CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, January 10, 2009

U.S. to collect DNA samples of arrested immigrants

Beginning today, the U.S. government will collect DNA samples from people arrested and detained for suspected immigration violations, despite concerns that the move violates their privacy rights.

The new Justice Department policy also will expand DNA collection to people arrested on suspicion of committing federal crimes. Previously, the government only obtained DNA from people convicted of certain crimes.

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January 10, 2009 in DNA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (2)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Obstruction of justice charge 'upped the ante' against Kent

The government raised the stakes in the criminal case against U.S. District Judge Sam Kent, now accusing a man who swore to protect the system with thwarting it instead, legal experts said Wednesday.

They said the obstruction of justice charge added with sexual abuse allegations against Kent this week boosts the government's overall case in several ways. That new charge may be the easiest to prove and carries a hefty 20-year sentence. It also takes the matter beyond the "he said/she said" standoff of the sexual charges.

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January 9, 2009 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Colorado Judge Allows Twitter In Courtroom

The courtroom now includes Twitter.

What?  Twitter inside the courtroom?

Yes, it’s true.  A Colorado judge recently approved the use of Twitter, and blogs, inside the courtroom to cover an infant-abuse trial.

Wichita Eagle (Kansas) reporter, Ron Sylvester, pushed for the court to allow the use of Twitter for his courtroom reporting.

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January 9, 2009 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

DNA Offers Two Hope

The DNA found on the electrical cord used to bind the hands of a shop owner slain 15 years ago doesn't belong to either of the two men convicted of killing him.

Fingerprints found on the door handle of the store's safe are not theirs, and the state's main witness now admits in a taped interview that she lied when she testified at their trial.

But Ronald Taylor and George Gould are still sitting in a Connecticut prison — serving 80 years for the July 4 murder of Eugenio Vega DeLeon in 1993.

The men are waiting for a Superior Court judge in Rockville to rule on their legal attempt for a new trial or for New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington's office to finish an investigation started two years ago, when questions about the case were first raised.

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January 9, 2009 in DNA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Controversy surrounds DNA evidence in Yogurt Shop Murders

New DNA evidence and the possible addition of two pro bono defense attorneys added controversy to the Yogurt Shop Murders pretrial Wednesday.

Four young women were found murdered at a North Austin I Can't Believe its Yogurt shop in 1991.

But 17 years later, the suspects accused of killing Amy Ayers, Eliza Thomas and Jennifer and Sarah Harbison are still fighting their convictions.

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January 9, 2009 in DNA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Survey: ER doctors suspect excessive police force

Nearly 98% of emergency room physicians report that they believe some patients were victims of suspected excessive force by police, a national survey concludes. Yet most of the suspected incidents went unreported because no laws require physicians to alert authorities.

The survey of 315 physicians, contained in the Emergency Medicine Journal's January issue and based on 2002 data, is believed to be the first doctors' account of suspected police brutality, says H. Range Hutson, the lead author and assistant professor of emergency medicine at Harvard.

The responses were based on interactions with patients who were brought in by police or who said officers caused their injuries. Ninety-five percent of the doctors reported injuries caused by fists and feet. Hutson says the survey and analysis of findings were in the works for years.

National police groups challenged the survey, saying it would be hard for physicians to know if injuries resulted from excessive force if they were not present during the encounters.

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January 8, 2009 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Truce on hardline sentencing

THE NSW Opposition has pledged to end the "law and order auction" in a dramatic break with the tradition of promising to increase punishments and fill jails that has characterised every state election campaign since 1988.

The Coalition's justice spokesman, Greg Smith, who entered Parliament in 2007 with a reputation as a tough criminal prosecutor, said hardline sentencing and prisons policies - including those of his own party - have failed.

In an exclusive interview, Mr Smith told the Herald he would invest more money and resources in rehabilitation to break the cycle in which almost half of all NSW criminals re-offend after their release.

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January 8, 2009 in Sentencing Corrections | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (3)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Police chief Hurtt calls on city to help curb black deaths

A ministers' organization today called on elected officials to form a committee to study ways to combat rapidly increasing violence among Houston's African-American youth.

"We're going to scream from the rooftop" until elected officials respond by forming a committee to study the problem, said the Rev. Robert Jefferson, pastor of Cullen Missionary Baptist Church.

Jefferson, the director of special projects for Houston Ministers Against Crime, spoke at a news conference the group held a day after Police Chief Harold Hurtt called on local churches, schools, businesses and other organizations to join him in developing innovative ways of addressing an alarming increase in the number of Houston's young black men killing each other.

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January 7, 2009 in Race | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (3)

Mike Wolff asks Obama for sentencing reform

Missouri Supreme Court Judge Michael A. Wolff has joined the chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court in a letter to President-elect Barack Obama calling for "major change in state and federal sentencing practices" that have resulted in the United States imprisoning a larger percentage of its population than any other country.

The letter to Obama and his transition team from Judge Wolff and Chief Justice Paul De Muniz says it is ironic that the United States has become the leader in incarceration at a time when it is "hoping to regain respect as leader of the free world." 

The judges liken society's dependence on prisons to an addiction and called for more community-based options to replace incarceration.

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January 7, 2009 in Sentencing Corrections | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Growing old behind bars

The number of older prisoners in Virginia has more than doubled in the past 10 years, creating new issues for the state's prison system.

CAPRON Winter sunshine slices through a narrow security window and falls on Aloysius Joseph Beyrer's white hair, slight shoulders and the linen covering his fractured hip.

Like the rest of the country, Virginia is coping with a growing number of aging inmates. Beyrer, 84, is the state's oldest and his home, the Deerfield Correctional Center, focuses on geriatric inmates.

In 1999, Virginia had 2,015 prisoners 50 or older. Today, there are almost 4,700, and by 2011, state officials expect there to be 5,057.

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January 7, 2009 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Kansas Man Granted Hearing on DNA Tests

Merrill Andrews was convicted of murder in 1977 and sentenced to life in prison. Having been granted parole in 1999, Andrews is now requesting DNA tests in order to prove his innocence. Although he is currently serving a 10-year sentence for an unrelated crime, Andrews maintains his innocence in the 1977 murder of Nola Babb, a 91-year-old retired businesswoman in Wichita.

Andrews’ request for DNA testing was denied by a Sedgewick County judge, who thought Andrews was misusing a 2001 DNA state law that grants anybody convicted of rape or murder a hearing regarding any forensic evidence relevant to the case. But the Kansas Court of Appeals overruled that decision and ordered the lower court to hold a hearing on Andrews’ request. The hearing will take place later this month.

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January 6, 2009 in DNA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (2)

The Stories Behind The Statistics

A recent report on the rise of young black males being killed in the U.S. continues to raise concern among youth, parents and community leaders. Some say the findings reflect a much larger problem, the failure of society on many levels.

A roundtable of people directly affected by violence share their perspectives. Sylvia Banks, whose son Deon was killed in Detroit in 2003; Karen Graham, a former law enforcement officer whose son Aaron was killed in Milwaukee in 2004, and Ron Moten, of the Washington, D.C.-based group Peaceaholics share stories of loss and offer thoughts on what lies beneath the crisis.

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January 6, 2009 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (4)

Dealing With Addiction From The Judge's Bench

Npr_logo As News & Notes takes a month-long look at addiction, we get insight from our regular contributor, Judge Lynn Toler of TV's Divorce Court.

She joins Farai Chideya to discuss her days as a municipal court judge in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, where she saw many cases related to drug addiction.

Listen to "Dealing With Addiction From The Judge's Bench"

January 6, 2009 in Drugs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Human Rights Watch studied abuses

The Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) is currently being sued by seven female prisoners on behalf of all others similarly situated for sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and inappropriate visual surveillance within its correctional facilities for women. The suit comes on the heels of a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) finding in 1995 that sexual misconduct pervades Michigan's women's prisons, including rape, sexual abuse, sexually aggressive acts by guards, and violations of the female prisoners' legitimate privacy interests. Our own investigation, conducted from 1994 through 1996, and based on interviews with current and former female prisoners as well as attorneys, prisoner rights advocates, and MDOC, revealed that rape, sexual assault or abuse, criminal sexual contact, and other misconduct by corrections staff are continuing and serious problems within the women's prisons in Michigan have been tolerated over the years at both the institutional and departmental levels.

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January 5, 2009 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (3)

Kidnappings in Mexico Send Shivers Across Border

Four hooded men smashed in the door to the adobe home of an 80-year-old farmer here in November, handcuffing his frail wrists and driving him to a makeshift jail. They released him after relatives and friends paid a $9,000 ransom, which included his life savings.

The kidnapping was a dismal story of cruelty and heartbreak, familiar all across Mexico, but with a new twist: the daughter of this victim lived in the United States and was able to wire money to help assemble his ransom, the farmer, who insisted that he not be identified by name, said in an interview.

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January 5, 2009 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

'Justified homicides' more than doubled

One hour after revelers welcomed the new year in 2008, a motorist at a Northwest Side intersection fired three shots into 24-year-old Tomas Garza, moments after authorities said Garza threatened the motorist with a baseball bat in an apparent road-rage incident.

The killing, the first of 137 recorded in San Antonio last year, was an act of self-defense, police later determined, and was classified by department officials as a justified homicide.

While the total number of killings in San Antonio barely budged in 2008 — up only slightly from the 134 recorded the prior year — detectives noted an upswing in cases in which the shooter was found to be within his rights, from instances of apparent self-defense to protecting one's home and family.

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January 5, 2009 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Douglas A. Berman Criminal Law professor at Ohio State University

Berman_douglas Professor Berman was the Editor and Developments Office Chair of the Harvard Law Review. After graduation, Professor Berman served as a law clerk for Judge Jon O. Newman and then for Judge Guido Calabresi, both on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. After clerking, Professor Berman was a litigation associate at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, and Garrison in New York City.

Professor Berman's principal teaching and research focus is in the area of criminal law and criminal sentencing, though he also has teaching and practice experience in the fields of intellectual property.  He teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Punishment and Sentencing, Criminal Procedure - Evidence Gathering, The Death Penalty, and Introduction to Intellectual Property.

Professor Berman is the co-author of a casebook, Sentencing Law and Policy: Cases, Statutes and Guidelines, published by Aspen Publishers. In addition to authoring numerous publications on topics ranging from capital punishment to the federal sentencing guidelines, Professor Berman has served as an Editor of the Federal Sentencing Reporter for nearly 10 years, and also now serves as co-managing editor of the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law.During the 1999-2000 school year,

Professor Berman received the Ohio State University Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching which is given to only 10 persons each year from an eligible pool of nearly 3,000 faculty members. Professor Berman was one of the youngest faculty members to ever receive this award, and he was subsequently asked to chair the University Committee which selects this award's recipients in the 2002-2003 school year. [Mark Godsey]

January 4, 2009 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)