big cities across the country -- but not here in Portland.

This week the FBI released its latest national report that said murder had sharply increased in cities of more than 1 million people. But in Portland and across the nation, crime has been falling. The rate of robbery, rape and murder now stands at a 40 year low.

Why the dramatic drop?

Many would like to take credit, starting with Measure 11 proponents. But social scientists and law enforcement experts say it is impossible to attribute success to any one reason because many factors influence the crime rate. The drop in crime is so sweeping, no single city can claim the winning strategy. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

June 5, 2007 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 4, 2007

SCOTUS Decides Erickson v Pardus

Supreme_court_20_2In  Erickson v. Pardus, No. 06-7317, the court decided in a per curiam opinion that a prisoner's allegations filed in a civil rights action that he suffered a harm cognizable under the Eighth Amendment as a result of prison officials' decision to terminate his participation in a hepatitis treatment program satisfied the pleading requirements of Fed. R. Crim. P. 8(a)(2). Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

June 4, 2007 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

SCOTUS Decides Uttecht v. Brown

Supreme_court_20From The Supreme Court reinstated the death sentence Monday of a man convicted of carjacking, rape and murder who initially won a reprieve by arguing that a potential juror was wrongly excluded from his trial.

The court in Uttecht v. Brown, a 5-4 decision, said that the Washington state judge who presided over the trial of Cal Coburn Brown properly used his discretion to excuse a potential juror who expressed equivocal views about the death penalty.

The juror in question was challenged by prosecutors because he indicated he would impose the death penalty only if the defendant were in the position to kill again. Jurors' options were limited: they could sentence Brown to death or life in prison with no parole.

Defense lawyers did not object at trial. When the issue was raised on appeal, Washington state courts and a federal judge affirmed the conviction.

But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the juror should not have been excused because he said he would consider the death penalty in an appropriate case.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, the deciding vote in every death case the court has heard this session, said the appeals court should have deferred to the trial judge.

"But where, as here, there is lengthy questioning of a prospective juror and the trial court has supervised a diligent and thoughtful (examination), the trial court has broad discretion," Kennedy wrote for the majority. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined the opinion.

Justice John Paul Stevens, reading a strong dissent from the bench, said the court wiped away earlier decisions that allow death penalty opponents to sit on juries in capital cases, provided they demonstrate they can set aside their beliefs and follow the law. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

June 4, 2007 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Orleans Has A Serious Murder Situation Stemming From Racial and Economic Injustice

From Most New Orleans murders stem from drug trafficking and other criminal endeavors in poor, predominantly African-American communities, along with what one expert called "respect beefs" over wounded pride of the kind once settled with fists.

More than 80 percent of the 162 murder victims last year were black men. More than half of all victims were black men younger than 30, and 29 percent were teenagers. In comparison, 10 white men were killed last year, along with four Hispanic men and three Asian men.

Women, nine black victims and three white victims, comprised just 7 percent of last year's murder victims.

All but five of the 58 suspects police arrested were black men, typically young black men. Overall, police have "cleared" 43 percent of last year's murders, a rate in keeping with the department's historic record. Police consider a case solved when they make an arrest, issue a warrant for a suspect still at large or close a case "by exception," meaning the suspect died, often killed in apparent retaliation for another murder.

Police clearances usually don't translate into convictions, however. District Attorney Eddie Jordan's office accepted only 55 percent of the 42 cases the police have brought so far to prosecutors from last year's homicide pool. Those 23 cases involved 34 murder victims, though the district attorney later dropped one of those cases. If history serves as a guide, many of those accepted cases will flame out before going to trial. One study of the period between October 2003 and September 2004 found that just 12 percent of homicide or attempted murder arrests resulted in convictions.

Though experts say the New Orleans law enforcement establishment certainly could improve, the nature of the typical New Orleans murder presents severe obstacles to police and prosecutors. Murders connected to the drug trade -- by all accounts a substantial portion, if not a majority -- require detectives to penetrate a culture that disdains law enforcement in favor of street justice, sparking periodic cycles of revenge slayings. And in the few cases where witnesses do come forward, they often present credibility problems because of their own criminal records.  Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

June 4, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 3, 2007

REAL ID is Causing an Uproar Among States

From REAL ID has just about every state, including Colorado, up in arms. It’s not that states dispute the need for a more secure license. They are well aware that numerous institutions rely on licenses as identity documents. Their beef is with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its proposed rules for closing security holes using the state licensing process. The DHS rules, which finally surfaced this past March, ask the states to take on an immensely difficult task — some say an impossible one — and to pay for the privilege of doing it.

There are rumblings in Congress about repealing the law. But as things now stand, the proposed DHS regulations for a new or renewed license call for all drivers to go to a DMV office in person and show original identity documents. DMV employees will have to verify those documents — birth certificates, Social Security numbers or other credentials. An impact analysis done jointly by associations of state legislators, governors and motor vehicle administrators figure that REAL ID requirements will more than double the workload of motor vehicle offices.

Estimates on the cost of the program are even more daunting. The National Governors Association figures states are likely to spend at least $11 billion of their own money over the next five years to get REAL ID up and running. The largest contributing factor is the more than 2.1 million hours of computer programming states will need to adapt their systems for new requirements for things such as eligibility verification and database design.

Several states have been outspoken about their misgivings over the likely problems. “If we had all the money right now, it couldn’t get done in 10 years,” says Matthew Dunlap, Maine’s secretary of state. “This is bigger than the space program.”

It’s also a lot touchier, raising as it does politically sensitive privacy issues. To make REAL ID work nationwide, it would have to be supported by a variety of databases and that raises alarms for civil liberties groups over control of personal information. Although DHS claims that REAL ID does not establish a national database of driver information and that states will collect and store information just as they do today, that hasn’t eased concerns. DHS’s proposed rules, says state Representative Scott Lansley of Maine, “didn’t do much for me in calming my fears about Big Brother stepping in and overstepping bounds.”

Given those concerns, states have a decision to make: to comply or not to comply. REAL ID is not a mandate. It is voluntary. States can opt in or opt out. If they opt in, they would have to scramble to meet REAL ID’s tight and looming deadlines. The first implementations are scheduled to go into effect in May 2008. States such as Colorado and Virginia are preparing themselves for that deadline. States that opt in but aren’t ready to meet the 2008 deadline can request an extension, as most states likely will, but it may not make compliance any easier in the long run.

If states decide to opt out — as Montana and Washington have done — it could create major inconveniences for their residents, who would not be able to use their driver’s licenses to board planes or enter secure federal facilities. An opt-out could also shatter the federal government’s plans for how REAL ID will work. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

June 3, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Yale CrimProf Jed Rubenfeld Writes "The Interpretation of Law"

Rubenfeld_jedFrom Yale School of Law CrimProf Jed Rubenfeld's The Interpretation of Murder - which has Freud, during his single disillusioning visit to the US in 1909, drafted in to help the NYPD catch a serial sex killer - has been sitting high in the UK's paperback fiction bestseller list for weeks. Rubenfeld's success follows hard on the heels of Caleb Carr's 2001 hit The Alienist, another Manhattan murder mystery with a psychoanalyst hero, in this case the fictional Freudian shrink Laszlo Kreizler.

The vogue for invoking the historical figure of Freud for fictional purposes started as long ago as 1983 when D. M. Thomas cheekily prefaced his cult hit Freudian novel, The White Hotel, with a series of letters purportedly written by the Master during the same US trip that inspired Rubenfeld.

Indeed, so convincingly Freudian was Thomas's pastiche that when she read the novel, Anna Freud, Sigmund's psychoanalyst daughter and a devoted keeper of her father's flame, wailed: 'But vere did he get all these letters - and who gave him permission to quote them?'

Rubenfeld, appropriately enough a Professor of Criminal Law at Yale, found the germ for his first novel in a true-life mystery: why did the real Freud hate America, despite the fact that he was hailed as a hero there at a time when he faced suspicion, derision and vicious anti-Semitism in Europe, particularly in his own beloved Vienna? Long before Hitler's Gestapo detained Anna and forced the aged, dying Freud to flee Austria for English exile, it was Americans whom Freud called 'savages' while denouncing the barbarities of their culture. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

June 3, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Citizen Video Highlights Police Brutality

From On May Day, 2007, the Los Angeles police made front page news after clashing with protesters in a public park. Images of baton-wielding officers and cowering protesters, journalists among them, renewed an angry debate over police brutality in a city still scarred by the memory of the Rodney King beating.

Citizen video has left an indelible mark on Los Angeles. The King video is the best-known example, but far from the only one. In 2002, a tourist filmed 16-year-old Donovan Jackson being punched and slammed against a police cruiser in Inglewood. Last year, a UCLA student taped an incident in which another student was hit by a stun gun at a school library. The video spread quickly across the Internet.

"This type of stuff happens every day in L.A.," says Sherman Austin, founder of Cop Watch LA, an activist group that was quick to post images and clips of the May Day incident. "It's just a coincidence sometimes there's a video camera around to videotape." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

June 3, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)