September 1, 2007
U.S. Attorneys are Low on Funds
From wsj.com: In the past few years, U.S. attorneys' offices around the country have been unable to fill vacancies. Lawyers sometimes can't travel to interview witnesses. Even funds for basic office needs such as photocopying documents and obtaining deposition transcripts have been cut, according to current and former officials.
Overall, funding for the offices has grown well below the rate of inflation. As a result, "fewer cases were getting charged and bigger investigations were taking longer because there weren't enough prosecutors to do them," says Debra Yang, who stepped down in October 2006 as the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles.
Department of Justice data show the impact. Prosecutions are down overall, with large drops in categories such as drugs, violent crime and white-collar offenses. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
August 31, 2007
CrimProf Blog Spotlight: Fredric Lederer
This week the CrimProf Blog spotlights William and Mary School of Law CrimProf Fredric Lederer.
Joined the faculty in 1980. Clerked for Judge Frederick P. Bryan, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, held various legal positions with the U.S. Army including four years on the faculty of the Judge Advocate General’s School and was a Fulbright-Hays Scholar.
Author of Fundamental Criminal Procedure, Military Law and articles in the Military Review, William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal, and Emory Law Journal. Editor of Basic Virginia Law for Non-Lawyers. Co-author of Court-Martial Procedure; An Introduction to Law, Law Study, and the Lawyer’s Role; Concepts of American Law; Aspects of American Law; Courtroom Criminal Evidence; and Defending Criminal Cases in Virginia. Co-drafter of Proposed Virginia Rules of Evidence. A principal author of the Military Rules of Evidence. Co-author and production consultant for three law-related television series and a frequent lecturer on courtroom technology.
Member of the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section’s Committee on Rules of Evidence and Procedure. Member of the Board of Directors, Virginia Consortium for Law Related Education. Founder and Director of the Center for Legal and Court Technology Project. [Mark Godsey]
August 30, 2007
Boston Enforces Curfew to Force Out Drug Dealers and Homeless
From boston.com: After mounting drug arrests and a recent shooting that lodged a bullet in the State House, police have begun enforcing a nighttime curfew on Boston Common to rid the area of drug dealers and force out the homeless who have long spent their nights on its benches and manicured lawns.
The curfew, which will last from 11:30 p.m. to 6 a.m., will bar people from the Common unless they are passing through.
Advocates for the homeless support the new effort to reduce crime in the historic park, which began Tuesday night, but fear the consequences for those who find refuge there.
"There is a general sense that it's good something's being done about the Common," said Melissa Quirk, assistant director of the Emergency Shelter Commission of Boston. "It's an issue that needed to be addressed. But the increase in drug-related activity is really distinct from people sleeping on the Common."
She and others worry that homeless people, many of whom refuse to go to shelters, will scatter to other parts of the city, where it may be more difficult for outreach workers to help them. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Cali's Death Penalty System Falls Behind
From latimes.com: The death penalty system in California is so backed up that the state would have to execute five prisoners a month for the next 10 years just to clear the prisoners already on death row.
The average wait for execution in the state is 17.2 years, twice the national figure. And the backlog is likely to grow, considering the trend: Thirty people have been on death row for more than 25 years, 119 for more than 20 years and 408 for more than a decade.
These statistics were cited by an influential judge in a recent article, one in a small but growing number of critiques of California's death penalty machinery, which has proved to be so clogged that one jurist has called capital punishment in the state an illusion. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
University of KY College of Law Starts Rural Drug Prosecution Assistance Project
University of Kentucky College of Law students and recent graduates are gaining valuable 'hands on' experience, while commonwealth attorneys' offices, the Department of Public Advocacy, and the judiciary in rural parts of Kentucky are receiving effective help in fighting drug-related crime under the Rural Drug Prosecution Assistance Project (RDPAP).
These promising results were cited today by U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as he received an update about the innovative program in the UK law school. McConnell earmarked federal funds for the RDPAP from the U.S. Department of Justice.
"I am pleased to hear about the successes of this project so far," said McConnell. "This is a worthwhile program that helps our justice officials, UK law students, and citizens."
In all, McConnell secured a total of $2.5 million in funding for RDPAP.
To date, the project has paid for 83 summer internships for first and second-year UK law students and a total of 15 placements of recent UK law graduates to assist the criminal justice system in rural parts of Kentucky. Implementation of the program began in the summer of 2006.
RDPAP places highly-qualified law students in rural counties as ssistant commonwealth attorneys, public defenders (for the Department of Public Advocacy), and as clerks to Circuit Court judges, with special emphasis on drug-related cases. [Mark Godsey]
August 29, 2007
Abu Ghraib Officer's Sentence: Formal Reprimand
From NYTImes.com: Military jury announced that an Army officer who was convicted of a lesser charge and acquitted of all others Tuesday in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal would receive a formal reprimand as his sentence.
The officer, Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, was acquitted of charges that he failed to properly train and supervise enlisted soldiers involved in detainee interrogations in 2003 at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where prisoners were subjected to brutal treatment. He was found guilty of only one lesser offense, that of disobeying an order to refrain from discussing the case. The maximum punishment for that offense was five years in prison.
Colonel Jordan, 51, was the only officer to stand trial on charges related to the detainee-abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib, which led to prolonged investigations and charges against several soldiers. He was tried at Fort Meade, Md., by a jury of nine Army colonels and a brigadier general.
Colonel Jordan’s acquittal on most charges means that no officers have been found criminally responsible for the abuses at the prison. Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the military intelligence officer who ran Abu Ghraib, was punished administratively by senior Army commanders for improperly allowing military dogs to be used during interrogations to frighten detainees. Janis L. Karpinski, the brigadier general who was the military police commander at Abu Ghraib, was reprimanded and demoted.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Sex Offender Treatment has Failed to Evolve
From seattlepi.com: Despite inconsistent research findings on the subject, sex-offender treatment is not only a fixture in criminal justice, but also a burgeoning field, with the number of certified therapists more than doubling statewide in the last 10 years.
And while the overall climate for sex offenders has radically changed -- with longer sentences and more restrictions -- treatment has largely remained static, relying on the same cognitive-behavioral methods introduced in the 1980s.
"It's an ongoing question, there's no two ways about it," said Roxanne Lieb, director of the Washington State Institute of Public Policy, on the effectiveness of treatment. "Certainly, it's not a cure-all," she said.
Last year, Lieb's office released a study that found that Washington's prison treatment program for male sex offenders -- one of the largest in the nation -- had virtually no effect on reducing recidivism rates.
The study echoed a landmark 2005 study, in which researchers found that a California hospital program for confined sex offenders had no significant impact on curbing repeat crimes.
Both studies, however, have detractors who point to other studies showing that treatment works.
"There's pretty good evidence that if you pick out the right kind of people, who feel badly about what they've done, you can alter those patterns," Lieb said. "But if you have someone who's anti-social, who hates women or who is sexually attracted to little kids, no one knows anything about what to do about those three things." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Florida Plans to Expand Its Lethal Injection Team
From heraldtribune.com: At Florida lethal injections, a man in a purple moon suit leans over the dying inmate to listen for a heartbeat and feel for a pulse. After a few seconds, he nods and an announcement is made to the witnesses that the execution has been completed.
The man is a doctor and the attire shields his identity - not just from the prisoner's family and friends, but from the American Medical Association. Its code of ethics bars members from participating in executions, as do those of the American Nurses Association, the American Society of Anesthesiologists and the Florida Medical Association.
Despite those codes, Florida will ask Marion County Circuit Judge Carven D. Angel on Tuesday to approve its plan to add more doctors, nurses, phlebotomists (people trained to draw blood) and other medical professionals to its lethal injection teams - something that's done in other states.
But death penalty experts say Florida is the only state that uses a moon suit to shield the doctor's identity - although some others draw curtains or remove the execution witnesses before the doctor emerges. The plastic moon suit, similar to those worn by hazardous materials teams, covers the doctor completely from head to toe. Goggles worn beneath the clear plastic face shield conceals the doctor's identity even further. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
August 28, 2007
Up to 1/3 of Urban Children My Have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
From sfgate.com: Countless children in San Francisco's toughest neighborhoods experience murder, violence and trauma - an often unavoidable consequence of living in an urban war zone.
The violence, layers of it overlapping year after year, can eventually take up residence in the children's minds. Like combat veterans, they develop post-traumatic stress disorder - the soldier's sickness.
As many as one-third of children living in our country's violent urban neighborhoods have PTSD, according to recent research and the country's top child trauma experts - nearly twice the rate reported for troops returning from war zones in Iraq.
Los Angeles Unified officials conduct annual surveys, finding similar rates of PTSD within the schools in that city's most violent neighborhoods. Implementing a group treatment program, one developed by the district, has come in fits and starts, however.
In the Bay Area and across the country, meanwhile, PTSD in these urban children is generally undiagnosed, untreated and almost completely off the radar for policymakers and education officials.
A Stanford University researcher, however, believes schools should be on the front lines when it comes to recognizing and treating children with symptoms of PTSD, and has identified Visitacion Valley Middle School as the ideal place to test a therapy involving 17 one-on-one sessions with a trained counselor.
"We have to pay a lot more attention to this," said Dr. Victor Carrion, director of the Stanford Early Life Stress Research Program. "PTSD basically feeds on avoidance. The more you avoid it, the worse it gets."
But Carrion lacks ongoing funding and said the study has stalled despite a waiting list of students at the school. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Man Suspected of Killing Six People Is Now Arrested
From nytimes.com: A 43-year-old man sought in six killings since last week in the Texas Hill Country and in Pennsylvania was arrested Monday in Shirley, N.Y., after a brief standoff, the federal Marshals Service said Monday.
The man, Paul G. Devoe III of Llano, Tex., with roots in Suffolk County on Long Island, N.Y., was charged in one killing and held on $2 million bail, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office in Texas said.
Mr. Devoe had been hunted after the killing of a bartender Friday night in Marble Falls, Tex., northwest of Austin, and the discovery of four bodies in a house in nearby Jonestown on Sunday.
On Monday, after Mr. Devoe’s arrest, the marshals added a sixth possible killing. They traced a car found with him on Long Island to a woman in Greencastle, Pa., near the Maryland border, who was then discovered dead.
Tom Smith, supervisor of the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force, a group of Texas law enforcement agents sponsored by the United States Marshals Service, said the task force had learned that Mr. Devoe might be heading to Long Island, where his mother and sister lived, and midday Monday staked out a house belonging to a friend and former co-worker of Mr. Devoe.
“He was already in that residence,” Mr. Smith said. “They were going to knock when they saw him with a gun. He bolted, and they called for a SWAT team, but they were able to talk him out.”
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Most Forensics Programs lack Accreditation
From USATODAY.com: More than 130 forensics programs are being taught at colleges and universities across the USA, although only 16 programs at 14 universities are accredited by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, says Jim Hurley, director of accreditation. He expects the number to rise as more programs adopt the rigid science course work required.
The study of forensic science has only recently bloomed, largely as a result of expansion of DNA analysis as an investigative tool and the televising of big trials. Before 1980, when Jay Siegel set up one of the first programs at Michigan State University, "there were just a handful of people who could even tell you what forensic science was," he says. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
August 27, 2007
CrimProf Adam Gershowitz Discusses Problems of the Accused Having News Conferences
From southeasttexaslive.com: South Texas College of Law CrimProf Adam Gershowitz recently discussed the decision of a man who, during a news conference without legal counsel, gave a tearful apology for putting a 2-year-old girl in a clothes dryer, blaming his actions on anger-management issues. CrimProf Gershowitz stated that the news conference an unwise move for accused, who did not have legal representation at the time and now will have trouble finding it.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time, it is a terrible idea for a criminal suspect to talk to the media without a lawyer," said CrimProf Gershowitz. "He should have kept his mouth shut and waited (until he had an attorney)."
Gershowitz said the admission of guilt was "the best thing he had going for him," but he might have undone that by saying he hoped the child wouldn't remember what happened. He added that the county does not have to provide someone with a public defender within the first two days following an arrest.
Gershowitz said he expects any attorney who takes the case to first request a change of venue due to the overwhelming publicity. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Resigns
From bloomberg.com: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is resigning, Bush administration officials said, after months of accusations that he politicized the U.S. Justice Department and misled Congress over the firing of federal prosecutors and wiretapping of suspected terrorists.
Gonzales will hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. Washington time. Solicitor General Paul Clement, the administration's top courtroom lawyer, is expected to take over on a temporary basis until a permanent replacement is named, Justice Department officials said. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, a former department lawyer and federal judge, is a leading candidate to replace Gonzales, officials said.
Gonzales, propelled to power by his close friendship with President George W. Bush, had for months withstood demands for his ouster from Democrats and Republicans. At least six other high-ranking administration officials have left with more than a year to go in Bush's administration.
As recently as an Aug. 9 news conference, Bush defended Gonzales, saying, ``I haven't seen Congress say he's done anything wrong.''
The resignation climaxes a political battle over Gonzales's leadership of the Justice Department, though congressional investigations into the prosecutor firings and the administration's anti-terrorist spying program continue. Bush may also clash with Congress over Gonzales's successor, who must be confirmed by the Democratic-led Senate. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
CrimProf Dr. Robert Schehr Writes Article Concerning Fast Track Death Penalty Cases
From azdailysun.com: Northern Arizona University CrimProf Dr. Robert Schehr recently wrote an article concerning fast track death penalty decisions. Here is an excerpt:
On March 9, 2006, President Bush reauthorized the USA Patriot Act (U.S. Patriot Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005). Added to the new bill was Section 2265 "Certification and Judicial Review," which was adopted from Arizona Senator Jon Kyl's 2005 Streamline Procedures Act, a bill that sought to severely restrict federal habeas review (this bill never became law).
Mirroring Section 9 of the Streamline Procedures Act, Section 2265 of the Reauthorized Patriot Act provides the U.S. Attorney General (Alberto Gonzales) with the authority to certify whether states have implemented "a mechanism for the appointment, compensation, and payment of reasonable litigation expenses of competent counsel in State postconviction proceedings brought by indigent prisoners who have been sentenced to death." As well as "whether the State provides standards of competency for the appointment of counsel."
According to a recent article published in the Los Angeles Times (Aug. 14, 2007), the Justice Department is preparing new regulations that will allow the U.S. Attorney General to fast-track death penalty decisions by determining whether States are adhering to Section 2265 of the Patriot Act Reathorization bill. Previously, the authority to make this determination was held by federal judges. In addition, the new procedures would severely shorten the amount of time inmates have to file a federal appeal from its current one year (established in 1996 with the passage of the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act) to six months.
Numerous questions arise regarding handing over the authority to determine whether indigent defendants receive adequate defense resources to the nation's chief prosecutor. For example, would there be a conflict of interest if the Attorney General were to assume responsibility for determining the quality of indigent defense counsel in cases that the state was prosecuting? But there are others, and they are significant. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
August 26, 2007
US Court of Miitary Commission Appeals Hears First Case
From NPR.com: The new U.S. Court of Military Commission Appeals has heard arguments in its first case. Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr was captured in Afghanistan in 2002 for allegedly killing a U.S. soldier. A semantic dispute over the term "unlawful" is at the heart of the debate.
Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
Boston'a Text Message Tip Line is a Success
From bostonherald.com: Boston cops’ anonymous text-message tip line has busted at least two murder suspects and popped up hot leads in other high-profile homicides - including the shooting of 8-year-old Liquarry Jefferson - in the two months since the first-in-the nation program was unveiled, the Herald has learned.
“It has performed beyond our wildest expectations. We had no idea it was going to work as well as it has,” Boston police Commission Edward Davis said yesterday. “It’s a great method by which the community can talk to us without fear of retaliation.”
Anonymous tipsters have tapped out some 230 text messages to the Boston Crime Stoppers unit since the line opened June 15, the BPD said. By comparison, the unit averages a paltry 10 phone calls from tipsters a month. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
California May Be Paving the Way for Private Prisons
From latimes.com: Depending on the outcome of legal challenges, California could be "one of the longtime drivers of growth for the private prison industry," industry analyst Kevin Campbell said.
Until December, the state had not put a medium- or maximum-security prisoner in a private lockup since 1852, when it replaced a private prison ship in San Francisco Bay with California's first public prison, San Quentin.
Private companies say they can build secure prisons faster and cheaper than state governments and are not saddled with the high salaries and pension costs paid by public agencies.
Critics counter that states that use private prisons get what they pay for: Guards are poorly paid and trained, and private prisons experience more escapes and more disciplinary problems than state-run institutions, they contend. And the state is sending away its better-behaved prisoners, they say, making California prisons even more dangerous.
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the Justice Department, said in a 2001 study that limited research showed that "privately operated prisons function as well as publicly operated prisons." Management problems usually are caused by poorly drafted contracts and poor oversight of private operators by states, the study said.
The public-private dilemma is hitting California head-on -- with corporate America battling the prison guard establishment. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]