Saturday, November 28, 2015

National politics and a softer approach to crime and punishment

In a stunning turn of events national candidates are talking about crime and punishment on the campaign trail and its not the "tough-on-crime" rhetoric of past elections.  Starting with Barry Goldwater in 1964 right through President Obama in 2008, candidates for president wanted to "lock 'em up" and, that's right, throw away the key. But, not anymore.
This year, according to the Associated Press, for candidates from both parties the idea of locking up drug criminals for life is a lot less popular than it was a generation ago.
The 2016 presidential race has accelerated an evolution away from the traditional tough-on-crime candidate. A Republican Party that's long taken a law-and-order stance finds itself desperate to improve its standing among minority voters and Democratic candidates are also being drawn into national conversations on policing, drug crimes and prison costs.
With criminal justice issues intruding into election season, the "Just Say No" message of the Reagan administration and the "three strikes" sentencing law developed a decade later under President Bill Clinton have given way to concerns over bloated prison costs, the racial inequities of harsh drug punishments and how police interact with their communities.
But even among those in both parties who support changing the criminal justice system, there's no consensus on how to do it and candidates are scrambling to differentiate themselves on what law and order means.
"You don't have everyone saying they're tough on crime," said Inimai Chettiar of the Brennan Center for Justice in New York, which advocates reducing prison populations. "Instead, you have people offering different policy solutions."
To read more CLICK HERE

Friday, November 27, 2015

Bill to hide the identity of police involved in shootings faces growing opposition in Pennsylvania

Opposition is growing to a fast-tracked bill that would hide the identity of police officers involved in shootings in Pennsylvania, reported CBS. Philadelphia’s top cop is among those speaking out.
The FOP-backed House Bill 1538, passed the house with bipartisan support last week. If the bill becomes law in Pennsylvania, it would keep private the identity of officers involved in shootings while an investigation into an incident is ongoing. Once the investigation is complete, it would allow the release of the officer’s name, if he or she is charged with a crime, as long as there is no threat against the officer. In other words, there could be cases where the public will never ever learn the name of an officer involved in a shooting.
“I’m against it, I think it’s a huge mistake,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey told KYW Newsradio.
Earlier this year, Ramsey implemented a directive within the department that allows police officer names to be released within 72 hours of a police involved shooting. The Fraternal Order of Police claims the policy endangers the lives of officers and their families. FOP President John McNesby did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Monday, but previous statements were available on the Republican Caucus website.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's to sharing a happy and loving Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Adjusting minority IQ scores, affirmative action for the death penalty

Cornell University Law Professor Sherry F. Colb takes a skeptical look at adjusting IQ scores for purposes of execution.  Below are some excerpts from the article  posted at Verdict.
The Supreme Court in Atkins v. Virginia determined that executing an intellectually disabled person is unconstitutional, in part because of the disproportionality between the ultimate punishment and the necessarily diminished culpability of an intellectually disabled defendant. In the years following Atkins, the Court had occasion, in Hall v. Florida, to flesh out the meaning of intellectual disability and to clarify that it includes more than a simple IQ score. Nonetheless, IQ scores remain an important component of intellectual disability assessment, both clinically and for Atkins purposes.
An excellent article by Robert Sanger calls attention to a particular sort of challenge to IQ scores that has developed in the Atkins context. This challenge or critique provides that African Americans, Latinos, and Latinas are disserved by IQ tests, as life experiences of deprivation, for instance, produce artificially low scores on such tests, relative to the test-takers’ true ability. In some contexts, this critique could help minorities applying for jobs and educational opportunities. Here, however, the proposal is to give minority defendants a “bump up” on their IQ scores so that they qualify to be executed.
The first thing wrong with racially adjusting minority IQ scores upward for execution purposes is that it constitutes blatant and invidious race discrimination against minority individuals. It basically says that a person with an IQ test score of X will live if he is white but (potentially) die if he is black. And this result is not simply a matter of observed disparate impact but of intentional practice in the courtroom.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Chicago braces for release of deadly police shooting video

For months, leaders in Chicago watched as other cities faced angry demonstrations over police conduct, shootings and relations with black people, often captured in painful videos. As cities like Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore and New York have been consumed by fatal encounters involving the local police that have fueled national attention since 2014, this city managed to keep a lower profile, reported the New York Times.
But Chicago now finds itself grappling with the prospect of having its own moment. The city has been ordered to release, within days, a police video of the fatal shooting of a black 17-year-old by a white police officer. Even the officer’s lawyer has described the video, which the city sought for months to block from public view, as “graphic” and “violent” and “difficult to watch at some points.”
With the memories of discord in other cities so fresh, leaders in Chicago, which has a history of tension over race and policing, have been holding urgent private talks with community activists. Law enforcement officials are trying to anticipate what response the video may bring, and how best to prepare police forces here for that. And the mayor, Rahm Emanuel, appeared to try to calm the city, taking the unusual steps of condemning the police officer and urging prosecutors to take action in the case before the release of the video.
“In accordance with the judge’s ruling, the city will release the video by Nov. 25, which we hope will provide prosecutors time to expeditiously bring their investigation to a conclusion so Chicago can begin to heal,” Mr. Emanuel said Thursday.
Around Chicago, the video has become a topic of discussion, even though most people have not seen it. According to a few people who have viewed it, the video shows Laquan McDonald being struck by 16 bullets, some of them hitting him even after his body had fallen to the ground along a street on this city’s southwest side in October 2014. Some of the bullets, an autopsy shows, entered the back of his body.
A lawyer for Mr. McDonald’s family said the video showed him moving away from Officer Jason Van Dyke, the policeman who fired all of the shots, while at least five other officers never fired their weapons.
Dan Herbert, a lawyer for Officer Van Dyke, said his client believed the shooting was justified because he feared for the safety of himself and his colleagues. Mr. McDonald had a knife, the authorities say, and earlier punctured a squad car’s tire with it and refused to drop it. The officers were approaching him, officials said, after the police got a report that a man with a knife was trying to break into vehicles in a trucking yard.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, November 23, 2015

Pro-death penalty movement gaining traction

The emergence of Californians for Death Penalty Savings and Reform is the most visible sign of a growing nationwide response to the success of efforts to abolish the death penalty, reported the Marshall Project. For decades, executions were carried out steadily, and supporters, always a majority, were a silent one. But since 2007, seven states have repealed the death penalty and in many others the pace of executions has slowed as prison agencies struggle to find lethal injection drugs and prosecutors decline to pursue death sentences. A group of defense attorneys want to bring a constitutional challenge to the Supreme Court, and even Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has voiced ambivalence.
Like many of these movements, the California initiative grew organically in response to efforts to abolish the death penalty. The victims’ advocates and prosecutors now leading the charge began working together in 2012 when opponents of the death penalty brought Proposition 34 — a straightforward abolition proposal — to voters. Those opponents included men and women with tough-on-crime credibility, from Jeanne Woodford, the former warden of San Quentin prison, to Ron Briggs and Don Heller, both political figures who championed an expansion of capital punishment in the 1970s.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Watch my interview on WFMJ-TV Weekend Today

Watch my interview on WFMJ-TV Weekend Today.  We spoke about the Jacob Larosa case in Niles, Ohio and the Attorney General Kathleen Kane odyssey in Pennsylvania. To watch CLICK HERE