CrimProf Blog

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

Friday, February 6, 2009

Seventh Circuit Affirms Iraqi Spy's Conviction

The 7th Circuit refused to overturn the conviction of a former spy for Saddam Hussein who came to the United States as an unwitting "sleeper agent" for the Iraqi Intelligence Service and obtained U.S. citizenship by lying on his application.

Sami Latchin actively served in the IIS from 1979 to 1993, and was selected as one of the sleeper agents in Hussein's plan to plant spies around the world to gain positions of influence, gather intelligence and influence policy in favor of Hussein's Ba'athist regime.

"All spy programs, of course, operate on deception - the spies pretend to be people they aren't," Judge Evans wrote. "But Saddam's plan took it to a whole new level - not even the spies would know they were part of the program until they were activated many years down the road."

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February 6, 2009 in Criminal Law, Homeland Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Judge Permits Flag-Desecration Prosecution in Nebraska

A Sarpy County judge has denied a challenge to Nebraska’s flag desecration statute raised by a Kansas woman who argued it violates her right to free speech.

Judge Todd Hutton ruled Tuesday that prosecutors can proceed with their case against Shirley Phelps-Roper. She is a member of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., whose members believe that U.S. troop deaths are punishment for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality. The group has protested at military funerals nationwide.

Authorities say Phelps-Roper let her 10-year-old son stand on an American flag at the funeral of a National Guardsman in June 2007 in Bellevue. They also say she wore a flag as a skirt that dragged on the ground.

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February 4, 2009 in Civil Rights, Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 2, 2009

"Defining `Cruel and Unusual' When Offender is 13"

From today's New York Times:

"In 1989, someone raped a 72-year-old woman in Pensacola, Fla. Joe Sullivan was 13 at the time, and he admitted that he and two older friends had burglarized the woman’s home earlier that day. But he denied that he had returned to commit the rape.

. . . .

"The trial lasted a day and ended in conviction. Then Judge Nicholas Geeker, of the circuit court in Escambia County, sentenced Mr. Sullivan to life without the possibility of parole.

. . . .

"Mr. Sullivan is 33 now, and his lawyers have asked the United States Supreme Court to consider the question of whether the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment extends to sentencing someone who was barely a teenager to die in prison for a crime that did not involve a killing."

Read the rest of the story here [Mike Mannheimer]

February 2, 2009 in Sentencing Corrections | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

New Article Spotlight: Challenging the Practical Importance of the Justification/Excuse Distinction

Arizona CrimProf Jack Chin has posted  The Justification/Excuse Distinction: An Argument for its Practical Irrelevance on SSRN.  The abstract: "For decades, Joshua Dressler, Paul Robinson, Reid Fontaine and others have debated the distinction between justification and excuse defenses. "Justifications" represent good behavior, while "excuses" relieve criminal liability for socially undesirable behavior for policy reasons. Building on the critiques of Kent Greenawalt and Mitchell Berman, this essay proposes that claims for the practical importance of the debate have not succeeded.  The best argument is Joshua Dressler's claim that a robust justification/excuse distinction will send clear moral messages about acquittals. But because acquittals are intrinsically ambiguous, they cannot be used to derive moral judgments. First, because clear cases of innocence or meritorious defense are disproportionately screened out before trial, acquittals disproportionately represent near-convictions. Also, even replacement of opaque not guilty verdicts with special verdicts would send clear messages only if the new verdicts are morally precise. However, "excuse" defenses can be satisfied by "justified" conduct and vice versa, e.g., the Model Penal Code's "justification" of erroneous uses of force based on simple but less than gross negligence. In addition, there are seemingly intractable debates about categorization of defenses. Assigning acquittals to pigeonholes that even specialists dispute cannot send clear moral messages. Other rationales for the practical importance of the distinction, such effects on accomplice or aider and abettor liability of third parties, do not reflect the law under the Model Penal Code or other modern approaches. This essay is part of a symposium at the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform on Reid Fontaine's work." Full Text here.

February 1, 2009 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)