CrimProf Blog

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

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"To Catch A Predator" Men Want Their Cars Back

Batey_6From Stetson University CrimProf Robert Batey recently discussed a case where the accused who were apprehended on the NBC show "To Catch a Predator" are now suing the Florida police department for the return of their vehicles from impound.

Seven men are waiting to find out whether or not Judge Raul A. Zambrano will order a return of seven impounded vehicles or award them to police. The total value of the vehicles is more than $38,000, according to forfeiture reports. Police department administrative assistant Donna Kearney said the values were based off of the Kelly Blue Book appraisal guide.

CrimProf Robert Batey said the seizure of property, such as vehicles, is a common practice among law enforcement when conducting investigations such as stings. Defendants who are acquitted are entitled to get their vehicles back, but if convicted, they lose them, Batey said.

"Forfeiture law has been very popular, especially as part of the war on drugs," he said.

Batey said sometimes seized property can be used as a leverage tool during plea bargaining, "but probably not in a case like this." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 28, 2007 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Fla. Legislator Attempts to Ban the Term "Illegal Alien"

From A state legislator whose district is home to thousands of Caribbean immigrants wants to ban the term "illegal alien" from the state's official documents.

"I personally find the word 'alien' offensive when applied to individuals, especially to children," said Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami. "An alien to me is someone from out of space."

She has introduced a bill providing that: "A state agency or official may not use the term 'illegal alien' in an official document of the state." There would be no penalty for using the words.

In Miami-Dade County, Wilson said, "we don't say 'alien,' we say 'immigrant.'"

She said she encountered the situation when trying to pass a bill allowing children of foreigners to get in-state tuition at colleges and universities. Wilson, who directs a dropout prevention and education program in Miami, said she politely asks witnesses at public hearings on such issues not to use the term.

"There are students in our schools whose parents are trying to become citizens and we shouldn't label them," she said. "They are immigrants, through no fault of their own, not aliens."

Asked if her bill (SB 2154) might run afoul of Gov. Charlie Crist's "plain speaking" mandate for government agencies, Wilson said, "I think getting rid of 'alien' would be plain speaking."

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 28, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Catch Phrase of the Death of People in Police Custody: "Excited Delirium"

From You may not have heard of it, but police departments and medical examiners are using a new term to explain why some people suddenly die in police custody. It's a controversial diagnosis called excited delirium. But the question for many civil liberties groups is, does it really exist?

The phenomenon can be witnessed in a grainy video shot in 2003 by a dashboard camera in a Cincinnati police car. In it, a patrol car pulls up quickly to the parking lot of a White Castle in Cincinnati. A 350-pound man is seen stumbling around, yelling.

The man is 41-year-old Nathaniel Jones, a father of two who worked in a group home. He argues with two officers. He seems confused; he can't keep his balance. The officers close in. The officers order Jones to get down but they can't seem to catch him. He throws his body at one of the officers. Out come the nightsticks.

They strike him about 40 times. Jones is on the ground when more officers arrive with nightsticks. Jones calls out for his mother. That's the last thing he says.

Jones stops moving. He dies a few minutes later.

The coroner found that Jones did not die from excessive police force but from a number of causes — such as heart failure, obesity, drug use and asphyxiation. He later told reporters that Jones' death could have been the result of something called excited delirium. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 28, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Report Shows the Racism Behind Drug Sentences

From African-Americans are disproportionately harmed by mandatory-minimum drug sentences, with blacks comprising nearly nine out of every 10 offenders sent to Maryland prisons on such terms, according to a report being released today by a Washington think tank.

The report by the Justice Policy Institute, a research organization that supports alternatives to prison, is to be discussed at a House of Delegates committee hearing today. The committee is considering a bill that would repeal some of the state's mandatory-minimum sentencing laws.

The study urges moving toward a model that offers treatment over incarceration. It notes that despite the racial disparity in sentencing, blacks and whites use drugs at similar rates.

Maryland elected officials have acknowledged that drug use is a public health problem, and, as a result, the state has offered more treatment options to low-level offenders, said Jason Ziedenberg, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute.

"But what we need now is the will to change these laws," he said.

The proposed legislation seeks to allow judges discretion in sentencing repeat offenders who commit certain drug crimes. Repealing the minimum-sentencing laws would allow judges to require treatment, particularly in the case of a low-level dealer who sells drugs to support an addiction, said Del. Curtis S. Anderson, a Baltimore Democrat who commissioned the report and sponsored the bill.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 27, 2007 in Race | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Debate of Criminalizing Dumping Homeless Patients

From Despite the public outrage over the dumping of homeless patients on Los Angeles' skid row, there is growing debate about whether criminalizing the practice would solve the problem.

As the number of suspected dumping cases reached 55 last week, a state senator announced legislation that would make it a misdemeanor for hospitals to transport patients and leave them on the streets against their will.

But some legal experts question whether the law could be effective without a parallel effort to provide more shelter and services for chronically ill homeless patients who are well enough to leave the hospital but have no place for continuing medical services.

There are only about 40 "recuperative beds" available in L.A. for homeless people who need medical attention after being discharged from hospitals, officials said, and there is general agreement that's not enough. The proposed law, legal experts say, might be vulnerable, because it seems to make hospitals alone responsible for finding care for these patients.

"It is more complicated than it first appears," said Russ Korobkin, a UCLA law professor who teaches health law. "Requiring hospitals to be responsible for the patients and not leave them in the gutter is a first step. But you've got to have a second step of providing some government-funded beds for recovery."

Otherwise, he and others said, the law essentially creates an "unfunded mandate" — which could be challenged in court — that hospitals must not only treat the sick but also find housing for them upon their release. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 27, 2007 in Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Donna K. Coker to Speak at Social Change Colloquium

Dcoker_006_smlr University of Miami Associate Dean and CrimProf Donna K. Coker will speak at the 2007 New York University Review of Law and Social Change Colloquium entitled "Alternatives to Mass Incarceration: Promises and Challenges," to be held at New York University School of Law on February 27, 2007.

Dean Coker will be participating on a panel addressing the topic:  “Domestic Violence and the Criminal Justice System: A Feminist Debate.” The panel will explore the theoretical and practical problems associated with the criminal justice system’s attempts to deal with issues of domestic violence.  Other topics that will be discussed at the Colloquium are “Failures of Mass Incarceration: Can Alternatives to Incarceration Fulfill the Goals of Punishment?” and “Exploring the Viability of Alternatives in Practice.” [Mark Godsey]

February 27, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Teen-On-Homeless Violence Increases interviews the average American about this trend here.  [Mark Godsey]

February 27, 2007 in Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Padilla May Be Incompetent to Stand Trial

From A federal judge in Miami is holding a hearing to determine if Jose Padilla is competent to stand trial. Padilla is a U.S. citizen arrested nearly 5 years ago and accused of being an Al Qaeda operative.

His attorneys say that Padilla, who was held in almost total isolation in a Navy brig, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

They say that as a result, Padilla is incompetent to participate in his own defense. The government says he is competent. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 26, 2007 in Homeland Security | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Knut Amelung Will Represent Siblings Fighting German Incest Law

From A German brother and sister who live together and have had four children have filed an urgent suit with Germany’s constitutional court demanding the “right” to incest and have retained retired University of Dresden CrimProf Knut Amelung as their legal counsel.

Patrick S, 30, has already received a suspended jail term for incest, followed by a 25-month actual jail term. He now faces a 30-month sentence because he has continued the relationship.

He and his sister Susan K, 22, have posed in the German media for romantic photos together. She has also received a first conviction of incest and was placed on probation for one year.

They did not grow up together, but first met in 2000 when Patrick S, who had been adopted, looked up his birth mother and first met his sister. The relationship began when the sister was 16. Under German law, incest is only punishable after the age of 18.

Of their four daughters aged between 5 years and 22 months, two were born with handicaps, but prosecutors have been unable to prove this had genetic origins.

The spokeswoman said the court in the city of Karlsruhe which decides whether German laws conform with the constitution would issue a provisional ruling quickly on whether to stay the term of imprisonment.

CrimProf Knut Amelung will argue that a ban on sex between siblings breaches their civil rights and is a “relic of the past.” An appeal court in Dresden rejected an appeal by the man last month.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 26, 2007 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Charles Weisselberg Discusses Prosecutor Blogs

WessFrom University of California Boalt Hall CrimProf Charles Weisselberg recently discussed the issue of prosecutors writing their own blogs. 

CrimProf Charles Weisselberg questioned whether writing a blog or online column is acceptable for a district attorney, particularly since prosecutors are expected to "re-examine their position when new evidence comes to light."

The discussion came to light due to Kern County California District Attorney Ed Jagels, like some other Prosecutors, recently starting his own blog. He recently posted his discourse -- a one-page column detailing what he called "shoddy journalism" by the Bakersfield Californian newspaper -- on the publicly funded county Web site.

The trend is raising questions about ethical impropriety and legality as well as plain common sense. Those concerns are particularly acute, experts say, if prosecutors are commenting on pending cases. They warn that these public officials may be opening themselves up to lawsuits and appeals -- which taxpayers would end up paying for.

The California State Bar Association, still catching up with the implications of the digital age, does not have any rules regarding blogs or online columns. The association does, however, bar lawyers from making public statements that could prejudice a proceeding. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 26, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The No Lie MRI: Next Step In Human Lie Detection

From Most of us think that we're pretty good at identifying liars. However, a lot of experimental data says that we're wrong. Most people can distinguish truth from lies at a rate no better than chance. Not even professionals, such as cops and judges, do much better. Of course, humanity has been ceaselessly seeking the fool-proof lie detector, ranging from thumbscrews to polygraph testing.

With regard to the latter, the National Academies of Science issued a comprehensive report in 2003 on polygraphy that concluded, "There is essentially no evidence on the incremental validity of polygraph testing, that is, its ability to add predictive value to that which can be achieved by other methods."

A machine that could reliably identify the neural correlates of truth and deception would be the ultimate lie detector. Now a couple of American companies are claiming to be able to do just that. No Lie MRI in Tarzana, Calif., and Cephos Corporation in Pepperell, Mass. use fMRI scanning to uncover deception. No Lie MRI asserts that its technology, "represents the first and only direct measure of truth verification and lie detection in human history." Both companies say that their technology can distinguish lies from truth with an accuracy rate of 90 percent.

The New Scientist cites the case of a No Lie MRI client, Harvey Nathan, whose deli burnt down in 2003. His insurance company refuses to pay him because of suspicions that Nathan may have set the fire himself. In order to prove his innocence and thus collect his insurance money, Harvey had No Lie MRI scan his brain. The result? The scan says Nathan is innocent. No word yet on how impressed his insurance company is. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 26, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Canada Strikes Down Indefinite Detention Law for Terror Suspects

From Canada’s highest court on Friday unanimously struck down a law that allows the Canadian government to detain foreign-born terrorism suspects indefinitely using secret evidence and without charges while their deportations are being reviewed.

The detention measure, the security certificate system, has been described by government lawyers as an important tool for combating international terrorism and maintaining Canada’s domestic security. Six men are now under threat of deportation without an open hearing under the certificates.

“The overarching principle of fundamental justice that applies here is this: before the state can detain people for significant periods of time, it must accord them a fair judicial process,” Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote in the ruling.

The three men who brought the case are likely to remain jailed or under strict parole because the court suspended its decision for a year to allow Parliament to introduce a law consistent with the ruling.

The decision reflected striking differences from the current legal climate in the United States. In the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Congress stripped the federal courts of authority to hear challenges, through petitions for writs of habeas corpus, to the open-ended confinement of foreign terrorism suspects at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

A federal appeals court in Washington upheld the constitutionality of that law this week, dismissing 13 cases brought on behalf of 63 Guantánamo detainees. Their lawyers said they would file an appeal with the Supreme Court. In two earlier decisions, the justices ruled in favor of Guantánamo detainees on statutory grounds but did not address the deeper constitutional issues that this case appears to present. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 25, 2007 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dallas Will Open Files to TX Innocence Project

35jeffblackburnFrom Dallas' new district attorney, Craig Watkins, says he will open his files to the Texas Tech Law School's Innocence Project and work with the group to examine hundreds of cases over the past 30 years. The goal is to see whether DNA tests might reveal wrongful convictions.

The move reflects the magnitude of the change that has occurred in the Dallas DA's office over the last six weeks. Watkins was elected the first black district attorney in Texas.

"It's a whole different world in the Dallas criminal justice system," says defense attorney Gary Udashen. "It is a world where if a client of ours is innocent, we feel like there's openness in the District Attorney's office to hear what we have say, to look at what we have to show them, where we don't anticipate resistance every step of the way."

Udashen's firm alone has had seven Dallas clients who were convicted, sent to prison, exhausted their appeals and then ultimately — with the pro bono help of Udashen and his colleagues — were found to be innocent.

"In a state that is a national hotspot, Dallas is the hottest of the hotspots in state right now," says Jeff Blackburn, the Innocence Project's Texas director. "What'd happened in Dallas is that a lot of samples, unlike other any other parts of the state, were preserved, and they're still there."

In a twist of irony, Dallas has long outsourced its lab work. And instead of destroying evidence post-conviction like many law enforcement labs, the private labs preserved all the evidence. Blackburn says as a result, Dallas has a treasure trove of potentially exonerating DNA evidence.

"It would be safe to say that right now Dallas is on the edge of opening up in a very revealing way what the system in Texas is really all about," Blackburn says. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 25, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

High School Kids Latest Drug Problem: "Cheese"

From Same drug, different package. Younger dealers, too.

Law enforcement experts say high school kids – some of whom are gang members – appear to make up the loosely organized packagers and sellers of "cheese," the latest incarnation of heroin making its way into mostly Hispanic schools in northwest Dallas.

The heroin that is being cut with Tylenol PM to make cheese comes from the same sources that have been funneling the drug north from Mexico for years, according to police. But cheese represents the latest attempt to hook a new generation of customers, most of whom grew up with "Just Say No" commercials and are, by and large, averse to sticking needles in their arms – the traditional delivery method for heroin.

"These are street-level people who have figured out a way to make a little bit of heroin go a long way, and make a lot of money," said James Capra, special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Dallas office, which is working with the Dallas Independent School District's police force to combat the growing problem.  Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 25, 2007 in Drugs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Weekly CrimProf Spotlight: Carrie Hempel

ChempelThis week the CrimProf Blog spotlights USC Gould School of Law CrimProf Carrie Hempel.

Carrie Hempel is a directing attorney for the USC Post-Conviction Justice Project, a clinical program that provides legal assistance to people who have been convicted of crimes and have exhausted their right to a court-appointed attorney. Professor Hempel’s recent work focuses on women convicted of killing abusive partners before evidence of battered women’s syndrome was accepted by the courts as a murder defense. She is an expert in post-conviction matters, gender and law, and criminal law.

Prior to joining USC Law in 1993, she practiced with Los Angeles and Minneapolis law firms and served as a fellow for the Center for Law in the Public Interest. She serves on the faculty of the National Association of Women Judges and is a member of the board of the Southern California American Civil Liberties Union. Professor Hempel also has served on the California State Bar's Standing Committee on Legal Services for Prisoners and as a clinical legal specialist for the American Bar Association's Central and East European Law Initiative programs in Kazakstan, Uzbekistan and Yugoslavia.

Professor Hempel teaches courses for the Post-Conviction Justice Project, Criminal Law, and a seminar on Gender, Crime and Justice. She holds a B.A. from USC and a J.D. from Yale University. She clerked for the Honorable Richard A. Gadbois of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. [Mark Godsey]

February 23, 2007 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cali AG Charges Investigator of Filing Dirty

From  The California Attorney General on Wednesday charged private investigator Kathleen Culhane with filing bogus documents to aid four death row inmate, calling the case one of the largest frauds ever perpetrated on the state's criminal justice system.

Kathleen Culhane was arraigned Wednesday afternoon in Sacramento on 45 felony counts of forgery, filing false documents, and perjury.

"This is fraud at the highest level," Michael Farrell, a senior assistant attorney general, said after the arraignment. "This is someone who is trying to undermine the system."

Among the inmates for whom Culhane allegedly lied was Michael Morales, who was sentenced to death for the 1981 rape and murder of a Central Valley teenager.

Questions about the San Francisco private investigator arose a year ago when Morales petitioned the governor for clemency and prosecutors challenged the authenticity of several documents Culhane submitted on his behalf. His execution eventually was stayed over the state's lethal injection method, a matter unrelated to Culhane.

The attorney general's criminal complaint alleges that between November 2002 and February 2006 Culhane filed at least 23 fraudulent documents designed to aid Morales and three other death row inmates -- Vicente Figueroa Benavides, Christian Monterroso and Jose Guerra. Culhane was working as a staff investigator for the Habeas Corpus Resource Center in San Francisco in each case except that of Morales, when she was employed by the inmate's attorneys.

"She forged the signatures of those witnesses and jurors. Sometimes she completely made those documents up," Farrell said in court. "Her actions are an affront to the legal system."

Culhane's job was to find jurors and witnesses who may be favorable to the inmates and get them to sign declarations that could be used in their legal defense or requests for clemency. Her paperwork was then turned over to the inmates' attorneys and filed with the courts and the governor.

The counts against Culhane allege that she made up statements from real witnesses and jurors and forged their signatures, including six documents related to the Morales case. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey and tip from Lisa Carr]

February 22, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ohio Town Will Broadcast Criminal Cases

From Starting today, Mason Municipal Judge George Parker will broadcast criminal cases live on local cable stations. It's part of Parker's effort to educate the public about how the court system works, according to his staff.

"He's dedicated to the education of young people as related to the judiciary," said Clerk of Court William Scherpenberg. "He considers this an educational phenomenon. Students can tie into (the broadcast through) the school system and see what goes on in court."

Mason will likely be the first trial court in Ohio to broadcast live, according to an Ohio Supreme Court spokesman.

The experimental program will run for 60 days, then be re-evaluated. It does not cost taxpayer money. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 22, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

South Korean Men Shop for Spouses Outside of the Country

From More and more South Korean men are finding wives outside of South Korea, where a surplus of bachelors, a lack of marriageable Korean partners and the rising social status of women have combined to shrink the domestic market for the marriage-minded male. Bachelors in China, India and other Asian nations, where the traditional preference for sons has created a disproportionate number of men now fighting over a smaller pool of women, are facing the same problem.

The rising status of women in the United States sent American men who were searching for more traditional wives to Russia in the 1990s. But the United States’ more balanced population has not led to the shortage of potential brides and the thriving international marriage industry found in South Korea.

Now, that industry is seizing on an increasingly globalized marriage market and sending comparatively affluent Korean bachelors searching for brides in the poorer corners of China and Southeast and Central Asia. The marriage tours are fueling an explosive growth in marriages to foreigners in South Korea, a country whose ethnic homogeneity lies at the core of its self-identity.

In 2005, marriages to foreigners accounted for 14 percent of all marriages in South Korea, up from 4 percent in 2000.

South Korean news organizations have reported that many of the foreign brides were initially lied to by their husbands, and suffered isolation and sometimes abuse in South Korea. Partly in response, the Ministry of Health and Welfare is now moving to regulate the international marriage industry, which emerged so suddenly that the Consumer Protection Board can only estimate that there are 2,000 to 3,000 such agencies nationwide. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 22, 2007 in Sex | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Study Shows Problem With Suicides in Mass. Prisons

From An independent study of the state prison system, requested by the Department of Correction and due to be released tomorrow , has found serious shortcomings in the state's handling of inmates who are at risk of committing suicide.

The report, commissioned after a sharp increase in prisoner suicides in 2005 and 2006, concludes that prison policies and practices are contributing to the problem:

  • Guards and other staff members do not have enough training in suicide prevention.Guards fail to check frequently enough on some inmates at risk of suicide.
  • Some cells used to house suicidal inmates have not been stripped of features they could use to harm themselves.
  • Inmates under suicide watch become even more isolated because they are denied visits, showers, phone calls, and time outside their cells,
  • Ten inmates killed themselves in state prisons in 2005 and 2006.
  • Another prisoner was left brain dead by a suicide attempt.
  • Five of the 11 inmates had recently been on suicide watches, and six had documented histories of mental health problems.

Prisoner rights groups have repeatedly criticized the state prison system for failing to address the needs of inmates with mental illnesses. Lindsay M. Hayes , a national specialist in prison suicide prevention who wrote the report, said suicidal inmates are being punished instead of being helped.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 21, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Stanley Goldman Discusses Jurors' Letters

Goldman_1From Loyola Law School CrimProf Stanley Goldman recently discussed jurors' decision to write a letter to the judge after voting for their decision in Fagone murder case.

"We do believe that James was guilty of first-degree burglary, but thought that the homicide charge should be second-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter," one juror wrote in a letter dated Dec. 14. "The law forced us to give a verdict we did not think was fair."

CrimProf Stanley Goldman, said the jurors were not flip-flopping on their decision. They were showing signs of maturity, he said. "They're saying, 'We followed the law, but we have enough of a conscience to do something about the punishment,' " he said. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 21, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)