Saturday, August 23, 2008
Cooper K. Ragan Regents Professor
JD 1988, Harvard
BA 1984, Wesleyan University
Professor Steiker joined the faculty in 1990 after serving as a law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court. He teaches constitutional law, criminal law, and death penalty law, and is Co-Director of the law school’s Capital Punishment Center. He was a visiting professor at the Harvard Law School and has written extensively on constitutional law, federal habeas corpus, and the death penalty. Some of his recent publications include: A Tale of Two Nations: Implementation of the Death Penalty in ‘Executing’ Versus ‘Symbolic’ States in the United States, (Texas Law Review 2006) (with Carol Steiker); The Seduction of Innocence: The Attraction and Limitations of the Focus on Innocence in Capital Punishment Law and Advocacy (Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology 2005) (with Carol Steiker); Habeas Exceptionalism, (Texas Law Review, 2000); Restructuring Post-Conviction Review of Federal Claims Raised by State Prisoners: Confronting the New Face of Excessive Proceduralism, (Chicago Legal Forum, 1998); The Limits of Legal Language: Decisionmaking in Capital Cases (Michigan Law Review, 1996); and Sober Second Thoughts: Reflections on Two Decades of Constitutional Regulation of Capital Punishment, (Harvard Law Review, 1995) (with Carol Steiker). [Mark Godsey]
Friday, August 22, 2008
Acknowledging that racial profiling exists among some LAPD officers but is almost impossible to prove, the Los Angeles Police Commission ordered the department on Tuesday to create a mediation process that allows citizens to confront cops they accuse of targeting them because of their race.
The commission also demanded that the independent inspector general audit the department's investigations into complaints of profiling - none of which has ever been found true.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Framing matters, especially when it comes to news. And today we witnessed a very interesting framing strategy on the education front. A national organization called Fight Crime: Invest in Kids is pushing a new study showing that a ten percent increase in the number of high schoolers earning their degrees will cut 3,000 murders and 175,000 murders in the United States. And how do we spike those graduation rates? Bigger investments in pre-K programs, of course. There isn't much news here - except perhaps the sophisticated political tactics which yielded "local" coverage of the story in Philly, Knoxville, Birmingham, and Lansing, among other places. (The organization seems to have a state-by-state approach to both research and advocacy.)
Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran walked into the county jail in Waukegan on Wednesday wearing a gray suit and necktie, but before long he changed into the outfit he'll wear for the next week: a navy blue inmate uniform and a pair of ill-fitting, plastic jail slippers.
"It's somewhat surreal," said Curran, who was elected to his post in 2006 after stints as a county, state and federal prosecutor.
Baltimore crime analysts have been contaminating evidence with their own DNA - a revelation that led to the dismissal this week of the city Police Department's crime lab director and prompted questions yesterday from defense attorneys and forensic experts about the professionalism of the state's biggest and busiest crime lab.
Edgar Koch, who had been the city lab's director for the past decade, was fired Tuesday because of the DNA contamination and other "operational issues," said police spokesman Sterling Clifford.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Wisconsin’s tough-on-crime policy of placing 17-year-old criminal offenders in adult court is a failed experiment that only increases the likelihood the teens will commit more crimes, according to a study released Tuesday.
The study by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families also finds racial bias in the policy's implementation, citing statistics showing that African-American youth are far more likely to be incarcerated than white youths.
Many former felons don't know they can vote in Texas.
That's why Steve Huerta visits jails, telling visitors the laws have changed.
“We don't want more people to necessarily vote Democrat or Republican. We want them to vote the way their heart tells them to vote,” Huerta said while handing out literature Saturday in the lobby of the Bexar County Detention Center.
Huerta, a former felon, is an advocate for those who have served time and are trying to reintegrate into society. While employment, food and housing are major hurdles, regaining the right to vote can be a big first step, he said.
Garcia, 38, is among thousands of prisoners at more than 20 federal facilities where inmates now have inboxes. By the spring of 2011, all 114 U.S. prisons are expected to have e-mail available for inmates.
The program, started several years ago, has reduced the amount of old-fashioned paper mail that can sometimes hide drugs and other contraband. Just as important, officials say, e-mail helps prisoners connect regularly with their families and build skills they can use when they return to the community.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Tennessee's failure to include sex offenses by juveniles on its public sex offender registry could start costing the state federal money in 2009.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm said the agency is going to "wholeheartedly push" to have the legislature change the sex registry law to include offenses by juveniles.
The federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 includes a 10 percent reduction in federal law enforcement funding to states that fail to comply with the law by July 2009.
The law allows two annual extensions for states that show significant movement toward including juveniles in public sex offender registries.
At the end of the Black Hat hacker convention in Las Vegas this month, James Finch, head of the FBI's Cyber Division, sat down for an interview about crime and the Internet. About 4,000 people gathered at the annual convention to hear about research on the latest network and computer or electronic-device security vulnerabilities.
The FBI's Cyber Division is responsible for investigating high-tech crimes, including computer and network intrusions and child pornography cases. Each of the FBI's 56 field offices has a cyber squad, which pulls from a pool of 500 to 600 agents specializing in the area. According to an FBI spokesman, there are currently about 50 FBI-led cybercrime task forces across the country working cases with state and local authorities and with investigators from other law enforcement agencies.
College presidents from about 100 of the nation's best-known universities, including Duke, Dartmouth and Ohio State, are calling on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18, saying current laws actually encourage dangerous binge drinking on campus.
The movement called the Amethyst Initiative began quietly recruiting presidents more than a year ago to provoke national debate about the drinking age.
"This is a law that is routinely evaded," said John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont who started the organization. "It is a law that the people at whom it is directed believe is unjust and unfair and discriminatory."
In what appears to be the first federal circuit court ruling addressing the constitutionality of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit decided July 31 that the provision of the act that makes it a crime to travel interstate and fail to register as a sex offender does not constitute an ex post facto law as applied to those convicted of a sex crime prior to its enactment. Further, the statute does not exceed Congress's power under the commerce clause, the court held (United States v. May, 8th Cir., No. 07-3515, 7/31/08).
Along the way, the court rejected the defendant's statutory argument that SORNA did not apply to him because the interstate travel underlying the charge against him took place before the attorney general issued a directive making the act retroactively applicable.
Monday, August 18, 2008
HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Wanted: Convicted felons with good behavior, for part-time jobs making Big House products at state prison workshops. Opportunities available in printing, textiles and soap making. Salary range -- 19 to 42 cents per hour, with bonuses up to 70 cents an hour for good work.
License plate makers need not apply, at least not here at State Correctional Institution Huntingdon.
The Justice Department has proposed a new domestic spying measure that would make it easier for state and local police to collect intelligence about Americans, share the sensitive data with federal agencies and retain it for at least 10 years.
The proposed changes would revise the federal government's rules for police intelligence-gathering for the first time since 1993 and would apply to any of the nation's 18,000 state and local police agencies that receive roughly $1.6 billion each year in federal grants.
After Eva King Jones, 88, was raped and killed in her small-town Virginia home, a local man was accused and convicted. Now, 33 years later, police say newly discovered DNA evidence has led to the arrest of someone else.
In most instances, the decades-old case would have remained tucked away on a courthouse shelf. But Virginia State Police recently reopened the investigation based on new genetic clues uncovered during the state's unprecedented effort to use modern-day technology to find, and exonerate, innocent people.
Chante Wright was set to testify against a career criminal when she was gunned down on the streets of Philadelphia in January. Investigators believe it was a hit ordered from prison, by an inmate using a cell phone.
Authorities across the country are trying to prevent similar crimes from occurring.
"We owe it to the victims to not allow inmates to continue to run their enterprises from behind our bars," says Maj. Pete Anderson, who commands a canine unit that sniffs out cell phones inside Maryland prisons.
Cell phones have become the hottest contraband in prisons these days, authorities say. For $400 a pop, the phones can be used to run criminal enterprises, plan escapes and arrange for other illegal items such as drugs to be brought in.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Nevada is once again in the bottom tier of progressive thinking.
A recent USA Today story identified the Silver State as among 25 in the country that lack requirements to preserve DNA evidence. This, despite a number of dramatic exonerations based on the critical biological material, the story said.
The Innocence Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to freeing wrongly convicted people through DNA testing, claims that since 1991, 218 defendants convicted of serious crimes of violence such as some form of sexual assault or involvement in a murder, were exonerated by DNA. Some had been on death row.
DNA evidence, however, can be a double-edged sword, assuring the convictions of those who have committed heinous offenses.
Judge Denver D. Dillard was trying to decide whether a slow-witted Iowa man accused of acting as a drug mule was competent to stand trial. But the conclusions of the two psychologists who gave expert testimony in the case, Judge Dillard said, were “polar opposites.”
One expert, who had been testifying for defendants for 20 years, said the accused, Timothy M. Wilkins, was mentally retarded, had a verbal I.Q. of 58 and did not understand the proceedings.
The prosecution expert, who had testified for the state more than 200 times, said that Mr. Wilkins’s verbal I.Q. was 88, far above the usual cutoffs for mental retardation, and that he was competent to stand trial.
Last week, the state of Mississippi terminated its 20-year relationship with medical examiner Dr. Steven Hayne. Hayne has come under fire from fellow medical examiners, criminal justice groups like the Innocence Project, and one of the authors of this article for his impossible workload, sloppy procedures, and questionable court testimony. In the early 1990s, Hayne and his frequent collaborator, now-disgraced forensic odontologist Dr. Michael West, helped secure murder convictions for Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks, both later proven innocent through DNA testing. The two were released from prison earlier this year.
Angela J. Davis, professor of law at AU's Washington College of Law, is an expert in criminal law and procedure with a specific focus on prosecutorial power and racism in the criminal justice system. Davis previously served as director of the D.C. Public Defender Service, where she began as a staff attorney representing indigent juveniles and adults. She also served as executive director of the National Rainbow Coalition and is a former law clerk of the Honorable Theodore R. Newman, the former Chief Judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals. Davis is the author of Arbitrary Justice: The Power of the American Prosecutor (Oxford University Press 2007). She is also the co-editor (with Professor Michael E. Tigar) of Trial Stories (Foundation Press 2007) and the 4th edition of Basic Criminal Procedure (Thomas West 2005) (with Professors Stephen Saltzburg and Daniel Capra). Davis' other scholarly publications include “Benign Neglect of Race Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System,” in the Michigan Law Review; “Race, Cops, and Traffic Stops,” in the Miami University Law Review; and "The American Prosecutor: Independence, Power, and the Threat of Tyranny," in the Iowa Law Review. Davis won the Pauline Ruyle Moore award for her Fordham Law Review article, "Prosecution and Race: The Power and Privilege of Discretion,” which has been re-printed in part in several books. Davis was awarded a Soros Senior Justice Fellowship in 2003.
Davis is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Peter M. Cicchino Social Justice Foundation, the Frederick Douglas Jordan Scholarship Board, the Southern Center for Human Rights, and the Sentencing Project. She was a reporter for the ABA Justice Kennedy Commission and is a member of the ABA Commission for Effective Criminal Sanctions. Davis also serves as a member of the Advisory Board for the Vera Institute of Justice Prosecution and Racial Justice Project. She teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Criminal Defense: Theory and Practice. Davis won the American University Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching in a Full-Time Appointment in 2002.
For more information about Professor Davis' book Arbitrary Justice: The Power of the American Prosecutor, visit www.arbitraryjustice.com. [Mark Godsey]