CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, November 22, 2008

'Ionia' Challenge to Corporate Criminal Liability

Mark Twain once reportedly observed that "everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it." The same could be said of corporate criminal liability.

In recent years, the corporate defense bar has frequently complained about the low threshold for vicarious corporate criminal liability and the resulting imbalance of power between the government and companies under investigation. However, since potential corporate criminal defendants typically resolve such investigations without a trial, opportunities to challenge the broad scope of corporate criminal liability are rare.

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November 22, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 21, 2008

From Justice Stevens, No Exit Signs

For all the speculation about how President-elect Barack Obama's nominees may change the Supreme Court, there is one irrefutable fact: He can't make an appointment until there is a vacancy.

Eighty-eight-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens, the court's longest-serving member, is considered most likely to provide that opening. But in a question-and-answer session Monday at an event sponsored by the University of Florida's Fredric G. Levin College of Law, Stevens gave no indication that he is ready to retire to his part-time home in Fort Lauderdale.

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November 21, 2008 in Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

APD Among Texas Police Agencies With Poor Eyewitness ID Procedures

The Austin Police Department "meets the minimum legal requirements" for the administration of live and photo lineups of criminal suspects, but "does little to ensure that its lineup procedures provide the best evidence possible in any given case," according to a new report released this morning by the non-profit The Justice Project.

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November 21, 2008 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Experts: Interrogation of boy, 8, 'out of bounds'

The third-grader's legs dangle at times from an overstuffed chair as he answers the questions of two female police officers. His manner and voice are casual, even helpful, but his words are shocking.

And so, legal analysts say, were the methods police used to obtain them.

By the time the boy was finished talking, say police in St. Johns, Arizona, he'd confessed to a premeditated double murder.

The 8-year-old is charged in juvenile court with killing his father, Vincent Romero, 29, along with Tim Romans, 39, a man who rented a room in Romero's home. Police have said the boy confessed to shooting the men. He has not entered a plea.

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November 21, 2008 in Confessions and Interrogation | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Borderless Drug Wars

The drug violence that has left nearly 4,000 people dead this year in Mexico is spreading deep into the United States, leaving a trail of slayings, kidnappings and other crimes in at least 195 cities as far afield as Atlanta, Boston, Seattle and Honolulu, according to federal authorities.

The involvement of the top four Mexican drug-trafficking organizations in distribution and money-laundering on U.S. soil has brought a war once dismissed as a foreign affair to the doorstep of local communities.

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November 20, 2008 in Drugs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Hearing Slated for Boy Charged with Fatally Shooting Dad

A court hearing is scheduled Wednesday afternoon for an 8-year-old boy accused of shooting his father and another man in rural Arizona.

A dramatic police videotape released Tuesday shows a tearful boy in St. Johns, Ariz., confessing to murder, then burying his face in his shirt after more than an hour of questioning by detectives.

"I think, um, I think I shot my dad because he was suffering, I think," the third-grader says on the tape. "So I may have shot him."

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November 20, 2008 in Confessions and Interrogation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Why Is Cuban Facing a Fine When Martha Faced the Slammer?

With Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban facing civil insider-trading charges (PDF) from the SEC, we got to wondering what it takes for securities fraud to become a crime.

The short answer: It depends on the prosecutor.

The SEC does not have authority to bring criminal charges -- it can only refer allegations to law enforcement. Then prosecutors decide whether to pursue a criminal case.

Prosecutors can be swayed by how egregious the allegations are or how much money is involved.

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November 20, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An Electronic Witness

07metrocard1largeWhen Jason Jones was arrested in a fatal shooting in the Bronx in May, he told the police that he had been nowhere near the scene. He said he had left work, ridden the bus with some co-workers and cashed his paycheck, and later had taken a subway to see his girlfriend.

Federal prosecutors charged Mr. Jones and his older brother, Corey, in the shooting, saying they had killed the victim because he had been a government witness in drug and gun cases. Both men could face the death penalty if the government decides to seek it.

But in recent weeks, the case has taken an extraordinary turn — because of Jason Jones’s MetroCard.

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November 19, 2008 in Criminal Law, Exoneration Innocence Accuracy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Immigration Regulation Eased After Firms Complain

In a concession to business groups, the Homeland Security Department will significantly scale back its planned crackdown this winter on federal contractors that hire illegal immigrants.

Under a rule published yesterday, the agency said only contractors that do more than $100,000 in federal work will be required to use an electronic government system to check the work documents of new hires. Originally, officials had proposed that companies doing $3,000 in federal work must comply.

The agency also said it would require federal contractors to check only laborers used on specific contracts, instead of their entire workforce.

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November 19, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Charlotte's DNA backlog slows effort to solve crimes

Evidence with the potential to solve or provide leads on hundreds of burglary and robbery cases awaits DNA testing as Charlotte-Mecklenburg police grapple with a backlog.

Testing is still a top priority for murder, rape and habitual offender cases. And police do have a plan to clear the backlog, but it may take until late next year.

Charlotte police blame a staffing shortage for the problem.

Crime scene evidence in 138 robbery and 443 burglary investigations was awaiting DNA analysis as of Oct. 10, the latest police data available.

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November 19, 2008 in DNA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

TSA's 'behavior detection' leads to few arrests

Fewer than 1% of airline passengers singled out at airports for suspicious behavior are arrested, Transportation Security Administration figures show, raising complaints that too many innocent people are stopped.

A TSA program launched in early 2006 that looks for terrorists using a controversial surveillance method has led to more than 160,000 people in airports receiving scrutiny, such as a pat-down search or a brief interview. That has resulted in 1,266 arrests, often on charges of carrying drugs or fake IDs, the TSA said.

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November 19, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When a Gun Isn't a Gun?

18005029_240x180U.S. attorneys had a conundrum on their hands -- they had the evidence to prove a convicted felon was in possession of a gun, but they couldn’t prove the gun was a gun.

What attorney’s had on their hands was an American double-action revolver that was manufactured between 1880 and 1941.

The problem is that federal code states that the weapon is not a firearm unless it was manufactured after 1896. Without a definitive production date, the gun was inadmissible as evidence.

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November 18, 2008 in Criminal Law, Guns, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ninth Circuit Holds CA Child Abuse Index Violates Due Process

California's Child Abuse Central Index, a database of known or suspected child abusers, violates procedural due process in failing to give listed persons a fair opportunity to challenge the allegations against them and obtain delisting, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held Nov. 5 (Humphries v. Los Angeles County, 9th Cir., No. 05-56467, 11/5/08).

Being listed on the CACI is stigmatizing in itself, and it also makes access to certain licenses, jobs, and benefits less likely, Judge Jay S. Bybee said. But the state spells out no procedure for getting delisted. Bybee thus concluded that the innocent plaintiffs' being listed on CACI resulted in the “stigma-plus” needed under Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693 (1976), for their reputational injury to be actionable under the 14th Amendment's due process clause.

The court followed Valmonte v. Bane, 18 F.3d 992 (2d Cir. 1994), interpreting a similar New York statute, but rejected Smith v. Siegelman, 322 F.3d 1290 (11th Cir. 2003), involving a variant Alabama law, “[t]o the extent that the Eleventh Circuit refuses to recognize a liberty interest [under the due process clause] where the state functionally requires agencies to consult a stigmatizing list prior to conferring a government benefit.”

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November 18, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, Due Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tenth Circuit's Construction Narrows Federal Sex Offender Registry Law

The provision of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act that makes it a crime to travel interstate and fail to register as a sex offender does not apply to someone whose travel was complete before the law went into effect, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held Nov. 5 (United States v. Husted, 10th Cir., No. 08-6010, 11/5/08).

Congress's use of the present tense “travels” in 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a)(2)(B) plainly indicates that it meant to reach only those who moved between states following the statute's enactment, the court decided.

The statute provides that a person who is a convicted sex offender and “travels in interstate or foreign commerce … and knowingly fails to register” at his destination as required by the act is subject to imprisonment for up to 10 years.

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November 18, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, Sex | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

LAPD's Fingerprint Lab Isn't Up to the Task

Late on the morning of April 14, 2006, a troubling letter rolled off the fax machine in the harried, disordered fingerprint unit of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Months before, one of the unit's print specialists had determined that several prints lifted from a cellphone store where a burglary had occurred belonged to Maria Maldonado, a 25-year-old hospital technician. Two others in the unit had signed off on the work. The match had given authorities the evidence they needed to arrest the woman and charge her with the crime. When the case went before a judge, however, a renowned fingerprint expert testified that the police had made a mistake.
The district attorney's office sent the fax demanding answers.

The analysts stood by their work, but days later the file containing the suspected burglar's prints mysteriously disappeared from the unlocked drawer where it was kept. Working from copies of the prints, others in the unit and outside consultants later concluded that Maldonado had, in fact, been wrongly accused, and the charges were dropped.

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November 18, 2008 in Evidence | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Attorney General's Report Details Human Trafficking in Texas

Texas has become a major hub for human trafficking, state officials said Monday while proposing a more aggressive response to what a senior lawmaker described as "modern-day slavery."

Nearly 20 percent of human-trafficking victims found nationwide have been in Texas, according to a report released by Attorney General Greg Abbott. The 57-page report, mandated by the Legislature in 2007, also identifies Interstate 10 as a major route through Texas for human-trafficking rings.

Abbott released the report at a news conference with Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who introduced legislation to combat the problem.

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November 18, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

An upcoming local Michigan talk "Bad to the Bone: Horrors!--Can Our Genes Help Make Us Act Badly?"

Talk located at at Schuler Books, 2820 Towne Centre Blvd Lansing, MI 48912, Tuesday, November 18, 7:30 PM.  More information about the bok the lecture is based on is below. 

Praise for the tongue-in-cheek titled, best-selling, meticulously researched book the lecture is based on: Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend, by Barbara Oakley, Prometheus Books, October, 2007.

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November 18, 2008 in DNA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Craigslist Increasingly Used to Sell Drugs

Drug dealing on craigslist has become so rampant that the city's special narcotics prosecutor has asked the online trading post to curb the ads, the Daily News has learned.

Bridget Brennan's undercover investigators have bought drugs offered on craigslist personals from dealers ranging from a Citigroup banker to an Ivy Leaguer to a violent felon using a halfway house computer. In the past four years, her office has prosecuted dozens of dealers.

"Ski lift tickets are here for sale ... Tina Turner tickets ... best seats around!" Offers like these appear virtually every day on craigslist, and they are thinly veiled ads posted by people hawking cocaine (ski) or crystal meth (cristina or tina).

"Despite devoting considerable resources to prosecuting these cases, drug dealing is still thriving on craigslist," Brennan wrote craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster. Brennan said she was inspired to act by a recent agreement between craigslist and attorneys general from 40 states to curb prostitution ads.

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November 17, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, Drugs, Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Editorial: DNA Testing Beyond a shadow of a doubt

It's hard to believe that someone would plead guilty to a crime he didn't commit.

But it happens, more often than anyone likes to admit.

More than 200 people have been exonerated in recent years thanks to advances in DNA testing. In about 25 percent of those cases, the wrongfully convicted person either pleaded guilty, confessed to the crime, or made self-incriminating statements.

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November 16, 2008 in DNA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sobreity Checkpoints: Some See Big Problem in Wisconsin Drinking

When a 15-year-old comes into Wile-e’s bar looking for a cold beer, the bartender, Mike Whaley, is happy to serve it up — as long as a parent is there to give permission.\

“If they’re 15, 16, 17, it’s fine if they want to sit down and have a few beers,” said Mr. Whaley, who owns the tavern in this small town in southern Wisconsin.

While it might raise some eyebrows in most of America, it is perfectly legal in Wisconsin. Minors can drink alcohol in a bar or restaurant in Wisconsin if they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who gives consent. While there is no state law setting a minimum age, bartenders can use their discretion in deciding whom to serve.


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November 16, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)