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

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Preserving DNA Evidence to Prove the Potential Innocence of a Man Scheduled for Death Today

Today the Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) is filing a motion to preserve evidence in the case of Wayne Tompkins, who is scheduled to be executed at 6 PM EST by lethal injection. Tompkins was convicted of murdering Lisa DeCarr in 1983, though doubts persist as to the true identity of the victim. IPF believes a new round of DNA testing should be conducted in order to banish all doubt, and today's action represents the first step toward acquiring that testing.

"If the victim in this case wasn't Lisa DeCarr after all, that means Wayne Tompkins was convicted of a murder that never took place. It's pretty bizarre that the Governor is about to execute a person when these kinds of questions remain," said Seth Miller, Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Florida. Several individuals have signed affidavits claiming to have seen DeCarr alive since the alleged murder.

"The Governor should remember two other cases, Frank Lee Smith and Ricky McGuinn," said Miller. Frank Lee Smith died on death row in Florida before DNA testing proved he was innocent. In Ricky McGuinn's case, his Texas execution was stayed, then DNA testing proved his guilt, and his execution was reset. In both cases, DNA testing proved vital to the establishment of culpability.

IPF is moving a court to notify the appropriate institutions that they have a statutory obligation to preserve all evidence pertaining to Tompkins' case for 60 days, even if he should be executed. IPF wants a robe, a sash, and samples of the victim's bones to be preserved, with confidence that a new round of DNA testing, using methods that have not been used in this case, will likely yield the identity of the victim.

Miller added, "There are serious doubts left in this case, and we fully intend to get to the bottom of what really happened. Tompkins shouldn't be executed when such important questions as the identity of the victim remain. Some day soon, we will make sure the truth comes out." Read More. . .
[Bobbi Madonna]

February 11, 2009 in DNA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

DOJ Maintains State Secrets Position from Bush Administration

In the first major national security case of the Obama administration, lawyers representing the government took the exact same position as the Bush administration. Government attorneys asked a judge to throw out a torture case, citing the need to preserve state secrets. Some human rights activists now say they feel betrayed by an administration that had promised greater openness and transparency.

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February 10, 2009 in Civil Rights, Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, DOJ News, Homeland Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Second Circuit Holds Second Amendment Not Applicable to States

The Second Amendment guarantee of the right to bear arms does not apply to override state firearms bans, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit declared Jan. 28. Under the incorporation doctrine, only certain provisions of the Bill of Rights apply to the states, and the Second Amendment is one of those that does not, the Second Circuit held (Maloney v. Cuomo, 2d Cir., No. 07-0581-cv, 1/28/09).

The statute at the center of this case, N.Y. Penal Law §265.01(1), provides criminal penalties for possession of a broad range of items, including weapons used in martial arts. The plaintiff was charged under the statute after police found fighting sticks, or nunchaku, in his home. He ended up pleading guilty to a different charge and then filed a lawsuit against the county prosecutor and others seeking a declaration that the law offends his Second Amendment right to bear arms.

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February 10, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Federal Sex Offender Law Faces State Resistance

An aggressive federal effort to keep track of sexual offenders is at risk of collapse because of objections from states and legal challenges from sex offenders and others.

The effort, approved by Congress three years ago, requires all states to adopt strict standards for registering sex offenders and is meant to prevent offenders from eluding the authorities, especially when they move out of state.

The law followed several heinous crimes by sex offenders on the run, including Joseph E. Duncan III, who in 2005 fled North Dakota, where he had been registered, and committed sex crimes and murder in three states, ending with the torture and killing of a 9-year-old boy in Montana.

An estimated 100,000 sex offenders are not living where they are registered, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which collects the data from the states and provides it to the United States Marshals Service and other federal agencies.

But officials in many states complain about the law’s cost and, in some instances, contend their laws are more effective than the federal one. The states also suggest that the federal requirements violate their right to set their own policies and therefore may be unconstitutional, at least in part.

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February 8, 2009 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)