CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Problems Prosecuting Diplomats With Immunity and Domestic Slavery

From For years, stories have circulated around Washington, D.C., of foreign diplomats who mistreat their domestic servants in the United States.

Many diplomats assigned to America bring their domestic workers with them. Some servants have accused employers of withholding their passports, restricting their freedom of movement and burdening them with long work days for extremely low pay. Sometimes, allegations of physical abuse also come into play. But because the accused have diplomatic immunity, U.S. authorities can do little against them.

Recently, the U.S. government's human-trafficking experts asked immigration lawyers in New York and Washington, D.C., how many cases of domestic slavery they had handled in which the employer was a diplomat. The unscientific and unofficial count: more than 40 cases, involving workers from all over the world, from Cameroon to Peru to Russia. None of the cases resulted in convictions.

"The fact that there are these claims means there needs to be investigations," says Gonzalo Gallegos, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department. "And we encourage all of those out there, who believe this may be happening, to go to their authorities and to follow through, so we can find out exactly what is happening and where it is happening."

Immigration lawyer Suzanne Tomatore says she has reported 15 of these cases to authorities. None has been prosecuted. However, Tomatore says the U.S. government has recognized nine of those 15 clients as victims of human trafficking.

"We've actually been able to obtain nine T visas, which are special immigration visas for victims of human trafficking for folks who were trafficked by diplomatic or U.N. officials," she says.

Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 3, 2007 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 2, 2007

CrimProf Spotlight: Kathleen Brickey

BrickeykThis week the CrimProf Blog spotlights Washington University in St. Louis CrimProf Kathleen Brickey.

Kathleen Brickey, a criminal law specialist, is the author of three books and more than two dozen articles and chapters published in scholarly journals and books. Her three-volume treatise, "Corporate Criminal Liability," and her casebook, "Corporate and White Collar Crime," are leading works in the field.

The corporate fraud scandals are the focus of her most recent articles: "From Enron to WorldCom and Beyond: Life and Crime After Sarbanes-Oxley," 81Wash. U.L.Q. 357 (2003); "Andersen’s Fall From Grace," 81 Wash. U.L.Q. 917 (2004); "Enron’s Legacy," 8 Buff. Crim. L. Rev. 221 (2004); and "Mostly Martha," 43 Washburn L.J. 517 (2005) (forthcoming).

She is a member of the American Law Institute and the Society for the Reform of Criminal Law, and has served as Chair of the Association of American Law Schools Criminal Justice Section and as a consultant to the United States Sentencing Commission.

In 1991, she received the Washington University Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award and the John C. Vance Award for the best paper in the field of transportation law, awarded by a research arm of the National Academy of Sciences. She was named an Israel Treiman Faculty Fellow for the 2000-2001 and 2002-2003 academic years. [Mark Godsey]

March 2, 2007 in Weekly CrimProf Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Corp To Review NY's Stop-and-Frisk Tactics

From nydailynews: The high-powered consulting firm hired to review NYPD weapons training after the controversial shooting of Sean Bell will also scrutinize the department's stop-and-frisk tactics, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said yesterday.

Civil rights advocates have criticized the NYPD for searching more than a half million people last year, saying the tactics amount to harassment and racial profiling.

Kelly defended the tactics yesterday, but added, "We thought it was important to have a separate, independent review."

The Rand Corp. will look at all the 508,540 stop-and-frisks during its six-month review, Kelly said. Of the 354,571 people stopped by precinct cops, just 13,400 - or about 4% - were arrested, the Daily News revealed in a Feb. 19 report. The News, using data the NYPD released to the City Council, also found that 78% of the people stopped by cops assigned to precincts were black or Hispanic.

When Rand conducted a similar review of stop-and-frisk tactics in Cincinnati, it focused on what happened after a person was stopped.

"We found that blacks were less likely than whites to be given a citation after getting stopped for the same reason, which could mean that they were stopped for no good reason," said Dr. Greg Ridgeway, who is also heading the NYPD review. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 1, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Newark Has Difficulties Convicting in Eyewitness Cases

From are at least 14 recent murders in Newark in which witnesses have clearly identified the killers but no charges have been filed, infuriating local police commanders and victims’ relatives.

In 8 of the 14 cases, according to court documents and police reports, there was more than one witness; in two of them, off-duty police officers were among those identifying the suspects. But in a DNA era, these are cases with little or no physical evidence, and they often involve witnesses whose credibility could be compromised by criminal history or drug problems, or both.

“No one wants to solve these cases and lock up the killers in these cases more than we do,” the county prosecutor, Paula T. Dow, said in a recent interview. “But we have to weigh the evidence and move forward only if we believe that the witnesses are credible and that they’ll be there to testify at trial.”

The tension between the police and prosecutors here over the evolving standards of evidence required to authorize arrest warrants is a stark example of the profound effect witness intimidation is having on the criminal justice system in New Jersey and across the country.

Surveys conducted by the National Youth Gang Center, which is financed by the federal Department of Justice, have found that 88 percent of urban prosecutors describe witness intimidation as a serious problem.

In both Baltimore and Boston, where “stop snitching” campaigns by rap artists and gang leaders have urged city residents not to cooperate with the authorities, prosecutors estimate that witnesses face some sort of intimidation in 80 percent of all homicide cases Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 1, 2007 in Eyewitness Identification | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

2007 Innocence Network Conference

The 2007 Innocence Network Conference will be held on March 23-25, 2007 .  The New England Innocence Project ("NEIP"), Goodwin Procter LLP, and the Harvard Project on Wrongful Convictions are the local sponsors of this year's Innocence Network Conference.  The Conference will be held at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 
The Innocence Network is an affiliation of national and international organizations dedicated to providing pro bono legal and investigative services to individuals seeking to prove their innocence of crimes for which they have been convicted, and working to redress the causes of wrongful convictions.   The member projects of the Innocence Network are affiliated with the Innocence Project at the Cardozo School of Law in New York.  For more information see:

NEIP, a charitable trust that represents clients in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, is a member of the Innocence Network.   NEIP is a pro bono project of Goodwin Procter LLP and is coordinated by attorneys and staff from Goodwin Procter's Boston office.  For more information see:

Each year, the Innocence Network Conference is attended by academics, practitioners, students, advocates and exonerees from all around the country and the world.   We have attached a working agenda containing information on the various panels and speakers expected at the 2007 Conference.  Register. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 1, 2007 in Symposiums | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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)