July 12, 2008
Arnold H. Loewy, professor of criminal law at Texas Tech University College of Law
He recently stated in an opinion page that the "Death penalty should not be applied to cases of child sexual assault" http://lubbockonline.com/stories/071208/edi_302931885.shtml
Admitted to practice in Connecticut.As the first professor to hold the Texas Tech School of Law’s new Judge George R. Killam Jr. Chair of Criminal Law, Loewy will initiate a series of annual symposiums in the area of criminal law or criminal procedure. His first two-day symposium will begin April 5 and include participation of 12 panelists with national reputations in criminal law and procedure.
In addition to his work on the annual symposiums, Loewy will teach a Supreme Court seminar and also courses in criminal law, criminal procedure, and the first amendment. In each course he will use a casebook that he has edited.
Loewy recently joined the Texas Tech School of Law faculty after having taught for 38 years at the University of North Carolina School of Law and four years at the University of Connecticut School of Law.
He received both his bachelor’s degree and Doctor of Jurisprudence from Boston University, where he achieved the top academic average in his graduating class and was a senior editor for the Boston University Law Review. Professor Loewy obtained his LL.M. from Harvard Law School in 1964.
Loewy was chair of the criminal justice section of the Association of American Law Schools in 1993 after serving for seven years on the executive board and as an officer. He also chaired the AALS Constitutional Law Section from 1973 to 1975. In addition to being an invited speaker at law schools and conferences throughout the nation, Loewy addressed the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law in 1990 on the topic of criminal speech, in 2002 on the topic of virtual child pornography, and again in 2006 on "Systemic Changes to Reduce the Conviction of the Innocent." He also taught American Constitutional Law to European students at Katholieke University, Nijmegen, Netherlands. [Mark Godsey]
B.S., Boston University, 1961
J.D., Boston University, 1963
LL.M., Harvard University, 1964
Criminal Law, Constitutional Law
Crime Lab: Mississippi's a scary 'CSI' episode
On television, the popular CSI shows give the impression that high-tech tools and amply staffed forensic departments are on the job to solve crime scene investigations.
But, in Mississippi, that's fiction, not fact.
The inadequacy of Mississippi's "CSI" would make a sad, and scary, episode if it were presented on television.
Enough so that Attorney General Jim Hood is forming a task force that will meet Aug. 21 at Hood's office to study the financial needs of the state medical examiner's office and the Mississippi Crime Lab.
To begin with, since 1995, Mississippi has had no state medical examiner, despite being authorized to hire one.
Dr. Steven Hayne, who has performed most of Mississippi's autopsies for more than a decade, has been criticized in some quarters. Since there is no state medical examiner, by his own count, each year, Hayne does about 1,500 autopsies, an impossible standard for quality work.
Because of a lack of funding, the Crime Lab hasn't been able to hire as many DNA analysts as it needs.
The state even lacks a handwriting expert. "District attorneys with forgery cases have to plead them out or get an out-of-state expert," Hood says.
The state of Mississippi's forensic crime investigations is a grim reality.
And it's not limited to the upper reaches. At the local level, the quality of the elected coroner system begs review, as well.
Mississippi's system of criminal investigations is coming under even broader scrutiny since the Innocence Project has brought to light a disturbing list of wrongful convictions - including the death penalty - involving flatly wrong forensic conclusions.
The New York-based organization says it is reviewing 111 cases in Mississippi.
That is serious, especially for those who believe the state should be "tough" on crime.
Faulty forensics can stymie imposition of the death penalty, for example. Who would want to convict the wrong person of a capital crime? Or have even a shadow of a doubt?
In a worst-case scenario, unless Mississippi improves its criminal investigations from local coroners to a fully funded, staffed and equipped state medical examiner's office, it could be forced to halt all executions. [Mark Godsey]
July 10, 2008
Language barrier can hinder the legal process
Meza faced a possible death penalty in connection with his infant son's death. But one of the reasons he may only serve three to 15 years on a manslaughter charge is that court-certified interpreters found that parts of his interview with Nampa police had been misinterpreted.
"When an individual is missing a word, it's not just a word. It's something that will make or break your case," said Estella Zamora, interpreter coordinator for Canyon County who headed the effort to transcribe the hours-long video and audio tapes of Meza's interview with police.
Meza is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 5.
While the courts have procedures in place to ensure the accuracy of proceedings that involve non-English speakers, law enforcement agencies do not have policies that guarantee the correctness of what is said during investigations, before a suspect appears in court.
That lack of accuracy may make it more difficult to prosecute criminals, but it also may make it more difficult for innocent people who don't speak English to get a fair trial.
ENSURING THE RIGHTS OF THE ACCUSED
The U.S. Constitution challenges law enforcement agencies and the courts to make sure that people know their rights, the charges against them and that they have the right to defend themselves, regardless of what language they speak.
"The right to due process is involved whenever the state is involved in anything," said attorney Ritchie Eppink.
Both arms of the state meet that challenge in different ways. [Mark Godsey]
HIDDEN COSTS Communities Pay for High Prison Rate
Now 66 years old, Ms. Coleman has three youngsters at home -- ages 5, 3 and 1. She doesn't know the whereabouts of her granddaughter, who is their mother. As for the children's fathers, they have both been in trouble with the law. One is in prison serving a 10-year term for second-degree murder. The other has been in and out of jail on drug charges.
"I didn't intend to raise my great-grandkids," says Ms. Coleman, who relies on supplies of diapers and baby wipes from a local social-services center. "There are so many things I can't do for them because of money, but I have to try."
Here in South Mountain, a district in south Phoenix, more than 3,800 residents are displaced, serving time in prison or the county jail. For every 100 adults, 6.1 are behind bars. That's more than five times the national average of 1.09 per 100, according to a report by the Pew Center, a nonpartisan research group. Arizona has the fastest-growing prison population of the Western states, having increased 5.3% in 2007 to more than 38,000.
Behind those figures are many hidden, related costs -- financial burdens that communities are often left to manage. For every person who goes to jail, businesses lose either a potential employee or customer. Inmates' children often depend on extended families, rather than a parent, to raise them. With only so many government resources to go around, churches, volunteer programs and other groups must often step in to help.
In one nine-block stretch of central South Mountain, nearly 500 out of 16,000 residents are in the state system either as prisoners or as probationers who return regularly to jail. Prison costs associated with this nine-block area amount to roughly $11 million annually, according to an estimate from the Justice Mapping Center, a New York organization that examines crime patterns.
But the state spends more than half that amount -- an additional $6.5 million -- on social programs for the residents who remain. In that nine-block span, 2,000 people receive cash payments under the federal government's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Nearly 5,000 are on food stamps. Almost one-third of the residents live below the poverty level. The total cost of prison and social services combined: approximately $2 million per block. [Mark Godsey]
"Touch DNA" Analysis Clears Ramsey Family In JonBenet's Death
The Christmastime slaying triggered a global news media frenzy and a controversial investigation that long focused on the child's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, and JonBenet's brother, Burke.
Boulder, Colo., District Attorney Mary Lacy said in a statement on Wednesday that DNA evidence recovered from the child's clothing pointed to an "unexplained third party." Lacy apologized to the family for the suspicions that made their lives "an ongoing living hell." [Mark Godsey]
July 9, 2008
Parole credit triggers criticism
Nearly 900 state inmates have been released from Kentucky prisons and jails since late May under a policy change on parole credit approved this year as part of the state budget.
And 887 other convicted felons have been released from parole supervision, according to the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, as the state deals with seriously overcrowded prisons.
The change, little noticed by many when it was made, already is causing concern and criticism from people who say it is misguided and potentially dangerous. One prosecutor has challenged the rule, saying it is unconstitutional and setting up what could be a pitched legal battle.
A lawmaker who worked on the provision said it was necessary to save money at a time when state revenue has fallen and the prison population has swollen because of tougher laws and efforts to fight drugs.
”We had to be creative,“ said Rep. Robin Webb, D-Grayson.
The legislature approved several measures this year to reduce the cost of housing inmates, including quicker consideration of parole for some inmates, giving inmates more time off their sentences for earning degrees or completing certain drug- or alcohol-treatment programs, and shaving time off sentences for inmates with good behavior.
Felons who violate parole rules and have to go back to jail now get credit against their sentence for the time they were out on parole.
Consider this example: A man is sentenced to five years in prison for theft, wins parole after serving one year, is out on parole for a year, then commits a violation — such as taking drugs or failing to report to a parole officer — for which his parole is revoked.
Under the old rule, he would have four years left to serve on his original five-year sentence. Under the new rule, he would get credit for the year he was on parole, so he would have only three years left to serve. [Mark Godsey]
"Project Zero" Overhauled NYC Teen Offender Rehab
Dr. Clarice Bailey was sent to New York City by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government to find out what it’s like inside the city’s program for juvenile justice reform. The Institute had its eye on the Department of Probation initiative called “Project Zero,” which seeks alternative kinds of rehabilitation to locking up young offenders in juvenile jail. Bailey spoke with probation officers, staff at the family courts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, and counselors who work one-on-one with families in the system. Then she met the youths. She recalled what the kids said about the adult staffers assigned to help them: “They’re like family. I’m close to them. They helped me when I got kicked out of my grandma’s house. They made sure I was all right.”
She recalled what the kids said about the adult staffers assigned to help them: “They’re like family. I’m close to them. They helped me when I got kicked out of my grandma’s house. They made sure I was all right.”
Bailey, who has a doctorate in public administration and policy and has worked closely with youth involved in criminal activity and the justice system, came away impressed. Last month, the Ash Institute announced Project Zero had been selected from a pool of about 1,000 applicants as a finalist for the Annie E. Casey Innovations Award in Children and Family System Reform.
Hope – and statistics
Probation Commissioner Martin Horn started the program in 2003, with “zero” standing for the goal of sending no kids to juvenile correctional facilities outside the city. Instead, they would return home to live with their families, attend school as usual, and participate in intensive therapy sessions aimed at helping them get on the right path from inside their own neighborhoods.
In the year before Project Zero began, 1,300 to 1,500 New York City youths were sent to juvenile facilities, according to Department of Probation (DOP) statistics. In 2004, the Department sent 1,257 juveniles to state correctional facilities, and by 2007, 795 juveniles were admitted. DOP data also show that from 2002 to 2007, the number of city youth incarcerated as a result of their Family Court judgment decreased by 27 percent. The DOP reports that this decline was caused by the Project Zero initiative.
“The administration of juvenile justice in our country is marked by an absence of coherent leadership and is essentially unmanaged. Project Zero represents our resolve to take advantage of that vacuum and change the paradigm in New York from the bottom up,” Horn told the award’s national selection committee at Harvard in June. [Mark Godsey]
FBI kills serial murder profile
"There's no one-size-fits-all profile," said Mark Hilts, chief of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit. "Don't get caught up looking for Hannibal Lecter."
After analyzing the views of 135 law enforcement, academic and mental health experts, the FBI's behavioral profilers determined "there is no generic profile of a serial murderer."
The only traits most predators have in common is they tend to be control freaks with a total lack of remorse for taking innocent lives, the 71-page FBI report determined. It also said their motive to kill is usually simply "because they want to."
The study blamed moviemakers for perpetuating the myths - even though the FBI cooperated on some films it now criticizes, including "The Silence of the Lambs," which made Hannibal the Cannibal famous.
As a result, FBI agents called in to help solve cases sometimes deal with local cops who assume the carnage is the work of leather-masked fiends with genius IQs, bureau officials said.
Contrary to popular belief, serial murderers often build careers and families even as their body count climbs, such as "Green River killer" Gary Ridgway, who snuffed out 48 prostitutes. [Mark Godsey]
July 8, 2008
Using DNA in smaller crimes could clog system
The story is straight out of Nancy Drew: A half-eaten corn dog found at the scene of a suburban office burglary yields DNA that links the crime to a man with 27 previous arrests. It's not fiction, though; it happened in Hennepin County, Minn., earlier this year.
New research shows that using DNA to solve property crimes like burglaries -- and not just violent crimes like homicides and sexual assaults -- is particularly effective. Last month, the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center released a study that found that DNA evidence from property crime scenes identifies suspects in twice as many cases and leads to twice as many arrests as more typical tools like witnesses and fingerprints.
But in the report, "The DNA Field Experiment," researchers also wrote that if collecting and processing DNA evidence at property crimes became the norm nationwide, it would overwhelm the criminal justice system.
"Most jurisdictions are having trouble processing special assaults and homicides," let alone burglaries, said John Roman, the study's principal author.
The latter finding is particularly relevant to local law enforcement officials. Because of limited forensic resources, the practice is working its way into police custom slowly.
"It's a new thing to this area," said Sgt. Kevin Gasiorowski, who heads the Pittsburgh police burglary squad.
He said it is unrealistic to expect Allegheny County's crime lab to handle the glut of evidence that would result from collecting DNA at all property crimes.
"We have 3,000 burglaries a year. They would be overrun," said Sgt. Gasiorowski. "It's not like on TV where you just get a swab of something and two minutes later it pops up on a computer."
Even excluding property crimes, competition for forensic resources is tough.
"You've got people saying you've got to look at old cases, you have the people who are investigating crimes, you have the people who are prosecuting crimes, and we're all taxing a system that has finite capacity," said John Rago, founding director of the Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law at Duquesne University. [Mark Godsey]
Registry law called 'unfair to homeless'
Georgia's sex offender registry law should be struck down because it makes homelessness a crime, a lawyer told the state's highest court on Monday.
"The law is fundamentally unfair to homeless sex offenders," public defender Adam Levin argued to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Levin represents William James Santos, charged in Hall County for failing to register a new address in the sex offender registry. Because this would be his second failure-to-register offense, Santos faces a mandatory life sentence.
The registry law, with the harshest penalties in the nation, requires sex offenders to provide a route or street address within 72 hours after being released from custody or moving to a new address. The law states that an offender cannot use "homeless" as an address.
Santos had lived at the Good News at Noon homeless shelter in Gainesville and correctly gave that address on the registry. But in July 2006, Santos was forced to leave the shelter.
For the next three months, Santos was homeless and could not give an address and comply with the statute, Levin said. In October 2006, Santos was arrested and later indicted.
Levin argued there is precedent by the U.S. Supreme Court supporting his position. In 1983, the high court ruled that someone on probation cannot be imprisoned if they are found to be indigent and cannot afford to pay a court-imposed fine.
Sex offenders who can afford roofs over their heads can give a proper address, Levin said. But homeless offenders such as Santos cannot and are subject to prosecution, he argued.
Hall County Assistant District Attorney Vanessa Sykes urged the state Supreme Court to uphold the law and allow Santos' prosecution to go forward. [Mark Godsey]
July 7, 2008
Murder's no mystery
The beat goes on with local violent crime: A 66-year-old Belleville woman was stabbed to death Friday. A 49-year-old man was gunned down at midnight Saturday near Sherman Park on the city's north side. A U.S. Park Service ranger shot and killed a man who drove a vehicle that hit him early Sunday morning near the Arch grounds.
It may be small comfort to note that this is not just a St. Louis problem. It is a disturbing national trend.
In the early years of this decade, law enforcement agencies, including those here, basked in the glow of record reductions in homicides, robberies and aggravated assaults. That started to change in the middle of the decade. Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton called it a "gathering storm," a title adopted for a 2006 report by the Police Executive Research Forum, a leading law enforcement think tank. Its conclusions were bleak: FBI data for 2005 recorded the greatest annual jump in violent crime in 14 years.
The report cited various reasons for the storm: a booming population of younger criminals with no respect for life; a culture of violence fueled by popular culture; a revolving door in the prison and parole system. [Mark Godsey]
Reality TV's new target: Flipped-verdict dramas
GRB Entertainment, whose clients include National Geographic and the Discovery Channel, has discussed a proposal with the California Innocence Project, GRB Executive Vice President Michael Branton says.
A separate, undisclosed company is negotiating with the Innocence Project of Texas, says Jeff Blackburn, the Texas project's chief counsel.
In New York, the national Innocence Project is approached nearly every week with a new proposal to allow cameras access to a long and confidential process that may — or may not — result in exoneration, spokesman Eric Ferrero says. The national and state groups have represented prisoners, including some facing life in prison or death, whose claims of innocence were proven by DNA testing or other evidence.
"It's a story where the stakes are often life or death," Branton says. "I don't think there is anything like this on television." [Mark Godsey]
A chance for a clean slate
Proponents say the nine-month-old law is working as intended, removing potential barriers to obtaining employment, housing and loans. Another major change in state expungement law takes effect Oct. 1, when some criminal convictions in Maryland can be wiped out without a pardon from the governor.
The changes are seen as especially important in Baltimore City. Tens of thousands of residents, many of them young men, have minor criminal records - sometimes as a consequence of "zero-tolerance" policies that result in large numbers of arrests without charges or convictions.
But even the new laws don't go far enough, some advocates say. They want the legislature to help people with minor drug convictions - whom the new law would not directly benefit. [Mark Godsey]
July 6, 2008
National Sex Offender Guidelines Released
The Justice Department today (June 1, 2008) released the final Sex Offender Registration and Notification ACT (SORNA) Guidelines. These are the guidelines for the Adam Walsh Act's sex offender registration and notification provisions. A copy of the guidelines is here (pdf.)
The Act is officially known as the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. The Guidelines are in Title I of the Act, named the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). The DOJ office that released the guidelines is the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing,
Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART).
The final guidelines incorporate changes to the intitial guidelines made following a period of public comment. SMART explains the revisions here (pdf).
Sex offenders are society's newest pariahs. Even those as young as 14 (pdf). [Mark Godsey]
Probe Into Maryland Custody Death Slows
State and federal agents are investigating the death of a Maryland man in his cell two days after he was arrested and charged with killing a county police officer. But their efforts have been slowed by a lack of cooperation from prison officials. [Mark Godsey]
ESCAPING THE MYTH OF 'THREE STRIKES' STATE PRISON LAW
In 1994, Californians saw a state criminal justice system that too often let the worst criminals out of prison to wreak destruction and hurt the innocent, only to be sent back to prison for worse crimes.
Fresno parent Mike Reynolds had been pushing Sacramento to pass a "three strikes" measure after the murder of his 18-year-old daughter, Kimber, during a robbery in 1992. Then the rape and murder of Petaluma's 12-year-old Polly Klaas - kidnapped from her home by another violent career criminal - confirmed the voters' worst fears.
The public was ready. The Legislature was afraid. And both Sacramento and California voters passed tough "three strikes" measures.
This being California, there was a pro-criminal lobby that warned against the law, which mandated a 25-year-to-life term for the third offense by criminals who had already committed two serious or violent felonies. It also increased penalties for a second strike.
Longer sentences for career offenders? Horrors.
Critics duly seized on state Department of Corrections forecasts, which ominously predicted that within five years, the prison population would more than double, from 124,813 to 245,554. The state would have to build 20 new prisons just to keep up. Within three years, opponents charged, prison spending would outstrip state spending on higher education.
Almost 15 years later, it turns out many of the so-called experts were wrong - and the voters were right. In approving the tough-on-crime measure, California residents didn't have to pay for an inmate population explosion or a bunch of new prisons. What voters got instead was a law that, for the most part, has worked the way it was supposed to.
Fact: California's inmate count was 171,444 last year - far below the grim projections. In part because other prisons already were in the works by the time voters approved "three strikes," Sacramento authorized and completed not 20 new prisons in five years, but only one new prison in the past 14 years. And that happened while the state population grew from 33 million to 38 million. [Mark Godsey]