CrimProf Blog

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

Thursday, May 31, 2007

CrimProf Michael Ware Appointed Special Assistant Prosecutor

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins ‘94 announced that Texas Wesleyan University School of Law Adjunct CrimProf and Wesleyan Innocence Project Director Michael Ware has been appointed as special assistant prosecutor responsible for overseeing DNA evidence and conviction integrity in the Dallas County D.A.’s office.

The announcement was made at the law school during the Innocence Project of Texas’ training seminar on Friday, May 25. To prepare for the review of almost 400 cases involving questionable DNA evidence, students from the Wesleyan Innocence Project attended a training seminar that included information on DNA evidence and case management.

Watkins arrived at the training around mid-day to make the announcement and to talk about the work of the Innocence Project.

“We’re not freeing the guilty, but working to free the innocent and bring credibility to the justice system in


,” Watkins said. “What I’m doing is the right thing. I’m not just dispensing justice.”

Ware’s new position as special assistant prosecutor was made possible when



commissioners recently approved almost $360,000 for hiring a special prosecutor and staff to review cases with questionable evidence.

“I’m {really} impressed with what Craig Watkins has brought to the office,” Ware said. “He has asked me to be part of something historic.”

Watkins called the work of the Wesleyan Innocence Project invaluable. He reminded students that they have a responsibility to their law degree and that responsibility should be exercised wisely. Wesleyan Innocence Project students work on a pro bono basis, receiving no credit or payment for their time.

[Mark Godsey]

May 31, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

CrimProf Michael Scharf and Students Assist in Prosecution of Former Liberian President

Scharf_smCase Western Reserve University School of Law CrimProf Michael Scharf and students have played a central role in the events leading to the international trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, which is set to start on June 4. Taylor will be tried by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (sitting at the International Criminal Court in The Hague) for his role in the commission of crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone, which were portrayed in the Academy Award-nominated film "Blood Diamond" starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Shortly after the Special Court for Sierra Leone was established by an agreement between the United Nations and Sierra Leone in 2002, its chief prosecutor, David Crane, contacted Case law professor Michael Scharf requesting assistance. Scharf, a former U.S. State Department official who knew Crane from Crane's days as dean of the Army JAG School, runs the War Crimes Research Office at Case, which provides legal assistance to several international tribunals. Scharf has also provided training to the judges of the Rwanda Tribunal, the Iraqi High Tribunal that recently convicted the late former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and most recently the Cambodia Tribunal.

With a scant budget, small staff, and no library, Crane and his colleagues in Freetown relied on the students at Case to write lengthy research memoranda on the most difficult legal issues facing the Tribunal. Since then, the Case War Crimes Research Office has produced more than 30 memoranda for the Tribunal, including one that Crane has said "was absolutely critical to proving that the former Liberian president was not protected by the doctrine of Head of State Immunity."

Armed with the Case memo, Crane issued a controversial indictment of Taylor while Taylor was attending a peace negotiation in Ghana in June 2003. Citing the authorities that the Case students supplied, the Tribunal held that Taylor did not have immunity, setting the stage for his eventual arrest and trial. [Mark Godsey]

May 31, 2007 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ACLU Sues Boeing for Profiting from Torture

From The American Civil Liberties Union is suing a subsidiary of Boeing, for helping the CIA fly suspected terrorists as part of its "extraordinary rendition" program. The ACLU says this is a first for them — to accuse a blue-chip American company of "profiting from torture." The lawsuit claims the company, Jeppesen Dataplan, provided planes and logistical help for at least 70 flights. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 31, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Brutal Interrogation Tactics Critcized By Experts

From As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable.

The psychologists and other specialists, commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board, make the case that more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has yet to create an elite corps of interrogators trained to glean secrets from terrorism

Some of the study participants argue that interrogation should be restructured using lessons from many fields, including the tricks of veteran homicide detectives, the persuasive techniques of sophisticated marketing and models from American history. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 30, 2007 in Homeland Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

USC Law CrimProf Carrie Hempel Says There Will Be More Women Freed Due To Abuse Testimony Law

ChempelFrom After spending 16 years in prison, Hudie Joyce Walker walked out of a Pomona, CA courtroom Tuesday a free woman — a sign of how much the law has changed for battered women who strike back.

Walker was the beneficiary of the first appellate court decision to interpret a 2002 state law that allows inmates to reopen their cases if they can show that expert testimony on abuse probably would have changed the outcome.

USC CrimProf Carrie Hempel said the decision marks the right of a battered person to get a new trial if she was convicted of homicide before the law recognized the importance of expert testimony on the effects of battering. It could help 50 or 60 other cases. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 30, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

What do We Owe Exonerees?

BarryFrom Last month, the 200th person was exonerated due to DNA evidence, but the majority of those released have gotten nothing but an apology – and sometimes not even that.

"We are exonerating people who did not commit crimes, spent two decades in prison or time on death row, and when they get out, there are fewer reentry services for these people than for individuals who actually committed crimes," says Barry Scheck, codirector of the Innocence Project at Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, which is dedicated to exonerating the wrongfully convicted. "It's a measure of decency."

As DNA exonerations become more plentiful – and more publicized – some states are moving on the compensation front. Of the 200 men who have been exonerated based on DNA evidence, about 45 percent have received some sort of compensation, according to the Innocence Project, with amounts that range from $25,000 to $12.2 million.

Twenty-one states, along with the federal government and the District of Columbia, now have standardized compensation laws on the books – offering exonerees amounts ranging from $15,000 total to $50,000 per year of imprisonment. Thirteen states have introduced bills this year to either create or improve compensation for the wrongfully convicted. Some of those bills, like the one that gave Mr. Tillman $5 million, dealt only with individual prisoners, but other states are trying to standardize the compensation. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 30, 2007 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

LAPD Issues a Report About May Mishap

From The Los Angeles Police Commission issues a report on its investigation of alleged police misconduct during the May 1 MacArthur Park pro-immigration rally and march. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 29, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NY Prison Has Center for Dementia

From Prisons have been dealing with the special needs of older prisoners for years, but the one in Fishkill, New York state prison is considered unique because it specializes in dementia-related conditions.

The unit _ 30 beds on the third floor of the prison's medical center _ is a first for New York and possibly the nation, though experts say it likely won't be the last as more people grow old behind bars.

The unit has the clean-white-wall feel of a nursing home _ but for the prison bars. A marker board in the day room includes a picture of a sun with a smiley face and a reminder to "Have a great day." The activity calendar lists puppies on Thursday and bingo on Friday. As long as they behave, patients can wander from their rooms to the day room.

"They're still in prison," said Fishkill superintendent William Connolly. "This is just a unique environment within a prison environment."

Connolly said the men's crimes are not considered in the screening process, though their prison record matters. The idea is to provide proper care and a safe environment. Rest of Article. . . [Mrk Godsey]

May 29, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Stan Goldman Praises Crime Scene Investigator Henry Lee

GoldmanFrom Loyola Law School CrimProf Stan Goldman recently said that in the real world of CSI – crime scene investigation – Henry Lee is a superstar.

Lee, 68, former chief criminalist for the state of Connecticut, has had roles in numerous high-profile investigations, including the Kobe Bryant rape case, the JonBenet Ramsey slaying and the suicide of Vincent Foster, a deputy counsel to former President Clinton.

Lee's testimony that “something's wrong” with evidence in the O.J. Simpson murder case helped acquit the football star.

A judge has found that something is wrong with Lee's latest foray into celebrity crime: the Phil Spector murder trial. The case may take some luster off the forensic expert's world-famous credentials. If Lee's credibility is damaged, it could undermine the linchpin of Spector's defense: that the woman he is accused of murdering, actress Lana Clarkson, shot and killed herself. Spector's murder trial continues today.

Last week, the Spector trial judge ruled that Lee took a possible piece of evidence – prosecutors say it is a piece of one of Clarkson's fake fingernails – from the scene where she died and didn't turn it over to prosecutors.

In testimony this month, Lee vehemently denied collecting such evidence. Three other witnesses testified that some type of potential evidence was handled at the crime scene when Spector's former defense attorneys – he has a new set of lawyers – were there along with Lee and others the day after Clarkson's Feb. 3, 2003, death.  Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 29, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Innocence Project of Texas Director Michael Ware Named DNA Special Assistant

Mike_edited From Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins has appointed a new special assistant responsible for overseeing DNA evidence and conviction integrity.

Michael Ware, a Fort Worth lawyer and director of the Innocence Project of Texas at the Texas Wesleyan University School of Law, will be introduced as special assistant today at the law school.

The appointment comes after public criticism of Dallas County's high number of wrongful convictions in recent years. More than a dozen people – most of whom were sentenced for felonies before 1990 – have been freed after modern DNA testing proved their innocence.

Mr. Watkins, who took office in January, has said that correcting wrongful convictions is a priority.

Mr. Ware's "expertise and professional experience are certain to be an asset to our justice system as we focus resources toward making sure we convict people who are indeed guilty of crimes," Mr. Watkins said in a prepared statement. "Equally important is the assurance that innocent people are not wrongfully imprisoned, and having Mr. Ware on board will help us in these critical areas."

Mr. Ware's other duties will include overseeing community prosecution, expunctions, public information, public integrity, evidence destruction, mental health and computer crimes. He also will oversee the appellate division and the federal division. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 28, 2007 in DNA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Mark Brodin's Law Review Article Helps Transform Tenn.'s View of Eyewitness ID and the Death Penalty

BrodinBoston College CrimProf Mark Brodin's scholarship has played a pivotal role in a wide variety of matters concerning the law of evidence and the law of civil and criminal procedure.  Most recently, his work has been influential in the outcome of an important case involving eyewitness testimony in a death penalty matter. 

In the case, Tennessee v. Copeland, the Supreme Court of Tennessee reversed a lower court conviction and death penalty sentence, in part, on the grounds that the trial court erred by disallowing expert testimony on the issue of the reliability of eyewitness identification.  This ruling drew on Professor Brodin's University of Cincinnati Law Review article, Behavioral Science Evidence in the Age of Daubert: Reflections of a Skeptic.

The Court went on to conclude that the trial court's error in failing to allow a defense expert to testify as to the reliability of eyewitness identification was not harmless. [Mark Godsey]

May 28, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CrimProf Deborah Denno Criticizes Ohio's Lethal Injections

DdennoFrom With the two most troubled lethal injections in the country on its record, Ohio should scrupulously review or halt executions, a national expert and Fordham University School of Law CrimProf Deborah Denno said yesterday.

CrimProf Denno concluded that in light of delays in Thursday's execution of Christopher J. Newton, "problems with lethal injection in Ohio have been recurring and only becoming worse."

"The state's protocol revisions, paltry to begin with, are entirely ineffective," she told The Dispatch. "Even when the Department of (Rehabilitation and) Correction is doing what it thinks is its very best, and people know they're being watched, it's not working well."

Newton, 37, died by injection at 11:53 a.m. Thursday after a 90-minute delay in which prison paramedics struggled to attach intravenous lines to begin the flow of deadly chemicals.

Problems also delayed Joseph Clark's execution for an hour last May. Paramedics initially were able to insert a single IV line, but when the vein collapsed, Clark's execution was stopped until new lines were attached.

JoEllen Lyons, spokeswoman for the prison agency, said officials "do not believe that our process was flawed or this was a botched execution." She said the issues in the Newton and Clark executions were very different.

"We believe the process works because we removed the artificial time restraints from those team members which now allows them to take their time and do the job that they're there to do," Lyons said.

Gov. Ted Strickland, who said he saw no reason to change his death-penalty position as a result of Newton's execution, got another clemency case yesterday.

The Ohio Parole Board, in a 6-3 vote, recommended against sparing the life of Clarence Carter. The 45-year-old Cincinnati man is scheduled to be executed July 10 for the savage beating death of his cellmate at the Hamilton. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 28, 2007 in CrimProfs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

CrimProf John M. Burkoff Discusses Unborn Fetus Case

BurkoffjFrom University of Pittsburgh CrimProf John M. Burkoff recently commented on the prosecution of a Bloomfield, PA woman who hid her stillborn fetus in a freezer. District Judge Oscar J. Petite Jr. found enough evidence yesterday to hold the woman for trial on two misdemeanor counts, abusing a corpse and concealing the death of a child.

CrimProf Burkoff said he thinks the defense has a strong argument with concern to the concealment charge.

"There's every chance that the statute as it now exists would be held unconstitutional," but the matter has not been taken up specifically by the Supreme Court.

The abuse charge might also get tossed out at the Common Pleas level. "My guess is what the defense counsel is saying is correct," Mr. Burkoff said. "The key question is what is a corpse? Do you have to have been alive to be a corpse?" Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Can We Call Environmental Activists Terrorists?

From In Oregon, a federal judge has begun sentencing a group of environmental activists who pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and arson from 1996 to 2001. Are they terrorists, as prosecutors assert? Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 26, 2007 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 25, 2007

CrimProf Spotlight: Barbara Armacost

ArmacostThis week the CrimProf Blog spotlights Virginia Law CrimProf Barbara Armacost. 

In the fall of 1992, Barbara Armacost returned to the Law School from which she graduated to become a member of the faculty. She teaches civil rights litigation, criminal investigation, torts, and First Amendment (religion clauses).

Armacost became a lawyer after a number of years in the nursing profession. During those years, she served as a head nurse in the cardiovascular unit at the University of Virginia Hospital and worked as a volunteer in a mission hospital in La Pointe, Haiti. In 1984 she earned a Masters Degree in Theological Studies from Regent College at the University of British Columbia. Her work earned her the Master of Theological Studies Proficiency Award and the Ethics Award for Academic Excellence.

Armacost subsequently worked as a paralegal before entering the Law School in 1986. While earning her J.D., she was honored here with the Thomas Marshall Miller Prize, Mary Claiborne and Roy H. Ritter Prize, and election to the Order of the Coif. She also served as notes editor of the Virginia Law Review. After graduation, she clerked for the Honorable J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The following two years she served as attorney adviser in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice. [Mark Godsey]

May 25, 2007 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Marijuana Researchers Fight DEA to Grown Their Own

From Armed with a legal decision in their favor, scientists and advocates of medical research on marijuana pressed the Drug Enforcement Administration yesterday to allow them to grow their own, saying that pot supplied by the government is too hard to get and that its poor quality limits their research.

The proponents said a DEA administrative law judge's recent ruling that it would be in "the public interest" to have additional marijuana grown -- and to break the government's monopoly on growing it -- had put them closer to their goal than ever before.

"The DEA has an opportunity here to live up to its rhetoric, which has been that marijuana advocates should work on conducting research rather than filing lawsuits," said Richard Doblin, president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which has fought for years for access to government-controlled supplies to test possible medical uses of marijuana.

"It's become more and more obvious that the DEA has been obstructing potentially beneficial medical research, and now is the time for them to change," he said.

The agency has opposed petitions that would end the government's marijuana monopoly, saying that the current system works well and that allowing other growers could lead to more diversion to illicit use. All the marijuana produced for research is grown at the University of Mississippi and distributed through the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

But a petition filed in 2001 by University of Massachusetts agronomy professor Lyle E. Craker seeking to grow marijuana in his greenhouses has worked its way through the DEA appeal process and resulted in a ruling against the agency earlier this year. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 24, 2007 in Drugs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The School Drug Testing Controversy

From Concerned with high rates of adolescent substance abuse, hundreds of middle schools and high schools nationwide have quietly begun testing some or all students for drugs — to the dismay of some health and addiction experts.

Although less than 5% of all high schools have such programs, testing is now common in schools throughout Texas, Florida, Kentucky and parts of California. In Southern California, many private high schools have implemented drug testing, as have several public school districts in Orange County and San Diego. Nationwide, as many as 1,000 schools have established programs, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The number of schools administering drug tests is expected to grow. Federal funding for school drug testing increased 400% between 2003 and 2006. The Bush administration spent $8.6 million on such programs last year and has requested $17.9 million for fiscal year 2008.

"This is the best new idea to reduce the onset of drug use," says Dr. Robert L. DuPont, president of the Institute for Behavior and Health, a nonprofit drug policy organization that has studied school testing. "About half of high school seniors have used an illicit drug by the time they graduate and about one-quarter are regular users by the time they graduate. Those figures are worrisome."

School-based drug testing gives kids a reason to say no, say DuPont and other proponents. The tests are meant to identify students who are using and guide them into counseling or treatment programs before they develop addictions.

But health officials, by and large, oppose school-based drug testing. NAADAC, the Assn. for Addiction Professionals, has released a statement critical of such programs. And in March, the American Academy of Pediatrics cautioned against random school-based drug testing until more research is completed. The two groups are among those who say testing is not reliable enough, violates trust between adults and teens and is not set up to deal effectively with students who have positive results.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 24, 2007 in Drugs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)

CrimProf Bruce Winick Speaks at "Mental Disorder and the Criminal Law: Responsibility, Punishment, and Competence" Conference

BwinickUniversity of Miami Law School CrimProf Bruce Winick will be a guest-speaker at a Conference held at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln titled "Mental Disorder and the Criminal Law: Responsibility, Punishment, and Competence." Professor Winick’s talk is entitled “Determining When Serious Mental Illness Should Disqualify a Defendant from Capital Punishment.”

In Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits capital punishment for those with mental retardation in view of their reduced culpability. This presentation examines substantive and procedural questions regarding the application of Atkins to offenders who manifest mental illness that reduces their culpability to a similar degree.

[Mark Godsey]

May 24, 2007 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Arizona Getting Criticism for Execution Method

From Arizona is gearing up to resume executions after a nearly seven-year hiatus. Another Arizona death-row inmate recently lost his last appeal. A third may be extradited from West Virginia.

But as Arizona lapsed in executions, lethal injection, its preferred method, has come under scrutiny as possibly cruel and inhumane.

In fact, a last-minute motion for reprieve filed on Comer's behalf by a Tucson capital-punishment watchdog group raised the risk of extreme suffering as grounds for a stay of execution.

The Arizona Supreme Court refused to consider the motion.

Of the 37 states that use lethal injection as a means of execution, more than a dozen have either granted stays or have completely halted executions because of legal or ethical challenges.

The Arizona Department of Corrections does not reveal the exact prescriptions and protocols of its lethal-injection procedures.

"Because of the lack of standards provided for in the statute, the lethal-injection process subjects condemned prisoners to significant and utterly unnecessary risks that they will be tortured to death," said public defender Victoria Washington, who, to no avail, has filed motions about the potential cruelty of lethal injection. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 23, 2007 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

OK Turns to Faith To Stop Recidivism

From More than a quarter of Oklahoma criminals released from prison return within three years, but a bill passed out of the House on Tuesday seeks to lower that rate.

However, critics of the bill say it will funnel public money to church organizations running prison programs — a violation, they say, of the U.S. Constitution.

The legislation would encourage faith-based and other volunteer organizations to get involved in prisoners' lives, whether that means helping them find a job upon release or teaching them parenting skills while in prison; $100,000 has been allotted in the fiscal year 2008 budget to help these groups reduce Oklahoma's recidivism rate. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 23, 2007 in Sex | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)