January 22, 2009
Federal Judicial Vacancies for Appointment by Obama Administration
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: "Obama Orders Guantanamo Bay Prison Closure"
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]
'The Disconnect Between the Streets and the Business Suites'
(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]
ABA Releases New Criminal Mental Health Reference Manual
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
January 21, 2009
CrimProf Richard Leo Comes Out With New Book
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.”
Obama's First Move as President
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]
LawProfs Comment on Guantanamo
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]
Plunging into Vacant Orifices in Vacant Sex Shop
(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.
January 19, 2009
Remarks on Torture May Force New Administration’s Hand
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.”
In the view of many historians and legal authorities, Mr. Holder was merely admitting the obvious. He was agreeing with the clear position of his boss-to-be, President-elect Barack Obama, and he was giving an answer that almost certainly was necessary to win confirmation.
Yet his statement, amounting to an admission that the United States may have committed war crimes, opens the door to an unpredictable train of legal and political consequences. It could potentially require a full-scale legal investigation, complicate prosecutions of individuals suspected of committing terrorism and mire the new administration in just the kind of backward look that Mr. Obama has said he would like to avoid.
Mr. Holder’s statement came just two days after the Defense Department official in charge of military commissions at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, said in an interview with The Washington Post that she had refused to permit a trial for one detainee there, Mohammed al-Qahtani, because she believed he had been tortured.
Together the statements, from a current and an incoming legal official, cover both the Central Intelligence Agency, which has acknowledged waterboarding three captured operatives of Al Qaeda, and the military’s detention program.
Legal experts across the political spectrum said the statements would make it difficult for the incoming administration to avoid a criminal investigation of torture, even as most also say a successful prosecution might well be impossible. [Mark Godsey]
January 18, 2009
Nassau to videotape interrogations in major crimes
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."
Until now, police in both counties haven't videotaped interviews with suspects. In some cases, prosecutors have videotaped interviews with defendants after police have already questioned and arrested them.
Nassau Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey said from now on, police will tape interrogations in all serious robbery cases and homicides, because these are the cases where interrogations typically take place in police headquarters in Mineola.
"We have nothing to hide here," Mulvey said.
Mulvey said if videotaping robberies and homicides is successful, he will consider expanding the policy to include other crimes.
Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for the Innocence Project, which assists prisoners who have been wrongly convicted, said Nassau will be one of 17 jurisdictions in New York to routinely videotape interrogations. [Mark Godsey]
Welcome To Inauguration Island, A Prostitution-Free Zone
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?
Now, maybe I'm not reading this the way your average tourist or Obama supporter would, but to me, this sign--one of a whole bunch D.C. police have posted between 4th and 5th streets NW from Eye to L streets--means that everywhere the signs aren't, prostitution is just fine and dandy.
The thing about the Prostitution Free Zone--the District's decision not to use hyphens on that baby raises the question whether the red-signed area is a kind of Vegas East y'all-have-fun-now invitation--is that it is a rather arcane legal ploy, being used without even a nod to how the general public might read the signs. (There's a photo of the sign over at DCist, which first reported on this latest bit of inauguration insanity yesterday.)
Ex-Mayor Tony Williams' administration came up with the idea three years ago as part of a crime bill that criminalized prostitution. The law was written so that the police chief could designate a special zone of town where prostitution would not be tolerated. That declaration would make it legal for cops to take away johns' cars. Prior to the zones policy, only the act of solicitation--offering to buy or sell sex--was criminal. Under the zone law, the act itself was now illegal. More to the point, the new law made it possible for police to tow and impound any car found outside a brothel, and it allowed the police to disperse people who gather for the purpose of engaging in sex for pay.
The city tried a similar tactic in the early 1990s, but a court tossed the D.C. law as unconstitutional.
Well, that's a battle for another day. This week, I'm thinking at least some of our million-plus houseguests might want to get themselves a souvenir of their visit to Washington, like a nice big red sign declaring the neighborhood free for prostitution, or something like that.
Stephen P. Garvey Cornell Professor of Criminal Law
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]
Tennessee Law Review Death Penalty Colloquium
The Tennessee Law Review is preparing to host an exciting colloquium entitled "The Past, Present, and Future ofthe Death Penalty." The Colloquium will take place next month, February 6-7, at the University of Tennessee College of Law.
The lineup includes nationally known experts, such as Dwight Aarons,David Baldus, Hugo Adam Bedau, Steve Bright, Deborah Denno, Lyn Entzeroth, the Honorable Gilbert S. Merritt, and Penny White.
The event's full schedule is available at http://www.law.utk.edu/cle/09DeathPenalty.shtml.
At the website, registration is open as well. The Colloquium is freeto the public, though we're asking everyone to register so we can estimate how many attendees to expect. For attorneys seeking CLE
credit, the Colloquium has been approved for 6 hours of general credit, with registration at $150.
Additionally, the Tennessee Law Review will publish articles from many of the Colloquium speakers in a special Spring 2009 Symposium Issue onthe Death Penalty. Copies may be preordered by mailing a check payable to the Tennessee Law Review for $13 ($10 cost, $3 postage) to Micki Fox, Business Manager, Tennessee Law Review, 1505 W. Cumberland Ave., Knoxville, TN, 37996.
For additional information about the Colloquium or special issue, your readers are welcome to contact CLE Coordinator Micki Fox at 865-974-4464 or firstname.lastname@example.org or me at email@example.com, and we'll respond right away. [Kathryn T. Parham] [Mark Godsey]