CrimProf Blog

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Prosecutors Shouldn't Wield Guns in Court

From  "Pennsylvania prosecutors should think twice about displaying during an opening statement a handgun that will later be entered into evidence during a trial, a state appeals court panel has suggested in a case of first impression.  In Commonwealth v. Parker, a three-judge panel of the Superior Court ruled that although a Philadelphia assistant district attorney should not have been permitted by the trial court to display the gun allegedly belonging to Maurice Parker, the error was harmless, given the weight of the evidence brought against Parker.  "We do, however, caution against the use of such tactics by prosecutors in the future," Judge John T. Bender wrote.  "The display of the gun by the prosecution could not honestly be said to serve any legitimate purpose except to inflame the jury," he added later."  More . . .  [Mark Godsey]

August 23, 2005 in Evidence | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Dallas Prosecutors and Batson

From the  "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.

The Dallas Morning News examined jury selection in cases from 2002, reviewing more than 6,500 juror information cards, studying transcripts of juror questioning, and analyzing lawyers' strike patterns.  It published the first part of a three-part series on jury selection Sunday.

The analysis found that prosecutors treated the responses of blacks and whites to key questions differently. A review of transcripts of juror questioning, available in 59 of the 108 cases studied, showed that:

_Juror views on rehabilitation were the most important factor in determining whom prosecutors rejected, but they excluded 79 percent of blacks who favored rehabilitation over punishment or deterrence, compared with 55 percent of whites who did.

_Prosecutors excluded 78 percent of blacks who said they or someone close to them had had contact with the criminal justice system, compared with 39 percent of whites.

_Prosecutors rejected all blacks who said they or someone close to them had had a bad experience with police or the courts, compared with 39 percent of whites who gave the same response. About 2 percent of all respondents gave that response.

More . . .  [Mark Godsey]

August 23, 2005 in Civil Rights, Evidence | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

CrimProf Tom Lininger Authors New Oregon Law to Allow Hearsay in Abuse Cases

LiningerIn response to Crawford v. Washington, University of Oregon's Tom Lininger wrote a new law that allows a party to introduce hearsay statements against opponents who wrongfully caused a witness's unavailability.  "The decision in Crawford v. Washington intended to claify the Sixth Amendment right to confront one's accuser by limiting out-of-court statements by absent witnesses.  But battered women, seniors, and children are often frightened to testify in open court against their abusers--and this fear is justified.  Lininger said Oregon had to fix state law so that it protected a defendant's constitutional rights while allowing victims to stay out of physical reach of their assailants. 'If a witness isn't available because she has been threatened by the defendant, then the defendant shouldn't be protected by hearsay rules.  The Sixth Amendment is a shield, not a sword,' Lininger said.  In a prior legislative session, Lininger authored a successful bill that created new criminal penalties for drug-induced rape." More on Lininger and Oregon's new law... [Mark Godsey]

July 26, 2005 in Evidence | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Minnesota: Former Assistant Crime Lab Director Avoids Prison for Stealing Cocaine

From (St. Paul Pioneer Press): "A former assistant director of Minnesota's crime lab was sentenced Friday (July 8) to one year in the Ramsey County workhouse — a far lighter sentence than possible — for stealing 2 pounds of cocaine from an evidence locker to feed his own addiction.  Judge Salvador Rosas sentenced David Bruce Petersen to seven years in prison, but that sentence was stayed pending completion of an unusually long term of 30 years' probation.  With good behavior, the judge said, he will consider allowing Petersen to leave the workhouse after three to six months and be subject to home confinement for the remainder of the year. Rosas also gave Petersen credit for four days served, a $3,000 fine and said he must abstain from all nonprescribed drugs and alcohol and submit to drug testing." Story... [Mark Godsey]

July 21, 2005 in Evidence, News | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Indianapolis: New Private DNA Lab Opens Today

From the A former Marion County prosecutor and a former leader at the local crime lab will officially open their private DNA testing laboratory (Strand Analytical Laboratories) in Indianapolis today....Experts say the private lab, which would be the first of its kind in Indiana, could help address the problem of delays and backlogs in DNA testing locally and across the country.  Mike Medler, director of the Marion County crime lab, welcomes the new venture and hopes it will help cut the county's current backlog of 111 DNA tests....Private labs across the country are being called upon to help public labs catch up on DNA testing. Long testing times have often been blamed for causing trial delays" among other problems. Story... [Mark Godsey]

July 21, 2005 in Evidence, News, Technology | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Colorado Supreme Court Holds That Jurors May Question Witnesses in Criminal Cases

Improper questions allowed by the judge are reviewed under a harmless error standard.  Decision here.  [Mark Godsey]

June 29, 2005 in Evidence | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Interesting Case at Tulane Criminal Law Clinic

From a press release:  "Student attorneys from the Tulane Criminal Law Clinic are planning an appeal to the United States Supreme Court over a ruling that admitted a report into evidence without its author ever taking the stand.  The issue is of nationwide import since most states have enacted statutes that seek to conserve prosecution and police resources by keeping laboratory workers in the lab and out of the courtroom. In the Clinic's case, the State relied upon such a report to prove that the substance found in a a zip-lock baggie was marijuana.  Based on that proof, the Defendant Robert Cunningham was  convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession.  "The right to confront and cross-examine a witness devolves upon a criminal defendant the minute the state chooses to prosecute him," Tulane Criminal Law Clinic Director Pam Metzger told the New Orleans Times-Picayune in its June 21st edition."  [Mark Godsey]

June 22, 2005 in Evidence | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

CA Supreme Court Holds Defendants Are Entitled To Personnel Records Of Officer Accused of Misconduct

Warrick v. Superior Court, decision here.  [Mark Godsey]

June 14, 2005 in Evidence | Permalink | TrackBack (0)