Saturday, October 6, 2007
From latimes.com: President Bush on Friday defended the CIA's harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects, saying its methods do not constitute torture and are necessary to protect America from attack.
But Bush's declaration that the United States "does not torture people" did little to dampen the fallout from fresh evidence that his administration has used secret legal memos to sanction tactics that stretch, if not circumvent, the law.
The president's comments came amid disclosures this week of classified opinions issued by the Justice Department in 2005 that endorsed the legality of an array of interrogation tactics, ranging from sleep deprivation to simulated drowning.
Bush's decision to comment again on what once was among the most highly classified U.S. intelligence programs underscores the political peril surrounding the issue for the White House, which has had to retreat from earlier, aggressive assertions of executive power.
From NPR.com: Monica Feria will receive the Gruber Justice Prize next week for her work as an attorney on behalf of hundreds of Peruvians who were killed and held illegally by their government. She was among them. Feria talks with Scott Simon. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
Thursday, October 4, 2007
From latimes.com: From his dugout canoe in the Napipi River, Jefferson Rojas spotted what he was after: a 40-foot-high jagua tree, its canopy dotted with dozens of thick-skinned fruits the size of tennis balls.
Rojas pulled his boat to shore, macheted his way through thick foliage and with his telephone lineman gear quickly scaled the tree. He lopped off the fruits, which fell with thuds to the floor of the jungle.
Why did Rojas go to such lengths for a fruit that isn't even ripe? Because the body-marking market has caught on to what indigenous tribes here in Choco state have known for centuries: Jagua is an excellent source of nonpermanent tattoo ink.
Ink that eventually makes its way to the biceps or backsides of trendy teenagers thousands of miles away might appear to have a tenuous connection to Plan Colombia, the seven-year program that has funneled $5.4 billion in U.S. taxpayer money into fighting drug traffickers and guerrillas. But with the current fiscal year, which began Monday, more of those funds are to go to economic projects such as Rojas' tattoo ink venture and fewer to finance the Colombian military and anti-coca spraying than in past years.
The initiative will soon take on a "softer" profile, at the insistence of the Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress. It is expected to contain more money to fund "alternative development" programs to encourage farmers to grow legal crops and steer clear of joining armed groups. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From washingtonpost.com: No more than four Justice Department officials had access to details of the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program when the department deemed portions of it illegal, following a pattern of poor consultation that helped create a "legal mess," a former Justice official told Congress yesterday.
Jack L. Goldsmith, former head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the White House so tightly restricted access to the National Security Agency's program that even the attorney general and the NSA's general counsel were partly in the dark.
Rest of Article. . . . [Mark Godsey]
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
From statesman.com: Roiled by internal dissent over its handling of a previous execution appeal, Texas' highest criminal court Tuesday blocked the state from carrying out its next scheduled execution — signaling a temporary halt for the nation's busiest death chamber.
Heliberto Chi was scheduled to die tonight for the 2001 killing of an Arlington store manager.
Instead, the Honduran man became the second Texas inmate to win a court-ordered reprieve while the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether the method of lethal injection used in Texas and three dozen other states violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The Supreme Court last week blocked Texas from executing Carlton Turner Jr. while the lethal injection challenge is pending.
"It seems clear, based on the actions (by the two courts), that executions will be on hold for the next several months," said Andrea Keilen, executive director of the Texas Defender Service, which helped defend Chi. "We have what seems to be a temporary stop."
Chi's stay of execution, delivered in an unsigned but unanimous order from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, gives Tarrant County prosecutors 30 days to file briefs rebutting Chi's claim that the three drugs used for lethal injection can subject inmates to intense pain.
The Chi ruling came as new details emerged about the Texas court's refusal to stay open past 5 p.m. on Sept. 25 so lawyers could file an appeal on behalf of death row inmate Michael Richard. The Supreme Court had accepted the lethal injection case earlier that day, and Richard's lawyers argued that the extra time was needed to respond to the new circumstances and to address computer problems that delayed the printing of Richard's motion. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
University of Maryland School of Law Holds Congressional Field Hearing on Alternatives to Incarceration for Drugs
At the invitation of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), a U.S. House of Representatives' subcommittee held a congressional field hearing Oct. 1 at the Ceremonial Moot Courtroom at the University of Maryland School of Law to evaluate practical alternatives to incarceration to prevent drug use and drug-related violence.
Cummings, a graduate of the School of Law, welcomed the standing-room-only crowd to the hearing. He said he was glad to see "the strong concern that residents have for the safety of their communities."
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, (D-Ohio), chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, swore in the panelists. They included Rita Fayall, program coordinator of the Meet-Me-Halfway Mentoring Program; Sheryl Goldstein, JD, director of the Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice; Ellen Heller, JD '77, administrative judge of the Circuit Court of Baltimore City; and Joshua Sharfstein, MD, Baltimore City Health Department commissioner.
The panelists explained how multiple services are working together with at-risk juveniles and young adults, including mental health and substance abuse treatment, job training, and housing. They also described how drug courts, problem-solving courts, and coordinated community outreach to at-risk individuals and low-level offenders can impact crime levels. [Mark Godsey]
From news24.com: A trial on charges of corruption has become inevitable for Jacob Zuma, the deputy president of the African National Conference and possible candidate for its leadership and the presidency of South Africa.
That's according to University of North West CrimProf Tom Coetzee, following the unanimous decision on Tuesday of 11 Constitutional Court judges to dismiss Schabir Shaik's application to appeal against his conviction on charges of corruption and fraud and his 15-year jail sentence.
Rest of Article. . .[Mark Godsey]
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
The School of Law at Wake Forest University is beginning a DNA Innocence Project for the 2007-2008 academic year. The Forsyth County Bar Association recently began a project to identify prisoners who might benefit from DNA testing to demonstrate their innocence, and received so many requests that the Bar Association asked for help from Wake Forest law students. The law school agreed to manage the project, under the auspices of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence.
This academic year, volunteer law students will work with defense attorneys, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers to identify cases that qualify for DNA testing. District Attorney Tom Keith has agreed to request such testing for cases that the volunteer students and attorneys recommend to him.
This arrangement -- combining the efforts of law students, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and law enforcement officers – makes this Wake Forest DNA Innocence Project unique. After this special project to address the backlog of DNA testing requests from Forsyth County, the Wake Innocence Project in future academic years will continue to investigate potential claims of actual innocence, based on any type of reliable evidence. [Mark Godsey]
Maryland Adopts a Lethality Assessment to Identify Abuse Victims that Are Most at Risk for Being Murdered
From washingtonpost.com: A growing number of police departments across Maryland are adopting a domestic violence program that uses a series of pointed questions to identify those most at risk of being killed and get them immediate aid or counseling.
Organizers say the effort has connected counselors with hundreds of people who otherwise were unlikely to seek help. Called "lethality assessment," the program is based on research from experts at Johns Hopkins University.
Under the new approach, which has sparked national interest, police who answer domestic 911 calls take a far more involved role with the victims they encounter at the scene. When a case shows a high risk of lethality, police talk to the victim about the danger, phone a counselor immediately and encourage the victim to talk. Since early last year, 900 people have done so.
Rest of Aricle. . . [Mark Godsey]
From NPR.com: The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in two cases testing the limits of judicial discretion in federal sentencing. The basic question: should sentencing guidelines be considered advisory or mandatory? Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
Monday, October 1, 2007
From washingtonpost.com: Oscar S. Wyatt, the prominent Texas oil man who in 1990 negotiated the release of American oil workers in Iraq, pleaded guilty Monday to paying millions of dollars in bribes to Saddam Hussein's regime in exchange for discounted oil.
Nearing the end of his trial, Wyatt, 83, entered a guilty plea before a federal judge in Manhattan to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in subverting a U.N.-administered humanitarian aid program in Iraq. He is the sixth person to plead guilty in an ongoing federal investigation that has recovered more than $16.5 million in illicit proceeds, which will be returned to Iraq. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From NYTimes.com: State lawmakers across the country are adopting broad changes to criminal justice procedures as a response to the exoneration of more than 200 convicts through the use of DNA evidence.
All but eight states now give inmates varying degrees of access to DNA evidence that might not have been available at the time of their convictions. Many states are also overhauling the way witnesses identify suspects, crime labs handle evidence and informants are used.
At least six states have created commissions to expedite cases of those wrongfully convicted or to consider changes to criminal justice procedures. One of them, the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, will hold a hearing this month on remedies for people who have been wrongfully convicted.
Laws in several states, including Illinois, New Jersey and North Carolina, have bipartisan backing, with many Democrats supportive on civil rights grounds and Republicans generally hoping that tighter procedures will lead to fewer challenges of convictions Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Wake Forest University School of Law Crimprof Ron Wright delivered a lecture for the Hoffinger Criminal Justice colloquium at New York University. The Hoffinger lecture is a centerpiece of the criminal law program at the NYU School of Law, and is attended by leading scholars, practitioners, policymakers, and journalists in the New York City metropolitan area. Wright spoke about the election campaigns of District Attorneys. Based on his own original research and the research of Wake Forest law students, he explored alternatives for promoting the democratic legitimacy and accountability of prosecutors.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
The Supreme Court has drawn intense attention by agreeing to weigh in for a third time in the ongoing battle between the Bush Administration and Guantanamo Bay detainees over the prisoners' right to bring writs of habeas corpus.
The Court rejected the prisoners' petition for certiorari in April, but reversed course two months later. Observers have speculated that at least one Justice was moved to change his certiorari vote when the detainees' lawyers filed a court paper in the underlying litigation outlining the claims of an Army lawyer that the panels provided as alternates to habeas were "shams."
The consolidated cases, Boumediene v. Bush and Al Odah v. United States, Nos. 06-1195 and 06-1196, represent the ongoing struggle between the executive and legislative branches on the one hand, and the judicial branch on the other, to define the scope of the government's power to conduct the war on terror.
In 2002 Lakhdar Boumediene and five other Algerian natives were seized by Bosnian police when U.S. intelligence officers suspected their involvement in a plot to attack the U.S. embassy there.
The U.S. government classified the men as enemy combatants in the war on terror and detained them at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, which is located on land that the U.S. leases from Cuba.
Boumediene filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging violations of the Constitution's Due Process Clause, various statutes and treaties, the common law, and international law. The District Court judge granted the government's motion to have all of the claims dismissed on the ground that Boumediene, as an alien detained at an overseas military base, had no right to a habeas petition.
More. . . [Mark Godsey]
Fans of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” saw a familiar University of Southern California Law publication on the TV show’s season premier episode.
The episode – about a woman with dissociative identity disorder whom detectives suspect may have conspired with her sister to kill their parents – featured the spring 2001 Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal, titled “Symposium on Multiple Personality Disorder and Criminal Responsibility.” The issue featured articles by USC Law’s Elyn Saks, associate dean and the Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychology, and Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences.
Detectives Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler, the show’s lead characters, cite articles from the journal that discuss the legal responsibility of persons with multiple personalities and the legal traction that may be established. At one point, Stabler also holds up the journal to an inmate to ask if she has seen it before. [Mark Godsey]
From elpasotimes.com: While it is known that the FBI confiscated money and cars from one El Paso businessman implicated in the ongoing public corruption case, chances are several others have already had their assets frozen by the government, a criminal law expert said.
Wayne State Law University CrimProf Peter Henning said that when a public corruption case involves several dozen people -- such as the one in El Paso -- it is rare to find that only one person has had assets taken away.
"There are others, we just don't know about them," Henning said. "The items were seized either through a sealed indictment or a sealed civil forfeiture."
FBI spokeswoman Andrea Simmons said that while no one has been indicted in the ongoing public corruption case, the FBI cannot talk about whether anyone else had their assets frozen.
Several El Paso defense lawyers who are representing some of the people implicated in the case refused to say whether any of their clients had assets frozen.
Henning said there must to be others besides former Access HealthSource President Frank Apodaca.
"We just don't know who they are yet," he said. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
This week the CrimProf Blog spotlight Seton Hall CrimProf Mark Alexander.
Mark C. Alexander is Professor of Law, Seton Hall University School of Law. He writes and teaches in the areas of Constitutional Law, Law & Politics, The First Amendment and Criminal Procedure. His scholarship focuses on the intersection of law, politics and government and on free speech issues, with an emphasis on exploring new constitutional approaches to campaign finance reform. A recent article was cited by the Supreme Court in a major decision from 2006. In addition to his scholarly work, he recently filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, defending the right of governments to limit campaign spending.
Active in politics, Prof. Alexander recently took a leave of absence to serve as General Counsel to Cory Booker and the Booker Team in the 2006 Newark Municipal elections. He then served in the same capacity for Newark in Transition, as Mayor Booker moved to assume the office. He continues to consult with the Mayor and his staff on a wide range of matters.
Other political work includes serving as Issues Director for the Bill Bradley for President campaign in 1999-2000. He was Issues Director for Senator Edward Kennedy’s Re-election in 1988, and before that, a legislative assistant to Senator Howard Metzenbaum. He also served a two-year term as an elected official in the Washington, D.C. government.
Professor Alexander also has significant international experience, including year in Spain on a Fulbright Scholarship, where he taught American law and politics. In addition he has taught in the Seton Hall Law-in-Italy program. He is also a fellow of the U.S.-Japan Leadership Program.
Professor Alexander clerked for Chief Judge Thelton Henderson of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California and was a litigator with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in San Francisco before joining the Seton Hall Law School faculty in 1996. Professor Alexander was the 1996-1997 Student Bar Association Professor of the Year, and he has been nominated for the award on numerous other occasions. He received his B.A. and J.D. from Yale University. In the spring 2003 semester, Professor Alexander returned to Yale Law School as a Visiting Scholar. [Mark Godsey]