CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Air freight gets tighter screening

WASHINGTON — For the first time, business cargo carried on most passenger planes is being checked for explosives, according to airlines and the Transportation Security Administration.

Airlines began checking air freight on single-aisle airplanes such as 737s and 757s as of Oct. 1, the TSA said. Air freight often includes products sent from manufacturing plants to stores and is carried on planes along with passenger luggage.

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November 8, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 7, 2008

UAB students uncover links to Obama speech used to commit fraud

Sen. Barack Obama's election night acceptance speech was intended to be a call for a renewed spirit of national unity, but the president-elect also unknowingly provided criminals with a new tool for perpetrating Internet fraud. 4591111

Computer science and criminal justice students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham uncovered a series of fraudulent e-mails that claim to link to video of that speech, but could put a visitor's personal information in the hands of criminals.

According to Gary Warner, UAB's director of research in computer forensics, the spam links to Web sites registered Tuesday in China.

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November 7, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Take the Handcuffs Off the Economic Recovery

A month ago, who would have thought that the Bush Administration would order the partial nationalization of the nation's banks to fix credit markets and support the economy? Maybe other innovative, even "radical," ideas are in order. Unless we come up with new ideas to sell cars and durable goods to fire up the economy, collapsing domestic auto sales threaten tens of thousands of jobs.

In addition, the recession will cause shrinking government revenue at every level. Even last spring 18 states were predicting reduced budgets in FY 2009. Unless new revenues are found, we will soon see the furloughs and wholesale firing of teachers, nurses, and emergency first responders; closed schools, libraries and hospitals; crumbling roads unfixed; and broken bridges closed to traffic.

Cliches about the auto industry's problems blame workers' and retirees' health care costs and management for making the wrong kinds of cars. But to sell cars we need to abandon cliches, old myths, and the blame game.

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

California voters all over the map on propositions

Reporting from Sacramento -- It was a good day for chickens and children's hospitals, but not for alternative-fuel vehicles and Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens. A law-enforcement funding measure fell flat, but a proposition restricting parole was victorious.

Voters may have banned same-sex marriage, but they rejected a measure that would have required parents to be notified before a girl could obtain an abortion. And they turned down several big-ticket funding initiatives while backing the most expensive of them, a nearly $10-billion bond to build a bullet train.

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November 7, 2008 in Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

No Federal Charges for Eliot Spitzer

Large_eliotFormer Gov. Eliot Spitzer will not be charged with any crime for his patronage of a prostitution ring, federal prosecutors announced on Thursday.

The announcement was made by the office of Michael J. Garcia, the United States attorney in Manhattan. Mr. Spitzer announced his resignation in March two days after The New York Times reported his involvement in a high-priced prostitution ring, the Emperors Club V.I.P.

Mr. Garcia said in a statement that his office had found no evidence that Mr. Spitzer had used public money or campaign funds to pay for his encounters with prostitutes.

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November 6, 2008 in Criminal Law, DOJ News, Political News, Sex | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Voters ban traffic-light cameras

Cincinnatians - the first voters in the country to decide whether their municipality should be able to use cameras to catch drivers running red lights - favor a camera ban.

Issue 7, which would prohibit the city from installing cameras, passed 51 percent to 49 percent.

City Council in August rejected a proposal by the city manager to begin contract negotiations with a camera company. Mayor Mark Mallory had said he would veto the ordinance if it had passed.

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

Stem cell, medical marijuana props approved

Michigan voters easily approved a law Tuesday to allow the seriously ill to smoke marijuana, while a proposal to ease restrictions on stem cell research research won by a tighter margin.

Michigan became the 13th state -- and first in the Midwest -- to legalize medical marijuana. While backers said it would help as many as 50,000 residents ease the pain of cancer, Hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS and other illnesses, Proposal 1 drew widespread opposition from law enforcement, business groups and health organizations.

Dianne Byrum, spokeswoman for Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care which championed the proposal, said the opposition ads didn't work.

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

Do Guns Reduce Crime?

Npr_logo The Supreme Court's ruling this summer that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to bear arms has added fuel to the ongoing national debate about guns. Recently, a panel of six experts took on the proposition "Guns Reduce Crime" in an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate.

The series is based on a program that began in London in 2002. It pits experts on either side of an issue against each other in Oxford-style debates.

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November 6, 2008 in Guns | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

City: No 'patterns of abuse' in obstruction arrests

Accidentally caught in an after-midnight clash between police and revelers, Richardson was doused with pepper spray, punched in the head and shot with a stun gun in the parking lot of the McDonald's near Seattle Center.

Prosecutors followed with charges of obstruction of justice and resisting arrest -- so-called contempt of cop charges that some defense lawyers say are filed to justify otherwise unwarranted arrests.

A Seattle P-I investigation earlier this year showed that nearly half of those arrested by Seattle police officers on obstruction charges from 2002 to 2007 were freed without conviction.

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November 5, 2008 in Evidence | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Organized-crime act targets drug gangs

Looking tired and resigned, Shaneka Penix stood before U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles in his Baltimore courtroom yesterday morning and quietly asked for mercy. "I believe I deserve a second chance," she said.

Penix was caught selling crack cocaine in August and September of last year. It was her first serious infraction. But because of her affiliation with the Maryland division of a drug gang known as the Tree Top Piru Bloods, she was charged and convicted of conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act, or RICO. At 23, Penix, the mother of a 3-year-old girl, was facing a minimum mandatory prison sentence of 10 years.

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November 5, 2008 in Due Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

False results put drug tests under microscope

For Nadine Artemis and Ron Obadia, August began with plans for a family vacation in Minnesota. The vacation ended with the two Canadian citizens being led through Toronto's airport in handcuffs, locked up and separated from their baby.

"We were dumbfounded," Artemis says. Police told them they could be facing years in prison for exporting narcotics, because 2.5 pounds of material found in their carry-on bag tested positive for hashish. "All we knew was that we didn't have drugs."

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November 5, 2008 in Drugs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ninth Circuit Upholds Border Searches of International Mail

LetterThe Fourth Amendment's border search doctrine permits customs agents acting without a warrant or particularized suspicion to read letters mailed to overseas addresses, the en banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held Oct. 23 (United States v. Seljan, 9th Cir. (en banc), No. 05-50236, 10/23/08).

Under 19 U.S.C. §1583, customs inspectors are generally required to have reasonable suspicion before opening and reading outbound mail. However, individuals sending more than $10,000 in currency or “negotiable instruments” abroad must file forms declaring that they are doing so, and 19 U.S.C. §5317(b) authorizes inspectors to conduct suspicionless searches for illegally exported currency in “any envelope or other container.”

The opinion by Judge Richard R. Clifton explained that such inspections may reasonably include scanning the contents of letters in express mail packages to make sure the letters are not promissory notes or other negotiable instruments. Any evidence of other crimes revealed during these scans is admissible at trial under the plain-view doctrine, the opinion said.

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November 4, 2008 in Criminal Law, Search and Seizure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dismissed Stevens Juror Lied to Go to the Racetrack

04stevens_190As it turned out, her father had not died. Marian Hinnant merely wanted to go to the races. And, she was not about to let the trial of Senator Ted Stevens get in her way.

On Monday, Ms. Hinnant stunned a courtroom when she confessed she had concocted a story about her father’s death to be let off the jury that would, a day later, convict Mr. Stevens of Alaska on ethics violations.

Ms. Hinnant said she had lied to attend the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita racetrack in California.

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November 4, 2008 in Criminal Law, News, Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Study Links Violent Video Games, Hostility

Children and teenagers who play violent video games show increased physical aggression months afterward, according to new research that adds another layer of evidence to the continuing debate over the video-game habits of the youngest generation.

The research, published today in the journal Pediatrics, brings together three longitudinal studies, one from the United States and two from Japan, examining the content of games, how often they are played and aggressive behaviors later in a school year.

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November 4, 2008 in Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Exoneration Man

From 1951 to 1987, the Dallas County district attorney's office was the domain of Henry Wade, a legendary prosecutor who personally never lost a case — and who rarely missed an opportunity to seek the maximum punishment for criminals. But in impoverished, predominantly African-American South Dallas, Wade's hardball tactics created resentment and distrust.

"Affluent people, people accepted by society, loved law enforcement. All of the other people who were economically disadvantaged, they didn't trust it — and I think rightly so," says Watkins. So in 2002, Watkins ran for D.A. Despite having no name recognition outside of South Dallas, Watkins came within 10,000 votes of winning. Four years later, he tried again and won, in the process becoming Texas's first elected African-American district attorney.

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November 4, 2008 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Prop. A backers say now is the time to fund anti-gang efforts

The city of Los Angeles ended 2006 with the high-profile killings of two children: a 9-year-old girl in Angeleno Heights and a 14-year-old girl in Harbor Gateway who, police say, was targeted in part because of her race.

In the wake of those tragedies, the city's elected officials began work on a tax measure that would raise $30 million for anti-gang initiatives, including after-school programs and city-run recreation activities.

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November 4, 2008 in Gang Violence | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 3, 2008

New Advancements in "Big Brother" Technology

From Anyone who’s ever watched an episode of the thousand “CSI” or similar crime shows on CBS knows that, often times, crimes are solved with cell phones. Many criminals forget that data left on cell phones (e.g. - text messages, voicemails, call logs) can leave a trail a mile long. And investigators follow those trails using technology like the Cellebrite Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED).

The Cellebrite UFED (pictured) is a tool that can be used to extract vital data such as contacts, pictures, videos, text messages, call logs and electronic serial numbers from over 1600 different cell-phone models - or 95 percent of the phones on the market today.

The UFED actually works pretty simply (requiring no PC for field operation): an investigator simply connects a cell phone to the device (which is somewhat similar in appearance to a credit-card reader), identifies the handset type via the onscreen menu, inserts a USB flash drive and hits “start” to extract information. As noted by Cellebrite: “field extraction of data insures that a suspect’s phone can be examined before the individual has a chance to destroy or erase data.”

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November 3, 2008 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

SCOTUS Grants Cert. in DNA Testing Case

In a case of obvious importance to the innocence movement, the U.S. Supreme Court today granted review in a case that raises the question whether 42 U.S.C. s. 1983 provides a cause of action to have DNA testing performed in order to prove actual innocence.  In District Attorney's Office v. Osborne, the respondent was convicted of rape, kidnapping, and related crimes.  He later attempted to have DNA testing performed on genetic materials found near the scene of the attack in order to prove his innocence but he was thwarted in his efforts in state court.  The question raised is whether section 1983 can be used essentially as a discovery device in order to support further litigation once the conviction has become final.  A subsidiary issue is the thorny question, likely to be dodged by the high Court once again, whether a freestanding innocence claim is cognizable under the Due Pocess Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  Courtesy of Scotus Blog, you can read the petition for certiorari here, the brief in opposition here, the reply brief here, and the Ninth Circuit decision here. [Mike Mannheimer]

November 3, 2008 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Law Enforcement and Civil Rights Groups Divided Over California Ballot Measures

LOS ANGELES — On Tuesday, California voters will consider three ballot measures that propose wide-ranging changes to the state’s criminal justice system but also pit law enforcement officials against civil rights advocates.

One initiative, Proposition 5, would increase financing for drug rehabilitation programs and reduce penalties for some drug- and addiction-related crimes. Another, Proposition 6, would increase financing for law enforcement and increase penalties for drug- and gang-related offenses. And a third, Proposition 9, would expand victims’ roles in criminal and parole proceedings, prioritize restitution payments to victims and reduce the frequency of parole hearings for offenders.

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

State Supreme Court passes on reviewing speedy trial ruling

An opinion that says Riverside County judges don't have to send criminal cases facing speedy trial dismissals to family law and probate courts has survived its latest challenge.

The state Supreme Court on Oct. 22 passed on a bid by the Riverside County district attorney's office to review the decision issued earlier this year by a panel of Orange County Superior Court judges.

Riverside County judges say the protection to minors and vulnerable people offered by family law and probate courts should not be disrupted by criminal cases. They have said those courts and others also deal with issues of public safety.

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