CrimProf Blog

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cole on Forensic Science and Wrongful Convictions

Simon A. Cole (University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society) has posted Forensic Science and Wrongful Convictions: From Exposer to Contributor to Corrector (New England Law Review, Vol. 46, No. 4, 2012) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Brandon Garrett’s book, Convicting the Innocent, makes a number of important contributions to the scholarly and public discourse on miscarriages of justice. In this essay, I will focus on the contribution that is most related to my own research interests: its contribution to our understanding of the relationship between forensic science and miscarriages of justice. I will first endeavor to place Garrett’s contribution in historical context by briefly tracing the history of discussions about forensic science and wrongful convictions. I will then highlight in what way Garrett’s work has furthered our understanding. I will then discuss some of the criticisms of Garrett’s work by advocates of forensic science and try to explain how data limitations contribute to the difference of opinion between Garrett and his critics. I will conclude by suggesting a different, more theoretically grounded way of conceptualizing miscarriages of justice that might help us move beyond these differences of opinion. Ultimately, however, my suggestions will be highly speculative: data limitations, again, will make it difficult to make any strong empirical inferences about the relationship between forensic science and wrongful convictions.

July 31, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Berry on Mandatory Sentences after Miller

Berry williamWilliam W. Berry III (University of Mississippi School of Law) has posted The Mandatory Meaning of Miller on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

In June 2012, the United States Supreme Court held in Miller v. Alabama that the Eighth Amendment’s ban on 'cruel and unusual' punishment prohibited the imposition of mandatory life-without-parole sentences on juveniles. This case continued the Supreme Court’s slow but steady expansion of the scope of the Eighth Amendment over the past decade. 

In light of the Court’s decision in Miller to preclude mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles, this article explores the possibility of further expansion of the Eighth Amendment to proscribe other kinds of mandatory sentences. Applying the approach of the Court in Woodson and Miller to other contexts provides, at the very least, a basis to remedy some of the injustices created by mandatory sentences. 

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July 31, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 30, 2012

"Army Jury Acquits Sergeant of Driving Private to Suicide in Afghanistan"

From the New York Times:

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — A military jury on Monday acquitted a sergeant on the most serious charges in the death of Pvt. Danny Chen, a Chinese-American from Manhattan who killed himself last year while deployed in Afghanistan.

. . .

The verdicts suggested that prosecutors had difficulty convincing the military jury that Sergeant Holcomb’s treatment of Private Chen, which the prosecutors said included brutal hazing and racial taunts, had led directly to the private’s suicide.

July 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ferzan on Tadros on "The Ends of Harm"

Ferzan kimberlyKimberly Kessler Ferzan (Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - School of Law - Camden) has posted Why 'The Ends of Harm' is a Dead End (Law and Philosophy, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

In The Ends of Harm, Victor Tadros claims that the general justifying aim of the criminal law should be general deterrence. He also takes seriously that we cannot use people as a means, and thus he argues that we may only punish people in the name of general deterrence who have a “duty” to suffer. Tadros claims that this duty arises as follows: An offender initially has a duty not to harm the victim. If the offender violates that duty, the offender still has a duty to stop the harm from occurring (so that, for example, an offender would have to jump in front of his own bullet). And if the harm does occur, then the offender has a duty to rectify that harm. This duty to rectify, argues Tadros, requires the defendant not only to compensate the victim but also to protect the victim to the extent that he would have been able to have been harmed to prevent the threat from occurring. Tadros further advances intricate arguments for why the state may therefore punish the offender to protect other potential victims to the extent of the offender’s duty to rectify. 

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July 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Goodwin on Fetal Drug Law Policy and Social Profiling

Goodwin-micheleMichele Goodwin (University of Minnesota Law School) has posted Precarious Moorings: Tying Fetal Drug Law Policy to Social Profiling (Rutgers Law Review, Vol. 42 (2011)) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Legislative efforts to reduce the incidence of babies born low-birth weight is tangled in race and class profiling, which detracts from an evidence-based approach to reduce fetal health harm. On inspection, prescription drug use, domestic violence, and assisted reproductive technology measure significantly in the incidence of fetal health harm and the dramatic rise in neonatology treatments and costs. Goodwin’s article provides an empirical counter narrative to the provocative legislative assumptions about fetal health harm.

July 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Gun Control Issue You Probably Hadn't Worried About--Yet (Kolber)

There is a piece in Popular Science about people using the developing field of home 3D-printing technology to create and share 3D-printed pistols and rifles. A snippet:

While there are still some details to sort out, it's pretty clear that making weapons at home using 3-D printers from commonly available materials is going to become much more commonplace in the near future. In fact, as 3-D printing technology matures, materials feedstock improves, and designs for weapons proliferate, we might soon see the day when nearly everyone will be able to print the weapons of their choice in the numbers they desire, all within the privacy of their own homes.

See here (via Boing Boing).


July 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Top-Ten Recent SSRN Downloads

Ssrn logoin criminal law and procedure ejournals are here. The usual disclaimers apply.

RankDownloadsPaper Title
1 681 Shaken Baby Syndrome, Abusive Head Trauma, and Actual Innocence: Getting It Right 
Keith A. FindleyPatrick David Barnes,David A. MoranWaney Squier
University of Wisconsin Law School, Stanford University - School of Medicine, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - The University of Michigan Law School, John Radcliffe Hospital, 
Date posted to database: April 30, 2012     
2 403 Human Trafficking and Regulating Prostitution 
Samuel LeePetra Persson
New York University (NYU) - Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Columbia University, 
Date posted to database: May 14, 2012 [4th last week]
3 389 The Innocent Defendant’s Dilemma: An Innovative Empirical Study of Plea Bargaining’s Innocence Problem 
Lucian E. DervanVanessa Edkins
Southern Illinois University School of Law, Florida Institute of Technology, 
Date posted to database: May 31, 2012 [2nd last week]
4 292 Predictive Policing: The Future of Reasonable Suspicion 
Andrew Guthrie Ferguson
UDC David A. Clarke School of Law, 
Date posted to database: May 2, 2012 [3rd last week]
5 231 Cartels, Corporate Compliance and What Practitioners Really Think About Enforcement 
D. Daniel Sokol
University of Florida - Levin College of Law, 
Date posted to database: June 7, 2012 
6 226 Jewish Law and the Tragedy of Sexual Abuse of Children: The Dilemma within the Orthodox Jewish Community 
Steven H. Resnicoff
DePaul University College of Law, 
Date posted to database: June 2, 2012
7 212 The Unexonerated: Factually Innocent Defendants Who Plead Guilty 
John H. BlumeRebecca K. Helm
Cornell Law School, Unaffiliated Authors - affiliation not provided to SSRN
Date posted to database: July 11, 2012 [8th last week]
8 212 Jay-Z’s 99 Problems, Verse 2: The Canadian Response to Professor Mason 
Emir Crowne
University of Windsor - Faculty of Law,
Date posted to database: July 13, 2012 [new to top ten]
9 211 The Nature and Purpose of Evidence Theory 
Michael S. Pardo
University of Alabama School of Law, 
Date posted to database: May 16, 2012 [7th last week]
10 164 The Oral Hearing in Competition Proceedings Before the European Commission 
Wouter P. J. WilsWouter P. J. Wils
European Commission, University of London - School of Law, 
Date posted to database: May 3, 2012 [9th last week]


July 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hansen on Punishment and Recidivism in Drunk Driving

Benjamin Hansen (University of Oregon) has posted Punishment and Recidivism in Drunk Driving on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Traditional economic models of criminal behavior have straightforward predictions: raising the expected cost of crime via apprehension probabilities or punishments decreases crime. I test the effect of harsher punishments on deterring driving under the in‡fluence (DUI). In this setting, punishments are determined by strict rules on Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) and previous offenses. Regression discontinuity derived estimates suggest that having a BAC above the DUI threshold reduces recidivism by up to 2 percentage points (17 percent). As receipt of previous DUI violations increases future penalties for drunk driving, this is consistent with Beckerian models of criminal activity. However, enhanced penalties for aggravated DUI also reduce recidivism by an additional percentage point (9 percent), despite the fact that the enhanced punishments only affect the current penalties. This is consistent with models of bounded rationality for offenders, wherein expectations of future punishments are based upon previous punishments experienced.

July 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Burke & Green on Community Prosecutors and Professional Discretion

Burke alafairAlafair S. Burke (pictured) and Bruce A. Green (Hofstra University - Maurice A. Deane School of Law and Fordham University School of Law) have posted The Community Prosecutor: Questions of Professional Discretion (Wake Forest Law Review, Vol. 47, No. 285, 2012) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This Article examines community prosecuting from an ethics perspective. Our focus is not on prosecutors’ compliance with the disciplinary rules, however. The strategies that have been said to exemplify community prosecuting are almost invariably compliant with disciplinary rules and other aspects of the law governing prosecutors. Rather, we take a broader perspective. Our focus is on how prosecutors exercise discretion in the context of adopting community prosecution strategies. We examine this question from both normative and procedural perspectives. We propose that the addition of community-based defense lawyers could help mitigate concerns about prosecutorial discretion in community justice programs by broadening community participation and helping inform the community about an array of potential solutions and their implications.

July 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Clancy on James Otis and the Fourth Amendment

Clancy thomas kThomas K. Clancy (West Virginia University College of Law) has posted The Importance of James Otis (Mississippi Law Journal, Vol. 82, 2012) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Historical analysis remains a fundamentally important tool to interpret the words of the Fourth Amendment and no historical event is more important that James Otis’ argument in the Writs of Assistance Case in 1761. The Writs case and the competing views articulated by the advocates continue to serve as a template in the never-ending struggle to accommodate individual security and governmental needs. In that case, James Otis first challenged British search and seizure practices and offered an alternative vision of proper search and seizure principles. No authority preceding Otis had articulated so completely the framework for the search and seizure requirements that were ultimately embodied in the Fourth Amendment. More fundamentally, Otis’ importance then and now stems not from the particulars of his argument; instead, he played and should continue to play an inspirational role for those seeking to find the proper accommodation between individual security and governmental needs. Otis proposed a framework of search and seizure principles designed to protect individual security. James Otis, his vision, and his legacy have become largely forgotten outside a small circle of Fourth Amendment scholars. This essay is a modest attempt to recall his importance for contemporary construction of the Fourth Amendment.

July 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Duff on Relational Reasons and the Criminal Law

Duff jaR. A. Duff (University of Minnesota Law School) has posted Relational Reasons and the Criminal Law (Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Law, Vol. 2, 2012) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Some reasons for action are relational: I have reason to act in a particular way only in virtue of some relationship in which I stand or some role that I fill. In this paper I discuss some questions that relational reasons raise in the particular context of criminal law; this will also involve discussion of the nature of the authority that the criminal law asserts over those whom it purports to bind. I defend three claims: (a) that the normative reasons we have for obeying the criminal law are normally relational and civic; (b) that we do not typically have such reasons, or any reasons, for obeying the substantive criminal law; and (c) that the criminal law’s authority does not consist in a power to make conduct wrong, but lies primarily in its procedural dimension — the authority to call citizens to public account, to judge, to punish. That authority, and the reasons for action that flow from it, are essentially relational. In arguing for these claims, I argue against some prevalent assumptions about the nature of criminal law (that it consists in prohibitions that we are expected to obey); about the grounds of retributive punishment (that it is grounded in an impersonal demand of justice that the guilty suffer for their crimes); and about the significance of the criminal process and the criminal trial (that their purposes are essentially instrumental, to identify those who are to be punished).

July 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Anwar & Fang on Testing for Racial Prejudice in Parole Release

Shamena Anwar and Hanming Fang (Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management and University of Pennsylvania - Department of Economics) have posted Testing for Racial Prejudice in the Parole Board Release Process: Theory and Evidence on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

We develop a model of a Parole Board contemplating whether to grant parole release to a prisoner who has finished serving their minimum sentence. The model implies a simple outcome test for racial prejudice robust to the inframarginality problem. Our test involves running simple regressions of whether a prisoner recidivates on the exposure time to the risk of recidivism and its square, using only the sample of prisoners who are granted parole release strictly between their minimum and maximum sentences and separately by race. If the coefficient estimates on the exposure time term differ by race, then there is evidence of racial prejudice against the racial group with the smaller coefficient estimate. We implement our test for prejudice using data from Pennsylvania from January 1996 to December 31, 2001. Although we find racial differences in time served, we find no evidence for racial prejudice on the part of the Parole Board based on our outcome test.

July 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spapens on Decriminalization of Gambling and Cannabis in the Netherlands

Toine Spapens (Tilburg University) has posted Decriminalization as Regulation: The Gambling and Cannabis Markets in the Netherlands on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Decriminalizing an illegal market may be a useful strategy for reducing crime. It is also necessary, however, to have a clear understanding of the nature of the illegal market before undertaking such an endeavor. Experiences in the Netherlands show that decriminalizing illegal markets may indeed result in a substantial reduction of organized crime and other criminal activities, if the regulatory system is designed adequately. These experiences also show that such systems inherently lack flexibility and that criminals are usually quick to re-enter the market when unforeseen developments, particularly technical innovations and internationalization, create new illegal business opportunities.

July 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Simon on Problems with Criminal Trials

Simon danDan Simon (USC Gould School of Law, USC Department of Psychology) has posted More Problems with Criminal Trials: The Limited Effectiveness of Legal Mechanisms (Law & Contemporary Problems, Vol. 75, pp. 167, 2012) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This article follows in the heels of an article entitled The Limited Diagnosticity of Criminal Trials. That article applied a body of experimental psychological research to examine how well juries and judges perform the diagnostic function of distinguishing between factual guilt and innocence. It concluded that fact finders encounter numerous difficulties in drawing correct inferences from the evidence presented at trial. 

This article examines a number of mechanisms that are said to promote the accuracy of the fact finding task: cross-examination, jury instructions, jurors’ assurances of impartiality, the prosecution’s heightened burdens of proof, jury deliberation, and judicial review by appellate or post-conviction courts. This examination concludes that to a limited extent, these mechanisms do indeed enhance diagnosticity, but they often turn out to be ineffective, and even detrimental to the process. It follows that the truth evincing potential of criminal trials is not as strong as generally believed.

July 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"New Orleans Police, Mired in Scandal, Accept Plan for Overhaul"

From the New York Times:

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Police Department and the United States Department of Justice announced a far-reaching agreement on Tuesday to overhaul the city’s scandal-ridden police force and improve safety in a city that has had little of it.

. . .

The 122-page agreement, known as a consent decree, states that “the ability of a police department to protect the community it serves is only as strong as the relationship it has with that community.” It calls for hundreds of new department policies governing the use of force, searches and seizures, arrests, interrogations, photographic lineups and more.

July 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Suit against Sheriff Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

Dripps donThe trial of a plaintiff's class-action suit against Sheriff Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is making front page news.  If you're like me, you've asked:  How did plaintiffs get past Lyons, O'Shea and Rizzo?  Answers are in the district court's order denying defendant's summary judgment motion and granting certifying the class.  Heart of the matter:  the district court holds that the plaintiffs allege facts that indeed put them at risk of repeated arbitrary stops based on skin color. The opinion is here. If the court's ruling establishes a racial-profiling exception to Lyons, it could be momentous. 


July 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Annitto on the Lack of Appellate Review in Juvenile Cases

Megan Annitto (West Virginia University College of Law) has posted Juvenile Justice on Appeal (66 University of Miami Law Review 671 (2012)) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Few situations, if any, in our justice system grant one judge authority without review over matters concerning personal liberty. Close inspection of the juvenile justice system reveals, however, that, in reality, the outcomes of nearly all juvenile delinquency cases are determined by one individual alone, sometimes in the absence of counsel, and usually entirely outside of public view. While there is widespread recognition that appellate practice on behalf of juveniles is lacking, there is little quantitative data available to define the scope of the problem. Aside from ensuring accuracy, the lack of appeals hampers the ability of appellate courts to define the contours of criminal law and procedure in its application to juveniles, one of its core appellate functions. The dearth of appellate practice also intersects with the struggles of the juvenile justice system to overcome disparate results for minority children, including confinement. This article provides original empirical data identifying the rate of appeals in fifteen states. The data from the study grounds the discussion about juvenile appeals and informs efforts toward improvements. The article also examines the ways in which this limited appellate practice restricts law development by analyzing appellate case law in juvenile justice over the past ten years.

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July 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Philadelphia Church Official Sentenced to at Least 3 Years in Prison"

From the New York Times:

PHILADELPHIA — Msgr. William J. Lynn, the first Roman Catholic Church official in the United States to be convicted of covering up sexual abuses by priests under his supervision, was sentenced Tuesday to three to six years in prison.

. . .

Monsignor Lynn, 61, was found guilty on June 22 of child endangerment after a three-month trial that revealed efforts over decades by the Philadelphia archdiocese to play down accusations of child sexual abuse and avoid scandal. He was acquitted of conspiracy and a second child endangerment charge.

Monsignor Lynn served as secretary for clergy for the 1.5 million-member archdiocese from 1992 to 2004, recommending priest assignments and investigating abuse complaints. During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence that he had shielded predatory priests, sometimes transferring them to unwary parishes, and lied to the public to avoid bad publicity and lawsuits.

July 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Crowne on Jay-Z's 99 Problems from a Canadian Perspective

Crowne emirEmir Crowne (University of Windsor - Faculty of Law) has posted Jay-Z’s 99 Problems, Verse 2: The Canadian Response to Professor Mason on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This paper is a response to Professor Mason’s novel article, "Jay-Z's '99 Problems,' Verse 2: A Close Reading With Fourth Amendment Guidance for Cops and Perps," published in the St. Louis University Law Journal. In that article he engagingly dissects Jay-Z’s song “99 Problems” from an American criminal law perspective. In this article, I offer the Canadian response.

July 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Slobogin on Statutory Implementation of Fourth Amendment Mosaic Theory

Slobogin christopherChristopher Slobogin (Vanderbilt Law School) has posted Making the Most of Jones v. United States in a Surveillance Society: A Statutory Implementation of Mosaic Theory (Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

In the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Jones v. United States a majority of the justices appeared to recognize that under some circumstances aggregation of information about an individual through government surveillance can amount to a Fourth Amendment search. If adopted by the Court, this notion — sometimes called “mosaic theory” — could bring about a radical change to Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, not just in connection with surveillance of public movements — the issue raised in Jones — but also with respect to the government’s increasingly pervasive record-mining efforts. One reason the Court might avoid the mosaic theory is the perceived difficulty of implementing it. This solicited article provides, in the guise of a model statute, a means of doing so. More specifically, this article explains how proportionality reasoning and political process theory can provide concrete guidance for the courts and police in connection with physical and data surveillance.

July 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)