CrimProf Blog

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

Friday, January 16, 2009

Deep cover: New girl at Millington school partied, made friends -- and sought to score drugs

The new student at Millington Central High School was freaking out in study hall.

She'd just been talking to a boy about scoring some drugs one late September day when she turned to get her purse and couldn't find her cell phone inside.

The slight, pretty girl with dark blonde hair and a darker secret went nuts.

She jumped up and dumped the purse out onto the table, demanding, "Who took my cell phone!?"

The phone's loss itself was of no importance.

Continue reading

January 16, 2009 in Drugs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ruling keeps Oregon criminals from being resentenced

A Marion County case resulted Wednesday in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that keeps hundreds of Oregon criminals from having to be resentenced.

The case was argued Oct. 14, while Hardy Myers was still Oregon attorney general. The 5-4 decision by the nation's highest court upholds the state's position and reverses the Oregon Supreme Court, which ruled in October 2007 that a jury had to make factual findings before a judge can impose consecutive prison sentences on a criminal.

Continue reading

January 15, 2009 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mistakes in fingerprint analysis trigger review of nearly 1,000 LAPD cases

Los Angeles Police Department fingerprint examiners who falsely implicated at least two people in crimes have been linked to nearly 1,000 other criminal cases that authorities say must now be reviewed to ensure that similar errors weren't made.

Nearly two dozen of those cases are awaiting trial in the Los Angeles court system, said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for Dist. Atty Steve Cooley.

Continue reading

January 15, 2009 in Evidence | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Intelligence Court Affirms Wiretapping Powers

A federal intelligence court, in a rare public opinion, issued a major ruling validating the power of the president and Congress to wiretap international phone calls and intercept e-mail messages without a specific court order, even when Americans’ private communications may be involved.

The court decision, made in August 2008 by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, came in an unclassified, redacted form.

The decision marks the first time since the disclosure of the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program three years ago that an appellate court has addressed the constitutionality of the federal government’s wiretapping powers. In validating the government’s wide authority to collect foreign intelligence, it may offer legal credence to the Bush administration’s repeated assertions that the president has the power to act without specific court approval in ordering national security eavesdropping that may involve Americans.

Continue reading

January 15, 2009 in Civil Rights, Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, Homeland Security, Search and Seizure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

In new tactic, L.A. goes after gangs' money

The city of Los Angeles, plagued by 23,000 violent gang crimes since 2004, including 784 murders and 12,000 felony assaults, announced Tuesday that it had won its first civil judgment, for $5 million, against a criminal gang that had dominated the heroin trade downtown for decades.

The verdict could bode well for another first-of-its-kind lawsuit the city filed last month that goes after all assets of gang leaders, not just those associated with their criminal activity. Both suits seek to plow the money back into improving the neighborhoods affected by the gangs through a fund.

"By giving prosecutors more tools to fight gang activity at the local level, we are protecting our communities at the same time [that] we're able to strengthen our statewide anti-gang efforts," said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a statement released with the announcement of the $5 million verdict against the 5th and Hill gang in L.A.

Continue reading

January 15, 2009 in Gang Violence | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New details emerge about murder scene, fake confessions

Juror and courtroom spectators learned shocking details about the scene of the Truett Street murder and false leads that led police on a wild goose chase.

By Danny Gallagher, McKinney Courier-Gazette

Jurors in the Raul Cortez trial learned the gruesome details of the crime scene he and Eddie Ray Williams allegedly left behind, and the long trail of false leads left by other suspects that threw McKinney police off course for more than four years.

Continue reading

January 15, 2009 in False Confessions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Justices Say Evidence Is Valid Despite Police Error

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the conviction of an Alabama man on drug and weapons charges, emphasizing that the exclusionary rule, which generally bars prosecutors from using evidence obtained by the police through improper searches, is far from absolute.

In a 5-to-4 opinion, the court upheld the federal conviction of Bennie Dean Herring, who from the court records appears to have been very unlucky as well as felonious in his conduct. In upholding the conviction, the court's majority came to a conclusion that will most likely please those who complain about criminals going free on "technicalities" and alarm those who fear that the high court is looking for ways to narrow the reach of the exclusionary rule.

Continue reading

January 15, 2009 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More on the Herring Case

As Brooks posted below, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Herring v. U.S. today, continuing on its path of narrowing the Fourth Amendment's exclusionary rule.  A couple of points jumped out at me as I read the opinion.

First, the scope of the opinion is unclear.  The general tenor of the opinion is that mere negligence on the part of the police will rarely if ever result in the exclusion of evidence discovered as a result.  However, the Court hedges, both at the beginning and end of its opinion, potentially narrowing the scope of the ruling to cover only those cases where the negligence occurred at some unspecified temporal distance from the ultimate Fourth Amendment violation.  Thus, the Court wrote that the error here "was the result of isolated negligence attenuated from the arrest," slip op. at 1 (emphasis added), and concluded that the exclusionary rule does not apply "when police mistakes are the result of negligence such as that described here."  Slip op. at 12 (emphasis added).  Thus, the case leaves open the question of the application of the exclusionary rule where the Fourth Amendment violation results from police negligence by the arresting officer him- or herself.

Second, although the U.S. conceded there was a Fourth Amendment violation here, the Court did not decide the issue and seems to imply that the answer is not so clear cut.  However, it is difficult for me to see how a negligent mistake by a law enforcement official resulting in an arrest can be anything other than a Fourth Amendment violation.  [Mike Mannheimer]

January 14, 2009 in Search and Seizure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Supreme Court Narrows Exclusionary Rule

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the conviction of an Alabama man on drug and weapons charges, emphasizing that the exclusionary rule, which generally bars prosecutors from using evidence obtained by the police through improper searches, is far from absolute.

In a 5-to-4 opinion, the court upheld the federal conviction of Bennie Dean Herring, who from the court records appears to have been very unlucky as well as felonious in his conduct. In upholding the conviction, the court’s majority came to a conclusion that will most likely please those who complain about criminals going free on “technicalities.”

Continue reading

January 14, 2009 in Criminal Law, Search and Seizure, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Incentive program gives prisoners second chance

Some defendants sentenced to imprisonment in the state corrections system now have an opportunity to be paroled early.

Offenders who are eligible for a Recidivism Risk Reduction Incentive program can be released prior to their minimum sentence provided they complete required treatment programs while incarcerated, said Armstrong County President Judge Kenneth Valasek.

A state law passed in November permits the early release for nonviolent offenders sentenced to the state system.

In passing the law, the state legislature is "trying to provide an incentive to state prisoners to successfully complete all the required treatment programs as quickly as possible while they're in prison," Valasek said.

Continue reading

January 14, 2009 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Immigration Cases Soar, Represent Half of All Federal Prosecutions

Immigration prosecutions have soared during the Bush administration, representing more than half of all federal prosecutions, up from 18 percent in the first fiscal year of Bush's presidency, according to data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

In the most recent available month's numbers, a total of 11,454 immigration prosecutions in September 2008 represents a 700 percent increase from the same month in 2001, the year Bush took office, according to TRAC, which compiles data from the government's own records.

The shift in government enforcement raises the share of immigration cases as a proportion of all federal filings from 18 percent in fiscal year 2001 to 31 percent in 2004, the last year of Bush's first term, to 51 percent by fiscal year 2008, which ended in October.

Continue reading

January 14, 2009 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Double Victory for Criminal Defendants

The Supreme Court issued two opinions this morning, both of them striking down lower court opinions that had favored prosecutors. Over at the Sentencing Law and Policy blog, professor Doug Berman is already proclaiming that the decisions offer further proof that theCourt is the "most pro-defendant appellate court in the nation on sentencing issues."

In Chambers v. United States, with Justice Stephen Breyer writing for a unanimous Court, the justices agreed that a conviction on the charge of "failure to report" to prison is not the kind of prior "violent felony" conviction that triggers a 15-year mandatory prison sentence for someone found guilty of illegal possession of a firearm.

Continue reading

January 14, 2009 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Court again rebukes Portage County judge

An Ohio appeals court has upbraided a controversial Portage County judge for a second time in as many weeks " this time for finding a young public defender in contempt.

The 11th Ohio District Court of Appeals found Wednesday that Municipal Judge John Plough "abused his discretion" when he fined attorney Brian Jones for refusing to proceed with trial in 2007.

Jones was just four months out of law school and had been assigned the case only the day before. Jones said he had a duty to his client to be able to prepare. Plough ordered the young attorney held and later fined him.

"I'm glad I've been exonerated," Jones said Friday in a telephone interview.


Continue reading

January 14, 2009 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rejected juror figures in bid for new trial

In September 1997, an overweight black woman was excluded from a criminal trial jury in Binghamton because of a prosecutor’s claim that fat people tend to take sides with the defense.

Now, the black man who was convicted of gun and drug charges in that case may get a new trial.

Seth Dolphy, 32, a state prison inmate, claims the prosecutor used his opinion about the woman’s weight only as a pretext for keeping an African-American off the jury.

A federal appeals court that heard legal arguments on the case in Buffalo last fall has ordered a federal district judge to take a second look at the case of Dolphy, who was convicted in the case by a Broome County jury.

Continue reading

January 13, 2009 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The BART shooting: Are violent protests the answer?

Oaklandriots What is it people used to say about urban centers during the civil rights protests of the '60s? Tinderbox.

No question that Oakland is a full-on bonfire, soaked in gasoline and just waiting for a match or two. Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson and reporter Henry Lee have provided readers a long running and deep image of a city off its moorings, from hapless (or absent or corrupt) government leaders to rampant homicide.

So is it the fuming frustrations of Oakland that provided the tinder for riotous, violent protest Wednesday night, and the shooting of Oscar Grant in a BART station the flame?


Continue reading

January 13, 2009 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Speedy Trial Case Before Supreme Court This Week

After he was charged with hitting his girlfriend in the face, career criminal Michael Brillon sat in jail without bail for nearly three years, going through six public defenders before being tried for assault.

The delays paid off -- for Brillon, anyway: A Vermont court threw out his conviction and freed him from prison last spring, saying his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial had been violated.

Now, the U.S. Supreme Court is taking up the case, trying to decide whether delays caused by public defenders can deprive a criminal defendant of that right. In particular: Whether governments can be blamed for such delays because they're the ones who assign and pay the lawyers for indigent defendants.

Continue reading

January 12, 2009 in Criminal Law, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Crime And Punishment: A Primer

Npr_logo Though the U.S. crime rate has been on a steady decline since the early 1990s, some caution that tough economic times could drive crime rates back up.

Lately, several high-profile white collar capers have captured the national attention, reigniting the conversation about appropriate punishment for non-violent, but egregious offenses.

As News & Notes kicks off a month-long series on crime, Farai Chideya gets a primer on crime and punishment from Franklin Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

He's the author of The Great American Crime Decline. [Mark Godsey]

Listen to "Crime And Punishment: A Primer"

January 11, 2009 in White Collar | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bad Economy May Fuel Hate Groups, Experts Warn

Kkk For 20 years, Bart McIntyre has tracked white supremacist movements, even spending two years undercover in Alabama to penetrate a violent young band of criminals who called themselves the Confederate Hammerskins.

Away from his wife and young daughter, McIntyre took the alias "Mark," attended Ku Klux Klan rallies and educated himself in racist propaganda. He and a law enforcement partner ultimately helped build criminal cases that sent more than 10 men to prison for their involvement in the murder and vicious beatings of black men in the Birmingham area in the early 1990s.

Now, as McIntyre prepares to retire from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, he and other analysts are warning that the threat from hate groups and splinter organizations connected to the Klan should not be underestimated, especially at a time of economic unrest.

Continue reading

January 11, 2009 in Organized Crime | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Federal rules bode ill for federal judge

Next month's trial of U.S. District Judge Sam Kent is likely to be a sad and sordid affair.

According to federal indictments, one handed down Tuesday, two former female employees accuse him of sexually forcing himself on them. He contends that both, for differing reasons, are lying.

The evidence against Kent will hardly be edifying.

To refute it, Kent's lawyer, highly-regarded Dick DeGuerin, will have to attack the credibility of the women.

But modern rules of evidence, say legal experts, limit traditional methods of attacking the character of accusers. And a federal rule instituted in the 1990s may open Kent's own past behavior to examination.

Continue reading

January 11, 2009 in Evidence | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Samuel Buell Criminal Law Professor at the Washington University School of Law

Samb Professor Buell's writing and teaching focus on criminal law and on the regulatory state, particularly regulation of activity in corporations and financial markets.  His courses include Criminal Law, Securities Regulation, and a seminar in Advanced Topics in Regulation of Financial Markets.  He joined the faculty of Washington University School of Law as an associate professor in July 2006 after serving as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

Professor Buell's publications include "The Upside of Overbreadth," NYU Law Review (2008); "Criminal Procedure Within the Firm," Stanford Law Review (2007); "Novel Criminal Fraud," NYU Law Review (2006) (selected for 2006 Stanford-Yale Junior Faculty Forum); "Reforming Punishment of Financial Reporting Fraud," Cardozo Law Review (2007); and "The Blaming Function of Entity Criminal Liability," Indiana Law Journal (2006).

Professor Buell graduated magna cum laude from Brown University with an A.B. in History and summa cum laude from New York University School of Law, where he received awards for finishing first in his class, publishing the best law review note, authoring the best criminal law paper, and displaying outstanding scholarship, character, and professional activities.  He was an editor of the New York University Law Review and was elected to the Order of the Coif.

Following law school, Professor Buell clerked for the Honorable Jack B. Weinstein of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.  He practiced as an associate with Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C. before joining the United States Department of Justice, for which he worked as a federal prosecutor, leading cases of national significance in New York, Boston, Washington, and Houston.  Professor Buell twice received the Attorney General's Award for Exceptional Service, which is the Department of Justice's highest honor.

Professor Buell frequently comments on white collar crime and federal criminal law for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, The News Hour, the Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Houston Chronicle, Time Magazine, USA Today, and other media outlets.  He has been an op-ed contributor to the Los Angeles Times and has authored a legal commentary blog for the Houston Chronicle. [Mark Godsey]

January 11, 2009 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)