June 30, 2007
Report Shows Large Prison Inmate Growth
From reuters.com: The United States, which has the most prisoners of any country in the world, last year recorded the largest increase in the number of people in prisons and jails since 2000, the Justice Department reported on Wednesday.
It said the nation's prison and jail populations increased by more than 62,000 inmates, or 2.8 percent, to about 2,245,000 inmates in the 12-month period that ended on June 30, 2006. It was the biggest jump in numbers and percentage change in six years.
Criminal justice experts have attributed the record U.S. prison population to tough sentencing laws, record numbers of drug offenders and high crimes rates.
State or federal prisons held two-thirds of the nation's incarcerated population while local jails held the rest, according to the report by the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The number of inmates in state prisons rose by 3 percent, the report said. That growth mainly reflected rising prison admissions, which have been going up faster than the number of released prisoners. Also, more parole violators have returned to prison, the report said.
Forty-two states and the federal system all had more inmates in June last year than the previous year. The number of jail inmates increased by 2.5 percent during the same 12-month period, the report said.
The report on U.S. prison numbers is issued every six months.
Jason Ziedenberg of the Justice Policy Institute, a group that seeks alternatives to incarceration, said the new numbers showed an "alarming growth" in an already overburdened prison system.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
June 29, 2007
CrimProf Spotlight: Susan Brenner
This week the CrimProf Blog spotlights University of Dayton School of Law CrimProf Susan Brenner.
Susan Brenner is the NCR Distinguished Professor of Law and Technology at the School of Law. A renowned cybercrime scholar, Professor Brenner speaks internationally and writes extensively on cybercrime. Her website, www.cybercrimes.net, was featured on NBC Nightly News. She is a member of the American Bar Association’s International Cybercrime Project and has served on the National District Attorneys Association’s Committee on Cybercrimes. She is also a member of the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Forensic Science Technology Center Digital Evidence Project.
Cybercrimes, according to Professor Brenner, are using a computer to commit fraud, like theft or stalking, or to commit other illegal activity, like create viruses. Interested in computer technology and the Internet, as well as criminal law, she finds the study of cybercrimes exciting. “There are always new crimes emerging,” she says. Her website offers text-based resources and model legislation for cybercrime law that the students in her cybercrimes class helped develop.
Before joining the School of Law faculty in 1988, Professor Brenner taught at the Indiana University School of Law. She was an associate at Silets and Martin, Ltd., in Chicago, where she defended federal white-collar prosecutions and tax offenses, and at Shellow, Shellow & Glynn in Milawaukee, where she specialized in criminal defense. Professor Brenner has also clerked for two federal district court judges.
June 28, 2007
Who Needs Cell Phones When You Can Use the Toilet?
From post-gazette.com: Inventive inmates at facilities around the country speak jail cell-to-jail cell using their commodes, a phenomenon known to wardens, correctional officers and attorneys as "toilet talk."
Some toilet talk is mundane. A pair of inmates might call out chess moves. Some prisoners have used the sewage pipes as a conduit to pick up prisoners of the opposite sex. And in at least two cases, inmates have had commode conversations about criminal matters that were used as testimony or evidence in court.
"Inmates will strike up a conversation about anything," said the warden, who can hear muffled chatter through the water in his office's commode all the time. "They have 24/7 to think of ways to beat the system."
Mr. Rustin said he does not consider toilet chat a significant security risk and he could not imagine sticking his head in the commode to overhear what are mostly throwaway conversations.
But the U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia thought differently and got the FBI to wiretap the toilets at the city's downtown Federal Detention Facility to track members of a drug trafficking operation. Richard Manieri, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's office, said federal prosecutors used toilet conversations to secure hefty sentences against co-defendants Kaboni Savage and Dawud Bey. Federal agents tapped the prison plumbing system and got a recording of Mr. Bey threatening to kill witnesses who might testify against prisoners charged for their involvement in the drug network.
Communication through toilets and air vents is fairly common in jails and prisons, according to several correctional officials surveyed.
It's been reported to occur daily at the high-rise, maximum-security Multnomah County Detention Center in Oregon and inmates in California's San Quentin State Prison, in California, used decades ago it to pass the time in solitary confinement. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
CrimProf Alex Whiting Wins Case Against Serbian Rebel Leader
Harvard Law School CrimProf Alex Whiting celebrated a victory on June 12 after winning his case against former Serbian rebel leader Milan Martic, who was sentenced to 35 years in jail by the international war crimes tribunal inThe Hague for atrocities carried out in Croatia in the early 1990s.
“Croats and other non-Serbs were targeted by discriminatory measures, forced removal, imprisonment, and murder in an effort to drive them away,” said Whiting during the trial. “Their property was looted and destroyed so they would never have a home to return to.” Currently a senior trial attorney in the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Whiting was the lead prosecutor in the case against Martic.
During the trial, prosecutors revealed how Serbian leaders created a Serbian state called the Republic of Serbian Krajinaby annexing Serb territory within Bosnia and Croatia. Serbian leaders expelled Croats and other non-Serbs in order to establish the state.
As a former police chief, Martic helped train and equip police in the rebel Serb republic and was a key figure in Slobodan Milosevic’s criminal enterprise. He was convicted of ethnic cleansing in addition to the part he played in a 1995 rocket attack on the Croatian capital, Zagreb.
The Republic of Serbian Krajina lasted from 1991 to 1995, when a Croat offensive brought the area back under the Croatian control. Martic is the first Krajina leader to go on trial, since his predecessor as leader of the rebel republic, Milan Babic, avoided trial by pleading guilty to ethnic cleansing in 2004.
Whiting will bring his experience to HLS in the fall, leading the clinical offerings on domestic and international prosecution. He will teach Government Lawyer and the War Crimes Prosecution Workshop. He is also a former assistant U.S. attorney in Boston. [Mark Godsey]
SCOTUS Decides Panetti v Quarterman
In Panetti v. Quarterman, No. 06-6407, the court awarded a new day in court to a Texas death row inmate who seeks federal habeas corpus relief on the ground that he is incompetent to be executed. According to his experts, the petitioner understands that he is to be put to death and the factual predicate for it, but he is under a delusion that the true reason for his death sentence is state officials' desire to silence his preaching. The 5-4 court concluded that the Texas courts failed to provide the petitioner with the procedures he was due under the Constitution.
The court also held that the Fifth Circuit used an improperly restrictive test in rejecting the incompetency claim on the merits. It said it is a mistake to treat a prisoner's delusional beliefs as irrelevant so long as he comprehends that the state has identified the link between his crime and the punishment to be inflicted.
Along the way, the court held that a state prisoner who seeks federal habeas relief on the ground that he is incompetent to be executed, but who previously filed a petition that failed to raise that claim, need not satisfy the gatekeeping requirements of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act for presenting a new claim in a second or successive petition. [Mark Godsey]
June 27, 2007
Cali Tries for Three Wrongful Conviction Bills
From latimes: The Assembly Public Safety Committee cleared three bills Tuesday aimed at preventing wrongful convictions, but the governor might veto the measures because of law enforcement opposition.
All the measures stem from the recommendations of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, which the state Senate created in 2004 to study problems in the criminal justice system that have put innocent people in jail.
One bill, aimed at reducing the number of false confessions, would mandate electronic recording of interrogations of suspects in homicides and violent felonies who are in police custody. Another would require corroborating evidence for the testimony of jailhouse informants, who have been shown to lie sometimes to receive reduced sentences or other benefits. A third bill calls on the California attorney general, in consultation with other key stakeholders in the criminal justice system, to develop new guidelines for lineups presented to eyewitnesses to see if they can identify suspects. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Federal Judge Testifies to Minimum Sentencing Problems
From law.com: The House Judiciary Committee heard some powerful testimony Tuesday against mandatory minimum sentencing -- and not only from Families Against Mandatory Minimums and the Sentencing Project. Offering a sharp critique was Paul Cassell, the noted Utah federal district judge who chairs the criminal law committee of the Judicial Conference, which has long opposed mandatory minimums.
In his prepared testimony, Cassell spoke of the "bizarre" 55-year sentence he felt compelled to give Weldon Angelos, a first-time offender convicted of selling marijuana in 2004. Angelos was founder of Extravagant Records, a rap and hip-hop label that produced records for Snoop Dogg among others. Angelos' marijuana offenses alone would have netted him six to eight years in prison, but because he carried a gun during the deals, Cassell said that mandatory minimums for gun possession left him no other choice but to bump the sentence up to 55 years.
Cassell noted that on the same day he sentenced Angelos, he sentenced a murderer to 22 years. "It is irrational that Mr. Angelos will be spending 30 years longer in prison for carrying a gun to several marijuana deals than will a defendant who murdered an elderly woman by hitting her over the head with a log," said Cassell. He suggests legislation to allow judges to deviate from mandatory minimums to the extent allowed by federal sentencing guidelines -- which in Angelos' case would have meant a sentence 40 years shorter than what he got.
Cassell's critique of "one-size-fits-all" justice did not go unanswered. Richard Roper, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, offered a full-throated defense, asserting that mandatory minimums, first enacted in the 1980s, have contributed to the nation's "dramatically reduced crime levels." Not only are dangerous offenders taken off the streets for long stretches, says Roper, but he says the prospect of hard time deters criminal behavior. The laws are also "an indispensable tool for prosecutors," serving as a bargaining chip to get cooperation from defendants in solving other crimes. He also said existing law includes "safety valve" provisions that allow lower sentences for first offenders who are not violent and do not use firearms. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Clinical Professor Employment Opprotunity
The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law seeks applications for a clinical professor who will serve as legal director for the new University of Missouri Innocence Clinic. The Clinic, which will work in conjunction with the Midwestern Innocence Project, will be housed at the Stinson Morrison Hecker Law Firm in downtown Kansas City and is a joint effort with the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, the University of Missouri-Columbia Law School, and the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
The Clinical Professor/Clinic Director will take over the existing caseload at the Midwestern Innocence Project and will work to develop a clinical program involving law and journalism students on the Kansas City and Columbia campuses. Planning will begin in summer 2007 and it is expected that students will begin enrolling in clinical courses in January 2008. The Clinical Professor/Clinic Director will supervise students and volunteers in screening inmate requests for assistance, investigating claims of actual innocence and representing inmates in Missouri and the Midwest who have provable claims of factual innocence that may or may not involve DNA evidence. Most of the Clinic's litigation will be performed in post conviction proceedings. The candidate must have the education, professional commitment, and experience to establish an Innocence Clinic involving the three schools; engage in effective clinical teaching both in the classroom and in direct supervision, maintain an active caseload of innocence cases, assist with operation of the organization and engage in policy reform work related to the goals of the Innocence Project.
This is a non-tenure track faculty position at the assistant or associate level. The anticipated start date will be summer 2007. The position will be on a renewable 12-month contract. Funding is in place for three years, and the successful applicant will be responsible for helping to develop permanent sources of funding. Once permanent funding is obtained, the position will likely qualify for long-term contract. This position will require frequent travel between Kansas City and Columbia, Missouri as well as case-related travel within the region. The Director should expect to spend at least one day a week in Columbia.
The ideal candidate would have:
- A JD degree and a strong educational and professional background.
- Membership in the Missouri Bar. If the successful candidate is not a member of the Missouri Bar, it is expected that he or she will seek admission through reciprocity or taking the Bar Exam at the earliest possible time.
- Either a minimum of five years full time experience litigating post conviction or innocence cases and extensive experience supervising other lawyers or student law clerks; or five years clinical teaching experience in criminal law with some post conviction experience, or a combination of the above.
- Experience managing the caseload of a law office.Experience in policy advocacy.
- A commitment to the goals and mission of the Midwestern Innocence Project, to organizational development of the Clinic and to raising awareness of the Clinic and its work throughout the state and the region.
- A willingness and ability to assist in identifying and obtaining permanent sources of funding for the Clinic, including experience with grant-writing.
Review of applications will begin immediately. The position will remain open until filled or until an adequate applicant pool is established. The University of Missouri is an equal opportunity employer. Women and persons of color are encouraged to apply
Contact: Ellen Y. Suni, Marvin Lewis Rich Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law Dean, University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Law, Co-founder, Midwestern Innocence Project [Mark Godsey]
June 26, 2007
Congress Addresses Gun Tracking Law
From NPR.com: A narrowly divided Congress is considering repealing a law that restricts the ability of local authorities' to get federal gun trace data. Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and Dave Workman, editor of Gun Week, talk with Anthony Brooks. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
Mexico Fires Federal Police Chiefs
From latimes.com: Mexico replaced the federal police chiefs from each of the country's 31 states and the Federal District on Monday, pending polygraph and drug tests to determine whether they are on the right side of the law in the nation's foundering drug war.
The surprise purge of top leaders of the federal police and an elite federal investigations agency comes as Mexican President Felipe Calderon seeks traction in a 6-month-old campaign against drug traffickers that has neither stemmed killings nor slowed shipments.
Corruption among local, state and federal law enforcement has for years given cover to drug smuggling gangs, now at war over access routes to the United States, and over Mexico's growing domestic markets.
"Every federal cop is obliged to carry out his post with legality, honesty and efficiency," Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna said at a news conference Monday announcing the housecleaning. "In the fight against crime, we have strategies. One axis of our strategy is to professionalize and purge our police corps." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
CrimProf Byron Warnken Analyzed the Law Behind Editor's Dropped Charges
From baltimoresun.com: University of Baltimore CrimProf Byron L. Warnken previously discussed the case in which Prosecutors decided today to drop criminal assault charges filed against Frank J. Keegan, the editor of the Baltimore Examiner who was arrested in May after police said he pointed a gun at his neighbors during a dispute over cigarette smoke.
Warnken said in May that prosecutors would probably try to prove the second-degree assault charge using an element of the law that prohibits actions intended to frighten by threatening the possibility of immediate harm.
Warnken said Keegan could defend himself by stating that it was reasonable to respond to someone "pounding" on his front door by bringing a weapon. The law permits such an action if a judge or jury finds the defendant's actions were justified. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
June 25, 2007
Chemical Ali Sentenced to Death
From washingtonpost.com: Three senior aides to Saddam Hussein were found guilty on Sunday of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Iraqi High Tribunal and sentenced to death by hanging for their roles in the slaughter of as many as 180,000 Kurds in northern Iraq in the late 1980s.
The most notorious of the defendants, Ali Hassan al-Majeed -- a former general known as "Chemical Ali" -- received five death sentences for ordering the use of deadly mustard gas and nerve agents against the Kurds during the so-called Anfal campaign. Majeed and Hussein were cousins.
Some Kurds said after Sunday's hearing, which was nationally televised, that they felt deprived of justice because of the rush to execute Hussein. The government had hoped his quick death would allow Iraqis to put the past behind them and focus on transforming the country into a functioning democracy.
"I wished they had kept Saddam alive and had not executed him until they finish all the trials, so all Iraqis, including Kurds, could feel that they had been repaid for the injustices of his regime," said Saman Mahmood Aziz, 55, a teacher whose wife and five children died during the Anfal campaign. But he added, "We feel so happy after seeing the verdict today against Chemical Ali." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Report Says Number of Jane and John Does Are Twice the Acknowledged Number
From USATODAY.com: American medical examiners and coroners held at least 14,000 sets of unidentified human remains as of 2004 — more than twice the number of John Doe cases acknowledged by the FBI, the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics says.
In a report due out Monday, the agency says the backlog of unidentified remains — murder and accident victims and missing or homeless people who die of natural causes — grows by about 1,000 each year.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
SCOTUS Decides Morse v Frederick
From washingtonpost.com: In Morse v. Frederick, the Supreme Court affirmed wide authority for school administrators to regulate students' speech, allowing principals to punish pupils who make any in-school speech or demonstration that may "reasonably be viewed" as promoting illegal drug use.
The finding came in a case in which a Juneau public high school teacher gave Joseph Frederick a 10-day suspension for unfurling a banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" as the school was gathering outside to watch the Olympic Torch Relay pass in 2002. Joseph, who has since graduated, sued the suspension was a violation of his constitutional right to free speech.
Though the Banner's message was admittedly ambiguous, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the court majority that the school's principal, Deborah Morse, was not wrong to conclude that it promoted the use of an illegal substance, which was contrary to the Juneau school system's policy.
The dangers of illegal drug use are "serious," Roberts wrote, and the "First Amendment does not require schools to tolerate at school events student expression that contributes to those dangers," Roberts wrote.
Roberts' opinion was joined fully by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. Justice Stephen G. Breyer agreed with the majority that Morse should not be liable, but disagreed with its reasoning.
Justice John Paul Stevens, joined by Justices David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissented.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
June 24, 2007
CIA Secrets Unveiled
From NPR.com: A new set of declassified CIA documents set for release next week detail CIA kidnappings, wiretapping without warrants, assassination attempts and surveillance of American journalists and activists up until 1974.
Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., tells Renee Montagne that while some of the activities are widely known — such as assassination attempts against Fidel Casto and the CIA's infiltration of domestic anti-war groups — some are not.
The CIA's current director, Michael Hayden, said the documents "provide a glimpse of a very different time and a very different agency." Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission Discusses Each Death
From jsonline.com: After analyzing numbers, mapping deaths and collecting data on Milwaukee homicides, law enforcement and social service agencies have found strength in a simple approach: talking.
Each death is getting a closer look and conversation on where, how and why it happened as part of a study by the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission, including everyone from beat cops to FBI agents to agencies such as Milwaukee Public Schools security.
"It's all about making the city a better place, reducing the violence we're seeing, reducing the homicides we're seeing," said Mallory O'Brien, a Harvard School of Public Health researcher leading the project.
O'Brien and Milwaukee police Deputy Chief Brian O'Keefe met with Journal Sentinel writers and editors on Thursday to provide a progress report on the commission's work. They will give a similar presentation to Common Council members June 28.
The commission, which its creators say is the first of its kind in the nation, started work in May 2005 using $600,000 worth of grants to fund three years of study. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
CrimProf Washburn Testified at Indian Country Hearing
University of Minnesota CrimProf Kevin Washburn and former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger (class of 1975) testified at an oversight hearing on law enforcement in Indian country before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Washington, D.C. Bonnie Clairmont, Victim Advocacy Specialist in the Minnesota office of the Tribal Law & Policy Institute (TLPI), St. Paul, and several tribal leaders also testified.
A recent report by Amnesty International sounded a wake-up call regarding problems in the criminal justice system on Indian reservations. The report, "Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA," noted that the level of sexual violence is disproportionately high among Native American women and that underfunding and other limitations in tribal governments have created substantial barriers to ensuring public safety.
TLPI, a nonprofit group owned and operated by Native Americans to promote justice and well-being in Indian country, was a primary consultant on the Amnesty International report, and Professor Washburn worked with the organization as an outside consultant.
National interest in public safety in Indian country was kindled further by a recent Wall Street Journal article, "Tattered Justice: On U.S. Indian Reservations, Criminals Slip Through Gaps; Limited Legal Powers Hobble Tribal Nations; Feds Take Few Cases."
In his testimony before the Senate committee, Washburn said that tribal governments must be given a central role and the necessary resources for law enforcement on reservations. Because of the vast land area, however, no single law-enforcement agency can manage crime alone, he said in introducing four major observations.
- Cooperation among agencies is essential and must be facilitated, he said. "We do not need agreement on all jurisdictional issues to create public safety in Indian country, but we do need cooperation among those players whose task is to ensure public safety."
- Coordination and cooperation among enforcement officials do not have to be formalized to create a public safety net. Even the appearance of a unified front gives the message that "there is no prosecution-free zone in Indian country."
- Conflict and lack of cooperation among law enforcement agencies jeopardize the trust of the communities these officers are responsible for serving.
- Agencies should have positive incentives for cooperating and alternatives to use if a given approach fails, Washburn said. For example, if a tribe were responsible for key law-enforcement issues, the state would have to be responsive to the tribe to keep it as a partner and the tribal government would be accountable to its community.
Washburn concluded by advising Congress to encourage tribal self-government and more vigorous use of existing tribal criminal jurisdiction. "No government has a greater interest in reservation safety than the government that calls the reservation home," he said. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]