October 18, 2008
Alafair S. Burke Professor of Law Hofstra University School of Law
Professor Burke teaches criminal law and criminal procedure subjects. Her research intersects criminal law and procedure and focuses on policing and prosecutorial policies. She has written about prosecutorial decision making, community policing and non-punitive responses to crime problems, and the criminal law's treatment of domestic violence, both in punishing batterers and in explaining the conduct of battered women. Professor Burke has published articles in the Michigan, George Washington, North Carolina, Washington, and William and Mary Law Reviews, among other journals.
Before joining the law school faculty in 2001, Professor Burke served as a deputy district attorney in Portland, Oregon, where she tried more than 30 criminal cases, primarily against domestic violence offenders, and helped innovate neighborhood-based prosecution methods. Professor Burke graduated with distinction from Stanford Law School, where she was elected to Order of the Coif, published a note on prosecutorial ethics in the Stanford Law Review, and was an articles editor of the Stanford Law and Public Policy Journal and a member of the Stanford Journal of International Law. She served as a law clerk to Judge Betty B. Fletcher of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Professor Burke serves as a legal and trial commentator for various television and radio programs. She is a member of the planning committee for the annual Northeast People of Color Conference. She is also the author of five critically acclaimed crime novels.
LAPD blames faulty fingerprint analysis for erroneous accusations
The 10-page internal report, obtained by The Times, highlighted two cases in which criminal defendants had charges against them dropped after problems with the fingerprint analysis were exposed. LAPD officials do not know how many other people might have been wrongly accused over the years as a result of poor fingerprint analysis and do not have the funds to pay for a comprehensive audit to find out, according to police records and interviews.
This is something of extraordinary concern," said Michael Judge, public defender for Los Angeles County. "Juries tend to accord the highest level of confidence to fingerprint evidence. This is the type of thing that easily could lead to innocent people being convicted."
The two cases were used by investigators to illustrate broader problems with shoddy work and poor oversight that have plagued the department's Latent Print Unit. Rhonda Sims-Lewis, chief of the LAPD's administrative and technical bureau, acknowledged the findings, but said changes to the unit's leadership and protocols were made last year after senior officials became aware of problems.
Internal discipline investigations led to the firing of one fingerprint analyst, who had been involved in both of the mishandled cases. Three other analysts received suspensions, Sims-Lewis said. In addition, two supervisors responsible for overseeing the unit were replaced, staff was bolstered and oversight tightened, she said.
October 17, 2008
ACLU: Federal death row inmates denied health care
One diabetic prisoner showing symptoms of high blood sugar had to wait two hours to be treated with insulin, the ACLU said after a yearlong investigation. And some prisoners with dental problems chose simply to have all their teeth removed rather than suffer pain while waiting for complicated procedures, it said.
The probe by the ACLU's National Prison Project uncovered "grossly inadequate" conditions that "fail to meet constitutional standards and jeopardize the health and safety" of the more than 50 inmates awaiting execution at the prison, the organization said in the letter to Harley Lappin, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
"The Constitution prohibits deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of prisoners, including those sentenced to die," ACLU attorney Gabriel B. Eber said in a news release. He called on officials to "do whatever is necessary" to correct the problems.
Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Felicia Ponce said she could not comment because she was not sure whether Lappin had seen the letter.
Eber said his investigation included interviews with prisoners and a review of hundreds of pages of prison records.
According to the letter, prison officials do not promptly respond to medical emergencies, provide "woefully deficient" access to acute health care and consistently ignore signs of possibly serious medical conditions. It cited one instance of an inmate pressing an emergency call button in his cell for 45 minutes before receiving attention for a heart problem. [Mark Godsey]
First filings made for Ill. innocence petitions
CHICAGO - Lawyers at Northwestern University on Wednesday filed four petitions on behalf of exonerated former Illinois inmates, the first under a new law that would allow them to seek compensation from the state.
Under the law passed in September by the Illinois General Assembly, exonerees can apply to the county court of their conviction for compensation instead of waiting for a pardon from Gov. Rod Blagojevich. That county court may grant a "certificate of innocence."
"People would still like to receive the innocence pardons from the governor," said Karen Daniel, an assistant law professor at Northwestern University School of Law. The school's Bluhm Legal Clinic announced the filings on Wednesday.
"This wouldn't replace that process. It's an alternative means of getting the compensation," Daniel said.
Among the four filings Wednesday was one for Marlon Pendleton, 51, who is eligible for seven years of compensation after he was exonerated on DNA evidence from convictions of aggravated criminal sexual assault and armed robbery. Pendleton said he's had trouble finding a job since his release.
"Even though I was exonerated I still have to explain to them (about) my employment gap," said Pendleton, who would like to get a job at a steel plant. "It's about having some dignity and being able to hold your head up high, feel good about yourself." [Mark Godsey]
In many US airports, guns are OK outside security
An Associated Press survey of the 20 busiest U.S. airports found that seven of them -- Philadelphia, Detroit, Phoenix, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles and San Francisco -- let people with gun permits carry firearms in the general public areas of the terminal.
Some anti-terrorism experts say that is a glaring security loophole that could endanger airport workers, passengers and people waiting to pick them up or see them off. Some suggest that allowing guns in terminals is practically asking for them to be smuggled aboard a plane.
"If your airport is not secure, then the security of your airplanes is jeopardized," said Rafi Ron, former security chief at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel who now works as an aviation consultant. "You cannot separate the two."
Other authorities say the nonsecure areas of the terminal are no different from other public venues and do not warrant special restrictions. [Mark Godsey]
October 16, 2008
Why Abolition of the Death Penalty was Important
I wrote the introduction to today's topic, "Why abolishing the Death Penalty in New Jersey was Important" weeks ago, before the market crash and fear of a depression engulfed our country. It's understandable that everyone is focused on keeping their homes, their jobs and preserving their retirement savings. Not Troy Davis however. Troy Davis is waiting on death row in Georgia to be executed for a crime he likely did not commit. If he is executed and if he is innocent, he won't be the first innocent person put to death in the United States. And until the death penalty is repealed in 36 more states and by the federal government, he likely won't be the last.
Why was abolishing the death penalty in New Jersey so important? After all, no one has been put to death in New Jersey since 1963.
Let me count the ways the death penalty was harmful to New Jersey and our residents:
1. It hurt the families of murder victims.
Sixty-three family members of murder victims stated, in a letter to the New Jersey Legislature:
We are family members and loved ones of murder victims. We desperately miss the parents, children, siblings, and spouses we have lost. We live with the pain and heartbreak of their absence every day and would do anything to have them back. We have been touched by the criminal justice system in ways we never imagined and would never wish on anyone. Our experience compels us to speak out for change.
Though we share different perspectives on the death penalty, every one of us agrees that New Jersey's capital punishment system doesn't work, and that our state is better off without it.
Or more specifically stated by Vicki Schieber whose daughter, Shannon, was murdered in 1998, "The death penalty is a harmful policy that exacerbates the pain for murdered victims' families." [Mark Godsey]
False Confession: Devine on his 12 Years in Office
Outgoing Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine says he knows innocent people sometimes confess to crimes they didn't commit. He says it's one of the things he's learned in his time as the county's top prosecutor.
Devine says innocent people who confess to crimes may have personalities where they just want to please people so they simply repeat details they've heard from investigators. Devine says there are others who are just playing the odds.
DEVINE: Someone might think I'm going to go down for something. I'd better work out the best deal I can and I can do that by confessing to a limited role in this thing and testifying against others.
Devine says police and prosecutors always need to withhold crucial details to corroborate the truthfulness of confessions. It's well documented that Chicago Police have tortured some suspects into giving false confessions though Devine didn't address that. He made his comments today at the Chicago Bar Association in a speech on 12 things he's learned during his 12 years as the State's Attorney. It was a farewell speech of sorts for Devine, who leaves office at the end of November. [Mark Godsey]
Ill. law school poised to help wrongly convicted on a shorter path to pardon, compensation
Marlon Pendleton was released from an Illinois prison in 2006 after DNA evidence exonerated him in the sexual assault for which he was convicted in 1993.
But nearly two years out of prison, Pendleton hasn't been pardoned for the crime, nor can he gain access to the state’s compensation system for those who have been wrongly convicted.
Like others who have been exonerated, Pendleton is caught in a lengthy backlog of pardon petitions awaiting the consideration of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
However, new state legislation intended to speed the process of getting certificates of innocence and compensation to those who have been wrongly imprisoned went into effect last month, and Pendleton may be one of the first to benefit from the change.
The Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University's School of Law is planning to file petitions on Wednesday for certificates of innocence on behalf of four people, including Pendleton, who have had their convictions overturned. They are the first such filings under the new law, which allows people who have served time in prison for a conviction that was later reversed, dismissed or set aside to petition for a certificate of innocence in circuit court rather than waiting for the governor to grant a pardon.
Those who have been exonerated need either a pardon or a certificate of innocence in order to receive compensation and employment assistance from the state.
"The new law will provide much quicker access to compensation because circuit court judges generally act more quickly than the governor," said Karen Daniel, clinical assistant professor at Northwestern University School of Law and an attorney with the Center on Wrongful Convictions. "In most cases, the judge will already be familiar with the facts of the case and can take immediate action."
Daniel hopes to have certificates of innocence for two of the four clients petitioning this week secured within a matter of weeks, as opposed to years. The process will likely move fastest with clients such as Pendleton who have been exonerated because of DNA evidence, Daniel said. DNA generally eliminates any lingering questions over the case.
The legislation, which was initiated by attorney Tom Grippando in the Cook County Public Defenders Office, hit one bump on its way to becoming law. Blagojevich vetoed the bill in August, but the veto was overridden by the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate.
In addition to creating a new way for people to solidify their innocence, the legislation increased the amount of money available to those who are wrongfully imprisoned. People who have spent up to five years in prison may receive $85,350 from the state, up from $60,150. For five to 14 years in prison, the amount is now $170,000, up from $144,849. For more than 14 years in prison, people may now receive $199,150, up from $161,006.
Daniel said it is important for people who have been exonerated to have timely access to that compensation as they rebuild their lives outside of prison.
"A lot of folks have been in prison for a long time, and a lot of them have lost everything they had, such as homes, cars, clothes. They don’t have bank accounts. They haven’t been saving for retirement," she said.
Job placement and assistance is also key for people who have been wrongly imprisoned, as they may have little or no work history or relevant job skills. [Mark Godsey]
October 15, 2008
Drug Courts Offer Many Another Chance
Over the last three years, she had repeatedly missed court-ordered therapy and hearings, and the judge, J. Wesley Saint Clair of the Drug Diversion Court, at first meted out mild punishments, like community service. But last winter, pushed past his forgiving limit, he jailed her briefly twice. The threat of more jail did the trick.
Now she was graduating — along with 23 other addicts who entered drug court instead of prison. Prosecutors and public defenders applauded when she was handed her certificate; a policewoman hugged her, and a child shouted triumphantly, “Yeah, Mamma!”
In Seattle, as in drug courts across the country, the stern face of criminal justice is being redrawn, and emotions are often on the surface. Experts say drug courts have been the country’s fastest-spreading innovation in criminal justice, giving arrested addicts a chance to avoid prison by agreeing to stringent oversight and addiction treatment. Recent studies show drug courts are one of the few initiatives that reduce recidivism — on average by 8 percent to 10 percent nationally and as high as 26 percent in New York State — and save taxpayer money.
Since Judge Saint Clair took over the King County drug court here in 2005, the annual number of graduates — drug and alcohol free for at least six months — has more than doubled. His court has been cited by outside experts as one of the country’s best, yet a state budget crisis is forcing a shrinkage in participants.
Since the first drug court began work, in Miami in 1989, the idea has spread to more than 2,100 courtrooms in every state, though they still take in only a small fraction of addicted criminals. Offenders, usually caught in low-level dealing or stealing to support their addictions, volunteer for 9 to 18 months or more of intrusive supervision by a judge, including random urine testing, group therapy and mandatory sobriety meetings. The intent is a personal transformation that many participants say is tougher than prison — and with the threat of prison if they drop out or are kicked out.
“I’ve waited 22 months for this day, and I never thought I’d make it,” Scott Elkins, a 26-year-old hip-hop singer, told the Seattle audience in September. A cocaine user and dealer who had been clean for two years, Mr. Elkins had his felony charges dropped and has a job, his own music production company and marriage plans.
Nationwide, 70,000 offenders are in adult or juvenile drug courts at any given time, with the number growing, said C. West Huddleston III, director of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. The concept has been supported by the Clinton and Bush administrations.
“To find an intervention that works has generated great excitement in the criminal justice community,” said Greg Berman, director of the Center for Court Innovation, a research group in New York, where Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye has been a strong advocate.
But some scholars say that, because of high up-front costs, the limited success of drug treatment and a shortage of judges with the required personal talents, drug courts are unlikely to make a significant dent in the prison population.
Some lawyers also say the courts can infringe on the rights of defendants given that offenders usually must acknowledge guilt to enter the court, or in some places have already agreed to a plea bargain and sentence. Thus an addict might opt for drug court to avoid prison or with sincere intentions of going straight, but if treatment fails and he is expelled from the program, he must serve a sentence without having seriously fought the charges. His total time in court custody, between drug court and then prison, may be longer than it would have been otherwise. Advocates respond that such offenders are facing a plea-bargaining mill in any case, and are offered an invaluable chance for change.
Critics also worry that the courts can monopolize scarce drug-treatment slots at the expense of other addicts seeking help.
Clearly, the courts do not help everyone. One of the most successful programs is in New York State, where about 1,600 offenders are in adult drug courts. Studies found that while 40 percent dropped out of the program along the way, those who started it, including both dropouts and graduates, had 29 percent fewer new convictions over a three-year period than a control group with similar criminal histories and no contact with drug courts, Mr. Berman said.
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
October 14, 2008
Killer Cooey is executed
LUCASVILLE, Ohio -- Richard Wade Cooey III was executed this morning, forever silencing his personal argument that lethal injection is a cruel and flawed process that can cause an agonizing death.
Cooey, 41, was pronounced dead at 10:28 a.m., only a few minutes after being injected with a lethal flow of three drugs at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.
"You (expletive) haven't paid any attention to anything I've said in the last 22 years, why would you pay any attention to anything I said now?" Cooey said with his final words
His execution came just over 22 years after Cooey and a juvenile friend abducted, raped and brutally murdered Wendy Jo Offredo, 21, and Dawn McCreery, 20. The two University of Akron coeds died in a deserted area near Norton, Ohio, an Akron suburb.
He was the first Ohioan put to death in 18 months following a prolonged national debate on lethal injection that ended earlier this year when the U.S. Supreme Court found it constitutional.
On his last night, Cooey ordered a last meal consisting of a T-bone steak with A-1 sauce, french fries and onion rings, four eggs over-easy, hash browns, buttered toast, bear claw pastries, a pint of Rocky Road ice cream and Mountain Dew to drink.
The prison waived its system-wide nonsmoking policy to allow him to smoke in his cell in the Death House.
The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday rejected Cooey's appeal that his execution should be delayed while the court considered his request to use a single massive dose of sodium thiopental, an anesthetic, to kill him instead of the three-drug cocktail used by Ohio and most all other states. The other drugs used are pancuronium bromide, which causes paralysis, and potassium chloride, which causes cardiac arrest.
Cooey based his appeal on a June ruling by Lorain County Common Pleas Court Judge James M. Burge's that the three-drug protocol could cause an "agonizing and painful death," rendering the process unconstitutional.
Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down that argument without comment, clearing the way for the execution. [Mark Godsey]
Macomb tests jury reform
The Michigan Supreme Court is debating whether to change how juries operate during trials -- and some Macomb County residents will be among the first to test the proposed rules.
For the next 14 months, jurors in Circuit Judge David Viviano's courtroom could be allowed to discuss the trial with each other before the case wraps up. And they'll be encouraged to submit questions to the judge in writing before a witness is excused.
The changes are part of a potentially statewide jury reform that aims to make jurors' jobs easier to understand.
"It's sort of to address human nature," Viviano said. "We tell people they can't talk to anyone -- not their spouses, not even the people they're serving with on the jury -- about the case while it's happening. That's counterintuitive to human nature."
Viviano is one of 12 judges across the state whose courtrooms have adopted the rules for the trial run that began at the end of August.
Among the proposed changes:
• Jurors will be given binders with the legal instructions that the judge typically only gives orally.
• Jurors will each get copies of documents that were entered into evidence.
• Experts testifying for the defense or prosecution in either civil or criminal cases could be called back-to-back so that jurors can hear all of the technical testimony at once. Or Viviano could opt for the experts to basically debate each other, having both of them answer questions from either the judge or a moderator.
• Viviano also could choose to summarize the case for the jury, which could include pointing out the weaknesses in both sides' arguments.
Viviano said the latter change concerns him the most because his summary would be subjective, possibly opening the door for an appeal if he's slanted too much toward one side. [Mark Godsey]
Eyewitnesses still play key roles in cases where DNA, other evidence is lacking
The fallibility of eyewitness testimony revealed by DNA exonerations in Dallas County and nationwide is not a relic of the past. Police and prosecutors still depend on the same discredited identification procedures to ensure convictions today.
Police use these techniques in a variety of crimes from murders to robberies. The difference between today's cases and the 19 exonerations involving sexual assaults is that often there is no DNA to ensure guilt or innocence.
"We've shown how unreliable eyewitness testimony is in sexual assault cases," said Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University law school. "But now the system itself is pretending that all of these armed robbery cases are just hunky dory when we know, if anything, it's no doubt less reliable in an armed robbery case than in a sexual assault case."
It's impossible to estimate how many wrongful convictions might be occurring in cases without genetic evidence, experts say.
"There is no question that there are many more mistakes that we will never know about because there is no DNA in those cases," said Edwin Colfax, an Austin researcher with the nonprofit reform group The Justice Project.
To examine whether the flawed practices highlighted by the DNA exoneration cases were still in use, The Dallas Morning News examined robbery trials in Dallas County from 2006 and 2007 – the last year of former District Attorney Bill Hill's tenure and the first year Craig Watkins was in office. Eyewitness testimony is the most crucial element in robbery cases.
The newspaper found that law enforcement still relies heavily on eyewitness testimony, even if corroborating evidence is weak and despite decades of research showing its shortcomings. [Mark Godsey]
Seattle police unit reaches out to the mentally ill
The former social worker on Ravenna Avenue Northeast used to help the vulnerable. Now, she's the one who needs help.
When she's delusional, the 66-year-old can be violent toward neighbors. In two years, her neighbors have called police a dozen times.
As Seattle Police Officers Scott Enright and Suzie Parton pull up one afternoon in September, they can barely see her home behind a wall of overgrown blackberry bushes. They wonder if she will be calm, confused or even safe.
She has physically attacked one neighbor and dumped cat box filler through another's sunroof. One night, she pounded on a sleeping 3-year-old's bedroom window, beckoning the child to come outside.
"That was super-scary for that family," said Parton, part of the Crisis Intervention Unit, which specializes in working with the mentally ill.
The woman isn't sick or dangerous enough to be detained for psychiatric help. Yet, when she's been arrested, her mental problems made her incapable of facing criminal charges.
With resources limited for the mentally ill, police often are the first to get called when someone is having a psychiatric meltdown. In a unique approach, the Seattle Police Department dedicated two officers to cases such as this one, hoping to prevent crises before they turn tragic.
Part cop, part social worker, Enright and Parton look for solutions for people who commit crimes because they are undiagnosed, off their meds or lacking access to services. They coordinate with social workers, probation officers and mental health professionals, hoping to get unstable people off the streets and into treatment, or jail.
"Getting them the treatment and social services they need meets a public safety need, which is what we're about," Enright said. [Mark Godsey]
Attacks by Teen Groups Rising in D.C. and Nation
D.C. police say they are seeing a growing number of teenagers and young adults traveling in groups to assault and rob unsuspecting citizens, a trend that mirrors crimes in cities across the country.
In an eight-hour period last week, five people were attacked by juveniles in separate incidents, including an armed carjacking, in the Southwest waterfront neighborhood. And in the past month, there have been between seven and 11 "pack robberies" in or near Adams Morgan in Northwest Washington, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said.
Similar attacks have occurred in the Brookland area of Northeast and Chinatown. Police said the crimes are not necessarily related but are part of an increase that has led to heightened enforcement.
"They're looking for someone who has a cellphone or someone using an iPod. Or they're just looking for some fast cash or a credit card," Lanier said Friday at a news conference in Adams Morgan, where she announced that there will be more patrols there. "You'll have a lone person walking, and there are five young males or more, and it's ridiculous. There's no need to beat people in those circumstances, but that's what they do. Just senseless."
The attacks in Southwest unfolded between 5 p.m. Monday and 1 a.m. Tuesday. The trouble began when five teenagers on bicycles attacked a man from behind, pushed him to the ground, hit him in the face and stomach, and fled. Police said they think that the attackers were between 16 and 18 years old. [Mark Godsey]
20 Top Crime Stories
We’ve seen some amazing crime stories on News Gems lately. These Top Twenty from the past six months range from the jungles of Africa to a small town in Tennessee. Some are groundbreaking exposés while others tell stories from the perspectives of frightened witnesses, grizzles detectives, innocent victims, crafty smugglers, and terrified killers.
1. Fugitive Justice. “Free to Flee,” by Joe Mahr of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, is a stunning investigation into gaps in the criminal justice system that allow hundreds of thousands of felony fugitives to evade capture. Mahr reports:
• More than a third of all felony warrants are not entered into a national database routinely checked by police across the nation.
• Few fugitives are hunted, and most states don’t even screen for criminal warrants before handing out licenses.
• When fugitives are found in other states, authorities routinely refuse to pick them up — including some wanted for violent crimes. www.stltoday.com/mds/news/html/1252
2. Death of a Prostitute. Ever since security guard Lebrew Jones was convicted of the brutal murder of New York City prostitute Michaelanne Hall in 1989, reporter Christine Young has questioned his guilt. Young, who first came across the case as a journalism student and now reports for the Times Herald-Record in New York’s Hudson Valley, never gave up investigating the murder. In “I Didn’t Do that Murder: Lebrew Jones and the death of Micki Hall,” she has pulled together an impressive amount of evidence pointing to Jones’ innocence. http://thr-investigations.com/lebrewjones/
3. Fraud. Two Miami Herald investigations found rampant Medicare and mortgage fraud in South Florida. A wide-ranging series of reports by Jay Weaver shows that Medicare corruption flourishes while regulators do little to stop it.
Consider this statistic: In 2005, South Florida clinics -- mostly concentrated in Miami-Dade -- submitted $2.2 billion in HIV-drug infusion bills to Medicare, according to the inspector general. That was 22 times more than the total HIV infusion claims submitted to Medicare by healthcare clinics in the rest of the country combined. [Jon Marshall][Mark Godsey]
October 13, 2008
Supreme Court Rejects Obesity Appeal
The court denied his request for a stay without comment Monday. Cooey is 5-foot-7 and weighs 267 pounds.
State officials said prison staff examined Cooey's veins and found no problems that would interfere with the execution.
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
Unprecedented Number of Federal Judges under Investigation?
U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent is the first federal judge to be indicted for alleged federal sex crimes, but he's only the latest in a string of jurists to face misconduct allegations in 2008, for behavior such as frequenting a topless club or lying under oath.
Nationwide, four other federal judges are being investigated for, among other things, taking cash from lawyers, using an escort service, posting nude photos on a personal Web site and abusing power in court.
The flurry of federal disciplinary activity appears unprecedented under the modern review system, established by Congress in 1980, according to experts and official court statistics.
``As far as I know, we've never had anything like this,'' said Arthur Hellman, a federal judicial disciplinary expert and professor at the University of Pittsburgh law school.
Kent, who sat on the Galveston bench for 17 years before being transferred to Houston last year, is the only federal judge to confront an ongoing public criminal investigation.
He's been indicted but pleaded not guilty to charges he improperly touched a female court employee and attempted to force her to perform oral sex.
He faces a trial on Jan. 26 before U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of Pensacola, who was specially assigned to oversee the case.
Four other federal judges in California, Colorado and Louisiana confront various stages of judicial disciplinary review - including U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous Jr. of New Orleans, who is being investigated for possible impeachment by the judiciary committee of the House.
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
Intuitions of Justice: Implications for Criminal Law and Justice Policy
Recent social science research suggests that many if not most judgments about criminal liability and punishment for serious wrongdoing are intuitional rather than reasoned. Further, such intuitions of justice are nuanced and widely shared, even though they concern matters that seem quite complex and subjective. While people may debate the source of these intuitions, it seems clear that, whatever their source, it must be one that is insulated from the influence of much of human experience because, if it were not, one would see differences in intuitions reflecting the vast differences in human existence across demographics and societies.
This article explores the serious implications of this reality for criminal law and criminal policy. For example, it may be unrealistic to expect the government to reeducate people away from their unhealthy interest in punishing serious wrongdoing, as is urged by some reformer, for it seems unlikely that the shared intuition that serious wrongdoing should be punished can be changed through social engineering, at least not through methods short of coercive indoctrination that liberal democracies would find unacceptable. Second, a criminal justice system that adopts rules that predictably and regularly fail to do justice or that regularly do injustice, will inevitably be widely seen as failing in a mission thought important by the community, even foundational, unless the system's unjust operation can be hidden, something that would be hard to do without breaching notions of press freedom and government transparency to which liberal democracies aspire. Finally, an understanding of the nature of people's intuitions of justice can provide more effective strategies for changing them. For example, it appears that legal and social reformers would do better not to fight people's shared intuitions of justice but rather to harness them in service of their reform programs. [Mark Godsey]
Technology to track criminals will expand
As the economy tightens the reins on the rest of us, San Bernardino County is shortening its leash even more on a special few.
This is a group almost everyone is glad that someone is watching. It includes child molesters, wife beaters, drunken drivers and gang members.
The Board of Supervisors last week voted to expand the county's use of surveillance technology to track criminal offenders who are on probation or serving time on house arrest or weekends in jail.
Some of the technology includes global positioning satellite surveillance, home-based electronic monitoring and alcohol monitoring.
Primary users of the technology will be the county Probation Department and the Sheriff's Department.
And in these days when the taxpayers are taking a beating, this program is expected to pay its own way by requiring the offenders to pay for the equipment that tracks them. It's either agree to that or jail.
Taxpayers get another break out of the deal. When the offender is out and about and being monitored, the county isn't forced to provide him with room and board, which is a big savings. It also helps alleviate overcrowding in the jails - a chronic problem in San Bernardino County.
The county signed contracts with Total Court Services to provide alcohol monitoring and Sentinel Offender Services to provide GPS tracking and home-based monitoring.
GPS satellite tracking has been in use in the county for four years. But the alcohol monitoring is new and the Sheriff's Department is new to the home-based electronic monitoring.
Sgt. David Phelps said several hundred county prisoners work during the week and serve their time on weekends. This should enable them to complete their sentences sooner.
The offenders will be charged $15 a day on a sliding scale according to ability to pay. It will cost the county nothing, and the contractors will collect the money. [Mark Godsey]
Assessing Capital Punishment Trends In The U.S.
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal for a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal and said it needed more time to consider the fate of Troy Anthony Davis.
Davis was granted a stay of execution just hours before he was scheduled to be put to death.
For analysis, Farai Chideya discusses the Constitution and the death penalty with Carl Tobias, professor of law at the University of Richmond. [Mark Godsey]