CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, December 5, 2009

"Texas executes death row prisoner despite mental impairment defense"

Jurist has coverage here.

December 5, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

"Interesting take on SCOTUS Porter and Van Hook rulings and 'selective empathy'"

Doug Berman has this post at Sentencing Law and Policy, excerpting this post by Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times.

December 5, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bailey on Polygamy

Bailey martha Martha Bailey  (Queen's University - Faculty of Law) has posted Should Canada Criminalize Polygamy? on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

The question addressed in this paper is whether, in addition to the marriage laws, which do not permit polygamy, and the criminal prohibition of bigamy, Canada should also retain the criminal provision on polygamy, which outlaws the practice of carrying on a conjugal relationship with more than one person. This paper argues that the provision is unnecessary to protect Canada's cultural commitment to monogamy, that it is problematically broad, and that it is not an effective tool in protecting the public interest or preventing harms to women and children.

December 5, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dubber on Legalizing Drug Criminal Law

Dubber markus Markus D. Dubber  (University of Toronto - Faculty of Law) has posted Legalizing Drug Criminal Law on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This paper investigates American drug criminal law, or rather the American drug penal regime, from the perspectives of two fundamental modes of governance, police and law. In particular, it inquires into the possibility of drug criminal law as law, rather than as a police action designed to identify and eliminate threats to public welfare. The topic of this paper thus is not “the legalization of drugs,” whatever that might mean, but the legalization of the drug penal regime. It is concerned with the possibility of legitimate state action that brings the law power of the state in general, and its penal law power in particular, to bear on persons on account of their interaction, relationship, or association with drugs.

December 5, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Winer on Medellin

Winer_Anthony_07 Anthony S. Winer  (William Mitchell College of Law) has posted An Escape Route from the Medellín Maze on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

The recent Supreme Court decision in Medellín v. Texas created a veritable “maze” for foreign prisoners in the U.S., and their countries of nationality, who might wish to enforce their rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (the “VCCR”). This decision, and other Supreme Court and lower federal court opinions, have erected “dead ends” for prisoners and their countries of nationality that block their “escape” from this maze. These opinions, among other implications, cast substantial doubt on the availability of judicial relief for individuals under the VCCR, foreclose executive enforcement, and exclude the possibility of corrective injunctions for many current prisoners. This article also takes the position, unacknowledged by many others, that the Supreme Court’s “new federalism” even poses risks to potential congressional enforcement of VCCR rights. This article initially describes how present doctrines erect these dead ends for virtually all the escape routes that courts and commentators seem to be currently considering. This article then proposes a possible new plan of escape, at least for the sovereign sending States whose nationals’ rights are being violated. It is noted that sending states parties to the VCCR have substantial rights under it, in their own distinct capacities as parties to it. This article suggests that once a U.S. jurisdiction violates the VCCR rights of a prisoner from a foreign State, the VCCR rights of that State itself are also violated, and that this violation is continuous. Accordingly, the sending State should be able to obtain an injunction against the U.S. jurisdiction’s officers, requiring them to obey the VCCR prospectively.

December 4, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Frase on Racial Disproportionality in Prisons and Jails

Frase Richard S. Frase  (University of Minnesota Law School) has posted What Explains Persistent Racial Disproportionality in Minnesota’s Prison and Jail Populations? (Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, Vol. 38, pp. 201-280) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Racial disparity in prison and jail populations, measured by the ratio of black to white per capita incarceration rates, varies substantially from state to state. To understand these variations, researchers must examine disparity at earlier stages of the criminal process and also racial differences in socioeconomic status that help explain disparity in cases entering the system. Researchers must adjust disparity ratios to correct for limitations in available data and in studies of prior incarceration rates. Minnesota has one of the highest black/white incarceration ratios. Disparities at the earliest measurable stages of Minnesota’s criminal process – arrest and felony conviction – are as great as the disparity in total custody (prison plus jail) populations. Disparities are substantially greater in prison sentences imposed and prison populations than at arrest and conviction. The primary reason is the heavy weight sentencing guidelines give to offenders’ prior conviction records. Highly disparate arrest rates appear to reflect unusually high rates of socioeconomic disparity between black and white residents.

December 4, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Green on Retributive Justice for Unjustly Disadvantaged Offenders

GREEN,-STUART Stuart P. Green  (Rutgers Law School-Newark) has posted Hard Times, Hard Time: Retributive Justice for Unjustly Disadvantaged Offenders (University of Chicago Legal Forum, 2009) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Criminological studies consistently indicate that a disproportionate percentage of crimes in our society, both violent and non-violent, are committed by those who are impoverished. If we assume that at least some of the poor who commit crimes are poor because they fail to get from society what they “deserve” in terms of economic or political or social rights, the question arises whether this fact should affect the determination of what such people “deserve” from society in terms of punishment. The question is all the more pressing given recent Census Bureau figures indicating that the economic recession that began in 2008 has resulted in a higher percentage of Americans living below the poverty line than at any point since 1997, with figures for 2009 certain to be even worse given rising unemployment rates.

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December 4, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Next Week's Criminal Law and Procedure Arguments

Description of issue from ScotusWiki, where you can also find links to briefs and opinions below:


Florida v. Powell: Must a suspect be expressly advised to his right to counsel during questioning and if so, does the failure to provide this express advice vitiate Miranda v. Arizona?


Black v. United States: Whether the “honest services” clause of 18 U.S.C. § 1346 applies in cases where the jury did not find - nor did the district court instruct them that they had to find - that the defendants “reasonably contemplated identifiable economic harm,” and if the defendants’ reversal claim is preserved for review after they objected to the government’s request for a special verdict.

Weyhrauch v. United States: Whether, to convict a state official for depriving the public of its right to the defendant’s honest services through the non-disclosure of material information, in violation of the mail-fraud statute (18 U.S.C. Sec. 1341 and 1346), the government must prove that the defendant violated a disclosure duty imposed by state law.

December 4, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Toddlers and Criminal Propensities (Kolber)

Kolberaj_photo Some recent research arguably finds a relationship between toddlers' fear reactions and their propensity to commit crimes as adults.  The research suggests that toddlers with weaker fear reactions to a noisy blare are more likely to grow up and commit crimes than toddlers with more typical fear reactions.  New Scientist summarizes the experiment:

. . . Raine and colleague Yu Gao turned to data from a 1970s study, collected as part of a decades-long project to understand the biological and environmental factors underlying mental illness.

Back then, researchers led by Raine's former research supervisor had measured the sweat response of about 1800 3-year-olds in Mauritius when they were exposed to two different sounds. One sound was always followed by a noisy blare, the other by nothing. The children learned to anticipate which sound preceded the blare, and sweated in response to it – an indicator of fear.

Decades later, Raine's own team looked to see if any of the subjects had criminal records and found 137 that did. The team discovered that, as toddlers, these people had sweated significantly less in anticipation of the blare compared with subjects of similar race, gender and background for whom no criminal record was found.

This very interesting research is, of course, quite preliminary.  The article cautions as follows:

However, numerous children who showed muted responses to fearful cues never fell foul of the law, Raine says. "Is this a throw-away-the-key approach to criminals? Absolutely not," he says.

Raine emphasises that environment can make someone less likely to commit a crime. He points to other studies from his team, also based on data from Mauritius, which indicate that manipulating a child's surroundings with improved nutrition, more exercise and cognitive stimulation, can reduce the chance they will commit a crime later on in life.


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December 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Garvey on Attempts and Treason

Garvey-Stephen Stephen P. Garvey  (Cornell Law School) has posted Are Attempts Like Treason? on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

If the state can legitimately criminalize only actions that cause or risk harm, and if it respects the fact that an actor who sets out to commit a crime can always change his mind until he takes the last step, we are apt to end up with a law of attempts in which an attempt is a crime only when the actor has taken the last step, or come very close to taking it. Our dominant theories of attempt, objectivism and subjectivism, do indeed end up with such a narrow law of attempts. In contrast to these theories, I suggest that an actor who chooses to form the intent to commit a crime, who chooses to resolve to commit that crime, and who chooses to take a step in furtherance of that intention is akin to a traitor. He has chosen to obey a self-made law antithetical to the law claiming his allegiance, and the state should in principle be permitted to punish him, as it should any traitor.

December 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Pardo on Evidence Theory and the NAS Report on Forensic Science

Pardo michael Michael S. Pardo  (University of Alabama School of Law) has posted Evidence Theory and the NAS Report on Forensic Science (Utah Law Review, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

The recent report of the National Academy of Sciences on forensic science documents an array of problems with the current use of forensic science in law enforcement and as evidence in criminal prosecutions. These problems are economic, political, legal, scientific, or epistemological in nature. The report recommends widespread reform aimed at improving the quality of forensic science and the juridical use of such evidence. The proposed reforms include, for example, creating an independent agency to oversee forensic science in the United States; establishing best practices and standardized protocols; improving education and training; and conducting further research into the scientific foundations of the various forensic techniques.

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December 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Death Clash at the High Court"

The post, at BLT, begins as follows:

In the wake of the Supreme Court's refusal early this morning to hear the last-minute appeal of a Tennessee death row inmate, two justices clashed--one with some bite--over whether execution after lengthy delay is cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.

Justice Stevens' dissent from denial of cert is here; Justice Thomas' concurrence is here.

December 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tetlow on Discriminatory Acquittal

Tetlow tania Tania Tetlow  (Tulane University - School of Law) has posted Discriminatory Acquittal  on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This article is the first to analyze a pervasive and unexplored constitutional problem: the rights of crime victims against unconstitutional discrimination by juries. From the Emmett Till trial to that of Rodney King, there is a long history of juries acquitting white defendants charged with violence against black victims. Modern empirical evidence continues to show a devaluation of black victims; dramatic disparities exist in death sentence and rape conviction rates according to the race of the victim. Moreover, just as juries have permitted violence against those who allegedly violated the racial order, juries use acquittals to punish female victims of rape and domestic violence for failing to meet gender norms. Statistical studies show that the “appropriateness” of a female victim’s behavior is one of the most accurate predictors of conviction for gender-based violence.

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December 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ni Aolain on a Feminist Theory of Harm

Fionnuala D. Ni Aolain  (University of Ulster) has posted Exploring a Feminist Theory of Harm in the Context of Conflicted and Post-Conflict Societies on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

The author argues that a feminist theory of harm is necessary if law is to respond effectively to the experiences of women. She builds on developments in feminist scholarship which have identified the ways in which women experience harm and on the inadequacy of law’s response. To advance the general argument her focus is on societies that are characterized by violent conflict or that are in process of emerging from such conflict. Such societies offer unique forums for exploring the scale and depth of harms to women and highlight novel legal responses.

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December 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Alexandre on Reformation of Drug and Prostitution Regulations

Alexandre michele Michele Alexandre  (University of Mississippi) has posted Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll and Moral Dirigisme: Toward a Reformation of Drug and Prostitution Regulations (UMKC Law Review, Vol. 78, No. 1, pp.102-137, 2009) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This Article builds upon various scholarly critics of moralistic laws to argue that legal prohibition of drugs and prostitution is inefficient. In so doing, it relies on economists’ scholarship, which has demonstrated that the high costs of regulation are not justified, considering the minimal success of these regulations as well as the harm caused by those regulations. Philosophers, for millennia, have grappled with formulating principles of morality and have attempted to determine which of those principles ought to be codified and imposed as societal rules of law on individuals. Attempts to coerce individuals into adopting certain behavioral patterns or forgo destructive ones have been referred to as “moral dirigisme”. Moral dirigisme manifests itself in “the attempt or tendency to control certain kinds of moral behavior by formal legal means." (See, e.g., Mario J. Rizzo, The Problem of Moral Dirigisme: A New Argument Against Moralistic Legislation, 1 N.Y.U. J.L. & LIBERTY 789, 791 (2005).

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December 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"DOJ Report on Public Defenders' Caseloads"

ACSBlog has the post here. The underlying report is available here.

December 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Issue on Fundamental Human Rights in Criminal Process

The October 2009 issue of the Utrecht Law Review is devoted to the topic of Developments in the Protection of Human Rights in Criminal Process, and several pieces from the issue have been posted on SSRN, including an Introduction by Chrisje Brants  (University of Utrecht - Faculty of Law) and an Epilogue by Stefan Trechsel  (United Nations - International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia). Here is the abstract from the Introduction:

This issue of Utrecht Law Review is devoted to a problem that is by no means new: the protection of human rights and individual freedoms in criminal process. Indeed, the question of how to reconcile the necessary powers of the state for maintaining order and ensuring the security of society with their inevitable encroachments on the freedom of citizens and their right to be treated with the respect and dignity they command as human beings is a perennial one in the field of criminal law. But for all that, and despite great advances in the establishment of international human rights conventions and in the academic study of human rights, the answers, though tantalisingly close in theory, have in practice become increasingly complicated and pressing in recent years.

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December 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Davies on Originalism and the Forfeiture Exception to Confrontation

Davies thomas Thomas Y. Davies  (University of Tennessee College of Law) has posted Selective Originalism: Sorting Out Which Aspects of Giles' Forfeiture Exception to Confrontation Were or Were Not 'Established at the Time of the Founding' (Lewis &. Clark Law Review, Vol. 13, No. 605, 2009) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

In Giles v. California (2008), as in Crawford v. Washington (2004), Justice Scalia's majority opinion purported to follow the framing-era Confrontation Clause. Giles did comport with historical doctrine insofar as it limited forfeiture by wrongdoing to instances of a defendant's deliberate witness tampering. However, Giles departed from framing-era doctrine in other, fundamental ways. Specifically, in framing-era law forfeiture applied only to sworn prior testimony given under the Marian statutes; that is either in Marian post-arrest committal proceedings or in coroners inquests. Likewise, during the nineteenth century, forfeiture applied only to prior sworn and confronted testimony. Forfeiture was never a basis for admitting unsworn and unconfronted hearsay such as that at issue in Giles until the late twentieth century - and then were allowed under the Roberts "reliability" formulation of confrontation that Crawford rejected as an inadequate formulation of the right. Hence, a genuine "originalist" analysis would have undermined the constitutionality of current Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b)(6).

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December 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hjalmarsson & Lindquist on Intergenerational Nature of Crime

Hjalmarsson randi Randi Hjalmarsson (University of Maryland-Public Policy; pictured) and Matthew J. Lindquist  (Stockholm University - Department of Economics) have posted Like Godfather, Like Son: Explaining the Intergenerational Nature of Crime on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This paper studies intergenerational correlations in crime between fathers and their children and the underlying mechanisms that give rise to these correlations. Using data from the Stockholm Birth Cohort, we find strong evidence of an intergenerational criminal relationship. Sons whose fathers have at least one sentence have 2.06 times higher odds of having a criminal conviction than sons whose fathers do not have any sentence. At the intensive margin, one additional sentence of the father increases the expected number of sons’ convictions by 32 percent. Father-daughter relationships are generally not significantly different than fathers-son relationships. Traditional regression techniques indicate that socioeconomic status accounts for roughly one-third of the extensive margin father-son relationship and somewhat less, particularly at the intensive margin, for daughters. Over and above this, for both sons and daughters, our ability proxies account for an additional 20 percent. Finally, household heterogeneity, the most important component of which is household instability, accounts for almost one-third of the intergenerational relationships. More direct evidence regarding whether the intergenerational correlations arise through either an inherited traits mechanism or a father as role model mechanism is provided in four alternative experiments. These experiments focus on: (i) a sample of twins, (ii) an adoptee sample, (iii) the timing of the father’s crime, and (iv) the quality of the father – child relationship. We find evidence that both direct channels play a role in the reproduction of crime from one generation to the next. Finally, we find that paternal incarceration may actually lower the number of crimes committed by some children, providing additional evidence of the importance of a behavioral transference mechanism.

December 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 30, 2009

"Decision on criminal charges in Michael Jackson case 'months' away"

The L.A. Times has the story here.

November 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)