CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sentences on Trial

YOGI BERRA could have written a recently released report on the failure of mandatory minimum sentences.

The report, published by Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), chronicles lawmakers' rush in the 1950s to enact tough mandatory minimum sentences for what they saw as the viral spread of illegal drugs throughout the country. The most frightening of these substances, marijuana, was blamed for a rise in "sadistic" murders and gruesome sex crimes.

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October 11, 2008 in Sentencing Corrections | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Anti-gang squad shows an impact; 300 arrests, 25 guns taken

Six months after a Gang Impact Squad was formed to combat violence in Cleveland, the unit has arrested scores of violent criminals.

The seven-officer squad has confiscated 25 guns and arrested more than 300 people for drugs, guns and violent crimes. More than 250 of them have been identified by police as gang members.

Police officials credit the squad for using information about gangs to solve two high-profile killings. Officers arrested a man in March after he was accused of gunning down a 19-year-old Bay Village man on the West Side. In July, officers arrested a gang member for torching and killing a 25-year-old man on the East Side.

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October 10, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Criminal Prosecutions Predicted to Surge Over Financial Crisis

With public anger reaching a boiling point over plunging stock prices and Wall Street "greed," white-collar defense attorneys are preparing for an inevitable surge in criminal prosecutions.

Stanley S. Arkin, for one, said he expects that the anger, hysteria and economic dislocation fueled by "imprudent credit policies" will "inspire" indictments that would not have been brought in a "calmer and more dispassionate time."

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October 10, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Task force recommends changes to state's involuntary commitment laws

A mental health system facing a critical shortage of hospital beds, riddled with breakdowns in communication and hamstrung by the state's commitment laws helped create the conditions that led to the killing of Sierra Club worker Shannon Harps outside her Capitol Hill apartment last New Year's Eve, a task force reviewing how the system operated in that case has found.

James Williams, a repeat violent offender with severe schizophrenia, has been charged with first-degree murder in Harps' death. Williams, who was under community supervision at the time of the murder, wasn't complying with court-ordered treatment and had been off the medications that helped control his violent hallucinations when he allegedly stabbed Harps to death.

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October 10, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

SCOTUS Saves Death Row Inmates' Appeal for Another Day

Scotus From  The United States Supreme Court says it needs more time to look at an appeal from Georgia death row inmate Troy Anthony Davis. Davis, 39, was convicted of the 1989 shooting death of off-duty officer Mark Allen McPhail, 27, in Savannah, Georgia.

In September, just 2 hours before his scheduled execution by way of lethal injection the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of execution.

Mr. Davis received thousands of calls and letters on his behalf including Pope Benedict XVI (wrote a letter to Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue), Nobel Peace Prize recipients Desmond Tutu and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter; actor Mike Farrell, recording artists the Indigo Girls, the Hip Hop Summit Action Network (HHSAN) and Broadway star Don Quixote.

Davis wants the high court to order a judge to hear from the witnesses who recanted their testimony and others who say another man confessed to the crime.

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October 8, 2008 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Md. Police Put Activists' Names On Terror Lists

The Maryland State Police classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists and entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects, the state police chief acknowledged yesterday.

Police Superintendent Terrence B. Sheridan revealed at a legislative hearing that the surveillance operation, which targeted opponents of the death penalty and the Iraq war, was far more extensive than was known when its existence was disclosed in July.

The department started sending letters of notification Saturday to the activists, inviting them to review their files before they are purged from the databases, Sheridan said.

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October 8, 2008 in Homeland Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New fingerprint technology urged

When Stephanie Hartnett saw the man who had followed her 13-year-old daughter to her Roslindale home, she knew he was not the teenager he claimed to be in text messages and e-mails. But when Boston police responded to her call, it took them more than an hour to determine he was a level-three sex offender from Texas.

Now, Hartnett is trying to persuade city officials to purchase portable fingerprint scanners for police cruisers so police can quickly determine when a suspect is potentially dangerous. She will testify at a City Hall hearing today at the request of Councilor Rob Consalvo, who has proposed the purchases.

"If we had had the fingerprint scanner, in four minutes we would have known who he was," said Hartnett, a 38-year-old former Brockton paramedic.

Boston police plan to have a representative at today's hearing of the City Council public safety committee. Elaine Driscoll, spokeswoman for the Police Department, said officials were interested in considering the technology, but deploying it might require upgrading the department's wireless connections.

Hartnett said that last year her daughter met a man who claimed to be 17 on "what was supposedly a kid-friendly site."

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October 8, 2008 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

After domestic killing, Rhode Island requires schools to teach students about dating violence

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) -- Ann Burke saw signs of trouble with her daughter's boyfriend.

He'd incessantly call her at night, keep her from her family, and, ultimately, physically abuse her during a tumultuous relationship that ended with her death three years ago.

Burke's 23-year-old daughter, Lindsay, may not have understood the dynamics of an abusive relationship, but her death is helping to ensure that other young people do.

A new law in Rhode Island called the Lindsay Ann Burke Act requires all public middle and high schools to teach students about dating violence in their health classes.

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October 8, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sleuths go door to door to sniff out Medicare fraud

MIAMI — Medicare investigators Suzanne Bradley and Cecilia Franco rap on an apartment door a little before 10 a.m. on a muggy Thursday.

They're seeking an 86-year-old man — allegedly a homebound diabetic whose home health care agency is billing Medicare for daily visits by a nurse to help him inject insulin. He wasn't home when they stopped by twice the day before, but this time they hear someone inside.

"We're from Medicare. We'd like to speak with you," says Franco, the Miami Field Office director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Visits such as this one late last month are part of an effort to battle Medicare fraud in one of the nation's hot spots for such scams: Miami-Dade County.

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October 8, 2008 in Fraud | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Justice issues collide on ballot

Law and order activists, critics of California's drug laws and victims rights groups independently have loaded three separate crime measures onto the Nov. 4 ballot, and they're not making it easy for state voters to sort them out.

Together, Propositions 5, 6 and 9 cover 115 pages, would change scores of laws and would affect billions of dollars in state spending.

"My mom asked me if I have positions on all of them, and I told her I'm still working on it," said Assembly Public Safety Committee chairman Jose Solorio, D-Santa Ana, who presided over nine hours of hearings on the measures. "There's a lot to digest."

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October 7, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Minneapolis' 'blueprint' to attack youth violence is a success

When a politician hails an initiative as a "blueprint" for change, it often fails to deliver any substantial results. This doesn't appear to be the case with Minneapolis' blueprint to prevent youth violence, which started in January.

Gathering outside the city's new juvenile supervision center Friday, Mayor R.T. Rybak and a dozen community leaders presented a progress report on the comprehensive plan. Some of the successes they discussed were simpler to achieve, such as recruiting 25 city employees to serve as mentors for area youth, or expanding summer hours and programming at parks where crime is a problem.

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October 7, 2008 in Juveniles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Cincinnati: Homicides ahead of '07 pace Drug Shortage to Blame

Cincinnati has been a violent place lately.

In the last week, there have been five homicides - increasing the number this year to 58, compared to 55 homicides at this time last year. On Sept. 29 and Sept. 30 alone, there were 15 shootings.

The increase of gun violence has gotten the attention of police, judges and Mayor Mark Mallory.

So why more violence? Why now?

Police say cutting the supply of illegal drugs may be the cause locally.

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October 6, 2008 in Drugs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Rehearing in Kennedy v. Louisiana Opinion

On October 1, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Louisiana's request for a rehearing of the Court's ruling striking down the death penalty for non-homicidal offenses against individuals. Louisiana contended that a recent adjustment to military law that continued to allow the death penalty for child rape should have been taken into account by the Court, resulting in a different opinion. The Court slightly modified both the majority and dissenting opinions to include reference to the military code. The Court issued a statement, leaving intact its decision not only reversing Patrick Kennedy's death sentence for child rape, but also holding that the death penalty would be disproportionate for any crime against an individual in which the victim is not killed.  The statement said, in part:

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October 6, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

International Law Experts Question Supreme Court Decision in Medellin Case

Notable international law experts cited in a recent article in the Washington Lawyer criticized the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision on whether an international treaty was binding on Texas in the case of death row inmate Jose Medellin. Carolyn Lamm, an attorney at White & Case specializing in international dispute resolution, stated that "[T]he failure to compel our state court organs to comply with the decision of the ICJ [International Court of Justice] is regrettable, and the dissenting opinion that the language was self-executing is correct.” In August 2008, Texas executed Medellin despite the judgment of the ICJ that his rights and those of 50 other foreign nationals on death row were violated under the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations due to a failure to inform the inmates of their right to contact their country’s consulate for assistance upon arrest.

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October 6, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Justices content with their dip in the pool

As detailed in this Tony Mauro piece, the new SCOTUS Justices apparently are content to continue to rely on the cert pool to help screen cert petitions:

As they enter their second term, the Supreme Court's two newest justices have decided, at least temporarily, to stick with the Court's clerk-pooling arrangement, despite concerns that it gives law clerks too much power.  In brief interviews in recent weeks, both Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel Alito Jr. said they will stay in the "cert pool," as it is called, for the current term.

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October 6, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)