CrimProf Blog

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

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Is the Bush administration criminally liable for its lawlessness?

Whatever its other legacies, the Bush administration will be remembered for its contemptible disregard for the law in the post-9/11 war on terrorism. From the wiretapping of Americans without a court order to the waterboarding of suspected terrorists to the refusal to abide by the requirements of the Geneva Convention, many of the administration's policies can fairly be described as lawless.

But were they also criminal? Should officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, be put on trial, either in a court of law or in a forum like South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission? As the Bush administration nears its end, calls for such a reckoning are coming from civil libertarians and some supporters of President-elect Barack Obama. Some even argue that President Bush should be indicted.

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December 25, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

As Economy Dips, Arrests for Shoplifting Soar

Recently laid off from a job building trailers in Elkhart, Ind., Mr. Johnson came up a dollar short at Martin’s Supermarket last month when he went to buy a $4.99 bottle of sleep medication. So, “for some stupid reason,” he tried to shoplift it and was immediately arrested.

“I was desperate, I guess,” said Mr. Johnson, 25, who said he had never been arrested before. As the economy has weakened, shoplifting has increased, and retail security experts say the problem has grown worse this holiday season. Shoplifters are taking everything from compact discs and baby formula to gift cards and designer clothing.

Police departments across the country say that shoplifting arrests are 10 percent to 20 percent higher this year than last. The problem is probably even greater than arrest records indicate since shoplifters are often banned from stores rather than arrested.

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December 24, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Is the Bush administration criminally liable for its lawlessness?

Whatever its other legacies, the Bush administration will be remembered for its contemptible disregard for the law in the post-9/11 war on terrorism. From the wiretapping of Americans without a court order to the waterboarding of suspected terrorists to the refusal to abide by the requirements of the Geneva Convention, many of the administration's policies can fairly be described as lawless.

But were they also criminal? Should officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, be put on trial, either in a court of law or in a forum like South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission? As the Bush administration nears its end, calls for such a reckoning are coming from civil libertarians and some supporters of President-elect Barack Obama. Some even argue that President Bush should be indicted.

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December 24, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NYPD's "Operation Impact" Credited with Success in Tough Precincts

Along Linden Boulevard in East New York, the officers of Operation Impact patrol the Pink Houses with all the rigor of a military patrol, a clannish band of partners whose uniforms shout authority even when they do not speak.

They tread the maze of eight-story buildings, inspect the interior staircases, aim their flashlights into the nighttime darkness of rooftops and — on a recent frigid night — coat their lips with layers of ChapStick.

The police officers in this outpost in the eastern end of Brooklyn are part of a mini crime-suppression operation, one reliant on money, manpower and labor. They are the tip of the New York Police Department’s crime-fighting spear.

“We feel really proud of the job we’re doing here,” Officer Kevin Martinez, 24, said as he walked his beat in the Louis H. Pink Houses, a public housing project of 1,500 apartments in 22 buildings.

“When they see us here, they feel safe,” he said.

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December 24, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Actor Lillo Brancato Acquitted of Felony Murder

Amd_lillobrancatoA slain cop's sister cried junk justice last night after a Bronx jury acquitted actor-turned-junkie Lillo Brancato of murdering Officer Daniel Enchautegui.

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December 23, 2008 in Criminal Law, News, Trials | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Crime increases in some areas as economy fails

Nothing about the failed bank robbery here earlier this month was ordinary.

The suspect, a 51-year-old woman, does not fit the typical criminal profile. The weapon, a crudely assembled fake bomb — a tangle of wires protruding from a handbag — is not often a weapon of choice. And the demand, $50,000, was relatively modest by some criminal standards.

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December 22, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Man gets 13 months for molesting son

A former roving carnival worker will spend 13 months in prison for molesting his adult son, who has such severe mental and physical disabilities that he couldn't tell anyone what was happening to him.

Robert Lee Hutchinson, 41, had faced up to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of gross sexual imposition in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

Judge Neal Bronson said he gave consideration to Hutchinson's lack of a prior criminal record and that he had stepped forward to admit his guilt, as Hutchinson's lawyer, A. Aaron Aldridge, pointed out.

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December 22, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mistrial For Third Suspect In NYPD Murder Case

A mistrial has been declared in the case against Lee Woods for the murder of a police officer and for wounding his partner during a routine traffic stop, CBS 2 HD has learned.

Woods was the last of three men tried for their separate roles in the incident.

A juror in the trial fell ill last week during deliberation. That juror was unable to return.

At the beginning of the trial, the defense had stipulated that no alternate would be used while the jury had begun deliberating.

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December 22, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Kidnapping and Murder Mystery Solved 27 Years Later

Adamwalsh There is a serious cold case many people here in Florida have been following for years, and now it's finally solved, the kidnapping and murder of six-year-old Adam Walsh.

Twenty-seven years have passed and they're all together again, the family, detectives, a photo of Adam.

And the emotion is just as strong.

Adam's Father, John Walsh says, as he clears his throat, "For 27 years, we've been asking. Who could take a six-year-old boy and murder him and decapitate him? Who? We needed to know. We needed to know. And, today we know! The not knowing has been torture. But that journey's over."

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December 19, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

To Catch a Thief

Bernard Madoff's alleged $50 billion fraud is giving politicians and investors who failed to diversify another excuse to blame too little enforcement in U.S. financial markets. Talk about compounding a case of misplaced trust. The real lesson is that financial enforcement nearly always fails to protect investors, and this Ponzi scheme is merely typical.

Since 2000 and especially after the fall of Enron, the SEC's annual budget has ballooned to more than $900 million from $377 million. (See the nearby chart.) Its full-time examination and enforcement staff has increased by more than a third, or nearly 500 people. The percentage of full-time staff devoted to enforcement -- 33.5% -- appears to be a modern record, and it is certainly the SEC's highest tooth-to-tail ratio since the 1980s. The press corps and Congress both were making stars of enforcers like Eliot Spitzer, so the SEC's watchdogs had every incentive to ferret out fraud.

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December 18, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

1,500 criminals with sealed records rearrested

About 1,500 convicted criminals who were given a fresh start by getting their court records shielded were arrested again over the past two years, according to a newspaper analysis of state records.

That's around 11 percent of the number of first-time nonviolent convicts granted deferred ajudication under a 2003 sealed records law, The Dallas Morning News reported in Monday's editions. Under the law, the records are sealed from most employers, apartment managers and those not in law enforcement as long as they stayed out of trouble.

"It's sound public policy to give people a second chance," said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, the law's author.

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December 17, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

What the Alleged Misdeeds of Rod Blagojevich Teach Us About Lawful Politics

The allegations in the criminal complaint filed last week against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich portray a level of corruption that is shocking even by the standards of a state in which four prior governors have served time in prison. If proven, the charges will almost certainly result in Blagojevich becoming the fifth.

Among the most tawdry of the allegations in the complaint are these three: (1) Blagojevich pressured the Chicago Tribune to fire editors and writers responsible for editorials critical of Blagojevich, in exchange for gubernatorial assistance with the sale by the Tribune of the Chicago Cubs; (2) Blagojevich attempted to extort campaign contributions from people and entities, including a children's hospital, in exchange for government contracts, grants, and regulatory approvals; and (3) Blagojevich conspired to extract lucrative positions for himself and his wife in government or the private or non-profit sectors in exchange for appointing a U.S. Senator to fill the seat vacated by President-elect Obama.

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December 17, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Nonviolent inmates are lending a hand

For 97 cents a day -- yes, a day -- John Kemp picks up garbage in Austin.

He calls it great.

The work keeps him busy, occupies his mind, helps him change, he said.

Kemp wouldn't mind if the pay was within sight of minimum wage, of course. But after having been caught with a meth lab, Kemp cannot dictate options. Besides, he's not exactly doing his prison time like they did in Alcatraz.

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December 13, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Holder fight heats up

GOP leaders took to the Senate floor this evening to call on Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to slow down Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder’s confirmation process.

Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a former U.S. Attorney and Rhode Island attorney general, commands respect in the Senate on legal matters. He took to the floor to argue that the amount of time between the Holder nomination and the proposed hearings was within historical precedent. Leahy has proposed hearings as early as Jan. 8 with the goal of confirming Holder on Inauguration day or very shortly thereafter. Holder's nomination was announced Dec. 1.

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December 12, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Minnesota judge extends injunction against NFL suspensions

A federal judge extended his preliminary injunction against the NFL's suspension of five players for violating the league's anti-doping policy, a move their lawyer said will let them play the rest of the season.

In his ruling Thursday, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson asked both parties to propose a schedule by Dec. 22 for further proceedings that would lead to an eventual hearing on the merits of the case, a process that could take months. The regular season ends Dec. 28.

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December 12, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Domestic violence deaths more than double over 2007

The number of homicides related to domestic violence in Maine more than doubled over the past year, prompting Gov. John Baldacci on Tuesday to urge health care professionals to look even more carefully for signs of violence and sexual assault.

Domestic violence-related homicides in Maine rose from eight in all of 2007 to 17 so far this year, Baldacci said at a news conference, where he was joined by the state's attorney general and top health official, as well as several medical organizations and violence-prevention groups.

"The impact of domestic violence and sexual assault in Maine is staggering," Baldacci said. "This is a serious public health problem."

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December 11, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Eight and on Trial: Young Defendants Throw Criminal Justice Into Confusion

Map In his videotaped confession to the police, the eight-year-old boy sits in an overstuffed office chair and calmly describes how he shot his father and his father's roommate to death with a rifle. At one point, he buries his head in his jacket and says, "I'm going to go to juvie."

Prosecutors in Arizona, who could have sought to charge the boy as an adult, have charged him in juvenile court with the murder of his father, Vincent Romero, 29, and Timothy Romans, 39. He could face a trial or plea hearing and end up in a locked facility, designed mainly for teenagers, conceivably until he is 18.

The case highlights an old but persistent quandary of the criminal justice system. Despite society's natural impulse to secure justice for the victims of heinous crimes, most experts agree the adult system is no place for very young children. But some question whether they should face charges in the juvenile system itself, meant for older children.

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December 11, 2008 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Prosecutors Seek to Rescind Cooperation Letter for Millennium Bomber

Federal prosecutors are seeking yet another sentencing for would-be millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam — this time without credit for helping to convict a fellow terrorist.

Ressam was sentenced for the second time last week to 22 years in prison for plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on the eve of the millennium. Prosecutors said at the time that the sentence wasn't long enough, and the guideline range is 65 years to life.

In a motion made public today, the U.S. Attorney's Office asked to withdraw a document prosecutors filed several years ago acknowledging that Ressam cooperated. They say that motion, which provided part of the basis for the lenient sentence, is no longer valid because Ressam told the judge last week he wanted to take back every statement he made to the government, including his testimony against a coconspirator.

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December 9, 2008 in Criminal Law, DOJ News, Homeland Security, Sentencing Corrections | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Appeals Court Upholds Senator Craig's Guilty Plea

ArtcraigThe Minnesota Court of Appeals on Tuesday rejected U.S. Sen. Larry Craig's effort to withdraw his guilty plea to a misdemeanor offense of disorderly conduct in connection with a sex-sting operation.

"Because we see no abuse of discretion in the denial and conclude that the statute is not overbroad, we affirm" a lower court's decision, the three-judge panel wrote in a 10-page ruling.

In a written statement, Craig said he was "extremely disappointed" by the action and was considering an appeal.

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December 9, 2008 in Criminal Law, Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Illinois Governor Arrested on Corruption Charges

Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested this morning on federal corruption charges. Wiretaps recorded Blagojevich discussing how to "sell or trade" the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama "for financial and personal benefits for himself and his wife," prosecutors allege. Also charged in the 2-count indictment, with a lurid 76-page FBI affidavit, was Blagojevich's chief of staff, John Harris.

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December 9, 2008 in Criminal Law, DOJ News, Fraud, Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)