July 28, 2007
Justice Dept. Cracks Down on Medical Pot Clinics in Cali.
From USATODAY.com: The U.S. Justice Department is unleashing a potent new weapon in its battle against California's hundreds of medical pot clinics, threatening landlords with arrest and property seizures for renting to tenants who flout federal drug laws.
Intensifying its crackdown on pot sales that are legal under California law but illegal under U.S. law, agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency executed search warrants Wednesday in raids on 10 marijuana dispensaries across Los Angeles.
As agents were moving in, Los Angeles' City Council voted 11-0 to tentatively approve a one-year moratorium on more medical marijuana stores, which have exploded in number in the past two years.
Federal officials estimate there are 400 storefront and office operations selling medical marijuana in Los Angeles and L.A. County, up from 20 two years ago and more than double the number at the start of the year, DEA Special Agent Sarah Pullen says. Law enforcement officials contend the sales have become a source for recreational pot users. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
July 27, 2007
CrimProf Blog Spotlights David Boerner
This week the CrimProf Blog spotlights Seattle University School of Law CrimProf David Boerner.
Professor Boerner currently serves as chair of the Board for Court Education, chair of the Washington Supreme Court’s Time for Trial Task Force, as well as serving as a member of the Washington Supreme Court's Jury Instruction Committee.
He has also chaired the Rules of Professional Conduct Committee of the Washington State Bar Association. In addition, he lectures frequently for groups such as the Washington Criminal Justice Institute, Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the Federal Bar Association. He joined the faculty in 1981.
July 26, 2007
Dean John Carroll Says Alabama Death Penalty Needs Work
From al.com: Alabama's death penalty law has flaws that should be addressed, says John Carroll, dean of the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University.
Open dialogue with state officials about some suggested reforms is needed, Carroll said during Tuesday's Kiwanis Club of Birmingham luncheon at The Harbert Center.
"It's a difficult topic because it involves huge emotions," said Carroll, who has defended people in and presided over death penalty cases in the past. In some instances, such cases involve politics, he said.
Carroll said 195 people in Alabama have been sentenced to death. In 2005, Alabama sentenced more people to death than Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee combined, he said. Since 1976, seven people sent to Death Row in Alabama and 120 elsewhere in the country have been exonerated, he said.
Carroll was a member of the American Bar Association's death penalty assessment team for Alabama from 2005 to 2006. Some reforms the team suggests include:
Revamping indigent defense services at trial and on direct appeal. Problems include the lack of training for lawyers on death penalty case procedures and caps on fees for appeal ($2,000) and post-conviction ($1,000). Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Evidence Destruction Hault in Colorado
From denverpost.com: Colorado lawmakers and criminal-justice advocates called Wednesday for law enforcement officials statewide to halt destruction of biological evidence in major felony cases while legislative leaders pursue new laws to protect crime-scene specimens.
"We've got to make sure we've got the right people in prison and that victims can get justice," said state Rep. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge, who is crafting a bill to preserve DNA and other forensic samples in murders and rapes for decades and provide penalties for trashing it.
Added state Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver: "We just can't tolerate negligence in this area."
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Santa Clara Law Hosts Training Program for Death Penalty Attorneys
Defense lawyers with pending capital cases will come to college at Santa Clara Law on Aug 4 for a six-day intensive training program with some of the nation's leading death penalty attorneys.
The 17th annual Death Penalty College offers intensive training where defense lawyers discuss their cases in small-group workshops. The Death Penalty College is presented by Santa Clar University, the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, and the California Public Defenders Association and co-sponsored by the American Bar Association's Death Penalty Representation Project
The workshop sessions, which begin Aug 4 and continue through Aug. 9, are not open to the public because of lawyer-client privilege. (Faculty will be available for media interviews.)
"The college fosters a feeling of cooperation and community among participants and faculty who are united in the common goal of saving lives," said Ellen Kreitzberg, director of the Death Penalty College and professor of criminal law at Santa Clara University School of Law. “Every criminal defense attorney faces his or her greatest challenge in the representation of a person charged in a capital case," said Kreitzberg who directs the program. This program is unique in that lawyers work on their actual cases and not on a casebook hypothetical.
The SCU law school program has consistently attracted leading death penalty attorneys from across the country.
The Death Penalty College has been approved for 36 hours of minimum continuing legal education credit by the State Bar of California. Participants pay tuition to attend the program, and death penalty attorneys volunteer as faculty. The college focuses on helping attorneys learn how to prepare and present the penalty phase of a death penalty case, which is held after a guilty verdict has been reached in a criminal trial. During the penalty phase, a jury considers factors that shape a defendant's life.
July 25, 2007
Army Major Suspected of Taking Bribes
From NPR.com: An Army major is in jail, awaiting a hearing Wednesday in San Antonio on charges that he accepted up to $10 million in bribes from Defense Department contractors seeking to do business in Iraq and Kuwait. Maj. John Cockerham and his wife, Melissa, face up to 40 years in prison.
Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
Fordham University Remembers CrimProf Abraham Abramovsky
Professor Abramovsky joined Fordham Law in 1979. He is known to thousands of students and alumni as a tireless advocate for the rights of the accused, a gifted and passionate teacher, and a dedicated mentor.
Professor Abramovsky was best known for his work in teaching, studying, and practicing criminal law. In addition to his work as a scholar, he was an internationally renowned criminal defense attorney and frequently consulted on cases. This rich experience informed his teaching. He often said his goal was to help students think critically about the criminal justice system, by focusing on the way that it is practiced every day in the courts and on the impact it has on the rights of the accused.
Professor Abramovsky also was an expert in Jewish law. He imparted his deep knowledge in this area to hundreds of students through his immensely popular Jewish Law elective course and by advising many students in independent studies.
In the 2000 publication, Millennial Tribute: Honoring the Fordham Law Faculty, Professor Abramovsky credited his father’s influence with his decision to pursue the law. "My father was one of the best-known criminal lawyers in Israel. Even though I lost him when I was eight years old, he is still my hero and really influenced my decision to go into law." The legacy of passionate attorneys continues in the Abramovsky family. Abe’s daughter Aviva is an assistant professor at Syracuse University College of Law. His sons Dov and Abba ("Bucky") both graduated in Fordham Law's class of 2007. Abe’s son Ari is pursuing a master's degree in education. He is also survived by Dr. Orly Calderon.
Born in Israel, Professor Abramovsky received his B.A. from Queens College, his J.D. from SUNY at Buffalo, and his LL.M. and J.S.D. from Columbia Law. A noted scholar, his work on depraved indifference homicide recently was cited by the New York Court of Appeals, and he was the longtime author of a column in the New York Law Journal.
CrimProf Ivana Bacik Attempts to Take Seat in Seanad
Ms Bacik, who was a prominent spokeswoman for the Alliance for a No Vote in the successful campaign to defeat the referendum on abortion in March 2002, seemed set to take the seat formerly held by Mary Henry, who is not standing in this election.
Family values campaigner Ronan Mullen is also in the running to take a seat in the Seanad at his first attempt.
As counting of about 36,000 ballots from National University of Ireland graduates began yesterday, early tallies showed that he had received 13.64pc of first preferences.
This put him just behind outgoing senator Joe O'Toole (15.3pc) but ahead of the other outgoing senators on the university panel, former supermarket owner Fergal Quinn (10.76pc) and Labour politician Brendan Ryan (9.67pc).
"I'm delighted with the first count tally and I'm grateful to the people who voted for me," he said. "It's a huge encouragement because it's my first time running since student politics 16 years ago."
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
July 24, 2007
Justice Burger May Have Been A Potential Assassination
From canada.com: Montreal mob boss Frank Cotroni and high-ranking U.S. mobsters were once investigated for an alleged plot to assassinate the top judge in the United States, according to newly released FBI documents.
The investigation into the alleged plot to assassinate Chief Justice Warren Burger of the U.S. Supreme Court began in December 1981 after an informant came forward with details of a jailhouse plot. It ended 15 months later with no charges being laid.
Instead, the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent agents to warn the heads of U.S. Mafia families that any attempt to assassinate Burger "would be responded to with the full force and resources of the (Department) of Justice and the FBI." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Medical Workers Freed in Libya
From NPR.com: Six foreign medical workers sentenced to death in Libya are free thanks to a deal with the European Union. The five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor flew out of Libya to Bulgaria aboard a French jetliner accompanied by the wife of French President Nicholas Sarkozy.
The medical workers were convicted of intentionally infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV. They have maintained their innocence. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
July 23, 2007
CrimProf Alexandra Natapoff Was A Witness at Hearing on Confidential Informants
Loyola Law School CrimProf Alexandra Natapoff was recently a witness at the Joint Oversight Hearing on Law Enforcement Confidential Informant Practices
This was a joint oversight Hearing between the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security and Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties of the Committee of the Judiciary
CrimProf Brandon L. Garrett Releases "Judging Innocence"
"In this empirical study, I examine for the first time how the criminal system in the United States handled the cases of people who were subsequently found innocent through post-conviction DNA testing. The data that I collected tells the story of this unique group of exonerees, starting with their criminal trials, moving through several levels of direct appeals and habeas corpus review, and ending with their eventual exonerations.
Beginning with the trials of these exonerees, I examine why they were wrongly convicted. The leading types of evidence supporting their wrongful convictions were erroneous eyewitness identifications, faulty forensic evidence, informant testimony, and false confessions. Yet I show that our system of criminal appeals poorly addressed this factual evidence.
Surprisingly few innocent appellants brought claims regarding those facts, nor did many bring claims alleging their innocence. For those who did, hardly any claims were granted by appellate courts. Far from recognizing innocence, courts often denied relief by finding error to be harmless on account of the appellant's guilt. Criminal appeals brought before they proved their innocence using DNA yielded apparently high numbers of reversals—a fourteen percent reversal rate.
However, I show that the reversal rate is indistinguishable from the background rate in appeals of comparable rape and murder convictions; thus our system may produce high rates of reversible errors during rape and murder trials. Finally, I develop how even after DNA testing was available, innocent appellants had difficulty ultimately receiving relief. These findings all describe how our criminal system failed to effectively review unreliable factual evidence, and as a result, misjudged innocence.
July 22, 2007
Study Show Hight Number of Internet Offenders Who Have Offended in Real Life
From nytimes.com: Experts have often wondered what proportion of men who download explicit sexual images of children also molest them. A new government study of convicted Internet offenders suggests that the number may be startlingly high: 85 percent of the offenders said they had committed acts of sexual abuse against minors, from inappropriate touching to rape.
The study, which has not yet been published, is stirring a vehement debate among psychologists, law enforcement officers and prison officials, who cannot agree on how the findings should be presented or interpreted.
The research, carried out by psychologists at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is the first in-depth survey of such online offenders’ sexual behavior done by prison therapists who were actively performing treatment. Its findings have circulated privately among experts, who say they could have enormous implications for public safety and law enforcement. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Shooter Freed Early Due to Clerical Error
Two-and-a-half months after being freed because of a clerical error, Willie Joe McAdams was arrested Thursday and is expected to be booked into prison to serve at least 16 more years of a 40-year sentence for shooting a Houston man in the head, blinding him in one eye.
When McAdams was sentenced in 2004 to 40 years in prison for shooting Cedric Thomas in the head, Thomas thought it was a just punishment.
While enjoying himself at a bar during the Fourth of July weekend, Thomas was shocked when McAdams approached him, shook his hand and apologized.
"What if he still had malice in his heart and wanted to kill me," said Thomas, who lost an eye in the March 2003 sports bar shooting.
McAdams was released from prison 36 years early after serving four years of his 40 year sentence because of a "clerical error," according to Michelle Lyons, a Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman. McAdams was released May 4.
Lyons said that the mistake was "human error" when keying in McAdams personal information and punishment time during intake in 2004.
Lyons said McAdams was arrested at Hillcroft and Main during a traffic stop after being followed from his home Thursday afternoon.
Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force detective C.J. Mitchell said he and other officers began watching McAdams' home Thursday morning.
Lyons said she expects him to be put back in prison to serve the rest of his time. He will be eligible for parole in 16 years. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
CrimProf William Dunlap Shares Strange Sentences Research
From courant.com: Quinnipiac University School of Law CrimProf William Dunlap has done research on a Texas judge "who seems to make a career of handing down sentences designed to embarrass offenders." He shared his research as part of an article concerning a Prosecutor who requested that a Defendant be required to take out an ad saying that she falsely accused a man of a sexual assault.
In one case Judge Ted Poe ordered a man who had killed two people while driving drunk to carry a sign that said, "I killed 2 people while I was driving drunk on Westheimer." The man had to carry the sign in front of high schools and bars once a month for 10 years as part of his probation and a reduced prison sentence, Dunlap said.
In another case, Poe sentenced a man convicted of domestic abuse to publicly apologize to his wife on the courthouse steps in front of reporters and photographers.
The best known case of a shaming punishment came out of a California court in 2003. Shawn Gementera was convicted of mail theft and in exchange for a shorter prison sentence the judge ordered him to stand outside a post office with a sign that read: "I stole mail. This is my punishment."
Gementera appealed the case to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeals court upheld the decision, and the Supreme Court refused to take the case.
"In the few appeals that I am aware of, sentences like these have been upheld because they are not severe enough to violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment," Dunlap said. "They may be unusual, but to most people's minds they are hardly cruel. Most are never appealed in the first place because the defendants agreed to them. It's better than going to jail."
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]