Saturday, September 20, 2008
WASHINGTON — Judges around the world have long looked to the decisions of the United States Supreme Court for guidance, citing and often following them in hundreds of their own rulings since the Second World War.
But now American legal influence is waning. Even as a debate continues in the court over whether its decisions should ever cite foreign law, a diminishing number of foreign courts seem to pay attention to the writings of American justices.
“One of our great exports used to be constitutional law,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton. “We are losing one of the greatest bully pulpits we have ever had.”
Friday, September 19, 2008
One morning last month, a 28-year-old woman was struggling up the stairs at the Dyckman Street elevated station on her way to work. Normally, she would hold her skirt around her legs, but that day she was juggling a cup of coffee, a gym bag and her purse.
She sensed the presence of someone too close to her on the stairs. She turned and saw a man peering into his cellphone. A passer-by confirmed her suspicion: The man had taken photographs under her skirt.
“I said I had to do something,” the woman said on Thursday. “Since he is taking pictures of me, I am going to take pictures of him.”
She said she followed the man onto the southbound No. 1 train, walked through several cars and found him on a seat. She prepared her cellphone camera. He looked at her and mumbled something. “And I told him ‘smile’ because I am going to the police,” she said.
How much misery was appropriate to inflict on a promising 19-year-old, who himself had inflicted misery on society by dealing drugs, the judge asked himself out loud.
“It’s almost an impossible calculus,” said Justice Farber, who sits in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly yesterday to legalize semiautomatic rifles in the District and repeal its gun registration laws, but the bill's future appeared in doubt as a prominent senator announced she would try to block it.
The House bill passed 266 to 152, with the support of 85 Democrats. It was the second time in four years that the chamber had voted to overturn most D.C. gun laws. The 2004 measure died in the Senate, and a similar result is likely this time.
She should call a news conference before the week is out, apologize for the pivotal role she played in a killing last week and tender her letter to the administrative judge of the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court.
Her apology should acknowledge that she was uniquely positioned to save the life of a 17-year-old Cleveland boy, who was shot five times Friday evening. She should acknowledge that instead, she gambled with the public's safety by releasing an increasingly dangerous teen hours before he killed.
Floyd should acknowledge that for inexcusable reasons, she rolled the dice on a violent juvenile, who had been aggressively working his way up to murder. She should acknowledge that she was the last person who could have prevented Demel Holiday's life from ending the way it did.
If Floyd truly cares about this community -- if she has any honor -- she will take ownership of a senseless death and demonstrate leadership by removing herself from the bench.
That would be a public service.
The penalties mark a significant step in the Los Angeles Police Department's effort to recover from an incident that Bratton called "a phenomenal black eye." LAPD officers were videotaped wielding batons and shooting rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse a largely peaceful crowd. A scathing internal investigation into the incident blamed poor leadership and overly aggressive tactics by officers in the field.
The racketeering convictions of two retired New York City detectives who helped to kill at least eight men in their role as mob assassins were ordered reinstated on Wednesday by a federal appeals court. It ruled that a trial judge wrongly overturned the jury’s guilty verdicts two years ago.
The decision means that the two highly decorated detectives — Louis J. Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa — will now face sentencing for their convictions in one of the most spectacular cases of police corruption in city history.
When Judge Beverly B. Martin this month dissented to a federal appeals decision in favor of a sheriff's deputy accused of civil rights violations for using a Taser on a handcuffed man, she urged that a video of the events in question be published with the opinion.
The suggestion of Martin, a district court judge sitting by designation with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, went unheeded. But James V. Cook, the Tallahassee, Fla., attorney representing plaintiff Jesse Daniel Buckley, apparently took Martin at her word.
On Monday Cook placed a copy of a video shot by a squad car camera on YouTube. The six-minute video can be found under the term "Buckley v. Haddock." Cook said Tuesday he is preparing a motion for an en banc rehearing.
Law enforcement officials statewide are uniting against a referendum question they fear will increase marijuana use among teenagers and generate more crime across the state.
The state's 11 district attorneys are unanimously opposing Question 2 and are being joined by police chiefs and some community groups, fearing it will undo years of effort to reduce drug use among teenagers. Governor Deval Patrick's administration also is opposed, according to a spokesman.
"Teenage marijuana use is down, and this is a good thing," said Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley. "This is a bad, bad message for our kids."
There were two police shootings in Portland in 2007, the fewest in a decade.
At the same time, police discipline is up, indicating that Portland officers are being held more accountable, according to an annual report by the city's Independent Police Review Division.
Division director Mary-Beth Baptista, who will release the 61-page report today, called the numbers a positive trend.
"This is a good indication we're on the right track," she said.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
After making minor changes to the bill, regarded as the biggest change to the state's criminal-justice system in many years, the Senate approved it yesterday, 48-2.
Under its key provisions, nonviolent drug offenders in prison could be resentenced to an addiction-treatment program, and nonviolent offenders who behaved well and completed certain programs could be paroled more quickly.
LAS VEGAS -- As testimony in O.J. Simpson's trial on robbery charges gets underway this week, one thing is already abundantly clear: When the former football star enters a courtroom, so does a debate about race.
In jury selection last week, defense attorneys repeatedly tried to dismiss the mostly white jury pool and accused prosecutors of systematically excluding blacks. The allegation prompted Clark County Dist. Atty. David Roger to insist that his choice of jurors had "nothing to do with race."
"It's a blessing," says Terrell, 17, fingering the ring he earned for passing his GED exam with 1,000 points to spare.
He was awarded the ring at a cap-and-gown ceremony last month in the facility's gym, where he was cheered on by 29 other teens also serving sentences for serious and sometimes violent crimes.
Anew, privately owned medium-security prison in Shelby County that is scheduled to be dedicated today by Gov. Bob Riley will try to do something public prisons can't: Keep inmates from coming back.
The prison, built in an old factory in Columbiana at a cost of at least $8 million, will provide life coaching and job-skills training to inmates near the ends of their sentences.
"It's a very intensive program," said Alabama prisons Commissioner Richard Allen. "From the time they get up in the morning until the time they go to bed at night, they're busy."
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Data released Monday by the FBI show violent crime dipped slightly nationwide in 2007. That ended two years of increases in murders, robberies and other kinds of the worst crime in U.S. cities.
An estimated 1.4 million violent crimes were reported across the country last year - about 10,000 fewer, or a 0.7 percent drop, than 2006.
A Seattle scientist who has developed an electronic brain test that he says could improve our ability to force criminals to reveal themselves, identify potential terrorists and free those wrongly convicted may have finally broken through the bureaucratic barriers that he believes have served to stifle adoption of the pioneering technique.
"There seems to be a renewed surge of interest in this by the intelligence agencies and the military," said Larry Farwell, neuroscientist and founder of Brain Fingerprinting Laboratories based at the Seattle Science Foundation.
But two weeks before the Aug. 15 event, Robinson police detained Mr. Vielma and his brother, Alberto, both undocumented Mexican immigrants. They now face deportation.
The brothers were taken into police custody after an employee at Kohl's department store accused Alberto Vielma of shoplifting. He called Eduardo Vielma, who came to the store with his boss from nearby Pizza Milano.
Striding across a sweltering strip-mall parking lot with her clipboard in hand, Monica Bell, a community field organizer in Orlando, Fla., was looking for former convicts to add to the state’s voter rolls.
Antonious Benton, a gold-toothed 22-year-old with a silver skull-shaped belt buckle, a laconic smile and a criminal record, was the first person she approached.
“I can’t vote because I got three felonies,” Mr. Benton told Ms. Bell. He had finished a six-month sentence for possession of $600 worth of crack cocaine, he said. But Ms. Bell had good news for him: The Florida Legislature and Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, changed the rules last year to restore the voting rights of about 112,000 former convicts.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
With “Bush derangement syndrome” having infected large swaths of the Left, it is no surprise that their fever dreams feature the prosecution of Bush Administration heavies for their “crimes against humanity” and the U.S. Constitution.
This weekend, the otherwise unremarkable Massachusetts School of Law at Andover will host a conference to that end. “This is not intended to be a mere discussion of violations of law that have occurred,” says dean Lawrence Velvel, but “a planning conference at which plans will be laid and necessary organizational structures set up, to pursue the guilty as long as necessary and, if need be, to the ends of the Earth.”