CrimProf Blog

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

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Actor Lillo Brancato Acquitted of Felony Murder

Amd_lillobrancatoA slain cop's sister cried junk justice last night after a Bronx jury acquitted actor-turned-junkie Lillo Brancato of murdering Officer Daniel Enchautegui.

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December 23, 2008 in Criminal Law, News, Trials | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

How Effective is Drug Rehab?

Their first love might be the rum or vodka or gin and juice that is going around the bonfire. Or maybe the smoke, the potent marijuana that grows in the misted hills here like moss on a wet stone.

But it hardly matters. Here as elsewhere in the country, some users start early, fall fast and in their reckless prime can swallow, snort, inject or smoke anything available, from crystal meth to prescription pills to heroin and ecstasy. And treatment, if they get it at all, can seem like a joke.

“After the first couple of times I went through, they basically told me that there was nothing they could do,” said Angella, a 17-year-old from the central Oregon city of Bend, who by freshman year in high school was drinking hard liquor every day, smoking pot and sampling a variety of harder drugs. “They were like, ‘Uh, I don’t think so.’ ”

She tried residential programs twice, living away from home for three months each time. In those, she learned how dangerous her habit was, how much pain it was causing others in her life. She worked on strengthening her relationship with her grandparents, with whom she lived. For two months or so afterward she stayed clean.

“Then I went right back,” Angella said in an interview. “After a while, you know, you just start missing your friends.”

Every year, state and federal governments spend more than $15 billion, and insurers at least $5 billion more, on substance-abuse treatment services for some four million people. That amount may soon increase sharply: last year, Congress passed the mental health parity law, which for the first time includes addiction treatment under a federal law requiring that insurers cover mental and physical ailments at equal levels.

Many clinics across the county have waiting lists, and researchers estimate that some 20 million Americans who could benefit from treatment do not get it.

Yet very few rehabilitation programs have the evidence to show that they are effective. The resort-and-spa private clinics generally do not allow outside researchers to verify their published success rates. The publicly supported programs spend their scarce resources on patient care, not costly studies.

And the field has no standard guidelines. Each program has its own philosophy; so, for that matter, do individual counselors. No one knows which approach is best for which patient, because these programs rarely if ever track clients closely after they graduate. Even Alcoholics Anonymous, the best known of all the substance-abuse programs, does not publish data on its participants’ success rate.

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December 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

States putting criminal records online

Worried your daughter's new boyfriend might have a nefarious past? Want to know whether the job applicant in front of you has a rap sheet?

Finding out can be a mouse click away, thanks to the growing crop of searchable online databases run directly by states. Vermont launched its service Monday, and now about 20 states have some form of them.

The Web sites provide a valuable and time-saving service to employers and businesses by allowing them to look up criminal convictions without having to submit written requests and wait for the responses. And they're popular: Last month alone, Florida's site performed 38,755 record checks

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December 23, 2008 in Civil Rights | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Is Texas Changing Its Mind About the Death Penalty?

Texas has executed prisoners with a regularity and in record numbers that has earned the state worldwide attention. But, while Texas still led the U.S. in executions in 2008, juries in the state appear to have began to turn away from the ultimate punishment even for the most heinous crimes.

Ten men and one woman were sentenced to death in Texas in 2008, according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. It was the lowest annual figure since the 1976 reinstatement of the death penalty. Texas handed out more than 20 death sentences in each of 2003 and 2004. In 2005, the number fell to 14, and it has not risen above that annual figure since. "The need for revenge, for vengeance is being curbed, the appetite is no longer there," contends Robert Hirschorn, a nationally known Texas attorney and jury consultant who has helped pick juries for many prominent clients, including, most recently, millionaire real estate mogul Robert Durst, who was found not guilty of killing and dismembering his neighbor. 

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December 23, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Facial recognition software gives Pierce County help in tough cases

The forgery and theft case had victims, a witness and decent surveillance images from an ATM. What it didn't have were any leads on who committed the crime. But instead of being tossed aside, as happens in so many property crime cases, the ATM images were e-mailed to Steve Wilkins at the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.

Wilkins, the department's forensic services supervisor, picked the clearest image and used new facial recognition software to compare it with 16 years' worth of prisoner mug shots taken at the Pierce County Jail.

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December 23, 2008 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Crime increases in some areas as economy fails

Nothing about the failed bank robbery here earlier this month was ordinary.

The suspect, a 51-year-old woman, does not fit the typical criminal profile. The weapon, a crudely assembled fake bomb — a tangle of wires protruding from a handbag — is not often a weapon of choice. And the demand, $50,000, was relatively modest by some criminal standards.

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December 22, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Man gets 13 months for molesting son

A former roving carnival worker will spend 13 months in prison for molesting his adult son, who has such severe mental and physical disabilities that he couldn't tell anyone what was happening to him.

Robert Lee Hutchinson, 41, had faced up to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of gross sexual imposition in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

Judge Neal Bronson said he gave consideration to Hutchinson's lack of a prior criminal record and that he had stepped forward to admit his guilt, as Hutchinson's lawyer, A. Aaron Aldridge, pointed out.

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December 22, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mistrial For Third Suspect In NYPD Murder Case

A mistrial has been declared in the case against Lee Woods for the murder of a police officer and for wounding his partner during a routine traffic stop, CBS 2 HD has learned.

Woods was the last of three men tried for their separate roles in the incident.

A juror in the trial fell ill last week during deliberation. That juror was unable to return.

At the beginning of the trial, the defense had stipulated that no alternate would be used while the jury had begun deliberating.

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December 22, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Andrew D. Leipold Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Illinois College of Law

Edwin Professor Andrew Leipold, the Edwin M. Adams Professor of Law, graduated summa cum laude in Public Relations from Boston University. He received his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, where he was a member of Order of the Coif and Editor-in-Chief of the Virginia Law Review. After graduation, he served as clerk to Judge Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and to Justice Lewis Powell, Jr., of the United States Supreme Court. He then worked for Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in Philadelphia.

Since joining the faculty in 1992, Professor Leipold has been voted Outstanding Faculty Member eight times, and received the Campus Award for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Teaching in 2000. Most recently, he served for two and one-half years as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. He has been a Visiting Professor at Boston College Law School and Duke University School of Law, where he was recognized with a Distinguished Teaching Award.

On October 1, 2007, Professor Leipold was appointed to a three-year term on the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts. Professor Leipold recently completed Volume 1 and Volume 1A of Federal Practice & Procedure: Criminal, set for publication from West in Spring, 2008.

Professor Leipold writes in the area of criminal law and procedure, and has served as a consultant to the Illinois Criminal Law Reform Commission, the Governor’s Truth in Sentencing Commission, and the Office of the Independent Counsel for the Whitewater Investigation. His most recent publication is entitled, "The Impact of Joinder & Severance on Federal Criminal Cases: An Empirical Study" (59 Vanderbilt Law Review). In 2005, he published "How the Pretrial Process Contributes to Wrongful Convictions" (42 American Criminal Law Review 1123), "Why are Federal Judges So Acquittal Prone" (83 Washington University Law Quarterly 151), "The Grand Jury Clause of the Fifth Amendment" (Heritage Foundation Guide to the Constitution), "Strategy and Remorse in Capital Trials"(80 Indiana Law Journal 47) and Volumes 1 and 1A in Federal Practice and Procedure: Criminal (3d ed.). His essay, "The Limits of Deterrence Theory in the War on Drugs," was published in a symposium issue of The Journal of Gender, Race & Justice at the University of Iowa, and he authored a chapter in Controversial Issues in Criminal Justice and Criminology. Other articles include "The Problem of the Innocent, Acquitted Defendant" (94 Northwestern University Law Review 1297, 2001), and "Constitutionalizing Jury Selection in Criminal Cases" (86 Georgetown Law Journal 945, 1998).

In August 2002, Professor Leipold delivered invited lectures—“Organized and White Collar Crime,” and “Introduction to American Criminal Procedure”—at the Ministry of Justice, Brasilia, Brazil, and at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil. [Mark Godsey]

December 21, 2008 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Final arguments for release of 911 call set for Monday

A Madison police detective testified Friday that release of the Brittany Zimmermann 911 call would jeopardize the search for her killer, though a public safety expert countered that release of such information typically helps solve homicides.

Madison detective John Summers said the recordings are evidence in the Zimmermann homicide case. Therefore there is "no question" they should not be released, Summers said.

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December 21, 2008 in False Confessions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Kidnapping and Murder Mystery Solved 27 Years Later

Adamwalsh There is a serious cold case many people here in Florida have been following for years, and now it's finally solved, the kidnapping and murder of six-year-old Adam Walsh.

Twenty-seven years have passed and they're all together again, the family, detectives, a photo of Adam.

And the emotion is just as strong.

Adam's Father, John Walsh says, as he clears his throat, "For 27 years, we've been asking. Who could take a six-year-old boy and murder him and decapitate him? Who? We needed to know. We needed to know. And, today we know! The not knowing has been torture. But that journey's over."

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December 19, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Marijuana Law Comes With Challenges

Last month, voters approved a statewide measure decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Now, wary authorities say, comes the hard part. They are scrambling to set up a new system of civil penalties before Jan. 2, when the change becomes law. From then on, anyone caught with an ounce or less of marijuana will owe a $100 civil fine instead of ending up with an arrest record and possibly facing jail time.

It sounds simple, but David Capeless, president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, said the new policy presented a thicket of questions and complications.

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December 19, 2008 in Drugs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Call for Presentations and Workshops

Crime_mapping Conference Date: August 19-22, 2009
Location: New Orleans, LA

Submissions Due: January 30, 2009 before 7:00 pm, Eastern Time
Theme: Solving Problems with Geography and Technology
View the call for papers

Please note: The Tenth Crime Mapping Research Conference was originally scheduled for March 2008. If you submitted a paper at that time, it will be counted. If you want to update your original submission, make a note that you are updating a previous submission.

NIJ Conference 2009  *  June 15–17, 2009  *  Marriott Crystal Gateway  *  Arlington, Virginia

Stay Connected with NCJRS! Register Now! Free registration with NCJRS keeps you informed about new publications, grant and funding opportunities, and other news and announcements. To register, visit: http://www.ncjrs.gov/subreg.html [Mark Godsey]

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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

To Catch a Thief

Bernard Madoff's alleged $50 billion fraud is giving politicians and investors who failed to diversify another excuse to blame too little enforcement in U.S. financial markets. Talk about compounding a case of misplaced trust. The real lesson is that financial enforcement nearly always fails to protect investors, and this Ponzi scheme is merely typical.

Since 2000 and especially after the fall of Enron, the SEC's annual budget has ballooned to more than $900 million from $377 million. (See the nearby chart.) Its full-time examination and enforcement staff has increased by more than a third, or nearly 500 people. The percentage of full-time staff devoted to enforcement -- 33.5% -- appears to be a modern record, and it is certainly the SEC's highest tooth-to-tail ratio since the 1980s. The press corps and Congress both were making stars of enforcers like Eliot Spitzer, so the SEC's watchdogs had every incentive to ferret out fraud.

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December 18, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Showdown over DNA lab reflects national debate

In June, Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas made a bold grab for a crown jewel of local law enforcement: the DNA unit of the sheriff's crime lab.

With the lab's director out of town and the sheriff recently deposed by corruption charges, Rackauckas submitted a brief agenda item to county supervisors two business days before their regular meeting.
"Our aim is to make significant changes in the way forensic DNA analysis is conducted," Rackauckas wrote. The D.A.'s office is "the only organization capable of harnessing the vast potential of forensic DNA technology."


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December 18, 2008 in DNA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lethal Injection and the Problem of Constitutional Remedies

Many states' lethal injection procedures contain serious flaws that create a significant risk of excruciating pain, but, more often that not, courts uphold those procedures against Eighth Amendment challenges. This Article argues that remedial concerns significantly shape - and misdirect - courts' approaches to lethal injection. Many courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court in Baze v. Rees, fear that any lethal injection remedy would unduly burden the state and interfere with executions. Accordingly, they sharply limit the underlying Eighth Amendment right.

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December 18, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Washington Council Enacts Tough Gun-Control Measure

Nearly six months after the Supreme Court put an end to the District of Columbia’s decades-old ban on handgun possession, the City Council here passed a sweeping new ordinance on Tuesday to regulate gun ownership.

The legislation would require all gun owners to receive five hours of safety training and to register their firearms every three years. In addition, they would have to undergo a criminal background check every six years.

Councilman Phil Mendelson, who helped draft the bill and shepherd it through the Council, called it a “very significant piece of legislation that borrows best practices from other states.”

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December 17, 2008 in Guns | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

1,500 criminals with sealed records rearrested

About 1,500 convicted criminals who were given a fresh start by getting their court records shielded were arrested again over the past two years, according to a newspaper analysis of state records.

That's around 11 percent of the number of first-time nonviolent convicts granted deferred ajudication under a 2003 sealed records law, The Dallas Morning News reported in Monday's editions. Under the law, the records are sealed from most employers, apartment managers and those not in law enforcement as long as they stayed out of trouble.

"It's sound public policy to give people a second chance," said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, the law's author.

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

What the Alleged Misdeeds of Rod Blagojevich Teach Us About Lawful Politics

The allegations in the criminal complaint filed last week against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich portray a level of corruption that is shocking even by the standards of a state in which four prior governors have served time in prison. If proven, the charges will almost certainly result in Blagojevich becoming the fifth.

Among the most tawdry of the allegations in the complaint are these three: (1) Blagojevich pressured the Chicago Tribune to fire editors and writers responsible for editorials critical of Blagojevich, in exchange for gubernatorial assistance with the sale by the Tribune of the Chicago Cubs; (2) Blagojevich attempted to extort campaign contributions from people and entities, including a children's hospital, in exchange for government contracts, grants, and regulatory approvals; and (3) Blagojevich conspired to extract lucrative positions for himself and his wife in government or the private or non-profit sectors in exchange for appointing a U.S. Senator to fill the seat vacated by President-elect Obama.

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December 17, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Nonviolent inmates are lending a hand

For 97 cents a day -- yes, a day -- John Kemp picks up garbage in Austin.

He calls it great.

The work keeps him busy, occupies his mind, helps him change, he said.

Kemp wouldn't mind if the pay was within sight of minimum wage, of course. But after having been caught with a meth lab, Kemp cannot dictate options. Besides, he's not exactly doing his prison time like they did in Alcatraz.

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December 13, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)