Saturday, January 31, 2009
In 1983, a young lawyer in the Reagan White House was hard at work on what he called in a memorandum “the campaign to amend or abolish the exclusionary rule” — the principle that evidence obtained by police misconduct cannot be used against a defendant.
The Reagan administration’s attacks on the exclusionary rule — a barrage of speeches, opinion articles, litigation and proposed legislation — never gained much traction. But now that young lawyer, John G. Roberts Jr., is chief justice of the United States.
This month, Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority in Herring v. United States, a 5-to-4 decision, took a big step toward the goal he had discussed a quarter-century before. Taking aim at one of the towering legacies of the Warren Court, its landmark 1961 decision applying the exclusionary rule to the states, the chief justice’s majority opinion established for the first time that unlawful police conduct should not require the suppression of evidence if all that was involved was isolated carelessness. That was a significant step in itself. More important yet, it suggested that the exclusionary rule itself might be at risk.
Friday, January 30, 2009
From MSNBC.com: "COLUMBIA, S.C. - Monica Caison figured it was worth a shot, so she fired off a letter, a single paragraph, to the man on death row for kidnapping and killing Alice Donovan during a two-week, 2,300-mile crime spree.
“You say you want to do the right thing,” wrote Caison, the founder of a group that searches for missing people. “I’m here and I’m listening.”
She received Chadrick Fulks’ reply two months later: a map, color photos of the area where he says he left Donovan’s body six years ago, and instructions to look where searchers had not ventured before." Full Story from MSNBC.com... [Michele Berry]
From the National Law Journal, NLJ.com: MIAMI — Chief Judge Federico Moreno of the Southern District of Florida, bucking the wishes of the U.S. Department of Justice, has ordered all plea agreements to be posted online.
In an order issued on Jan. 22, Moreno stated that as of Feb. 20, all plea agreements "will be public documents, with full remote access available to all members of the public and the bar, unless the Court has entered an order in advance directing the sealing or otherwise restricting a plea agreement." Moreno's order rescinds a previous order of April 2007 taking all plea agreements offline and making them accessible for physical viewing only at the courthouse.
The issue of whether plea agreements should be publicly available, able to be viewed electronically through the PACER system, is a controversial one, pitting prosecutors against defense lawyers and First Amendment advocates. In 2007, the Justice Department asked the Judicial Conference to restrict electronic access to plea and cooperation agreements in order to keep information about cooperating witnesses secret.
The Justice Department was concerned about a new Web site, Whosarat.com, which was posting information about all cooperators in federal cases. "We are witnessing the rise of a new cottage industry engaged in republishing court filings about cooperators on Web sites such as whosarat.com for the clear purpose of witness intimidation, retaliation and harassment," stated the Justice Department's memo to the courts. The Southern District of Florida, like most other courts around the nation, complied, taking pleas off PACER.
But defense attorneys, First Amendment advocates and the federal public defender's office protested, arguing that the public's right to know about the court system was being impaired.
From Law.com: "A military judge at Guantanamo on Thursday rejected a White House request to suspend a hearing for the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing, creating an unexpected challenge for the administration as it reviews how America puts suspected terrorists on trial.
The judge, Army Col. James Pohl, said his decision was difficult but necessary to protect "the public interest in a speedy trial." The ruling came in the case against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The bombing of the Navy destroyer in 2000 in the harbor of Aden, Yemen, killed 17 U.S. sailors.
It seemed to take the Pentagon and White House by surprise.
"We just learned of the ruling ... and we are consulting with the Pentagon and the Department of Justice to explore our options in the case," said White Press secretary Robert Gibbs, adding that he doubted the decision would hamper the administration's ability to decide how to move forward from Guantanamo." Full Story from Law.com... [Michele Berry]
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Two Pennsylvania judges agreed Monday to plead guilty to fraud charges accusing them of taking $2.6 million in kickbacks in return for placing juvenile offenders into certain detention facilities.
The plea agreements for Luzerne County President Judge Mark Ciavarella and Senior Judge Michael Conahan call for sentences of more than seven years in prison. Ciavarella resigned from the bench in a Jan. 23 letter to Gov. Ed Rendell. Conahan has agreed to resign within 10 days of a judge's acceptance of the plea.
Authorities say the judges took kickbacks between 2003 and 2007 in exchange for guaranteeing the placement of juvenile offenders into facilities operated by PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care LLC. In some cases, Ciavarella ordered children into detention even when juvenile probation officers did not recommend it.
"They sold their oaths of offices to the highest bidders," Deron Roberts, chief of the FBI's Scranton office, said at a news conference Monday.
A mistrial was declared Monday when a home-invasion robbery suspect smeared human feces on his attorney's face then threw more at the jury.
Weusi McGowan, 37, was upset because San Diego Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Fraser refused to remove Deputy Alternate Public Defender Jeffrey Martin from the case, prosecutor Christopher Lawson said.
At the mid-morning break, McGowan produced a plastic baggie filled with fecal matter and spread it on Martin's hair and face, then flung the excrement toward the jury box, hitting the briefcase of juror No. 9 but missing the juror himself.
"That juror didn't even see it coming," Lawson said.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Gov. Rod Blagojevich's chief defense attorney announced Friday that he is bailing out of the fraud and bribery case against the governor, strongly hinting that his embattled client refused to listen to his advice.
"I never require a client to do what I say, but I do require them to at least listen," Edward Genson said. "I intend to withdraw as counsel in this case."
In Arizona v. Johnson, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held today that, after a car is lawfully stopped for a traffic violation, the police may search a passenger as long as they have reasonable suspicion to believe the suspect is armed and currently dangerous. The Court held that the reasonable suspicion necessary to institute a stop and frisk is satisfied by the suspicion justifying the initial stop, even though that suspicion is directed at the driver, not his or her passengers. Once the stop is made, therefore, the police need only reasonable suspicion to believe the passenger is armed and dangerous in order to proceed to a frisk. [Mike Mannheimer]
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Courtesy of uscourts.gov, here is a list of the 55 federal judicial vacancies the Obama Administration will have the opportunity to fill by appointment. 18 of the vacancies are considered "judicial emergencies." [Michele Berry]
NPR.org: On Day 2 of his presidency, Barack Obama signed executive orders "designed to close Guantanamo Bay prison within a year, prohibit extreme interrogation practices and revisit military tribunals for suspected terrorists.
'Shutting the detention facility is intended to show that U.S. foreign policy is in metamorphosis. The message that we are sending around the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism' but will do so 'in a manner consistent with our values and our ideals," Obama said while signing the orders. Full story from NPR.org... [Michele Berry]
(Baltimore, MD) Juvenile offenders brought from Baltimore detention centers, along with Baltimore PD representatives, school officials, social workers, and leaders from grass-roots organizations, participated in a panel discussion regarding street crime. The five teens, recognizing the mistakes they had made, talked about their intentions to stay on the right path in spite of the violence in their neighborhoods. "But asked whether they felt safe in their neighborhoods, their answers showed just how tenuous staying on the right path can be.
'For me, safe or not safe, it doesn't matter because things can go bad in a second,' said one of the teens, who added that he once made $850 a week on the streets slinging drugs. 'But if I've got [a gun], I'm the man and you can't say nothing to me. If I don't have a [gun], I'll walk around with a knife.' At one point, the panel moderator asked the teens whether any of their family or friends had been killed. 'This year?' one asked...
The teens who spoke to the crowd talked about the lure of the streets and how important the money they earned through criminal activity was to their families. They said they didn't want to become involved in violence, but some said factors in their neighborhoods and the need to be respected were difficult to overcome.
Full story from baltimoresun.com... [Michele Berry]
New: Criminal Mental Health and Disability Law, Evidence and Testimony: A Comprehensive Reference Manual for Lawyer, Judges and Criminal Justice Professionals
Pre-order now with a 15% discount (January 2009)
This Comprehensive Reference Manual examines both criminal mental health and disability discrimination law from the points of view of lawyers, judges and other professionals within the criminal justice system. The manual builds on established resources within the ABA, including the Mental & Physical Disability Law Reporter, Mental Disability Law, Evidence and Testimony and Disability Discrimination Law, Evidence and Testimony. It synthesizes the best and most recent information at the ABA on mental health and discrimination law that specifically pertains to criminal justice matters. It also references the ABA's Criminal Justice Mental Health Standards. Regular: $110; $93.50 discounted. 458 pages. View contents. Order today
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
CrimProf Richard Leo (University of San Francisco Law School), with co-author Tom Wells, has just published THE WRONG GUYS: MURDER, FALSE CONFESSIONS, AND THE NORFOLK FOUR (The New Press).
On July 8, 1997, nineteen-year-old sailor Billy Bosko returned from a naval cruise to his home in Norfolk, Virginia, to find his wife on the floor of their bedroom in a pool of blood. Michelle, eighteen, had been raped and stabbed to death the night before. In this gripping tale of justice gone awry, four innocent men
separately confess, under intense police pressure, to a heinous crime that none of them actually committed. As this enthralling story unfolds, the real perpetrator is matched to DNA evidence and convicted, yet three of the men known as the Norfolk Four remain in prison today. The controversy over this case continues to simmer, with the victim's family still convinced of the men's guilt even as growing media attention has exposed the questionable treatment they received at the hands of police officers, prosecutors, and even their own defense attorneys. Barry Scheck has described THE WRONGF GUYS as “a harrowing tale of how four innocent men were wrongly convicted by a deepley flawed legal system that failed to find the truth or dispense justice at virtually every turn.” The Washington Post and the New York Times have both recently written op-eds calling for the Governor of Virgnia to pardon the Norfolk Four.
Leo is also the author of the recently published (2008) POLICE INTERROGATION AND AMERICAN JUSTICE (Harvard University Press), which CrimProf Yale Kamisar (University of Michigan and University of San Diego) has called “the best book on police interrogation I have ever read.”
Even before his adorable dance moves with First Lady Michelle (video here), President Obama's first move came in the criminal law arena-- an order via Defense Secretary Robert Gates to military prosecutors in the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals to request a 120 day stay in all pending cases. The stay will allow the Obama administration a chance to review all the pending cases. His order came just hours after his oath of office. Thus far proceedings are frozen in the case against Canadian Omar Khadr, who was captured at age 15 and is accused of murdering a U.S. soldier with a grenade during a firefight in Afghanistan. A stay was also granted in the death penalty case against five prisoners accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks. More from CNN.com... [Michele Berry]
Seton Hall LawProf Mark Denbeaux, Iowa LawProf Tung Yin, and UC Davis LawProf Diane Amann comment on the dilemma the Obama administration faces as it sifts through the Guantanamo cases. A "charge or release" policy seems to be the consensus; there is also agreement that some prosecutions may not be possible due to evidence tainted by torture techniques. But Yin points out that it may be a bad move to release high profile detainees such as Khaled Shaikh Mohammed, who admitted to being the mastermind of the 911 attacks but who also was subjected to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics. "In a regular criminal case we would say the government violated the constitutional rules so the remedy is to suppress the evidence. The government can't make its case without the suppressed evidence so the defendant has to be let go...I think there is going to be some discomfort level with simply releasing Khaled Shaikh Mohammed." Yin says the prospect of releasing so-called high value terror suspects may force the new administration to create a system of preventive incapacitation similar to Bush's enemy combatant detention.
But Amann warns that "it would be a mistake to continue to rely on a version of the Bush enemy combatant detention regime." "Are we going to depart from 200 years of legal tradition prohibiting this kind of detention [without charge] and craft an entirely new program" for the probable handful of detainees who pose a threat?
Denbeaux points out that releasing terror suspects could advance US intelligence. "Agents could be tasked to watch them, trace their movements overseas, and tap their phones. If former detainees seek to contact Al Qaeda, their movements and contacts could provide fresh intelligence on the terror group. To me, released detainees are a window into the world that is out there, and if we are not looking through that window it is a waste." More from the Christian Science Monitor... [Michele Berry]
(Australia). An Aussie man has been arrested for repeatedly breaking and entering into an adult shop to have sex with a blow up doll. Her name is Jungle Jane and he didn't even stay to cuddle her (or so it appears). Instead, he abandoned her in an alley behind the store where his DNA was collected from the doll. Story here. UPDATE: Jungle Jane didn't make any incriminating statements against the suspect but she reportedly had a shocked look on her face.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Just 14 months ago, at his confirmation hearing, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey frustrated and angered some senators by refusing to state that waterboarding, the near-drowning technique used on three prisoners by the Central Intelligence Agency, is in fact torture.
This week, at his confirmation hearing, Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general-designate, did not hesitate to express a clear view. He noted that waterboarding had been used to torment prisoners during the Inquisition, by the Japanese in World War II and in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge.
“We prosecuted our own soldiers for using it in Vietnam,” Mr. Holder said. “Waterboarding is torture.”
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Nassau police are about to start videotaping all interrogations in homicide and serious robbery cases, a move that both law enforcement officials and defense lawyers say will make prosecutions more fair.
Police and prosecutors said the videotapes will be useful tools at trial, and that they will also help protect police against false allegations that they denied defendants their rights. Defense lawyers also applauded the move, saying that it will protect their clients from coerced confessions and police abuse.
"We don't want to tell jurors what happened," said District Attorney Kathleen Rice at a news conference Friday. "Ideally, we want to show them."
In Suffolk County, police and prosecutors have similar plans, officials there said. Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said in a statement that he hopes to have some video cameras up and running "within three months."
You invite a couple of million of your closest friends to the biggest bash your town has ever thrown. You extend bar hours nearly till dawn. You import thousands of cops to keep the streets safe. You commandeer every bit of paved surface you can think of to accommodate innumerable buses packed with visitors.
And then you plaster the street lamp poles in a central part of the city with big red signs "WARNING" all that "This area has been declared a PROSTITUTION FREE ZONE."
What's wrong with this picture?
Stephen Garvey has written and taught in the areas of capital punishment, criminal law, and the philosophy of criminal law. Following his graduation from Yale Law School, Professor Garvey clerked for the Hon. Wilfred Feinberg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and then practiced in the Washington, D.C. firm of Covington & Burling. He joined the Cornell Law School Faculty in 1994. Professor Garvey has written briefs on behalf of death-sentenced inmates and participated in various symposia on capital punishment as part of his work with the Cornell Death Penalty Project. His current scholarship focuses on the substantive criminal law. [Mark Godsey]