Monday, July 28, 2014

Mangino talks death penalty with Antonio Mora on Al Jazeera America

Watch my interview with Antonio Mora host of Consider This on Al Jazeera America.  Click HERE to watch the interview.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

California death penalty decision unlikely to sway U.S. Supreme Court

A federal judge's decision striking down California's death penalty would be unlikely to receive a warm reception from the U.S. Supreme Court, which repeatedly has turned away similar challenges during the past 20 years, according to The National Law Journal.
U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney of Santa Ana, Calif., ruled on July 16 in Jones v. Chappell that the state's death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The state’s death penalty, he held, is arbitrary and no longer serves the purposes of deterrence and retribution because of systemic delays.
Those delays exceed 25 years on average, said Carney, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, and "are inherent to California's dysfunctional death penalty system, not the result of individual inmates' delay tactics, except perhaps in isolated cases."
The national average of time to execution was an estimated 12.5 years between 2000 and 2012. In 2012, the delay increased to 15.8 years, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris had yet to announce whether she would appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
"It doesn’t totally surprise me that every few years a judge will speak honestly about what's going on," said death penalty litigator Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative. "Although some people would disagree with his legal conclusion, most people don’t disagree with his analysis of how things are functioning."
Carney's decision differed from rulings by other state and federal judges who have identified various problems with death sentences, said Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
"The judge here has pulled together all of the ways the system is dysfunctional," she said. "He is not challenging the policy per se; he is saying that in practice, this isn't working in a constitutional way. His analysis is applicable to the rest of the country. It has implications certainly for the Supreme Court, but also for policy analysis."
In his 29-page Jones decision, Carney wrote that since 1978, when California voters restored the death penalty, more than 900 people have been sentenced to death. Of that number, he said, 13 have been executed.
In my book The Executioner's Toll, 2010 I made similar argument about the arbitrary way in which the death penalty is carried out. 
To read more Click Here

Saturday, July 26, 2014

GateHouse: ‘Ban the Box’ provides opportunity for ex-offenders

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse News Service
July 25, 2014

A prison term should not mean a lifetime of misfortune for a former offender. Yet that is what the criminal justice system produces every day. Former offenders are saddled for life with criminal records that make employment, education and public benefits difficult, if not impossible, to obtain.

Job seekers with criminal records have always struggled to find work. It is not just violent offenders and felons who are rejected by employers. A misdemeanor or an old conviction can be enough to cost a person a chance at a job.

As “tough-on-crime” politicians pressed for draconian penalties and ever-widening collateral sanctions, more and more offenders seeking to enter the workforce have been strapped with debilitating limitations. About 70 million people in the U.S. have been convicted of a crime.

A conviction has real and lasting consequences. Forbes Magazine reported that a survey by the Society for Human Resources Management found that 96 percent of human resource professionals say their companies perform criminal background checks on applicants.

Many criminal justice practitioners point to the lack of employment opportunities for returning prisoners as the most important obstacle to a successful reentry. A failed re-entry means a return to prison, soaring taxpayer funded corrections costs and increased victimization.

Some states, and cities, are trying to do something to eliminate barriers for former offenders seeking employment.

There is a growing movement called “Ban the Box,” a reference to the check box on a job application that asks, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” Having the checkbox may prevent many ex-offenders from getting a fair shot at a job.

Some employers immediately set aside an applicant who checks the box. This prevents prospective employees from having an opportunity to sell themselves in an interview and it prevents prospective employers from evaluating an applicant on the merits.

Ban the Box will not prevent employers from checking an applicant’s criminal record. The measure merely postpones the review to later in the assessment process to give former offenders a chance at getting a job.

Four states — Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island — have passed laws that force private employers to remove the question regarding conviction history from job applications, according to National Employment Law Project (NELP).

Eight more states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico — have removed the question from applications for public or state jobs.

In addition, more than 60 cities have banned the box, including Baltimore, Louisville and Indianapolis. According NELP, New York City is considering its own version, called the NYC Fair Chance Act.

Federal law already provides some protection for former offenders seeking employment, although the law does not prohibit employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission prohibits employers from discriminating when they use criminal history information. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from treating people with similar criminal records differently because of their gender, religion, race or national origin.

Like laws in Pennsylvania, New York and Wisconsin, federal law prohibits an employer from using an applicant’s criminal record in employment decisions if the conviction does not help the employer accurately decide if the person is likely to be a responsible, reliable or safe employee.

Is America a country where people get second chances or a country where a single mistake follows a person for life?

There is a lot of work to be done to provide former offenders with a meaningful opportunity to earning a living wage. Progress is being made. This week, Washington, D.C., banned the box, Illinois’ governor signed a similar law and, according to National Public Radio, Walmart and Target have eliminated the criminal history question from their employment applications.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was recently released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.
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Friday, July 25, 2014

Mangino interviewed on WKBN-TV about the death penalty

Watch the interview on WKBN-TV

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – With Arizona now having what some are calling a botched execution under its belt, and sharing in other state’s trials with lethal injection, more states are being forced to make experimental lethal cocktails to kill their most violent offenders.

In Arizona Wednesday, inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood was the latest to be put to death with a new mixture of drugs. States had to come up with an alternative after a Britain pharmaceutical company withdrew their concoction for use in executions last year.
Eyewitnesses say they could see and hear Wood breathing and gasping for air during the nearly two hour ordeal.
“He closed his eyes. He went to sleep, and then he started gasping and did so for more than an hour and a half,” said a witness.
Arizona’s botched execution is the third one of the year. The others were in Oklahoma and here in Ohio. A federal judge in Ohio ordered a temporary ban on executions earlier this year after convicted killer Dennis McGuire gasped for 26 minutes during his execution in January.
Former Lawrence County District Attorney Matt Mangino says states need to find an alternative quick.
“To have that happen and continue to happen in such a short space of time is a concern,” Mangino said. “The 8th Amendment requires these executions to be carried humanely, but the question is what is humane.”
Some family members of victims are less concerned about the condemned killers’ rights, or the humane aspect of their deaths.
“Everyone is more worried about did he suffer? Who really suffered were my dad and my sister when they were killed,” said Jeanne Brown.
Brown’s father and sister, Eugene and Debra Dietz, were shot to death in 1989 at the family’s automotive shop in Tucson.
How soon capital punishment states will find a new solution or right mixture is anyone’s guess. But it may not come in time for Ohio’s next execution scheduled for September 18, 2014

The Cautionary Instruction: Pittsburgh Police Department's morale problem

Matthew T. Mangino
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
July 25, 2014
"What's going on in Pittsburgh is a crisis in confidence," said Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess during acting Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar's confirmation hearing this week.
"I absolutely agree with you that there's a confidence problem in some parts of the city," responded Bucar. "In attending these police chief meetings, I can see some of the anger and frustration in some areas of the city."
Bucar acknowledged low morale at the police bureau, but he was quick to mention that the department is a “very professional organization.”
Bucar should be applauded for acknowledging the problem, but the mere fact that he brought it up points to the work needed to rectify the problem. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, when he was General Eisenhower was constantly concerned with troop morale. He once said, "The best morale exists when you never hear the word mentioned. When you hear a lot of talk about it, it's usually lousy."
What Eisenhower meant was you cannot just talk about improving morale you’ve got to do something about it.
Bucar went on to say, the department has a “small number of bad seeds” and they get all the publicity. “It taints and paints with a broad brush,” he said, adding that public perception of officers affects their work.
Although research on police morale has evolved significantly over the years, almost all of the early research in this field focused on operational stress that officers face. The source of low morale was based on the premise that law enforcement professionals are placed in continuously difficult situations and are required to deal with these situations in the course of their duties.
What has evolved recently is the theory of organizational stress. A study of more than 2,500 officers indicated that “the findings reveal the majority of the 10 greatest sources of anger and frustration among officers have a crucial common denominator, their administrators.”
Low morale, whether operation or organizational, has consequences. A morale problem can increase turnover, absenteeism and low productivity — all of which make neighborhoods more vulnerable. Low morale can also spur civil liability which depletes resources and drives up taxpayer costs. Finally, and most tragic, low morale drives up officer suicide.
Bucar says the way forward is to build leadership that instills respect in the rank and file, and hire a new chief who not only can inspire officers but successfully reach out to communities that have seen a deteriorating relationship with the department.
“It can’t be somebody who hasn’t earned that respect by being in law enforcement for a number of years,” he said. “I have to build that trust and I have to be confident that my police chief shares that interest in drilling down in those communities that don’t trust the police.”

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.
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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mangino interviewed on WFMJ-TV regarding Pennsylvania's tougher child abuse laws

Watch the interview on WFMJ-TV.           

(WFMJ-TV) Pennsylvania's new laws that just took effect in January, will come into play when a mother accused of a severe case of child abuse comes to trial.
Mary Rader, and her parents Dennis and Deana Beighley, who live together in a home in Greenville could receive as much as 20 years in prison if they are found guilty of aggravated assault and other criminal charges.
Police reports state Rader's seven year old son weighed about 25 pounds and was described as a human skeleton, by doctors.
Attorney Matthew Mangino said state lawmakers toughened Pennsylvania's laws after former Penn State University football coach, Jerry Sandusky, was convicted of abusing 10 boys. In the past teachers, coaches and others were not included in the definition of child abuser. Laws were also expanded to include acts of omission.
"So, if you are in a home where you know a child is being abused and you let that abuse continue, that omission could make you responsible as well," said Mangino.
Although Pennsylvania is one of 10 states without a statute specifically addressing torture, Mangino said the laws have always been a powerful tool that allows the county District Attorney to bring serious charges.
"There are certainly situations where torture wouldn't amount to aggravated assault. In this case, prosecutors are pursuing the most serious charge they can with the most serious penalties that are available," said Mangino.
In addition, people accused of abusing a child can be criminally charged whether or not they intended to harm that child.
The boy has gained significant weight but faces serious hurdles due to the alleged neglect.
A preliminary hearing for Rader and the Beighleys is scheduled for July 30.

Another botched execution, Arizona execution takes 2 hours

The 26th execution of 2014
A convicted murderer in Arizona gasped and snorted for more than 90 minutes after a lethal injection July 23, 2014, his attorneys and witnesses said, dying in a botched execution that prompted the governor to order an investigation and the state Supreme Court to mandate that the materials used in the procedure be preserved, reported the Los Angeles Times.
Joseph Rudolph Wood III's execution almost certainly will reinvigorate the national debate over the death penalty. He received an injection at 1:52 p.m. at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence. The execution became so prolonged that reporters witnessing the execution counted several hundred of his wheezes before he was finally declared dead at 3:49 p.m. — nearly two hours after the procedure began.
The incident comes in a year in which lethal injections had already triggered controversy over botched procedures and secrecy.
Wood had fought without success to get more information about the drugs and the expertise of his executioners. His request, which was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, prompted one prominent appellate judge to call for the return of the firing squad.
The Arizona Supreme Court ordered officials to preserve the remaining drugs used in his execution and the drug labels.
Gov. Jan Brewer ordered the state Department of Corrections to conduct a full review, saying she was “concerned” about the length of time it took Wood to die.
“One thing is certain, however, inmate Wood died in a lawful manner, and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer,” Brewer said in a statement. “This is in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his two victims — and the lifetime of suffering he has caused their family.”
Wood, 55, was sentenced to death in 1991 for the August 1989 shooting deaths of his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz, in Tucson.
“This man conducted a horrific murder, and you guys are going, ‘Let's worry about the drugs,'” Richard Brown, Debra Dietz's brother-in-law, told reporters. “Why didn't they give him a bullet, why didn't we give him Drano?”
Wood's last words were to his victims' family, according to an Associated Press reporter who witnessed the execution: “I take comfort knowing today my pain stops, and I said a prayer that on this or any other day you may find peace in all of your hearts and may God forgive you all.”
It took so long for Wood to die after receiving an injection of midazolam combined with hydromorphone that his attorneys filed emergency appeals to save his life.
“At 1:57 p.m [officials] reported that Mr. Wood was sedated, but at 2:02 he began to breathe,” said the legal filing in federal court from public defender Jon M. Sands. “At 2:03 his mouth moved. Mr. Wood has continued to breathe since that time. He has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour. At 3:02 p.m. ... staff rechecked for sedation. He is still alive.”
A Wood attorney also went to the state Supreme Court, which was conducting a hearing by telephone when he was pronounced dead.
The question of whether he suffered divided those who watched the procedure.
Another attorney for Wood, Dale A. Baich, was among them. He said that during the 1 hour and 40 minutes Wood was gasping and snorting, he could not tell whether he was conscious. “There was no sound in the witness room, so we could not hear,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Arizona attorney general's office who was also a witness disputed that. “There was no gasping of air. There was snoring,” Stephanie Grisham said. “He just laid there. It was quite peaceful.”    
Wood's execution revived memories of those in Ohio and Oklahoma this year.
Ohio used the same drug combination to execute Dennis McGuire in January. Witnesses said that “McGuire started struggling and gasping loudly for air, making snorting and choking sounds which lasted for at least 10 minutes, with his chest heaving and his fist clenched.” Ohio executions are on hold while a federal court reviews the state's execution protocol.
Then, in April, Oklahoma murderer Clayton Lockett die bout d of a heart attack 43 minutes after his execution began — and after the state had called off his execution as he writhed and gasped. Details about the lethal drugs and those who administer them are kept secret in many states.
To read more Click Here