Friday, July 29, 2016

President Reagan's would-be assassin John Hinckley to be released from custody

Thirty-five years after he shot President Ronald Reagan and three others outside a D.C. hotel, John W. Hinckley Jr. will be released from a government psychiatric hospital, reported the Washington Post.
The ruling ends the institutionalization of the one of the nation’s most notorious mental health patients.
Outrage over Hinckley’s acquittal in the 1981 shooting reshaped the insanity defense in courts across the country. The revelation that he had pulled the trigger to impress a movie star added obsession and celebrity to the case. And extraordinary television footage of the attack on the 40th U.S. president brought the event to millions of American homes.
In Wednesday’s court order, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman wrote that Hinckley, 61, no longer poses a danger to himself or others and will be freed to live full time with his mother in Williamsburg, Va. His release could come as early as Aug. 5 and is subject to dozens of conditions, some of which could be phased out after a year if Hinckley adheres to them.
After an eight-week trial, a federal jury in Washington found Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity in June 1982 of all 13 counts against him, setting off a sharp public backlash. The federal government and 38 states subsequently rewrote laws to raise the standard of proof required for the insanity defense, which is now rarely used and is even more rarely successful.
Some research has found that defendants successfully raise an insanity defense in 1 of 500 felony cases nationwide and that of that small pool, defendants are freed between 5 and 65 percent of the time depending on the jurisdiction, making Hinckley’s release all the more exceptional.
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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Sen. Kaine opposes the death penalty, presided over 11 executions

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Hillary Clinton's running mate is opposed to the death penalty, yet he presided over 11 executions as governor of Virginia. The New York Times reported that "no issue has been as fraught politically or personally as the death penalty,"  Kaine's handling of capital punishment shows that he recognizes — and expediently bends to, his critics suggest — the reality of the Democratic Party and the state he represents. Kaine presided over 11 executions as governor, delaying some but granting clemency only once. He said that as governor, he was sworn to uphold the law. Kaine, 58, is well liked even by many Republicans. His centrist appeal is one reason Clinton added him to her ticket.
Some death penalty opponents cast his decisions as political survival and ambition. “Tim is a politician,” said Jack Payden-Travers, who ran Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty when Kaine was governor. “Even though they say they’re not running for the next office, there’s always something coming up.” In a 2009 interview with the Virginian-Pilot, he said each clemency decision had been “very painful,” though his experience as a lawyer had prepared him. “I’ve eaten the last meal, and I’ve held the guy’s hand, and I’ve been to the Supreme Court, and I’ve been to the protests, and I know this very, very well,” he said. “And because of that, it was kind of demystified.”
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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

My comments in the Washington Post regarding Ohio lawyer jailed for contempt


Washington Post
July 25, 2106

Youngstown, Ohio Attorney Andrea Burton was held in contempt of court and arrested after wearing a Black Lives Matter pin to court.

Matt Mangino, a criminal defense attorney who used to be a prosecutor in Lawrence County, which borders the county where Burton was arrested, told The Post that a judge has the authority to determine whether certain signs are “political.”

The judge can also determine whether wearing a certain button would be a distraction in the courtroom, or give the impression of bias. Mangino said:

            Judges obviously have wide latitude in their courtroom with regard to decorum and things like that as long as their rules are reasonable. It’s not uncommon to have dress codes and other sorts of things. What you normally might find is a sign outside that says lawyers need to wear ties or no cutoffs or tank tops.
            With regards to protests or political statements, things that can be controversial if they’re displayed in a courtroom, it may be akin to wearing a Hillary Clinton button in the court — anything that could disturb the court or disturb the decorum within a courtroom or lead to either the impression of bias.
            But you have to balance that with First Amendment. I think that distinction is in the eye   of the beholder.  A judge obviously has great authority and latitude within his or her courtroom.  He is the beholder.  Black Lives Matter is so new, what does it mean to a judge?  And how does a judge determine what that means.


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Monday, July 25, 2016

Shaken-Baby Syndrome in question, court orders new trial

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ordered a new trial for a man convicted of violently shaking his girlfriend’s toddler in 2007, the second ruling in six weeks that vacated guilty verdicts in shaken-baby cases, reported the Boston Globe
Taken together, the two court rulings underscored the court’s view that the “shaken-baby syndrome” diagnosis has become controversial, and defense lawyers who fail to challenge it could be depriving their clients of a fair trial.
In one case, the Supreme Judicial Court said the defense lawyer should have presented medical evidence challenging prosecutors who had depicted the child as a victim of shaken-baby syndrome.
In its unanimous ruling, the court found that jurors should have heard about the possibility that the 2-year-old’s catastrophic eye and brain injuries — which left her blind in one eye, cognitively impaired, and moving around in a wheelchair — could have been caused by a short fall of about 3 feet, like one that might have occurred from a kitchen stool.
Doubts have grown about shaken-baby syndrome among defense lawyers and some professional groups in recent years. Three state medical examiners in less than two years, for example, backed off earlier rulings that a baby died of shaken-baby syndrome, choosing instead after hearing from defense experts to say the cause was “undetermined.”
Several organizations submitted briefs, including The Innocence Network, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, and the Committee for Public Counsel Services.
Some medical organizations have pushed back, including the American Academy of Pediatrics,which fears marginal medical theories are gaining too much traction in the courts, allowing people who abuse infants to go free. In 2009, however, the academy did acknowledge the controversy brewing over the role that excessive shaking plays in creating extreme injuries.
The academy now tells doctors to use the term “abusive head trauma,” rather than shaken-baby syndrome, to indicate that traumatic blows to the head, not just shaking, are often behind the brain swelling and eye damage that afflict some 1,000 children each year, often causing permanent neurological damage if not death, the group said.
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Sunday, July 24, 2016

The GOP and Democrat party criminal justice platforms

The 2016 Republican and Democratic party platforms — the GOP’s approved last week, the Democrats’ still in draft form — swing hard to the right and left, reported The Marshall Project, 
That’s particularly clear this year on the subjects of crime and punishment. In the new Democratic party platform, the fingerprints of the Black Lives Matter movement and Bernie Sanders are apparent, in calls for independent investigations of police-involved shootings, more body cameras, and training in de-escalation. There is a declaration that “states that want to decriminalize marijuana should be able to do so.” There is also a call for the end of the death penalty, something President Obama and Hillary Clinton have not endorsed. Parts of the Democratic draft platform clearly repudiate the tough language their party embraced a generation ago, when their current candidate’s husband was president. The mother of Sandra Bland, who died at a Texas jail last year and became a symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement, is scheduled to speak at their convention next week in Philadelphia.
The Republican document reflects recent tensions in conservative circles. It includes the language of conservatives who call for reducing incarceration — influential Republican patrons like the Koch brothers, politicians like Rick Perry, Rand Paul and Newt Gingrich — but it also includes plenty of traditional invocations of law and order. An ambitious bipartisan sentencing reform effort in Congress, which Sen. Ted Cruz supported and then abandoned, has been whittled down and allowed to languish. And it was opponents of that bill including Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke who were in the lineup in Cleveland.
To review the parties criminal justice platforms CLICK HERE

Saturday, July 23, 2016

GateHouse: Why give criminals a second chance?

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
July 22, 2016

Several years ago when Ohio enacted legislation that provided an opportunity for offenders to wipe clean their record, Governor John Kasich said, “Who here doesn’t need to be redeemed? We are giving people a second chance.”

Why do criminals need a second chance?

When ex-offenders are released from prison their convictions make it extremely difficult to support themselves because of government-imposed barriers to successful reentry. For instance, Ohio has 46 statutes that impose driver license suspensions. Each of those contributes to the difficulty offenders have in finding or keeping a job.

Criminal records are easily available to potential employers, landlords and other members of the community. As a result, ex-offenders are frequently denied access to employment, housing and other community resources.

The stigma of a criminal past is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. An offender is convicted, goes to prison, gets out, can’t find legitimate work or housing, returns to crime, and back to prison. The cycle of recidivism is costly. The financial cost can be quantified. According to the Vera Institute, state prison population has grown 700 percent nationwide since the 1970s. The average cost to house an inmate for a year is $31,286. The human cost — equally enormous — cannot be broken down into tidy facts and figures.

Federal and state statutes prohibit certain types of employment for those convicted of a litany of offenses. Ex-offenders are statutorily prohibited from obtaining licenses for a number of occupations, according to the Urban Institute Reentry Roundtable.

Jobs requiring contact with children, some health care occupations and security firms are out-of-reach of ex-offenders. Many employers are simply reluctant to hire ex-offenders to positions that require handling money, merchandise, or where there is limited ability to monitor employee performance.

There are inherent obstacles for ex-offenders. Nearly 70 percent of all offenders are high school dropouts. In “Every Door Closed: Barriers Facing Parents with Criminal Records,” researchers found that about half of all offenders are “functionally illiterate.” Many offenders had limited, if any, employment history prior to incarceration and an absence of job skills.

However, a Texas study found that parolees who obtain employment spend more time crime-free in the community than unemployed parolees. The study further indicated that crime-free periods are indicative of positive behavioral changes that should be supplemented with clinical interventions to help offenders maintain the initial motivation associated with employment.

There are already some federal prohibitions against job discrimination regarding ex-felons. In the fall of 2009, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that screening out job applicants with a criminal record that would not affect their job performance is illegal because it has the effect of excluding minorities and males — these groups have disproportionately higher conviction rates than the general population.

This past June, the Obama Administration announced a series of education and jobs programs designed to ensure that people who are returning from prison to the community are equipped with the skills and resources necessary to obtain employment and support their families.

The Administration’s efforts include the Second Chance Pell Program. The Department of Education and selected colleges and universities will partner with a number of federal and state correctional institutions to enroll roughly 12,000 incarcerated students in educational and training programs. The Department of Labor will provide $31 million in grants to provide job training and a path to employment after prison.

Policymakers are coming to terms with the human and financial toll of a failed, and in some instances, a non-existent prison reentry system. Positive steps are being taken, but the road is long and the time is short.

— 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 mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Police robots and lethal force: Who should make the decision?

The unprecedented decision to blast Micah Xavier Johnson, who had killed five officers in one of the worst ambushes against U.S. law enforcement in modern history, was praised as an innovative way to eliminate a threat without risking more officers’ lives, according to the Washington Post. 
Police said they came up with the deadly plan in 20 minutes after Johnson said that “the end was coming” and negotiations with him broke down. Their use of a robot is prompting debate about the role of remote-controlled robots in law enforcement and whether their use to deliver lethal force should be left to the discretion of police departments or regulated by state or federal governments. “We’ve crossed a new frontier, and we look out and we see an absence of law and policy,” said Peter Singer of New America, who has written on technology, security and robotics.
That void, some worry, has the potential to lead to overuse of machines that can be used to injure, or kill, suspects. 
“Technology can change things,” said Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union. “When things become easier they tend to become overdone, and sometimes you need to reassess rules.” Police officials said robots were simply another tool in the police arsenal, and their use was already subject to strict laws and regulations about lethal force. “Technology cannot override the legal standards governing police use of deadly force,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. 
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