Monday, November 20, 2017

Drug company wants lethal injection drugs back

A major pharmaceutical company demanded in a letter a month ago that the State of Nebraska return any lethal injection drugs it might have that were manufactured by the company or its affiliate, reported the Omaha World-Herald.
Pfizer adopted a policy in 2016 banning the use of its products in an execution as a “misuse” of drugs intended to save lives.
“Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve. Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment,” stated the Oct. 4 letter, signed by Robert Jones, a public relations director at Pfizer.
Officials with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services and the office of Gov. Pete Ricketts declined to say Thursday if the state had obtained any Pfizer drugs.
“We are not disclosing the identity of the supplier at this time,” said Corrections spokeswoman Dawn-Renee Smith.
But Smith said the state spent $10,500 on the four lethal injection drugs purchased last month.
This comes two years after Nebraska spent $54,000 on similar drugs that it never received.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Why would an innocent person plead guilty?

Professor Jenia I. Turner of SMU Law School wrote for the National Academy of Justice that the most recent data reported by the National Registry of Exonerations show that roughly 18 percent of recorded exonerations (343 out of 1,956) were the product of guilty pleas. Why do innocent people plead guilty? 
The NRE identified large plea discounts as a key factor driving false guilty pleas. Other analyses of plea based exonerations have similarly found that innocent defendants plead guilty to avoid the risk of harsher punishment after trial.
For instance in Pennsylvania the sentence guidelines consider two factors--the seriousness of the offense and the accused's prior record. A person with a criminal record and accused of a serious crime can expect a lengthy sentence.  A plea offer of a fraction of the expected guideline sentence could result in a plea--guilty or not.
Turner points out a plea offer of time served for detained defendants has also been found to lead innocent defendants to plead guilty. Misdemeanor defendants are frequently detained for the simple reason that they cannot afford to post bail, and they are commonly offered plea deals to “time served.” 
They are then subject to significant economic and familial pressures to plead guilty in order to be released from jail. A recent empirical study found that misdemeanor detainees “plead guilty at a 25 percent higher rate than similarly situated releasees.” The authors concluded that “[m]isdemeanor pretrial detention … seems especially likely to induce guilty pleas, including wrongful ones.” 
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, November 18, 2017

GateHouse: Word of the demise of ‘the great American crime decline’ premature

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
November 17, 2017
The National Institute of Justice reported this week that homicides in America’s largest cities rose in 2015 and again in 2016, although not all cities experienced a significant increase and some cities even experienced a decline.
In 2016, the FBI Uniform Crime Report found that there were 17,250 homicides nationwide. That is an increase of 8.6 percent from 2015 on top of a 12.1 percent increase from 2014-2015.
That adds up to about a 21 percent increase in homicide over two years, which is the largest two-year increase in a quarter of a century.
The National Institute of Justice considered two explanations for the increase:
- The heroin and opioid epidemic
- The so-called “Ferguson effect,” named for the city outside of St. Louis where the police response to unrest has impacted policing nationwide.
The larger increases in drug-related homicides as compared to other types of homicide provided researchers with preliminary evidence that expansions in the illegal drug trade contributed to increase in homicide.
The current drug epidemic is disproportionately concentrated in the white population, and homicides have increased among whites as well as among African Americans and Hispanics. The report concluded that the drug epidemic may have had an especially strong influence on the rise in homicide rates among whites.
The second explanation put forth by researchers is the Ferguson effect, which resulted in “de-policing, compromised police legitimacy, or both.”
Surveys of police reveal widespread concerns about increased police-community tensions and reductions in proactive policing in the aftermath of widely publicized deadly encounters between the police and African Americans.
Increases in homicide followed decreases in arrests in Baltimore and Chicago, although it is not known whether the same was true in other cities.
Alienation from the police can result in a decreased willingness to call the police or to cooperate with them and, some studies suggest, an increase in criminal behavior.
The National Institute of Justice concedes that “current evidence that links de-policing to the homicide rise is mixed, at best,” and that it remains an “open research question.”
The homicide increase in the United States is relatively large, if not unprecedented, especially in several of the nation’s biggest cities. Because it arrived on the heels of a long-term crime drop, it is reasonable to ask whether the current homicide spike marks the end of what has been referred to by Professor Franklin E. Zimring of the UC Berkeley School of Law as the “the great American crime decline.”
Before we break into a panic, a review of the data seems to indicate the answer is no. The national homicide rate was more than 35 percent lower in 2016 than in 1995 and the homicide rate in big cities was about 46 percent lower. According to the National Institute of Justice, even at the elevated rates of increase in 2015 and 2016, it would take about five years for the national homicide rates to return to the levels of the early 1990s.
However, it is difficult to ignore the increase in homicides as well as the ongoing plight of minority members of our communities. For instance, the leading cause of death for young African American men is homicide, and it causes more deaths than the other top nine causes of death put together.
Professor David Kennedy of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice said recently, ”[W]e’re debating these small changes and the national homicide rate had come down to between four and five per 100,000 and is now edging back up toward five. There are communities all over the country where especially young men of color are experiencing persistent homicide rates of over 500 per 100,000 year after year after year after year.”
-- 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 and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Pittsburgh real estate interventions decreased crime and increased values

A Pittsburgh-based nonprofit development organization reduced crime by up to 49 percent through a hybrid strategy of combining hot-spot policing and real estate intervention, according to The Crime Report.
But as crime rates decreased, demand for properties in the neighborhood increased, translating into housing prices appreciating by more than 120 percent between 2008 and 2012.
Identification of problematic properties—ones which were typically vacant, abandoned or owned by slumlords—was based on input from residents and ELDI staff members who live in the neighborhood. ELDI then acquired more than 200 of these units over the four year period, representing approximately three percent of the rental apartment units in the neighborhood.
Many high-rise housing projects were replaced with low-rise, townhouse-style mixed-income housing. Other initiatives focused on bringing businesses, shops, and restaurants back to the area.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Man survives Ohio execution

For the second time in 70 years, a condemned killer emerged alive Wednesday from the Ohio death house, reported the Columbus Dispatch.
The scheduled execution of twice-convicted killer Alva Campbell was called off when a medical team with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction could not find two viable sites for a lethal intravenous injection, prisons Director Gary Mohr said. The state’s protocol requires two such sites, he said.
Afterward, Gov. John Kasich issued a temporary reprieve and rescheduled Campbell’s execution for June 5, 2019.
The ACLU almost immediately called for a halt to executions in Ohio.
“This marks the fifth botched execution for Ohio in recent years, and the second time the state could not complete an execution,” said ACLU of Ohio senior policy director Mike Brickner. “This is not justice, and this is not humane. Campbell was poked and prodded for nearly two hours as prison officials and medical personnel attempted to find a usable vein.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

PA Corrections Sec. Wetzel leads '50-State Summit on Public Safety'

This week, Pennsylvania Corrections Secretary John E. Wetzel headlined the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Association of State Correctional Administrators’ “50-State Summit on Public Safety,” in Washington, D.C.
The Summit emphasized the fact that reform means much more than reining in abusive police officers or cutting prison populations, reported The Crime Report.
In opening remarks Wetzel called on fellow justice officials to abandon the “stovepipe approach” of handling issues in isolated silos of the justice system and seek cooperation with experts in other areas.
Wetzel’s remarks set the tone for the meeting, which was aimed at presenting officials in each state with a detailed analysis of their crime issues, including trends in arrests, recidivism and “behavioral health,” and help them come up with evidence-based solutions.
Summit attendees include all state prison directors, 41 state legislators, 35 state behavioral health directors, 15 police chiefs, and 12 sheriffs.
A major theme that surfaced early in the session is that issues often labelled as “criminal justice” problems, such as mental illness and addiction, can be handled just as well by public health authorities.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Police may mislead juveniles when seeking a confession

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently said that coercive interrogations may violate the constitutional rights of suspects and preclude their “involuntary” statements from being introduced at trial, reported The Marshall Project. The nation’s judges have consistently allowed the police to undertake aggressive questioning of suspects, to exercise the “craftship” of deception and intimidation of the sort made famous in countless movies and television shows where the suspect “breaks” during police interrogation.
And they have done so by narrowing the definition of what constitutes police coercion. So the police during questioning can lie and falsely tell a suspectthat his friend (and co-defendant) has confessed to the crime, incriminating both of them. The cops can lie and falsely tell a suspect that his fingerprints or his DNA were recovered from the scene of the crime. They can even lie and falsely tell a suspect that they have satellite images that incriminate him. No court has ever held, as far I can tell, that police have a duty to tell a suspect the truth about the evidence they may or may not have against him.
But many courts have identified legal distinctions between police lies about facts — i.e. “your buddy just ratted you out” — and police lies about legal rights. So the police are not supposed to tell a suspect during interrogation that any incriminating statement he says won’t be used against him. Or that what he says will determine the nature and degree of the charges. A cop cannot promise to get a suspect a reduced charge or sentence, decisions that are not in police hands. If it seems murky, it is. Like so much else about criminal law and the Constitution the courts generally resolve these cases based on the intricate facts they present.
Nor have the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, come up with a bright-line test for how long an interrogation may go before it is considered unduly “coercive” under the Constitution. An interrogation surely would be ruled unlawful had the police not permitted the 18-year-old suspect to sleep, or eat, or go to the bathroom. And it surely would have been unconstitutional had he been physically assaulted or threatened with physical injury.
When a teenager under the age of 18 is threatened by the police with the death penalty — “fucking give you the needle” is how the cop put it — surely that cop knew or should have known that threat was hollow. The folks at the Exoneration Registry, who help track false confession cases, say they have counted at least 27 false confession cases across the country where suspects were threatened with the imposition of the death penalty.
In at least five of the cases tracked by the Registry the suspect was a juvenile at the time of the alleged murder. But in only one of those cases was the threat made after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the execution of juvenile killers in March 2005 in a decision Roper v. Simmons. The Supreme Court has yet to hear a case in which these sorts of police threats, made to teenagers already susceptible to false confessions, helped convict a suspect of murder.
To read more CLICK HERE