CrimProf Blog

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

Monday, December 10, 2007

Teenager Records Interrogation Which Lead to Perjury Charge against the Detective

From A teenage suspect who secretly recorded his interrogation on an MP3 player has landed a veteran detective in the middle of perjury charges, authorities said Thursday.

Unaware of the recording, Detective Christopher Perino testified in April that the suspect "wasn't questioned" about a shooting in the Bronx, a criminal complaint said. But then the defense confronted the detective with a transcript it said proved he had spent more than an hour unsuccessfully trying to persuade Erik Crespo to confess—at times with vulgar tactics.

Once the transcript was revealed in court, prosecutors asked for a recess, defense attorney Mark DeMarco said. The detective was pulled from the witness stand and advised to get a lawyer.

Perino, 42, was arraigned Thursday on 12 counts of first-degree perjury and faces as many as seven years on each count, prosecutors said. He was released on $15,000 bail.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 10, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Case Challenges Florida Stand Your Ground Law The first  County case to test Florida's "stand your ground" law ended last year with a manslaughter conviction and 15-year prison sentence for James Behanna.

But Friday, exactly two years after Behanna fatally stabbed 21-year-old Robert Mears Jr., an appellate court granted the Tampa paralegal a new trial.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Daniel Sleet "abused his discretion" by refusing to allow jurors to hear evidence that bolstered Behanna's self-defense argument, a 2nd District Court of Appeal panel said.

Behanna, 38, will ask Sleet on Monday to release him from prison as he awaits his next trial, said James Felman, his appellate attorney.

His chances seem good. The 2nd DCA, after finding recently that Behanna had significant grounds for appeal, ordered the circuit court to hold a hearing and grant a reasonable bail.

"We're just very hopeful," said Behanna's wife, attorney Aida Rodriguez.

On Dec. 7, 2005, Mears trespassed onto Rodriguez's law office property on N Florida Avenue, where Behanna worked as a paralegal. During his October 2006 trial, Behanna recalled how Mears screamed and had a "real wild-eyed" look.

Behanna went outside, carrying a small shovel, and asked Mears to leave. Mears, who was intoxicated according to a forensic toxicologist, threw Behanna to the ground.

After more tussling, Mears walked about 150 feet off the property. At trial, prosecutors said Behanna should have gone into the office for safety. Instead, he followed Mears in an attempt to detain him for police.

The crux of the criminal case against Behanna revolved around what happened next. The defendant said Mears grabbed him by the throat and threatened to kill him. But one witness for the prosecution said Mears only pushed Behanna back.

Behanna, known by friends as MacGyver because he carried a pocketknife, pulled out his knife and stabbed Mears twice.

Jurors could have acquitted Behanna under the "stand your ground" law, which allows people to meet force with force when they feel threatened.

But the jury didn't know that Mears had badly beaten his roommate and a woman immediately before heading to the law office. The roommate was described as having been "pulverized."

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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

Sunday, December 9, 2007

CrimProf Kevin Washburn Delivers Lecture on Criminal Justice in Indian Country

Washburn Three top experts on criminal justice in Indian Country will speak at an event in January sponsored by the Indian Legal Program at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

CrimProf Kevin K. Washburn, the College's William C. Canby Distinguished Scholar in Residence, will deliver the lecture, "American Indians, Crime, and the Law: Five Years of Scholarship on Criminal Justice in Indian Country," on Thursday, Jan. 24. The program will begin at 4:30 p.m. in the Great Hall in Armstrong Hall at the College of Law, with an introduction of Washburn by Judge William C. Canby Sr. of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Washburn, who is on leave from the University of Minnesota Law School, where he is an associate professor, is the Oneida Nation Visiting Associate Professor at Harvard, where he teaches American Indian law, gaming law and criminal law. He will be joined at the Canby lecture by Diane J. Humetewa, nominee for U.S. Attorney for Arizona, and Jon M. Sands, Federal Public Defender for the District of Arizona.

The speakers will address issues of interest to tribal officials, tribal court prosecutors and defenders, tribal attorneys, Indian law attorneys, law enforcement officials on or near tribal lands and students of American Indian studies, criminal justice and Indian law. [Mark Godsey]

December 9, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cell phone Cameras Are providing Investigators with new Ammunition

From Cellphones, which often contain personal information like contact lists and call histories, have long served as a valuable police tool in criminal investigations. But the spread of built-in cameras -- which in some newer phones can even record video -- is providing investigators with new ammunition, thanks to simple human behavior. Apparently even criminals like snapping cellphone photos of themselves.

The result in many police precincts is an unexpected windfall. In the small city of Nashua, N.H., one prosecutor estimates that cellphone photos provide useful evidence 40 or 50 times a year. At least a half-dozen small software companies are now peddling programs designed to help investigators download data from suspects' cellphones without compromising the evidence. Earlier this year, the federal government's National Institute of Standards and Technology issued a paper outlining techniques for doing forensic work on cellphones.

Cellphone forensics do present some challenges. Unlike personal computers, cellphones feature a multitude of proprietary operating systems, requiring investigators to use different methods for extracting data from different phones. By law, police making an arrest aren't allowed to examine a phone's photos without a search warrant. And police must remember to obtain the phone's charger; retrieving information isn't easy if the battery goes dead.

By and large, however, the cellphone photo trend is welcomed by police and prosecutors. "We pray for those kinds of cases," says Debra Collins, an assistant state attorney in New Britain, Conn. Last spring, Ms. Collins obtained guilty pleas from two young men who had used a friend's camera phone to record one of them igniting a car by tossing fireworks into an open window. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 9, 2007 in Evidence | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Bill Proposal to Exempt the Exonerated Prisoners from Paying Income Tax on Compensation

From a bill that would exempt exonerated prisoners from paying federal income taxes on compensation received for a wrongful conviction was introduced by Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York. The measure pushes the issue of taxation to the forefront of the debate over how to compensate the wrongly convicted properly for the years they spent behind bars.

“The criminal justice system is not perfect, so at the very least, we ought to do what we can to make amends to the people who were wrongly convicted — a very small number of people who pay a big, big price for those mistakes,” Mr. Schumer said. “The compensation they receive should not be taxed; that’s certainly like throwing salt on a very deep wound.”

The bill, called the Wrongful Convictions Tax Relief Act, would also exempt exonerated prisoners who do not have prior felony convictions from paying income taxes on up to $50,000 earned each year after their release from prison (or up to $75,000 if they file joint tax returns) and provide them with an income tax credit on payroll taxes paid over the same earnings.

More than 200 people nationwide have been exonerated by DNA evidence since 1989, and more than 400 have been cleared by other types of evidence.

To date, 22 states have passed legislation establishing parameters for financial compensation; three of them — California, Massachusetts and Vermont — have provisions exempting exonerated prisoners from paying state taxes on the money they receive.

But federal laws are unclear as to whether compensation for a wrongful conviction should be considered income and taxed, like punitive damages are, or if it should be treated as a personal-injury award, which is not subjected to taxes, an Internal Revenue Service spokesman said.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 9, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)