CrimProf Blog

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

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Polygamist Sect Leader Warren Jeffs Trial Begins

From NPR.com: The trial of Warren Jeffs is underway in St. George, Utah. Jeffs is the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the nation's largest polygamist sect. The trial centers on the arranged marriage of an allegedly unwilling underage teenager to her cousin. But the case against the 51-year-old polygamist is not considered a slam dunk.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believes that in order for men to reach the highest degree of glory in heaven, they must have at least three wives. The man designated as the group's prophet holds enormous sway because it is he who decides whether a follower is worthy of more wives. This power is at the heart of the prosecution's case against Jeffs.

"That's their theory is that he wielded a great deal of religious mind control over his followers. And his word was the equivalent of the word of God, so If they didn't obey him, they were disobeying God," says Aric Cramer, a Utah criminal defense attorney who has followed the case closely.

The prosecution's case concerns a 14-year-old follower who was chosen by Jeffs to marry her 19-year-old cousin. Listen. . . [Mark  Godsey]

September 13, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Chicago Jury Finds All 5 Mobsters Guilty of Murder

From NPR.com: Jurors cap the 10-week trial of five reputed Chicago mobsters with five guilty verdicts. The numerous charges in the case were related to nearly 20 murders that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

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

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Mass Domestic Violence Related Death Rise for Many Reasons

The murder of Massachusetts mother Elizabeth Cann by her ex-boyfriend last week was the 39th domestic violence-related death in Massachusetts this year, putting the state on track to set a grim 12-year milestone. If the violence continues at its current pace, Jane Doe Inc., a statewide coalition against domestic and sexual violence, estimates another 17 people will die before the end of year.

In more than a dozen interviews with the Herald, advocates, law enforcement and state officials said the following factors are fueling the bloodshed:

  • A clogged domestic violence emergency shelter system that leaves a mere 376 beds funded by the state Department of Social Services set aside for families who wish to escape a batterer and scarce affordable housing opportunities for people wishing to move out of shelters. The state Department of Transitional Assistance also funds shelter beds.
  • A disjointed state funding system for domestic violence shelter and support services that is spread over at least four state agencies
  • Understaffed anti-domestic-violence programs that have scaled back on community and legal advocacy, preventative programs, clinical services and financial and housing assistance for victims
  • A criminal justice system that relies heavily on victims to protect themselves through restraining orders or police action
  • Gaps in training on domestic violence for veteran police officers
  • A reduction in batterers’ programs statewide from 24 to 17 in five years due to low referral rates.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

September 9, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Highlighting DC's Serious Prisoner Reentry Crisis

Froms washingtonpost.com: About 2,000 prisoners come back to Washington DC every year -- an average of five a day. As many as 60,000 D.C. residents -- one in 10 -- are felons, 15,000 of them under court supervision.

They arrive at the homes of relatives, at halfway houses and shelters. One-third end up homeless or close to it. Seven out of 10 have abused drugs. Half don't have a high school diploma. Employers, landlords and even family members often avoid them.

Most emerge ill-equipped to stay out of prison. Two-thirds are re-arrested within three years. Forty percent are sent back to prison. This means more crime, more victims and more money spent to send them through the justice system again and again.

The District is the only jurisdiction in the country where the federal government has direct authority for supervising its felons, a legacy of the city's bankrupt '90s under Mayor Marion Barry (D).

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

September 5, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Many Murder Victims Have Criminal Records

From USATODAY.com:  A spike in murders in many cities is claiming a startling number of victims with criminal records, police say, suggesting that drug and gang wars are behind the escalating violence.

Police increasingly explore criminal pasts of homicide victims as well as suspects as they search for sources of the violence, which has risen the past two years after a decade of decline, according to the FBI's annual measures of U.S. crime.

Understanding victims' pasts is critical to driving crime back down, police and crime analysts say. "If you are trying to look at prevention, you need to look at the lives of the people involved," says Mallory O'Brien, director of the Homicide Review Commission in Milwaukee. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

September 3, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Chicagoans Romanticize Mob Culture

From washingtonpost.com: "There he is, there's Calabrese and there's the Indian and there's Joey the Clown," said Lee Anne Roggensack, excitedly pointing out three of the elderly defendants in the Family Secrets mob conspiracy trial, where closing arguments conclude Thursday.

The 10-week trial has spawned a subculture of its own: Chicagoans who feel as if the mob was a shadowy but ever-present force as they grew up in this city, and who wanted to see some of its most flamboyant characters in the flesh -- and put behind bars.

Decades after its heyday, the Chicago mob is still famous around the world. Untouchable Tours buses weave through the city daily, showing the site of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and other notorious locales. When the Biograph Theater reopened last year, much was made of its fame as the spot where federal agents gunned down John Dillinger.

Mobsters are often romanticized and glorified, but most people at the trial had a decidedly negative view of the five defendants -- Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Paul "the Indian" Schiro, James Marcello, former cop Anthony Doyle and Frank Calabrese Sr. -- who among them are charged with 18 murders, racketeering, extortion, loan-sharking, gambling and other crimes. The alleged victims include Outfit members Michael and Anthony Spilotro, brothers who were beaten and buried alive in an Indiana cornfield in 1986.

"It's been undermining the integrity of our city forever," said Pat Reynolds, 73, who spent 24 days in the courtroom and fears that a planned vacation to Telluride, Colo., will make her miss the verdict. "I've always had to explain my city, that it's wonderful and beautiful in spite of this." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

September 2, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sex Offender Treatment has Failed to Evolve

From seattlepi.com: Despite inconsistent research findings on the subject, sex-offender treatment is not only a fixture in criminal justice, but also a burgeoning field, with the number of certified therapists more than doubling statewide in the last 10 years.

And while the overall climate for sex offenders has radically changed -- with longer sentences and more restrictions -- treatment has largely remained static, relying on the same cognitive-behavioral methods introduced in the 1980s.

"It's an ongoing question, there's no two ways about it," said Roxanne Lieb, director of the Washington State Institute of Public Policy, on the effectiveness of treatment. "Certainly, it's not a cure-all," she said.

Last year, Lieb's office released a study that found that Washington's prison treatment program for male sex offenders -- one of the largest in the nation -- had virtually no effect on reducing recidivism rates.

The study echoed a landmark 2005 study, in which researchers found that a California hospital program for confined sex offenders had no significant impact on curbing repeat crimes.

Both studies, however, have detractors who point to other studies showing that treatment works.

"There's pretty good evidence that if you pick out the right kind of people, who feel badly about what they've done, you can alter those patterns," Lieb said. "But if you have someone who's anti-social, who hates women or who is sexually attracted to little kids, no one knows anything about what to do about those three things." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

August 29, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (6)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Man Suspected of Killing Six People Is Now Arrested

From nytimes.com: A 43-year-old man sought in six killings since last week in the Texas Hill Country and in Pennsylvania was arrested Monday in Shirley, N.Y., after a brief standoff, the federal Marshals Service said Monday.

The man, Paul G. Devoe III of Llano, Tex., with roots in Suffolk County on Long Island, N.Y., was charged in one killing and held on $2 million bail, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office in Texas said.

Mr. Devoe had been hunted after the killing of a bartender Friday night in Marble Falls, Tex., northwest of Austin, and the discovery of four bodies in a house in nearby Jonestown on Sunday.

On Monday, after Mr. Devoe’s arrest, the marshals added a sixth possible killing. They traced a car found with him on Long Island to a woman in Greencastle, Pa., near the Maryland border, who was then discovered dead.

Tom Smith, supervisor of the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force, a group of Texas law enforcement agents sponsored by the United States Marshals Service, said the task force had learned that Mr. Devoe might be heading to Long Island, where his mother and sister lived, and midday Monday staked out a house belonging to a friend and former co-worker of Mr. Devoe.

“He was already in that residence,” Mr. Smith said. “They were going to knock when they saw him with a gun. He bolted, and they called for a SWAT team, but they were able to talk him out.” 

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

August 28, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Most Forensics Programs lack Accreditation

From USATODAY.com: More than 130 forensics programs are being taught at colleges and universities across the USA, although only 16 programs at 14 universities are accredited by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, says Jim Hurley, director of accreditation. He expects the number to rise as more programs adopt the rigid science course work required.

The study of forensic science has only recently bloomed, largely as a result of expansion of DNA analysis as an investigative tool and the televising of big trials. Before 1980, when Jay Siegel set up one of the first programs at Michigan State University, "there were just a handful of people who could even tell you what forensic science was," he says. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

August 28, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Resigns

From bloomberg.com: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is resigning, Bush administration officials said, after months of accusations that he politicized the U.S. Justice Department and misled Congress over the firing of federal prosecutors and wiretapping of suspected terrorists.

Gonzales will hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. Washington time. Solicitor General Paul Clement, the administration's top courtroom lawyer, is expected to take over on a temporary basis until a permanent replacement is named, Justice Department officials said. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, a former department lawyer and federal judge, is a leading candidate to replace Gonzales, officials said.

Gonzales, propelled to power by his close friendship with President George W. Bush, had for months withstood demands for his ouster from Democrats and Republicans. At least six other high-ranking administration officials have left with more than a year to go in Bush's administration.

As recently as an Aug. 9 news conference, Bush defended Gonzales, saying, ``I haven't seen Congress say he's done anything wrong.''

The resignation climaxes a political battle over Gonzales's leadership of the Justice Department, though congressional investigations into the prosecutor firings and the administration's anti-terrorist spying program continue. Bush may also clash with Congress over Gonzales's successor, who must be confirmed by the Democratic-led Senate. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

August 27, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

John Grisham and Scott Turow Help Launch Mississippi Innocence Project

Two award-winning writers are teaming up to raise money for the newly formed Mississippi Innocence Project at the University of Mississippi School of Law.

The law school announced today (Friday) that John Grisham and Scott Turow will headline a fundraising dinner Oct. 22 in Jackson to support the project, which recently began operation.

Grisham, who graduated from the UM law school in 1981, is the author of numerous novels and other books, including his most recent, "The Innocent Man," profiling a man wrongfully convicted and freed years later with the help of several attorneys. Turow, a 1978 graduate of Harvard Law School, also has authored numerous books, including "Presumed Innocent" and "Ultimate Punishment."

Both authors have supported similar projects in law schools across the country. However, the upcoming dinner marks the first time the two have jointly raised money for such a cause. Announced this past spring, the Mississippi Innocence Project was established with initial funding by Grisham and Columbus attorney Wilbur Colom, a graduate of Antioch Law School.

Tucker Carrington, a former visiting professor at Georgetown Law School, has been hired as the project's full-time director. Carrington said that the program is "committed to providing the highest quality legal representation to its clients: state prisoners serving significant periods of incarceration who have cognizable claims of wrongful conviction."

Many but not all of the cases can be evaluated by examining DNA evidence, said Ron Rychlak, UM law professor and associate dean for academic affairs.

"The idea is that some prisoners who have been in prison a long time were convicted before DNA evidence was understood or utilized," he said. "These cases are resolved and put away as closed cases. There are no government attorneys available to these convicts, and most cannot afford to hire private attorneys, so this is really their last chance of proving innocence." [Mark Godsey]

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

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Stephen Colbert Interviewed 200th DNA Exoneree

Stephen Colbert recently interviewed the 200 th DNA exoneree, Jerry MillerWatch the episode. . . [Mark Godsey]

August 16, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Store Owner Charged With Selling Nudity to a Child via a Comic Book

From NPR.com: Gordon Lee, owner of Legends Comic Book Store in Rome, Ga., goes on trial this week over whether he willfully gave a comic that depicted nudity to a child. His store took part in a downtown trick-or-treat celebration three years ago. Instead of candy, Lee handed out free comics. One of them had two drawings showing painter Pablo Picasso moving about his studio in the nude, his genitals clearly exposed. Lee was arrested a week later. The case worries the comic book industry, which fears limits on artistic expression. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

August 14, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Church Creates Guidelines for Sex Offenders That Want to Join Congregation

From USATODAY.com: It was a shocking moment for members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Manchester, N.H.: One of their congregants was accused of sexually abusing an underage relative.

Church leaders gave the man one chance to remain. He had to sign an agreement to stay away from any church setting where there were children, limiting himself to events like adult education classes and one-on-one meetings with the pastor.

He refused and decided to leave, but the ultimatum let the church stick to its mission of trying to minister to all while keeping its children safe.

"We had a policy in place," said Sandra Greenfield, who was the church's director of education at the time and now holds a similar job at the South Church in Portsmouth, N.H. "There was no confusion about how we were going to handle the situation."

Eight years later, Greenfield and other Unitarian Universalists have created an online course with the Holyoke-based New England Adolescent Research Institute to help churches set guidelines for dealing with a member accused of a sex crime or a convicted sex offender who wants to join their congregation. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

August 8, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Some New York Counties Include Inmate Populations When They Redistrict

From NYTimes.com: A new study has found that 15 counties in New York, as well as the five that make up New York City, include inmate populations when they redistrict or apportion votes in local legislative bodies.

In five of those counties, the study concluded, the inmate population was large enough in one or more districts to dilute the political power of residents in the others. Thirteen counties that have prisons exclude inmates when drawing district lines.

“New York counties with prisons are faced with a tough choice — adjust the federal census data to ignore prison populations, or rely on the census and draw districts where some citizens are granted extra political clout because they happen to live next to a prison,” said the report, by the Prison Policy Initiative, an advocacy group that favors alternatives to prison sentences and urges that inmates be counted in their real hometowns.

Critics have long complained about “phantom voters” and “prison-based gerrymandering” in the allocation of Congressional and state legislative districts. The new study calls attention to the practice in local government.  Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

August 7, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

House Passes New Ethics Overhaul Bill

From latimes.com: In the most sweeping overhaul of congressional ethics rules since the Watergate era, the House on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill aimed at curbing the influence of lobbyists and repairing Congress' corruption-sullied image.

Democrats promised to pass the measure after they won control of Congress following a campaign that denounced the Republican "culture of corruption" on Capitol Hill.

The legislation is one of a number of accomplishments that the majority party, ridiculed by Republicans for its slim legislative record, hopes to deliver before lawmakers break at the end of the week for a monthlong recess. The Senate plans to approve an identical bill this week and send it to President Bush for his signature.

The bill would impose new rules on lawmakers and lobbyists, requiring reports on the campaign checks that lobbyists solicit from different contributors and denying congressional pensions to lawmakers convicted of felonies. It would even bar senators-turned-lobbyists from setting foot in the Senate gym.

"If there was one message that was abundantly clear based on the results of last year's election, it was that the American people want us to end the culture of corruption that has enveloped the legislative process," said Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "We've heard that message loud and clear." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

August 1, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Woman Charged With Killing a Viable Fetus

From washingtonpost.com: An Ocean City woman accused of killing a newly-delivered infant found in her home told a judge today she wasn't a flight risk because she eventually wanted to tell her side of things.

"I need to clear my name in this case," Christy Freeman, 37, told Worcester County District Court Judge Daniel R. Mumford during a bond hearing.

Authorities began digging up property today around her Ocean City home in a homicide investigation that so far has turned up a tiny infant body and infant remains in two separate garbage bags.

Freeman has been charged under a law that makes it illegal to kill a "viable fetus."

Ocean City police discovered the latest evidence in two locations late last week. Infant remains were found wrapped in plastic bags and hidden in a trunk in a bedroom, and also inside a garbage bag in a small motor home on the property.

Freeman, who operates a local taxi service, lives at the home with her boyfriend and her four other children, police said. She is scheduled to have a bond hearing today. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

July 30, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Justice Burger May Have Been A Potential Assassination

From canada.com: Montreal mob boss Frank Cotroni and high-ranking U.S. mobsters were once investigated for an alleged plot to assassinate the top judge in the United States, according to newly released FBI documents.

The investigation into the alleged plot to assassinate Chief Justice Warren Burger of the U.S. Supreme Court began in December 1981 after an informant came forward with details of a jailhouse plot. It ended 15 months later with no charges being laid.

Instead, the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent agents to warn the heads of U.S. Mafia families that any attempt to assassinate Burger "would be responded to with the full force and resources of the (Department) of Justice and the FBI." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

July 24, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Home for Troubled Young Women in Some Trouble of its Own

NYTimes.com: Troubled adolescent girls at the Columbia Training School, a state-run reform school, were shackled for 12 hours a day and forced to eat and to use the bathroom while wearing the shackles, according to a federal lawsuit filed here Wednesday by five of the girls against Mississippi officials, including Gov. Haley Barbour.

Another girl at the school was sexually assaulted by a guard, and three of the shackled girls were able to cut themselves even though they had been placed on suicide watch, according to the suit, filed in Federal District Court by the Mississippi Youth Justice Project.

Most of the 30-odd girls at the school are being held for nonviolent offenses like drug possession or shoplifting, and most suffer from a mental disorder.

Reports of what the lawsuit calls “widespread abuse” at the Columbia school and a similar institution for boys, the Oakley school, are not new. In 1977 a federal judge curtailed the use of isolation cells and pushed for the hiring of doctors; five years ago the State Legislature found numerous inadequacies; and four years ago the Justice Department discovered that young offenders were being hogtied, shackled, choked and beaten. The department sued Mississippi over those and other abuses, and a settlement was reached in 2005.

But in a low-tax, low-spending state where, advocates say, care for troubled young offenders is a low public priority, abuses have persisted. At a legislative hearing last month there was testimony about guards’ making sexual propositions to the girls, shackling and other problems. Meanwhile, a recent report by a Justice Department official monitoring the settlement found persistent deficiencies, particularly in protecting the children from harm.

“When you look at adults who commit crimes or children who get into trouble, there’s not a lot of public pressure on politicians to do the right thing,” said Robert McDuff, a veteran Mississippi civil rights lawyer who helped draft the lawsuit. “And unfortunately the current administration has not paid the proper attention to correcting these problems.” Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

July 12, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

NY Crime Drop is due to. . . Efforts to Reduce Lead Poisoning?

From washingtonpost.com: Although crime did fall dramatically in New York during Giuliani's tenure, a broad range of scientific research has emerged in recent years to show that the mayor deserves only a fraction of the credit that he claims. The most compelling information has come from an economist in Fairfax who has argued in a series of little-noticed papers that the "New York miracle" was caused by local and federal efforts decades earlier to reduce lead poisoning.

The theory offered by the economist, Rick Nevin, is that lead poisoning accounts for much of the variation in violent crime in the United States. It offers a unifying new neurochemical theory for fluctuations in the crime rate, and it is based on studies linking children's exposure to lead with violent behavior later in their lives.

What makes Nevin's work persuasive is that he has shown an identical, decades-long association between lead poisoning and crime rates in nine countries.

"It is stunning how strong the association is," Nevin said in an interview. "Sixty-five to ninety percent or more of the substantial variation in violent crime in all these countries was explained by lead."

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

July 10, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)