Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Virginia continues with three drug execution protocol

There has been a change in the manner executions are carried out in this country.  A number of states, led by Ohio, have moved from a three drug lethal injection protocol to a single drug protocol.

Recently, Virginia shocked death penalty experts and altered their execution process, but maintained a three drug protocol.

The Virginia Department of Corrections announced that it would begin using rocuronium bromide due to a nationwide shortage of pancuronium bromide, reported the Washington Post. The latter had been used across the country as step two of a three-drug protocol since shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Both drugs paralyze muscles.

So far, all of the other death-penalty states have responded to the shortage by switching to a one-drug regimen: administering a larger, lethal dose of the sedative that traditionally had been used as the first step in the process.  Those states moving to a single drug protocol have not had any problems carrying out execution.

Virginia’s provided no explanation for its curious decision. Virginia has executed 109 prisoners since the death penalty was reinstated, making it the second-biggest death penalty state behind Texas, which has put 483 to death.

To read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/virginia-opts-for-one-drug-lethal-injection-protocol/2012/07/27/gJQA8jxiEX_story.html

Monday, July 30, 2012

Support for the death penalty?

The impact of knowing the victim or circumstances of murder

The death penalty is at its lowest point of public support in 40 years.  Last fall, a Gallup poll had 61 percent of Americans supporting the death penalty, the lowest number since 1972.  Support peaked at 80 percent in 1994.

However, if violence touches an individual, even indirectly, support seems to soar.  Take Dan Gabler for instance.  His neighbors were murdered in Arizona.  One of the killers is scheduled for execution next month.

Gabler told the Arizona News, “I’d like to be there when they put the needle in him. I’d help them out,” He continued, “As far as I’m concerned they should have got a rope and hung Dan Cook right off the (London) bridge and charged pay per view for anyone who wants to see it. I’ve got no qualms about that man dying."

“They don’t deserve to live on the face of this earth,” Gabler said. “They were living by the law of the jungle, not the law of the land.”

After Timothy McVeigh was convicted of the Oklahoma City bombing 81 percent of Americans supported his execution.  That was more people than admitted to supporting the death penalty at the time. In 2006, when 65 percent of people said they supported the death penalty, 82 percent supported the execution of Saddam Hussein.

A look back at some execution in 2010 found responses similar to Dan Gabler.  Following an Ohio execution someone said, “The son-of-a-bitch is dead.”  In Georgia, “I hope he burns 70 times in hell.”  In Texas, as the execution approached, someone remarked, “I can’t wait for that bastard to take his last breath.”  Also, in Texas a victim’s supporter commented, “They should have hung him.”

The death penalty evokes a different response from individuals touch by the brutal death of someone they know  or circumstances they become aware of directly or indirectly.

To read more: http://www.azinews.com/2012/07/27/execution-cheerleader/

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Confusion reigns in wake of Miller v. Alabama

York County, Pennsylvania has nine men and one teen -- 17-year-old Jordan Wallick -- serving life without parole sentences for murders they committed when they were under the age of 18, reported the York Daily Record.

In a 5-4 decision issued on June 25, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole for juveniles violates the Eighth Amendment's ban against "cruel and unusual punishment."

This week, York County defense attorney Dawn Cutaia asked Judge Michael Bortner to vacate the now "illegal" life without parole sentence of Wallick and schedule a re-sentencing hearing.

Wallick, who was 15 when he killed a man and was convicted of second-degree murder. In May, Bortner sentenced him to the only available penalty--mandatory life in prison without parole.

Cutaia asked that Wallick be re-sentenced to the next available "legal" penalty, which is 20 to 40 years in prison. Pennsylvania does not have a sentence of life with the possibility of parole.

Senior prosecutor Lishani Sunday agreed that Wallick's life without parole sentence, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, was both unconstitutional and illegal.

However, she said neither the U.S. Supreme Court, the Pennsylvania appellate courts nor the state legislature has provided the district attorney offices with any guidance on what sentence former juvenile lifers should receive, reported the Daily Record.

Therefore the commonwealth remains opposed to any other sentence for Wallick than life without parole.

Complicating matters are two other juvenile lifer cases--one before the state Supreme Court and one ruled on last week by the state Superior Court.

Both cases had been tabled as the Pennsylvania courts waited on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision.

The state Supreme Court now has asked the prosecution and defense in the Commonwealth vs. Batts to file supplemental recommending "the appropriate remedy" and "what relief, if any" the court should consider as available to juvenile lifers.

The Superior Court merely vacated the life without parole sentence in the Commonwealth vs. Knox and remanded it to the trial court "for the limited purpose of re-sentencing."

"It's a mess," Sunday told the Daily Record.

To read more: http://www.ydr.com/crime/ci_21148611/courts-at-loss-what-do-juvenile-lifers

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cab fare $5, jail stay $1,425, decision priceless

Ex-inmate jailed for refusing to leave jail

Rodney Dwayne Valentine had spent two months in a North Carolina prison.  It would seem that Valentine would be counting the minutes to his freedom.  Not so fast, Valentine had other plans. Things were fine and dandy in the Rockingham County jail and Valentine was staying, reported Time Magazine.

The problem was that the jail didn't want him any longer. 

Valentine, 37, had been in jail since May 22 on a charge of damage to personal property. He was released last Saturday, July 21, at 8 a.m., and asked deputies to drive him to a local motel. They refused, and in turn, Valentine refused to leave the premises.

Corrections officers suggested Valentine find another way to get to the motel, such as in a cab, but he was unwilling to do so. Deputies continued to insist Valentine leave the property, but he simply wouldn’t. By 1 p.m. that afternoon, Valentine still hadn’t left, so authorities charged him with second-degree trespassing — and sent him right back to his old cell.

So lets get this straight, Valentine wants to stay--the jail wants him out--so authorities arrest him and put him back in jail. Cab fare $5, jail stay $1,425, decision priceless

Valentine is being held on a $500 secured bond--you guessed it he has not posted the bond--and is due in court August 9 on these new charges. At least another two weeks in prison--mission accomplished.

To read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/07/27/man-refuses-to-leave-jail-is-arrested-for-trespassing-sent-back-to-cell/#ixzz21rmkhgOf

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Cautionary Instruction: Three states, three approaches and three very different results

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
July 27, 2012

In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Panetti vs. Quarterman. The court was asked to decide whether a condemned prisoner had a "rational understanding" of his crime and punishment for purposes of execution.

The court also addressed the retributive purpose of capital punishment, "it might be said that capital punishment is imposed because it has the potential to make the offender recognize at last the gravity of his crime and to allow the community as a whole [to] affirm its own judgment that the culpability of the prisoner is so serious that the ultimate penalty must be sought and imposed."

Cases pending before courts in Texas, Oregon and Georgia point to the absurdity of death penalty litigation. In Georgia, the court stayed the execution of a man with an IQ of 69, not because he is mentally retarded, but because a state court wants to examine a newly implemented execution protocol. In Texas, the court said a schizophrenic killer is competent and his execution should proceed. In Oregon, where the governor granted a reprieve to all condemned killers, one man is demanding to be executed.

The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday stayed the execution of condemned killer Warren Hill two hours before his scheduled execution. The high court unanimously granted the stay to determine whether a recent change to Georgia’s lethal injection protocol violates state law.

Separately the court declined to hear Hill’s appeal challenging the state’s standard to determine whether Hill is mentally retarded and thus ineligible for execution.

In Texas, a county judge on Tuesday refused to order a psychiatric evaluation for Marcus Druery to determine whether the inmate is competent to be put to death. All parties agreed that Druery is schizophrenic.

Druery hears voices and believes he is being poisoned with feces-spiked food. His speech is illogical, and although he has been on death row almost six years, he insists that he is serving only a 10-month sentence.

Texas plans to proceed with Druery’s execution even though he refuses to take his medication and does not acknowledge his mental illness.

In Oregon, Governor John Kitzhaber is morally opposed to the death penalty. He granted everyone on death row a reprieve, at least while he is governor. However, not everyone agrees with Kitzhaber, including a recipient of his repreive.

Gary Haugen waived his appeal and volunteered to be executed. His attorney is arguing that in past cases the Oregon Supreme Court has adopted an 1833 U.S. Supreme Court decision authored by Chief Justice John Marshall that suggests inmates must agree to a pardon for it to take effect.

The trial court seems receptive to Haugen’s argument.

Three states, three different approaches and three very different results. The news this week points to the absurdity of a 33 state approach to capital punishment.

Visit Ipso Facto

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fascination with serial killers lingers long after crimes

Jeffrey Dahmer's boyhood home in Akron, OH is for sale.  Dahmer was convicted of killing 15 men in a 13-year horrific spree in Milwaukee that spanned from 1978 to 1991.  The killings involved torture and cannnibalism. He was sentenced to 957 years in prison, but was beaten to death by a fellow prisoner in 1994.

Dahmer's former home is located on Bath Road in a wooded area of the suburban Midwest town, the 3 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom single family home was recently listed on the market for $329,000, reported RadarOnline.com.

Built in 1952, it is enthusiastically described by realtors as an "amazing 50's Ranch! Lush and beautiful flowers and trees decorate the landscape, which you can view from the oversized windows in the formal living room. Inside you will find plenty of space to create your own personal feel! Granite counters in the kitchen. Wood burning fireplaces!"

Why the morbid fascination with serial killers? 

 Author John Verdon suggests, "What logic there is in the behavior of the serial murderer is the logic of darkness and destruction. Serial murder is about the act of murder. In its purest form, the murder is not secondary to any sane goal. It is murder for the sake of murder, killing for the pleasure of killing. It’s about the power and excitement of summoning death itself."
Verdon's new book, "Let the Devil Sleep" is about a serial killer.  Verdon said about serial killer fiction, "This might appear at first glance odd material for casual airplane and beach reading. And yet, there’s a long human history of seeking diversion via immersion in the most dreadful fantasies. So-called fairy tales are an instructive example. We humans have a deep interest in monsters and horror. Picturing fantastical threats seems to be a basic function of our brains."
Not only did the Dahmer grow up in the cozy Akron home, he also committed his first murder there, according to a 2009 NPR article.

"Dahmer did commit his first murder here -- a hitchhiker whom he lured back to the house with promises of drugs and alcohol, and then clubbed with a barbell. Dahmer later dismembered the corpse in the house's crawlspace."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Gun-rights group goes after reporter

 A North Carolina television station, WRAL-TV, report on concealed-weapons that included a searchable database has a gun-rights organization launching a campaign against the reporter and his supervisors and applied pressure to the station’s advertisers, reported th Raleigh News & Observerer.

 A searcher looking at a particular town or city will see the streets where gun-permit holders live but won’t see the name or specific address of the permit holder. When their effort to have the site taken down failed, a gun-rights group turned to his organization’s email alert network, asking 50,000 people to deliver a message to the investigative reporter who posted the information, his bosses, and the station’s advertisers.

The gun-rights group posted informationabout the reporter culled from websites and social media sites, including photos of the reporter’s wife and children.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/07/25/2218895/gun-rights-group-pressures-tv.html#storylink=cpy
To read more: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/07/25/2218895/gun-rights-group-pressures-tv.html

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

'Stand your ground' defense dominated by convicted criminals

Florida legislators sold "stand your ground" as a legal protection for law-abiding Floridians who were forced, through no fault of their own, to defend their family and property.

A Tampa Bay Times analysis of "stand your ground" cases found that it has been used mostly by people with records of crime and violence.  A review of arrest records for those involved in more than 100 fatal "stand your ground" cases shows:

• Nearly 60 percent of those who claimed self-defense had been arrested at least once before the day they killed someone.
• More than 30 of those defendants, about one in three, had been accused of violent crimes, including assault, battery or robbery. Dozens had drug offenses on their records.
• Killers have invoked "stand your ground" even after repeated run-ins with the law. Forty percent had three arrests or more. Dozens had at least four arrests.
• More than a third of the defendants had previously been in trouble for threatening someone with a gun or illegally carrying a weapon.
• In dozens of cases, both the defendant and the victim had criminal records, sometimes related to long-running feuds or criminal enterprises. Of the victims that could be identified in state records, 64 percent had at least one arrest. Several had 20 or more arrests.

All together 119 people are known to have killed someone and invoked "stand your ground." Those people have been arrested 327 times in incidents involving violence, property crimes, drugs, weapons or probation violations. That does not include more than 100 traffic violations and other minor arrests not considered in the analysis, reported the Times.

To read more:    http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/criminal/many-killers-who-go-free-with-florida-stand-your-ground-law-have-history/1241378

Monday, July 23, 2012

Florida Innocence Commission issues recommendations

In its final report released last week, the Florida Innocence Commission addressed the issues of eyewitness misidentification, false confessions and the lack of evidence preservation, among other mishaps that can wrongfully convict innocent people. Among the recommendations:

• Having photos be shown to a witness one at a time, instead of a “six-pack” lineup, and shown by someone who does not know which photo is the suspect.
• A law requiring police to record all in-custody interrogations.
• Letting juries know when a witness in a trial is a jailhouse informant to be rewarded with a shorter sentence for testifying.

All are solid reforms, but without adequate financial support to the courts all of the commission’s work will end up on a shelf, reported the Miami Herald.

To read more:  http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/07/05/2880818/justice-denied-in-cash-strapped.html

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Filicide: 1 in 33 homicides is parent killing child

The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently examined the phenomenon known as filicide.  The killing of a child under the age of 18 by a parent.   Such killings are more common than most people might want to believe, and not all parents who do it are mentally unhinged.

The Star Tribune took of the issue after Aaron Schaffhausen was accused of slashing the throats of his three young daughters in River Falls, WI.

According to one of the country's foremost experts, "The general lay-public response is they must be crazy, but that's not always the case," said Dr. Phillip Resnick, a professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Only some are psychotic, he said, meaning they have no command of what is real.

Resnick, who has for 40 years evaluated parents accused of killing their kids, conducted a seminal study on filicide in which he identified five types of the crime.

One type -- revenge against a spouse -- may best fit the scenario authorities laid out in the charges against Schaffhausen, 34, who was divorced from the girls' mother in January.

Resnick said one out of every 33 homicides in the United States is the killing of a child under 18 by their parent, or between 250 and 300 of the country's killings each year. In a 2005 study, he found filicide to be the third-leading cause of death of American children ages 5 to 14, reported the Star Tribune.

After spouses killing spouses, parents killing children is the most common variety of family homicide, according to a U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics study of homicides from 1976 to 2005.

Some parents say they killed the kids for their own good, a category Resnick calls the "altruistic type."

"Often they'll intend to take their own life and take the children with them as an extended suicide, or they have the delusion the children are better off dead," Resnick said.

When parents kills infants, it's often because they never wanted the baby -- a third type of filicide -- or they fatally abuse the baby, a fourth type, Resnick said.

The fifth type is acute psychosis, a truly mentally ill person who has no comprehensible motive, is delirious or believes someone or something is commanding the killing, according to the Star Tribune.

To read more: http://www.startribune.com/local/162485846.html?page=all&prepage=2&c=y#continue

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Arkansas Supreme Ct. plays 'hide and seek' with the death penalty

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel contends that the state Supreme Court's resistance to the death penalty is obvious and a bit disingenuous, reported the Arkansas News Bureau.

In an interview with the News Bureau McDaniel said, “If the Supreme Court thinks … that executions should be declared unconstitutional, then they should do that. But instead, since the day I became attorney general they’ve simply erected one procedural hurdle after another to ensure that we can’t execute those who have committed the most heinous crimes in Arkansas.”

Numerous lawsuits and court rulings have prevented the state from executing any prisoners since 2005. Most recently, the state Supreme Court ruled last month that a 2009 law authorizing the director of the state Department of Correction to decide what chemicals are used in lethal injections gave the director too much discretion, in violation of the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of state government.

Sodium thiopentol, previously one of three drugs used in a three-drug cocktail in executions across the country, has been in short supply because its American manufacturer has stopped producing the drug for use in executions, reported the News Bureau.

That shortage led to the Arkansas Department of Corrections’ decision to begin buying the drug from a British supplier, but last year the state surrendered its supply to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration because the drug had not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Attorneys for the inmates had argued that there was nothing in the law to stop prison officials from using chemicals that would cause a painful death, such as household cleaners.

McDaniel told the News Bureau that the argument was “ludicrous.”

Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley said he shares McDaniel’s frustration with the court.

“In some respects I tend to believe that if they’d just go ahead and rule it unconstitutional instead of just playing this game of hide and seek that they’ve been playing, we’d be a lot better off,” Jegley told the News Bureau.

To read more: http://arkansasnews.com/2012/07/15/state-stymied-on-executions/

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Cautionary Instruction: Crime rates influenced by reporting practices

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
July 20, 2012

Last fall, I posed the following question: Is there a black market in victimization -- an underground crime industry that is neither reported to police nor disclosed in a victimization survey? Can a culture of not cooperating with police have an impact on crime rates?

The question seemed relevant -- what we heard about crime rates did not jibe with what we were feeling in neighborhoods across the country.

The FBI's Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report for 2011 found that violent crime declined for the fifth consecutive year.  Despite the reports, a majority of Americans continued to believe that the nation's crime problem was getting worse. In 2011, sixty-eight percent of Americans said that crime increased over the previous year.

There is an unsettling influence on crime rates; it’s not a seamy underground crime industry, but rather law enforcement itself.

In New York City, an anonymous survey of nearly 2,000 retired police officers found that the manipulation of crime reports -- downgrading crimes to lesser offenses and discouraging victims from filing complaints to make crime statistics look better -- has long been part of the department’s culture.

“I think our survey clearly debunks the Police Department’s rotten-apple theory,” Eli B. Silverman, one of the survey’s authors told the New York Times. The rotten-apple theory was the argument that very few officers manipulated crime statistics. “This really demonstrates a rotten barrel,” added Silverman.

Crime reporting manipulation is not new, nor is it isolated to a few big city police departments. In the last 15 years crime reporting issues have surfaced in Atlanta, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Broward County, FL and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Some law enforcement practitioners blame the “fudge factor.” Politicians cajole police chiefs and supervisory staff to get crime numbers down. The practice invites precinct commanders to make it appear as though crime has dropped when in fact crime actually increased. Fudging an aggravated assault down to criminal mischief or robbery down to theft can have a dramatic impact on violent crime rates.

In Milwaukee, a Journal-Sentinel investigation found rampant police under-reporting of violent crime. A subsequent internal police department audit showed more than 5,300 violent assaults were misreported since 2006. The audit revealed that 20 percent of aggravated assaults were under-reported as lesser crimes and were not counted in Milwaukee’s violent crime rate during that period.

Police Chief Edward Flynn contends the errors in reporting violent crime were bureaucratic mistakes and not an effort to manipulate data. Flynn said the coding errors will be sent to the FBI for revision, meaning last year’s touted decrease in violent crime was actually an increase.

Visit Ipso Facto

Private prisons look to the Feds for survival

The Sentencing Project issued a new report "Dollars and Detainees; The Growth of For-Profit Detention." The report details how harsh immigration enforcement and legislation led to a 59 percent increase in the number of detainees being held by the federal government between 2002 and 2011 and that 29 percent of all federal detainee are being held by for-profit entities.

In 2010, one in every 13 prisoners in the U.S. was held by for-profit companies.

For-profit prison companies could count on predictable growth in the number of state and federal prisoners until 2008, when budget crises and policy changes led some states to reduce their prison populations and private prison contracts.

The resulting losses for private prison companies were more than offset by expansion of their management of federal detainees under the jurisdiction of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Read the full report: http://sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/inc_Dollars_and_Detainees.pdf
despite evidence that private prisons often provide inadequate levels of service and are no more cost-effective than publicly-run facilities.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Texas executes killer using single drug protocol

The 24th Execution of 2012

Yokamon Hearn, a death row inmate convicted of carjacking and fatally shooting a Plano stockbroker in 1998, was executed in Texas on July 18, 2012.  Hearn's lethal injection consisted a single lethal dose of the sedative pentobarbital instead of the previous three-drug mix. Hearn is the first Texas inmate to be executed using a single drug protocol.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials announced last week that they were modifying the method used since 1982 because the state's supply of one of the drugs -- the muscle relaxant pancuronium bromide -- has expired.

Ohio, Arizona, Idaho and Washington have adopted a single-drug procedure, and this week Georgia said it would do so.

Asked by the warden whether he wanted to make a statement, he said: "I'd like to tell my family that I love y'all and I wish y'all well. I'm ready."

He showed no apparent unusual reaction to the drug and was pronounced dead about 25 minutes after the lethal dose began flowing.

Hearn was condemned for the March 1998 slaying of Frank Meziere, 23, in Dallas. Meziere was cleaning his black convertible Mustang at a self-service carwash when Hearn, then 19, and three others approached. They forced Meziere at gunpoint into the Mustang and drove him to an industrial area in south Dallas, where he was shot 10 times in the head.

To read more: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/07/18/4109896/man-condemned-for-dallas-carjacking.html#storylink=cpy

Iowa governor commutes sentences of juvenile lifers

As state lawmakers ponder the application of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller v. Alabama, banning mandatory life in prison for juvenile killers, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has taken action.

He commuted 38 life sentences from life without the possibility of parole to life sentences that allow parole only after 60 years.  According to the Associated Press, Branstad plan is to keep killers who committed their crimes as juveniles in prison and forestall their resentencings.

Branstad told the AP he wants to protect the victims of violent crime.

Last week, an Iowa court vacated the sentences of two Iowa inmates who were teenagers when they were involved in murders. It wasn't immediately clear how Branstad's action would affect the cases.

Last week the Pennsylvania legislature conducted a hearing to examine the options for juvenile lifers.  Pennsylvania has approximately 480 inmates serving life for murders committed as juveniles, by far more than any other state.

To read more: http://qctimes.com/news/state-and-regional/iowa/iowa-gov-tries-to-keep-juvenile-killers-in-prison/article_128b4dc4-99af-5349-8d1b-448e5aa32ddf.html

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

PA reports 1,700 cases of child sex abuse in 2011

The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare reported more than 1,700 cases of child sex abuse in 2011.  One tool in the prosecution of child abuse are the Child Advocacy Centers (CAC).

The CACs have a variety of staff on hand to assist children who may have suffered physical or sexual abuse. In 21 facilities throughout Pennsylvania, multidisciplinary teams of doctors, police, and counselors treat children who have suffered abuse. The centers have been described as one-stop shops.

But state lawmakers are grappling with the question of how to push more funding to the CACs way.

That funding is vital, says Rep. Julie Harhart, R-Lehigh, judging by the rate of reported child abuse.

"Just in 2011 there were over 3,400 substantiated cases of child abuse in Pennsylvania and over 50 percent of the child abuse cases, which the Department of Public Welfare classified as substantiated, were classified as sexual abuse," she told WHYY.

Harhart wants to create a special fund to help support existing centers and create new ones. She has proposed generating the money from a fee on court filings.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has another idea. Rep. Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin, says he'll propose hiking the fee on child abuse background checks.

Marsico, who said he anticipates that will rankle groups required to check the abuse history of new employees, told WHYY he's offering the idea, "just throwing that out, just for discussion."

To read more: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/41518-pa-lawmakers-struggle-to-find-funding-for-chld-advocacy-centers

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How to deal with juvenile life without parole decision?

Last week, state legislators gathered in Harrisburg to hear testimony from those who may be affected by the Supreme Court decision Miller v. Alabama.  The decision last month banned mandatory life without parole for juvenile killers.

"Obviously there's some urgency to us to resolve this issue," said Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Supreme Court deemed mandatory sentences for juveniles "cruel and unusual," he noted, "but they don't tell us then what to do."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that petitions filed last week in Allegheny County underscored that urgency. But there are also at least 11 juveniles awaiting trial on homicide charges that might have previously netted a mandatory life sentence. The courts have yet to figure out how to deal with those cases, but many have said the final answer will have to come not from the courts, but from the legislature.

"The Legislature's dealing with this problem cannot be avoided, nor delayed," former Pennsylvania Attorney General Ernest D. Preate testified Thursday, reported the Post-Gazette. He noted that if the Legislature is sluggish, it may inadvertently violate the right to a speedy trial for juveniles awaiting trial or sentencing for homicide charges.

"The need for immediate and forthwith action by the Legislature becomes obvious. ... Huge gaps would exist in our statute on sentencing of juveniles" convicted of first- or second-degree murder, he said.

The high court's decision, while it did not universally ban life sentences for juveniles, mandated that judges consider a number of factors, including the defendant's background, blameworthiness, amenability to rehabilitation and maturity before giving the penalty.

Mark Bergstrom, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing, testified at Thursday's hearing and suggested that the state create a "bifurcated process" with a hearing separate from the trial to consider these factors, reported the Post-Gazette.

Lourdes Rosado, associate director of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, testified at the hearing that the state should create an entirely new sentencing scheme for those who committed their crimes under age 18 that is less punitive, with no juvenile defendant receiving more than 40 years in prison, reported the Post-Gazette. Currently, the mandatory minimum sentence for anyone convicted of first- or second-degree murder is life without parole.

"Juveniles convicted of murder are different from others sentenced to life terms because they are not fully formed adults at the time of the killing," she said. "In the same way that we treat children differently in many other areas of the law because they are still developing, sentencing policy should allow for the possibility of rehabilitation."

To read more: http://old.post-gazette.com/pg/12198/1246907-454.stm?cmpid=newspanel5

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fudging the numbers: Crime reporting in NYC

New York City police officials are under scrutiny for manipulating crime reports to make it appear that crime rates continue to fall when in fact they are not falling. An anonymous survey of nearly 2,000 retired officers found that the manipulation of crime reports — downgrading crimes to lesser offenses and discouraging victims from filing complaints to make crime statistics look better — has long been part of the culture, according to the New York Times.

In the early 1990s violent crime was ravaging the NYC. According to Robert Zink of the NYC police union, the Compstat program was started when crime was at an all-time high, with over 2,000 homicides a year and countless felonies.

The program called for the immediate tracking of crime, swift deployment of police resources to problem areas and what Compstat’s creator Jack Maple called relentless follow-up.

The only problem is, it didn’t anticipate the “fudge factor.” That’s the characteristic that allows local commanders to make it look like crime has dropped when it has in fact increased.

In the early days, it was easy for a precinct commander to benefit from Compstat. He or she had crime-ridden neighborhoods where rudimentary policing techniques could bring crime down. Add the increased resources from the Safe Streets/Safe City program, and just paying attention to patterns and putting cops where crime was happening caused stats to fall dramatically. Then add to that the benefit of the gun control effort by the street-crime teams and we’ve made some real and honest impact on crime in New York City, reported Zink.

Of course, when you finally get a real handle on crime, you eventually hit a wall where you can’t push it down any more. Compstat does not recognize that wall so the commanders have to get “creative” to keep their numbers going down. Zink suggests, no mayor or police commissioner wants to be the one holding the bag when crime starts climbing, and no precinct commander wants to be the one to deliver the bad news that he or she doesn’t have enough cops to do the job.

So the fudging begins.  The police manipulate the reporting and citizens get a false impression of what is actually going on in their communities.  The problem is not unique to NYC, similar issues have plagued Baltimore, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Atlanta.

To read more: http://www.nycpba.org/publications/mag-04-summer/compstat.html

Sunday, July 15, 2012

In Brazil read your way out of prison

The Brazilian government recently announced that four federal prisons — which house some of Brazil's most notorious criminals — will begin a "Reading through Redemption" program in which prisoners can reduce their sentence by 48 days each year for reading up to 12 books, according to Reuters.

Inmates can also trim four days off their sentence by writing an legible and pertinent essay about a work of literature, philosophy, science or classics.

A 2010 report found that there are 440,864 prisoners in Brazil’s prison system, that have a capacity of 299,597 meaning that prisons are 140,000 over capacity. The law already provides for one day less in prison for every three days of performed labor, but the new measures will accelerate the pace at which prisoners may shorten their sentences.

Incarceration rates in Brazil are still relatively low compared to other countries. The U.S. has five times as many people incarcerated as Brazil.

To read more: http://observingbrazil.com/2011/06/10/dealing-with-overcrowding-in-brazils-prisons-innovative-legislation-passed/

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Georgia poised to execute man with IQ 69

Warren Lee Hill a man with an IQ of 69, his lawyers contend he is mentally retarded, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on July 18, reported Reuters. Attorneys for the Georgia man argued to the state's pardons board last week that executing the two-time murderer would be unjust because of his limited mental capacity.

In 1988, Georgia became the first U.S. state to enact a law banning the execution of mentally retarded defendants. But Georgia has perhaps the toughest standard in the nation for defining mental retardation, requiring proof "beyond a reasonable doubt," Richard Dieter told Reuters.
"I don't know of any other state that puts the burden on the defendant to show (retardation) beyond a reasonable doubt, the highest standard that there is in the judicial system," he said.

Mental retardation is generally defined as having a score of 70 or below on intelligence tests, Dieter said. Hill scored 69 on one intelligence test and in the 70s on others, according to court records.

Hill's attorneys have challenged Georgia's law in the federal courts, saying the "beyond reasonable doubt" standard is overly strict and conflicts with a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Atkins v. Virginia that bans executing mentally retarded defendants.

To read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-usa-execution-georgiabre86c195-20120713,0,1840716.story

Friday, July 13, 2012

Arizona executes man for 1986 murder

The 23rd Execution of 2012

Samuel Lopez was executed on June 27, 2012 at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Florence, for a murder that occured in 1986, reported the Arizona Republic.

Lopez was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering Holmes in her apartment in central Phoenix. He stabbed the grandmother and seamstress more than 23 times and slashed her throat with her own kitchen knives after a fierce struggle.

According to the Republic, Lopez had no last words. Lopez's final meal consisted of one red chili con carne, one green chili con carne, Spanish rice, a jalapeƱo, an avocado, cottage cheese, French fries, a Coke, vanilla ice cream and pineapple.

No members of Lopez's family were present, witnesses said. Eight members of the family of Estefana Holmes, his victim, spoke with reporters after the execution.

Victor Arguijo, Holmes's brother, who traveled with other family members from Fort Worth, Texas, told the Republic, "We are not here to seek vengeance nor to avenge, but to seek justice for our family. This execution today will not bring our beloved Tefo back, but hopefully will bring closure."

To read more: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2012/06/27/20120627arizona-inmate-executed-samuel-lopez-villegas-open-process.html#ixzz20YDPdauP

The Cautionary Instruction: Chief Justice Roberts makes his mark

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
July 13, 21012

Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision to join the liberal wing of the U.S. Supreme Court in support of President Barrack Obama’s health care reform law has been described as “jaw dropping.”

Why did Roberts break from his conservative colleagues on such a high profile case?

The inner-workings of the Supreme Court are almost impossible to penetrate. The court's private conferences, when the justices discuss cases and cast their initial votes, include only the nine members—no law clerks or secretaries are permitted. Traditionally, the justices have remained very secretive about their private conferences.

Two recent Time Magazine covers may provide some insight. On June 18, 2012 Justice Anthony Kennedy graced the cover with the following title, “From Gay Marriage to Obamacare [Justice Kennedy is] The Decider.”

Roberts has led the court for seven years, but Kennedy has been the deciding vote in a number of important cases during Roberts’ tenure. Until this term, Kennedy was the decisive vote in a number of cases where conservatives and liberals were evenly split -- including abortion, gay rights, election law, capital punishment and campaign finance.

Kennedy was also the deciding vote on a number of high profile criminal justice decisions. He was the deciding vote in Roper v. Simmons (banning the execution of juveniles) ; Graham v. Florida (juvenile life without parole for non-homicide) ; and Lafler v. Cooper (providing constitutional protections to plea bargaining).

Last week, Roberts rocked the jurisprudential world and lo and behold ended up on the cover of Time Magazine. The July 16, 2012 Time cover contends, “Roberts Rules.” Being on the cover of Time Magazine may not be enough to sway a justice. But, respect for the court and an appreciation for one’s place in history might be enough.

CBS News reported that Roberts is keenly aware of his leadership role on the court, and he is also sensitive to how the court is perceived by the public.

There were countless news articles leading up to the health care decision warning of damage to the court -- and to Roberts' reputation -- if the court were to strike down the law.

Some informed observers outside the court reject the idea that Roberts buckled. They believe that he realized the historical consequences of a ruling striking down a landmark law. 

Kennedy is no longer the court’s wild-card. The Roberts Court is truly his own. With a full docket of criminal cases facing the justices this fall, Roberts may be poised to exert his influence on law and order issues as well.

Here’s a look back at last term’s treatment of criminal justice issues:

1. Search and seizure;
2. Plea bargains;
3. Juvenile life without parole;
4. Sentencing and crack cocaine;
5. Jail strip searches.

Visit Ipso Facto

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mangino on America Live with Megyn Kelly

Watch my interview on America Live with Megyn Kelly on Fox News on Thursday, July 12, 2012.   The interview explored the Freeh Report on the Penn State sex abuse scandal.

To watch the interview click below:


Investigative Report Penn State University Sex Abuse Scandal

Read full report click here:


Supreme Court Strikes Mandatory Life Sentences for Juveniles

The Pennsylvania Law Weekly
July 10, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole imposed upon a juvenile violates the Eighth Amendment ban against "cruel and unusual punishment."

The decision, however, does not outlaw life sentences for juveniles. Prosecutors in Pennsylvania and across the country can still pursue life sentences for juvenile killers. The court ruled that state lawmakers cannot force a judge to impose a life sentence on a juvenile.

Mandatory sentences prevent judges from exercising discretion. "It prevents taking into account the family and home environment that surrounds him — and from which he cannot usually extricate himself — no matter how brutal or dysfunctional. It neglects the circumstances of the homicide offense, including the extent of his participation in the conduct and the way familial and peer pressures may have affected him," Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the majority.

"We therefore hold that the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders," Kagan wrote. Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor agreed.

The two cases before the Supreme Court were Jackson v. Hobbs, No. 10-9647, and Miller v. Alabama, No. 10-9646.

Kuntrell Jackson is an Arkansas man who was 14 when he and two older co-defendants tried to rob a video store in 1999. One of Jackson's co-defendants shot and killed the store clerk.

Evan Miller is an Alabama prisoner who, in 2003, was 14 when he and an older youth beat a 52-year-old neighbor and set fire to his home after an evening of drinking and smoking marijuana. The neighbor died as a result of the attack.

During the 1960s and 1970s, youthful offenders began to be afforded the same rights and protections as their adult counterparts. However, the way that juvenile offenders were adjudicated and punished remained quite different from adults.

During the mid-1980s and early 1990s, as the crack epidemic gained national attention and gang activity was on the rise, juvenile homicide rates soared. As a result, many states changed their laws to permit the charging and sentencing of violent juvenile offenders in the same way that states pursue violent adult offenders.

In 1995, Pennsylvania's newly elected governor, Tom Ridge, called for a special legislative session on crime. Pennsylvania fell in line with many other states as Ridge convinced the legislature to overhaul the juvenile justice system with the mantra "adult time for adult crime."

As a result, a fundamental change in the law made it easier to charge juveniles as adults. In fact, certain violent offenses require prosecutors to charge juveniles as adults pursuant to 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. 6302. A conviction of first- or second-degree murder in Pennsylvania means a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Pennsylvania has placed more than 450 people in prison for life for killings committed as juveniles — the most in the nation.

How did we get to the point where punishment once thought appropriate is now unconstitutional?

Forty-five years ago the Supreme Court decided that the Eighth Amendment ban against "cruel and unusual punishment" could be established by showing a national consensus against a heretofore lawful form of punishment.

In 1988, the court outlawed the execution of juveniles under the age of 16. Fourteen years passed before the court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 122 S.Ct. 2242 (2002), that executing the mentally retarded was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Atkins launched a series of decisions that relied on evolving standards of decency as evidenced by a national consensus against excessive sentencing, particularly as related to juveniles.

In 2005, the Supreme Court struck down the execution of juveniles. In Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 125 S.Ct. 1183 (2005), the court held that it was cruel and unusual punishment to execute any person who was convicted of first-degree murder while under the age of 18.

In support of a "national consensus" against juvenile executions, the court noted the decreasing frequency with which states were sentencing juveniles to death. At the time of the decision, 20 states had laws permitting the death penalty for juveniles, but only a handful of states had executed prisoners for crimes committed as juveniles.

Furthermore, in the 15 years prior to the Roper decision, five states had abolished the death penalty for juveniles.

The court used a similar analysis in Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. ___, 130 S.Ct. 2011 (2010), decided in 2010. In Graham, the court banned life sentences for juveniles for nonhomicide offenses.

The court explained that the primary criterion for determining whether a particular punishment violates society's evolving standards of decency is objective evidence of a national consensus as expressed by legislative enactments and jury practices.

Gauging the acceptance or rejection of a particular criminal punishment requires an examination of both the work of the various legislatures and actual sentencing practices in courtrooms across the country.

In Jackson and Miller, Kagan argued that 85 percent of the juvenile LWOP sentences come from jurisdictions where the sentence was mandatory. Therefore, although the respective state legislatures had enacted the law, the sentences did not reflect the judgment of judges or juries who were bound by the law.

In Chief Justice John G. Roberts' dissenting opinion, he argued that many states had done just as Governor Ridge had in 1995 — adopt a "lock'em up" approach to juvenile crime. In fact, 28 states had imposed life sentences on juvenile offenders and about 2,500 offenders are serving life sentences for offenses committed as juveniles. Roberts argued the presence of a national consensus in favor of life sentences for juveniles.

How will these decisions affect Pennsylvania inmates?

There is uncertainty about the impact the decision will have on all of the approximately 450 inmates serving life in Pennsylvania. Lawmakers and criminal-justice practitioners will have to sort through the options.

"As far as how individual cases affected by today's decision will be reviewed," Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "our office will be working closely with the courts and with the defense bar to determine those procedures."

There are several options. The governor could commute all the sentences to include a specific minimum, i.e., 25 years to life. Then each offender would be eligible for parole after serving the minimum portion of the sentence. However, commutation and parole eligibility may limit an offender's ability to present evidence of mitigation or rehabilitation.

Those with direct appeals or timely post-conviction rights could immediately raise the issue. Lawyers for Angela Marinucci, a Westmoreland County juvenile convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the Supreme Court's decision will be raised in her appeal.

Those with pending charges — Allegheny County has 11 offenders awaiting trial for murders allegedly committed as juveniles — will not face a mandatory life sentence. The general assembly will have to create a new sentencing scheme for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder.

Those who have exhausted all appellate options may have to look to the legislature to be granted a time frame to pursue sentence reconsideration. The Supreme Court did not specifically say that the decision would be applied retroactively, but fairness and equity would demand that those subject to a mandatory life sentence be given an opportunity to have their sentence reviewed. •

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Can't try them, can't keep them, can't stop them

Dangerous and mentally ill, a 'blind-spot' in Texas law

Texas law says that a defendant being held for competency restoration can be hospitalized no longer than he would be if convicted and sentenced to the maximum penalty.  Therefore a defendant charged with a second-degree felony and deemed incompetent to stand trial can only be held in a psychiatric hospital for 20 years, the maximum penalty for a second degree felony.

A patient reaching the maximum period of hospitalization could be committed by a civil judge if he is to be held in a state hospital against his wishes.

Civil commitments are performed when people with mental illness are determined to be a serious danger to themselves or others or when their condition has so deteriorated that they can't care for themselves.

A judge decides the continued commitment based on a psychiatric evaluations and recent behavior.  A well behaved, appropriately medicated patient will seldom be civilly committed.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, the recent court-ordered release of potentially violent, mentally ill Brad Reinke, after he spent 20 years in a state mental hospital, has officials scrambling to figure out how to protect his family and the community in a situation prosecutors say points to a blind spot in Texas's mental health laws.

The Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas' highest criminal court, in June ordered a 1990 attempted murder case against Brad Reinke dismissed.  Reinke was accused of attacking his father with a knife at the family's Northwest Austin home while his mother fought her son off with a baseball bat.

Reinke has spent the maximum time allowable based on the charges against him. Few dispute that Reinke belongs confined.  However, the likelihood that he will remain confined is not good.

To read more:  http://www.statesman.com/news/local/mentally-ill-defendant-up-for-release-despite-fears-2411828.html

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

NYT: Drug war cannot be won

Demand continues, street drugs cost a fraction of what they did in the 1980s

If there is one number that embodies the seemingly intractable challenge imposed by the illegal drug trade on the relationship between the United States and Mexico, it is $177.26. That is the retail price, according to Drug Enforcement Administration data, of one gram of pure cocaine from your typical local pusher. That is 74 percent cheaper than it was 30 years ago.

Prices match supply with demand. If the supply of an illicit drug were to fall, say because the Drug Enforcement Administration stopped it from reaching the nation’s shores, we should expect its price to go up.

That is not what happened with cocaine. Despite billions spent on measures from spraying coca fields high in the Andes to jailing local dealers in Miami or Washington, a gram of cocaine cost about 16 percent less last year than it did in 2001. The drop is similar for heroin and methamphetamine. The only drug that has not experienced a significant fall in price is marijuana.

According to Eduardo Porter in the New York Times, the war on drugs cannot be won.

The only dimension along which the war on drugs might be conceived as a success is political. If you ask Americans how concerned they are about drugs, they will give you roughly the same answer they have given for years: not so much.

In a Gallup poll, only 31 percent of Americans said they thought the government was making much progress dealing with illegal drugs, the lowest share since 1997. But fewer people say they worry about drug abuse than 10 years ago. Only 29 percent of Americans think it is an extremely or very serious problem where they live, the lowest share in the last decade.

To read more:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/04/business/in-rethinking-the-war-on-drugs-start-with-the-numbers.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

Monday, July 9, 2012

Murder in Chicago 'just a few handshakes away’

The figures in Chicago are startling, through the end of June, the number of murders in Chicago is up 37 percent over the same period last year.  There were 433 murders in Chicago in 2011.

A city desperate for answers has turned to Yale Univsersity professor Andrew Papachristos. He looked at murders that occurred between 2005 and 2010 in West Garfield Park and North Lawndale, two low-income West Side neighborhoods. Over that period, Papachristos found that 191 people in those neighborhoods were killed, reported the Chicago Sun-Times.

Murder occasionally is random, but, more often, he found, the victims have links either to their killers or to others linked to the killers. Seventy percent of the killings he studied occurred within what Papachristos determined was a social network of only about 1,600 people — out of a population in those neighborhoods of about 80,000.

Each person in that network of 1,600 people had been arrested at some point with at least one other person in the same network.

For those inside the network, the risk of being murdered, Papachristos found, was about 30 out of 1,000. In contrast, the risk of getting killed for others in those neighborhoods was less than one in 1,000, according to the Sun-Times.

“It thus appears that murder in these communities occurs in a very small world where the victims are just a few handshakes away from each other,” he wrote in a paper last year titled “The Coming of a Networked Criminology.”

To read more: http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=7322025676604055811#editor/target=post;postID=6336300086764566877

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Non-violent offenders get a second chance in Ohio

The Youngstown Vindicator
July 8, 2012

Some formerly incarcerated offenders in Ohio have had a difficult, if not impossible, time finding a job. Felonies, and even some misdemeanors, eliminate offenders from consideration for various types of employment.

A new law in Ohio is seeking to make the employment process easier for non-violent offenders released from prison. The intent of the legislation is to break down employment barriers that commonly get in the way of ex-offenders trying to adjust to life on the street. Overcoming job-related obstacles, commonly referred to as collateral sanctions, is a key to successful reintegration.

The legislation was signed into law last week. “Who here doesn’t need to be redeemed? We are giving people a second chance,” Gov. John Kasich told the Legislature during a recent address.

Barriers to re-entry

When ex-offenders are released from prison their convictions make it extremely difficult to support themselves because of government-imposed barriers to successful re-entry. Ohio has 46 statutes that impose driver license suspensions. Each of those can contribute 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.

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.

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.

The new law addresses many of the collateral sanctions that have dogged former inmates for years. However, the law does not address how Ohio will prepare newly released inmates for employment opportunities not previously available to them, or provide much needed interventions to assist with job retention. Having the ability to obtain an occupational license does not mean a former inmate has the training or skills to get one.

The law also addresses the ways and reasons for which a driver can lose and then regain driving privileges. The state had more than 2.6 million suspensions among 7.3 million licensed drivers, according to the Dayton Daily News.

Job discrimination

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. Those groups have disproportionately higher conviction rates than the general population.

Ohio’s efforts to reduce obstacles that impede successful prisoner reentry are admirable. However, eliminating some collateral sanctions is only one component of a successful reentry program.

Investing in the Department Rehabilitations and Corrections’ — and community corrections’ — efforts at education, vocational training and life skills are essential to success. Lifting barriers to employment will not magically make unskilled, uneducated ex-offenders employable.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ex-NFL star accused of serial torture-kidnap-murder

Former Oakland Raiders defensive end Anthony Wayne Smith, whose recent murder trial for a 2008 shooting death ended in a hung jury, was charged this week with three more Los Angeles County serial torture-kidnap-murders, according to Reuters.

Smith, a first-round 1990 draft pick of the Raiders, then based in Los Angeles, and an 11th pick overall for the National Football League that year, played all seven seasons of his NFL career for the Raiders, first in Los Angeles and then in Oakland.

A new criminal complaint charges Smith, 43, with a total of four counts of first-degree murder, incorporating the original case against him and the kidnap-killings of three other men--one in 1999 and two in 2001.

Special allegations listed in the complaint say the three earlier victims were tortured before being killed.

An arraignment has been set for July 17 on the new charges, and Smith remains held without bond, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, Sandi Gibbons, told Reuters.

To read more: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/former-oakland-raiders-defensive-end-charged-four-slayings-034909205--nfl.html

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Cautionary Instruction: PA allows expert witnesses in sex offense prosecutions

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
July 6, 2012

Pennsylvania has stepped into the modern era of sex offense prosecutions. Pennsylvania is the last state in the country to allow expert witnesses to testify about a victim’s response to being sexually assaulted.

In 1988, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that expert testimony in sexual assault cases was inadmissible. The court ruled that an expert may not be used to bolster the credibility of witnesses because witness credibility is solely within the province of the jury.

The Penn State sex abuse scandal--the prosecution of Jerry Sandusky--changed that quickly and unanimously.  House Bill 1264 passed 197-0 in the House and 48-0 in the Senate and was signed not law this past Tuesday.  The change brought about by House Bill 1264 was originally proposed six years ago.

A focus on the victim’s behavior, both during and after an assault, frequently caused jurors consternation. Jurors are generally inexperienced and uneducated about victim responses to trauma. Frequently, a juror’s expectation of how victims “should” behave conflicted with the way victims actually behave. When this occurs, jurors perceive a victim’s behavior as “counterintuitive,” and therefore, compelling evidence of the victim’s lack of credibility. 

As a result of the law, an expert can explain to a jury why a victim waited years before coming forward to talk about an assault that occurred in childhood; an expert can explain why a victim maintained a relationship with the abuser; and an expert can talk about why a victim did not disclose the full scope of abuse until after several meetings with authorities.

“House Bill 1264 would permit an expert to provide testimony on the counterintuitive behavior indicative of a rape victim, as well as any recognized form of post-traumatic stress disorder in sexual assault cases as well as other common psychological reactions to trauma,” State Representative Cherelle L. Parker said this week prior to Governor Tom Corbett signing the bill into law.

Not everyone is excited about the new law. “You increase the likelihood that someone who has made false allegations is going to be believed,” Matt McClenahen, a criminal defense attorney from State College said. “It’s absolutely inappropriate to have an expert bolster the credibility of a witness by explaining away inconsistencies in the story.”

In light of the new legislation, is the use of expert witnesses to question eyewitness identifications or false confessions far off?

Just two years ago the Superior Court refused to let a defendant offer expert testimony to establish the reliability of eyewitness identification. The court ruled that the trial court was correct in denying the defendant’s request and properly refused to instruct the jury as to the inherent difficulties in making accurate cross-racial identification.

A sex abuse scandal accelerated the passage of this legislation. Yet, the ongoing revelation of wrongful convictions has done little to drive acceptance of defense-oriented expert witnesses.

Visit Ipso Facto

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Survey: NYC police manipulating crime statistcs

An anonymous survey of nearly 2,000 retired New York City police officers found that the manipulation of crime reports - downgrading crimes to lesser offenses and discouraging victims from filing complaints to make crime statistics look better - has long been part of the department's culture, reported the New York Times.

"I think our survey clearly debunks the Police Department's rotten-apple theory," Eli B. Silverman, one of the criminologists, referring to arguments that very few officers manipulated crime statistics, told the Times. "This really demonstrates a rotten barrel."

Dr. Silverman, professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and John A. Eterno, a retired New York police captain, provided The New York Times with a nine-page summary of the survey's preliminary results. After reviewing a copy of the summary, the Police Department impugned the findings on Wednesday. Paul J. Browne, the department's chief spokesman, criticized the researchers' methodology and questioned the reliability of the findings.

Their survey is likely to rekindle the debate, which flared up earlier this year after The Village Voice detailed the case of Adrian Schoolcraft, an officer in the 81st Precinct in Brooklyn who secretly gathered evidence, including audio recordings, of crime-report manipulation. Shortly after Mr. Schoolcraft presented the evidence to police investigators, his superiors had him involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital, saying he was in the midst of a psychiatric emergency.

According to the Times, the survey respondents ranged from chiefs and inspectors to sergeants and detectives. About 44 percent, or 871, had retired since 2002. More than half of those recent retirees said they had "personal knowledge" of crime-report manipulation, according to the summary, and within that group, more than 80 percent said they knew of three or more instances in which officers or their superiors rewrote a crime report to downgrade the offense or intentionally failed to take a complaint alleging a crime.

Franklin E. Zimring, a criminologist at Berkeley Law School, that compared the department's crime data for homicide, robbery, auto theft and burglary to insurance claims, health statistics and victim surveys and found a near-exact correlation, according to the Times.

Mr. Zimring said his research found that the 80 percent decrease in those four crimes reported by the department from 1990 to 2009 was "real."

He said that there was always "some underreporting, and there is some downgrading in every police force that I know of," but that his research showed that any manipulation was too minuscule to significantly affect the department's crime statistics.

To read more: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2012/06/29/nyregion/new-york-police-department-manipulates-crime-reports-study-finds.xml

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Will Supreme Court decision on juvenile lifers be retroactive?

Last week's landmark decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders, found the penalty "cruel and unusual" and a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Legal observers believe the decision will be retroactively applied thus opening the door to a resentencing hearings. Offenders may still receive life, or may have the opportunity to be paroled at some point, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Legislature will declare the Miller decision retroactive, meaning either body will have to determine how to address the issues the high court raised for all 470, some of whom were convicted decades ago.

According to the Post-Gazette, the decision is likely to have a far-reaching impact here, because Pennsylvania has more inmates serving mandatory life sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles than any other state. But exactly how it will play out is unclear.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which is set to decide another case on the constitutionality of life sentences for juveniles, could also offer counsel.

Ultimately, the offenders serving life will need to be resentenced.  Once a minimum portion of the new sentence is established, for instance 25 years to life, the offender will be eligible for parole. 

To read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/state/ruling-means-overhaul-of-juvenile-cases-642751/#ixzz1zWRynfzM

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Predicting crime: Police use cutting edge technology to stop crime

There is a movement afoot in the criminal justice system to look into the future.  Forecasting has been used for sentencing, community supervision and now what is known as “predictive policing.” Forecasting for police involves crunching data to determine where to send officers to thwart would-be thieves and burglars. 

Los Angeles Police Department is the largest agency to embrace the forecasting experiment. Early successes could serve as a model for other cash-strapped law enforcement agencies, but some legal observers are concerned it could lead to unlawful stops and searches that violate Fourth Amendment protections, reported the Oklahoman.

In the San Fernando Valley, where the program was launched late last year, officers are seeing double-digit drops in burglaries and other property crimes. The program has turned enough in-house skeptics into believers that there are plans to roll it out citywide by next summer.

“We have prevented hundreds and hundreds of people coming home and seeing their homes robbed,” police Capt. Sean Malinowski told the Oklahoman.

Crime mapping has long been a tool used to determine where the bad guys lurk. The idea has evolved from colored pins placed on a map to identifying “hot spots” via a computer database based on past crimes and possible patterns.

Over the past decade, many large police departments, including Los Angeles and New York City, have used CompStat, a system that tracks crime figures and enables police to send extra officers to trouble spots.

The new program used by LAPD and police in the Northern California city of Santa Cruz is more timely and precise, proponents said. Built on the same model for predicting aftershocks following an earthquake, the software promises to show officers what might be coming based on simple, constantly calibrated data — location, time and type of crime.

According to the Oklahoman, the software generates prediction boxes — as small as 500 square feet — on a patrol map. When officers have spare time, they are told to “go in the box.”

The goal is not to boost the number of arrests, a common police benchmark to reflect crime reduction. Officers want to either intercept a crime in progress or deter would-be criminals.

“I want to disrupt an activity before an arrest is made,” Malinowski said. “You can't arrest your way out of some of these problems.”

Jeff Brantingham, an anthropology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the data also is derived from criminal behaviors — repeat victimization and the notion that criminals tend not to stray too far from areas they know best.

“If you are victimized today the risk that you'll be a victim again goes way up,” Brantingham told the Oklahoman.

So far, the program has been implemented in five LAPD divisions that cover 130 square miles and roughly 1.3 million people. In the valley's Foothill Division, where more than half of the crimes committed are property-related, about 170 patrol officers are spending a total of about 70 hours a week working in the boxes.
To read more: http://newsok.com/sci-fi-policing-predicting-crime-before-it-occurs/article/3689320#ixzz1zWD3bLDr

Monday, July 2, 2012

NC seeks to expand availability of criminal expungement

North Carolina felons would get a fresh start under a bill recently passed by a Senate panel.  The bill allows judges to erase some nonviolent convictions if the offender meets a series of requirements, according to The Associated Press.

The bill would affect current and future felons and has been in the making for a decade. The Senate Rules Committee approval moved it to the full Senate for debate but it adjourned for the night without taking up the bill.

To get the crimes expunged, 15 years must have passed since the conviction and "good moral character" must be established and vouched for. It also permits probation officers to conduct a background check, district attorneys to contact victims and judges to throw out requests they feel don't have merit.

Ohio recently enacted a collateral sanction bill.  The new law will permit former offenders to get employment and other relief from other sanctions imposed as the result of a conviction.  In North Carolina opponents worry the measure is soft on crime and harms business owners. The bill received some pushback in the House last week when it passed 76-39.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Oakland mayor: Data flawed, initiative still valid

Short-staffed police department burdened by crime initiative based on flawed data
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan acknowledged that her 100-block crime initiative was based on flawed data, but she insists that her crime plan is nonetheless valid and sound, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

For eight months, Quan has erroneously claimed that 90 percent of the city's homicides and shootings occur in 100 of the city's 6,560 blocks - and that propping up these areas would essentially reduce violence citywide.

Quan admitted she did not thoroughly examine the data that led to her error on what is arguably the city's most pressing issue: violent crime.

The plan she unveiled in October almost immediately drew criticism because it contained few details, and she refused to name the 100 blocks or disclose the data on which she based the plan. Earlier this year, her office posted a low-resolution map of the areas identified as the most violent 100 blocks.

The department had 837 officers in December 2008; on Wednesday it had 642, the lowest in department memory, according to the Chronicle.

Experts on crime have said 100 blocks were far too much for a short-staffed police department to cover. Asked how the department could devote increased resources to areas that are apparently much larger than 100 blocks, Quan said, "They can only do their best."

"As mayor, I probably should have taken more time to analyze the data myself and read it myself," Quan told the Chronicle . "I didn't. I'll take full responsibility for the error of using that particular statistic."

To read more: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Jean-Quan-given-incorrect-data-on-100-blocks-3667594.php