August 29, 2005
PA: 1983 Win for Person Arrested for Videotaping Police
Pennsylvania State Police don't like to be videotaped while they do truck inspections, evidently, but wheth they repeatedly arrested a gentleman for doing so, he sued and won. Thanks to BoingBoing. [Jack Chin]
August 25, 2005
Hong Kong High Court Strikes Down Sodomy Law
From The Standard.com: "In a landmark decision, the High Court ruled Wednesday that current laws on the age of consent discriminate against homosexuals. Justice Michael Hartmann acted in favor of William Leung, 20, who launched a Judicial Review against the government for what he considered unfair laws against gays. Hartmann said existing laws were "demeaning of gay men,'' stereotype them as "deviant,'' and interfere with their private lives on the assumption that homosexuality was "morally reprehensible.'' Civil rights groups described the ruling as "a historical moment for the Hong Kong gay community.'' Hartmann declared that four sections of the law covering homosexual acts, on the books since 1991, were unconstitutional. The Basic Law "must allow for a remedy in appropriate circumstances to those who say that their fundamental rights have been undermined by primary legislation,'' he ruled. Hartmann said that Leung, should not have to face prosecution and life imprisonment before he can use the courts to challenge the constitutionality of laws that infringe upon his rights. Previously, sexual intimacy between two men below the age of 21 was a criminal offence even though sexual intimacy between heterosexuals and lesbians is allowed after the age of 16. Group sex between gay men, even though in private and conducted by consenting adults, was also criminal, while such activities between heterosexuals and lesbians above 16 was allowed. An act of sodomy, submitted as the natural sexual expression of gay men, below the age of 21 was a criminal offence with possible life imprisonment if it was conducted between two men.
During the trial in July, the government conceded that three of the four sections were in breach of the Bill of Rights and Article 25 of the Basic Law safeguarding equal rights because they unfairly distinguished between homosexuals and heterosexuals. However, it maintained that the criminalization of sodomy between men under the age of 21 was not in breach of the constitution since sodomy between a man and a woman under 21 was equally a criminal offence. The judge added that the proposal not to make women criminally liable "demonstrates a reliance on the stereotyped view that the female is per se submissive, the man always sexually the active partner.'' The reason put forward by the government to make both partners of a homosexual act of sodomy below the age of 21 was the "potential for blackmail.''
Citing an Equal Opportunities report to Legco in 2001, Hartmann ruled this attitude exemplified "stereotypical assumptions made of the homosexual community.'' Hartmann also declared that criminalizing sodomy for homosexuals below the age of 21 was indirectly discriminatory of gay men since it deprives them of their natural sexual expression. "Put plainly, heterosexual couples may have sexual intercourse under the age of 21, homosexual couples may not,'' he said.
Leung said that previously, he could not form physical homosexual relationships because of this "criminal threat above my'' head. [Mark Godsey]
August 23, 2005
Dallas Prosecutors and Batson
From the washingtonpost.com: "DALLAS -- As recently as 2002, Dallas County prosecutors were excluding eligible blacks from juries at more than twice the rate they turned down whites, a newspaper reported Sunday. The issue surfaced earlier this year when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1986 murder conviction of a black man accused of killing a white motel clerk, saying the Dallas County jury that convicted Thomas Miller-El was unfairly stacked with whites.
The Supreme Court cited a manual, written in 1969 and used until at least 1980, that instructed prosecutors on how to exclude minorities from Texas juries. Justice David Souter wrote that racial discrimination in the Miller-El case was unquestionable. Bill Hill, who took over as district attorney in 1999, said his prosecutors don't exclude jurors on the basis of race. "The statistics may show we strike more blacks, but it's not because they're black," Hill said. "It's because for one reason or another, they (prosecutors) don't think they are going to be fair and impartial." Blacks still served on Dallas juries in proportion to their population, the newspaper's study found, because defense attorneys excluded white jurors at three times the rate they rejected blacks.
More . . . [Mark Godsey]
August 18, 2005
Washington Post editorial on Bail for KKK Killer
Edgar Ray Killen, belatedly convicted of manslaughter for 1964 killings of civil rights workers in Mississippi, was granted bail pending appeal. The Washington Post editorializes against it here. [Jack Chin]
July 28, 2005
Homophobic Crime Cases Falter
According to a British study, homophobic-based hate crimes are hard to prosecute because the victims often refuse to testify. "In the first full set of figures for homophobic crime released by the Crown Prosecution Services, officials admit that it is a “concern” that victims feel uncomfortable taking crime complaints through to prosecution. They are calling for more action to be taken to reduce the “gap” between prosecution for hate crimes and other crimes." Story . . . [Mark Godsey]
July 15, 2005
Hate Crime Investigations
From the IndyStar.com: "A fire at a Bloomington, (Indiana) mosque early Saturday (July 9) is being investigated as a hate crime by the FBI and members of its Joint Terrorism Task Force. The incident took place at the Islamic Center of Bloomington, where a ground-floor window was broken and an incendiary device was used to start a fire....A burned Quran, Islam's holy text, was found near the broken window, and fire damage inside the building was limited to a wall....In its 2005 annual report, the [Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, D.C] noted it had received 141 reports of actual or potential violent anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2004, a 52 percent increase from the 93 reports received in 2003." The mosque plans to hold an open house in a couple weeks to invite the Bloomington community to learn more about the mosque, its memebers, and mission. Story...
And speculation of hate crimes in Los Angeles stemming from a series of freeway shootings: From the LATimes.com: "Activist Najee Ali (director of Project Islamic Hope) called on Monday (July 11) for the FBI to join the investigation into a series of Southland freeway shootings, saying some of the cases were racially motivated hate crimes (consisting of Latinos shooting African-Americans)...although he did not provide information to back up his allegations. Law enforcement officials were quick to say they are unaware of a racial motive in the shootings, which began on the Costa Mesa Freeway in Tustin on March 12. Altogether, four people have died in more than two dozen freeway shootings in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and Ventura counties. LAPD Officer Jason Lee said the investigation into the incidents in the city of Los Angeles is continuing, adding that there is 'no definitive reason to believe these are racially motivated.'" Story... [Mark Godsey]
June 21, 2005
Former Klansman Convicted
From CNN.com: "PHILADELPHIA, Mississippi (CNN) -- Forty-one years to the day three civil rights workers were ambushed and killed by a Ku Klux Klan mob, a jury found former Klansman Edgar Ray Killen guilty of all three counts of manslaughter Tuesday. The "Freedom Summer" killings of James Chaney, 21, Andrew Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24, galvanized the civil rights movement. The jury of nine whites and three blacks reached the decision after several hours of deliberations." Story . . . [Mark Godsey]
June 19, 2005
Iowa: Governor Restores voting Rights to Discharged Felons
For years, Iowa was one of the few states without a long history of race-based vote suppression to deny discharged felons the right to vote. After Nebraska passed a a law automatically restoring voting rights earlier this year, Iowa stood alone. Now the governor by executive order will restore voting rights to all persons who have been discharged from prison, probation and parole. Story here, editorial against felon disenfranchisement here; Roger Clegg on the merits of felon disenfranchisement here. [Jack Chin]
May 31, 2005
NY Mayor Prosecuted for Attempting to Marry Gay Couples
From Law.com: "The village mayor who challenged New York law by
attempting to marry gay couples last year will face trial, the state's
highest court ruled Friday.
New Paltz, N.Y., Mayor Jason West faces 24 misdemeanor counts
of violating the state's domestic relations law by marrying couples
without licenses in late February 2004. He faces fines and up to a year
in jail if convicted.
West's actions came amid a flurry of efforts in various states
to wed gay couples after San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom allowed gay
couples there to marry in February 2004. Those efforts have largely
been put on hold by the courts.
West has maintained he was upholding the gay couples'
constitutional rights to equal protection -- and thus his oath of
office -- by allowing them to wed in the Hudson Valley college town in
late February 2004.
But state officials, including Gov. George Pataki and Attorney
General Eliot Spitzer, have said same-sex ceremonies violate state law." Story . . . [Mark Godsey]
May 28, 2005
Hate Crime Bill Introduced in House
A new hate-crime bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday with explicit protections against crimes based on sexual orientation. Story . . . [Mark Godsey]
May 09, 2005
Latinos Angry at Runaway Bride's False Charges: UPDATE
CrimProf Katheryn Russell-Brown of Florida is cited in this article. Will critics be more forgiving when they hear her excuse for the escapade? She was horny. [Jack Chin] UPDATE: She's got a rap sheet. The Smoking Gun has a nice collection of emails sent to Duluth, GA city officials with suggestions about how to handle the case. After reading some of these, you will never again say that the art of letterwriting is dead.
May 05, 2005
Arizona Voids Race-Based Traffic Stops
The Arizona Supreme Court unanimously held that race-based traffic stops may give rise to a defense to criminal charges arising therefrom. The case involved an appeal of the refusal of the trial court to appoint an expert witness who allegedly would have shown a race-based pattern of traffic stops in the county. The trial judge held that under Whren, "selective enforcement of traffic laws was not a defense to the drug offenses for which the defendants were charged." The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that while discrimination might not be a Fourth Amendment problem, it was a Fourteenth Amendment problem. On appeal, the state did not deny this, but contended "however, that proof of selective enforcement of traffic laws is not a defense to a criminal charge, but rather entitles injured parties only to civil redress." Either the Supreme Court unfairly characterized the state's argument or the state's copy of United States Reports didn't have Yick Wo v. Hopkins in it; in any event, the Court unanimously rejected the argument. The Court cited this article by Penn CrimProf Paul Robinson. Opinion here, story here. [Jack Chin].
April 08, 2005
Activists Seek Reopening of 1946 Murders
Four African American sharecroppers were lynched in 1946 in Georgia; Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center is involved in the effort to have the cases reinvestigated. [Jack Chin]
April 05, 2005
Louisiana's Solution to Indigent Defense Funding
On April 1, in the case State v. Citizen (2005 WL 737421) the Louisiana Supreme Court held that, in cases involving indigent defendants, if adequate funds to support assigned counsel's work aren't identified and made available, the defendant has the option to file a motion requesting the trial judge to stop the prosecution of the case until adequate funds are provided. The Court assured that speedy trial mandates still apply according to LA and Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. [Mark Godsey] (thanks to Pamela Metzger of Tulane for the tip)
March 21, 2005
Oral Argument Today in Prison Religious Freedom Case
The Supreme Court will hear oral argument today in Cutter v. Wilkinson, 03-9877. Question presented: Whether Congress violated the Establishment Clause by enacting the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1 through § 2000cc-5, which requires state officials to lift unnecessary governmental burdens imposed on the religious exercise of institutionalized persons under their control? The suit was brought by a group of prisoners who claimed that the Ohio prison system stifled their ability to exercise their religion of choice. On prisoner is a Satanist, another claims to be a witch, and others belong to a polytheistic religion called Asatru, which requires them to wear medallians in violation of prison rules. Details. . . [Mark Godsey]
March 03, 2005
Attack on North Carolina Student Ruled Hate Crime
Story about the gay bashing here. [Jack Chin]
February 23, 2005
New Supreme Court Decision Today: Constitutionality of Race Segregation in Prisons
From BNA.com: "The U.S. Supreme Court on February 23rd decided one case related to the criminal justice system. In Johnson v. California, No. 03-636, the court ruled that the proper standard of review for an equal protection challenge to a California corrections department policy of racially segregating prisoners for up to 60 days when they enter a new prison is "strict scrutiny." The court declined to apply the deferential standard of Turner v. Safley, under which a prison policy that burdens inmates' fundamental rights may be upheld if it is rationally related to legitimate penological goals. It remanded the case to the lower courts for an application of the strict scrutiny standard." Decision here. More on the case from Crime & Federalism here. [Mark Godsey]
February 22, 2005
Criminal Records and Employment in Canada
The Globe and Mail reports that 1 in 10 Canadians has a criminal record, and offers advice on getting employment in spite of a sheet. [Jack Chin]
February 06, 2005
LA Police Officer Will Not Face Criminal Charges for June '04 Beating
On June 23, 2004, an LA police officer, John Hatfield, was videotaped using a 2-pound flashlight to strike 11 blows to Stanley Miller, the suspect in an auto theft, after he appeared to surrender. A report issued by the District Attorney's office on February 3, stated that "Miller had led officers on a high-speed...pursuit in a recently stolen car and failed to comply with orders to stop and show his hands...Miller's furtive movements during the chase led officer to believe he might be arming himself." For those reasons, even though Miller turned out to be unarmed, the DA's office decided not to prosecute for lack of proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Hatfield's actions weren't without legal necessity. The full story... [Mark Godsey]