CrimProf Blog

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

Friday, September 5, 2008

Impeachable Offenses?: Why Civil Parties in Quasi-Criminal Cases Should Be Treated Like Criminal Defendants Under the Felony Impeachment Rule

Colin Miller
John Marshall Law School

With one exception, every Federal Rule of Evidence dealing with propensity character evidence or evidence which can be misused as propensity character evidence makes it either: (a) as difficult to admit such evidence in civil trials as it is in criminal trials, or (b) more difficult to admit such evidence in civil trials than it is in criminal trials. The "mercy rule" falls into this latter category as it allows criminal defendants to inject the issue of character into their trials while a similar luxury is not afforded to civil parties. Before 2006, however, a substantial minority of courts extended the "mercy rule" to civil parties in quasi-criminal cases because they were in most respects similar to criminal cases. Congress finally shut the door to this practice based upon the serious risks of prejudice, confusion, and delay that propensity character evidence engenders.

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

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Democratic and Republican Party Platforms Address Crime

As part of the presidential nominating process, the Democratic and Republican parties have ratified their party platforms, laying out for the electorate their priorities and vision for the country. Overall, the 94 page Democratic platform document puts a heavy emphasis on economic opportunity, American competitiveness, national security and "renewing" the "American Community" and "American Democracy", which includes issues of environmental stewardship, immigration, children, fatherhood and families, criminal justice and more. The 67 page Republican platform document focuses heavily on defense and foreign affairs, reforming government and controlling spending, tax policy, health care reform, education, energy independence and security, and "Protecting Our Families," which includes issues of criminal justice, sanctity of life and property rights.

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September 4, 2008 in Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Report: US drug use shows little change in 2007

WASHINGTON -- Cocaine and methamphetamine use among young adults declined significantly last year as supplies dried up, leading to higher prices and reduced purity, the government reports. Overall use of illicit drugs showed little change.

About one in five young adults last year acknowledged illicit drug use within the previous month, a rate similar to previous years. But cocaine use declined by one-quarter and methamphetamine use by one-third.

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September 4, 2008 in Drugs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Utah has high reported-rape rate, but most victims silent

Utah's reported-rape rate - already higher than the national average - drastically underestimates the actual incidence of rape, a new report indicates.
    In a 2007 phone survey of more than 1,800 women, nearly 13 percent said they had been forcibly raped in their lifetimes, according to a report released Wednesday by the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. An additional 16 percent were sexually assaulted in other ways, such as child molestation, drug-facilitated rape and attempted rape.

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September 4, 2008 in Sex | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Improving Responses to People with Mental Illnesses

Law enforcement officers throughout the country

regularly respond to calls for service that involve

people with mental illnesses—often without

needed supports, resources, or specialized training

These encounters can have significant consequences

for the officers, people with mental

illnesses and their loved ones, the community, and

the criminal justice system.


Law enforcement officers throughout the country

regularly respond to calls for service that involve

people with mental illnesses—often without

needed supports, resources, or specialized training.

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September 3, 2008 in Mentally Ill | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Students free life-term prisoner

Brennan_michael_115x163 The Post-Conviction Justice Project at USC Law recently prevailed in a defining case for the California parole system for long-time client Sandra Davis-Lawrence.

USC Law students argued – and the California Supreme Court agreed – that a life-term prisoner is entitled to be granted parole once the prisoner no longer poses a danger to the community. The Court rejected the Governor’s reversal of the parole commission’s grant of parole based solely on the circumstances of Sandra Davis-Lawrence’s 1971 commitment offense (first-degree murder), holding that the reversal violated her due process rights.

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

Miami judge rules poor defense caseload crushing

Circuit Judge Stanford Blake found that Public Defender Bennett Brummer's office has absorbed 12.6 percent in budget cuts over the last two years, while its criminal caseload has rocketed by 29 percent since 2004.

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September 3, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Report Faults Handling of Wiretap Notes


Former attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales improperly handled classified information about some of the government's most sensitive national security programs, but authorities will not recommend that he face criminal sanctions, according to officials familiar with an investigative report to be released today.

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September 2, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Program gives inmates chance to stay clean

TRENTON - New Jersey is in the midst of an ambitious pilot program to find out what combination of services works best at keeping ex-inmates from returning to state prisons.

The $2 million program, called Another Chance, is part of the state's stepped-up effort to lessen the percentage of ex-cons who re-enter state prison. It's also a key component of Gov. Corzine's strategy to combat gang and gun violence.

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September 2, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

State Supreme Court to look at 'no-retreat' self-defense law

FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Supreme Court plans to review two cases involving the state's new self-defense law that allows people to shoot dangerous home invaders without fear of prosecution.

The National Rifle Association had championed the measure enacted in 2006, saying it simply codified a rule of law already observed by judges in Kentucky and elsewhere: That people have a right to use deadly force to defend themselves and their families when their lives are in danger.

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September 2, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"Preppy Killer" Sentenced to 19 Years on Drug Charges

Amd_robert_chambersPreppie killer Robert Chambers was sentenced today to 19 years in prison for drug-dealing - more time than he got for strangling Jennifer Levin in 1986.

The 42-year-old prep school grad agreed to the long stretch as part of a plea bargain that allowed him to avoid a life sentence.

The hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court was a brief, cut-and-dried affair.

His hands cuffed, a jean-clad Chambers showed little emotion except to smirk at girlfriend Shawn Kovell, who was sitting in the audience with his father.

Kovell's presence caused a stir in the courthouse and a threat by prosecutors to put her behind bars.

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September 2, 2008 in Criminal Law, Drugs, News, Sentencing Corrections | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Criminal Law, Public Health and HIV Transmission

A number of cases have been reported in which people living with HIV have been

criminally charged for a variety of acts that transmit HIV or risk transmission. In some cases,

criminal charges have been laid for conduct that is merely perceived as risking transmission,

sometimes with very harsh penalties imposed. Some jurisdictions have moved to enact or

amend legislation specifically to address such conduct. The issue has also received public

and academic commentary.

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

Gonzales aides politicized hirings, investigators find

Art_goodling_file_gi WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Aides to then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales improperly considered political affiliations and ideologies in hiring, but Gonzales was unaware of those actions, according to results of an investigation released Monday by the Justice Department internal watchdog.

The report provides no indication criminal laws were violated but cites illegal civil actions involving discrimination in hiring. Investigators, however, said no penalties are likely because the aides no longer work for the Justice Department.

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

New DTA, habeas troubles

The Justice Department, frustrated in its ability to get free of one level of court review of Guantanamo Bay detainee cases, and unable at the other level to keep to is own schedule for turning out reports to justify detention, has taken two significant steps to try to cope.  It has vowed to shut down its part in the D.C. Circuit Court’s review of detainee challenges under the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, and it has formally asked for more time to file in District Court its answers to challenges pending there under the Supreme Court’s Boumediene v. Bush decision.

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

Petition Preview: Enya, the Death Penalty, and Video Victim Impact Evidence

Nearly two decades ago, in Payne v. Tennessee (1991), the Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment did not bar the introduction of “victim impact evidence” at the penalty phase of capital trials. The Court held that just as the Constitution gave defendants the right to present evidence designed to avoid imposition of the death penalty, it did not forbid testimony designed to show the victim was a unique human being whose loss left an impact on the survivors and society at large.

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September 1, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

California prisons prepare for gay weddings

No prisoners so far have sought to arrange weddings with same-sex partners since the state Supreme Court granted same-sex couples the right to wed as of mid-June, according to Michele Kane, spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Nonetheless, department lawyers are drafting guidelines to bring the state's 33 adult prisons into compliance with the court's ruling that same-sex couples must be treated the same as opposite-sex couples under the California Constitution, Kane said.

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August 31, 2008 in Civil Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Were Estefano jurors under the `CSI Effect'?

Estefano Jurors in the trial of the man accused of shooting songwriter Estefano say prosecutors did not show enough evidence to prove their case.

When Latin songwriter Estefano testified against the handyman accused of shooting him, it wasn't that his story was so unbelievable.

Jurors just wanted more.

That's according to two jurors who acquitted Francisco Oliveira Jr. of shooting Fabio ''Estefano'' Salgado.

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August 31, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sex assaults that leave victims pregnant can warrant tougher penalties, court rules

A sexual assault that leaves a victim pregnant may be punished more severely than one that does not result in pregnancy, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday.

The state high court said a pregnancy may be considered "great bodily injury."

"We conclude that here, based solely on the evidence of the pregnancy, the jury could reasonably have found that 13-year-old K. suffered a significant or substantial physical injury," Justice Joyce L. Kennard wrote for the court.

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August 31, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)