Thursday, June 20, 2024

Local Constitutional expert gives perspective on Louisiana mandating Ten Commandments in public schools

Watch my interview with Chris Cerenelli on WFMJ-TV21 about Louisiana's new law requiring the Ten Commandments in every classroom in the state.


To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

ICC members support arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Hamas leaders

 Ninety-three member states of the International Criminal Court (ICC) declared their “unwavering support” for the court to independently carry out its professional duties, in a joint statement reported Jurist. The statement comes after several ICC members have been threatened, particularly ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan after he declared to seek arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as three Hamas leaders.

In the statement, the member states of the Rome Statute contended that the court, together with its officials and staff, is an independent and impartial judicial institution and should act unhindered and without intimidation. They also called on all countries to cooperate fully with the court to enforce its mandates. The member states believe that by stating their support, the ICC can continue contributing to the end of impunity for international crimes and the prevention of the recurrence. The statement also seeks to promote the respect of international law.

The Rome Statute of the ICC provides for the establishment of the court, its international personality and the jurisdiction the court possesses. Upon becoming a party to the Rome Statute, the state party accepts the court’s jurisdiction with respect to the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. In May and August 2002, the US and Israel expressed their intention not to become a party to the statute respectively even though they both became signatories in 2000.

Accordingly, the US disputed whether the ICC possesses legitimate jurisdiction over the US or Israel. 12 US senators in April threatened to sanction Khan if the ICC prosecutors attempt to assert its jurisdiction by any means against the US and its allies. Netanyahu also called on the international community to prevent the court from issuing warrants, thereby undermining Israel’s inherent right of self-defense.

Following the announcement of the warrant applications on June 4, the US House of Representatives passed a bill compelling the US President to impose sanctions on the ICC and the related prosecutors through visa restrictions and property freezes. Joe Biden has so far opposed the bill. However, the speaker of the house Mike Johnson maintained that the ICC’s decision fell outside its jurisdiction and stated that Israel is respecting the rule of law.

To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Mangino joins Crime Stories with Nancy Grace on Crimeonline

Great to join Nancy Grace on a panel discussing the arrest in the horrific murder of Rachel Morin. 

To listen CLICK HERE


Monday, June 17, 2024

Creators: Pennsylvania Court to Review 'Death-By-Incarceration'

Matthew T. Mangino
Creators
June 10, 2024

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, the former state attorney general, has called for the end of the state's death penalty. Pennsylvania has not carried out an execution in 25 years. Moreover, 60 years have passed since the state's last involuntarily execution.

Although executions have stopped for now, Pennsylvania has thousands of prisoners serving de facto death sentences — referred to as "death-by-incarceration."

What is death-by-incarceration? Offenders condemned to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Under Pennsylvania's sentencing scheme, offenders — other than lifers — are sentenced to a minimum and a maximum term of sentence. The maximum must be at least twice the minimum.

Once an inmate has served her minimum sentence, she is eligible for parole. Release from prison is determined by the state's parole board. Once released, the offender is supervised on parole until the expiration of her maximum sentence.

A life sentence in Pennsylvania has no minimum — there is no opportunity for parole — life means life in Pennsylvania.

Not all lifers are the same in Pennsylvania. There are lifers who have killed another human being but avoided the death penalty, and then those who committed a felony that resulted in another's death. The law in Pennsylvania is clear: If a death occurs during the commission of a felony, the death is considered murder and anyone who participated in the felony is equally responsible for the murder, regardless of whether they had any criminal intent to harm or cause death.

Felony murder is a statutory crime in Pennsylvania promulgated at 25 P.S. 2502 (b) providing "Criminal homicide constitutes murder of the second degree when it is committed while defendant was engaged as a principal or an accomplice in the perpetration of a felony."

At one time in Pennsylvania, first- and second-degree murder were punishable by death. In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily banned the death penalty, finding it was arbitrary in the manner it was imposed.

Two years later, the legislature rewrote the death penalty statute and felony murder became second-degree murder, eliminating capital punishment as a sentencing option — but felony murder continued to be mandatory life without parole.

As a result, Pennsylvania is home to thousands of people sentenced to die in prison. The state has the second-highest number of people serving life without parole, nearly 5,100 inmates, approximately one in five have been convicted of felony murder, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

Pennsylvania lawmakers have tried to provide hope for those serving life sentences. A pending bill would allow lifers a chance at parole after serving 35 years on a first-degree murder conviction and 25 years on second-degree murder. The proposal has not made it to the floor for a vote.

Several years ago, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of six people convicted in their late teens of "felony murder," arguing that prohibiting parole consideration for felony murder is cruel and unconstitutional under Pennsylvania law. Article I, Section 13 of the Pennsylvania Constitution prohibits "cruel punishment." Pennsylvania's constitutional provision predates the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In 2022, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed the suit on grounds that it was improperly filed as a civil lawsuit and the court lacked jurisdiction. The court found the plaintiffs could still challenge the legality of their sentences after exhausting the appeals process, but those claims had to be filed through the criminal court.

Subsequently, a second claim in criminal court was rejected by the Pennsylvania Superior Court. In a concurring opinion, Superior Court Judge Alice Beck Dubow urged the state Supreme Court to revisit the matter "in light of changes in related case law from other states and research and policy concerns regarding the criminal justice system."

Now, Pennsylvania's highest court will consider the constitutionality of mandatory life without parole in cases where the defendant "did not kill or intend to kill and therefore had categorically diminished culpability." The case pending before the court is out of Pittsburgh and was brought on behalf of a prisoner whose accomplice, during the commission of a robbery, shot and killed a man.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book "The Executioner's Toll, 2010" was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.

To visit Creators CLICK HERE

Maryland governor pardons 175,000 marijuana convictions

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore will issue a mass pardon of more than 175,000 marijuana convictions, one of the nation’s most sweeping acts of clemency involving a drug now in widespread recreational use, reported the Washington Post.

The pardons will forgive low-level marijuana possession charges for an estimated 100,000 people in what the Democratic governor said is a step to heal decades of social and economic injustice that disproportionately harms Black and Brown people. Moore noted criminal records have been used to deny housing, employment and education, holding people and their families back long after their sentences have been served.

“I’m ecstatic that we have a real opportunity with what I’m signing to right a lot of historical wrongs,” Moore said in an interview. “If you want to be able to create inclusive economic growth, it means you have to start removing these barriers that continue to disproportionately sit on communities of color.”

Moore called the scope of his pardons “the most far-reaching and aggressive” executive action among officials nationwide who have sought to unwind criminal justice inequities with the growing legalization of marijuana. Nine other states and multiple cities have pardoned hundreds of thousands of old marijuana convictions in recent years, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Legalized marijuana markets reap billions in revenue for state governments each year, and polls show public sentiment on the drug has also turned — with more people both embracing cannabis use and repudiating racial disparities exacerbated by the War on Drugs.

To read more CLICK HERE

 

Friday, June 14, 2024

What? Crime is falling, while 'tough-on-crime' makes a comeback

The overall crime rate is nearly as low as it’s been in decades, but that hasn’t stopped officials from pushing draconian measures likely only to fuel mass incarceration and harm public safety, reported The Appeal. It’s time for a different approach.

Around the U.S., in states ranging from Georgia to California and even deep-blue cities like Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, policymakers are responding to fears of crime with draconian proposals reminiscent of the 1990s. Among the most popular are measures to expand cash bail requirements, reduce and/or eliminate parole opportunities, increase the number of young people being tried as adults, and impose extreme penalties for certain types of offenses. 

The past tells us this “tough-on-crime” approach will predictably fuel mass incarceration and increase recidivism, wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on efforts that disproportionately damage low-income communities of color and ultimately harm long term public safety. Unlike the past, however, we are watching history repeat itself at a time when crime data shows rates are actually nearly as low as they’ve been in decades.

Politicians have portrayed these measures as necessary responses to crime, but this ignores the mountains of research showing incarceration to be an ineffective deterrent that may actually increase crime in states with already overcrowded prisons. Incarceration also yields many other social and economic harms, including racial inequity, unemployment, generational poverty, and poor health outcomes, all of which contribute to a broader economic desperation and insecurity that is antithetical to public safety. 

Despite this well-documented record of failure, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are yet again rejecting robust investments in programs designed to address the root causes that often lead to people’s involvement with the criminal legal system, and instead embracing the craven, ineffectual politics of “getting tough.” 

In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, recently signed a bill that will significantly increase the number of charges requiring cash bail in the state, while also restricting the efforts of community bail funds that seek to combat jail overcrowding. This will lead to more people being held in already overpacked and inhumane jails while they await trial. A similar effort has already been adopted in Kentucky despite clear evidence that cash bail perpetuates racial and economic disparities and harms public safety.

In Louisiana, Republican Governor Jeff Landry signed a slew of crime bills this spring, including one that effectively eliminates parole for most people incarcerated in the state. Another new law restricts the amount of “good time credit” incarcerated individuals can accumulate to reduce their sentences. Such measures do little to encourage rehabilitation, instead furthering commitments to spend millions of dollars imprisoning people who could otherwise safely return to the community.    

Landry also signed a bill reversing a 2017 reform that mandated charging 17-year-olds as juveniles. Similarly, in Vermont, implementation of a 2020 “Raise the Age” law is at a standstill as the state’s Democratic Governor, Phill Scott, delays applying the measure to 19-year-olds as previously promised. 

In many of the above-mentioned states, as well as Oregon and others, lawmakers have also successfully pushed through legislation imposing harsher penalties for multiple offenses ranging from retail theft to “unlawful camping” to certain drug charges. In California, voters are meanwhile set to consider a ballot initiative in November that would roll back portions of Proposition 47, a 2014 measure that loosened penalties for some low-level crimes.

Earlier this year, the council of Washington, D.C., supposedly one of the most liberal cities in the country, approved a dramatic expansion of punitive measures with a bill adding new offenses and increasing penalties for certain existing offenses. Democratic mayors in New York City and San Francisco have also responded to crime concerns by adopting reactionary policies of criminalization while cutting budgets for critical reentry services. In 

This approach did not work in the past, and it will not work now. Even today, communities across the country—disproportionately those that are Black and brown or lower-income—are still reeling from the impacts of misguided policies hinging on the false premise that we can police, arrest, and imprison our way to safety.  

If the goal is to build safer, stronger, healthier communities, we cannot continue to wage war on people. The insistence on prioritizing punishment over care only contributes to an environment of desperation, which ultimately breeds the crime and disorder politicians purportedly want to eradicate.

We have a roadmap for a better path forward, grounded in community-based, health-first strategies that have been proven to effectively promote public safety, reduce recidivism, and boost economic stability. These alternatives to incarceration create lasting change by supporting people rather than criminalizing them, helping them to access the resources they need to take care of themselves, support their families, and lead productive lives in their communities. And this ultimately costs far less than an enforcement-first approach, both in terms of upfront spending and the collateral costs of blanketing neighborhoods with armed police officers. 

There is still time for lawmakers to reconsider the direction they have chosen to take us in. Americans nationwide should urge their elected officials to work with community leaders and directly impacted individuals to craft commonsense, restorative strategies that work best for their communities. To achieve sustainable public safety, stability, and wellbeing, we must address the damage wrought by the flawed, overly harsh policies of the past. At the very least, we must not repeat those mistakes.

To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, June 13, 2024

FBI: Violent crime takes dramatic fall

On Monday, June 10, 2024, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program released the Quarterly Uniform Crime Report (Q1), January-March, 2024 and the National Use-of-Force Data Collection Update, March 2024, on the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer (CDE) at https://cde.ucr.cjis.gov.

The Quarterly Uniform Crime Report (Q1), January-March, 2024, provides a preliminary look at crime trends for January through March 2024 compared to January through March 2023. A comparison of data from agencies that voluntarily submitted at least two or more common months of data for January through March 2023 and 2024 indicates reported violent crime decreased by 15.2 percent. Murder decreased by 26.4 percent, rape decreased by 25.7 percent, robbery decreased by 17.8 percent, and aggravated assault decreased by 12.5 percent. Reported property crime also decreased by 15.1 percent.

National Use-of-Force Data Collection data was historically released on a quarterly basis, with each release building cumulatively throughout a calendar year. This cadence required the participation percentage to reset at zero every year. Beginning in January 2024, the participation percentage for the National Use-of-Force Data Collection will be determined using a rolling 12-month span. This change provides continuity in the participation percentage.

Information released from the National Use-of-Force Data Collection in June 2024 reflects data from 72 percent of the law enforcement population participating in the collection. The following is a breakdown of the types of use-of-force events reported from April 1, 2023, through March 31, 2024:

Death – 31.7 percent

Serious Bodily Injury – 55.3 percent

Discharge – 13.6 percent 

The number of incidents will be publicly released when 80 percent participation levels are met.