August 11, 2007
Justice Dept Grant to Stop Porn Brings Zero Prosecutions
From NYTimes.com: Tom Rogers, a retired Indianapolis detective, toils away most days in his suburban home office reviewing sexual Web sites and other Internet traffic to see whether they qualify as obscene material whose purveyors should be prosecuted by the Justice Department.
His work is financed by a Justice Department grant initially provided through a Congressional earmark inserted into a spending bill by Representative Frank R. Wolf, Republican of Virginia.
The grant, about $150,000 a year, has helped pay for Mr. Rogers and another retired law enforcement officer in Reno, Nev., to harvest and review complaints about obscene matter on the Internet that citizens register on the Justice Department Web site.
In the last few years, 67,000 citizens’ complaints have been deemed legitimate under the program and passed on to the Justice Department and federal prosecutors.
The number of prosecutions resulting from those referrals is zero.
That may help explain why no one — not Justice Department officials, not Mr. Wolf, not even the religious antipornography crusader who runs the program — seems eager to call the project a shining success. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
August 10, 2007
CrimProf Blog Spotlights CrimProf Kenneth Gallant
This week the CrimProf Blog spotlights UALR Law School CrimProf Kenneth Gallant
Professor Gallant joined the law school faculty in 1999, coming from the University of Idaho, where he directed the clinic and taught on the faculty. Before entering teaching, he served first as a prosecutor and later as Attorney-in-charge for Special Litigation with the Office of the District Attorney of Philadelphia.
He served as a law clerk to the late Judge Samuel J. Roberts of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and Judge Louis H. Pollak of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Professor Gallant teaches Lawyering Skills, Litigation Clinic, International Law, and Criminal Law. He has published extensively in the area of international law. [Mark Godsey]
August 9, 2007
ABA Proposal Could Lead to the Loss if Record Access
From baltimoresun.com: The public could lose access to certain arrest and court records, even those of people convicted of serious crimes, under a proposal being considered by the nation's largest organization of lawyers.
An American Bar Association committee that drafted the proposal says ready access to court records has led to employment and housing discrimination against people who were arrested but never convicted of crimes or who have completed sentences and returned to society.
News media organizations say limiting public access to records, which would require changes to state and federal law, would violate the First Amendment and make it harder to expose misconduct by police and prosecutors. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
US Cities Hit With Cocaine Shortage
From freep.com: Dozens of U.S. cities have been hit with a shortage of cocaine, causing prices to skyrocket as law enforcement efforts in the United States, Mexico and Central and South America disrupt sources.
White House drug czar John P. Walters said this week that reports from investigators across the country indicate what he called an unprecedented shortage of the drug in at least 37 cities.
Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Tuesday that the reports, most of which are gleaned from top-end investigations of drug organizations and often include wiretaps, suggest a declining supply that could lead to fewer people using the drug.
"This is on a wide scale," he said. "Obviously we're pleased. This means there are fewer people being harmed by the drug."
He said there was no way to strictly quantify the shortage nationwide or any particular markets.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
CrimProf Alan Young Discusses The Sad Mix of Criminal Law and Mental Disorders
From thestar.com: York University's Osgoode Hall Law School CrimProf Alan Young recently discussed a Canadian Superior Court judge's order that a psychiatrist is to stand by in a Kingston courtroom as jailed TV actor Tony Rosato's long-awaited criminal harassment trial begins.
Justice Gordon Thomson took the unusual step of ordering the independent psychiatrist to be present, defence lawyer Daniel Brodsky said, because both Rosato and his estranged wife, Leah, have psychiatric histories.
"That's in case any witness or the defendant needs to have a quick assessment," Brodsky said Sunday. "The doctor will be in the building."
"It's very sad," said CrimProf Alan Young. "The one thing this case demonstrates clearly is the inability of the criminal justice system to deal with mentally disordered offenders charged with minor offences." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
August 8, 2007
FBI Established Public Corruption Squad in Palm Beach
From sunsentinel.com: The FBI is establishing a full-time, permanent public-corruption squad in Palm Beach County, after a series of criminal cases that brought down two county and two West Palm Beach city commissioners.
"We are putting resources where the crime is," said FBI special agent in charge Tim Delaney.
Delaney said the expansion also was a result of the county's population growth, but acknowledged that the four new agents -- three investigators and a supervisor-- would focus only on corruption by elected officials. Rest fo Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Church Creates Guidelines for Sex Offenders That Want to Join Congregation
From USATODAY.com: It was a shocking moment for members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Manchester, N.H.: One of their congregants was accused of sexually abusing an underage relative.
Church leaders gave the man one chance to remain. He had to sign an agreement to stay away from any church setting where there were children, limiting himself to events like adult education classes and one-on-one meetings with the pastor.
He refused and decided to leave, but the ultimatum let the church stick to its mission of trying to minister to all while keeping its children safe.
"We had a policy in place," said Sandra Greenfield, who was the church's director of education at the time and now holds a similar job at the South Church in Portsmouth, N.H. "There was no confusion about how we were going to handle the situation."
Eight years later, Greenfield and other Unitarian Universalists have created an online course with the Holyoke-based New England Adolescent Research Institute to help churches set guidelines for dealing with a member accused of a sex crime or a convicted sex offender who wants to join their congregation. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
The Jailhouse Conversion Story
From npr.com: The jailhouse conversion story has long been a part of prison culture. But there's now a movement converting inmates to religious and political extremists, embracing violent ideologies such as white supremacy, or so called "prison Islam." Mark Hamm, a professor of criminology at Indiana State University, talks about his research of so-called radicalized prisoners.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
August 7, 2007
New Eavesdropping Signed Legislation
From NPR.com: President Bush signed legislation Sunday setting legal parameters for foreign intelligence surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency.
The new law allows the government to eavesdrop without a warrant on communications between Americans and people reasonably believed to be outside the United States.
Siobhan Gorman, intelligence correspondent at The Baltimore Sun, talks with Andrea Seabrook.
Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
FBI Loosens Up Its Strict Pot Policy
From washingtonpost.com: The buttoned-down FBI is loosening up: Under a little-noticed new hiring policy introduced this year, job applicants with a history of drug use will no longer be disqualified from employment throughout the bureau.
Old guidelines barred FBI employment to anyone who had used marijuana more than 15 times in their lives or who had tried other illegal narcotics more than five times.
But those strict numbers no longer apply. Applicants for jobs such as analysts, programmers or special agents must still swear that they have not used any illegal substances recently -- three years for marijuana and 10 years for other drugs -- but they are no longer ruled out of consideration because of more frequent drug use in the past.
Such tolerance of admitted lawbreaking might seem odd for the FBI, whose longtime director J. Edgar Hoover once railed against young thugs filled with "false courage from a Marijuana cigarette."
But FBI officials say the move is simply an acknowledgment of reality in a country where, according to some estimates, up to a third of the population has tried marijuana at some point. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Some New York Counties Include Inmate Populations When They Redistrict
From NYTimes.com: A new study has found that 15 counties in New York, as well as the five that make up New York City, include inmate populations when they redistrict or apportion votes in local legislative bodies.
In five of those counties, the study concluded, the inmate population was large enough in one or more districts to dilute the political power of residents in the others. Thirteen counties that have prisons exclude inmates when drawing district lines.
“New York counties with prisons are faced with a tough choice — adjust the federal census data to ignore prison populations, or rely on the census and draw districts where some citizens are granted extra political clout because they happen to live next to a prison,” said the report, by the Prison Policy Initiative, an advocacy group that favors alternatives to prison sentences and urges that inmates be counted in their real hometowns.
Critics have long complained about “phantom voters” and “prison-based gerrymandering” in the allocation of Congressional and state legislative districts. The new study calls attention to the practice in local government. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
August 6, 2007
New Article Spotlight: "Scalia's Poker: Puzzles and Mysteries in Constitutional Interpretation
John Marshall Law School CrimProf Timothy P. O'Neill recently published on SSRN "Scalia's Poker: Puzzles and Mysteries in Constitutional Interpretation." Here is the abstract:
This paper applies the recently-developed political science dichotomy of puzzles and mysteries to constitutional law. A puzzle can be definitively answered by gathering information about events that have already occurred. It is transmitter-dependent, since its solution depends on what information is received.
A mystery, on the other hand, cannot be answered with certainty even in principle. The solution may depend on events which have not yet occurred. It is receiver-dependent, since its solution will depend on the skill of the person evaluating the information received.
In law, the meaning of a constitutional provision such as the Due Process Clause may be viewed as either a puzzle or a mystery. Moreover, justices such as Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer may be said to view all constitutional interpretation as either a puzzle or a mystery, respectively.
The paper contends that, in terms of Isaiah Berlin's famous characterization, puzzle justices may exhibit hedgehog-like behavior, while mystery justices may be more fox-like. The paper concludes by examining what the impact of this may be on relations within a collegial court. [Mark Godsey]
Christian Science Monitor New York Innocence Project Director Huy Dao
From csmonitor.com: Recently the Christian Science Monitor released an article spolighting New York Innocence Project Director Huy Dao. Here is a portion of the article:
The prisoner's name is one that Huy Dao has never forgotten. For years, it would resurface amid the thousands of requests for free legal aid that flood his office – an annual, meticulously typewritten plea for help, a last-ditch effort from a man convicted of rape but convinced of his innocence.
Mr. Dao turned that case down in 1997, but he still can't put it out of his mind. Maybe it was the fact that the man was from Philadelphia, where Dao grew up as the son of Vietnamese refugees, knowing what it's like to have cops look at you askance because of your skin color. Or that it smelled like a faulty conviction, but the evidence that could have provided an indisputable forensic verdict had been destroyed.
"There was something from the letters that he wrote back to me, screaming, basically, 'I have to be innocent, this can't be the end,' " recalls Dao, whose organization uses post-conviction DNA testing to help wrongfully convicted prisoners gain freedom. "It's not fair. But it's my job to evaluate whether DNA can prove innocence, and the answer [in this case] is no."
Such are the difficult decisions that echo in the conscience of the case director of New York's Innocence Project, a 15-year-old nonprofit that recently won its 205th exoneration of an innocent prisoner.
"Many clients write to us as a last resort. If we say no to their cases, they may very well die in prison," says staff attorney Vanessa Potkin, a colleague of Dao's. "Huy has had to live with that burden for so many years." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Soldier Convicted of Raping and Killing 14 Year Old Iraqi Girl Sentenced to 110 Years
From washingtonpost.com: A soldier convicted of rape and murder in an attack on a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and her family was sentenced Saturday to 110 years in prison, with the possibility of parole after 10 years.
The sentence was part of a plea agreement that attorneys for Pfc. Jesse Spielman had made with prosecutors, which set the number of years he could serve in prison, regardless of the jury's recommendation.
The jury had recommended life with parole, a sentence under which he would have had to wait longer for the possibility of freedom.
Spielman was convicted Friday of rape, conspiracy to commit rape, housebreaking with intent to rape and four counts of felony murder.
Military prosecutors did not say Spielman took part in the rape or murders but alleged that he went to the house knowing what the others intended to do and served as a lookout.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
College Administrators Charged With Aggravated Hazing
From NPR.com: A prosecutor in New Jersey has brought criminal charges of "aggravated hazing" against five people, including two college administrators, in connection with the death of a student from alcohol poisoning at the Phi Kappa Tau house at Rider University. What makes the case unusual is that neither of the school's officials was present at the fraternity party. Reporter Darryl Isherwood of The Times of Trenton talks with Jacki Lyden. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
Racial Profiling is Still a Problem in Kansas
From kansascity.com: Two years ago, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed a law intended to end police stops based solely on skin color.
The law required, among other things, all law enforcement agencies in the state to make yearly reports to the attorney general’s office listing complaints of racial profiling.
Last year, however, only one in three law enforcement agencies in Kansas filed the required reports of racial profiling. That is 147 of 431 agencies, or 34 percent.
By comparison, 97 percent of law enforcement officials in Missouri filed such reports last year — 635 of 653 agencies.
“We don’t have any enforcement ability” over those agencies that don’t report, said Ashley Anstaett, spokeswoman for Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison. “There’s no penalty if they don’t report.”
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]