CrimProf Blog

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Government Acknowledges Use of Waterboarding

From Senate Democrats demanded a criminal investigation into waterboarding by government interrogators Tuesday after the Bush administration acknowledged for the first time that the tactic was used on three terror suspects.

In congressional testimony Tuesday, CIA Director Michael Hayden became the first administration official to publicly acknowledge the agency used waterboarding on detainees following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Waterboarding involves strapping a suspect down and pouring water over his cloth-covered face to create the sensation of drowning. It has been traced back hundreds of years, to the Spanish Inquisition, and is condemned by nations around the world.

"We used it against these three detainees because of the circumstances at the time," Hayden told the Senate Intelligence Committee. "There was the belief that additional catastrophic attacks against the homeland were inevitable. And we had limited knowledge about al-Qaida and its workings. Those two realities have changed." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 6, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Utah Passes Wrongly Incarcerated Compensation Bill

From While money would not erase the pain of being wrongly convicted and imprisoned for a crime, it could help exonerated individuals start new lives when they walk out of prison and re-enter society.

    Such is the motivation behind SB16, sponsored by Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights. The measure passed unanimously out of the House Judiciary Committee Thursday morning.

    "You can try to imagine what it means to these people" - some come out of prison to no Social Security benefits, family, retirement or career, Bell said.

    To inmates proved factually innocent, SB16 would provide $35,000 - the average annual income in Utah - for each year of incarceration up to a maximum of 15.

    Bell's legislation would establish the process whereby inmates, convicted of felonies, could petition for hearings to determine their factual innocence.

    New DNA techniques have opened the doors to an entire category of recent exonerees nationwide, Bell said.

    "We've worked hard with advocates from the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center toward a common goal, to help these few cases that are so compelling," said Utah Assistant Attorney General Creighton Horton.

    "We don't know when and if we'll have one in Utah," Horton said, noting that some states have already had several. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 6, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Annapolis Tries for Videotaped Interrogations

From mobtown beat: The video-interrogations measure is getting a third try this year in Annapolis, having failed in two previous sessions. This year's model is called House Bill 6 (HB 6), and the continuing opposition it faces from most of Maryland's law-enforcement community echoes the sentiments of police and prosecutors nationwide, which were measured in a 2007 study published in The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. "Our results," the authors write, "suggest that for whatever reason--cost, storage issues, inertia, or a desire to avoid exposure in occasional cases of false confessions--support for videotaping exists but is not overwhelming" among police brass of the country's largest municipal departments, 40 percent of whom opposed videotaping interrogations.

As law-enforcement leaders from around Maryland milled about waiting for the House Judiciary Committee hearing to begin, the tenor of this year's resistance was best uttered by James Green, a Baltimore City police lawyer. "It's a bad thing," he said of HB 6. "But we need a lot of money if it's going to become a good thing." According to the bill's fiscal note, city police would require close to 10 interview rooms costing $10,000 per room, and the state's cumulative cost over the first five years of the law's implementation would be about $500,000.

Baltimore City Del. Curtis Anderson (D-43rd) is the lead sponsor of the measure, and at the hearing he told his committee colleagues that Barack Obama, whom Anderson supports in this year's presidential race, championed a similar measure's passage in Illinois in 2003, when Obama was a state senator there. Illinois was the first state to pass such a law, though local governments had already been adopting similar measures, as pointed out in a Chicago Tribune editorial that praised Obama's bill "as a way to reduce defendants' false claims of police coercion, bolster prosecutors' cases in court and restore public trust in the justice system."

Eight states and Washington, D.C., now require videotaped interrogations, and Anderson told the committee that local jurisdictions in every state require it. Top cops who made the transition against their better judgment at the outset have since become proponents. Massachusetts district attorney William M. Bennett, for example, told Lawyers Weekly last year that he'd opposed the change because he thought it would result "in a number of defendants refusing to give statements. They might be willing to speak to the police, but they'd be hesitant and reluctant to be recorded. I was wrong."

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 5, 2008 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

British Justice Secretary Looks into Eavesdropping Scandal

From British Justice Secretary Jack Straw will investigate allegations that officials eavesdropped on a conversation between a Muslim member of Parliament and a man imprisoned while awaiting extradition to the U.S. to face terrorism charges. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 5, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UH LawProf Michael Olivas on Hernandez v. Texas, the "Criminal Law Companion to Brown"

Michael Olivas, William B. Bates Distinguished Chair of Law at Houston, has posted Colored Men and Hombres Aqui, Hernandez v. Texas and the Emergence of Mexican American Lawyering on SSRN.  The abstract:

An important case was decided by a unanimous United State Supreme Court in May, 1954, in an opinion written by Chief Justice Warren. It invoked race, which had been employed by the State in a way to marginalize a discrete racial group, and formulated Equal Protection. The term Colored Men figured in it. Brown v. Board of Education? No - the case was Hernandez v. Texas, written at the same time as Brown, by the same Court, and was published in the 1954 Supreme Court Reports just before Brown. This criminal law companion to Brown involved all white juries in Mexican-Jim Crow Texas, and has been all-but-forgotten in the bright light accorded Brown. But its anti-subordination language, small town sociology, and bathroom signage (the men's room sign, invoked by Justice Warren, read Colored Men and Hombres Aqui (Men Here). The case was also the first case argued by Mexican American lawyers before the Supreme Court. This study draws upon previously-unexamined archival materials and newspaper accounts, as well as information from the lawyers who tried the 1954 case.

Full text here.

Jack Chin

February 5, 2008 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 4, 2008

CrimProf Jeremy Horder to Present "Law Reform, Government, and the Law Commission" at University of Maryland Law School

On Tuesday, February 12, Distinguished Visiting Professor Jeremy Horder will present "Law Reform, Government and the Law Commission: The Case of Murder." The presentation will take place at 5 p.m. in the Ceremonial Court Room at the UNiversity of Maryland School of Law

Jeremy Horder is a Professor of Criminal Law at Oxford University in England, where he has been a Chairman of the Law Faculty and a Chair of the Trustees of the Oxford Institute. In January 2005, he also was appointed as a Law Commissioner for the Law Commission of England and Wales. Professor Horder has an LLB from Hull University and a BCL, MA, and DPhil degree from Oxford University. [Mark Godsey]

February 4, 2008 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Keith Findley Gets Client a New Trial in Shaken Baby Case

Findley_keith_fall2004 Twelve years after Audrey Edmunds of Waunakee was sent to prison on charges of shaking a baby to death, a Wisconsin appeals court has overturned her conviction and ordered a new trial, based on new research on shaken baby syndrome.

Edmunds’s attorney,University of Wisconsin Law School CrimProf Keith Findley, co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project at the UW Law School, called the January 31 decision "absolutely wonderful" for Edmunds, who has always insisted on her innocence. Edmunds was a day-care provider when the seven-month-old child died after being dropped off with her in 1995.

"It’s an enormous decision for Audrey, but I also think it’s absolutely the right decision," Findley said. "It’s the just outcome in this case."

Edmunds has been serving an 18-year sentence after being convicted in 1996.

At the time of Edmunds’s conviction, doctors who raised the questions that are now being asked were viewed as extremists, Findley said, while now they are part of the mainstream. [Mark Godsey]

February 4, 2008 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Problems WIth DNA Backlog

From Throughout the country, DNA tests that could pave the way to jailing violent predators are routinely delayed, sometimes for years, because of staffing and funding constraints at crime labs and increasing numbers of convicts being tested.

Last week, Boulder police arrested a suspect in the 10-year-old slaying of Susannah Chase, thanks to a DNA match from Wyoming. Diego Olmos Alcalde's sample that the Wyoming crime lab uploaded into a federal database had waited — untested — for more than three years.

Even the FBI's Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, which coughed up the DNA sample taken from Chase's body after her death, matching it with the Wyoming profile, faces a massive backlog.

"The FBI Laboratory currently has a backlog of approximately 180,000 federal convicted offender samples that are waiting for DNA processing," FBI spokeswoman Ann Todd said in an e-mail. "Additionally, approximately 50,000 samples have been processed and are waiting to be entered into the national DNA database."

Colorado gave the DNA sample taken from genetic material found on Chase's body to CODIS in 2002. 

Had it been submitted to the FBI in the past few months, there is a chance it wouldn't have been available when Wyoming entered Alcalde's sample little more than a week ago.

In a 2003 study, the National Institute of Justice found 542,700 cases with possible biological evidence either still in possession of local law enforcement or backlogged at local or state forensic labs.

"You need more labs, more personnel, more equipment and more training. It is a chain, and any weak link in the chain can just break it," said Lawrence Kobilinsky, chairman of the forensic sciences department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

"There are many cases out there where a rape kit was sitting around and wasn't analyzed for a lengthy period. That delay causes other people to be raped, murdered and brutalized," said Kobilinsky, an expert witness in cases involving DNA. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 4, 2008 in DNA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Criminal Law Conversations Invitation

Criminal Law Conversations

 Leading Scholars Debate the Fundamental Questions of Modern Criminal Law 

    *  Peer-engaged B community of scholars nominates works on which to comment

    *  Short comments (800 words) by those interested, with author response

    *  Direct engagement allows debating scholars to "join issue"

    *  Website makes submissions publicly and immediately available

    *  Process designed to promote thoughtful responses and efficient time management 

Kin Ferzan and Paul Robinson invite criminal law scholars from around the world to contribute to an exciting peer-engaged project of criminal law "conversations" to be published collectively as a book. Concise "core" papers not to exceed 5000 words (approximately ten single-spaced pages) presenting a theory or position will each be followed by a number of short comments (normally no more than 800 words B approximately two pages or less), with a final reply to the comments by the original core paper author.

The goal of Criminal Law Conversations CLC is to promote thoughtful critiques of important issues. Too often opposing advocates talk past each other. CLC's web-based virtual "conversations" are designed to help opponents join issue. The website is not a blog but rather a vehicle for nominating and organizing the project's topics and contributors.

Strong emphasis is placed on well written, accessible presentations about enduring ideas, without requiring elaborate documentation or intricate analysis. Our hope is to produce a final volume that will have an audience beyond the community of criminal law scholars

The selection of core texts will be made by the criminal law scholarly community at large, as people express interest in the topics on which they would like to comment. All scholars are invited to submit nominations for the subject of a "core text" based on either previously published articles or new material. All are also invited to submit comments on any one or more of the nominated core texts.

Because not all contributions will be included in the published volume (although they may be permanently available on the website, the process by which CLC is assembled is designed to shape a contributor's investment of time according to the likelihood of publication. An initial contribution may be simply a short note, with more demanding submissions required only after it appears that the core paper and its responses are developing into a collection likely to be included in the final published volume.

Through a process, the book collection will be assembled by late 2009. Oxford University Press has expressed an interest in publishing the volume. In addition, there will be a permanent CLC website that contains core texts and commentaries not included in the published volume. The permanent website also will allow the future submission of comments on the published volumes contents, and may be used to produce subsequent collections.

Fro More Information, please contact [Mark Godsey]

February 4, 2008 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Archivist Steal New York's History

From Archivist Daniel Lorello was arrested this past week, charged with stealing hundreds of historic documents from the New York State Library over the last six years. Lorello sold the historic documents — some to collectors and some on eBay.

And it was eBay that led to Lorello's demise. 

An amateur historian and lawyer named Joseph Romito helped crack the case after he found an 1823 letter written by John C. Calhoun for sale on eBay.

The New York State Library confirmed that the Calhoun letter was indeed missing from the vault. Romito and the Attorney General's office began bidding on the document on eBay, lest some other person buy it. The attorney general's office won the bid and found the thief, along with more than a dozen boxes of purloined documents.

"This crime is particularly repugnant because it's dealing with historic documents, which is literally stealing the history of New York, page by page," said New York's Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 4, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)