CrimProf Blog

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Do-It-Yourself Criminal Investigations (Kolber)

Small_kolber_USD_photo New technologies are making it easier to conduct do-it-yourself research into criminal activity.  Here are two illustrations:

(1) Ian Ayres discusses a recent NYT article about people who have tried to track down their stolen portable electronic gadgets.  Ayres recounts the story of a Pittsburgh resident who was forced to hand over his iPhone and other possessions at gunpoint.  The victim used the device's "Find My iPhone" application to lead police to the alleged perpetrators.  Ayres states:

These tracking technologies are near and dear to my heart . . .  When you install one of these apps onto your phone, you’re probably helping other iPhone owners because you’re making the activity of stealing any iPhone less profitable. Thieves who don’t know whether this is a protected or unprotected phone will be less likely to steal iPhones generally.

You can find out here how Ayres tracked down and recovered his own stolen cellphone a few years ago.

(2) Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing has received some publicity for her do-it-yourself investigation into the now-famous kidnapping of Jaycee Dugard.  Many bloggers noted that investigators could have seen suspicious structures in the back of Phillip Garrido's home (the suspect in the crime) had they simply used Google Earth to look at his home address (see here).  Jardin went a step further and found some evidence that a van that looked like Garrido's might very well have been following the vehicle that captures photos for Google Maps.  Jardin's finding, even if it truly showed Garrido following the Google Maps vehicle, hardly resolves any central issues in the case.  But it is interesting nonetheless.  Perhaps Garrido was concerned about surveillance around his home, and so he tracked the camera-laden vehicle.  Not a bad hypothesis to generate without ever having to leave your desk


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September 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

No Retrial for Man Who Spent 26 Years in Prison for 1983 Killing

The prosecutor says that, while personally convinced of the man's guilt, "much of the physical evidence had been lost or destroyed and some witnesses have died." A federal judge overturned the conviction in August on the grounds that "false evidence" had been used and defense counsel had been ineffective. The defendant had confessed. The L.A. Times has the story here and links to earlier investigations into the case here.
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September 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 21, 2009

What's a Little Traffic Stop Among Friends?

Eugene Volokh has a post over at The Volokh Conspiracy about a tiny town in Iowa that decided it would be nice to stop a driver with out-of-state plates and offer an all-expense paid vacation in the town. Professor Volokh notes that these kinds of cases crop up every so often but seem to constitute (a) Fourth Amendment violations that are (b) needless and potentially frightening for the drivers subjected to the stop. I vaguely recall reading some years ago about a program whereby some jurisdiction was stopping drivers who were driving especially safely in order to give them a commendation (maybe they were given a turkey), which really would be the perfect situation--being able to stop drivers for driving either safely or unsafely. If anyone else remembers that one, let me know


September 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Heyman on Investigating Corporate Malfeasance


Susan Schwab Heyman (Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Visiting Professor) has posted Bottom-Up: An Alternative Approach for Investigating Corporate Malfeasance on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

At least since the Enron scandal, the government has focused intensive efforts on developing a strategy to investigate and prosecute corporate malfeasance. The prevailing method has been a “top-down” approach: government agents provide companies with incentives to conduct internal investigations, coerce employee cooperation, and disclose privileged information. Although many have expressed concern about violations of constitutional rights and erosions of privilege, the current system faces another critical problem: the top-down strategy will become less effective at unraveling corporate fraud as employees learn that it is not in their interest to cooperate. Further, the approach aims deterrence at the wrong people – it does not focus on high corporate officials who often orchestrate and tolerate the wrongdoing, but instead focuses on employees who participate in the unlawful acts. A “bottom-up” approach, long used by government agencies in rooting out criminal behavior in other areas, particularly drug enforcement, would encourage employee cooperation and focus enforcement on the appropriate actors. There is every reason to believe that a bottom-up strategy would be an effective supplement to the top-down approach that currently predominates in the corporate world. Indeed, the first and to date only internal investigation completed using an amnesty program which protected cooperating employees from adverse employment actions has proven successful in encouraging employee cooperation and unraveling the web of corporate fraud.
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September 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekend Review

Featured Download: Ip on Suspicionless Searches and the Prevention of Terrorism

Ip john

John Ip  (University of Auckland - Faculty of Law) has posted Suspicionless Searches and the Prevention of Terrorism on SSRN. The differences between the treatment of the problem in the U.K. and the U.S. is interesting, particularly the different attitudes toward how widely the searches should be publicized and techniques designed to make the decision to search random

Here is the abstract:

This paper considers the stopping and searching of people on a suspicionless basis for the purpose of interdicting terrorist activity. Such stops and searches are an example of “all risks” policing, which focuses on threats and vulnerabilities: everyone is considered a potential risk. All risks policing is a reaction to a situation where traditional markers such as nationality and citizenship are no longer reliable indicators of potential threat, as the involvement of citizens and long-term residents in recent terrorist attacks and plots in the United States and United Kingdom would demonstrate.

The discussion is based around two cases. The first, MacWade v Kelly, concerned a challenge to suspicionless searches of subway passengers under the New York City Police Department’s Container Inspection Program. The second, R(Gillan) v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, concerned a challenge to an exceptional suspicionless search power under British counterterrorism legislation.

The paper first outlines these two cases and their respective legal context. It then discusses several issues that arise out of the two cases. The first is how people are selected for the extra scrutiny. The second is the tendency for concerns about the risk of terrorism and the need to prevent terrorist acts to overwhelm any countervailing concerns. The third is the problem of normalization.

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September 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

California Prisoner Reduction Plan

Crime and Consequences expresses satisfaction that the plan does not meet the target ordered by the three-judge panel: "The bright spot is that they are not totally caving in to Reinhardt et al., perhaps emboldened by the Supreme Court's warning shot across the panel's bow." California's press release links to additional details about the plan. Douglas Berman also has details and commentary over at Sentencing Law and Policy.
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September 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Four Chicago Policemen Admit to Robbing Suspects"

The A.P. story, which appears in the New York Times, provides additional detail on a rogue unit that stole "hundreds of thousands of dollars" from suspected criminals and once withheld insulin from a diabetic to get information about where to find money.
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September 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Top-Ten Recent SSRN Downloads

Ssrn logo

for manuscripts announced in the last 60 days in the criminal law and procedure journals are here. The usual disclaimers apply.

Rank Downloads Paper Title
1 375 Culture, Cognition, and Consent: Who Perceives What, and Why, in 'Acquaintance Rape' Cases
Dan M. Kahan,
Yale University - Law School,
Date posted to database: July 22, 2009
Last Revised: September 12, 2009
2 233 Unwitting Sanctions: Understanding Anti-Bribery Legislation as Economic Sanctions against Emerging Markets
Andrew Brady Spalding,
University of Mumbai (Bombay),
Date posted to database: July 4, 2009
Last Revised: August 5, 2009
3 230 Minds, Brains, and Norms
Michael S. Pardo, Dennis Patterson,
University of Alabama School of Law, European University Institute,
Date posted to database: July 13, 2009
Last Revised: July 13, 2009
4 191 Coming to Terms with Ruthlessness: Sovereign Equality, Global Pluralism, and the Limits of International Criminal Justice
Brad R. Roth,
Wayne State University Law School,
Date posted to database: July 31, 2009
Last Revised: August 12, 2009
5 138 The Prosecutor as Regulatory Agency
Rachel E. Barkow,
New York University - School of Law,
Date posted to database: July 3, 2009
Last Revised: August 10, 2009
6 122 Breaking the Law to Enforce it: Undercover Police Participation in Crime
Elizabeth E. Joh,
U.C. Davis School of Law,
Date posted to database: July 3, 2009
Last Revised: August 27, 2009
7 120 Empirical Work in International Law: A Bibliographical Essay
Tom Ginsburg, Gregory Shaffer,
University of Chicago Law School, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law,
Date posted to database: August 5, 2009
Last Revised: September 8, 2009 [8th last week]
8 109 Post-Racial Racism: Policing Race in the Age of Obama
Ian F. Haney-Lopez,
UC Berkeley School of Law,
Date posted to database: June 12, 2009
Last Revised: September 16, 2009 [7th last week]
9 106 The Unexceptionalism of Evolving Standards
Corinna Lain,
University of Richmond - School of Law,
Date posted to database: July 10, 2009
Last Revised: August 10, 2009
10 97 Power Rules
Samuel Bray,
Columbia Law School,
Date posted to database: June 11, 2009
Last Revised: September 9, 2009

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September 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)