July 21, 2007
Study Released concerning the Disparity Between Blacks and Whites in Prison
From timesdispatch.com: A study released yesterday found a wide disparity among states in the rates at which whites, blacks and Hispanics are locked up in jails and prisons.
Nationally in 2005, blacks were held at a rate nearly six times that for whites. Hispanics were held at almost twice the rate for whites. For every 100,000 of their respective populations, 412 whites were held; 2,290 blacks; and 742 Hispanics, according to study by the Sentencing Project.
Iowa had the highest black-to-white ratio, 13.6 to 1, and Hawaii had the lowest, 1.9 to 1. States with the highest ratios tended to be in the Northeast and Midwest.
Virginia ranked close to the national average -- slightly lower for whites and Hispanics, 396 and 487 per 100,000 respectively, and slightly higher for blacks, at 2,331.
The most recent figures available from the Virginia Department of Corrections show that as of mid-2005, nearly two out of three of the state's 35,000 prison inmates were black, the rest white. Figures for Hispanics were not available.
Ryan King, with the Sentencing Project, said that "because Virginia falls right in the middle of the pack is not something that is an accomplishment but rather indicates that Virginia reflects many of the same disparities that we see nationally."
"It's a much more complex situation than to say African-Americans simply commit more crimes," said King, a policy analyst with the nonprofit research and advocacy group.
Other factors play a part in the disparities, he said. Among them are where police focus their enforcement efforts, particularly in the war on drugs. "We know that African-Americans are arrested at higher rates, but not necessarily for higher commission" of crimes, he contends. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
July 20, 2007
This Week's CrimProf: Albert Alschuler
Albert Alschuler graduated magna cum laude from the Harvard Law School and was case editor of the Harvard Law Review. He has been a law clerk to Justice Walter V. Schaefer of the Illinois Supreme Court; a special assistant to the assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division of the U.S. Justice Department; a professor of law at the University of Texas, the University of Colorado, and the University of Pennsylvania; a visiting professor at the University of Michigan, the University of California at Berkeley, the Brooklyn Law School, and Columbia University; and a visiting scholar at the National Institute of Justice and the American Bar Foundation.
Mr. Alschuler has written on plea bargaining, sentencing reform, privacy, search and seizure, civil procedure, jury selection, legal history, legal ethics, confessions, courtroom conduct, William Blackstone, Oliver Wendell Holmes, American legal theory, and other topics, most of them in the area of criminal justice. [Mark Godsey]
July 19, 2007
British Arrest Man Plotting to Kill a Russian Exile
From NYTimes.com: The British police said on Wednesday that they had arrested a man last month on suspicion of plotting to kill the Russian exile Boris A. Berezovsky a prominent critic of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
A police official, who spoke on the customary condition of anonymity, said that the suspect was arrested in London on June 21 and handed over to the immigration service two days later, without being charged. The suspect, the official said, was a Russian who was then sent home. Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Berezovsky said that he had been compelled to leave Britain temporarily last month after the security services warned him that a Russian assassin had arrived and intended to kill him.
“A month ago, an officer from Scotland Yard said a person came with the task of killing me, and that I knew this person,” Mr. Berezovsky said in a telephone interview. “They said I should meet with nobody, and I should leave the country.”
Mr. Berezovsky described a plot — outlined further to him by Russian friends “who are connected to the special services” — that was said to involve a man who would lure him to a meeting and shoot him. Then the gunman would surrender to the British authorities, serve a long sentence in Britain and return to Russia to collect “a large reward and Hero of Russia medal,” Mr. Berezovsky said.
Mr. Berezovsky, who parlayed once close ties to the Kremlin into an industrial empire and vast wealth, fell out with Mr. Putin and sought refuge in Britain. He was granted political asylum in 2003 and is wanted in Russia on charges of fraud, embezzlement and fomenting a coup. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Federal Judge Rules that Enemy Combatatns Have A Right to Seek Freedom
From latimes.com: A federal judge in Washington on Wednesday upheld the right of a Yemeni man held as an enemy combatant at a U.S. military prison in Afghanistan to seek his freedom.
The ruling is the first issued in a case filed on behalf of a foreign detainee held by the U.S. outside the country or the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station. It comes less than a month after the Supreme Court said it would again consider the rights of detainees at Guantanamo in the fall.
U.S. District Judge John D. Bates cited the high court's June action as a key reason for his decision.
Wednesday's ruling stems from a case filed in September on behalf of Fadi Al Maqaleh, who is being held at the military prison in Bagram, Afghanistan. The International Justice Network, a legal advocacy group, filed a habeas corpus petition seeking Maqaleh's release, alleging that he had been illegally taken into custody by the U.S. and held without charges for more than five years.
Bates, appointed to the court by President Bush, said it was possible that when the Supreme Court considered the rights of detainees in the fall, it "could issue a broader decision in favor of the detainees, one whose reasoning applies not just to Guantanamo, but to Bagram and other locations as well."
He also acknowledged that the high court could go the other way. Whatever the justices decide, the ruling is likely to affect the outcome of Maqaleh's case and thus it should not be dismissed before the Supreme Court weighs in, Bates said.
Attorney Tina M. Foster said she filed the case after meeting Maqaleh's father, Ahmad Al Maqaleh, while she was in Yemen doing research for detainees at Guantanamo. "A lot of families came to me saying there were worse problems at Bagram than at Guantanamo," Foster said, referring to the military base about 40 miles north of Kabul where about 650 detainees are being held.
She said Maqaleh's family told her that they had not seen their son in nearly five years and that they only learned that he was being held at Bagram when they got a letter from him, via the International Committee of the Red Cross, "in or about 2003."
Foster said she believed that Maqaleh, who is now about 25, had never been part of forces hostile to the United States.
She asked Judge Bates to issue a writ of habeas corpus compelling the government to either release Maqaleh or establish in court a legal basis for detaining him.
"Both military personnel and former detainees have described the prison conditions at Bagram to be far worse than those at Guantanamo," Foster said. Among other sources, she quoted a Defense Department official who had toured the facility and a report by Human Rights Watch, which said "the detention system in Afghanistan, unlike the system in Iraq, is not operated even nominally in compliance with the Geneva conventions."Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
July 18, 2007
Federal Court Tries to Stop Rat Revealing Website
From law.com: In response to a controversial Web site that exposes the identities of criminal defendants who have agreed to cooperate with authorities, the federal judges on the Eastern District of Pennsylvania bench have adopted a plan designed to make it impossible for any visitor to the court's Web site to discern whether a defendant is cooperating.
The new protocol, adopted last week, is a direct response to the Who's a Rat Web site, at www.whosarat.com, and will result in a modification of the docketing of all sentencing and plea documents in all criminal cases.
Chief U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III said that under the current system, users of the court's Web site were able to discern which defendants had entered into agreements to cooperate either by viewing the plea agreement documents or simply noting that those documents were under seal.
The fact that such documents were sealed was a "red flag," Bartle said, that could lead to the exposure of the cooperating defendant.
To fix the problem, Bartle said, the court decided to restrict access to all sentencing and plea documents in all criminal cases -- regardless of whether the defendant is cooperating.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
CrimProf Lurigio Says the Idea of Gang Legislation Making Gangs Stronger is not New
From washingtonpost.com: Loyola Univeristy CrimProf Arthur Lurigio does not buy into the novelty behind a report release Wednesday stating that anti-gang legislation and police crackdowns are failing so badly that they are strengthening the criminal organizations and making U.S.
the ideas raised in it are not new, said CrimProf Arthur Lurigio."These approaches, although they sound novel, are just old wine in new bottles," he said. "Gang crime and violence in poor urban neighborhoods have been a problem since the latter parts of the 19th century."
Mass arrests, stiff prison sentences often served with other gang members and other strategies that focus on law enforcement rather than intervention actually strengthen gang ties and further marginalize angry young men, according to the Justice Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank that advocates alternatives to incarceration.
"We're talking about 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds whose involvement in gangs is likely to be ephemeral unless they are pulled off the street and put in prison, where they will come out with much stronger gang allegiances," said Judith Greene, co-author of "Gang Wars: The Failure of Enforcement Tactics and the Need for Effective Public Safety Strategies."
The report is based on interviews and analysis of hundreds of pages of previously published statistics and reports. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Man Who Attempted to Feed Daughter to Alligators is Paroled
From cnn.com: A man who had been released from prison early for good behavior was convicted Tuesday of trying to kill a young mother and leaving her 5-year-old daughter to be eaten alive by alligators in the Everglades.
Harrel Franklin Braddy had befriended Shandelle Maycock and her daughter Quatisha. Maycock testified that Braddy went to her home in November 1998 and grew enraged when she asked him to leave.
He choked Maycock until she was unconscious and then forced her and Quatisha into his car, the woman testified. At one point, Maycock gained consciousness, grabbed the child and jumped out of the moving vehicle.
Braddy stopped, choked the woman again and put her in the trunk, she testified. Maycock never saw her daughter again. Prosecutors said Braddy then drove to a section of Interstate 75 in the Everglades known as Alligator Alley and dropped Quatisha in the water beside the road.
She was alive when alligators bit her on the head and stomach, a medical examiner said.
Authorities found the girl's body two days later, her left arm missing and her skull crushed, prosecutors said. Maycock woke up bleeding and disoriented in a cane field miles from her Miami-Dade County home.
Braddy had served 13 years of a 30-year prison sentence for attempted murder before being released early for good behavior. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
July 17, 2007
Prosecutors Want Long Prison Terms for War Criminals
Frm NYTimes.com: Prosecutors in the war crimes court for Sierra Leone called Monday for long prison terms for three rebel leaders convicted of crimes against humanity during the country’s civil war.
“All three should be sentenced to extreme lengthy terms of imprisonment,” the deputy prosecutor, Christopher Staker, told the United Nations-backed court.
He asked for 60-year terms for Alex Tamba Brima, 35, and Brima Bazzy Kamara, 39, and a 50-year term for Santigie Borbor Kanu, 42.
In June, the court found all three guilty of 11 of the 14 charges against them, which included murder, rape and enlisting child soldiers. Sentencing is scheduled for Thursday.
The defense lawyer, Kojo Graham, urged the court to “consider the need for reconciliation as an important issue in relationship to sentencing.”
The three rebel commanders, who all pleaded not guilty, were believed to have had the support of Charles Taylor then the president of Liberia, in exchange for Sierra Leone diamonds. Mr. Taylor is on trial in The Hague on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection to the Sierra Leone civil war.
By the time the decade-long civil war ended in 2001, 120,000 people had died. Thousands of others had been mutilated, with their arms, legs, ears or noses chopped off. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Crimprof Don Stuart Comments on Recent Supreme Court of Canada Case
From lawtimesnews.com: Queen’s University CrimProf Don Stuart recently commented on the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R v. Clayton. In overturning a decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court suggested there needs to be deference to police when a handgun is recovered, despite allegations of Charter breaches.
The ruling also goes farther than the U.S. Supreme Court in granting the power to stop cars without “individualized suspicion” if there is a gun call.
CrimProf Stuart says he agrees with the Supreme Court’s conclusion that the search was justified in this case.
But he suggests the ruling does not provide sufficient guidance for other cases and the court should have adopted the test set out by Doherty. “What he did was come up with a nuanced roadblock power. I think it was good law,” says Stuart. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
CrimProfs Janet E. Findlater and David A. Moran were Voted Professors of the Year
Wayne State University Law School congratulates CrimProfs Janet E. Findlater and David A. Moran for being voted Professors of the Year for 2007-2007.
Professor Findlater was selected as Professor of the Year by the first year law students. It is an honor that she has received 16 times, more than any other member of the faculty. She joined the Law School in 1976 and teaches Contracts, Criminal Law, Family Violence, and Domestic Violence and the Law.
David A. Moran is both a professor and the associate dean at the Law School. The upper-class students voted to recognize him as Professor of the Year; he has received the award nine times, including once when he was an adjunct professor. He is well known among the students for his criminal procedure classes.
The Professor of the Year award is determined by a vote of all the students at the Law School; it is awarded at the annual Commencement ceremony. [Mark Godsey]
July 16, 2007
CrimProf Ted Sampsell-Jones Won Case Clarifying Jury Instructions
William Mitchell School of Law CrimProf Ted Sampsell-Jones won a case before the Minnesota Supreme Court July 12 clarifying trial courts’ legal duty to instruct juries on each element of a charged crime even if not requested by counsel.
Sampsell-Jones represented an indigent defendant who had been convicted of third-degree assault. The trial judge in the case failed to instruct the jury on the statutory definition of assault. Neither the prosecution nor the defense had requested such an instruction.
Sampsell-Jones appealed, claiming that the statutory definition contained a necessary element of the offense. He argued that by failing to offer the instruction, the trial judge violated the defendant´s constitutional right to have every element submitted to a jury and proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The Minnesota Supreme Court agreed.
“The Court wrote a very careful and thoughtful opinion,” Sampsell-Jones said. “Sometimes small cases contain important legal issues, and I´m pleased that the Court took this case so seriously.”
The Court remanded the case back to the trial court.
Sampsell-Jones has been an appellate criminal defense and private practice attorney in Minneapolis and San Francisco, Calif., and received his J.D. from Yale Law School. He joins the William Mitchell faculty full time this fall and will teach classes in Civil Procedure and Evidence. [Mark Godsey]
Georgia Man's Execution Date Remains Despite Recantations
From washingtonpost.com: A Georgia man is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Tuesday for killing a police officer in 1989, even though the case against him has withered in recent years as most of the key witnesses at his trial have recanted and in some cases said they lied under pressure from police.
Prosecutors discount the significance of the recantations and argue that it is too late to present such evidence. But supporters of Troy Davis, 38, and some legal scholars say the case illustrates the dangers wrought by decades of Supreme Court decisions and new laws that have rendered the courts less likely to overturn a death sentence.
Three of four witnesses who testified at trial that Davis shot the officer have signed statements contradicting their identification of the gunman. Two other witnesses -- a fellow inmate and a neighborhood acquaintance who told police that Davis had confessed to the shooting -- have said they made it up.
Other witnesses point the finger not at Davis but at another man. Yet none has testified during his appeals because federal courts barred their testimony.
"It's getting scary," Davis said by phone last week. "They don't want to hear the new facts."
The circumstances of the case have provoked criticism beyond the usual groups that oppose the death penalty. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Japan Prepares for Jury Trials
From NYTimes.com: Japan is preparing to adopt a jury-style system in its courts in 2009, the most significant change in its criminal justice system since the postwar American occupation. But for it to work, the Japanese must first overcome some deep-rooted cultural obstacles: a reluctance to express opinions in public, to argue with one another and to question authority.
To win over a skeptical public, Japan’s courts have held some 500 mock trials across the country, including six here in Nagano, the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics. Still, polls show that 80 percent are dreading the change and do not want to serve as jurors, a reluctance that was on display among the mock jurors here.
They preferred directing questions to the judges. They never engaged one another in discussion. Their opinions had to be extracted by the judges and were often hedged by the Japanese language’s rich ambiguity. When a silence stretched out and a judge prepared to call upon a juror, the room tensed up as if the jurors were students who had not done the reading.
“I think there is also the matter of how much he has repented,” one of the judges said. “Has he genuinely, deeply repented, or has the defendant repented in his own way? What’s the degree? I mean, some could even say that he hasn’t repented at all.” Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
July 15, 2007
Afghanistan President Pardons Suicide Bomber
From timesonline.com: An unprecedented move by President Karzai of Afghanistan to pardon a teenage Taleban suicide bomber – and pay him $2,000 to travel home to Pakistan – has drawn stinging criticism and warnings that it will encourage such attacks.
“It is a very silly idea to forgive such criminals. He was a volunteer,” Mullah Malang, an MP from Baghdis province, told The Times. “When he goes back to Pakistan he will tell all his friends that he deceived the Afghan Government. He is brainwashed, he will always be a Taleb.”
The extraordinary case involved Rafiqullah, 14, a would-be suicide bomber, who was captured in May by Afghan police in the province of Khost, which borders Pakistan. He was wearing a suicide vest and riding a motorbike. His target was Arsala Jamal, the governor of the province.
He had crossed the border from South Waziristan, a troubled tribal belt in Pakistan, where he lived and had been attending a religious school. “Today we are facing a hard fact, that is, a Muslim child was sent to madrassa [religious school] to learn Islamic subjects, but the enemies of Afghanistan misled him towards suicide and prepared him to die and kill,” Mr Karzai told reporters. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Police Gear Easier to Get than What you Think
From boston.com: Their tools -- blue lights, badges, batons -- are easier than ever to buy on the Internet, law enforcement officials say. And their methods are frighteningly effective. Police say it takes very little to persuade motorists and others to obey commands from someone they believe is a police officer.
Two weeks ago in Chelsea, a man with a two-way radio clipped to his shirt ordered pedestrians to put their hands on a wall and give him their wallets. Then he grabbed their cash, dumped the wallets, and drove away. Working with another man who had a badge hanging around his neck, the two robbed five people, Central American immigrants they believed would be too fearful to report the crimes, police say.
Then early Sunday morning, a burly man with a crew cut used a flashing blue light on his car to stop a driver on Route 24 in Randolph. Police say the man, who wore a blue shirt emblazoned with a shield, ordered the woman out of her vehicle, then sexually assaulted her .
Authorities say the crimes emerged from a dangerous subculture of police impersonators.
While some pursue nothing more than the thrill of using a police officer's authority to get someone to pull over, others exploit the power of the badge to rob and assault, often targeting women, immigrants, and others they believe will be most likely to obey their orders.
In either case, the public's trust in law enforcement is corroded.
"All too often, we've seen it happen," said Thomas J. Nee , president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association. "This uniform that distinguishes us in society, and the apparatus that we use, is too easily available to the public." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
New Study Shows Public Defender Benefits in Federal Cases
From NYTimes.com: Some poor people accused of federal crimes are represented by full-time federal public defenders who earn salaries, others by court-appointed lawyers who bill by the hour. A new study from an economist at Harvard says there is a surprisingly wide gap in how well the two groups perform.
Both kinds of lawyers are paid by the government, and they were long thought to perform about equally. But the study concludes that lawyers paid by the hour are less qualified and let cases drag on and achieve worse results for their clients, including sentences that average eight months longer.
Appointed lawyers also cost taxpayers $61 million a year more than salaried public defenders would have cost.
There are many possible reasons for the differences in performance. Salaried public defenders generally handle more cases and have more interactions with prosecutors, so they may have a better sense of what they can negotiate for their clients. Salaried lawyers also tend to have superior credentials and more legal experience, the study found.
The study will add a new layer to the debate over the nation’s indigent defense systems. In 1963, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright that poor people accused of serious crimes were entitled to legal representation paid for by the government.
The federal system handles about 5 percent of all criminal prosecutions and is relatively well financed. The implications of the new study for the states may therefore be limited.
But more than half the states use a combination of public defenders and appointed lawyers, and most indigent defendants are not represented by staff public defenders at the trial level.
In the federal courts, roughly three-quarters of all defendants rely on lawyers paid for by the government, about evenly divided between salaried public defenders and appointed lawyers paid by the hour. Most of the rest hire their own lawyers, with about 2 percent representing themselves.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]