CrimProf Blog

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

Thursday, March 13, 2008

CrimProf Carol Henderson is Now the President of the American Academy for Forensic Science

Henderson Stetson University College of Law CrimProf Carol Henderson officially took the gavel as president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences on Feb. 21 at the Academy’s 60th annual scientific meeting in Washington, D.C.

Henderson directs the National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology and the Law at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Fla.

"I look forward to the exciting challenges and possibilities of leading the AAFS in its mission to promote worldwide excellence in forensic science, education and research," Henderson said.

Henderson discussed the future of forensics and announced a new mission statement for the academy at the meeting, attended by thousands of forensic specialists from around the globe. The AAFS includes members from the United States, Canada and more than 50 other countries worldwide.

Under Henderson’s direction, the National Clearinghouse, a program of the National Institute of Justice, was formed at Stetson in 2003 to advance the use of science and technology in the law. The Clearinghouse is funded as part of the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence established by the NIJ.

With more than 6,000 members, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences is a multidisciplinary professional organization that provides leadership to advance science and its application to the legal system. The objectives of the Academy are to promote education, foster research, improve practice, and encourage collaboration in the forensic sciences. [Mark Godsey]

March 13, 2008 in CrimProf Moves | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Interesting Eighth Circuit Decision Applying Georgia v. Randolph

On Tuesday, the en banc Eighth Circuit released this interesting decision applying the recent Supreme Court case Georgia v. Randolph on third-party consent.  In Randolph, the Supreme Court held that when one co-tenant is present and refuses to consent to a search, that refusal is controlling, even in the face of consent by another co-tenant.  In U.S. v. Hudspeth, the en banc Eighth Circuit addressed the issue whether the same is true when the objecting co-tenant is absent from the premises.  The majority answered that question in the negative. [Mike Mannheimer].

March 13, 2008 in Search and Seizure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

CrimProf Charles Patrick Ewing Releases "Insanity: Murder, Madness and the Law"

Ewing_chuck_sm The University at Buffalo Law School CrimProf Charles Patrick Ewing, considered one of the country's leading experts on the insanity defense, takes readers into the minds of David Berkowitz, John Wayne Gacy and other notorious murderers in his new book of chilling insights into some of the most well-known murder trials in recent memory.

Ewing, a SUNY Distinguished Service Professor and forensic psychologist, uncovers rich personal histories and intricate trial details of murderers who have become household names in "Insanity: Murder, Madness, and the Law" (Oxford University Press, 2008).

In it, Ewing debunks the public's and legal profession's enduring stereotypes surrounding the insanity defense.

"Every time a defendant pleads insanity, the case makes headlines," says Ewing, whose previous book, "Minds on Trial," is considered a landmark study of the criminally insane defense. "In those rare instances in which a defendant is actually found insane, the public is usually outraged.

        "In homicide cases, especially, they believe that the defendant 'got away with murder.'"

Drawing on personal evaluations of hundreds of defendants and extensive research, Ewing conveys the psychological and legal drama of 10 landmark insanity cases. At the same time, he challenges misconceptions made by the general public and many in the legal community.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 12, 2008 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

States Reconsider Life Sentences for Juveniles

From  How should a society treat its youngest criminal offenders? And the families of victims of those offenders?              

Half a dozen states are now weighing these questions anew, as they consider whether to ban life sentences for juveniles that don't include a option for parole – and whether those now serving such sentences should have a retroactive shot at parole.


Here in Illinois, proposed legislation would give 103 people – most convicted of unusually brutal crimes – a chance at parole          hearings, while outlawing the sentence for future young perpetrators.       


The proposal has victims' families up in arms, angry that killers they had been told were in prison for life might be given a shot at release and that they'd need to regularly attend hearings in the future, reliving old traumas, to try to ensure that these criminals remain behind bars.


Advocates of legislation, meanwhile, both in Illinois and elsewhere, note that the US is the only country in the world with anyone – nearly 2,400 across the nation – serving such a severe sentence for a crime committed as a juvenile. They criticize the fact that the sentence is often mandatory, part of a system devoid of leniency for a teenager's lack of judgment, or hope that youth can be reformed.


"Kids should be punished, and held accountable. The crimes we're talking about are very serious crimes," says Alison Parker, deputy director of the US program of Human Rights Watch and author of a report on the issue. "But children are uniquely able to rehabilitate themselves, to grow up and to change. A life-without-parole sentence says they're beyond repair, beyond hope."


The sentence is automatic for certain crimes in more than half of all states, part of a wave of "get tough" laws aimed at cracking down on rising crime rates during the 1980s and '90s. Which means judges often have little to no discretion when they mete out punishment. In many instances, they are prohibited from considering age or even whether the juvenile was the one who pulled the trigger. About a quarter of the juveniles serving life without parole sentences nationally were convicted of what is known as "felony murder," says Ms. Parker. They participated in a felony in which murder was committed, but they weren't the ones who did the actual killing. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 12, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spitzer Might Face the Mann Act

From  Federal prosecutors might charge New York's Democratic governor, Eliot Spitzer, under a relatively obscure — and controversial — 1910 law that was originally intended to combat forced prostitution and "debauchery." Its official name is the White Slave Traffic Act, but it's better known as the Mann Act, named after its author, Rep. James R. Mann (R-IL).

In recent years, the Mann Act has been used selectively. But it has not faded into irrelevance. Last week, four people suspected of running the Emperor's Club — the prostitution service that Spitzer allegedly frequented — were charged with violating the Mann Act, among other crimes including money laundering.

Enacted during a time of great change and "moral panic," the Mann Act was originally designed to combat forced prostitution. The law, however, has been applied broadly over the years and, critics say, used as a tool of political persecution and even blackmail. In the past century, thousands of people have been prosecuted under the Mann Act, including celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin, Frank Lloyd Wright, Chuck Berry and Jack Johnson. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 11, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Exnerated Florida Man Might Finally Be Compensated

From This time around, Alan Crotzer might get his money.

"From Al's perspective, finally having a glimmer of hope - to me, that's a hallelujah," said Michael Olenick, Crotzer's attorney.

Crotzer spent 24 years, six months, 13 days and four hours in prison for violent crimes he did not commit, and now Olenick is trying to get him compensated through a special bill in the Florida Legislature. These kinds of "oops, we're sorry" compensation votes are always touch-and-go, filled with emotion and politics and finger-crossing.

But this time, Olenick is pretty sure his client will see some money. They're asking for $1.25 million, and there seems to be the right support.

Initially represented by the Innocence Project of Florida, Crotzer got out of prison in 2006 after DNA showed he could not have committed the crimes. Then from St. Petersburg, Crotzer, 47, was in prison for the 1981 kidnapping and rape of a Tampa woman and a 12-year-old girl. He was 20 years old.

"When I think about Al, I swear, I could break down and cry," Olenick said Monday.

Crotzer's compensation case is being argued on its own because Florida does not have a law setting uniform paybacks for DNA exonerees. Each one has to be argued on its own.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 11, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

House Democrats Balk at Giving Legal Protection to Phone Companies in Wiretapping Cases

From In continued defiance of the White House, House Democratic leaders are readying a proposal that would reject giving legal protection to the phone companies that helped in the National Security Agency’s program of wiretapping without warrants  after the Sept. 11 attacks, Congressional officials said Monday.      

Instead of blanket immunity, the tentative proposal would give the federal courts special authorization to hear classified evidence and decide whether the phone companies should be held liable. House Democrats have been working out the details of their proposal in the last few days, officials said, and expect to take it to the House floor for a vote on Thursday.

The Democrats’ proposal would fall far short of what the White House has been seeking.

President Bush has been insisting for months that Congress give retroactive immunity to the phone companies, calling it a vital matter of national security. The Senate gave him what he wanted in a vote last month that also broadened the government’s eavesdropping powers.

But House Democratic leaders have balked at the idea. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 11, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 10, 2008

New York Governor Linked to Prostitution Ring

From Gov. Eliot Spitzer, accused in news reports of being involved in a prostitution ring, apologized to his family and the public on Monday at a hastily called news conference. He did not elaborate on the story.

With his wife at his side, Spitzer told reporters that he "acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family."

"I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself," he said. "I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family."

The New York Times reported earlier in the day that Spitzer told senior administration officials that he was linked to a prostitiution ring. The report cited an anonymous administration official. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 10, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

S.J. Quinney College of Law Hosts "Drugs: Addiction, Therapy, and Crime"

Luna The University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law hosts “Drugs: Addiction, Therapy, and Crime,” a conference to explore drugs, drug use, and related public policy, on March 13-14, 2008. Admission is free and open to the public.

“Despite the ubiquity of drugs--including prescription and over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements, and illegal recreational substances--our nation’s drug policy is based on an inconsistent and sometimes contradictory and incoherent set of rules and theories,” S.J. Quinney College of Law CrimProf Erik Luna. “The conference hopes to challenge this mentality by examining the various responses society takes to such drugs, from laissez faire capitalism and social norms to governmental regulation and criminal prohibition.”

Joseph A. Califano, Jr., chair and president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, presents the Utah Criminal Justice Center Distinguished Lecture at 7:30 P.M. on March 13.

A special assistant and senior domestic policy aide to President Lyndon Johnson, and the U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare from 1977-1979, Califano is the author of several books on health care and substance abuse. “Over the past several decades, Mr. Califano has been a national leader on drug policy and health care reform,” Luna says.

Other presentations and panels include experts in criminal justice, law, medicine, philosophy, pharmacology, psychology, public policy, and toxicology. Participants represent the University of Utah and other educational institutions from across the nation.

“We hope the audience will obtain a better understanding of the full spectrum of drugs and drug-related issues from an interdisciplinary perspective, which may provoke new questions about society’s current stance on drug theory, policy, and practice,” says Luna.

Luna co-organized the conference with Allison Behjani, symposium editor of the Utah Law Review. Sponsors include the Utah Criminal Justice Center, Utah Law Review, S.J. Quinney College of Law, College of Social Work, College of Social and Behavioral Science, Utah Criminal Justice Society, Office of Undergraduate Studies, and Utah Addiction Center. [Mark Godsey]

March 10, 2008 in Symposiums | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

CrimProf Sheri Lynn Johnson Speaks during Death Penalty Awareness Week

S_johnson In January, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Baze v. Rees, a landmark case considering whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment that violates the Eighth Amendment.

While activist student lawyers across the country wait for this important verdict, they are working to draw attention to death penalty issues. Cornell Law student members of the National Lawyers Guild held a Death Penalty Awareness Week from March 3 through 5, sponsored in part by the Cornell Law Students’ Association and Cornell’s G.P.S.A.F.C.

“At Cornell, students do not even have to wait until they graduate to begin working against the death penalty,” says Ginger McCall ’09, president of the Cornell National Lawyers Guild. She notes that students can do significant work on Cornell’s Death Penalty Project, co-led by law professors John H. Blume and Sheri Lynn Johnson. “Law students are uniquely situated to create change in this area,” she continues. “Students can enact change by raising awareness and educating voters, who will, in turn, influence legislative decisions regarding the death penalty.”

Cornell CrimProf Sheri Lynn Johnson began the week with a lecture about capital punishment on Monday, March 3. In her talk, she examined issues of innocence, race, and mental illness. A second speaker was Muna Ndulo, professor of law and director of Cornell’s Institute for African Development, who spoke about capital punishment from an international perspective.

Later in the week Christopher Seeds, visiting fellow with the Cornell Death Penalty Project, addressed the current moratorium on the death penalty in New York State. After Mr. Seeds’s talk, Deadline, a film about the decision of former Illinois Governor George Ryan to commute the sentences of all Illinois death row inmates, was shown and resulted in some spirited discussion among the students. [Mark Godsey]

March 9, 2008 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

US Customs and Border Protection Agents Charged With Numerous Crimes

From Bribery. Drug trafficking. Migrant smuggling.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is supposed to stop these types of crimes. Instead, so many of its officers have been charged with committing those crimes themselves that their boss in Washington recently issued an alert about the ''disturbing events'' and the ``increase in the number of employee arrests.''

Thomas S. Winkowski, assistant commissioner of field operations, wrote a memo to more than 20,000 officers nationwide noting that employees must behave professionally at all times -- even when not on the job.

''It is our responsibility to uphold the laws, not break the law,'' Winkowski wrote in the Nov. 16 memo obtained by The Miami Herald.

Winkowski's memo cites employee arrests involving domestic violence, DUI and drug possession. But court records show Customs officers and other Department of Homeland Security employees from South Florida to the Mexican border states have been charged with dozens of far more serious offenses.

Among them: A Customs and Border Protection officer at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was charged in February with conspiring to assist a New York drug ring under investigation by tapping into sensitive federal databases.

Winkowski, a former director of field operations in Miami, called the misconduct ''unacceptable.'' He told The Miami Herald that while he wrote the memo because of an uptick in employee arrests last fall, he didn't believe the problem was pervasive. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 9, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Laurie Levenson Discusses the Hate Crime Charging Dispute

Levenson From Loyola Law School CrimProf Laurie Levenson recently discussed attempted murder and other charges  that were filed Friday against two reputed Latino gang members accused of shooting a black 6-year-old boy in Harbor Gateway.

Despite demands from community activists, prosecutors did not file hate crime allegations against Ernesto Murillo, 25, of Harbor Gateway or Ismael Torres, 26, of Wilmington.

"We will continue to monitor and review the case as the evidence comes in," said Deputy District Attorney John Lonergan of the Hardcore Gang Division.

CrimProf Laurie Levenson said that, despite the emotion of the case, prosecutors have the ethical duty of filing only what they can prove in court.

"Each case has to be evaluated on its own merits," Levenson said. "Even when the community is upset, you just can't file charges unless there is evidence to support it." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 9, 2008 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)