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Monday, March 31, 2008

New Bill Passed in VA to Notice to Convicts when DNA Evidence is Found in Old Labs

From inrich.com: A state budget amendment would require the Virginia Forensic Science Board to notify felons when biological evidence is found in their old lab files.

More than 530,000 files from 1973 through 1988 -- before DNA testing was widely used in criminal cases -- have been searched in recent years to find biological material that might exonerate those wrongfully convicted.

The amendment, passed by the General Assembly, must be signed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine next month to take effect. It was drafted by Del. David B. Albo, R-Fairfax, chairman of the Virginia State Crime Commission and a member of the forensic science board.

Albo, a lawyer, said he believes no one notified will request testing because it would only confirm their guilt.

However, he added, if there is a chance that even one person is innocent, the effort must be made to make sure he or she knows of the newly discovered evidence.

At its January meeting, the board, which oversees the Department of Forensic Science, voted against a proposal to notify felons when biological evidence that may be suitable for DNA testing is found in their files. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 31, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Hampshire Agreed to Pay 1.85 Million to 30 Female Inmates

From concordmonitor.com: The state has agreed to pay $1.85 million to 30 female inmates and a corrections employee who accused former prison sergeant Douglas Tower of raping, assaulting or sexually harassing them.

The women will receive checks ranging from $6,000 to $228,000, said Assistant Attorney General Michael Brown yesterday. The payments settle the women's lawsuits against the state. They do not settle any claims brought against Tower personally.

Nor do they affect the 11 criminal trials Tower, 63, still faces over the sexual and physical assault of female inmates. Tower has already been convicted of six counts of rape and sexual assault against one female inmate and of physically assaulting another inmate.

Those assaults happened at Shea Farm halfway house in Concord. Tower is serving 20 to 40 years for the rape conviction alone.

The prison did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement reached yesterday. But Jeff Lyons, prison spokesman, said the prison has made several changes in light of the Tower investigation.

All office doors now have windows, so staff and inmates cannot be out of view. There are more cameras at Shea Farm, which has winding halls and remote living spaces. The department doubled security staff at Shea Farm and now has at least one female officer assigned to every shift, Lyons said.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 31, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kansas Supreme Court Rules Arrest Warrants Strikes Down DNA Based John Doe Warrants

From kansas.com: The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Friday that the arrest warrants in seven rape cases -- the first in the nation to charge someone's DNA with a crime -- weren't specific enough to meet legal standards.    

The ruling means death-row inmate Douglas Belt won't be tried for the rapes. But the opinion offered hope for both sides.

   

The court didn't completely strike down the DNA-based "John Doe" warrants.

   

Those arrest warrants are now commonly used when prosecutors have someone's DNA, but can't match it with a name within the five-year statute of limitations for bringing a rape charge.

   

The state joins California, Wisconsin and Ohio, which have seen the warrants survive appeals.

   

"This is actually a good day for law enforcement," said Marc Bennett, an assistant Sedgwick County district attorney who argued the state's case before the Supreme Court.

   

No one had tried to charge someone's DNA with a crime before McPherson County Attorney Ty Kaufman filed an arrest warrant in 1991 against the nameless defendant.

   

Kaufman wanted to preserve the five-year statute of limitations for charging someone with rape. He didn't know the suspect's name, but he had a DNA sample.

   

Yet the court ruled in Belt's case that the arrest warrants were invalid because they didn't fully describe the makeup of his DNA profile.

   

"The bottom line of the ruling is that even John Doe warrants have to describe an individual in specific detail," said Rebecca Woodman, who argued Belt's case.

   

The Supreme Court ruling does not preclude prosecutors from drawing up an arrest warrant in the future based on a person's DNA. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 31, 2008 in DNA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Angola 2 Finally Out of Solitary Confinement

From NPR.com: Two former Black Panthers imprisoned in Louisiana are out of solitary confinement for the first time since the 1970s. State corrections officials say Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were moved into a "maximum security dormitory" earlier this week. Louisiana prison officials once said the men, known as the Angola 2, would never be moved. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 31, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

There is No Way to Know How Many Innocent People are in Prison

From NYTimes.com: A couple of years ago, Justice Antonin Scalia, concurring in a Supreme Court death penalty decision, took stock of the American criminal justice system and pronounced himself satisfied. The rate at which innocent people are convicted of felonies is, he said, less than three-hundredths of 1 percent — .027 percent, to be exact.

That rate, he said, is acceptable. “One cannot have a system of criminal punishment without accepting the possibility that someone will be punished mistakenly,” he wrote. “That is a truism, not a revelation.”

But there is reason to question Justice Scalia’s math. He had, citing the methodology of an Oregon prosecutor, divided an estimate of the number of exonerated prisoners, almost all of them in murder and rape cases, by the total of all felony convictions.

“By this logic,” Samuel R. Gross, a law professor at the University of Michigan, wrote in a response to be published in this year’s Annual Review of Law and Social Science, “we could estimate the proportion of baseball players who’ve used steroids by dividing the number of major league players who’ve been caught by the total of all baseball players at all levels: major league, minor league, semipro, college and Little League — and maybe throwing in football and basketball players as well.”

Joshua Marquis, the Oregon prosecutor cited by Justice Scalia, granted the logic of Professor Gross’s critique but not his conclusion.

“He correctly points out,” Mr. Marquis, the district attorney in Clatsop County, Ore., said of Professor Gross, “that rape and murders are only a small percentage of all crimes, but then has absolutely no real data to suggest there are epidemic false convictions in, say, burglary cases.”

What the debate demonstrates is that we know almost nothing about the number of innocent people in prison. That is because any effort to estimate it involves extrapolation from just two numbers, neither one satisfactory. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 30, 2008 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 24, 2008

SCOTUS To Hear Self Representation Case

From USATODAY.com:  A shoe shoplifting incident that escalated into a lunchtime shooting in downtown Indianapolis nearly a decade ago is now the basis for the Supreme Court to decide how much latitude states have to determine if a defendant is capable of representing himself at trial.

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments Wednesday in an Indiana case in which a Marion County judge decided a defendant with a history of mental illness was competent to stand trial, but not to represent himself as he requested.

When Ahmad Edwards appealed his conviction of attempted murder and other charges, the Indiana Supreme Court agreed Edwards had the right to represent himself and reversed his conviction.

The Indiana attorney general's office appealed, arguing that allowing mentally impaired defendants to represent themselves undermines fair trials and erodes public confidence in the system.

"The consequences often are disastrous for both the defendants and the integrity — not to mention dignity — of the criminal justice system," the Indiana attorney general's office wrote in its brief to the court. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 24, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Missouri Governor Writes a Brief Supporting the Death Penalty for Child Rapists

From kansascity.com: Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the death penalty for child rapists.

The “friends of the court” brief supports the state of Louisiana, which is defending a law authorizing the death penalty for offenders who rape children younger than 12.

Blunt proposed a similar law for Missouri in December and encouraged lawmakers in his State of the State address in January to pass such legislation.

State lawmakers have introduced bills in the Senate and the House this year that would allow the death penalty in forcible rape and forcible sodomy cases involving children. Neither bill has made much progress.

Opponents have said such legislation could do more harm than good by encouraging rapists to kill their victims, since the penalties would be the same.

Blunt argues in the brief, filed Thursday, that the court “should not foreclose a national debate on appropriate punishment for child rape,” and that discussion at the state level is the best way to determine a national consensus. Rest of Article. . .[Mark Godsey]

March 24, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Presidential Candidates' Platforms on Criminal Justice

Here. [Jack Chin]

March 24, 2008 in Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Is Prison Food Punishment?

From boston.com: Savory it isn't: It's made of whole wheat bread, non-dairy cheese, raw carrots, spinach, seedless raisins, beans, vegetable oil, tomato paste, powdered milk and dehydrated potato flakes.

To prison officials, it's a complete meal. To inmates, it's a food so awful, they'd rather go hungry than eat it.

Now, in the latest legal battle over the prison cafeteria standard known as Nutraloaf, the Vermont Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether it's punishment or merely behavior modification.

On Monday, the court will hear arguments in a class action suit brought by prison inmates who say it's punishment and that anyone subjected to it should get a formal disciplinary process first.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 24, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Prosecutors Push Limits in Terrorism Probe Case

From NYSun.com: Federal prosecutors tracking a Saudi-backed American foundation accused of ties to terrorists are tightening the screws on their target, levying half a million dollars in contempt-of-court fines and moving to pierce the attorney-client privilege as a way of getting information from a lawyer who represented the foundation.

The case has the elements of an international thriller. The federal officials sprang into action after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, with an investigation code-named Operation Green Quest. They say the Saudi-backed Virginia charity spirited $22 million out of America and into a trust on the Isle of Man, a windswept tax haven in the Irish Sea. A Florida professor has become entangled in the investigation, as has a Georgia poultry processing plant that has vigorously defended itself against accusations of terrorist links, to the point of filing a libel lawsuit against CBS News.

Aspects of the investigation, which has been veiled in secrecy, emerged in public on Friday here before a panel of federal judges who ride the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The hearing related to a grand jury investigation into whether a network of Islamic organizations centered in Herndon, Va., funded a range of terrorist groups in the 1990s. Disclosures during the hearing included the fact that a once-prominent Muslim nonprofit, the SAAR Foundation, has been fined $500,000 for contempt of court.

Muslim leaders, including those connected with a group at the center of the probe, the International Institute of Islamic Thought, have complained that prosecutors have used tough tactics in their six-year probe and have little to show for it.

The government contends that the inquiry, part of a broader terror-financing investigation known as Operation Green Quest, has played a part in several serious convictions, including that of a prominent Islamic leader, Abdurahman Alamoudi, who was sentenced to 23 years for involvement in a Libyan plot to assassinate the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godey]

March 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

SCOTUS Reversed Death Penalty in Case Work on by Pierce Law Students

Franklin Pierce Law Center's Frederick Millett, a third-year student from Grand Haven, MI, is celebrating this week after learning that the death penalty case he worked on as an extern this past fall at the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, GA was reversed by the United States Supreme Court. On Wednesday, March 19, the Court issued an opinion, authored by Alito, reversing, the conviction in the case of Snyder v. Louisiana. Millett worked with Attorney Stephen Bright, president and founder of the SCHR, to prepare the reply brief.

According to Millett, “In 1996, as in 1939, Allen Snyder, an African-American, was convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to death, this time in Jefferson Parish, LA.  The prosecutor in his case struck all five potential black jurors using nearly half of his peremptory challenges to get an all-white jury. 

The prosecutor then, both in the media and to the jury during the sentencing phase, compared Snyder's case to the O.J. Simpson case, decided just a year earlier, and urged the all-white jury to not let Snyder ‘get away with it’ like O.J. did.  The jury sentenced Snyder to death and his conviction was upheld twice by the Louisiana Supreme Court.  Snyder appealed to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that since the prosecutor peremptorily struck African-American jurors because of their race, his conviction and death sentence were unconstitutional based on the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  For this reason, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear the case and granted certiorari.”

March 24, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More on Snyder v. Louisiana

Beyond the interesting fact that both the Chief Justice and Justice Alito were in the majority -- the latter authoring the opinion -- I think this case is very significant for a couple of reasons:

First, the case seems to shift the burden of an ambiguous record from the opponent of the strike to the proponent of the strike. That is, where the trial court does not specifically say why it is not convinced that the strike is motivated by discriminatory animus, it seems that the proponent of the strike must now prod the court to do so. If the trial court does not do so, the proponent bears the risk that a reviewing court will independently view the strike as discriminatory based on the cold record without giving any deference to the trial court's ability to judge the demeanor of the prospective juror.  This seems to be a change in the law, or at least how I understood the law to be.

Second, in a critical passage, the decision all but invites litigants to now raise the "mixed-motives" issue:

In other circumstances, we have held that, once it is shown that a discriminatory intent was a substantial or motivating factor in an action taken by a state actor, theburden shifts to the party defending the action to show that this factor was not determinative. See Hunter v. Underwood, 471 U. S. 222, 228 (1985).  We have not previously applied this rule in a Batson case, and we need not decide here whether that standard governs in this context.  For present purposes, it is enough to recognize that a peremptory strike shown to have been motivated in substantial part by discriminatory intent could not be sustained based on any lesser showing by the prosecution.  And in light of the circumstances here . . . the record does not show that the prosecution would have pre-emptively challenged [the prospective juror] based on his nervousness alone.

The mixed-motives issue has heretofore been largely ignored. But see Russell D. Covey, The Unbearable Lightness of Batson: Mixed Motives and Discrimination in Jury Selection, 66 MD. L. REV. 279 (2007). I think this issue is going to be the next Batson battleground.  This issue can arise in at least two ways.  The more obvious way is the one represented by Snyder:  the proponent of the strike offers one explanation that is found to be discriminatory and one or more that are found to be non-discriminatory.  The second way is where the proponent of the strike is found to have engaged in prohibited discrimination with respect to one but not all struck jurors.  Typically, the jurors who have been the victims of discriminatory animus will be seated on the jury, remedying the Batson violation.  But this should also shift the burden of proof as to the other struck jurors -- the proponent of the strikes should have to explain why his or her discriminatory animus with respect to some jurors did not infect the decision to strike the other jurors. [Portions of this post were posted by me yesterday in a comment on the Volokh Conspiracy blog] [Mike Mannheimer]

March 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

SCOTUS Overturns Murder Convictions Due to Racism

Court_front_med From NPR.com: The Supreme Court overturns a murder conviction and death sentence for a black defendant in Louisiana who said his trial was tainted by racism. A seven-member majority of the justices said the prosecutor improperly kept blacks off the jury. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 19, 2008 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

National Innocence Network Conference to Take Place at Santa Clara University

Innocence Network Conference: The national Innocence Network Conference will take place this year at Santa Clara University, home base of the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP). The three-day conference, which brings together hundreds of people who work against wrongful convictions, is planned for March 28-30.

Among those attending the event are attorneys, educators, civic and business leaders, and exonerated individuals who have been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. John Van de Kamp, former state attorney general, will participate in the conference, along with speakers representing Innocence Projects from Hawaii, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, New York and New Orleans, including the co-founders of the first Innocence Project, professors Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld of Cardozo School of Law.

Those assisting with the conference from SCU include law professors Gerald Uelman, who is director of the California Commission for the Fair Administration of Justice and Kathleen "Cookie" Ridolfi, director of the NCIP. The event is aimed at Network members but is open to anyone interested.

According to Ridolfi, "The Innocence Network Conference is a rich educational forum for policy and litigation issues concerning wrongful conviction. It allows those working within the Network to come together and share strategies to litigate innocence claims and to confer on and advance policy initiatives to address causes of and remedies for wrongful conviction."

Activities throughout the three-day event include meetings, panel discussions, special presentations and sessions designed specifically for exonerees. One objective of the conference, say organizers, is to provide an opportunity for exonerees to find social and emotional support from others who have suffered similar experiences. [Mark Godsey]

March 19, 2008 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Fran Watson Hadry Reaches out to the Public to Exonerate a Wrongfully Convicted Man

Fhardy2 The Law Clinic at Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis today (March 14, 2008) announced an upcoming post-conviction proceeding on behalf of a Lake County man asserting he was wrongfully convicted of rape in 1993. Law Clinic attorneys representing the man are seeking the public's help in exonerating their client.

A post-conviction case for Roosevelt Glenn will be tried March 17 and 18, 2008, in a hearing room for the Lake County Superior Court One, 2293 North Main Street, Crown Point, Ind. Glenn continues to maintain his innocence and asserts that newly discovered DNA evidence demonstrates he was wrongfully convicted.

Glenn was convicted of one of a series of vehicular "bumps" followed by assaults against woman driving alone at night. The incidents occurred in Lake County from 1989 to 1990. Most of the cases remain unsolved. CrimProf Fran Watson Hardy of the Law Clinic at IU School of Law-Indianapolis is asking anyone with any information regarding the "cold" cases to contact her at 317-274-1911.

"Since the very first tests in 1990, two DNA profiles from the persons responsible for these crimes have been identified," says Watson. "If we could obtain information to locate either of the two persons for whom DNA profiles exist, it would be relevant to Mr. Glenn's petition. We ask for the public's help."

Professor Watson and her students from the Law Clinic are preparing the case on behalf of Glenn. Scientific experts in microscopic hair analysis and DNA will testify to challenge the proof offered to convict Glenn. During the 1993 trial, a hair recovered from the victim's sweater was said to be from Glenn's head. Recent DNA testing has revealed that the hair does not match Glenn's. [Mark Godsey]

March 19, 2008 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

CEO's Conviction Overturned

From NPR.com: Joseph Nacchio, the former CEO of Qwest Communications, had his conviction on insider trading overturned Monday. A federal appeals court ordered a new trial, saying the judge in the original trial improperly excluded a witness who would have testified on Naccio's behalf. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 18, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Report Calls for LAPD SWAT Team Overhaul

From latimes.com: A panel of law enforcement experts convened by Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton to examine the department's elite SWAT unit concluded in an undisclosed report that the rigorous testing to get into the unit should be changed to make it more open to women, called for tighter supervision and criticized officers for relying too heavily on force over negotiations.

Those conclusions and others, included in a draft of the panel's confidential report obtained by The Times, have deeply angered several Special Weapons and Tactics Team members, who say the changes -- some of which already have been imposed -- are misguided and will probably weaken the specialized unit that is charged with handling hostage situations and other high-risk operations.

"This is a recipe for disaster," said a SWAT officer who has served in the unit for more than a decade. "We don't get to back up and do things over. . . . These changes are going to put us and the public in danger."

Several current SWAT officers and one former team member who were interviewed for this report all spoke on condition that their names not be used, out of fear that they would face retaliation by superiors. In an agency that rarely, if ever, deals publicly with internal turmoil, the report exposes a growing rift between Bratton and the department's most storied group of officers. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Role Reversal in Kennedy v. Louisiana: Or What's Sauce for the Goose . . . .

Last night, the death penalty seminar I teach did a moot court of Kennedy v. Louisiana, presenting the question whether capital punishment is unconstitutionally disproportionate to the crime of the rape of a child.  I do at least one of these moot courts every time I teach the seminar, but this was the first time I did so without benefit of the actual oral argument transcript or even the Petitioner's reply brief -- the case is scheduled for argument on April 16 and the Respondent's brief was filed just last Wednesday.   The thing that struck me most after reading the briefs and participating in the moot was the sense of role reversal from Atkins v. Virginia and Roper v. SimmonsKennedy is almost the mirror image of those cases in several respects.

First, in Kennedy, it is the State that is relying heavily on social science data to prove the irrevocable harm to the victim of child rape, to distinguish the case from Coker v. Georgia, which holds that the death penalty is unconstitutionally disproportionate for the rape of an adult woman.  One section of the Respondent's brief is replete with references to articles from social science journals discussing all the harms caused by child rape, many manifesting themselves later in life.  This is reminiscent of the social science data relied upon so heavily by the defendants in Atkins and Roper to support the proposition that the mentally retarded and juveniles, respectively, are, as a class, less culpable and deterrable than other offenders.

Second, only six States capitalize child rape, a number that ordinarily would greatly help the defendant in showing that there is a national consensus against the death penalty for child rape.  But, as the Respondent points out, Atkins and Roper both emphasize not simply the raw numbers in determining whether there is a national consensus, but "the consistency of the direction of change."  In Atkins and Roper, the defendants both successfully argued that, even though only 30 of the 50 States -- and only 18 of the then-38 death penalty States -- banned the death penalty for the mentally retarded and juveniles, respectively, "the consistency of the direction of change" showed an emerging national consensus because a number of States had recently enacted such bans.  In Kennedy, the State is able to flip this logic to their advantage by showing that all six States that capitalize child rape have done so within the last dozen years or so.  Thus, "the consistency of the direction of change" in this context shows the lack of any national consensus because more States continue to capitalize child rape, breaking down whatever national consensus might otherwise exist.  Moreover, while the defendants in Atkins and Roper were able to emphasize that the numbers of States enacting such bans were even more significant given the relative unpopularity of legislation that could be seen as "soft on crime," the State here can argue that the number of States capitalizing child rape is all the more significant in the face of the fact that many State legislators likely read Coker as banning the death penalty for all rape.

The final way in which Kennedy seems to be a mirror image of Atkins and Roper can be appreciated only by delving into CokerCoker can be read either as forbidding the death penalty for the rape of an adult woman or as forbidding the death penalty for the crime of rape generally.  Obviously, Respondent urges the Court to take the former reading and Petitioner urges that the Court take the latter reading.  In Coker, the Court pointed out that Georgia alone allowed the death penalty for the rape of an adult woman so it was not hard for the Court to find the practice "unusual" in the Eighth Amendment sense.  Yet, only two other States at the time provided for the death penalty for child rape.  So even if the Court had addressed the constitutionality of the death penalty for child rape at the time of Coker, it seems to me the result would have been the same -- if only 3 of 50 States allow it, there is a national consensus against its use.  After all, only five years later in Enmund v. Ohio, the Court found a national consensus against the death penalty for a minor participant in a felony murder who neither kills, intends to kill, or attempts to kill, where only 8 of the 50 States allowed for the death penalty in that context.  It seems to me a difficult task for the State to argue that Coker doesn't settle the issue.  Or at least that Coker didn't settle the issue in 1977.

And that brings me to my point:  Respondent could have argued (but didn't) that regardless of the best reading of Coker as of 1977, the Eighth Amendment has changed as society has evolved.  That is precisely what the Court suggested in Atkins  and Roper.  The Court in those cases did not overrule its prior precedents holding the death penalty constitutionally acceptable for the mentally retarded and juveniles, respectively.  It appeared to hold instead that the meaning of the Eighth Amendment had itself changed between 1989 and 2002-2005.  At least one argument the State could have made in Kennedy is that a similar change has occurred here, albeit in the opposite direction, refuting the notion that the "evolving standards of decency" test is a ratchet.

Time will tell whether any of these arguments appeal to the Members of the Court most likely to vote to uphold the Louisiana statute.  It is certainly unlikely that Justices Scalia and Thomas would sign onto any opinion holding that the meaning of the Eighth Amendment has actually changed in the last 31 years.  By the same token, it will be interesting to see what the more moderate Justices can do to get around what they set themselves up for in Atkins and Roper.  Perhaps the most likely outcome will be a four Justice plurality consisting of the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito upholding the statute but rejecting (or ignoring) the Atkins/Roper methodology, with Justice Kennedy writing a separate concurrence in the judgment adapting that methodology to uphold the statute here. [Mike Mannheimer]

March 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Va Backs Off on Bad Driver Fines

NPR.com: A recent effort by several states to slap stiff fines on reckless drivers has run into a rebellion in Virginia. State lawmakers have voted to throw the law out and give some of the money back after complaints about how fines were assessed. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Arzona Justice Project Moves to Sandra Day O'Connor Law School

Sperlingcarrieforweb The Arizona Justice Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to exonerating those wrongfully convicted and correcting other manifest injustices, is moving to the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. For 10 years, the Project has been housed at Osborn Maledon, P.A., where attorney Larry Hammond has served as chair.

The move is made possible by a $150,000 grant from the Arizona State Bar's non-profit foundation, the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education, which also will allow the Project to hire its first permanent staff, including an executive director, a development director and an administrative assistant.

"The Arizona Justice Project has long set a high standard for the quality of its work in its pursuit of the rights of those who have been denied the justice our legal system has been set up to guarantee," said Dean Patricia White of the College of Law. "The quality of the legal work its volunteers have provided, and the enormous commitment to justice that they have shown, have made it a national exemplar.

"We are very proud to welcome the Project to the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and are confident that those standards will continue and that our students and faculty will benefit enormously from the opportunity presented by its being here." Hammond praised the move.

"The Arizona law schools have been the lifeblood of this Project from the beginning, but this relocation will allow us to work at levels never before possible," Hammond said. "Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice (AACJ) and all of those who have volunteered with the Project over the last decade owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Dean White, the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, and to the Bar Foundation's leadership."

Professors Bob Bartels at Arizona State University and Andy Silverman at the University of Arizona have coordinated work at the law schools. Students from Phoenix School of Law also will participate.

"The project runs on volunteer work, and the best source is law students," Bartels said. "Moving to the law school will make it easier for the students and will forge a connection with faculty members who are experts in the area." Bartels said it is also more feasible for the Project to conduct its research in an academic environment.

CrimProf Carrie Sperling, a visiting associate clinical professor at the College of Law, has been chosen as executive director. Sperling spent five years as an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Law in Norman, Okla., and has more than a decade of experience in civil rights and post-conviction relief litigation.

"You learn that mistakes can be made, innocent people convicted," Sperling said. "Someone has to hold the system accountable. My real excitement is the ability to bring in students to get hands-on experience in the real world. It exposes them to a side of the law they might not have thought about. And these are rewarding cases." [Mark Godsey]

March 17, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)