Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
From NPR.com: Journalist Jeffrey Rosen is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine. His article titled "The Brain on the Stand: How neuroscience is transforming the legal system" appeared in the March 11 issue.
It's about an emerging field of study called "neurolaw," which combines neuroscience and the law. He writes about how evidence from brain-scanning technologies are being used in the courtroom to explain away criminal behavior.
Rosen is also the author of the book The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries That Defined America. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
Thursday, March 8, 2007
From DenverPost.com: Several Denver groups in the gang intervention and prevention business recently banded together to give new energy to the Metro Denver Gang Coalition, an old coalition that had gone defunct after losing funding.
"They are working in unprecedented ways," said Jeremy Bronson, Mayor John Hickenlooper's special assistant to the mayor for public safety. "Police, schools, service providers and the faith-based community: Everyone is at the table to say, 'I'm prepared to do what I can."'
The coalition is pushing to get new funding to revive a gang tattoo-removal program at Swedish Medical Center that went defunct last year because nobody had the $10,000 necessary to purchase insurance for the program.
It is said that hundreds of youths went through the program each year until the money dried up. In exchange for community service, the former gang members had their tattoos removed, a process that requires numerous laser treatments and normally costs as much as $3,000.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Thursday, February 15, 2007
From NYTimes.com: Like many of the one million Americans who go through a divorce each year, Marvin Singer is indignant, depressed, financially stressed and convinced that he is a victim of judicial abuse. Unlike all but a tiny number, Mr. Singer, 71, is also in jail.
According to the official record, Mr. Singer was jailed for refusing a judge’s order to pay his ex-wife’s lawyer $100,000 — about half of what he owes for her legal representation during their six-year tug-of-war over marital assets.
According to Mr. Singer, he is an inmate in a modern-day debtor’s prison.
“In this country, you’re not supposed to go to jail for owing money,” said Mr. Singer, a real estate lawyer who may or may not have retired, depending on which side of this bitter struggle one sits. “I haven’t hurt anyone. I haven’t robbed anyone. How could this be?”
There is no record of how many people travel a path from divorce court to jail. Administrators of the matrimonial courts in New York and other states track how many divorces are filed, and how many are resolved, but not how many litigants in irreconcilable marriages end up in irreconcilable rows with the judge. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Sunday, February 4, 2007
From nytimes.com: Some call the “failure to appear” charge a prosecutor’s best friend because it is relatively easy to prove and can swiftly bring a defendant to the bargaining table. Others see the long-accepted but little-discussed practice of punishing late or absentee defendants as a crutch for overworked judges to maintain decorum and keep criminal cases from clogging their courtrooms.
Now such criminal charges are being challenged in Connecticut, where nearly 1 in 10 of the cases not involving motor vehicles that ended in convictions over the past five years included a conviction for failure to appear. Those found guilty of what could be a procedural misstep can face up to five years in prison.
Bringing the issue into the open is the case of Ayanna Khadijah, 34, who was convicted of the felony version of failure to appear after she failed to wake up from a nap and arrived 45 minutes late to court one day in August 2003. Her case is extraordinary because she fought back.
It was the only court date Ms. Khadijah missed among 45 sessions over three years defending herself against a set of drug charges that were eventually dismissed, in 2005. Ms. Khadijah, a single mother with a criminal history, received a suspended three-year sentence on the failure-to-appear charge. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey and hat tip from Laura Appleman]
Thursday, February 1, 2007
From orlandosentinel.com: For five months, members of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer's crime-fighting panel have been searching for ways to reduce violence.
On Wednesday, one solution became crystal clear. Delgardo Royal, a 45-year-old Orlando man released Monday from a Florida Panhandle prison, told the Mayor's SAFE Orlando Task Force about coming home with no money, no job and the temptation to return to crime to survive.
"I'm at the crossroads right now," he said. "I'm not going back to prison. I'll die on the streets instead of going back to prison. I know what it's like being out on the streets. I just need someone to be near the phone to catch me if I fall."
His safety net was a community activist and former probation officer he met four years ago. Royal called Mercedes Bigelow late Monday from Orlando's bus station. She picked him up, took him to a neighbor's home and then brought him to meetings of the task force Tuesday and Wednesday because she figured who better to describe the needs of those released back into the community from prison.
Royal's experience during the past few days led to the kind of solution the task force is proposing: A one-stop resource center to help ex-convicts get drivers licenses, jobs, medical care, mental-health counseling and other services so they don't return to crime.
When Bigelow brought Royal to a subcommittee meeting Tuesday, his story reduced participants to tears. Members Brandy Hand and Sarah Kelly went out and bought him clothes and shoes with their own money. They also contacted City Commissioner Robert Stuart, who runs the Christian Service Center, where Royal's other needs were assessed.
After Wednesday's meeting of the full task force, several board members -- pastors, businessmen and the president of the Metropolitan Orlando Urban League -- offered to help find Royal housing and a job. One pastor talked to him about setting up an apartment house for released inmates. Other panel members were busy on cell phones trying to line up job interviews with the city, landscaping and flooring companies.
"We are the intervention team," said Joshua Kirven, a psychologist, community liaison with the 9th Judicial Circuit's Public Defender's Office and task-force volunteer. "We've been talking about this for six months, and we finally have come full circle. Now, we've intervened on an offender's behalf."
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Friday, January 19, 2007
Here's a funny editorial on jaywalking called Too Cocky for the Cross-walk: Jaywalking Academics are a Threat to National Security. It's based on a ridiculous incident out of Atlanta where a British historian was tackled to the ground, arrested, and detained 8 hours for jaywalking. (Video interview on YouTube here). Did you know that "recreational jaywalking is up 20 percent over the last decade and addiction has skyrocketed? These statistics are particularly unnerving in the light of a "totally legit" study that proved jaywalking is a "gateway misdemeanor." As jaywalkers mature, they turn to more destructive criminal behavior, like walking a dog without a leash, backing the family car out of the driveway or conducting domestic wiretaps without a warrant." Read the full "story" here. . . [Michele Berry]
The Onion reports: OAKLAND, CA—Often referred to by his superiors at the Oakland Police Department as a "loose cannon," Lt. Buck Roth and his unorthodox policing methods have been the subject of controversy for much of his turbulent career. But the renegade detective who acts as judge, jury, prosecuting attorney, bailiff, court reporter, and executioner maintains that his approach gets results. "Whatever it takes to clean up Oakland, I'll do it," Roth said Monday. "After all the laziness and corruption I've witnessed during my 13 years on the force, I've learned you can't trust just anyone to apprehend, arrest, fingerprint, photograph, delouse, interrogate, arraign, hear testimony from, and set bail for the low-life scumbags I deal with day after day." Rest of "story" here. [Mark Godsey]
Thursday, January 18, 2007
On March 30, 2007, the National Center for Justice and Rule of Law, of The University of Mississippi School of Law, presents its annual Fourth Amendment Symposium The conference is open to the public and will be webcast, which contains additional information about the conference and the Center's Fourth Amendment programs.
Speakers at the symposium include:
- University of Mississippi Research Prof and National Center for Justice and Rule of Law Director Thomas K. Clancy
- Honorable Jack Landau, Oregon Court of Appeals
- Honorable Joseph Grasso, Mass. Appeals Court
- Honorable Irma Raker, Court of Appeals of Maryland
- University of Tennessee School of Law Prof Thomas Davies
- University of New Jersey School of Law Robert Williams
- New England School of Law Lawrence Friedman
Nine Widener University School of Law students from the Delaware campus, accompanied by two professors and a civic-minded Philadelphia public defender took part in the Katrina-Gideon Interview Project, a national initiative where American law student volunteers are traveling to New Orleans to assist the beleaguered Public Defender's Office there try to catch up on the backlog of cases caused by Hurricane Katrina.
The students, working in pairs during the first week of January 2007, had contact with nine detainees. They interviewed them, made phone calls to relatives, verified information in the case files - in some cases doing investigatory work - tracked down witnesses and drafted motions and letters. Basically, they moved the inmates' case files toward being ready to go to court.
"With all the ups and downs, I feel that we not only made some important strides in getting a crippled indigent defense project back on track, but also that what we extracted was invaluable experience regarding the practicality -- and not the legal theories -- surrounding the criminal justice system," student David Iannucci wrote in a blog about his experience. "I hope this project continues throughout this year with many other law students volunteering their time and energy, with the goal that maybe the attention our presence and assistance has generated will jumpstart a massive endeavor of reform."
The students worked out of the Public Defender's Office in New Orleans and interacted with the attorneys who will eventually take the case files they prepared into court to represent the detainees. The days were long: roughly 12 hours beginning at 7:30 a.m. The group arrived there from Jan. 1 and returned Jan. 6. [Mark Godsey]
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Responding to the remarks of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles "Cully" Stimson, which were reported in the news media on January 13, 2007, the following statement was released Monday, January 15, 2007, by more than 130 deans of U.S. law schools. The statement reads as follows:
"We, the undersigned law deans, are appalled by the January 11, 2007 statement of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles "Cully" Stimson, criticizing law firms for their pro bono representation of suspected terrorist detainees and encouraging corporate executives to force these law firms to choose between their pro bono and paying clients.
"As law deans and professors, we find Secretary Stimson’s statement to be contrary to basic tenets of American law. We teach our students that lawyers have a professional obligation to ensure that even the most despised and unpopular individuals and groups receive zealous and effective legal representation. Our American legal tradition has honored lawyers who, despite their personal beliefs, have zealously represented mass murderers, suspected terrorists, and Nazi marchers. At this moment in time, when our courts have endorsed the right of the Guantanamo detainees to be heard in courts of law, it is critical that qualified lawyers provide effective representation to these individuals. By doing so, these lawyers protect not only the rights of the detainees, but also our shared constitutional principles. In a free and democratic society, government officials should not encourage intimidation of or retaliation against lawyers who are fulfilling their pro bono obligations.
"We urge the Administration promptly and unequivocally to repudiate Secretary Stimson’s remarks."
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
From NYTimes.com: University of Chicago Law School CrimProf Bernard E. Harcourt recently wrote an opinion piece discussing the mentally ill in prison. Here is an excerpt:
Last August, a prison inmate in Jackson, Mich. — someone the authorities described as “floridly psychotic” — died in his segregation cell, naked, shackled to a concrete slab, lying in his own urine, scheduled for a mental health transfer that never happened. Last month in Florida, the head of the state’s social services department resigned abruptly after having been fined $80,000 and is facing criminal contempt charges for failing to transfer severely mentally ill jail inmates to state hospitals.
Ten days ago, the Supreme Court agreed to determine when mentally ill death row inmates should be considered so deranged that their execution would be constitutionally impermissible. The case involves a 48-year-old Navy veteran who is a diagnosed schizophrenic. In the decade leading up to the crime he was hospitalized 14 times for severe mental illness.
According to a study released by the Justice Department in September, 56 percent of jail inmates in state prisons and 64 percent of inmates across the country reported mental health problems within the past year.
Though troubling, none of this should come as a surprise. Over the past 40 years, the United States dismantled a colossal mental health complex and rebuilt — bed by bed — an enormous prison. During the 20th century we exhibited a schizophrenic relationship to deviance.
After more than 50 years of stability, federal and state prison populations skyrocketed from under 200,000 persons in 1970 to more than 1.3 million in 2002. That year, our imprisonment rate rose above 600 inmates per 100,000 adults. With the inclusion of an additional 700,000 inmates in jail, we now incarcerate more than two million people — resulting in the highest incarceration number and rate in the world, five times that of Britain and 12 times that of Japan.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Monday, January 15, 2007
On January 26, 2007, University of New Mexico School of Law Professor Sherri Burr will moderate a panel on Miranda and the Media as part of a conference on "Miranda at 40: Applications in a Post-Enron, Post-9/11 World" at Chapman University in Orange County, California.
View Brochure. . . [Mark Godsey]
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
From azcentral.com: University studies have shown repeatedly that male athletes are at greater risk of violent behavior than non-athletes, that they are more likely to be aggressive with dating partners and more accepting of hostility toward women. One study found that male student athletes made up just 3.3 percent of the male population at the universities surveyed yet were accused of 19 percent of the sexual assaults on campus.
So why is abuse by athletes not an issue for sports fans? "Here's the deal," said Todd Crosset, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. "For sport to work, they (fans) have to trust honest effort. Crimes against sports are gambling and steroids. What goes on off the court does not affect the game."
Crossett, who has studied extensively violence by athletes, cited as an example Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Brett Myers, who pitched the day after being cited for beating his wife outside a Boston bar in June. "He didn't commit a crime against the sport," Crosset said. "It's not about sport, it's about their private lives."
But multiple research studies at universities have probed the relationship between athletes and violence against women, and about their sense of being "above the law."
"There's the hubris there's the privilege, there's the acceptance of athletes of having character, money issues, all of those things come together," said Jay Coakley, another researcher at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
"I come under heat for being 'overly negative about sports,' when in fact I'm trying to take a critical look at it," Coakley said. "Whereas most people are looking at sports through rose-colored cultural glasses that can't see any problems with sports itself."
Studies show dominant attitudes toward women and lesser men set in even before the athletes reach high school. Perhaps most disturbing, is the violence might not be random; instead, an outgrowth of the kind of mind control athletes need for a winning edge.
"Athletes are very instrumental in their violence," Crosset said. "They know exactly what they're doing. They're not coming unglued. They're terrorizing these women to get their way."
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
From washingtonpost.com: Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen picks mentally ill death row inmate Gregory Thompson as his person of the year to call attention to the madness of the death penalty. Here is an excerpt from the article:
"Thompson, 45, is delusional. He is also paranoid, schizophrenic and depressed. For these ailments, he receives daily doses of drugs and, twice a month, anti-psychotic injections. The state of Tennessee wants very much to put him to death for the horrendous 1985 murder of Brenda Blanton Lane, of which there is no doubt about his guilt. There is grave doubt, though, about the constitutionality, not to mention the decency, of executing an insane man. Thus the 12 pills Thompson takes every day. The idea, according to a recent account of his case in the Wall Street Journal, is to make him sane enough to be put to death.
Shortly before Justice Harry Blackmun retired from the Supreme Court in 1994, he reversed himself on the death penalty. Blackmun had been a lifelong supporter, but finally had had enough. In words that were to become famous, he wrote, "From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death." It's as if Blackmun had Thompson in mind, for in his case the tinkering occurs on a daily basis.
Blackmun was not the only Supreme Court justice to change his mind about capital punishment. Lewis Powell did something similar. He never got to the point where he considered it unconstitutional or immoral -- he just concluded there was no way to get it right.
Now, from Powell's point of view, matters have even worsened. The death penalty has become so necessarily cumbersome to implement, so full of essential safeguards, that it not only sometimes cannot be done -- note the recent suspensions of executions by lethal injection -- but it takes forever to do it. Thompson, you might have noticed, has been awaiting execution for nearly 22 years -- arguably cruel and unusual punishment in itself." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Sunday, December 3, 2006
From washingtonpost.com: Without notifying the public, federal agents for the past four years have assigned millions of international travelers, including Americans, computer-generated scores rating the risk they pose of being terrorists or criminals.
The travelers are not allowed to see or directly challenge these risk assessments, which the government intends to keep on file for 40 years.
The scores are assigned to people entering and leaving the United States after computers assess their travel records, including where they are from, how they paid for tickets, their motor vehicle records, past one-way travel, seating preference and what kind of meal they ordered.
The Homeland Security Department notice called its program "one of the most advanced targeting systems in the world." The department said the nation's ability to spot criminals and other security threats "would be critically impaired without access to this data."
Still, privacy advocates view ATS with alarm. "It's probably the most invasive system the government has yet deployed in terms of the number of people affected," David Sobel, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group devoted to electronic data issues, said in an interview. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Motives underlying the sports/religion/crime-overlap differ in the UK compared to the US. According to this article from the BBC News, one-third of religious crime in Scotland is football related. Different religious sects tend to support different teams; add alcohol to the picture and you get crime induced by rivalries in the truest sense. In the U.S., it's simpler, but for neither better nor worse. For example, something tells me the infamous Pacers/Pistons brawl wasn't quite so pensive...and watching football would have been a more appropriate Sunday activity for these religious-figures-turned-criminals than attempting to set a moral compass. [Michele Berry]
Monday, November 27, 2006
The "CSI" craze has hit Miami, Vegas, NYC, jury boxes, and now, parenting. Many parents across the country are swabbing the insides of their children's mouths to get a DNA sample just in case they need it if the youngster is kidnapped, runs away, or suffers a terrible accident. The "insurance policy" of sorts they hope to never use. Kits are being distributed by private companies, police stations, and orthodontists, ranging in cost from free to $60, and including a photo, fingerprints, a collection swab, and a special envelope in which to put the DNA sample. Story from MSNBC.com. . . [Michele Berry]