CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mother Charged for Buying her 14 year old Son Weapons

From The mother of a 14-year-old who authorities say had a cache of guns, knives and explosive devices in his bedroom for a possible school attack was charged Friday with buying her son three weapons.

Michele Cossey, 46, bought her home-schooled son, Dillon, a .22-caliber handgun, a .22-caliber rifle and a 9 mm semiautomatic rifle, authorities said.

The teenager felt bullied and tried to recruit another boy for a possible attack at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School, authorities said. His mother was not accused of helping plot an attack, "but by virtue of her indulgence, she enabled him to get in this position," Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. said.

"This is not the best parenting I've ever seen and she needs to be held accountable," Castor said.

Acting on a tip from a high school student and his father, police on Wednesday found the rifle, about 30 air-powered guns, swords, knives, a bomb-making book, videos of the 1999 Columbine attack in Colorado and violence-filled notebooks in the boy's bedroom, Castor said.

The mother bought the rifle, which had a laser scope, at a gun show on Sept. 23 and provided police with a receipt, investigators said in court papers. The teenager said the two .22-caliber weapons were stored at a friend's house.

She was charged with unlawful transfer of a firearm, possession of a firearm by a minor, corruption of a minor, endangering the welfare of a child and two counts of reckless endangerment, and later released on bail. She did not comment at the hearing. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 13, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 12, 2007

CrimProf Blog spotlight: Orde Kittrie

OkittrieThis week the CrimProf Blog spotlights University of Maryland School of Law CrimProf Orde Kittrie

Orde Félix Kittrie is a Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Maryland School of Law during the 2007-8 academic year. He has been an Associate Professor of Law at Arizona State University since 2004.

Professor Kittrie teaches and writes in the areas of Criminal Law and International Law. Prior to joining the ASU law faculty in 2004, Professor Kittrie served for eleven years at the United States Department of State. Kittrie most recently served as the State Department's Director of International Anti-Crime Programs, overseeing United States policy and technical assistance programs for combating transnational crime worldwide. Prior to that assignment, Kittrie served as a Senior Attorney and Adviser to the Under Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy, assisting with efforts to improve America's image and promote human rights and democracy in the Arab world.

Kittrie earlier served as Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business & Agricultural Affairs. In that capacity, he worked on economic aid for Pakistan following September 11, 2001 and assisted with planning for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Kittrie also worked on U.S.-Mexico border issues and negotiation of the world's first multilateral agreement to combat computer crime. Prior to that, Kittrie served as the State Department's Senior Attorney for Nuclear Affairs. In that capacity, he negotiated five nuclear non-proliferation agreements between the United States and Russia and served as counsel for the U.S. Government's sanctions and other responses to the 1998 Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests.

Earlier in his State Department career, Kittrie specialized in trade controls governing arms and dual-use items, in which capacity he was a principal drafter of U.N. Security Council Resolutions, U.S. Executive Orders, and U.S. regulations imposing and implementing arms embargoes on terrorism-supporting and other outlaw regimes, including Rwanda during the genocide.

Prior to entering law school, Kittrie served as Press Spokesman and Legislative Assistant to U.S. Congresswoman Connie Morella (MD). Kittrie is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a board member of the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations. A Mexican-American, Kittrie is active in the Latino community. During 2006, he served as President of Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) Region XIV, representing Arizona and Nevada on the HNBA Board of Governors and overseeing HNBA activities in those states.

He has also served as faculty advisor to ASU's Chicano Latino Law Students Association and as a member of the board of directors of Los Abogados, the Hispanic Bar Association of Arizona. Kittrie was honored by the Chicano Faculty Staff Association of ASU with the Dr. Manuel Servin Faculty Award for 2006. Kittrie was also recently named by Hispanic Outlook on Higher Education magazine as one of the U.S.'s top Hispanic professors of international law. [Mark Godsey]

October 12, 2007 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

American Freed From Iranian Prison

From After more than four months in an Iranian prison, California businessman Ali Shakeri arrived home in the United States late Tuesday. He is the fourth American Iranian to be freed from jail in recent weeks, and the third allowed to leave Iran.

In an interview, Shakeri said his passport was returned Sunday and he immediately left Iran after posting a bond. But he said he still expects to have to go back to Iran to face charges.

"They released me on bond to come to the U.S., and by court order, when they want me, I'll be there," he said in an interview. "This is not something which I will disobey. I gave up the property deed of my brother's place, which is worth about $110,000."

Shakeri was picked up March 8 at Tehran's international airport as he was about to fly out after visiting his ill mother. She died while he was in Tehran, and he stayed for the funeral and to settle family business.

Shakeri said he was not ill treated during his long ordeal in Evin Prison, where he was held in solitary confinement in the section for political prisoners. "I was not treated bad in Ward 209, and I appreciate the discipline in prison," he said. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 11, 2007 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sister Helen Prejean To Speak at St. Thomas School of Law

Death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean will speak at the University of St. Thomas School of Law on Monday, Oct. 22, in the Schulze Grand Atrium in the School of Law building.

Her talk, “Dead Man Walking – The Journey Continues,” will begin at 12:30 p.m. and will conclude by 1:30 p.m.

Prejean is an outspoken death penalty opponent who has written extensively about the subject. Her books include The Death of Innocents and Dead Man Walking, the book on which the film was based. Over the years she has been honored by many groups for her prison ministry. 

[Mark Godsey]

October 11, 2007 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The DOJ Has Not Spent any of the Congress Allotted $8 Million for DNA Testing

From Since 2006, the Justice Department has yet to spend any of the $8 million set aside by Congress for DNA tests for convicts to prove their innocence while it has used $214 million to collect DNA from convicted criminals and improve crime labs, records show.

"DNA evidence is such a powerful tool in proving guilt or innocence that it's inexcusable not to use it," says Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chief sponsor of a bill to provide more funding for what is known as innocence testing.

If spent, the $8 million could affect dozens of cases, says Barry Scheck, a defense lawyer who specializes in using DNA to overturn convictions. Exact costs for a DNA test vary from case to case.

Rules imposed by Congress have made it difficult for states to qualify for post-conviction DNA grants, says the department's National Institute of Justice, which administers the funds. Only Virginia, Connecticut and Arizona have applied.

The law requires a state's attorney general to certify that the state requires police departments to take "reasonable measures" to preserve biological evidence for possible future testing. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 11, 2007 in DOJ News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

SCOTUS Takes a Mexican Man on Death Row Case

ScFrom Jose Medellin, a Mexican man on death row in Texas has an unlikely ally in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. President Bush is asking the court to order the state to abide by an international court ruling that required it to notify Mexican authorities when the man was arrested. Texas courts have said the ruling has no weight in Texas and the president has no power to order its enforcement. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 10, 2007 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Question Remains if Congress will Pass Bill Recognizing the Genocide of Armenians

From President Bush and top administration officials urged Congress today to reject a bill that would recognize as "genocide" the World War I-era slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians.

With a showdown on the bill scheduled later today in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Bush warned that passage could damage U.S. relations with Turkey, a key ally in the war against terrorism.

The contentious issue has been simmering in Congress for years, as Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), whose district includes more Armenian Americans than any other, has lobbied for the bill's passage. This year, he has collected more than half the House's 435 members to his side -- including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who has vowed to bring the bill to the floor for a vote for the first time.

The resolution calls on the president to ensure that U.S. foreign policy "reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity" to the issue and to use the word "genocide" in his annual April message about the killings.

Turkey denies that the killings amounted to genocide, saying that Armenians and Turks alike were killed in ethnic clashes after World War I. Turkey, a NATO ally, has threatened to cut off cooperation with the United States on a number of security fronts if the resolution is passed. The country has unleashed a powerful lobbying force, including former House Speaker Bob Livingston (R-La.), to defeat the measure. The bill faces a tougher road in the 100-seat Senate, where Sen. Richard Durbin J. (D-Ill.) has attracted 32 co-sponsors. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 10, 2007 in Congressional News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

New Wiretapping Bill May Require the Justice Dept to Reveal Surveillance

From The Justice Department would have to reveal to Congress the details of all electronic surveillance conducted without court orders since Sept. 11, 2001, including the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program, if a new Democratic wiretapping bill is approved.

The draft bill, scheduled to be introduced to Congress Tuesday, would also require the Justice Department to maintain a database of all Americans subjected to government eavesdropping without a court order, including whether their names have been revealed to other government agencies.

The Bush administration has refused to share that information with Congress so far.

The Terrorist Surveillance Program was a secret eavesdropping program undertaken after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks without the approval of an intelligence court created 30 years ago to monitor such programs.

The Democratic legislation is certain to draw sharp objections and possibly a veto threat because it lacks at least one feature the White House demands: it does not grant retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated with government surveillance between 2001 and 2007 without the court orders. Around 40 lawsuits name telecommunications companies for alleged violations of wiretapping laws, according to administration officials. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 9, 2007 in Homeland Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Man's Story May be a Snapshot of War on Terror

From A man is walking alone along a mountain path in the darkness. He is carrying a suitcase. He seems frightened, tired and confused. He has long hair and a long beard, but they are untidy, as if he did not grow them voluntarily. He turns a bend and meets three men carrying Kalashnikovs.

The man shows them his passport. It indicates that he is a German citizen, born in Lebanon, called Khaled el-Masri. Using poor English, he tells them that he does not know where he is. They tell him that he is on the Albanian border, close to Serbia and Macedonia, and that he is there illegally since he doesn't have an Albanian stamp in his passport.

The story that el-Masri tells them by way of explanation, on this evening in late May 2004, is extraordinary: a story of how an unemployed German car salesman from the town of Ulm went on a New Year's holiday to Macedonia, was seized by Macedonian police at the border, held incommunicado for weeks without charge, then beaten, stripped, shackled and blindfolded and flown to a jail in Afghanistan, run by Afghans but controlled by Americans. Five months after first being seized, he says, still with no explanation or charge, he was flown back to Europe and dumped in an unknown country which turned out to be Albania.

What really happened? With no way to prove his story, el-Masri's account remains in the balance, a terrifying snapshot of America's "war on terror". It is certain that he returned home to Ulm from Albania in May 2004, and that he was taken off a bus from Germany at the Macedonian border on New Year's Eve 2003. The only person who has offered a clear explanation for what happened in the five months in between is el-Masri himself. Yet that may change.

The German authorities are now taking his allegations very seriously. They are subjecting a sample from el-Masri's hair to radioisotope analysis, which can reveal, down to a particular country, the source of a person's food and drink over a period of time. Discussions are also under way about bringing to Germany two men whom el-Masri has identified as being with him in the Afghan prison, and who were also subsequently released. The fact that the German authorities do regard Ulm as an area of potentially dangerous radical Islamic activity - a number of premises were raided and alleged Islamic activists were arrested on Wednesday - only emphasises the concern that Germany has over the el-Masri case.

So far the US authorities have neither confirmed nor denied el-Masri's story, although German investigators first requested information about the case in autumn. The FBI office in the US embassy in Berlin did not return calls yesterday. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 9, 2007 in Homeland Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

SCOTUS Hears Third Party Fraud Case

ScotusFrom The U.S. Supreme Court is due to hear arguments in a case testing the rights of investors who are asking to recover losses from third parties, such as insurance and accounting firms, and banks that they say help corporations perpetrate a fraud.

In June, the Securities and Exchange Commission agreed that the integrity of the marketplace is at stake.

Siding with big business, President Bush overruled the commission, contending that to allow such investor claims to go forward would lead to billions of dollars in potentially abusive lawsuits.

The case before the Supreme Court involves cable company Charter Communications. The St. Louis-based company is alleged to have deceived investors by conspiring with two of its vendors to make Charter's balance sheet look better than it was. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 9, 2007 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Director Janet Warren Recieves Grant to Study Juvenile Competency at Trial

The ability of juveniles to participate fully in the judicial system is often controversial. Add in some issue of incompetence, and the legal issues become even murkier.

Janet I. Warren, professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences and associate director of the Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy, has received a grant to further explore issues involving juvenile competency—specifically, to assist in the implementation and evaluation of a system for treating youth who have been determined incompetent to stand trial. Warren received $435,000 for the first of four years from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, drawn from federal funds from the National Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The award also will enable the institute to study the clinical and developmental factors that affect the capacity of impaired children and adolescents to assist their lawyers and make decisions.   

Observing that competence to stand trial is the most common form of pre-trial forensic evaluation conducted with adults, Warren said, “We are only beginning to understand the many psychological factors that affect a youth’s ability to navigate through a court process with the degree of understanding needed to assure a fair trial and protect other rights guaranteed to all people, whatever their age, by the U.S. Constitution.”  [Mark Godsey]

October 8, 2007 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Legality of Lying

From Last week, the Washington State Supreme Court struck down a 1999 law that banned political candidates from lying about their opponents. In the decision, the majority said the law was an affront to free speech. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 8, 2007 in Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Deputy Sheriff Shooting Rampage Shows Holes in Wisconsin Screening Process

From 20-year-old Tyler Peterson was shot to death after opening fire early Sunday on a group of teenagers who had gathered for pizza and movies on their high school's homecoming weekend. Peterson was off-duty from his full-time job as a Forest County Wisconsin deputy sheriff; he also was a part-time Crandon police officer.

David Franz, 36, who lives with his wife two houses from the duplex where the shooting occurred, said it was hard to accept that someone in law enforcement was the gunman.

"The first statement we said to each other was, how did he get through the system?" Franz said. "How do they know somebody's background, especially that young? It is disturbing, to say the least."

Sheriff Keith Van Cleve said he would meet with state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on Monday morning to discuss the case.

Crandon Police Chief John Dennee said it would be handled by the state Department of Criminal Investigation because the suspect was a deputy and officer.  Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 8, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Tom Coetzee Says Trial of Jacob Zuma is Inevitable

From The corruption trial of Jacob Zuma in South Africa became inevitable with the unanimous decision yesterday 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, says University of North West CrimProf Tom Coetzee.

According to a Beeld report, the judges ruled that Shaik’s application to appeal did not have a reasonable chance of succeeding, and that it would therefore not be in the interests of justice to hear it. It notes the judges referred in particular to Schaik’s corrupt relationship with Zuma and said it centered on the High Court’s finding that Shaik and his companies had from October 1995 to September 2002 ‘made certain payments in a corrupt way to Zuma, with the intention of influencing him to use his name and political influence to benefit Shaik and his undertakings’.

Coetzee said the decision means that from a legal point of view a prima facie case against Zuma ‘clearly exists’ and that it is a matter that Zuma ought to respond to in court, ‘regardless of the massive political impact’ that this would have. ‘Remember that the finding that Shaik paid money in a corrupt way to Zuma is now the finding of three courts: the High Court, Appeal Court and Constitutional Court. I’m not saying that Zuma is guilty. What I am saying is that it’s inevitable that he’ll now have to be charged to put his side of the case.’

However, Business Day quotes prosecutor Billy Downer as saying the outcome of other cases was being awaited before a final decision was made about Zuma. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 8, 2007 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Defense Attorneys Move to Dismiss DUIs Due to Washington Lab Misconduct

From Defense attorneys will start arguing next week to dismiss hundreds of drunken-driving cases across Washington based on what they allege is a pattern of misconduct and incompetence at the state toxicology lab.

Already, 36 people arrested on suspicion of DUI had their licenses reinstated last month, after several Department of Licensing hearing examiners expressed a lack of confidence in the Seattle lab's test results.

One examiner allowed a 49-year-old Puyallup man to keep his license, despite a second DUI arrest five days before his hearing. A 50-year-old Yakima County woman with a prior DUI also got to keep driving.

A flurry of motions to dismiss pending criminal cases or suppress breath-test results have been filed after the resignation of lab manager Ann Marie Gordon in July amid allegations that she signed false statements about her work.

And the recent discovery of a two-year error in the way the lab calibrated its breath-test machines, which slightly skewed some results, has added new complaints.

State officials, however, said Wednesday that the calibration error significantly affected only eight DUI cases and has no bearing on the overall accuracy of breath tests.

"We still have confidence in our test results," said Jeff DeVere, spokesman for the Washington State Patrol, which oversees the lab.  Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 8, 2007 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)