September 22, 2007
Jena 6 Protests Similar to Civil Rights Era
From NYTimes.com: In a slow-moving march that filled streets, spilled onto sidewalks and stretched for miles, more than 10,000 demonstrators rallied Thursday in this small town to protest the treatment of six black teenagers arrested in the beating of a white schoolmate last year.
Chanting slogans from the civil rights era and waving signs, protesters from around the nation converged in central Louisiana where the charges have made this otherwise anonymous town of 3,000 people a high-profile arena in the debate on racial bias in the judicial system.
“That’s not prosecution, that’s persecution,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson the founder of the RainbowPUSH Coalition and an organizer of the demonstration, told a crowd in front of the LaSalle Parish Courthouse. “We will not stop marching until justice runs down like waters.”
The Jena High School students, known as the Jena Six, are part of a court case that began in December, when they were accused of beating a white classmate unconscious and kicking him and a prosecutor charged them with attempted murder.
The beating was preceded by racially charged incidents at the high school, including nooses hanging from an oak tree that some students felt was just for white students. The tree has been cut down.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
September 21, 2007
CrimProf Blog Spotlight: Barry McCarthy
This week the CrimProf Blog spotlights University of Pittsburgh Law School CrimProf Barry McCarthy.
Barry McCarthy is an expert in criminal law and procedure and in juvenile law, both in the United States and abroad. He is the former chair of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Criminal Procedural Rules Committee (1993-1999) and currently is the chair of the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Rules Committee.
He served as a consultant to the Law Reform Commission of Ireland for almost 20 years, and has also been a consultant to the U.S. Department of State. He was an adviser to Ireland's director of public prosecutions, and an active member of the International Bar Association. Author of Pennsylvania Juvenile Delinquency Practice and Procedure (West/Thomson 1984-2005) and coauthor of Juvenile Law and Its Processes (Lexis 1979 2003), Professor McCarthy is former chair of the Family and Juvenile Law Section of the Association of American Law Schools.
His scholarly work has appeared in New York University Law Review, Temple Law Review, and University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, among others. He previously taught law at Capital University and University College Dublin. [Mark Godsey]
September 20, 2007
FBI Calls For Bank Dress Code Legislation
From NPR.com: FBI agent Larry Carr is working on legislation that stops banks from doing business with customers wearing a cap or hooded sweatshirt. Since most bank security cameras are above the customer counter, the video often can't capture the robber's face under the brim of a cap.
Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
Study Shows Inmates' Deaths Were Preventable
From latimes.com: As many as one in six deaths of California prison inmates last year might have been preventable, according to a study of medical care in 32 state lockups that will be used to help rebuild the troubled system.
The report, released Wednesday by the court-appointed receiver in charge of healthcare for the state's 173,000 prisoners, revealed a broad pattern of delays in diagnosis, poor inmate access to doctors and tests, botched handling of medical records, and failure of medical staff to recognize and treat dangerous conditions.
Officials said some lapses led to disciplinary actions against doctors and nurses.
There were 426 deaths in 2006, including 43 suicides, and the study examined 381 of them.
Eighteen deaths were found to be preventable, meaning better medical management or a better system of care would have prevented deaths. An additional 48 were found to be "possibly preventable," meaning better medical management of a system of care might have prevented death.
Of the deaths considered preventable, six were from asthma, which receiver Robert Sillen said he intended to make a priority for reforms.
"The leading cause of [preventable] death being asthma is unconscionable, and it is evidence of systemic problems and problems with individual clinical judgments," Sillen said in an interview. "Adults in 21st century California should not have asthma as a primary cause of death."
Sillen said the report, which concluded that problems such as human error, staffing shortages and poor medical records contributed to unnecessary deaths, provided additional evidence that the state's $1.5-billion-a-year medical care system needed to be rebuilt from the bottom up.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Report Shows that Schools Underreport Crime
From stateline.com: Schools and colleges across the country do not report crime and violent incidents on campus consistently or accurately — in many cases because they are not required to, according to safety experts and a new report by 27 state attorneys general.
A patchwork of state and federal laws intended to tally assaults, robberies, drug use and other crime at primary and secondary schools — as well as colleges and universities — fails to provide a clear picture of the scope of the problem, critics charge. Out-of-date, incomplete statistics are common and authorities have few effective tools to penalize institutions that do not comply, including fines that observers say amount to a “drop in the bucket.”
Making matters worse, school and college officials are reluctant to release more comprehensive information on their own because of stigmas that can be attached to institutions with frequent occurrences of crime, said Ronald Stephens, executive director of the California-based National School Safety Center which advocates for safer primary and secondary schools.
Stephens and others stressed that high crime rates do not necessarily reflect administrative failures, and that the absence of accurate information hinders efforts to understand and prevent illegal activity.
“Good crime data can provide a summary of what crimes are occurring, where they are happening and when they are happening,” Stephens said in an e-mail to Stateline.org. “When this information is available, school officials can develop more effective prevention and remediation programs and provide responsible adult supervision to those areas where the difficulties are occurring.” Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
September 19, 2007
Bill Lerach Expected to Plead Guilty to Conspiracy
From NPR.com: Bill Lerach, perhaps the nation's most influential class-action lawyer, is expected to plead guilty Tuesday to a conspiracy charge. He faces a year or more in prison. Lerach allegedly took part in a scheme that involved illegal payoffs to clients. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
Cali will Launch a Parole Plan Aimed at Rehabilitation
From latimes.com: The Schwarzenegger administration is set to launch a program in Southern California that ultimately could free tens of thousands of ex-convicts from parole years earlier than scheduled.
Officials said the plan, expected to be approved by the state parole board Tuesday, would start in Orange and San Bernardino counties within two months and focus on nonviolent state parolees. It would encourage rehabilitation and enable overburdened parole agents to focus on serious offenders, especially sexual predators, they said.
Corrections Secretary James E. Tilton said in an interview that the trial program, which if successful could expand statewide early next year, would bring California in line with 33 other states in screening parolees to determine which most need to be monitored after completing their prison terms.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Survey Shows Youths are Blind to the Risks of Meth
From USATODAY.com: Despite methamphetamine's addictive and sometimes deadly effects, one in three youths sees little or no risk in trying the illegal drug, a new survey finds.
Nearly one in four youths believes meth "makes you feel euphoric or happy" or helps you lose weight, and the same number said it would be "very" or "somewhat easy" to obtain meth, according to a first-ever national use and attitudes survey about the drug released Tuesday.
And yet, in a finding that might be of comfort to parents, three out of four youths said they are strongly opposed to using meth.
The survey of 2,602 students age 12-17 was done by The Meth Project, a non-profit Palo Alto, Calif.-based project that aims to reduce first time meth users through advertising campaigns.
About one in six youths has either a friend or a family member who has used or been treated for meth addiction, the survey found. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
September 18, 2007
Federal Prosecutor Caught In Child Drug Sting
From freep.com: A federal prosecutor flew to metro Detroit with a Dora the Explorer doll, hoop earrings and petroleum jelly for a 5-year-old he planned to have sex with, police say.
John David Roy Atchison -- who prosecutes civil and criminal matters as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern Florida District -- appeared on the other side of the law Monday in Detroit federal court. Atchison, 53, of Gulf Breeze, Fla., was charged with enticement of a minor using the Internet and knowingly traveling interstate to engage in illicit sex.
According to court documents, during an Internet chat with an undercover officer, Atchison described himself as "very much a family man." He initiated the online chat Aug. 29 with the officer posing as a mother interested in letting men have sex with her children.
During continuous conversations, he expressed a desire to engage in oral, vaginal and anal sex with her fictitious daughter. Money was not part of the discussion.
In the chats, he also suggested he previously had sex with minors.
With eyes cast downward and fiddling with papers, Atchison asked for a court-appointed attorney Monday until he obtains his own. He was ordered to remain in custody, pending a detention hearing at 1 p.m. today. He faces up to 60 years in prison if convicted of the crimes.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Due to Tougher Gun Laws, Criminals Turn to Knives
From boston.com: Despite a much-touted reduction in shootings in Boston, police are now confronting a troubling rise in the number of stabbings, which have jumped 10 percent over the same period last year and are on track to reach their highest point in four years.
Savvy criminals, aware of the tougher punishments levied for gun violations, have begun wielding blades instead, Boston law enforcement officials believe.
Gangs are instructing members to carry knives rather than risk an 18-month minimum sentence for possessing an unlawful firearm, Superintendent Daniel P. Linskey said, and more young people are carrying the weapons for protection, then using them to hurt rivals during fights.
"Carrying a knife is not going to expose anyone to a minimum of 18 months or beyond," said Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley. "And they're more easily accessible, too. You can pick up a knife at an army-navy store, or mom-and-pop variety store."
Police reported 350 stabbings from Jan. 1 to Sept. 10, which was 10 percent more than in the same period last year. Shootings, meanwhile, plunged nearly 18 percent, from 283 to 233 for the same time period. The number of stabbings through Aug. 26, the latest date for which year-to-year comparisons were available, is at the highest level since 2004. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
CrimProf McMurtie and Innocence Project Northwest Celebrates 10th Anniversary
Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a special screening of "The Trials of Darryl Hunt", with Darryl Hunt, and his attorneys Mark Rabil and Ben Dowling-Sendor, in attendance to discuss Darryl’s 19-year struggle for freedom.
Since 1997, the IPNW has represented prisoners in Washington with credible claims of actual innocence. Originally a volunteer organization, the IPNW is now a clinical law program at the University of Washington School of Law. The IPNW students, professors and volunteer lawyers have successfully challenged twelve convictions in just ten years.
Most recently, the IPNW Clinic won the first reversal of a conviction in Washington based on newly discovered DNA evidence. The Washington Court of Appeals granted Ted Bradford a new trial and reversed his 1996 rape and burglary convictions on the basis of post-conviction DNA evidence. The IPNW was previously involved in overturning convictions in the Wenatchee sex-ring investigations. Forty-three people were charged with more than 29,000 counts of sexual abuse involving some 50 children. Many of the accused were poor, uneducated or developmentally disabled. [Mark Godsey]
September 17, 2007
Senate May Vote to Restore Habeas Right to Non-Citizen Enemy Combatant
From npr.org: Congress revoked the right to habeas corpus for non-citizen enemy combatants last year. If reinstated, it would affect the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, some of whom have been held without charge for up to five years. Dahlia Lithwick, legal analyst with the online magazine Slate talks to Madeleine Brand about the Senate's possible vote to restore the detainees' right. Listen. . .
Pretty in Pink Tasers for Sale
From azcentral.com: Pink is traditionally a frilly, rather girlish color. But there is a new pink in town, and it has an edge.
Thanks to Scottsdale-based Taser International, ladies can pack some pink heat. The C2, the newest consumer model of the much-talked-about stun gun used by numerous law-enforcement agencies in the U.S., now comes in the girliest of colors, as well as three other less feminine choices.
Regardless of color, it'll still zap an attacker with 50,000 volts. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Tennessee Justice System Flaws are Illustrated Through Escapees' Success
From tennessean.com:Tennessee's justice system that have allowed more than 150 Tennessee prison escapees to roam free, often enabling them to break the law again.
The danger posed by fugitives is profound. Convicts on the run from Tennessee prisons have murdered at least nine people during the past 30 years.
A Tennessean investigation reviewed the cases of hundreds of inmates who escaped from Tennessee's prison system since 1975.
More than one-third of escapees still on the lam had no warrants identifying them as fugitives. As a result, many were stopped by police, given traffic tickets, arrested and in some cases sent to prison, then turned loose — without anyone knowing that they should have been returned to Tennessee prisons. Some of them were later arrested on serious charges, ranging from armed robbery and attempted murder to sex crimes.
In recent years, the high-profile arrests of two Tennessee fugitives highlighted flaws in the way Tennessee handles warrants for escapees, but prison officials did nothing to remedy the problem. In fact, until presented with The Tennessean's findings in recent months, prison officials continued to insist that escape warrants were on file for all escapees.
Tennessee criminal justice officials point to a litany of past and present shortcomings. Some of the missing warrants were thrown out by mistake or as part of regular purging of older files. In many cases, officials have no explanation for why the warrants aren't active. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Federal Prosecutor in Child Sex Sting
Story here. This is really quite unbelievable; one of the lesser reasons is that it is difficult to understand how an experienced prosecutor could fail to realize that the free-thinking mother who offered up her 5 year old child for a sexual experience with an gentle older man was almost certainly a cop.
O.J. Simpson and the Claim of Right Defense
OJ does seem to have taken personal property by force or fear, implicating NRS 200.380, the robbery statute. However, he evidently asserts that he was engaging in a sting operation to obtain the return of his stolen memorabilia-- a claim of right to the property he took. Is that a defense? Well, it is at common law (see 88 A.L.R.3d 1309 (1978)) As the California Supreme Court said in People v. Tufunga, 987 P.2d 168 (1999): "The claim-of-right defense provides that a defendant's good faith belief, even if mistakenly held, that he has a right or claim to property he takes from another negates the felonious intent necessary for conviction of theft or robbery. At common law, a claim of right was recognized as a defense to larceny because it was deemed to negate the animus furandi, or intent to steal, of that offense. (See 4 Blackstone, Commentaries 230 (Blackstone).) Since robbery was viewed as an aggravated form of larceny, it was likewise subject to the same claim-of-right defense. (Id. at pp. 241-243.)" However, for obvious reasons, not all jurisdictions continue to follow the common law rule.
Too bad for OJ that he is not in California; a quick search did not reveal to me on which side of the split Nevada falls. But parts, at least, of the Nevada criminal code were based on California's statutes, and therefore the California authority may be persuasive. Kramer v. State, 60 Nev. 262, 108 P.2d 304 (1940).
September 16, 2007
Philly's Police Chief calls for 10,000 Black Men to Patrol the Streets
From USATODAY.com: The Philadelphia's embattled police chief, acknowledging that police alone cannot quell a run of deadly violence, has called on 10,000 black men to patrol the streets to reduce crime.
Sylvester Johnson, who is black, says black men have a duty to protect more vulnerable residents. He wants each volunteer to pledge to work three hours a day for at least 90 days.
"It's time for African-American men to stand up," Johnson told the Philadelphia Daily News, which first reported the story Wednesday. "We have an obligation to protect our women, our children and our elderly. We're going to put men on the street. We're going to train them in conflict resolution."
The program's backers include Dennis Muhammad, a former Nation of Islam official who has been hired by police departments in Detroit, Syracuse, N.Y., and other cities to conduct community-sensitivity training.
Philadelphia, the nation's sixth-largest city, has nearly 1.5 million residents, 44 percent of them black. It has notched 294 homicides this year. More than 80 percent of the slayings involve handguns, and most involve young black males. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Prisoner Sues The State for Making Inmates Wear Pink
The suit is the latest development in a nationwide effort by prison and jail officials to tap the power of pink to subdue criminals.
In the South Carolina case, Sherone Nealous claims that forcing inmates to wear pink is discriminatory and makes them more likely to be assaulted by other inmates. Nealous is serving time at the Allendale Correctional Institution for assault and battery with intent to kill, aggravated assault and assault and battery on a police officer.
"When the inmate population views an inmate wearing a pink jumpsuit, it is known that the clothing was assigned by (the Department of Corrections) as punishment for sexual misconduct," states a legal memorandum filed by the department. It "conveys no suggestion that the inmate wearing the jumpsuit is a willing participant in homosexual activity or otherwise vulnerable to … assault."
Jon Ozmint, director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, and Russell Harter, an attorney representing the prison system, declined to comment further because of the ongoing litigation.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]