CrimProf Blog

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

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Friday, June 6, 2008

U.S. Prison Population Hits All-Time High: 2.3 Million Incarcerated

Prison_080605_mn The Justice Department has released a new report showing the nation's prison and jail population reached a record 2.3 million people last year. The report notes that in the 10 largest states, prison populations increased "during 2006 at more than three times (3.2 percent) the average annual rate of growth (0.9 percent) from 2000 through 2005."

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June 6, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

4th Circuit Orders New Sentencing for Convicted al-Qaida Member

Yahoo.com: A federal appeals court upheld the conviction Friday of a Virginia man convicted of joining al-Qaida and plotting to assassinate President Bush, but said that he must be resentenced.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a 30-year prison term and ordered a new sentencing hearing for Ahmed Omar Abu Ali. Prosecutors had argued that the judge improperly deviated from federal sentencing guidelines that called for life in prison.

The ruling is a major victory for prosecutors in one of their most high-profile terrorism cases.

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June 6, 2008 in Criminal Law, Homeland Security, Trials | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

U.S. v. Santos as a Teaching Tool?

I'd be curious to hear what people think of the recent SCOTUS decision in U.S. v. Santos as a tool for teaching statutory interpretation in Criminal Law.  I have been thinking of using it instead of U.S. v. Foster, the Ninth Circuit case in the Dressler casebook which addressed whether a person "carries" a firearm by keeping it in a zipped-down compartment of the pick-up truck he is driving.  For those who have not read Santos, it essentially addresses whether the word "proceeds" in the federal money laundering statute means "profits" or "gross receipts."  My inclination is that Santos would be a nice case for students to read, for several reasons:

1.  The Justices look to a number of different sources to determine what "proceeds" means:  dictionaries, other federal statutes, other places in the same federal statute, state statutes, and the purposes behind the statute.

2.  It is the rare case in which the rule of lenity is dispositive.  It is rarer still in that the justifications for the rule of lenity are explained.

3.  It nicely points up the difference between vagueness and ambiguity.  The word "proceeds" is ambiguous, not vague, because it means either "gross receipts" or "profits," AND NOTHING ELSE.

4.  Justice Stevens takes the unique position that "proceeds" might mean different things depending on the predicate offense.  I agree with the plurality that this is downright bizarre.

5.  Relatedly, that Justice Stevens is the fifth vote in support of the judgment, but takes a position with which the other 8 Justices disagree, makes articulating the holding here problematic, a point the Justices acknowledge.  While Criminal Law students generally do not encounter the problem of trying to figure out the holding of a splintered, multi-member court, Santos is a nice introduction to the problem, which they will encounter in spades in Criminal Procedure and Constitutional Law.

6.  The recent exchanges between David Post and Orin Kerr on the Volokh Conspiracy on giving students unedited cases to read have motivated me to try to include at least one such opinion in each of my classes.  Santos seems like a good candidate.

Any thoughts? [Mike Mannheimer]

June 5, 2008 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NY to Study Wrongful Convictions

Manhattan attorney Bernice Leber, named president of the 74,000-member [New York State Bar] association on Monday, says that for every wrongful conviction that surfaces, unknown numbers of others remain unfairly resolved.

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June 5, 2008 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

O.C. Grand Jury calls for limits on Taser use

Alarmed by the recent deaths of two jail inmates who had been shocked with Taser electronic stun weapons, the Orange County Grand Jury on Wednesday recommended that deputies no longer use the weapon if other means to control inmates are available.

In its annual report, the State of the Orange County Jails, the grand jury said the recent inmate deaths were a "cause of alarm."

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June 5, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pilot program credited for drop in Missouri prison population

ST. LOUIS — Over the last six years, Missouri has evolved into a national model for helping released prisoners re-enter society and not reoffend. Overcrowding led the state to accept a national group’s offer in 2002 to be a pilot for reducing recidivism.

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June 5, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Feds Aim to Dismantle L.A.'s 18th Street Gang

Martinez200 Authorities say Francisco "Puppet" Martinez controlled much of the gang violence and drug trade in the neighborhood around L.A.'s MacArthur Park from a federal prison cell in the late 1990s. Martinez ran the Columbia Lil Cycos clique of the 18th Street Gang. From prison, he directed his "loyal soldiers" and his wife to carry out his orders.

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June 4, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Judge tosses two city gun laws

A Philadelphia judge yesterday sided with the National Rifle Association and struck down city ordinances banning assault weapons and limiting handgun purchases to one a month.

In a blow to the city's attempt to write its own gun laws, Common Pleas Court Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan ruled that Philadelphia should be permanently prevented from enforcing the laws that City Council passed unanimously in April.

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June 4, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Goal: Keep mentally ill out of jail

CHAPEL HILL - A group of North Carolina lawmakers assured residents Saturday that they support doing more to prevent people with addictions or mental illness from ending up in jail.

Mental illness and its effects on the criminal justice system was the topic of the 30th annual Legislative Breakfast for Mental Health at the Friday Center, attended by community leaders, elected officials and people who either work in mental health fields or have personal experiences with mental health issues.

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June 4, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Death Penalty Under Review

Npr_logo_2 The United States is fifth in the world when it comes to executing inmates — slightly above Iraq and right below Pakistan. Since the death penalty was reinstated in the mid 1970s, all death row inmates have been put to death for killing another person. But now, a surprising array of crimes can land you on death row.

For a broader look at capital punishment, Farai Chideya speaks with Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

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June 3, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Innocence Project Focusing on Freeing the Wrongfully Jailed, Reforming a Flawed System

Resource Before he was convicted of a rape he didn’t commit, Dean Cage of Chicago had a stable existence, his lawyer said. He had a job and he was living with his girlfriend.

Now, 14 years later, the 41-year-old Cage is beginning to try and put his life back together after being released one week ago from an Illinois state prison. DNA tests proved that Cage did not rape the 15-year-old girl in 1994 who had picked him out of a police line-up.

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June 3, 2008 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Does Child Rape Warrant the Death Penalty?

Npr_logo Patrick Kennedy is on death row at Louisiana's Angola Prison, awaiting capital punishment for brutally raping his 8-year-old step daughter. But does executing someone for child rape violate the 8th Amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment?

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June 3, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Immigration Prosecutions Hit New High

Immigration Federal law enforcement agencies have increased criminal prosecutions of immigration violators to record levels, in part by filing minor charges against virtually every person caught illegally crossing some stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border, according to new U.S. data.

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June 2, 2008 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Memo on cops gets spotlight

A Chicago police internal affairs investigator has testified before a federal grand jury about a 2005 memo he wrote questioning whether his bosses ignored alleged misconduct that grew into one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit the Police Department, sources close to the investigation said.

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June 2, 2008 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cracking Open

Michael Short knows he was wrong to sell crack cocaine, but he questions whether he needed 15 years in prison to learn his lesson. Now some of the politicians who helped put him there are wondering, too.

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June 2, 2008 in Drugs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Kevin Washburn to Arizona from Minnesota

Washburnkevin From the Press Release: "Kevin K. Washburn will join the Arizona Law faculty, teaching and working in the areas of American Indian law and criminal law.  “Professor Washburn’s extensive work in American Indian law and gaming law will consolidate strengths in our Indigenous Peoples Law & Policy program (IPLP), which is known worldwide,” Dean Toni Massaro said, “and his expertise in criminal law will advance our multidisciplinary Program in Criminal Law & Policy (PCLP).” 

Currently the Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, Professor Washburn previously taught at the University of Minnesota. He has written widely (SSRN page here) on areas at the intersection of Federal Indian law and criminal law. Professor Washburn is also an expert in gaming law, and has been a frequent commentator on issues in the media, in the legal community, and before Congressional panels examining gaming policy. He has also served as a principal investigator for a $1.4 million federal grant to examine the state of the criminal justice system on Indian reservations and has extensive law practice experience as a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and trial attorney for the Department of Justice, as well as general counsel of the National Indian Gaming Commission. He will begin teaching in the fall of 2008, holding the position of Rosenstiel Distinguished Professor of Law."

My former Cincinnati colleague Jack Chin is on the Arizona faculty; he told me that in addition to snagging Kevin, Arizona recently hired Katherine Barnes from Wash U (SSRN page here), a J.D./Ph.D. in statistics who is an expert in racial disparity, and Marc Miller from Emory (SSRN page here), known for his Criminal Procedure and Sentencing casebooks, and his empirical work on prosecutorial charging decisions.  Marc and Jack appear in Brian Leiter's study of highly cited CrimProfs.  Arizona has a criminal law speaker every week, a Criminal Law and Policy Certificate Program just graduated its first class, and a new White Collar prosecution clinic with the Arizona Attorney General's Office, in addition to the traditional prosecution and defense clinics.  Jack told me that he and his colleagues have been especially pleased with the interest and participation of the criminal bar--both sides, and up and down the ranks--in the research and policy and discussions at the U of A.  It looks like Arizona is building quite a strong criminal program.  [Mark Godsey]

June 2, 2008 in CrimProf Moves | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Real government waste: Mandatory sentences

Stop government waste. That's what state taxpayers are clamoring for, right? Cut out the padded pensions, lavish trips, no-show jobs ...

But all the money spent in those time-worn examples of "waste" pales in comparison to the millions and millions of dollars state taxpayers are spending to lock up nonviolent drug offenders who unwittingly found themselves within 1,000 feet of a school, or who are first-time offenders better served by drug treatment or other alternatives to jail.

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June 1, 2008 in Sentencing Corrections | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Multnomah County juvenile justice system is broken, crime-victims' group says

The Multnomah County juvenile justice system is broken, with youth offenders not being held accountable for serious crimes, according to a report released Tuesday by an influential crime victims' advocacy group.

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June 1, 2008 in Sentencing Corrections | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mr. Cooley: It's time to let this woman go

259541 Twenty-five years after a Los Angeles prosecutor admitted that the key witness against her was a liar, and three years after L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley agreed to a deal that would have led to her release, Deborah Peagler is still in prison for the 1982 murder of a pimp who repeatedly beat and sexually assaulted her.
Cooley, who in 2005 had a sudden change of heart about Peagler's release, is fighting to keep her locked up at the state prison in Chowchilla despite a 2002 law allowing reconsideration of cases involving battered women.

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