CrimProf Blog

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

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Constitution Project Study IDs Flaws in Public Defense System

The American legal system guarantees "equal justice under law." Those words, carved in stone on the facade of the Supreme Court, are a constitutional promise that everyone will have the same opportunity for justice.

But a new report by the bipartisan Constitution Project says the United States has broken that promise for poor people accused of crimes. The report is the most in-depth study of indigent defense in decades.

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April 15, 2009 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, News, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Death Row Inmate Offers Help to Victim's Family

From MSNBC.com: "COLUMBIA, S.C. - Monica Caison figured it was worth a shot, so she fired off a letter, a single paragraph, to the man on death row for kidnapping and killing Alice Donovan during a two-week, 2,300-mile crime spree.

“You say you want to do the right thing,” wrote Caison, the founder of a group that searches for missing people. “I’m here and I’m listening.”

She received Chadrick Fulks’ reply two months later: a map, color photos of the area where he says he left Donovan’s body six years ago, and instructions to look where searchers had not ventured before." Full Story from MSNBC.com... [Michele Berry]

January 30, 2009 in Capital Punishment, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Judge Rejects Obama's Request for Stay in Guantanamo Trial

From Law.com: "A military judge at Guantanamo on Thursday rejected a White House request to suspend a hearing for the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing, creating an unexpected challenge for the administration as it reviews how America puts suspected terrorists on trial.

The judge, Army Col. James Pohl, said his decision was difficult but necessary to protect "the public interest in a speedy trial." The ruling came in the case against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The bombing of the Navy destroyer in 2000 in the harbor of Aden, Yemen, killed 17 U.S. sailors.

It seemed to take the Pentagon and White House by surprise.

"We just learned of the ruling ... and we are consulting with the Pentagon and the Department of Justice to explore our options in the case," said White Press secretary Robert Gibbs, adding that he doubted the decision would hamper the administration's ability to decide how to move forward from Guantanamo." Full Story from Law.com... [Michele Berry]

January 30, 2009 in Due Process, Homeland Security, News, Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Defendant Invokes Morning Constitutional to Obtain New Trial Lawyer

A mistrial was declared Monday when a home-invasion robbery suspect smeared human feces on his attorney's face then threw more at the jury.

Weusi McGowan, 37, was upset because San Diego Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Fraser refused to remove Deputy Alternate Public Defender Jeffrey Martin from the case, prosecutor Christopher Lawson said.

At the mid-morning break, McGowan produced a plastic baggie filled with fecal matter and spread it on Martin's hair and face, then flung the excrement toward the jury box, hitting the briefcase of juror No. 9 but missing the juror himself.

"That juror didn't even see it coming," Lawson said.

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January 27, 2009 in Criminal Law, News, Trials | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Federal Judicial Vacancies for Appointment by Obama Administration

Courtesy of uscourts.gov, here is a list of the 55 federal judicial vacancies the Obama Administration will have the opportunity to fill by appointment. 18 of the vacancies are considered "judicial emergencies." [Michele Berry]

January 22, 2009 in News, Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (4)

NPR: "Obama Orders Guantanamo Bay Prison Closure"

NPR.org: On Day 2 of his presidency, Barack Obama signed executive orders "designed to close Guantanamo Bay prison within a year, prohibit extreme interrogation practices and revisit military tribunals for suspected terrorists.

'Shutting the detention facility is intended to show that U.S. foreign policy is in metamorphosis. The message that we are sending around the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism' but will do so 'in a manner consistent with our values and our ideals," Obama said while signing the orders. Full story from NPR.org... [Michele Berry]

January 22, 2009 in Due Process, Homeland Security, News, Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (5)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama's First Move as President

Even before his adorable dance moves with First Lady Michelle (video here), President Obama's first move came in the criminal law arena-- an order via Defense Secretary Robert Gates to military prosecutors in the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals to request a 120 day stay in all pending cases. The stay will allow the Obama administration a chance to review all the pending cases. His order came just hours after his oath of office. Thus far proceedings are frozen in the case against Canadian Omar Khadr, who was captured at age 15 and is accused of murdering a U.S. soldier with a grenade during a firefight in Afghanistan. A stay was also granted in the death penalty case against five prisoners accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks. More from CNN.com... [Michele Berry]

January 21, 2009 in Due Process, Homeland Security, News, Trials | 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)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New Charge for Bernard Kerik

041213_kerik_vmedwidecDisgraced former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik's glib response to White House officials when he interviewed to be director of homeland security may land him in prison.

"Nope, it's all in my book," Kerik said when asked in 2002 if there was "anything embarrassing that he wouldn't want the public to know about." In "The Lost Son," Kerik admitted fathering a daughter while he was a soldier in Korea and said his mother, a prostitute, was murdered.

In a beefed-up indictment issued Tuesday, Manhattan federal prosecutors said Kerik should have owned up to his ties to a mob-linked contractor as well as his failure to pay taxes for a nanny he employed.

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December 3, 2008 in Criminal Law, Homeland Security, News, Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Plaxico Burress Turns Himself In On Gun Charge

Amd_plaxicoburressTroubled Giants star Plaxico Burress turned himself into a Manhattan precinct Monday morning where he is expected to be charged after accidentally shooting himself in the right thigh while drinking at a Midtown nightclub.

Walking with no sign of a limp from the bullet wound, Burress stepped out of a black Cadillac Escalade in front of the NYPD's 17th Precinct just after 8 a.m. Wearing dark jeans, a white collared shirt and a black jacket, he stared straight ahead as he walked and ignored shouts from an assembled group of reporters and fans.

His lawyer said the wide receiver would be arraigned at 1 p.m. at Central Booking and would plead not guilty to charges of criminal possession of a weapon.

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

Monday, November 24, 2008

Georgia Supreme Court Promotes Marriage to Fight Crime

A dozen billboards around the state that urge Georgians to "Get Married, Stay Married" are sponsored not by a church or family-values group but by the Supreme Court of Georgia through its Commission on Children, Marriage and Family Law.

Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears said that the 48-foot-wide, 14-foot-tall billboards are one of the few things a jurist can do to battle high crime rates, high divorce rates and low numbers of fathers raising their kids.

Along with the "Get Married, Stay Married" slogan, each sign shows a happy-looking mother, father and child and one of two messages: "Children do better with parents together" or "For Children's Sake."

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November 24, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When a Gun Isn't a Gun?

18005029_240x180U.S. attorneys had a conundrum on their hands -- they had the evidence to prove a convicted felon was in possession of a gun, but they couldn’t prove the gun was a gun.

What attorney’s had on their hands was an American double-action revolver that was manufactured between 1880 and 1941.

The problem is that federal code states that the weapon is not a firearm unless it was manufactured after 1896. Without a definitive production date, the gun was inadmissible as evidence.

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November 18, 2008 in Criminal Law, Guns, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Dismissed Stevens Juror Lied to Go to the Racetrack

04stevens_190As it turned out, her father had not died. Marian Hinnant merely wanted to go to the races. And, she was not about to let the trial of Senator Ted Stevens get in her way.

On Monday, Ms. Hinnant stunned a courtroom when she confessed she had concocted a story about her father’s death to be let off the jury that would, a day later, convict Mr. Stevens of Alaska on ethics violations.

Ms. Hinnant said she had lied to attend the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita racetrack in California.

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November 4, 2008 in Criminal Law, News, Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Unprecedented Number of Federal Judges under Investigation?

U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent is the first federal judge to be indicted for alleged federal sex crimes, but he's only the latest in a string of jurists to face misconduct allegations in 2008, for behavior such as frequenting a topless club or lying under oath.

Nationwide, four other federal judges are being investigated for, among other things, taking cash from lawyers, using an escort service, posting nude photos on a personal Web site and abusing power in court.

The flurry of federal disciplinary activity appears unprecedented under the modern review system, established by Congress in 1980, according to experts and official court statistics.

``As far as I know, we've never had anything like this,'' said Arthur Hellman, a federal judicial disciplinary expert and professor at the University of Pittsburgh law school.

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October 13, 2008 in Criminal Law, News, Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cell Phone Cameras and Crime Reporting

One morning last month, a 28-year-old woman was struggling up the stairs at the Dyckman Street elevated station on her way to work. Normally, she would hold her skirt around her legs, but that day she was juggling a cup of coffee, a gym bag and her purse.

She sensed the presence of someone too close to her on the stairs. She turned and saw a man peering into his cellphone. A passer-by confirmed her suspicion: The man had taken photographs under her skirt.

“I said I had to do something,” the woman said on Thursday. “Since he is taking pictures of me, I am going to take pictures of him.”

She said she followed the man onto the southbound No. 1 train, walked through several cars and found him on a seat. She prepared her cellphone camera. He looked at her and mumbled something. “And I told him ‘smile’ because I am going to the police,” she said.

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September 19, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Video from 11th Circuit Excessive Force Case Finds Way to YouTube

When Judge Beverly B. Martin this month dissented to a federal appeals decision in favor of a sheriff's deputy accused of civil rights violations for using a Taser on a handcuffed man, she urged that a video of the events in question be published with the opinion.

The suggestion of Martin, a district court judge sitting by designation with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, went unheeded. But James V. Cook, the Tallahassee, Fla., attorney representing plaintiff Jesse Daniel Buckley, apparently took Martin at her word.

On Monday Cook placed a copy of a video shot by a squad car camera on YouTube. The six-minute video can be found under the term "Buckley v. Haddock." Cook said Tuesday he is preparing a motion for an en banc rehearing.

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September 18, 2008 in Criminal Law, News, Technology | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Violent Crime Reported Down in 2007

Data released Monday by the FBI show violent crime dipped slightly nationwide in 2007. That ended two years of increases in murders, robberies and other kinds of the worst crime in U.S. cities.

An estimated 1.4 million violent crimes were reported across the country last year - about 10,000 fewer, or a 0.7 percent drop, than 2006.

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September 16, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, DOJ News, Law Enforcement, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

States Restore Voting Rights for Ex-Convicts

14felony_xlarge1 Striding across a sweltering strip-mall parking lot with her clipboard in hand, Monica Bell, a community field organizer in Orlando, Fla., was looking for former convicts to add to the state’s voter rolls.

Antonious Benton, a gold-toothed 22-year-old with a silver skull-shaped belt buckle, a laconic smile and a criminal record, was the first person she approached.

“I can’t vote because I got three felonies,” Mr. Benton told Ms. Bell. He had finished a six-month sentence for possession of $600 worth of crack cocaine, he said. But Ms. Bell had good news for him: The Florida Legislature and Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, changed the rules last year to restore the voting rights of about 112,000 former convicts.

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September 16, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Banks to Blame for Surge in Bank Robberies?

Bank robberies are up 50% this year, and the NYPD says it's the banks' fault, the Daily News has learned.

The number of bank jobs hit 265 by Sept. 2, compared with 177 by the same time last year.

Police say the problem isn't that crooks are working harder - it's that banks aren't doing enough to protect their money.

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September 11, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Preppy Killer" Sentenced to 19 Years on Drug Charges

Amd_robert_chambersPreppie killer Robert Chambers was sentenced today to 19 years in prison for drug-dealing - more time than he got for strangling Jennifer Levin in 1986.

The 42-year-old prep school grad agreed to the long stretch as part of a plea bargain that allowed him to avoid a life sentence.

The hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court was a brief, cut-and-dried affair.

His hands cuffed, a jean-clad Chambers showed little emotion except to smirk at girlfriend Shawn Kovell, who was sitting in the audience with his father.

Kovell's presence caused a stir in the courthouse and a threat by prosecutors to put her behind bars.

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September 2, 2008 in Criminal Law, Drugs, News, Sentencing Corrections | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)