CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Some Thoughts on Baze v. Rees

I know it's been a few weeks since Baze v. Rees, but I thought I would post some overdue comments regarding my impressions of the case -- overdue because of a horrendously busy April, some emergency home repairs, a dying (now dead) home computer, and the persistent responsibility of caring for a two-year old.  But enough about me . . . .

I must admit to the guilty pleasure of typically turning to the separate opinion by Justices Scalia or Thomas (or, in this case, both) when a case like Baze comes out.  In Baze, I was most intrigued by Justice Thomas' concurrence in the judgment, joined by Justice Scalia, arguing that "a method of execution violates the Eighth Amendment only if it is deliberately designed to inflict pain."  I think this conclusion is deeply flawed.

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

Huge gains reported at crime lab's DNA unit

MAYNARD - The M-48 sits on a countertop inside a clean room where masks and gloves are required wear. It is a large, rectangular machine that resembles a doughnut box with a see-through pane, and it is one of the Commonwealth's most important crime-fighting tools.The M-48 delicately extracts DNA. "It's as if DNA were in an egg yolk," said Kristen Sullivan, supervisor of the DNA Unit at the Massachusetts State Police crime lab. "And this machine breaks open the yolk to release it."The M-48 does in an hour what it would take dozens of technicians to do in weeks.

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May 24, 2008 in DNA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Criminal Law Scholar Bowers to Join Virginia Law School Faculty

Josh Bowers, a legal scholar and former defense attorney who specializes in innovative examination of the real-world application of criminal law, will join the Law School this fall.

Bowers Bowers is currently a Bigelow Teaching Fellow and lecturer of law at the University of Chicago Law School. Prior to that, he spent three years as a staff attorney with The Bronx Defenders, and also was an associate at Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason & Silberberg, a white-collar criminal defense firm in New York City.

He’s published articles on the effectiveness of drug courts, the intersection of plea bargaining and innocence, and the use of low-ball plea offers as a prosecutorial tool to mute communal resistance to unpopular police policies.

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May 24, 2008 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Government Pushes Criminal Prosecution of Unauthorized Immigrant Workers

N.Y. Times: Waterloo, Iowa —  In temporary courtrooms at a fairgrounds here, 270 illegal immigrants were sentenced this week to five months in prison for working at a meatpacking plant with false documents.

The prosecutions, which ended Friday, signal a sharp escalation in the Bush administration’s crackdown on illegal workers, with prosecutors bringing tough federal criminal charges against most of the immigrants arrested in a May 12 raid. Until now, unauthorized workers have generally been detained by immigration officials for civil violations and rapidly deported.

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May 24, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, Homeland Security, Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Adam Liptak Examines Elected Judges in the United States

N.Y. Times: Last month, Wisconsin voters did something that is routine in the United States but virtually unknown in the rest of the world: They elected a judge.

The vote came after a bitter $5 million campaign in which a small-town trial judge with thin credentials ran a television advertisement falsely suggesting that the only black justice on the state Supreme Court had helped free a black rapist. The challenger unseated the justice with 51 percent of the vote, and will join the court in August.

The election was unusually hard-fought, with caustic advertisements on both sides, many from independent groups.

Contrast that distinctively American method of selecting judges with the path to the bench of Jean-Marc Baissus, a judge on the Tribunal de Grand Instance, a district court, in Toulouse, France. He still recalls the four-day written test he had to pass in 1984 to enter the 27-month training program at the École Nationale de la Magistrature, the elite academy in Bordeaux that trains judges in France.

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

Friday, May 23, 2008

Pa. lawmakers: No parole for violent criminals

Standing next to pictures of the three men accused in the killing of Police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, State Rep. John M. Perzel today issued this message: Violent offender - no parole.

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May 23, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Georgia Man's Death Sentence Commuted Hours Before Scheduled Execution

From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution online:  "In just the third time out of 24 requests since 1995, the Georgia Pardons and Parole Board on Thursday commuted a death sentence, just hours before the convicted killer was to be executed by lethal injection.

"The five-member board commuted admitted murderer Samuel David Crowe's death sentence to life without parole less than 2 1/2 hours before he was scheduled to die Thursday evening for a crime 20 years ago."  Read the rest of the article here.  [Mike Mannheimer]

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

Thursday, May 22, 2008

UN Faults US on Racism

The UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination harshly criticized the US record on race after considering oral and written testimony submitted by the US government. In its conclusions issued today, the committee urged the US to rectify the “stark racial disparities” in criminal justice systems throughout the country. 

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May 22, 2008 in Race | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Over Three in Five Americans Believe in Death Penalty

Over the past few years there have been many high profile cases where those on death row have been found to be innocent and some states have halted executions. In the minds of Americans, this may have had an impact as the number of those who believe in the death penalty has declined since 2003.

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May 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Executions Resume, as Do Questions of Fairness

Free_man The release of the third death row inmate in six months in North Carolina last week is raising fresh questions about whether states are supplying capital-murder defendants with adequate counsel, even as an execution on Tuesday night in Georgia ended a seven-month national suspension.

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May 22, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cleared by DNA, man tries to reclaim his life

Innocent_man_photo James Woodard is slowly returning to life. He is starting over after spending 27 years behind bars. He was wrongly imprisoned and cleared by DNA.

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May 21, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Eye Wtiness Identification Reform: Flaws in the ABA’s Jury Instruction on Cross-Race

At a groundbreaking two-day eye-ID litigation conference in NYC in March co-sponsored by the Eyewitness ID Reform Litigation Network, we addressed the issue of cross-race instructions, including the ABA version referred to this week at the Kansas Defenders blog. In short, while it is certainly good news that the ABA is paying attention to this issue, since the average instructions on eye-ID are woefully inadequate, the ABA instruction is far from ideal for the following reasons.

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May 21, 2008 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

DNA cleared them, but they'll never feel free

Innocent_man Wiley Fountain is homeless just five years after he walked out of prison an innocent man. He is one of the 17 men wrongfully convicted in Dallas County, Texas, then cleared by DNA evidence. He was one of the lucky few to receive financial compensation from the state, but the $190,000 or so that made it into his pocket is long gone.

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May 21, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Article Spotlight: Initiating a New Constitutional Dialogue: The Increased Importance under AEDPA of Seeking Certiorari from Judgments of State Courts

Law_giovannishay Western New England CrimProf Giovanna Shay has published Initiating a New Constitutional Dialogue: The Increased Importance under AEDPA of Seeking Certiorari from Judgments of State Courts on SSRN; it will be published in the William and Mary Law Review.  The abstract:  The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) contains a provision restricting federal courts from considering any authority other than holdings of the Supreme Court in determining whether to grant a state prisoner's petition for habeas corpus. Through an empirical study of cert filings and cases decided by the Supreme Court, we assess this provision's impact on the development of federal constitutional criminal doctrine.

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May 21, 2008 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Rest of Their Lives: Life without Parole for Youth Offenders

Youth (persons below the age of 18) can and do commit terrible crimes, causing enormous suffering to victims and their families. When youth commit such crimes,they should be held accountable, but in a manner that reflects their age and immaturity and their special capacity for rehabilitation.

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May 20, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Funding the Second Chance Act

A NY Times editorial urges Congress to appropriate full funding to the Second Chance Act. Especially noteworthy is the reminder that some state governments are already making a serious effort to reduce recidivism with programs that help offenders build a new life after their release from prison.

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May 20, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Consensus grows for Texas innocence commission

Top judges, lawmakers and newspapers in Texas are calling for the creation of a state innocence commission to study the causes of wrongful conviction and recommend policy reforms to prevent future injustice.

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May 20, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Closer Look: Racial Tensions Behind Bars

Npr_logo Do racial tensions in prison simply reflect what goes on in communities across the country?

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May 19, 2008 in Race | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Reports Find Racial Gap in Drug Arrests

Racial_disparaties_graph More than two decades after President Ronald Reagan escalated the war on drugs, arrests for drug sales or, more often, drug possession are still rising. And despite public debate and limited efforts to reduce them, large disparities persist in the rate at which blacks and whites are arrested and imprisoned for drug offenses, even though the two races use illegal drugs at roughly equal rates.

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May 19, 2008 in Race | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Prostitution: Never A Victimless Crime?

Eliot Spitzer’s downfall spotlights a recurring question of crime policy: whether prostitution, the simple agreement to exchange compensation for sex, is a victimless crime that does not merit prosecution.

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May 19, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)