Thursday, October 17, 2019

Las Vegas will no longer take firearms in DV cases

The cities of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas will prosecute misdemeanor domestic violence cases without requiring those convicted to give up their firearms, reported the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Las Vegas officials said the decision could face legal challenges from critics of the new policy.
In a 6-1 vote, the Las Vegas City Council approved the ordinance Wednesday in response to a recent state Supreme Court ruling that requires defendants in such cases to be afforded the option of a jury trial. Councilman Cedric Crear voted against the plan.
The high court ruled a month ago that defendants were entitled to a trial after deeming the offense no longer “petty” but a “serious” one because of a 2015 state law that banned convicted individuals from possessing firearms.
Officials in Las Vegas have lamented that the city’s municipal court is ill-equipped to hold trials because it does not have jury boxes or administration, plus there are not enough city prosecutors or judges, nor a means to summon a jury pool. In addition, state law doesn’t allow for jury trials in municipal courts.
Other cities in Nevada face similar burdens. Henderson unanimously passed a similar ordinance Tuesday, while North Las Vegas passed its ordinance Wednesday night in a 3-1 vote. Councilman Isaac Barron cast the lone vote against the measure but did not explain his opposition. Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown was not present for the vote.
“Without this solution, battery domestic violence that happens in this city cannot and will not be prosecuted, and victims will be left with limited criminal legal resource,” North Las Vegas City Attorney Micaela Moore told council members.
To read more CLICK HERE


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Supreme Court Brief asks 'What's the matter with Kansas?'

Tony Mauro and Marcia Coyle ask “What's the matter with Kansas” on the National Law Journal’s Supreme Court Brief. Today the Supreme Court  will hear argument in Kansas v. Garcia, the second of three cases this term in which the Sunflower State is a named party. On October 7, the first argument was Kahler v. Kansas. And on November 4, the court will hear Kansas v. Glover. All three are criminal cases.

It is rare but not unprecedented for a state to become directly involved in so many cases in a single term. According to Dan Schweitzer, Supreme Court counsel for the National Association of Attorneys General, Texas, Michigan and California—all large states—have argued three cases before the Supreme Court in recent terms, and in 2010, California had four.

In July, when the argument dates were set, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt remarked in a statement: “It is highly unusual for a single state, especially a small state like Kansas, to have three cases pending before the court simultaneously. We are working vigorously to prepare for these three arguments and look forward to presenting the state’s cases in the fall.”

So how can the frequent appearances of Kansas be explained? We asked former Kansas solicitor general Stephen McAllister, a former U.S. Supreme Court law clerk and a scholar of the high court who is currently U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas.

“As a general matter, Kansas has a Supreme Court that is off the rails,” McAllister said, stressing that he was speaking on his own behalf, not for the government. “They’ve gone overboard on the defendants’ side and they’ve gotten the Supreme Court’s attention.”

The Kansas Supreme Court in the Kahler case went against the defendant on an insanity defense, but in Garcia, an immigration case, and Glover, a Fourth Amendment traffic stop dispute, the Kansas high court ruled for the defendant.

To handle the trilogy, Kansas AG Schmidt has rolled up his sleeves himself. He will be arguing today in the Garcia case, his third U.S. Supreme Court argument. State solicitor general Toby Crouse was at the lectern on October 7, and Crouse will do it again in November.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Natural causes kills another on death row

Charles Walton Wright, was scheduled to be executed on October 10, 2019.  He wasn't executed.  He didn't get a reprieve or clemency from the governor of Tennessee. He died of natural causes on death row.  That is the fate for many on death row they don't die of lethal injection but instead natural causes.
Wright, 64, died just before noon on May 19, 2019 at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, said his lawyer, federal public defender Kelley Henry, according to The Tennessean. He had been in the prison infirmary for months.
Wright was bedridden and suffered from terminal cancer that spread from his prostate into his bones. A statement from the Tennessee Department of Correction confirmed he died of natural causes. 
In a statement, Henry said Wright's legal team was grateful to the prison and medical staff for "professional and considerate care" during his illness.
"He has struggled a great deal these past six months. He fought mightily to beat his illness," Henry said. "He desperately wanted to one day touch the grass and eat his sister’s cooking. He will be missed."
Wright's execution was scheduled for Oct. 10.
Before he died, Wright's legal team was fighting to get him clemency that would have stopped the execution and allowed him to die naturally outside of prison.
To read more CLICK HERE


Monday, October 14, 2019

Columbus Day--the celebration of Italian heritage--grew out of the lynching of 11 Italians in 1890 New Orleans

On this Columbus Day, Brent Staples writes in the New York Times about the lynching of 11 Italians in New Orleans.  Staples does not hold back on his employer (The Times) and its deplorable, racist, violence condoning writing of the late 19th and early 20th.
The carnage in New Orleans was set in motion in the fall of 1890, when the city’s popular police chief, David Hennessy, was assassinated on his way home one evening. Hennessy had no shortage of enemies. The historian John V. Baiamonte Jr. writes that he had once been tried for murder in connection with the killing of a professional rival. He is also said to have been involved in a feud between two Italian businessmen. On the strength of a clearly suspect witness who claimed to hear Mr. Hennessy say that “dagoes” had shot him, the city charged 19 Italians with complicity in the chief’s murder. 
That the evidence was distressingly weak was evident from the verdicts that were swiftly handed down: Of the first nine to be tried, six were acquitted; three others were granted mistrials. The leaders of the mob that then went after them advertised their plans in advance, knowing full well that the city’s elites — who coveted the businesses the Italians had built or hated the Italians for fraternizing with African-Americans — would never seek justice for the dead. After the lynching, a grand jury investigation pronounced the killings praiseworthy, turning that inquiry into what the historian Barbara Botein describes as “possibly one of the greatest whitewashes in American history.”
The blood of the New Orleans victims was scarcely dry when The Times published a cheerleading news story — “Chief Hennessy Avenged: Eleven of his Italian Assassins Lynched by a Mob” — that reveled in the bloody details. It reported that the mob had consisted “mostly of the best element” of New Orleans society. The following day, a scabrous Times editorial justified the lynching — and dehumanized the dead, with by-now-familiar racist stereotypes.
“These sneaking and cowardly Sicilians,” the editors wrote, “the descendants of bandits and assassins, who have transported to this country the lawless passions, the cutthroat practices … are to us a pest without mitigations. Our own rattlesnakes are as good citizens as they. Our own murderers are men of feeling and nobility compared to them.” The editors concluded of the lynching that it would be difficult to find “one individual who would confess that privately he deplores it very much.”
Few who march in Columbus Day parades or recount the tale of Columbus’s voyage from Europe to the New World are aware of how the holiday came about or that President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed it as a one-time national celebration in 1892 — in the wake of a bloody New Orleans lynching that took the lives of 11 Italian immigrants. 
To read more CLICK HERE


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Watergate prosecutors call for impeachment of President Trump

The following are all former members of the Justice Department’s special prosecutor team that investigated the Watergate scandal, who signed the following letter to the Washington Post calling for the impeachment of President Trump:
Nick Akerman, former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York
Richard Ben-Veniste, former member of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
Richard J. Davis, former assistant secretary of the treasury for enforcement and operations
Carl B. Feldbaum, former inspector general for Defense Intelligence, former assistant to the energy secretary and former chief of staff to Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter
George T. Frampton Jr., former assistant secretary of the Interior and former chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality
Kenneth S. Geller, formerly deputy U.S. solicitor general
Gerald Goldman, former clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan
Stephen E. Haberfeld, former U.S. magistrate judge in the Central District of California
Larry Hammond, former first deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel
Henry Hecht, lecturer in residence at University of California at Berkeley School of Law
Paul R. Hoeber, lawyer in private practice
Philip Allen Lacovara, former deputy solicitor general of the United States; former special counsel to the House Ethics Committee; and former president of the D.C. Bar
Paul R. Michel, former chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and former associate deputy attorney general of the United States
Robert L. Palmer, lawyer in private practice
Richard Weinberg, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York
Jill Wine-Banks, former general counsel of the U.S. Army; former solicitor general and deputy attorney general of the state of Illinois; and former chief operating officer of the American Bar Association
Roger Witten, lawyer in private practice

We, former members of the Watergate special prosecutor force, believe there exists compelling prima facie evidence that President Trump has committed impeachable offenses. This evidence can be accepted as sufficient for impeachment, unless disproved by any contrary evidence that the president may choose to offer.
The ultimate judgment on whether to impeach the president is for members of the House of Representatives to make. The Constitution establishes impeachment as the proper mechanism for addressing these abuses; therefore, the House should proceed with the impeachment process, fairly, openly and promptly. The president’s refusal to cooperate in confirming (or disputing) the facts already on the public record should not delay or frustrate the House’s performance of its constitutional duty.
In reaching these conclusions, we take note of 1) the public statements by Trump himself; 2) the findings of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation; 3) the readout that the president released of his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; 4) the president’s continuing refusal to produce documents or allow testimony by current and former government employees for pending investigations, as well as for oversight matters; and 5) other information now publicly available, including State Department text messages indicating that the release of essential military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on Ukraine’s willingness to commence a criminal investigation designed to further the president’s political interests.
In the 1970s, we investigated serious abuses of presidential power by President Richard M. Nixon, including obstruction of justice, concealment of government records and misuse of government agencies to punish his political enemies. We prosecuted many of Nixon’s aides for their complicity in Nixon’s offenses. Rather than indicting the president, the grand jury named him an unindicted co-conspirator, delivered to the House a “road map” of the evidence implicating him in wrongdoing and deferred to the House’s constitutional responsibility to address such presidential wrongdoing through the impeachment process.
mmittee, fulfilled that responsibility by reviewing the evidence, interviewing witnesses and concluding that the facts warranted adopting three articles of impeachment: one for obstruction, one for abuse of power and one for contempt of Congress. Shortly thereafter, the president resigned rather than face a Senate trial.
In our considered view, the same three articles of impeachment could be specified against Trump, as he has demonstrated serious and persistent abuses of power that, in our view, satisfy the constitutional standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” For example:
● Trump conditioned protection of the military security of the United States and of an ally (Ukraine) on actions for his personal political benefit.
● Trump subordinated the integrity of our national electoral process to his own personal political interest by soliciting and encouraging foreign government interference in our electoral process, including by Russia and China. He also appears to have demanded that Ukraine investigate a potential 2020 political opponent and pursue the conspiracy theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 presidential election, despite the unanimous conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community that it was Russia that had interfered.
● According to the evidence laid out in the Mueller report, Trump engaged in multiple acts of obstruction of justice in violation of federal criminal statutes and of his oath of office to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Because Mueller viewed Justice Department policy as precluding him from filing criminal charges against the president, the special counsel appropriately stated that these abuses are for Congress to address.
● Trump obstructed lawful congressional investigations by systematically withholding evidence and by directing government agencies and employees to refuse to cooperate with legitimate oversight by Congress. Most significantly, the president’s blanket refusal to honor requests for relevant information sought by House members conducting an impeachment inquiry constitutes impeachable contempt and obstruction. The public is entitled to know the facts, and Congress is the body our democracy has entrusted with uncovering them.
The Constitution provides for the elected representatives of the people to resort to impeachment in extraordinary circumstances showing that this drastic remedy is necessary to restrain, and possibly remove, a president who has engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors. Proper regard for reestablishing and protecting the rule of law requires firm and resolute action by the House. Lawmakers should not allow any refusal by the president to cooperate in its process to frustrate the performance of its constitutional duties.
If a bill of impeachment comes before the Senate, we urge all members of the Senate to put aside partisan loyalties and carry out their own constitutional duties courageously and honestly. In 1974, it was a group of Republican senators who put national interest over party loyalty and informed Nixon that his conduct was indefensible and would compel conviction by the Senate and removal from office. We hope the current Senate would similarly put honor and integrity above partisanship and personal political interest.
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, October 12, 2019

GateHouse: Crime rates fall, reform amps up

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
October 11, 2019
The FBI recently announced that violent crime fell 3.9% in 2018. The numbers are recorded by police departments across the country and compiled annually by the FBI. The violent crime rate in the United States has been cut nearly in half in the last 25 years.
In 2015 and 2016 there was an uptick in violence as recorded by the FBI. Some feared that the increase was a harbinger of more dangerous times. The latest data puts that fear to rest.
Ames Grawert, senior counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice, a research institute at New York University’s School of Law, told The Marshall Project, “That’s a really good sign that the long term trend towards greater safety is not in fact reversed, and that we’re moving past whatever happened in 2015 and 2016.” She pointed out “that two years isn’t a trend, and two years doesn’t break a trend.”
The good news from the FBI has further bolstered reform-minded prosecutors like Larry Krasner in Philadelphia; reform governors like California’s Gavin Newsom; and just about every member of a crowded field of Democrats running for president.
The leading Democrats have all come out with a crime reform plan that, by all accounts, would have immediately delegitimized their candidacies just two presidential campaign cycles ago.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is advocating for the end of cash bail. She said, “We should allow people to return to their jobs and families while they wait for trial.” She takes issue with pre-trial civil forfeiture, “I’ll reverse the Trump administration’s policy expanding pre-trial civil forfeiture at the federal level, and restrict the use of civil forfeiture overall.”
Warren also seeks to cap fines and fees at a percentage of income for low-income individuals. She believes states should also eliminate the profit incentive that drives excessive fees and fines by capping the percentage of municipal revenues derived from the justice system, and diverting seized assets.
California Senator Kamala Harris supports ending mass incarceration, supports states legalizing marijuana and legalizing marijuana on the federal level, ending mandatory minimum sentencing on the federal level and incentivizing states to do the same. Invest money in states to shorten the length of probation and other forms of community supervision and end jail time for technical probation and parole violations
A consistent pattern of reform is beginning to emerge.
Congressman Bernie Sanders’ wish list for criminal justice reform is massive. According to his website, Bernie would abolish the death penalty; stop excessive sentencing with the goal of cutting the incarceration rate in half and end mandatory minimum sentencing. That sounds awfully familiar.
He would reinstate a federal parole system and end truth-in-sentencing. He would expand the use of sentencing alternatives - including community supervision and publicly funded halfway house - and revitalize the executive clemency process by creating an independent clemency board removed from the Department of Justice and placed in the White Hous
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s reform plan is equally ambitious. He pledges to decriminalize marijuana, eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes, end the death penalty, abolish private prisons, get rid of cash bail and discourage the incarceration of children. For the Democrat contenders it’s wash, rinse, repeat.
Biden would also create a new $20 billion grant program that encourages states to reduce incarceration and crime.
As for South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, read any of the above plans ... abolish the death penalty, end cash bail, reduce prison population and eliminate private prisons.
“This is a conversation that is unrecognizable from 10 years ago - even five years ago - when these kinds of proposals wouldn’t have been floated in back rooms, let alone in public,” Adam Gelb, president of the Council on Criminal Justice, a nonpartisan research organization, told the New York Times.
President Donald Trump’s take on criminal justice reform, like Republican presidents before him, is confrontational. “They (Democrats) don’t mind crime,” he said recently at a rally in New Hampshire. “We do mind crime.”
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 www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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Friday, October 11, 2019

Thiel College-Death Penalty

The Death Penalty-Comment Project 3

The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled that a method of execution violated the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment.  Which method of execution--hanging, electrocution, gas, firing squad, lethal injection--do you find most humane? Explain you answer.