Sunday, January 22, 2017

Connecticut looks to raise age for adult court to 21

Connecticut’s governor has launched a new attempt at a groundbreaking juvenile justice reform effort this year, pushing to raise the age at which most young offenders go before an adult court to 21, reported the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.
Gov. Dannel Malloy proposed the same plan in 2016, only to see it stall in the state legislature. But if he succeeds this year, Connecticut would be the first to raise the age beyond 18 for all but the most serious offenses, such as murder, assault with a firearm and rape.
There’s no doubt this is a cutting-edge proposal, said Lael Chester, the co-author of a report by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government that’s recommending a step-by-step program for making that change.
A state legislative committee that oversees juvenile justice urged Connecticut officials Thursday to move deliberately if the plan gets adopted, phasing in the changes over a 4½ -year period — but it didn’t sign off on any particular bill.
In recent years, several states have raised the age at which teenagers are routinely prosecuted as adults to 18. Connecticut was one of them, raising its age from 16 to 18. But no state has gone beyond 18, the age at which Americans are generally considered legal adults with the right to vote, join the armed forces, carry a credit card.
In their report, Chester and co-author Vincent Schiraldi characterize people between 18 and 21 as emerging adults.Recent advances in the understanding of adolescent brain development and psychology suggest young adults should get the juvenile justice system’s opportunities for rehabilitation and second chances.
Currently, those emerging adults have the highest recidivism rates of any group in the criminal justice system, Chester said. The report found that young adults prosecuted in adult courts were between 34 and 77 percent more likely to be arrested again, and more likely to be arrested for a more violent crime than teens who stayed in the juvenile system.
 “We have historically just lumped together 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds in the adult system without really thinking about it,” she said. “And yet we now know from research that that emerging adult population is a distinct developmental stage. They’re somewhere between childhood and fully mature, independent adulthood.”
She added: “We know from developmental psychology and neurobiology that the brain is still developing. That’s what moved a lot of states and moved the U.S. Supreme Court to find that they have a greater protection from the Constitution.”
At least three other states — Massachusetts, Vermont and Illinois — are considering similar proposals, but none have acted yet, Chester said.
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Saturday, January 21, 2017

GateHouse: Police body cameras 'Ready! Set! Action!'

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
January 20, 2017
The Chicago Police Department announced this week that by the end of the year every city police officer will wear a body camera.
Chicago is coming off of a horrendous year. The city’s homicide rate increased by 63 percent. The Laquan McDonald video sparked national outrage — Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times, five of his colleagues claimed that McDonald lunged at Van Dyke with a knife, but the video showed McDonald walking away.
The Department of Justice released a scathing report this week about the Chicago Police Department finding the department engages in a pattern or practice of using force, “including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. The pattern or practice results from systemic deficiencies in training and accountability … and the failure to conduct meaningful investigations of uses of force.”
Police body cameras are part of a comprehensive plan for law enforcement reform in Chicago.
Yet, on inauguration day and the Women’s rally the following day, the Washington D.C. Police will be required to turn off their body cameras. There is an ordinance in the national’s capital, supported by the ACLU, that the police may not record a protest or rally. The law was intended to protect First Amendment rights by eliminating the possibility that police may review video and use it for other intelligence purposes or to suppress “anti-government” protests.
Twenty-one states have passed laws outlining guidelines for the use of police body cameras. Those states have struggled with issues of privacy, public access and costs. The other 29 states have no framework for handling police video technology.
Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, a senior United States district judge for the Southern District of New York, wrote in “Americas Quarterly,” police departments experimenting with the use of body cameras “have produced encouraging data.”
Scheindlin, who wrote the controversial opinion that struck down New York City’s “stop and frisk” policy, cited a study out of Rialto, California. After the police in Rialto used body cameras for a year, citizen complaints dropped by 60 percent. In addition, the number of incidents that resulted in the use of force by police dropped by 88 percent. In Mesa, Arizona, use-of-force complaints decreased by 75 percent for officers using cameras in a pilot program. In Nampa, Idaho, they dropped by 24 percent, wrote Scheindlin.
Some commentators have argued that police dash cams, body cameras and cameras wielded by private citizens have exposed a pattern of misrepresentations by the police.
There are no comprehensive statistical studies of police being less than candid about arrests. As a result, it is impossible to know how often officers get away with falsehoods, wrote Albert Samaha for Buzzfeed News.
Samaha cited one rigorous study published by the University of Chicago Law Review in 1992 by Myron Orfield, now a law professor at the University of Minnesota. He surveyed dozens of prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges in Chicago. Fifty-two percent of them responded that prosecutors “know or have reason to know” that an officer fabricated evidence “at least half of the time.” Nearly 90 percent of prosecutors responded that they were aware of police perjury in cases “at least some of the time.”
Most importantly, body cameras have reduced the use of excessive force by the police. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Experimental Criminology found that police officers were more cautious and risk averse when wearing body cameras. The authors, Justin Ready and Jacob Young, suggested that the reason that camera-wearing officers made fewer arrests and conducted fewer stop-and-frisks was because they thought more carefully about criminal policy and procedures.
— 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 and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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Friday, January 20, 2017

Barack Obama: The president of mercy

During President Barack Obama’s last full day in office, he announced 330 more commutations, for nonviolent drug offenders, bringing his total number of clemencies to 1,715, reported the Washington Post.
Obama has granted commutations to more people than the past 12 presidents combined, including 568 inmates with life sentences. He has granted 212 pardons. His final group of clemencies was the most granted on one day in U.S. history.
 “By restoring proportionality to unnecessarily long drug sentences, this administration has made a lasting impact on our criminal justice system,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates. “With 1,715 commutations in total, this undertaking was as enormous as it was unprecedented.”
One clemency activist said, “His gracious act of mercy today sealed his clemency legacy and allowed many truly deserving men and women to be reunited with their families." 
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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Virginia executes killer of sisters 4 and 6 years old

The 2nd Execution of 2017
Ricky Javon Gray was executed in Virginia by lethal injection on January 18, 2017 for the slaying of two young Richmond sisters on New Year’s Day 2006, reported the Roanoke Times.
Gray, 39, was pronounced dead at 9:42 p.m. at the Greensville Correctional Center. Asked if he had any final words, Gray said, “Nope,” according to a prison spokeswoman.
Gray was sentenced to die for the Jan. 1, 2006, slayings of Ruby Harvey, 4, and Stella Harvey, 9. He and accomplice Ray Dandridge, 39, also killed their parents, Bryan Harvey, 49, and Kathryn Harvey, 39, in their Woodland Heights home.
A few days later, Gray and Dandridge killed Ashley Baskerville, 21; Baskerville’s mother, Mary Tucker, 47; and stepfather, Percyell Tucker, 55, in their South Richmond home. Dandridge, Gray’s nephew, was sentenced to life for those killings.
The Harveys were tied up and beaten with a hammer, and their throats were cut. Their house was set on fire by the killers when they fled and the victims were initially discovered by firefighters. Ultimately, Gray was sentenced to death, leading to years of appeals.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe turned down a clemency request to commute Gray’s death sentence to life without possibility of parole. Gray’s lawyers asked the U.S. Supreme Court for an emergency stay, which the justices denied on hours before the execution.
The late court challenge stemmed from Virginia’s three-drug execution procedure.
For Gray’s execution the state planned to use midazolam and potassium chloride made by a licensed compounding pharmacy in Virginia as the first and third drugs. The compounded chemicals are tested monthly to verify identity and potency, said state officials.
Compounded midazolam had never been used in an execution in Virginia, Gray’s lawyers complained. 
Their bid for a stay of execution was rejected by a federal judge and a federal appeals court only days before the execution. 
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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Virginia governor declines clemency for condemned killer

Democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia declined to grant clemency for Ricky Gray, who will die by injection tonight at the Greensville Correctional Center for the capital murders of two young sisters 11 years ago unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes, reported the Richmond Times Dispatch.
“I have decided not to intervene in this case. Mr. Gray was convicted in a fair and impartial trial, and a jury sentenced him to death in accordance with Virginia law. Federal and state appellate courts have extensively reviewed his case and denied his requested relief. Unless a court intervenes, the Department of Corrections will carry out the execution in accordance with the order of the sentencing court," said McAuliffe in a prepared statement.
The governor said, “It is the Governor’s responsibility to ensure that the laws of the Commonwealth are properly carried out unless circumstances merit a stay or commutation of the sentence. After extensive review and deliberation, I have found no such circumstances. I will continue to pray for all of the individuals and families affected by these tragic and horrible crimes.”
Gray's lawyers filed an emergency request for stay of execution with the U.S. Supreme Court.
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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Serious mental illness pervasive among Florida death row inmates

The Florida Supreme Court recently held that the state’s capital punishment statute is unconstitutional. Approximately 380 people sentenced to death under the now-invalidated sentencing scheme remain on death row, reported 
While litigation is still pending over whether the decision applies to all Florida death sentences, the Court has clarified that the approximately 150 people who were convicted after the Ring v. Arizona decision in 2002 must have their sentences reconsidered. Roughly one-third of these individuals convicted since 2002 come from just five of Florida’s 67 counties: Duval, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Orange, and Pinellas.
This report examines the 48 invalidated death sentences from these five Florida counties. We examined legal pleadings and opinions, trial testimony, and media reports, and consulted with several legal experts in Florida who are familiar with the individuals on death row.
Our research revealed that 63 percent of these individuals exhibit signs of serious mental illness or intellectual impairment, endured devastatingly severe childhood trauma, or were not old enough to legally purchase alcohol at the time the offense occurred.
The pervasiveness of these crippling impairments among Florida’s death row population is significant when evaluating whether the death penalty was the appropriate sentence. Although all murders are gruesome and deserving of serious sanction, the Constitution limits the death penalty to the most aggravated and least mitigated cases. 
So, for example, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that regardless of the severity of the crime the death penalty cannot be imposed upon a juvenile or an intellectually disabled person, both classes of individuals who suffer from impaired mental and emotional capacity relative to typically developed adults. To do otherwise would be so disproportionate as to violate his or her “inherent dignity as a human being.”
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Monday, January 16, 2017

Study examines the unnecessarily incarcerated

There’s a new figure in the world of over-incarceration worth remembering: 39 percent.
That’s the percentage of people in U.S. prisons who are “unnecessarily incarcerated,” a new Brennan Center study reported in The Atlantic. The report, which took three years to complete, studied criminal codes, criminal-justice research, and prison populations throughout the country to determine how many prisoners are incarcerated without a justifiable public-safety rationale.
The report concluded that 576,000 inmates currently locked up for crimes ranging from mail fraud to simple burglary could be swiftly released without endangering their fellow Americans. Many of those Americans view incarceration as a largely punitive tool. But the report instead focuses on whether or not prison sentences reduce crime or enhance public safety. To that end, it outlines a series of alternatives that state legislatures and Congress could adopt, ranging from electronic monitoring to community service.
The report also recommends redirecting the estimated $18.1 billion in annual savings from reduced prison costs into reentry programs and community policing, although it doesn’t otherwise focus on the impact of releasing half a million prisoners back into society.
It’s a bold, novel proposal to change the American criminal-justice system, and one sure to draw its share of supporters and critics alike.
To read more CLICK HERE