Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Virginia considers bringing back parole 20 years after its abolition

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will create a commission to study reinstating parole in Virginia, two decades after it was abolished by then-Gov. George Allen amid a wave of tough-on-crime laws across the country, reported the Washington Post.
During a radio appearance Wednesday, McAuliffe (D) signed an executive order to review whether doing away with parole reduced crime and recidivism, analyze costs and make recommendations.
“It’s time to review whether that makes sense. Is it keeping our citizens safe? Is it a reasonable, good, cost-effective way? Are we rehabilitating folks?” he said. “Are sentences too long for nonviolent offenses? Are we keeping people in prison too long?”
The move is consistent with McAuliffe’s push to restore voting rights to thousands of former prisoners and remove from state job applications questions about criminal records, known as the ‘ban the box’ campaign.
It also comes at a time when the country is redefining the way it enforces its laws, and sometimes questioning the strict policing and corrections strategies of the 1990s.
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Mangino talks The Executioner's Toll on Justice for All

Listen to my interview with Georges Yates on Justice For All on WHKT-AM regarding my book The Executioner's Toll, 2010.  To listen CLICK HERE

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mangino talks lethal injection on KABC in Los Angeles

Listen to my interview on Dr. Drew Midday Live with Mike Catherwood on KABC in Los Angeles, California.  To listen CLICK HERE

Pennsylvania bill seeks to end civil asset forfeiture

A proposal to end civil asset forfeiture in Pennsylvania has bipartisan backing among state lawmakers, reported WESA-FM.
House and Senate plans would halt a practice that allows law enforcement to seize property from someone accused, but not convicted, of certain crimes.
The legislation would require law enforcement to first get a conviction before seizing any property. Under the House and Senate bills, any money generated from the seizure or sale of those items could not go straight into the coffers of the law enforcement unit.
The effort faces fierce opposition from prosecutors, some of whom use civil forfeiture to help fund their investigations. The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association calls the policy is an important public safety tool and a way to take the profit out of drug crimes.
At a press conference Tuesday, several supporters hastened to add that they are not “anti-police.”
“We support law enforcement, we support our district attorneys,” said Rep. Tim Krieger (R-Westmoreland). “But no one should have their property taken from them without being charged.”
“We support the D.A.s," added Sen. Tony Williams (D-Philadelphia, "but we don’t support robbery represented in government, wrapped in the flag."
The city of Philadelphia, along with its police department and district attorney’s office, is facing a class-action lawsuit from property owners over its use of civil asset forfeiture.
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Monday, June 29, 2015

Supreme Court upheld use of Oklahoma execution drug

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld the use of a key drug used in Oklahoma's lethal injection protocol, reported The Huffington Post.

The lawsuit that prompted the decision was brought on by lead plaintiff Richard Glossip, an Oklahoma inmate who has been on death row for 17 years. Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that midazolam, the first drug used in Oklahoma's three-part lethal injection protocol, can't reliably render an inmate unconscious and free of pain while the second and third drugs paralyze him and stop his heart, thus making the execution cruel and unusual punishment. Midazolam was first used in Oklahoma's botched execution of Clayton Lockett in 2014, and since then has been used in putting to death more than a dozen inmates.

GateHouse: Supreme Court makes it easier to prosecute child abuse

Matthew T. Mangino 
GateHouse Media 
June 26, 2015 
Confrontation plays a significant role in every criminal trial. Not the yelling, threatening, finger-pointing conduct we have grown accustomed to when we hear the word confrontation. The Sixth Amendment provides that an accused has the right to confront all witnesses against him.
In theory, the Confrontation Clause insures that a person charged with a crime has the right to come face-to-face with an accusing witness. That confrontation comes in the form of cross-examination.
Over time the Confrontation Clause was weakened by a series of court decisions. More and more statements made outside of court were being admitted at trial.
In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court made a major Confrontation Clause decision barring most out-of-court statements of witnesses who were unavailable to testify at trial. The court reaffirmed that cross-examination is required to admit a prior testimonial statement of an unavailable witness.
According to Noah Feldman, a Bloomberg columnist, Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion in 2004 required the court to ask whether the out-of-court statement was a form of testimony. If it was, the statement would be excluded; if not, it could be admitted. Scalia intended to toughen the standards for admitting testimony making it more difficult to admit statements made out of court when the witness was unavailable to testify.
Since 2004, the Supreme Court has examined the Sixth Amendment with differing results. The high court recently carved out an exception. The court ruled unanimously that if a child tells a teacher about a crime and the child is not old enough to testify in court, the statements made to the teacher may be used at trial without violating the Confrontation Clause.
The case, out of Ohio, involved comments made by a 3-year-old boy to his preschool teacher about physical abuse at the hand of his mother’s boyfriend. Prosecutors used what the boy said as evidence to help convict the boyfriend. Under Ohio law, children under age 10 are considered too young to be able to give competent testimony in court, so the boy was not called as a witness.
“The question in this case is whether the Sixth Amendment’s confrontation clause prohibited prosecutors from introducing those statements when the child was not available to be cross examined,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito. “Because neither the child nor his teachers had the primary purpose of assisting in [the boyfriend’s] prosecution, the child’s statements do not implicate the confrontation clause and therefore were admissible at trial.”
Justice Alito said that there could be additional circumstances in which an out-of-court statement to someone other than police could be used at trial without violating the Confrontation Clause. Alito went on to write that the out-of-court statement of a child too young to testify would almost always be admitted. 
 Justice Alito was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan, Anthony M. Kennedy, and Sonia Sotomayor. The three other Justices only supported the decision’s outcome, not Alito’s reasoning.  
Justice Scalia, in a separate opinion joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, took on Alito for trying to undermine his 2004 opinion that sought to bolster the Confrontation Clause. Scalia in his usual caustic tone accused Alito of undermining a fundamental right protected by the U.S. Constitution. 
The decision is not a complete surprise. In this time of heightened sensitivity to physical and sexual abuse of children, this decision is a logical step in the ever expanding ability to prosecute and punish those who prey on children. 
According to the USA Today, those who advocate for educators were encouraged by the decision. “This case could have had a chilling effect on teacher-student interactions,” said Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a, president of the National Education Association. “Teachers aren’t cops. To confuse those two roles could have hampered educators’ ability to help their students.” 
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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Sunday, June 28, 2015

FBI police shooting figures 'way too low'

Tom Engelhardt wrote in The Nation that killings at the hand of police has been in the news a lot  lately. The figures the FBI have traditionally compiled on police shootings have proven to be way too low, so others have entered the fray. The Washington Post, for instance, recently began compiling a database of “every fatal shooting by police” in the United States in 2015. Their figure so far: at least 385  for the first five months of 2015 or approximately one of every 13  non-suicide gun deaths so far this year.
“About half the victims,” the Post reports, “were white, half minority. But the demographics shifted sharply among the unarmed victims, two-thirds of whom were black or Hispanic. Overall, blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities when adjusting by the population of the census tracts where the shootings occurred.” A Guardian study  adds this detail: “Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as white people.”
According to  The Guardian, a recent Bureau of Justice report found that over the last eight years an average of 928 Americans have died annually at the hands of the police. (FBI figures: only 383.) In other words in those years, there were 7,427 police homicides, the equivalent of more than two 9/11s. Compared to other developed countries, these figures are staggering. There were, for instance, more fatal police shootings  in the United States in the month of March 2015 than Australia had between 1992 and 2011. Similarly, there have been almost three times as many police shootings in California alone in 2015 as Canada experiences annually.

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