September 13, 2008
Professor Etienne University of Illinois College of Law
Professor Etienne received her bachelor's degree in History with honors from Yale University, and earned her law degree from Yale Law School. Following law school, Etienne clerked for Judge Diana G. Motz on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Before joining the faculty, she practiced criminal law in state and federal courts for several years.
Her select publications include "Understanding Parity As A First principle of Sentencing" (58 Stanford L. Rev., 2006); "The Ethics of Cause Lawyering: An Empirical Examination of Criminal Defense Lawyers as Cause Lawyers" (95 J. Crim. L. & Criminology, 2005); "The Declining Utility of the Right to Counsel in Federal Court: An Empirical Study on the Role of Defense Attorney Advocacy Under the Sentencing Guidelines" (92 California Law Review, 2004); "Remorse, Responsibility, and Regulating Advocacy: Making Defendants Pay for the Sins of Their Lawyers" (78 New York University Law Review, 2003). Her article, "Addressing Gender Based Violence in an International Context," appeared in 18 Harvard Women's Law Journal 139 (1995).
In 2004, Professor Etienne was awarded a Fulbright Grant to conduct judicial training on white collar crime in Senegal. She has made presentations at Stanford law School, the University of Chicago Law School, Northwestern University Law School, Yale Law School, University of Illinois College of Law, Fordham Law School, University of Oregon Law School, Notre Dame Law School and the American Bar Foundation. Professor Etienne was a Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago Law School during the 2007-2008 academic year. She is an Executive Board member of the AALS Section on Professional Responsibility.
ROBERT BADINTER in conversation with NEAL KATYAL
Robert Badinter, the French Minister of Justice between 1981 and 1986, led the battle to abolish the death penalty in France. He became a militant abolitionist after watching one of his clients unjustly guillotined in 1972. Over the next decade, he fought the death penalty in the courts and saved six men from the guillotine. After the election of François Mitterrand in 1981, Badinter was named Minister of Justice and pushed through the legislation that abolished the death penalty.
Badinter's book, Abolition: One Man's Battle Against the Death Penalty, serves as a guidebook on the various legal and political strategies that can be used in the quest for abolition. With U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Badinter recently co-authored a book on the role of judges.
In a discussion about the death penalty, Badinter will be joined by Neal Katyal who recently won Hamdan v. Rumsfeld in the United States Supreme Court and who in July of this year agreed to serve as lead counsel for the State of Louisiana in asking the United States Supreme Court to reconsider its June decision abolishing the use of the death penalty for child rapists. Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, will introduce the evening. He has written the forward for Badinter's book, Abolition.
September 11, 2008
Juvenile program 'a place of last resort,' not rehabilitation
Hennepin County is spending too much on residential treatment programs for juvenile offenders and could save money and get better results by leaving more young offenders with their families and placing them in daytime rehabilitation programs.
That's the finding of a study group made up of judges and corrections officials who recommend overhauling programs at the Hennepin County Home School.
Programs cost too much, last too long and do not address family issues once young people are released, the group said in a report to the Hennepin County Board.
"The home school has become ... a place of last resort for juveniles we don't know what to do with," Tom Merkel, county director of community corrections and rehabilitation, told the County Board this week.
Merkel said the study group "seriously considered" closing the home school, but decided it was ideal for new, shorter residence programs and day treatment for juvenile offenders.
County commissioners, whose concerns over the county home school spurred the study, expressed frustration at lack of progress on reshaping the school and reining in costs. For too long Hennepin has rested on its reputation as an innovator, some commissioners said. The report indicates counties such as Dakota, Ramsey and Washington have more effective programs for juvenile offenders. [Mark Godsey]
‘Governing Through Crime’
Rehearsing again the grim statistics of American crime and punishment is depressing. The Pew Center on the States reminds us that one in every hundred American is behind bars, a rate of incarceration far greater than in other developed countries. Incarceration is notably skewed along racial lines — one in nine black men aged 20 to 34 is serving time, as is one in 36 adult Hispanic men. Recent reports by the Sentencing Project and Human Rights Watch show that, despite roughly equal rates of illegal drug use by race, black men are 12 times more likely than white men to be imprisoned for it. Although African-Americans make up 12 percent of the American population, they make up over 40 percent of the jail and prison populations.
Much of growth of the prison population can be traced to drug policy and the implantation of that policy. Between 1980 and 2006, drug arrests increased from 580,000 to 1.85 million, with 80 percent of those arrests for possession rather than sale. Of those arrested for possession, just under half were arrested for the possession of marijuana.
The costs of the American penal system are astonishing. In the past 20 years, state prison costs have jumped from about $12 billion to just under $50 billion. At current projections, they are slated to grow to $75 billion by 2011. On average, almost 7 percent of state budgets now goes to support their penal systems. This growth in spending has crowded out other priorities. [Mark Godsey]
Public defenders reject new cases
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that poor people charged with a crime have a right to a lawyer. In most states, taxpayers fund a public defenders' office that handles cases of people who cannot afford a private attorney. The American Bar Association cites studies saying a public defender can competently handle 150 to 200 cases a year.
The growing caseloads could force states to spend more money on public defenders, delay trials or lead to overturned convictions because of inadequate counsel.
"Many public defenders are feeling the squeeze at this point," says Maureen Dimino of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. She has heard from public defenders in more than a half-dozen states who are considering challenging their growing caseloads in court.
Miami-Dade County Public Defender Bennett Brummer sued Florida in June after the Legislature cut his budget 9%. He said his lawyers, who each handle an average of 436 cases a year, could not take any new clients charged with felonies without being in danger of committing malpractice.
A Miami judge ruled last week that starting Sept. 15, Brummer can send his least serious felony cases to the state, which will have to provide attorneys or pay for private lawyers for poor defendants.
The ruling, which effects thousands of felonies, "will have statewide and some nationwide impact," Brummer says. "Many defenders would like to take meaningful steps to alleviate their caseloads."
Attorneys for the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office are appealing, saying Brummer is exaggerating the caseload. The public defenders are compromising victims' rights by withdrawing, spokesman Ed Griffith says. If a defendant does not get a trial within a set amount of time, a judge is obligated to set the defendant free "to the detriment of all the citizens," he says.
Other state public defenders offices taking action:
• Kentucky's former public advocate Ernie Lewis, who retired last month, has asked a judge to declare his office underfunded so it can refuse misdemeanor cases.
Lewis says his attorneys' caseloads could top 500 each this year because budget cuts forced him to keep nearly 100 positions open. "It's very clear to me that our caseload would be unethical," he says. [Mark Godsey]
Banks to Blame for Surge in Bank Robberies?
Bank robberies are up 50% this year, and the NYPD says it's the banks' fault, the Daily News has learned.
The number of bank jobs hit 265 by Sept. 2, compared with 177 by the same time last year.
Police say the problem isn't that crooks are working harder - it's that banks aren't doing enough to protect their money.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly is expected to call in bank execs in the coming weeks to press them to shore up security at local branches, top brass and officers in the city's bank robbery squads told The News.
"The new thing with banks is to be 'friendly' to customers. Branches look like lounges - no glass partitions, no security guards," said a police source who investigates bank robberies.
"They are 'friendly,' all right - 'friendly' to thugs who 'withdraw' other people's money."
The NYPD held a similar security bank summit in 2003 and asked banks to follow 14 "best practices," from the use of digital cameras and exploding dye packs to bulletproof bandit-barriers for tellers' booths.
Bank robberies dropped dramatically, from 408 in 2003 to a low of 229 in 2005.
Since then, the crooks - often career criminals who averaged about $4,800 per heist - seem to have regained the upper hand.
"There's a concern that adherence to best practices has slipped, and that it's reflected in the increase," Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said. He wouldn't discuss specific banks.
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
September 10, 2008
Execution halted amid rumors of affair between judge, D.A.
McKINNEY, Texas (AP) -- A death row inmate whose lawyers argued a secret romantic relationship between the judge and prosecutor tainted his trial has won a reprieve -- but not because of the alleged affair.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals postponed Charles Dean Hood's execution, scheduled for Wednesday, because it wanted to reconsider whether the jury instructions were flawed.
At the same time, the court dismissed claims Hood's attorneys filed that he was denied a fair trial because of what would be a legally unethical relationship between retired Judge Verla Sue Holland and former Collin County District Attorney Tom O'Connell.
The reprieve came around the time Hood's lawyers sent Gov. Rick Perry a letter saying that Holland and O'Connell "admitted under oath that they had an intimate sexual relationship for many years."
"The intimate sexual relationship between the judge and the district attorney began several years prior to the trial of Mr. Hood," lawyer Greg Wiercioch said in his letter to the governor re-emphasizing his earlier petition for a 30-day reprieve.
"While Mr. O'Connell and Judge Holland have different recollections as to when the affair ceased containing an intimate sexual component, there is no doubt that the relationship was sexual in the years immediately leading up to the time that Judge Holland had jurisdiction over the case." [Mark Godsey]
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says summer anti-gang programs decreased violence
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday credited a new summertime anti-gang program, which included special community events and extended nighttime hours at eight city parks, with a measurable drop in crime in some of the city's most violent neighborhoods.
Between the Fourth of July and Labor Day, the Summer Night Lights program offered special movie nights and other youth- and family-oriented events until midnight four nights a week, during peak time for gang activity and other juvenile-related crime.
"Regardless of where you live, the color of your skin, we all want pretty much the same thing. We want to live, work and play in a safe community free of gang violence," Villaraigosa said at a news conference Monday at the city's Jim Gilliam Park in Baldwin Village.
The mayor emphasized that the drop in crime came during the summer months, when the school break would usually lead to an uptick of criminal activity.
Citywide, Los Angeles has seen an overall drop in crime and during the summer had the fewest number of homicides in more than four decades. From June through August, there were 84 homicides in Los Angeles, the lowest number since 1967 when there were 79 during the same period. [Mark Godsey]
1 jail cell. 2 inmates. 1 is killed. No one charged?
Last year, when he was locked up in Cook County Jail for possessing cocaine and violating probation, his frustrated family chose not to bail him out, thinking he was better off where he could not abuse drugs or alcohol.
That proved to be a fatal mistake.
On June 26, 2007, his 25th birthday, Lambert was found unconscious in his cell with massive head injuries. After he died 12 days later, a pathologist concluded that Lambert had been beaten to death.
"It's a homicide," Mitra Kalelkar, the deputy chief medical examiner who conducted the autopsy, said in an interview.
The investigation would seem to be straightforward—Lambert had a lone cellmate the night of his fatal injuries.
But the cellmate, David Jamison, told investigators that Lambert sustained the injuries when he fell from the top bunk in their cell.
More than a year later, no one has been charged in his slaying.
"You know what it feels like to know that if you could have bailed him out, he would be alive?" said Lambert's sister, Heather Brenka, her voice cracking with emotion.
Lambert's death was among numerous examples cited in a scathing Justice Department report this summer that found violence rampant at the nation's largest jail. The investigation also ripped the jail for dispensing medical care so substandard that some inmates died needlessly. [Mark Godsey]
September 9, 2008
Justice system discourages DNA testing
Recently, The Dispatch reported the story of Robert McClendon, an inmate freed after spending 18 years
in prison for a crime he didn't commit ("Ex-prisoner now officially innocent," Aug. 27).
He was exonerated after DNA testing showed that he wasn't the assailant in the rape for which he was convicted. Ohio
This story also brought to light that
Even if Ohio
The Dispatch disclosed that out of the hundreds of requests from inmates, only a paltry few are ever granted. Other requests are simply ignored.
McClendon filed his motion for DNA testing in 2004. It wasn't until the Innocence Project got involved that his DNA was finally tested. The reason for the delay? According to the judge, "Sometimes things fall through the cracks." That's the reason a man spent an additional four years in prison?
When the opportunity presents itself, the justice system should do everything it can to determine whether an innocent man is behind bars. Instead, it does just the opposite, because each time an innocent man is released from prison, it's a black eye for the justice system that so eagerly convicted him.
ROY C. POMPA Southern Ohio
Geoff Dutton Reporter The Columbus
Circumventing Congress: How the Federal Courts Opened the Door to Impeaching Criminal Defendants with Prior Convictions
[From Jeffrey Bellin] Senior Appellate Court Attorney for the California Courts of Appeal and former prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C.
This paper does not reflect the views of the California Courts.
This Article spotlights the flawed analytical framework at the heart of the federal courts' approach to one of the most controversial trial practices in American criminal jurisprudence - the admission of prior convictions to impeach the credibility of defendants who testify. As the Article explains, the courts' flawed approach is the byproduct of their misplaced reliance on a five-factor analytical framework to implement the governing legal standard enacted by Congress in Federal Rule of Evidence 609.
Tracing the evolution of the five-factor framework from its roots in pre-Rule 609 case law, the Article demonstrates that the courts' reinterpretation of the framework in recent years has, by judicial fiat, transformed Rule 609 from the obstacle to the admission of prior convictions that Congress intended, into a conduit for their routine admission.
The Article concludes by proposing an alternative analytical framework designed to realign the federal case law on this critical subject with the governing congressional intent. In the absence of such a reform, the federal courts' erroneous analysis will continue to alter the course of countless criminal trials by unnecessarily deterring defendants from testifying, and improperly penalizing those who do take the witness stand. [Mark Godsey]
Supreme Court Requests Briefing on Motion for Rehearing in Kennedy v. Louisiana
You can view the order here. [Mike Mannheimer]
Fifth Circuit Reverses Conviction of Klansman for 1964 Killings
The Fifth Circuit on Tuesday reversed the 2007 conviction of reputed Ku Klux Klansman James Ford Seale for kidnapping related to the killings of two black teenagers in 1964. You can read the decision here and a related New York Times article here [Mike Mannheimer]
Executing Justice in the Texas Courts
By Lawrence J. Fox
Word count: 668
They did not execute Charles Hood on June 17. On that night, the State of Texas did the right thing for the wrong reason. The execution was postponed not to cure a grave injustice, simply because the State of Texas ran out of time. But the aroma of injustice remains just as strong as it did on that date. Mr. Hood now faces execution on September 10, and if allowed to go forward, that execution will place a black mark on the ethics of the judiciary and the rule of law, one that can never be erased.
How could this be? Because until a lawyer in the office that prosecuted Charles Hood came forward just days before the original execution date, there was no proof of what had been long rumored and this lawyer now confirmed: Thomas O'Connell, the chief prosecutor of Mr. Hood was – at that time – engaged in a personal relationship with Verla Sue Holland, the judge who presided at the trial.
Our canons of judicial ethics say that judges must avoid even the appearance of impropriety. But this conduct is judicial impropriety itself. Judges who are no more than close social friends with lawyers will recuse themselves from their friends' cases. The relationship that occurred here, of course, was so much more serious and objectivity-destroying than that example. No one can look at a case in which a judge is involved romantically with one of the lawyers and conclude that the judge is not biased. And that universal principle – echoed by dozens of ethics scholars who have looked into the Hood case – applies to every matter, from a garden variety civil suit involving mere money to a defendant who stands trial for a capital crime.
Then how, once this serious ethics violation was revealed, can the state of Texas proceed to execute Mr. Hood? Because the prosecution argues this issue should have been raised sooner.
Talk about placing the blame on the wrong party! The judge had a duty to disclose this juicy fact to Mr. Hood. If the judge failed, then the duty fell to the prosecutor, no matter how embarrassed he might be. But the two of them apparently were in an 18-year conspiracy of silence that permitted the judge to preside over who knows how many of O'Connell's cases. Yet these two public officials pay no price for their transgressions while Mr. Hood faces execution next month based on a hopelessly flawed trial.
Holland and O'Connell's silence remains deafening. To date, they have refused to discuss their relationship. And no one has heard their sworn testimony or conducted any discovery on the topic, steps that cry out to be accomplished before any execution can proceed.
Mr. Hood's attorneys filed a petition in August to compel the alleged lovers to testify under oath. After months of inaction, a district court judge finally ordered Holland and O'Connell to appear in court this Monday prepared to give testimony should the court grant Mr. Hood's petition. This presents the first real opportunity to bring down the wall of silence surrounding Holland and O'Connell's relationship. They must be compelled to disclose the truth. Were there any gifts? Any intimate dinners? Any faraway vacations on sandy beaches? We do not know.
We are obviously going to continue to have the death penalty in the United States. But if we are, we must do everything in our power to assure that every defendant who faces death (indeed, every litigant who appears in court) receives a fair trial before an impartial judge. Having Mr. Hood facing execution following a trial in which we are now told the judge was sleeping with the prosecutor makes a mockery of that standard and cries out for granting Mr. Hood a new trial.
There is a lot more at stake here than justice for one man. Our entire system of justice and our byzantine death penalty jurisprudence is put to the test by these revelations. Let us hope we pass. [Mark Godsey]
Eighth Circuit Rejects Second Amendment Claim
A machine gun and a sawed-off shotgun borne pursuant to membership in an informal militia unaffiliated with the state militia is not activity protected by the Second Amendment, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held Aug. 13 (United States v. Fincher, 8th Cir., Nos. 07-2514 and 07-2888, 8/13/08).
The court also ruled that possession of these weapons is not covered by the individual right to bear arms recognized in District of Columbia v. Heller, 76 U.S.L.W. 4631 (U.S. 2008).
The defendant was convicted of violating federal statutes that prohibit possession of unregistered sawed-off shotguns and machine guns. He maintained, however, that his possession of the weapons was reasonably related to his membership in the Washington County Militia and consequently protected by the Second Amendment.
The defendant helped found the militia in 1994 and attempted several times to obtain the approval of the local law enforcement organizations and the state government. He maintained that the militia was established to assist local sheriff or governmental officials, or to take action on members' own to preserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The militia members possessed machine guns, and the defendant testified that his possession of his weapons was needed to ensure the militia could operate militarily at optimal effectiveness during a state of emergency.
The Eighth Circuit was among the courts that had interpreted United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939), as limiting the scope of the Second Amendment to possession of a firearm reasonably related to service in a well-regulated militia. United States v. Hale, 978 F.2d 1016 (8th Cir. 1992) (" 'Technical' membership in a state militia (e.g., membership in an 'unorganized' state militia) or membership in a non-governmental military organization is not sufficient to satisfy the 'reasonable relationship' test").
In Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court said the lower courts' crabbed interpretation of Miller failed to recognize that the Second Amendment codified a pre-existing individual right, recognized under English common law, to keep and carry arms in self-defense. The amendment's prefatory reference to a "well regulated Militia" does not restrict the right to militia-related uses. Accordingly, the court struck down a municipal handgun ban that effectively prohibited an "entire class of 'arms' that is overwhelmingly chosen by American society" for the lawful purpose of self-defense in the home.
Read rest of article here. [Brooks Holland]
Mixed Verdict in London Terror Trial
But the jury failed to reach verdicts on the more serious charge of a conspiracy to have suicide bombers detonate soft-drink bottles filled with liquid explosives aboard seven airliners headed for the United States and Canada.
The failure to obtain convictions on the plane-bombing charge was a blow to counterterrorism officials in London and Washington, who had described the scheme as potentially the most devastating act of terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks seven years ago this week. British and American experts had said that the plot had all the signs of an operation by Al Qaeda, and that it was conceived and organized in Pakistan.
The arrest in August 2006 of two dozen suspects, including the eight put on trial, set off a worldwide alarm in the airline industry and led to a tightening of airport security, including time-consuming restrictions on passengers carrying liquids and creams in their carry-on luggage that remain in force at most airports around the globe.
But the case was hampered from the beginning, prosecutors said, by an investigation that was cut short, by the conflicting demands of intelligence agencies, and by problems with introducing evidence in the courtroom. To protect sources and methods, the prosecution was unable to introduce material from British or foreign intelligence agencies. In addition, Britain does not allow information in court that has been gathered from domestic wiretaps.
The arrest in Pakistan of Rashid Rauf, a Briton of Pakistani descent who American, British and Pakistani officials said was a liaison to Al Qaeda, set off a series of events that led the British police to roll up the London-based cell far earlier than they had intended. The haste in making sweeping arrests made it hard for prosecutors to persuade the jury that the bomb plot had reached the stage at which an attack on airliners was imminent.
Partly as a result, prosecutors never convinced the jury that the suspects were prepared to strike immediately, or even that they had chosen planes as their targets. Nor did they convict a man whom they had accused of having links to Al Qaeda in Pakistan.
Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said it might decide to call for a retrial of the case if it decides it might win convictions on the most serious charges. A decision on that is expected within weeks. In addition, a number of other suspects will face trial related to the plot.
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
September 8, 2008
Real commander needed for the war on drugs
Standard wisdom says "no way."
We may have the world's highest rate of incarceration — with only 5 percent of global population, 25 percent of prisoners worldwide. We may be throwing hundreds of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders, many barely of age, behind bars — one reason a stunning one out of every 100 Americans is now imprisoned. We may have created a huge "prison-industrial complex" of prison builders, contractors and swollen criminal justice bureaucracies.
Federal, state and local outlays for law enforcement and incarceration are costing, according to a Senate committee estimate, a stunning $200 billion annually, siphoning off funds from enterprises that actually build our future: universities, schools, health, infrastructure.
We are reaping the whirlwind of "get tough" on crime statutes ranging from "three strikes you're in" to mandatory sentences to reincarcerating recent prisoners for minor parole violations. And every year we're seeing hundreds of thousands of convicts leave prison with scant chances of being employed, no right to vote, no access to public housing, high levels of addiction, illiteracy and mental illness. Overwhelmed by the odds against them, at least 50 percent are rearrested within two years.
A serious set of problems, a shadow over our national future? No doubt. But do our politicians talk much about alternatives? No way — they typically find it too risky to be attacked as "soft on crime." [Mark Godsey]
Are the mentally ill falling through the cracks?
That startling homicide, though, was just one of at least 10 serious incidents involving local residents with mental illness that have occurred in Allegheny County neighborhoods in less than a year. Known as sentinel events, they are tracked by the state Department of Public Welfare. Officials here and around the country are struggling with how to prevent such violence or other problems.
In one case, Shadyside resident Terrence Andrews was arrested in the stabbing death of culinary student Lisa Maas. In another, Nang "Ricky" Nguyen was shot dead by police in Oakland after he brandished a meat cleaver. And Anthony Fallert drowned after he apparently walked away from a community mental health program on the South Side and jumped or fell from the Birmingham Bridge.
Andrea Curry-Demus, charged with the Kia Johnson homicide, had a history of mental illness and previous arrests for other crimes, including stabbing a woman and kidnapping a baby.
The series of sentinel events here, as well as incidents elsewhere such as the killing of 32 people at Virginia Tech in April 2007 by a gunman with a history of mental health problems, have left officials, grieving families and others to ask: Are people falling through the cracks of the community mental health system? And what might be done to prevent such problems from occurring? [Mark Godsey]
ACLU suit targets Sheriff's Department
A lawsuit filed Friday in federal court accuses the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department of unlawful detentions and racial profiling of Latinos suspected of being undocumented immigrants.
Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and the Committee for Immigrant Rights of Sonoma County say the Sheriff's Department collaborates with federal immigration officials to stop and search people who appear to be Latino, interrogate them about their immigration status and jail them without legal basis.
"I would say that's all untrue," Sheriff Bill Cogbill responded Friday, though he had not yet seen a copy of the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
State law does not permit local sheriffs and police to enforce immigration law. But the lawsuit cites several recent cases in which deputies allegedly arrested people suspected of violating civil immigration law and placed them in the \county jail without a warrant or any criminal basis for the arrest.
"When local police act as immigration agents, they infringe on the fundamental rights of residents and create a climate of suspicion and fear that undermines public trust and public safety," said Julia Harumi Mass, the ACLU staff attorney who filed the lawsuit naming the Sheriff's Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
The Sheriff's Department acknowledges that it cooperates with ICE in a limited capacity, including detaining undocumented immigrants who have committed or are suspected of committing a crime, especially if it's violent or gang-related.
If there is a criminal warrant or immigration detainer on someone, the Sheriff's Department also assists in arresting those people.
"We're not going on a witch hunt, racial profiling," Cogbill said. "For those committing crimes and involved in gangs and other violent crimes, using ICE is a way to take them out of the community. It's good public safety," he said.
The ACLU charges that once they are booked into the county jail, arrestees in Sonoma County are typically held for more than three days without being told of the charges against them or advised of their rights.
Cogbill said if someone is on an immigration "hold," federal authorities typically have 24 to 48 hours to pick up a suspect, or he or she is released.
The lawsuit cites several cases in which the Sheriff's Department is alleged to have unlawfully stopped or detained individuals based solely on their immigration status.
One case involved Christyan Sonato-Vega, 23, and his fiancee, who were stopped outside a bakery in Roseland. Two deputies approached him, saying the car had a crack in the windshield. They proceeded to question Sonato-Vega regarding his immigration status and whether his tattoos were gang-related, according to the lawsuit.
He was searched and allowed to leave, but about a week later was arrested at his job "on the sole basis of suspected immigration status," according to the ACLU. He was then held in Sonoma County Jail for several days without any criminal charges against him, without notice of his right to a hearing, legal representation or being considered for release on bond, according to the ACLU.
Cogbill on Friday said he was not familiar with Sonato-Vega's case.
But the sheriff and county officials met almost a year ago with ACLU and immigrants-rights attorneys to discuss their concerns with several cases. Cogbill said he investigated the cases they cited in which individuals allegedly had their rights violated.
"We spent a considerable amount of time looking into them and found they were within the law," Cogbill said.
Immigration officials could not be reached for comment late Friday after the lawsuit was filed.
In a statement, Rich Coshnear, attorney for the Committee for Immigrant Rights of Sonoma County, said, "Looking Latino or speaking Spanish is no reason to question, or arrest a person. We live in a country where the Constitution ensures that all persons should be given fair treatment under the law regardless of the color of their skin, or their accent."
Cogbill on Friday noted that in its most recent report, the Sonoma County grand jury essentially found that local police are not enforcing immigration law.
"Your local cop is truly not interested in the deportation of people who are not breaking local laws," the grand jury stated. [Mark Godsey]
"Watch the Detectives" on A&E
Some 50 retired sleuths will give voice to their oddest or most haunting cases in an 11-week series, "Watching the Detectives," that debuts Sunday night at 9 p.m. on A&E's Biography channel.
"We asked them to tell their best bar stories. The characters in their cases are straight out of central casting," said Executive Producer Kevin Kaufman.
Like the 400-pound enforcer who confessed to retired Detective Andy Copertino that he'd shot and killed his loanshark boss over a gambling debt. In a scene out of "Weekend at Bernie's," the killer put a hat on the corpse's head, strapped a seat belt across his chest and drove north, telling toll clerks his buddy was napping.
Copertino convinced the suspect to show him where he'd buried the body upstate - then had to schlep the stinking, maggoty evidence to the 105th Precinct stationhouse in Queens.Cops hung the evidence bags out to air on a rooftop clothesline, under guard, of course.
"This is what you call murder - dirty laundry style - in New York City," Copertino dryly tells the camera.
His deadpan delivery is just what Kaufman was looking for when he hatched the idea for the series and approached NYPD Detective Rick Tirelli, an "NYPD Blue" and "Pride and Glory" consultant. It was Tirelli's job to round up retired gumshoes and check their tales for accuracy.
Read rest of the article here. [Brooks Holland]