Tuesday, January 16, 2007
From NYTimes.com: University of Chicago Law School CrimProf Bernard E. Harcourt recently wrote an opinion piece discussing the mentally ill in prison. Here is an excerpt:
Last August, a prison inmate in Jackson, Mich. — someone the authorities described as “floridly psychotic” — died in his segregation cell, naked, shackled to a concrete slab, lying in his own urine, scheduled for a mental health transfer that never happened. Last month in Florida, the head of the state’s social services department resigned abruptly after having been fined $80,000 and is facing criminal contempt charges for failing to transfer severely mentally ill jail inmates to state hospitals.
Ten days ago, the Supreme Court agreed to determine when mentally ill death row inmates should be considered so deranged that their execution would be constitutionally impermissible. The case involves a 48-year-old Navy veteran who is a diagnosed schizophrenic. In the decade leading up to the crime he was hospitalized 14 times for severe mental illness.
According to a study released by the Justice Department in September, 56 percent of jail inmates in state prisons and 64 percent of inmates across the country reported mental health problems within the past year.
Though troubling, none of this should come as a surprise. Over the past 40 years, the United States dismantled a colossal mental health complex and rebuilt — bed by bed — an enormous prison. During the 20th century we exhibited a schizophrenic relationship to deviance.
After more than 50 years of stability, federal and state prison populations skyrocketed from under 200,000 persons in 1970 to more than 1.3 million in 2002. That year, our imprisonment rate rose above 600 inmates per 100,000 adults. With the inclusion of an additional 700,000 inmates in jail, we now incarcerate more than two million people — resulting in the highest incarceration number and rate in the world, five times that of Britain and 12 times that of Japan.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From washingtonpost.com/A.P.: At one point last week, a cop killer, a notorious druglord and a defendant portrayed by prosecutors as a one-man crime wave were fighting for their lives in the same federal courthouse in Brooklyn in an unusual confluence of three death penalty trials under one roof. A fourth capital trial involving a triple-murder defendant has opened in Manhattan federal court as well.
"It's totally unprecedented to have two, let alone four cases going on at one time in one city," said Kevin McNally, a death penalty expert.
Death penalty opponents have complained that starting with President Bush's first attorney general, John Ashcroft, officials in Washington began rubber-stamping the pursuit of the death penalty in federal cases, particularly in states with no capital punishment laws of their own. In New York, the state's highest court declared the state death penalty statute unconstitutional in 2004.
While the volume of state death penalty cases around the country has decreased in recent years, federal cases have multiplied, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.
One result: There are now 46 inmates on the federal death row _ more than double the total in 2000; three, including Timothy McVeigh, have been put to death since 2001.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From washingtonpost.com: University of Cincinnati Criminal Justice Professor John E. Eck discusses the appeal of foot patrols with regard to the new D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and the acting police chief Cathy L. Lanier new plan to incorporate foot patrols as a critical part of their community-policing strategy.
"People feel more confident when there are officers around," said CrimProf John E. Eck, who studies community policing. "The evidence it actually reduces crime is slim to none." Still, Eck said, when coupled strategically with other tactics, foot patrols can be an effective tool for police. They can change perceptions, he said.
The most highly regarded study of foot patrols concluded that in Newark, walking officers brightened residents' attitudes about crime and lifted satisfaction in police services. However, the foot beats had "no effect on recorded crime rates," according to the study, published by the Police Foundation about 25 years ago. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Monday, January 15, 2007
From NPR.com: A deputy assistant secretary of defense says corporate leaders should pressure law firms to stop representing Guantanamo detainees. The Pentagon says the views do not reflect policy, but legal experts are aghast. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
On January 26, 2007, University of New Mexico School of Law Professor Sherri Burr will moderate a panel on Miranda and the Media as part of a conference on "Miranda at 40: Applications in a Post-Enron, Post-9/11 World" at Chapman University in Orange County, California.
View Brochure. . . [Mark Godsey]
From Foxnews.com: Brooklyn Law School CrimProf Michael Cahill recently commented on the difference between manslaughter and murder under New York Law with concern to drunk drivng cases that result in death.
In New York, a person is guilty of manslaughter when he or she is "aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk" that results in someone's death. Manslaughter is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Murder, on the other hand, refers to someone who, with "depraved indifference to human life," engages in conduct that creates a grave risk of death that ultimately kills someone. The punishment for "depraved indifference" murder is 25 years to life in prison.
So how is it determined whether a person's actions rise to the level of "depraved indifference?" Legal experts across the country, like CrimProf Cahill, often ask the same question.
CrimProf Cahill looked at the Heidgen case in which the 25 year old male got behind the wheel of his pickup with a blood alcohol level of .28, drove the wrong way down a highway, and plowed into a wedding limousine. When the dust had settled, 7-year-old Katie Flynn had been decapitated, the chauffer killed, and several of the girl's relatives injured. He was charged and convicted of murder.
"The fact that he was drunk, seems to evidence that he didn't have a depraved state of mind. It explains what he did in terms that suggest he wasn't making a conscious decision to play with human life." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
New Article Spotlight: Pay Now, Execute Later: Why Counties Should Be Required to Post a Bond To Seek the Death Penalty
South Texas College of Law CrimProf Adam M. Gershowitz recently published Pay Now, Execute Later: Why Counties Should Be Required To Post a Bond To Seek the Death Penalty. Here is the abstract:
When death sentences are reversed – and many of them are reversed for prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective assistance of counsel, and other reasons – local prosecutors are not forced to fully internalize the costs of their failed prosecutions. While counties make the decision to seek the death penalty, they do not have to fund the very expensive appellate and post-conviction stages of capital cases that are typically handled by state attorneys general's offices. This paper proposes that state legislatures could improve the functioning of the death-penalty system, while simultaneously acting out of financial self-interest, by requiring counties to post (and possibly forfeit) a bond to seek the death penalty. Faced with the prospect of losing a bond if the capital prosecution fails at trial or on appeal, local prosecutors would have an incentive to choose their capital cases more carefully and to avoid any type of misconduct that might lead to reversal on appeal. The prospect of forfeiting a bond also would create secondary benefits, such as encouraging prosecutors to protest the appointment of unqualified defense lawyers in order to stave off ineffective assistance of counsel claims. As a financial matter, the bond proposal should be appealing to state legislators because it would shift the exorbitant costs of failed capital prosecutions away from state budgets and into the hands of the county actors who instigated the failed prosecutions.
Sunday, January 14, 2007