CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Should murder accomplices face execution?

14568_felonymurder_2 An execution last month in Mississippi and another scheduled for this month in Texas have reignited a debate over whether the death penalty should be given to those who participate in killings — but do not personally carry them out.

Dale Bishop was executed July 23 in Mississippi for his role in the 1998 murder of an acquaintance who was beaten to death with a claw hammer along a rural road near Tupelo. But Bishop did not strike the fatal blows. According to uncontested trial testimony, Bishop held and kicked the victim while another man, Jessie Johnson, fatally attacked him with the hammer. Johnson is serving a life sentence without parole.

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August 16, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Texas School District Allows Teachers to Carry Guns in School

Pic_4 A Texas school district will let teachers bring guns to class this fall, the district's superintendent said on Friday, in what experts said appeared to be a first in the United States.

The board of the small rural Harrold Independent School District unanimously approved the plan and parents have not objected, said the district's superintendent, David Thweatt.

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August 15, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Law Enforcement, News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Inside The Nation's Largest Mental Institution

Prison_200 Morning Edition, August 14, 2008 · The largest mental institution in the country is actually a wing of a county jail. Known as Twin Towers, because of the design, the facility houses 1,400 mentally ill patients in one of its two identical hulking structures in downtown Los Angeles.

On a recent morning, we took a visit to the floor devoted to the "sickest of the sick." As we arrived, a dozen deputies were working to restrain a patient and inject him with an anti-psychotic drug. The entire ordeal was videotaped — to protect the patient as well as the deputies. It was the first hint at the complexities that emerge from creating a mental hospital inside a jail.

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August 14, 2008 in Mentally Ill | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Juvenile Transfers A Deterrent?

Beginning in the 1980s, many States passed legal reforms designed to get tough on juvenile crime. One important reform was the revision of transfer (also called waiver or certification) laws (Griffin, 2003) to expand the types of offenses and offenders eligible for transfer from the juvenile court for trial and sentencing in the adult criminal court These reforms lowered the minimum age for transfer, increased the number of transfer-eligible offenses, or expanded prosecutorial discretion and reduced judicial discretion in transfer decisionmaking (Fagan and Zimring, 2000; Redding, 2003, 2005). In 1979, for example, 14 States had automatic transfer statutes requiring that certain juvenile offenders be tried as adults; by 1995, 21 States had such laws, and by 2003, 31 States (Steiner and Hemmens, 2003)

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August 14, 2008 in Juveniles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

36 states release ill or dying inmates

North Carolina and Alabama have joined a growing number of states establishing programs that allow the release of dying or infirm prisoners to cut prison system health care costs.

Alabama's law goes into effect Sept. 1. It will allow inmates who are permanently incapacitated or terminally ill to be furloughed. It will also allow for the release of inmates 55 or older who have life threatening illnesses. About 125 of the state's 25,000 inmates will be eligible, Alabama Prisons Commissioner Richard Allen said.

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August 14, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Young Guns: A new brand of gangster grows up in a killing culture

450gang_kids_015_08132008_12qe84 Danger sits in a booth at Denny's, talking about the reason for his name.

"I stabbed about three people," he says, his angular face betraying no particular emotion. He mentions it offhandedly, like a kid trying to be modest about something in which he takes great pride.

Now 18, Danger, has been a dedicated gang member for the past five years. It was his homies, his brothers in arms, who bestowed the street name.

"I been in it forever," said the narrow-eyed young man, fresh from a six-month stint at the juvenile lockup Maple Lane, where he served time for robbery and assault. "Grew up with it from like when I was a baby."

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August 14, 2008 in Gang Violence | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

In Ohio, Inmate Mothers Care For Babies In Prison

Ohio200 Morning Edition, August 13, 2008 · At the Ohio Reformatory for Women, a dozen babies are spending time behind bars. Too young to say the word "crime," they are participants in a program that enables inmate mothers to raise their children in their cells.

The program is one of many across the country designed to meet the unique needs of mothers who are locked up. Women are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. prison population. At the Ohio Reformatory, the warden estimates that 75 percent of the 2,300 inmates housed there are mothers.

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August 14, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

ST. JOHN’S UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW seeks outstanding entry-level and lateral candidates

ST. JOHN’S UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW seeks outstanding entry-level and lateral candidates for tenure-track positions to begin in the 2009 academic year, with specific opportunities available in Administrative Law, Bankruptcy, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and Professional Responsibility.   The




also seeks candidates for Director of its new Community Economic Development Clinic; depending upon candidates’ availability, this position may be filled prior to the 2009 academic year.  Entry-level candidates must have excellent academic records and demonstrate a strong commitment to scholarship.  Lateral candidates must be accomplished scholars and strong classroom teachers.  The




is part of

St. John’s


, a Catholic, Vincentian, and metropolitan institution committed to academic excellence.  As an Equal Opportunity Employer,

St. John’s

encourages applications from women and minorities.  Applicants should submit a cover letter, curriculum vitae, writing sample, the names of three references, and teaching evaluations (if available). Contact: Professor Mark L. Movsesian, St. John’s University School of Law, 8000 Utopia Parkway, Queens NY 11439; e-mail responses should go to

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August 14, 2008 in Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Man imprisoned 17 years freed after DNA test

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A man who spent more than 17 years in prison on a charge of raping a girl was freed Monday after a lab re-examining cases across Ohio showed that his DNA profile didn't match evidence from the crime scene.

Robert McClendon, 52, was released by Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Charles Schneider, who cited the DNA test.

"You know, you go through times where you feel it might not happen, but you never, ever give up hope," McClendon said after his release. "You don't ever use the word, 'never happen.' It's not healthy."

Jennifer Bergeron, a lawyer with the Ohio Innocence Project, said she expects prosecutors to formally drop charges against McClendon within the next two weeks.

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August 12, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

F.B.I.’s Use of Phone Records Shows Need to Protect the Press, Senators Say

WASHINGTON — Two leading senators said Monday that they were troubled by the F.B.I.’s collection of the phone records of four reporters at The New York Times and The Washington Post and that the episode showed a “pressing need” for legislation pending in the Senate that would provide greater legal protection for journalists.

Last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation disclosed to the two newspapers that it had improperly obtained the phone records of reporters in their Indonesian bureaus in 2004 by using emergency records demands from telephone providers as part of an investigation. Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the bureau, made personal calls to Bill Keller, executive editor of The Times, and Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor of The Post, to apologize.

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August 12, 2008 in DOJ News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Race sometimes a problem in eyewitness IDs

NEW YORK In the midst of being raped, Jennifer Thompson-Cannino told herself to pay attention to details that would allow her to identify her attacker.

She was able to give police in North Carolina a description that led to a sketch of the suspect. Then she identified a man from photographs, picked him out of a lineup and told jurors she was certain he was the rapist.

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August 12, 2008 in Race | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NYC Plans Extensive Surveillance of All Vehicles Entering Manhattan

The Police Department is working on a plan to track every vehicle that enters Manhattan to strengthen the city’s guard against a potential terror attack, the department’s chief spokesman said.

The proposal — called Operation Sentinel — relies on integrating layers of technologies, some that are still being perfected. It calls for photographing, and scanning the license plates of, cars and trucks at all bridges and tunnels and using sensors to detect the presence of radioactivity.

Data on each vehicle — its time-stamped image, license plate imprint and radiological signature — would be sent to a command center in Lower Manhattan, where it would be indexed and stored for at least a month as part of a broad security plan that emphasizes protecting the city’s financial district, the spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said. If it were not linked to a suspicious vehicle or a law enforcement investigation, it would be eliminated, he said.

“Our main objective would be to, through intelligence, find out about a plot before it ever got to a stage where a nuclear device or a dirty bomb was coming our way,” Mr. Browne said. “This provides for our defense after a plot has already been launched and a device is on its way.”

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August 12, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, Homeland Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

No Criminal Charges in DOJ Hiring Scandal

Attorney General Michael Mukasey on Tuesday rejected the idea of criminally prosecuting former Justice Department employees who improperly used political litmus tests in hiring decisions, saying he had already taken strong internal steps in response to a “painful” episode.

Two recent reports from the Justice Department inspector general and its internal ethics office have found that about a half-dozen officials at the Justice Department — all but one now gone — systematically rejected candidates with perceived “liberal” backgrounds for what were supposed to be non-political jobs and sought out conservative Republicans.

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August 12, 2008 in Criminal Law, DOJ News, Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Robert McClendon Says Hello to Freedom

Dna_free_man Shortly after sunrise, the inmates in the stark prison yard cheered wildly and pumped their fists for Robert McClendon as he took his final steps toward freedom.

The Columbus man grinned as he walked past the concrete-block walls and curls of barbed wire, no longer condemned for a child rape that DNA shows he didn't commit.

Still, there would be a full day of paperwork and technicalities before the 52-year-old was released from handcuffs and leg shackles.

Grandchildren and a throng of family members and supporters nearly tackled him when he finally appeared -- a free man after 18 years -- in a back entrance of the Downtown county jail at 5 p.m.

"I'm just glad to be here with my family, who's supported me all these years," McClendon said. Of the time lost, he added: "You can't make it up. All you can do is move forward."

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August 12, 2008 in New Article Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

There's No Party Like Ex Parte

[From Ian Weinstein] Several weeks ago I blogged about this very moving account of the huge and badly conceived immigration raid at the Iowa meatpacking plant, written by Dr. Erik Camayd-Freixas, an interpreter who was called to service as folks were processed through the system.  Now the New York Times reports these facts, from which I infer that the court was in cahoots with the prosecutor. It seems the Government scripted all the court apperances in advance, down to advice from the bench and plea allocutions.  The Court had prior knowledge and made generous use of the materials provided.

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August 12, 2008 in Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Salim Hamdan: Score One For The Jury System But The Rule Of Law Still Needs A Big Comeback

[From Ian Weinstein]The case of Salim Hamdan has been on my mind all week. I share the wonder at the jury’s rejection of the more serious conspiracy charge and its imposition of a rather modest sentence but I don’t want to romanticize the Hamdan jury or result. I think history will come to regard this case as emblematic of our era's signal failure of law.  This military jury, however, gave the government a nice shove. Their final and unreviewable judgment rejecting some of the charges reflects the real power vested in American jurors. Although the mixed verdict introduced a note of ambiguity, the result is still a testament to the institution of the jury and to these jurors’ courage and clear sightedness.

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August 12, 2008 in Homeland Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

North Carolina improves exoneree compensation

Dail North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley this week signed a bill greatly improving the compensation and services the state provides to the wrongfully convicted after their release. The new law, effective immediately, increases the compensation paid to the exonerated from $20,000 per year served to $50,000 per year. The maximum payment is $750,000. The new law also provides job training and free tuition to state colleges and universities.

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

In cases of justice gone wrong, Dallas is willing to make it right

Steven Charles Phillips walked out of the courthouse this week in what has become something of a familiar ritual, even a cliché.

A wrongfully convicted man free at last, surrounded by joyful, tearful relatives – a mother grown old, children grown to adulthood. The obligatory what-will-you-do-first questions and the sweetly sentimental answers about fishing or home cooking or playing with the grandkids. The corny jokes about getting used to cellphones and the Internet.

Yet the atmosphere is heavy with the awful, nearly visceral horror of undeserved imprisonment. The story evokes the gothic misery of a real-life Count of Monte Cristo or the Dickensian sorrow of Alexandre Manette, whose lost years in the Bastille set the stage for A Tale of Two Cities.

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August 10, 2008 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

DNA not kept in half of states

Half the states lack requirements to preserve DNA evidence, despite a series of dramatic exonerations based on the critical biological material.

Supporters of retaining DNA evidence point to a growing list of wrongly convicted prisoners who have been freed. But some prosecutors and lawmakers cite concerns ranging from cost to expanding DNA collections from individuals who have never been convicted of crimes.

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August 10, 2008 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bridget M. McCormack Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs Michigan Law School

Bridgetm Bridget M. McCormack, who is the associate dean for clinical affairs, is also a clinical professor with the Michigan Clinical Law Program teaching a criminal defense clinic, a domestic violence clinic, and a pediatric advocacy clinic. Before joining the faculty, McCormack was a Robert M. Cover Fellow at Yale Law School. As a Cover Fellow, she taught and supervised students in the Community Legal Services Clinic and the Prison Litigation Clinic. McCormack earned her law degree from New York University School of Law where she was a Root-Tilden scholar, and her B.A., with honors in political science and philosophy, from Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. She has worked as a staff attorney with the Office of the Appellate Defender and she was a senior trial attorney with the Criminal Defense Division of the Legal Aid Society, both in New York City. McCormack has been published in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review and wrote, with Andrea Lyon, the Criminal Defense Motions Book for the State Appellate Defender’s Office. McCormack’s current clinical practice, as well as her research and scholarship, focuses on criminal charging issues, specifically the issues surrounding women charged with crimes against their partners and issues surrounding terrorism prosecutions. [Mark Godsey]

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Law School develops collaborative pediatric advocacy clinic
The University Record

August 10, 2008 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)