CrimProf Blog

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

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Youth Development Center's closing marks change in juvenile justice approach

The shuttering of the county-run Youth Development Center in Hudson ends an era for a place that has served troubled youths for more than 100 years.

But it also marks a fundamental change in how the county's juvenile justice system will deal with kids who need a time-out from the community.

Previously, those youths - mostly probation violators who had committed crimes like burglary or domestic violence - were sent for months to the 453-acre campus in Summit County.

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November 15, 2008 in Juveniles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Innocent Man's Conviction Vacated After 27 Years

Today the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Court granted William Dillon a new trial based on DNA evidence which demonstrates Dillon's actual innocence of the 1981 murder of James Dvorak in Canova Beach Florida. Dillon's 27 years equals the longest time served by any of the 223 DNA exonerees nationwide. He is the third man to be exonerated in Brevard County in recent years.

 Mr. Dillon, who has always maintained his innocence, was convicted on the basis of unreliable and false evidence including: subsequently recanted testimony of a star witness who was threatened by and having sex with the State's lead investigator; fraudulent scientific testimony of a dog handler; testimony of a jailhouse snitch whose pending rape charge was dismissed after fingering Dillon; and a mistaken eyewitness identification by a man legally blind in one eye.

 "This case is indicative of the culture of corruption in Brevard County," said David Menschel, Legal Director of the Innocence Project of Florida (IPF). "They were more concerned with getting a conviction than convicting the right person. Once they identified a suspect, they were willing to do anything – even manufacture evidence – in order to win."

Dillon's case is particularly troubling because it involved the now-discredited testimony of dog handler John Preston, a man who has been exposed as a fraud by both courts and the national media. But as Melissa Montle, Staff Attorney with the IPF explained, "The only way the dog could do what Preston purported it could do is if someone from the inside was feeding Preston the information." 

Both Wilton Dedge and Juan Ramos were also wrongfully convicted on the basis of Preston's testimony. Seth Miller, Executive Director of the IPF, called for an investigation into the conduct of the Brevard County State Attorney's Office and Sheriff's Office as well as a comprehensive review of the hundreds of cases in which John Preston testified: "Governor Crist needs to take a hard look at what's been going on in Brevard County and restore public confidence in Florida's criminal justice system. Our organization would be happy to assist the Governor in these efforts." [Bobbi Madonna]

November 14, 2008 in Exoneration Innocence Accuracy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wrongly-jailed men lose compensation bids

Two victims of high-profile “miscarriages of justice” cases lost a legal battle for increased compensation awards today.

Darren Hall was wrongly imprisoned for killing Cardiff newsagent Philip Saunders, and Stephen Miller wrongly served time for the brutal murder of prostitute Lynette White.

Mr Hall, 39, from Newport, Gwent, and Mr Miller, from Clapham North, south London, and their co-defendants, had their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal after spending years behind bars.

Total compensation awards in both cases are in excess of £400,000.

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November 14, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

L.A. County sheriff's officials acknowledge that genetic evidence in 5,635 rape cases may be untested

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, under pressure from county supervisors and watchdog groups to account for its handling of DNA evidence from sexual assault cases, acknowledged Wednesday it did not know whether genetic evidence from more than 5,600 rape cases had been examined.

In response to an inquiry by the Board of Supervisors last month, Sheriff's Department officials tallied 5,635 sexual assault evidence kits -- semen and other DNA samples collected by authorities from victims -- sitting in freezer storage facilities, Cmdr. Earl Shields said. The department must now manually compare that inventory with records from its crime laboratory to determine which kits remain unexamined, Shields told the board Wednesday.

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November 14, 2008 in DNA | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Repeal of death penalty urged

state commission reviewing capital punishment recommended last night an end to executions in Maryland, prompting hope among death penalty opponents that the General Assembly could soon abolish the 30-year practice.

The Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment voted 13-7 to make the recommendation. It found that the death penalty carries the "real possibility" of executing innocent people and may be biased against blacks.

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November 14, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Put scientists, not cops, in crime labs

The Michigan State Police released a final report late last month on the firearms unit of the Detroit Police Crime Lab. It’s a highly disturbing document.

MSP found, among other deficiencies, that guns and bullets were kept unsecured and unprotected from possible loss and contamination; that essential records were missing in some 90% of the files; that critical scientific equipment had never been properly calibrated; and that many of the firearms examiners were untrained and unqualified.

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November 13, 2008 in Evidence | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New report details shattered lives of released Guantanamo detainees

Guantanamo Detainees released from U.S. detention in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Afghanistan live shattered lives as a result of U.S. policies in the war on terror, according to a new report by human rights experts at the University of California, Berkeley. The report, "Guantanamo and Its Aftermath: U.S. Detention and Interrogation Practices and Their Impact on Detainees," based on a two-year study, reveals in graphic detail the cumulative effect of Bush Administration policies on the lives of 62 released detainees. Many of the prisoners were sold into captivity and subjected to brutal treatment in U.S. prison camps in Afghanistan. Once in Guantanamo, prisoners were denied access to civilian courts to challenge the legality of their detention. Almost two-thirds of the former detainees interviewed reported having psychological problems since leaving Guantanamo.

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November 13, 2008 in Homeland Security | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Internet thieves make big money stealing corporate info

An innocuous posting appeared on a Houston-based technology company's internal website on a recent Friday afternoon.

A couple of workers saw it, and obeyed instructions to click on a Web link. The posting seemed trustworthy. It was on an employees-only message board. And the link referenced news about a favorite company charity.

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November 13, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Case Raising Victim Impact Evidence Issue Falls One Vote Short of Cert.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in a case raising the issue of how far prosecutors can go in capital prosecutions in introducing victim impact evidence.  At issue was a video presentation introduced by the prosecutors at trial, incorporating photographs and video footage of the victim from birth to the age of 19 (when she was murdered), and narrated by her mother.  Both Justice Stevens and Justice Breyer issued dissents from the denial of cert., and Justice Souter also indicated his dissent from the disposition, leaving the petitioner one vote shy of the four needed for the Court to review the case.  The video itself was attached to the dissents and can be accessed here in both Real Player and Windows Media Player formats [Mike Mannheimer]

November 12, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

DNA Solves Property Crimes (But Are We Ready for That?)

Results of an experiment using DNA to solve property crimes are in: collecting biological evidence at burglary scenes works.

The study — funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and evaluated by the Urban Institute — compared burglary investigations that used only traditional police practices to burglary investigations in which DNA evidence was also collected and analyzed. The study revealed that, when DNA was added to traditional property crime investigations:

  • More than twice as many suspects were identified.
  • Twice as many suspects were arrested.
  • More than twice as many cases were accepted for prosecution.

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November 12, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Supreme Court Argument Report: Jack the Ripper in His Armchair

The Supreme Court on Monday considered a case involving whether a defendant's failure to report for confinement after conviction constitutes a "violent crime" under the Armed Career Criminal Act. The justices weighed arguments concerning whether failure to report is an aggressive or a passive act, and contemplated hypotheticals involving a defendant shirking jail time in order to relax in his armchair or to create holiday memories with his family.

Deondery Chambers, who pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, had prior convictions for drug distribution and for robbery and battery. He challenged whether his conviction under an Illinois escape law for failure to report for confinement was a violent felony that supplied the third predicate conviction for enhancement of his sentence under the ACCA.

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November 12, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cincinnati Patrols, a jail on cut list

Hamilton County's administration is recommending massive layoffs, departmental consolidation and severe public safety cuts to balance the bleakest budget in memory.

Administrator Patrick Thompson on Monday unveiled details of the 2009 plan, which would eliminate 532 county jobs - 18 percent of the county's general fund positions - by the end of February.

The plan would also close the 800-bed Queensgate jail by March and eliminate sheriff's patrols in the county's three largest townships, Green, Colerain and Anderson.

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November 12, 2008 in Cost of Crime | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

NYPD Starts Collecting DNA from ... the Police

Dna_rgbThe NYPD has started taking DNA samples from CSI detectives to look for cross-contamination at crime scenes, sources said last night.

Police brass have been pushing for the samples for at least three years. The need was highlighted when a cop's blood turned up, unexplained, on a sink of the blood-soaked apartment of "Realtor to the Stars" Linda Stein.

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November 11, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, DNA , Search and Seizure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Court Upholds On-Scene Traffic Discretion During DUI Roadblock

DuiGiving police officers conducting a sobriety checkpoint the discretion to suspend temporarily and then resume their operation of the checkpoint to alleviate traffic caused by the checkpoint violates neither the Fourth Amendment nor its state constitutional counterpart, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Oct. 27 (Commonwealth v. Worthy, Pa., No. 1 WAP 2007, 10/27/08).

From now on, however, administrative requirements for the operation of checkpoints should limit officers' discretion to suspend and resume checkpoints to relieve traffic congestion, the court said.

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November 11, 2008 in Criminal Law, Search and Seizure | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

How Did Spitzer Dodge Criminal Charges?

Spizer All right. He is off the hook. You know who we are talking about, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer will not - that's right - not face criminal charges for committing crimes, soliciting high-end prostitutes.

The fed is saying there's no evidence that he misused public or campaign cash. How in the world did Spitzer get off so easy?

Video: Watch the 'America's News HQ' interview on Eliot Spitzer

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November 11, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Obama legal advisers draft plans for Guantánamo

Guant The White House today challenged president-elect Barack Obama to make good on his campaign promise to close Guantanámo Bay saying "it's not so easy" to shut down the notorious detention centre.

Hopes that Obama would move swiftly to dismantle the detention facility rose after the Associated Press reported today that his legal advisers were drafting plans to ship scores of inmates from the offshore prison to the mainland to stand trial in US courts.

Under plans drawn up by Obama's advisers, between 60 and 80 detainees would be put on trial in the US in a mix of civilian criminal courts and the court martial system. About 17 high-level detainees, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, would also go on trial but before a new version of a national security court - not the Bush administration's much criticised military tribunals.

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November 11, 2008 in Homeland Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

What President Obama Can Do to Reduce Gun Violence

President-elect Obama should implement seven tested and proven initiatives that will have an immediate impact on reducing gun related violence, accidents and suicides without affecting the Second Amendment or having any negative impact on responsible and law abiding gun owners.

Of the average 34,000 gun deaths in the US every year approximately 11,000 are homicides, 18,000 are suicides and 5,000 are unintentional accidents. We can change these horrific numbers.

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November 11, 2008 in Guns | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ninth Circuit Finds CA Child Abuse Database Unconstitutional

California's database of child abusers and suspected child abusers violates due process because it does not allow those named on it to challenge the allegations, the 9th Circuit ruled.

Craig and Wendy Humphries' child alleged that they were abusers, so the county took their other children away. The state dropped the charges after they were disproved by a doctor.

Despite their acquittal, the Humphries were listed on the state Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) with no chance to clear their names.

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

Obama's DOJ Transition Plan

For more than a month, a squad of lawyers has been gathering for the first Justice Department transition in the post-9/11 world. Now that their candidate has won, they're at the gates -- or rather, the 20-foot-high aluminum doors of Main Justice -- waiting for President-elect Barack Obama and President George W. Bush to finalize the rules for information-sharing and access during the transition.

The Justice Department calls its own preparation unprecedented in modern times. Under a 2004 law, the department has been vetting Obama's transition team for security clearances for more than two months. And since at least July, the department has been laying the groundwork for a new administration. Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed his chief of staff, Brian Benczkowski, and Lee Lofthus, the assistant attorney general for administration, to coordinate the transition.

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November 10, 2008 in DOJ News, Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

S.F. killings seen as centering on gangs, turf

San Francisco's 98 homicides last year, the highest number in 12 years, were anything but random. According to a new study, the violence was concentrated - routinely involving the same gangs and featuring suspects and victims with long rap sheets.

Nearly three-fourths of the 38 suspects arrested so far in the killings had criminal records, according to the study by the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice, a research and policy group at the UC Berkeley School of Law. The average suspect had 12 previous arrests.

Homicide victims typically had even longer records, the study found. More than three-fourths had been booked for a felony or misdemeanor at some point, and victims who had records averaged 13 arrests.

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November 10, 2008 in Gang Violence | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)