CrimProf Blog

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

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Inmate Dies After Being Tasered

From An Orange County jail inmate who spent a week in a coma after a violent confrontation with sheriff's deputies has died, a deputy coroner said today.

Sheriff's deputies used Taser stun weapons to subdue Jason Jesus Gomez in his cell at the Intake Release Center in Santa Ana. Gomez, 35, who was in jail for a probation violation, stopped breathing after the confrontation and was resuscitated by paramedics.

He spent a week in a coma at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana. A deputy coroner who would not identify himself said today that Gomez had died. He would not say whether Gomez died last night or today and referred calls to the district attorney's office, which is investigating the incident.

The Orange County district attorney's office has opened an investigation into the violent struggle between sheriff's deputies and Gomez, who had a lengthy criminal record. The action is the latest setback to the Sheriff's Department as it struggles to recover from a series of allegations involving the treatment of inmates. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 2, 2008 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Annapolis Tries for Videotaped Interrogations

From mobtown beat: The video-interrogations measure is getting a third try this year in Annapolis, having failed in two previous sessions. This year's model is called House Bill 6 (HB 6), and the continuing opposition it faces from most of Maryland's law-enforcement community echoes the sentiments of police and prosecutors nationwide, which were measured in a 2007 study published in The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. "Our results," the authors write, "suggest that for whatever reason--cost, storage issues, inertia, or a desire to avoid exposure in occasional cases of false confessions--support for videotaping exists but is not overwhelming" among police brass of the country's largest municipal departments, 40 percent of whom opposed videotaping interrogations.

As law-enforcement leaders from around Maryland milled about waiting for the House Judiciary Committee hearing to begin, the tenor of this year's resistance was best uttered by James Green, a Baltimore City police lawyer. "It's a bad thing," he said of HB 6. "But we need a lot of money if it's going to become a good thing." According to the bill's fiscal note, city police would require close to 10 interview rooms costing $10,000 per room, and the state's cumulative cost over the first five years of the law's implementation would be about $500,000.

Baltimore City Del. Curtis Anderson (D-43rd) is the lead sponsor of the measure, and at the hearing he told his committee colleagues that Barack Obama, whom Anderson supports in this year's presidential race, championed a similar measure's passage in Illinois in 2003, when Obama was a state senator there. Illinois was the first state to pass such a law, though local governments had already been adopting similar measures, as pointed out in a Chicago Tribune editorial that praised Obama's bill "as a way to reduce defendants' false claims of police coercion, bolster prosecutors' cases in court and restore public trust in the justice system."

Eight states and Washington, D.C., now require videotaped interrogations, and Anderson told the committee that local jurisdictions in every state require it. Top cops who made the transition against their better judgment at the outset have since become proponents. Massachusetts district attorney William M. Bennett, for example, told Lawyers Weekly last year that he'd opposed the change because he thought it would result "in a number of defendants refusing to give statements. They might be willing to speak to the police, but they'd be hesitant and reluctant to be recorded. I was wrong."

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 5, 2008 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Teenager Records Interrogation Which Lead to Perjury Charge against the Detective

From A teenage suspect who secretly recorded his interrogation on an MP3 player has landed a veteran detective in the middle of perjury charges, authorities said Thursday.

Unaware of the recording, Detective Christopher Perino testified in April that the suspect "wasn't questioned" about a shooting in the Bronx, a criminal complaint said. But then the defense confronted the detective with a transcript it said proved he had spent more than an hour unsuccessfully trying to persuade Erik Crespo to confess—at times with vulgar tactics.

Once the transcript was revealed in court, prosecutors asked for a recess, defense attorney Mark DeMarco said. The detective was pulled from the witness stand and advised to get a lawyer.

Perino, 42, was arraigned Thursday on 12 counts of first-degree perjury and faces as many as seven years on each count, prosecutors said. He was released on $15,000 bail.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

December 10, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Judge Rules for Police Officer to Return Marijuana Plants

From A Fort Collins couple and their lawyer plan to visit the Larimer County sheriff's office Wednesday in :hopes of recovering 39 marijuana plants seized by narcotics officers during a raid at their home in August 2006.

A Larimer County District Court Judge ruled Monday that authorities must return the plants and growing equipment taken from James and Lisa Masters. Their lawyer described them as medical marijuana providers for themselves and about 8 to 10 other people.

Brian Vincente, lawyer for the couple, hopes authorities have taken care of the plants as provided by the state's medical marijuana law, which was approved by voters in 2000.

"If they've allowed these plants to die, they've broken the law," said Vincente, executive director of Sensible Colorado, a non-profit advocacy group of medical marijuana patients.

He described the ruling as the largest return of medical marijuana to a grower since the law went into effect.

If the plants were destroyed, Vincente said his clients will seek compensation for the plants, which he estimated to be about $100,000. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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

Monday, November 19, 2007

Michigan Law Review Host Symposium on Pay-to-Stay Programs in Correctional Facilities

The Michigan Law Review's companion journal First Impressions today published an online symposium on Pay to Stay Programs in Correctional Facilities.

Approximately fifteen California jails have implemented pay-to-stay programs. These programs allow some offenders to pay a daily fee in order to serve their sentences in a city-run or privately-managed correctional facility rather than in a county jail. In some programs, benefits include assignment to a private cell with a regular door, separation from violent offenders, access to the jail's movie collection, and the ability to carry an iPod or cell phone. The symposium contributors consider the implications of these pay-to-stay programs.

Stanford Law School Professor and Stanford Criminal Justice Center Director Robert S. Weisberg argues that pay-to-stay, if it is honestly represented, could prove salutary for the criminal justice system if recognized as part of our somewhat ritualized cycle of constructive self-embarrassment  over the role of wealth in criminal justice. He contends that, by increasing public awareness about incarceration costs, pay-to-stay may lead politicians to become more willing to treat criminal punishment as a regulatory system worthy of cost-benefit analysis rather than a deontological necessity.

USC Gould School of Law Professor Kim Shayo Buchanan unpacks the gendered racial stereotypes that accompany pay-to-stay programs. She explores how the government publicizes pay-to-stay programs for wealthier lawbreakers (generally perceived as white drunk drivers) while confining tens of thousands of others in dangerous, squalid conditions.

Loyola Law School Los Angeles Professor Laurie L. Levenson and Loyola Los Angeles J.D. candidate Mary Gordon identify five truths implicit in the influence of money in the criminal justice system that explain why—despite pay-to-stay's superficial appeal—we must look deeper to rehabilitate our ailing criminal justice system.

Santa Ana Chief of Police Paul M. Walters and Jail Administrator Russell Davis explain how the City of Santa Ana's Pay-to-Stay Program fits into the City's entrepreneurial innovations relating to its new jail. They argue that these innovations, including pay-to-stay and contract housing, have enabled the city to meet the incarceration needs of the Police Department without incurring exorbitant operational costs.

Los Angeles criminal defense attorney and chief legal correspondent for the E! Network Shawn Chapman Holley asserts that pay-to-stay is a bad idea for defendants and that the county jail is actually a wiser choice for most defendants.

University of Michigan J.D. candidate Bradley W. Moore contends that pay-to-stay jails show that the state cannot balance the competing concerns of the traditional theories of punishment—deterrence and retribution—under its current rubric. He proposes that virtue ethics instead be used to assess whether a criminal justice reform such as pay-to-stay should be adopted. More. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 19, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Deputy Sheriff Shooting Rampage Shows Holes in Wisconsin Screening Process

From 20-year-old Tyler Peterson was shot to death after opening fire early Sunday on a group of teenagers who had gathered for pizza and movies on their high school's homecoming weekend. Peterson was off-duty from his full-time job as a Forest County Wisconsin deputy sheriff; he also was a part-time Crandon police officer.

David Franz, 36, who lives with his wife two houses from the duplex where the shooting occurred, said it was hard to accept that someone in law enforcement was the gunman.

"The first statement we said to each other was, how did he get through the system?" Franz said. "How do they know somebody's background, especially that young? It is disturbing, to say the least."

Sheriff Keith Van Cleve said he would meet with state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on Monday morning to discuss the case.

Crandon Police Chief John Dennee said it would be handled by the state Department of Criminal Investigation because the suspect was a deputy and officer.  Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 8, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Maryland Adopts a Lethality Assessment to Identify Abuse Victims that Are Most at Risk for Being Murdered

From A growing number of police departments across Maryland are adopting a domestic violence program that uses a series of pointed questions to identify those most at risk of being killed and get them immediate aid or counseling.

Organizers say the effort has connected counselors with hundreds of people who otherwise were unlikely to seek help. Called "lethality assessment," the program is based on research from experts at Johns Hopkins University.

Under the new approach, which has sparked national interest, police who answer domestic 911 calls take a far more involved role with the victims they encounter at the scene. When a case shows a high risk of lethality, police talk to the victim about the danger, phone a counselor immediately and encourage the victim to talk. Since early last year, 900 people have done so.

Rest of Aricle. . . [Mark Godsey]

October 2, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

New Sex Offender Law Causes Parolees to Now Be in Violation

From Parole boards have begun to enforce a new California effort to impose strict residency requirements on sex offenders freed from prison. So far, nearly 3,000 parolees have been found to be in violation of the law. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

September 23, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cali will Launch a Parole Plan Aimed at Rehabilitation

From The Schwarzenegger administration is set to launch a program in Southern California that ultimately could free tens of thousands of ex-convicts from parole years earlier than scheduled.

Officials said the plan, expected to be approved by the state parole board Tuesday, would start in Orange and San Bernardino counties within two months and focus on nonviolent state parolees. It would encourage rehabilitation and enable overburdened parole agents to focus on serious offenders, especially sexual predators, they said.

Corrections Secretary James E. Tilton said in an interview that the trial program, which if successful could expand statewide early next year, would bring California in line with 33 other states in screening parolees to determine which most need to be monitored after completing their prison terms.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

September 19, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tennessee Justice System Flaws are Illustrated Through Escapees' Success

From's justice system that have allowed more than 150 Tennessee prison escapees to roam free, often enabling them to break the law again.

The danger posed by fugitives is profound. Convicts on the run from Tennessee prisons have murdered at least nine people during the past 30 years.

A Tennessean investigation reviewed the cases of hundreds of inmates who escaped from Tennessee's prison system since 1975.

More than one-third of escapees still on the lam had no warrants identifying them as fugitives. As a result, many were stopped by police, given traffic tickets, arrested and in some cases sent to prison, then turned loose — without anyone knowing that they should have been returned to Tennessee prisons. Some of them were later arrested on serious charges, ranging from armed robbery and attempted murder to sex crimes.

In recent years, the high-profile arrests of two Tennessee fugitives highlighted flaws in the way Tennessee handles warrants for escapees, but prison officials did nothing to remedy the problem. In fact, until presented with The Tennessean's findings in recent months, prison officials continued to insist that escape warrants were on file for all escapees.

Tennessee criminal justice officials point to a litany of past and present shortcomings. Some of the missing warrants were thrown out by mistake or as part of regular purging of older files. In many cases, officials have no explanation for why the warrants aren't active. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

September 17, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Prisoner Sues The State for Making Inmates Wear Pink

From Punishing prisoners for sexual misconduct by making them wear pink places them in peril, a South Carolina inmate says in a lawsuit against the state's penal system.

The suit is the latest development in a nationwide effort by prison and jail officials to tap the power of pink to subdue criminals.

In the South Carolina case, Sherone Nealous claims that forcing inmates to wear pink is discriminatory and makes them more likely to be assaulted by other inmates. Nealous is serving time at the Allendale Correctional Institution for assault and battery with intent to kill, aggravated assault and assault and battery on a police officer.

"When the inmate population views an inmate wearing a pink jumpsuit, it is known that the clothing was assigned by (the Department of Corrections) as punishment for sexual misconduct," states a legal memorandum filed by the department. It "conveys no suggestion that the inmate wearing the jumpsuit is a willing participant in homosexual activity or otherwise vulnerable to … assault."

Jon Ozmint, director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, and Russell Harter, an attorney representing the prison system, declined to comment further because of the ongoing litigation.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

September 16, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Questionable if Security Cameras are Aiding in Crime Detection

From In Baltimore, police began using surveillance cameras in 2005. There are now 300 throughout the city, and police say violent crime has dropped by 15 percent in the places where the cameras are installed.

Prosecutors, though, aren’t impressed.

“We have not found that they affect the conviction rate at all,” said Margaret Burns, chief of governmental affairs for the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s office.

In 2006, the cameras led to nearly 2,000 arrests in Baltimore, according to figures from the state’s attorney’s office.

About a fourth of those arrests — 407 — led to guilty verdicts, while 386 resulted in charges being dropped because of insufficient evidence. Another 599 people were swiftly released because the quality of evidence — mostly surveillance camera tapes — was too poor to even file charges. The other cases are pending or have been resolved by, for example, the death of the defendant.

“It’s infrequent that we can actually associate the footage with the defendant,” Burns said. “You basically see a lot of people in sweatshirts and jeans and T-shirts. You don’t have any identifying characteristics you can use in court.” Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

September 10, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

DC Asks SCOTUS to Save Ban on Gun Ownership

From The Washington DC asked the Supreme Court yesterday to save the city's ban on handgun ownership, saying an appeals court's decision overturning the prohibition "drastically departs from the mainstream of American jurisprudence."

If the court agrees to take the case, as most legal experts believe is likely, it could lead to a historic decision sometime next year on whether the Second Amendment to the Constitution protects an individual's right to own a gun or simply imparts a collective, civic right related to maintaining state militias

It is a question that has been hotly debated in the nation's courts and legislatures for years, and a decision by the Supreme Court to settle the issue could carry broad implications for local governments and thrust gun control as an issue into the 2008 elections.

The District argues in its petition that its law -- one of the strictest in the nation -- should be upheld regardless of whether the court sides with the individualist or collective legal theory. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

September 6, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Boston Enforces Curfew to Force Out Drug Dealers and Homeless

From After mounting drug arrests and a recent shooting that lodged a bullet in the State House, police have begun enforcing a nighttime curfew on Boston Common to rid the area of drug dealers and force out the homeless who have long spent their nights on its benches and manicured lawns.

The curfew, which will last from 11:30 p.m. to 6 a.m., will bar people from the Common unless they are passing through.

Advocates for the homeless support the new effort to reduce crime in the historic park, which began Tuesday night, but fear the consequences for those who find refuge there.

"There is a general sense that it's good something's being done about the Common," said Melissa Quirk, assistant director of the Emergency Shelter Commission of Boston. "It's an issue that needed to be addressed. But the increase in drug-related activity is really distinct from people sleeping on the Common."

She and others worry that homeless people, many of whom refuse to go to shelters, will scatter to other parts of the city, where it may be more difficult for outreach workers to help them. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

August 30, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

California May Be Paving the Way for Private Prisons

From Depending on the outcome of legal challenges, California could be "one of the longtime drivers of growth for the private prison industry," industry analyst Kevin Campbell said.

Until December, the state had not put a medium- or maximum-security prisoner in a private lockup since 1852, when it replaced a private prison ship in San Francisco Bay with California's first public prison, San Quentin.

Private companies say they can build secure prisons faster and cheaper than state governments and are not saddled with the high salaries and pension costs paid by public agencies.

Critics counter that states that use private prisons get what they pay for: Guards are poorly paid and trained, and private prisons experience more escapes and more disciplinary problems than state-run institutions, they contend. And the state is sending away its better-behaved prisoners, they say, making California prisons even more dangerous.

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the Justice Department, said in a 2001 study that limited research showed that "privately operated prisons function as well as publicly operated prisons." Management problems usually are caused by poorly drafted contracts and poor oversight of private operators by states, the study said.

The public-private dilemma is hitting California head-on -- with corporate America battling the prison guard establishment. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

August 26, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (2)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

How to Enforce Cell Phone Laws?

From These days, it seems like almost everybody old enough to dial has a cell phone, and studies show that three out of four of us are using them in our cars.

Five states and the District of Columbia have banned the use of hand-held phones while driving. But is such a law even enforceable anymore? The answer may be found in New York, which was the first state to clamp down on driving and dialing six years ago.

Even with flashing lights and a siren, traffic enforcement officer Joe Claybaugh finds it hard to get the attention of drivers these days. Claybaugh is an officer in Camillus, N.Y., a suburb of Syracuse. On this particular day, he's looking for cell-phone violators, and he says it won't take long to find one.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

August 23, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Police May be Too Quick to Use Their Taser

From Increasingly, police facing stubborn lawbreakers, belligerent drunks or violent suspects are reaching for stun guns to shock them into submission. In one recent incident, a hospital security guard in Houston used a Taser on a defiant father trying to take his newborn home, sending father and daughter to the floor.

Police say Tasers are valuable tools for avoiding hand-to-hand struggles that can injure officers and citizens. Small, portable and often effective even when merely brandished, Tasers -- which fire tiny, tethered cartridges that transmit electrical currents -- have become common in law enforcement in recent years, with some 11,500 police agencies using them.

But critics say Tasers are being used as a weapon of first resort, sometimes on frail or mentally ill people. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

August 23, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Local Police Often Do Not Seek Firearm Trace Information

From Only about a third of the nation's estimated 17,000 local law enforcement agencies regularly request federal assistance for "trace information" identifying the source of firearms used in crimes, federal authorities said Monday.

"There may be law enforcement agencies out there not asking for it because they don't think they have access to it," says Michael Sullivan, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

For investigators, the trace information is often key to tracking suspects in gun-related crimes. Using serial numbers and other descriptive information from recovered weapons, federal authorities can compel firearms manufacturers and dealers to provide information about who first bought the weapon and when.

Federal authorities say they tend to receive repeated requests for help every year mostly from the same 6,000 law enforcement agencies — and rarely hear from the other 11,000. They worry that the ongoing public debate — fueled by advocacy groups and a national coalition of mayors — over access to the critical background information may be discouraging police departments from requesting it. Sullivan says conflicting interpretations of federal law may be contributing to false perceptions that the police are no longer able to receive the information.

The ATF is permitted to share trace information with agencies that request it as part of individual ongoing criminal investigations. The bureau, however, is restricted from sharing results of individual requests with departments other than the requesting agencies. Federal law also shields the data from use in civil suits. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

August 21, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Orlando Police Trade Shoes for Guns

From More than 200 guns have been collected so far today in a sneakers-for-gun exchange.

Sneakers and $50 gift certificates will continue to be offered while supplies last at two locations until 8 p.m. today. In Orlando, the exchange will be outside the Florida Citrus Bowl at 1610 W. Church St. In the county, it will be outside the Pine Castle Woman's Club at Oak Ridge Road and South Orange Avenue.

The exchange follows another weekend of violence that threatens Central Florida's image as a family-friendly tourist destination. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

August 19, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

AZ Bans Text Messaging While Driving

From The deaths of two Arizona women this week are shifting focus back on potential state legislation to ban the practice of text-messaging behind the wheel.

Peoria police investigators believe Ashley D. Miller, 18, of Glendale, drifted across the center line because she was text-messaging on her cellphone. Miller collided with Stacey A. Stubbs, 40, of Chino Valley, police said.

The deaths are the latest to highlight what has become a national debate as more states scramble to implement laws regulating the use of cellphones while driving. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

August 15, 2007 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)