CrimProf Blog

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

Thursday, August 28, 2008

DOJ Responds to Privilege Ruling in Congress' U.S. Attorney Investigation

Congress and the Bush administration headed for a pre-election showdown Wednesday over executive privilege, with House Democrats scheduling a hearing that would put a key administration figure under oath and the Justice Department mapping a last-ditch court appeal.

Justice lawyers said they would go to court as soon as today to block a ruling by U.S. District Judge John Bates that aims to force the Bush administration to cooperate with a congressional investigation into the politically charged firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006, including Seattle's John McKay.

The move came as Democrats pushed ahead with that investigation, and Rep. John Conyers, Jr., D-Mich., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he was calling former White House counsel Harriet Miers to appear before the committee Sept. 11 to answer questions about her role in the firings.

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August 28, 2008 in DOJ News, News, Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lawyers Conned by Internet Scam

Atlanta securities lawyer Gregory Bartko said he is the victim of an Internet fraud scheme that is apparently targeting law firms throughout the country and the banks where lawyers have their escrow accounts.

As a result, Bartko is now a defendant in a federal suit by Wachovia Bank -- which is seeking reimbursement for nearly $200,000 that the bank wired, on Bartko's instructions, to a Korean bank on behalf of a company that had hired Bartko via the Internet.

Wachovia has also notified the State Bar of Georgia that Bartko's firm escrow account was overdrawn by more than $190,000, Bartko said.

The scheme that entangled Bartko matches one in a fraud alert issued in February by SunTrust Bank in Atlanta.

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August 26, 2008 in Criminal Law, News, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Texas School District Allows Teachers to Carry Guns in School

Pic_4 A Texas school district will let teachers bring guns to class this fall, the district's superintendent said on Friday, in what experts said appeared to be a first in the United States.

The board of the small rural Harrold Independent School District unanimously approved the plan and parents have not objected, said the district's superintendent, David Thweatt.

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August 15, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Law Enforcement, News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Man imprisoned 17 years freed after DNA test

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A man who spent more than 17 years in prison on a charge of raping a girl was freed Monday after a lab re-examining cases across Ohio showed that his DNA profile didn't match evidence from the crime scene.

Robert McClendon, 52, was released by Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Charles Schneider, who cited the DNA test.

"You know, you go through times where you feel it might not happen, but you never, ever give up hope," McClendon said after his release. "You don't ever use the word, 'never happen.' It's not healthy."

Jennifer Bergeron, a lawyer with the Ohio Innocence Project, said she expects prosecutors to formally drop charges against McClendon within the next two weeks.

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August 12, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

North Carolina improves exoneree compensation

Dail North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley this week signed a bill greatly improving the compensation and services the state provides to the wrongfully convicted after their release. The new law, effective immediately, increases the compensation paid to the exonerated from $20,000 per year served to $50,000 per year. The maximum payment is $750,000. The new law also provides job training and free tuition to state colleges and universities.

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August 10, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

State Supreme Court weighs parole for killers

Questions before the justices: When can a killer reenter society? How much authority should a governor have? Does a model prison record atone for a horrendous crime?

By Michael Rothfeld
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

July 13, 2008

Sandra Davis Lawrence is grateful for the simple things she can do now, like pick up her grandniece from school. And she is anxious to make up for lost time, to find a career and start earning money again.

Lawrence spent 24 years in state prison for murdering her lover's wife with a gun and a potato peeler while in a jealous rage. A model inmate, she received a second chance at freedom last summer when a court ordered her released. Since then, she has reunited with family in Los Angeles and tried to re-integrate into society at age 61.

"I want to become a taxpayer," she said in a recent interview. "Everybody is trying to not pay taxes. I want to pay taxes."

But Lawrence may have to return to prison instead, if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger can convince the California Supreme Court that she remains a threat to public safety. That she has had no problems with the law in a year of freedom is irrelevant, the governor's office said; she should not have been let out.

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July 13, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

High Court: No Death Penalty for Child Rape

In a closely divided opinion today, the Supreme Court found that while the crime of raping a child is a "revulsion" to society, it does not merit the death penalty.

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June 26, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (2)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cameras to watch for crime Cincinnati police getting eyes on 120 locations

It's the first step toward a system that eventually could send real-time video to officers' in-cruiser laptops as well as instantly read license plates and run them through motor vehicle registration.Some of the cameras also might have gunshot-recognition sensors, which turn the cameras toward the direction of the shots and zoom in.Call takers and dispatchers in the 911 center, when a crime is reported, will be able to check any nearby cameras to immediately describe what they can see, while officers are still on the way

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June 24, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Scheck speaks, raises funds for Innocence Project

Bscheck Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck said in a speech last night that West Virginia – and dozens of other states – were ready for bipartisan criminal justice reforms to prevent future wrongful convictions. Scheck spoke at an Innocence Project fundraiser in Charleston last night and this afternoon at a West Virginia lawyers’ conference.

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June 12, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

French Judge Aids in San Francisco Homicide Investigation

A French judge has arrived in San Francisco to oversee an unusual probe into the death of a French citizen whose stabbing has puzzled police investigators for more than a year.

Police have said they are handling the June 2, 2007, death of 36-year-old Hugues de la Plaza as a possible homicide, although they have also angered his acquaintances by suggesting he killed himself. The chief medical examiner's office has been unable to determine what caused the 36-year-old sound engineer's death.

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June 10, 2008 in International, Law Enforcement, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

D.C. Madam Supposedly Commits Suicide

From Florida police are investigating the apparent suicide of a woman they believe to be the so-called D.C. Madam, who was found dead in the Florida mobile home of the madam's mother Thursday.

The madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, was recently convicted on federal charges stemming from operating a prostitution service in the Washington, D.C. area with a number of high-profile clients. She was scheduled to be sentenced July 24. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 1, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Judge Tapped for Public Safety Chief

From Improving the state Crime Lab and naming a medical examiner will be priorities for Stephen Simpson if he's confirmed as the next commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety.

On Friday, Gov. Haley Barbour nominated Simpson, a circuit judge for Harrison, Hancock and Stone counties, for the commissioner post.

If confirmed by the Mississippi Senate, Simpson, 49, of Gulfport, will succeed George Phillips, who stepped down in December after holding the post for a little more than two years.

Barbour said Simpson will maintain "integrity and strength" in the office.

"Judge Simpson has an impressive blend of prosecutorial, judicial and correctional experience that will serve him well as commissioner of public safety," Barbour said. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 15, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lawmakers Wants to Limit FBI Access to Data

From Bipartisan groups in Congress are pressing to place new controls on the FBI's ability to demand troves of sensitive personal information from telephone providers and credit card companies, over the opposition of agency officials who say they deserve more time to clean up past abuses.

Proposals to rein in the use of secret "national security letters" will be discussed over the next week at hearings in both chambers. The hearings stem from disclosures that the FBI had clandestinely gathered telephone, e-mail and financial records "sought for" or "relevant to" terrorism or intelligence activities without following appropriate procedures.

The Justice Department's inspector general issued reports in 2007 and earlier this year citing repeated breaches. They included shoddy FBI paperwork, improper claims about nonexistent emergencies and an insufficient link between the data requests and ongoing national security probes. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 15, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Questioning Government Monitoring Imagine a world of streets lined with video cameras that alert authorities to any suspicious activity. A world where police officers can read the minds of potential criminals and arrest them before they commit any crimes. A world in which a suspect who lies under questioning gets nabbed immediately because his brain has given him away.

Though that may sound a lot like the plot of the 2002 movie "Minority Report," starring Tom Cruise and based on a Philip K. Dick novel, I'm not talking about science fiction here; it turns out we're not so far away from that world. But does it sound like a very safe place, or a very scary one?

It's a question I think we should be asking as the federal government invests millions of dollars in emerging technology aimed at detecting and decoding brain activity. And though government funding focuses on military uses for these new gizmos, they can and do end up in the hands of civilian law enforcement and in commercial applications. As spending continues and neurotechnology advances, that imagined world is no longer the stuff of science fiction or futuristic movies, and we postpone at our peril confronting the ethical and legal dilemmas it poses for a society that values not just personal safety but civil liberty as well.

Consider Cernium Corp.'s "Perceptrak" video surveillance and monitoring system, recently installed by Johns Hopkins University, among others. This technology grew out of a project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency -- the central research and development organization for the Department of Defense -- to develop intelligent video analytics systems. Unlike simple video cameras monitored by security guards, Perceptrak integrates video cameras with an intelligent computer video. It uses algorithms to analyze streaming video and detect suspicious activities, such as people loitering in a secure area, a group converging or someone leaving a package unattended. Since installing Perceptrak, Johns Hopkins has reported a 25 percent reduction in crime.

But that's only the beginning. Police may soon be able to monitor suspicious brain activity from a distance as well. New neurotechnology soon may be able to detect a person who is particularly nervous, in possession of guilty knowledge or, in the more distant future, to detect a person thinking, "Only one hour until the bomb explodes." Today, the science of detecting and decoding brain activity is in its infancy. But various government agencies are funding the development of technology to detect brain activity remotely and are hoping to eventually decode what someone is thinking. Scientists, however, wildly disagree about the accuracy of brain imaging technology, what brain activity may mean and especially whether brain activity can be detected from afar.

Yet as the experts argue about the scientific limitations of remote brain detection, this chilling science fiction may already be a reality. In 2002, the Electronic Privacy Information Center reported that NASA was developing brain monitoring devices for airports and was seeking to use noninvasive sensors in passenger gates to collect the electronic signals emitted by passengers' brains. Scientists scoffed at the reports, arguing that to do what NASA was proposing required that an electroencephalogram (EEG) be physically attached to the scalp. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 14, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Detainee Boycotts Trial

From A Sudanese prisoner with long ties to Osama bin Laden told the war-crimes tribunal here Thursday that the Sept. 11 attacks dealt heavy blows to U.S. security and exposed the "hypocrisy" behind American claims that it stands for equality and justice.

Appearing at his arraignment, Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud Qosi refused to accept legal representation for his trial before the Pentagon's military commissions.

After a rambling statement, he announced that he would boycott further proceedings.

The bearded 47-year-old was the third Guantanamo defendant in the last month to call the military tribunal illegitimate and refuse to cooperate in his own defense.

"I leave in your hands the camel and its load for you to do whatever you wish," he told Air Force Lt. Col. Nancy Paul, the judge preparing for his trial on charges of conspiracy and material support for terrorism.

Qosi also accused the U.S. military of discrimination against citizens of the Third World, noting that two British detainees and an Australian charged along with him four years ago have since been released under pressure from those governments. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 11, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Illinois May Monitor High Risk Restraining Orders With GPS Technology

From The Illinois legislature is considering a law that would allow police to monitor high-risk restraining-order subjects by using GPS technology. Harvard Law School lecturer Diane Rosenfeld, who proposed a similar bill that passed in Massachusetts last year, discusses the Illinois initiative. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 3, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

German Law Professor Sent to Prison for Accepting Kickbacks

From A judge has sentenced a German law professor to three years in prison for accepting kickbacks from doctoral students.

The Hannover university professor, whose identity was not revealed, confessed to accepting euro156,000 (US$240,000) to serve as a faculty adviser to 68 doctorate students between 1998 and 2005.

Court documents say an agency brokered kickback deals for him to serve as the students' adviser. Adviers can be difficult to find in German universities. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 3, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

LA Council Tries to Paa a 40 Hour Homicide Ban

From Los Angeles City Council members -- who in the past have tried with mixed results to ban gas-powered leaf blowers from backyards, lap dances from strip clubs and fast food restaurants from South Los Angeles -- plan to vote today on a 40-hour moratorium on homicide, a symbolic gesture that comes as the city has seen an uptick in killings in recent months.

If it passes, the ban would begin on Friday at 6:01 p.m. to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.

The ban, which would also apply to other forms of violence, was proposed by Los Angeles author and political commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson, who was so alarmed by the city's recent spike in gun violence that he urged its elected leaders to make a bold statement.

"It's an educational vehicle to drive home the point that we're losing too many lives," said Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. "If this works, then the next logical thing is: if a city like Los Angeles can go 40 hours without one homicide, then why not 40 days?"

Hutchinson hopes the nonbinding resolution will also secure the backing of the Los Angeles Unified School District board of education, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the state legislature. Still, some say the council should focus on more substantive solutions to the city's homicide rate -- and not waste time on symbolic gestures.

"I'm sure that the people who are doing the killing will hear that the council is calling for a moratorium and then cease and desist," said a sarcastic Joe Hicks, who once served as executive director of the city's Human Relations Commission. "It's more silliness from our wonderful City Council."

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 1, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 31, 2008

Angola 2 Finally Out of Solitary Confinement

From Two former Black Panthers imprisoned in Louisiana are out of solitary confinement for the first time since the 1970s. State corrections officials say Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were moved into a "maximum security dormitory" earlier this week. Louisiana prison officials once said the men, known as the Angola 2, would never be moved. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 31, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

CEO's Conviction Overturned

From Joseph Nacchio, the former CEO of Qwest Communications, had his conviction on insider trading overturned Monday. A federal appeals court ordered a new trial, saying the judge in the original trial improperly excluded a witness who would have testified on Naccio's behalf. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 18, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)