Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Is Oklahoma's botched execution a homicide?

An Oklahoma inmate who was supposed to be executed Tuesday instead died of a heart attack after the execution was botched, wrote Mark Berman of the Washington Post.
Clayton Lockett’s execution Tuesday night was halted after about 20 minutes due to an issue with a vein, the Associated Press reported. Not long after Lockett was deemed unconscious from the first of three drugs, he began “writhing on the gurney,” according to the Associated Press. He was declared dead 43 minutes after the execution began.
If Lockett's death was not the expected 20th execution of 2014, what was it?  It certainly was not death by natural causes.
Is it a homicide?
According to, homicides include all killings of humans. However, not all homicides are crimes. Criminal laws carve out exceptions for some killings which would otherwise fall under criminal laws against manslaughter or murder. These are referred to as "justified homicide".
Oklahoma has a statute known as "excusable homicide."
The law in Oklahoma regarding excusable homicide is well settled. Excusable homicide is distinguished from killings termed justifiable homicide in that the latter involves the taking of life as a matter of right, such as self-defense or other statutorily defined cause, as set forth in section 733 of Title 21. However, "excusable homicide is where death results from a lawful act by lawful means, accomplished accidentally or by misfortune or misadventure, or accomplished with sufficient provocation, with no undue advantage and without unnecessary cruel treatment." Gaunce v. State, 22 Okl. Cr. 361, 364, 211 P. 517, 518 (1923).
The court has termed "misfortune" analogous to "misadventure," so that in a homicide situation "misfortune" means that, without unlawful intent, the lawful conduct of a person unfortunately causes the death of another. Adams v. State, 93 Okl. Cr. 333, 228 P.2d 195 (1951); Mead v. State, 65 Okl. Cr. 86, 83 P.2d 404 (1938).
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin ordered an investigation into the botched execution and issued a 14-day stay of execution for the second inmate who was scheduled to die.
Fallin ordered the Department of Corrections to review the state's execution procedures and determine what went wrong.
Will the investigation include the issue of homicide?

Oklahoma botches execution, cancels second execution planned for same day

The 20th Execution of 2014
Oklahoma was set to execute two men within two hours of each other in April, a rare occasion in the 21st century.
However, what was supposed to be the first execution was halted when the prisoner, Clayton D. Lockett, began to twitch and gasp after he had already been declared unconscious and called out “man” and “something’s wrong,” according to the New York Times.
The administering doctor intervened and discovered that “the line had blown,” said the director of corrections, Robert Patton, meaning that drugs were no longer flowing into his vein.
At 7:06 p.m., Patton said, Lockett died of a heart attack.
Patton said he had requested a stay of 14 days in the second execution scheduled for the same night, of Charles F. Warner.
It was a chaotic and disastrous step in Oklahoma’s long effort to execute the two men, overcoming their objections that the state would not disclose the source of the drugs being used in a newly tried combination. 
It did not appear that any of the drugs themselves failed, but rather the method of administration, but it resulted in what witnesses called an agonizing scene.
“This was botched, and it was difficult to watch,” said David Autry, one of Lockett’s lawyers. 
A doctor started to administer the first drug, a sedative intended to knock the man out, at 6:23. Ten minutes later, the doctor said that Lockett was unconscious, and started to administer the next two drugs, a paralytic and one intended to make the heart stop.
At that point, witnesses said, things began to go awry. Lockett’s body moved, his foot shook, and he mumbled, witnesses said. 
At 6 :37, he tried to rise and exhaled loudly. At that point, prison officials pulled a curtain in front of the witnesses and the doctor discovered a “vein failure,” Patton said.
The appeals for disclosure about the drug sources, supported by a state court in March, threw Oklahoma’s highest courts and elected officials into weeks of conflict and disarray, with courts arguing over which should consider the request for a politically unpopular stay of execution, the governor defying the State Supreme Court’s ruling for a delay, and a legislator seeking impeachment of the justices.
Officials swore that the drugs were obtained legally from licensed pharmacies, and had not expired. Gov. Mary Fallin, expressing the sentiment of many here, said: “Two men that do not contest their guilt in heinous murders will now face justice.”
To read more Click Here

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Study finds 300 innocent people sentenced to death

Three hundred sentenced to death in the United States over a three-decade period were likely innocent, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reported Reuters.
Dozens of defendants sentenced to death in recent years have been exonerated before their sentences could be carried out, but many more were probably falsely convicted, said University of Michigan professor Samuel Gross, the study's lead author.
"Our research adds the disturbing news that most innocent defendants who have been sentenced to death have not been exonerated," Gross wrote in the study.
However, he stressed that this did not indicate a jump in the number of people believed wrongly executed because some had had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment and others lingered on death row.
In their research, Gross and his colleagues examined the 7,482 U.S. death sentence convictions between 1973 and 2004.
Of those, 117 had been exonerated in recent years, thanks to the efforts of numerous groups and a tide of public attention to issues surrounding the death penalty.
Gross and his co-authors, Barbara O'Brien of Michigan State University, Chen Hu of the American College of Radiology Clinical Research Center in Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania's Edward H. Kennedy, estimated that about 4 percent of those sentenced to death were actually innocent, nearly three times the number exonerated during that period.
For their conclusion, the research group used a mathematical formula that included the number of inmates whose sentences were commuted to life imprisonment, the length of time it took for a convicted inmate on death row to be set free, and the number of inmates who were in the end exonerated.
In a twist, once inmates' sentences are commuted to life, they are far less likely to be exonerated, mostly because there are fewer legal resources given to their cases, Gross said.
"If you were never sentenced to death, you never had the benefit - if you call it a benefit - of that process," he said.
Although the study focuses on a period ending 10 years ago, the percentage of false death sentence convictions likely holds true today, Gross said.
The study does not say how many innocent people were likely put to death. It also does not suggest that the rate of false convictions in death sentence cases is the same as in any other conviction category.
To read more Click Here

Monday, April 28, 2014

Colorado legislature goes after purveyors of 'revenge porn'

A bill that would criminalize the posting of intimate images over the Internet as an act of humiliation - so-called "revenge porn" - passed its first test in the Colorado state legislature, reported Reuters.
Similar legislation has been since been introduced in more than two dozen states this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Last year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a first-of-its-kind state law criminalizing revenge porn, the distribution of private, explicit photos of other people on the Internet, usually by ex-lovers or spouses, to humiliate them.

The bipartisan proposal passed through the Colorado House Judiciary Committee by an 11-0 vote after members heard more than two hours of testimony.

The bill's said after the hearing that victims of such activities would be vulnerable if an ex-partner decided to post embarrassing photos or videos online, making them readily accessible to the general public or an employer, for example.

The issue has gained attention nationwide, mostly from publicized cases involving operators of web sites who will post humiliating explicit images, and then charge the victim money to have them removed.

Under the Colorado measure, a person could face a maximum $10,000 fine if convicted of posting or otherwise disseminating images depicting another person's intimate parts if the actions are intended to cause "serious emotional distress."

The proposed law would make the offense a class-one misdemeanor under the Colorado criminal code.
To read more Click Here

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Missouri carries out fourth execution of 2014

The 18th Execution of 2014
Missouri executed an William Rousan on April 23, 2014 only a few miles from the farm where prosecutors say he orchestrated the 1993 killing of a couple whose cows he wanted to steal, reported The Associated Press.
William Rousan's last words were, "My trials and transgressions have been many. But thanks be to my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, I have a new home in his heavenly kingdom."
Before dying, Rousan, 57, mouthed words to his brother-in-law and a minister he had invited. As the drug was administered, Rousan breathed deeply twice and then was still. He was declared dead at 12:10 a.m., nine minutes after the procedure started.
Michael Lewis, the son of the slain couple, Charlie and Grace Lewis, spoke afterward.
"I draw no real satisfaction from Mr. Rousan's incarceration or execution, for neither can replace or restore the moments lost with my parents or give my sons back the grandparents they never got to know," he said.
According to prosecutors, Rousan, his teenage son, Brent Rousan, and his brother, Robert Rousan, murdered Charles and Grace Lewis on Sept. 21, 1993, at their farm near Bonne Terre. Rousan lived in the same area of St. Francois County, about 70 miles southwest of St. Louis.
Authorities say the three men drove by the farm, and William Rousan pointed out the cattle to steal. They parked about two miles away and hiked through the woods to the farm. They watched as the couple returned home. Charles Lewis, 67, began cutting the lawn with a riding mower while his wife, 62, spoke to the couple's daughter on the phone.
Brent Rousan, then 16, ambushed Charles Lewis, shooting him six times. Grace Lewis told her daughter on the phone she heard gunfire and stepped outside to check on the commotion. Brent Rousan shot her several times. She managed to go back into the home, but William Rousan followed her, placed a garment bag over her head and carried her outside.
He turned to his son and said, "Finish her off." Brent Rousan fired a single shot into the side of her head.
The men placed the bodies in a tarp and put them near a shed. Later that night, they returned along with another Rousan brother, loaded the bodies in the Lewis' pickup truck, and took two cows, a VCR, jewelry, a saddle and other items.
For almost exactly a year, they got away with the crime. The couple seemingly had vanished without a trace.
But in September 1994, investigators received two tips that helped them solve the case: Rousan's brother-in-law, Bruce Williams, called police and implicated Rousan in the couple's killings, and a sister of William and Robert Rousan sold the Lewises' stolen VCR to a pawn shop.
The couple's bodies were found in a shallow grave covered with concrete and a pile of horse manure on the farm where William Rousan was living. He was caught after a four-day manhunt.
Brent Rousan pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Robert Rousan cooperated with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He served seven years in prison and was released in 2001.
To read more Click Here

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Cautionary Instruction: Politics and the death penalty

Matthew T. Mangino
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
April 25, 2014
The legal maneuvering in Oklahoma over the scheduled executions of two condemned men convicted of separate murders has taken a strange, but not entirely unusual turn. This week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court stepped in to delay the executions of Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner while they pursued their challenge to the state’s “secret” lethal injection methods. That is not unusual.
What is unusual is that the Oklahoma Supreme Court does not normally handle criminal matters. The Court of Criminal Appeals had refused to consider the request for a delay, leading to an uneasy confrontation between the two courts.
As politics and the death penalty intersect the issue of delay got even murkier.
The Oklahoma Attorney General called into question the Supreme Court’s authority and asked the Court to drop its stay. The Court rejected the request, and soon after Governor Mary Fallin issued an executive order asserting that the stay was “outside the constitutional authority” of the Supreme Court. She exercised her own constitutional authority to delay the executions by one week, meaning that the two men could both be put to death before their challenge to lethal injection is resolved.
This confrontation is only the latest in a long history of political wrangling over the death penalty. My book, The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States released this week by McFarland & Company, examines how the death penalty has evolved from a term of art utilized in the criminal justice system to cultural buzz words used to reveal a philosophy on issues of law and order.
The death penalty has become, in many ways, a symbolic political term that lends itself to the illusion of toughness, if you support the death penalty; and to the illusion of weakness if you do not support the death penalty.
The idea that a political candidate can establish her law and order bona fides by being pro-death penalty has enhanced the significance of the death penalty in American politics. As capital punishment has evolved into a political symbol, “Joe Six-Pack” at the corner bar can also confirm his tough, red-blooded, law-abiding persona through his support of the death penalty.
The death penalty has morphed into a hot-button political issue right up there with abortion, guns and taxes. That is why Oklahoma’s Governor, attorney general, Supreme Court Justices and appellate judges are involved in this race to the death chamber—a public spectacle that serves no other purpose than political aggrandizement.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His book The Executioner's Toll, 2010 is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.
Visit Ipso Facto

Friday, April 25, 2014

GateHouse: Empower women — root out domestic violence

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse News Service
April 25, 2014
Jerry Remy is a legend in Boston. He grew up in Massachusetts, played for the Boston Red Sox and continues to go to Fenway Park every day as a broadcaster for the Red Sox.
Remy’s life seemed to be the stuff of every kid’s dreams, but things are not always as they appear.Remy’s son Jared was, as the Boston Globe suggested, “The king of second chances.”
Jared Remy is in jail awaiting trial for the murder of his girlfriend last August. A review of hundreds of pages of court files and police records by the Globe revealed a dangerous and violent batterer who has never been held accountable. Beginning at age 17, he terrorized five different girlfriends, culminating in the death of his most recent girlfriend.
He was arrested or brought to court in 20 different criminal cases, mostly for charges of violence against, or intimidation of, women. Remy had been found guilty just twice, and both times he avoided prison.
Domestic violence accounted for 21 percent of all violent crimes from 2003 to 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Domestic violence includes rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault committed by intimate partners — current or former spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends — immediate family members — parents, children or siblings — or other relatives.
With that grim statistic in mind and the alarming nature of the Remy case, it may be surprising to know that domestic violence has dropped precipitously since the mid-1990s.
The rate of domestic violence in U.S. households declined 63 percent, from 13.5 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older in 1994 to 5.0 per 1,000 in 2012. Both serious domestic violence (rape, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault) and simple assault (push, shove, slap, threaten) decreased.
Why the long and sustained drop in domestic violence?
Steven Pinker in “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined” suggested, “Those countries in which women are better represented in government and in the professions, and in which they earn a larger proportion of earned income, are less likely to have women at the receiving end of spousal abuse.”
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh found access to protective orders, assistance with child custody and support, divorce and property distribution and domestic legal disputes around immigration, housing and public benefits help alleviate the burdens of domestic violence. Lonnie A. Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, wrote recently that these services "appear to actually present women with real, long-term alternatives to their relationships."
What doesn’t work to protect women from violence are the knee-jerk reactions that often follow tragic high-profiles cases. That is exactly what happened in Massachusetts in the wake of Remy’s arrest.
An overhaul of the state's domestic violence laws, including new bail guidelines and tougher penalties for abusers, unanimously cleared the Massachusetts House of Representatives. The measure, called the most comprehensive domestic violence legislation in a generation, was approved 142-0. The proposed legislation is not without detractors. According to the Boston Herald, some have complained that the bill was hastily drafted and overly broad.
Criminal justice practitioners have focused a lot of attention — with considerable success — on enhanced sentences, emergency shelters, counselors and hotlines. Those efforts are priceless after an assault has occurred. However, such efforts do not prevent the pervasiveness of violence.
The greatest impact on violence against women in America and around the world is to empower women. In this country, women have excelled at every level. That kind of transformation is underway in many countries around the globe. However, until full equality is achieved professionally and personally, here and abroad, the scourge of domestic violence will continue.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was recently released by McFarland & Company. You can reach him at, and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.
Visit the Column

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Guest Column: Move military assault cases to civilian courts

Matthew T. Mangino, Times Guest Columnist
The Delaware County Daily Times
April 21, 2014
The U.S. Army recently endured an embarrassing and troubling public spectacle. The Army dropped sexual assault charges against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair in exchange for his plea to less serious charges of misconduct.
He was spared prison and sentenced to a reprimand and a $20,000 fine. His plea ended the trial of the highest-ranking officer ever to face sexual assault charges.
The trial may have ended but the controversy will continue. Sinclair pleaded guilty to having improper relationships with three subordinate officers, including the female captain who accused him of assault. He also pleaded guilty to adultery, which is a crime in the military.
Defense attorney Richard Scheff told The Associated Press that Sinclair is admitting to his mistakes, but added that the general is pleading guilty to behavior that likely wouldn’t be criminal in the civilian world.
How can a military officer or enlisted person have “consensual” sex with a subordinate soldier? In Pennsylvania, Institutional Sexual Assault, 18 P.S. 3124.2 provides an employee or agent of the Department of Corrections or a county correctional authority, youth development center, state or county juvenile detention facility or school who engages in sexual intercourse with an inmate, resident or student is guilty of a felony of the third degree.
The inmate, resident or student cannot consent to sex with a guard, caretaker or teacher. Why? Just as in the military there is concern that consent is influenced by the real or perceived threat of consequences for failure to indulge in the sexual conduct.
In prison, the consequences might be a contrived misconduct and time in the “hole;” in a youth development center it might be loss of a home visit; in school, unwarranted discipline; in the military the loss of a promotion or worse.
Just this month a Cumberland Valley High School teacher, outside of Carlisle, was charged with institutional sexual assault for her alleged relationship with an 18-year-old student.
Although the victim is of the age to consent to sex, the 31-year-old teacher is charged with having sexual encounters with the student in her classroom.
The military’s unique hierarchy and strict adherence to discipline sow the seeds for abuse. Lawrence Korb, a defense official in the Reagan administration, and Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine Corps captain, wrote in a 2012 Baltimore Sun op-ed that military sexual assault “[s]urvivors are often punished after reporting, including being forced to work with their perpetrators; charged for ‘fraternization,’ ‘adultery’ or ‘conduct unbecoming’; demoted or denied promotions and awards; or discharged from service with a false mental health diagnosis.”
Criminal prosecutions of sexual assault cases are rare in the military and civil recourse is almost non-existent.
Korb and Bhagwati lamented the expansion of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Feres v. United States, 340 US 135 (1950). In Feres, the court ruled that the United States is not liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act for injuries to members of the military that are “incident to service.”
The decision makes sense in terms of limiting the military’s liability for injuries while training or in combat. The management of the military would grind to a halt if soldiers could sue their commanding officers.
Over time the term “incident to service” became all-encompassing even to include sexual assault or rape. Korb and Bhagwati suggested, “Carving out an exception to the Feres doctrine in cases of sexual assault must happen…Rape should not be considered an inevitable consequence of serving one’s country.”
Sinclair’s conduct, and the manner in which this prosecution unraveled, reveal what appear to be fundamental flaws in the way sexual assaults are handled under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
With unreported sexual assault on the rise in the military, and with men entrenched in leadership positions, lawmakers should consider removing sexual assault investigations and prosecutions out of the military system and into civilian courts.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book, “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” is due out this summer. Reach him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
Visit the Daily Times

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Supreme Court rules 911 call enough for traffic stop

The Supreme Court upheld, 5 to 4, a California Highway Patrol officer's search of a pickup truck that was stopped by police after a 911 caller reported that the vehicle had run her off the road, according to The Crime Report. "That made it reasonable under the circumstances for the officer to execute a traffic stop," wrote Justice Clarence Thomas. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito. After the truck was stopped, officers smelled marijuana and found 30 pounds of pot in a search, which the driver and a passenger challenged.
In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia predicted that law enforcement agencies would conclude that the case establishes a new rule: "So long as the caller identifies where the car is, anonymous claims of a single instance of possibly careless or reckless driving, called into 911, will support a traffic stop. This is not my concept ... of a people secure from unreasonable searches and seizures." He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. The case is Prado Navarette et al. v. California
Read the Full Opinion

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Texas executes man who massacred family

The 17th Execution of 2014
A Texas man, Jose Villegas,  convicted of fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend, her young son and her mother 13 years ago at a home in Corpus Christi was executed by Texas prison officials on April 16, 2014, reported the Associated Press.
The lethal injection of Villegas was carried out after his attorneys unsuccessfully argued to the U.S. Supreme Court that he was mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty.
'I would like to remind my children once again I love them,' Villegas said when asked if he had a statement before being put to death. 'Everything is OK. I love you all, and I love my children. I am at peace.'
Just as the pentobarbital began taking effect, he said, 'It does kind of burn. Goodbye.' He gasped several times, then started to breathe quietly. Within less than a minute, all movement had stopped.
Villegas was pronounced dead at 7:04pm CDT, 11 minutes after the lethal dose of the sedative began. He became the seventh prisoner executed this year in the nation's most active death penalty state.
Six relatives of his victims witnessed the execution but declined to comment afterward.
'I was struck by the calm and peacefulness inside that room as opposed to the utter terror the victims must have been in as Jose Luis Villegas stabbed them,' Mark Skurka, the Nueces County district attorney who prosecuted Villegas, said after watching the execution.

'He made no attempt to make peace with the family, apologize to the family or show any remorse for taking the lives of three people,' Skurka said. 'The family expressed to me that they are glad that this is finally over and that justice has finally been done, even though it took a very long time in their minds for this to happen.'
Villegas' lawyers filed a last-day appeal asking the Supreme Court to stop his punishment, saying testing in February showed he had an IQ of 59.
The high court denied it several hours later, slightly delaying the punishment. Four of the nine justices indicated in the brief court order that they would have given him a reprieve.
The Supreme Court has prohibited execution of mentally impaired people, although states have been allowed to devise procedures to make their own determinations. Courts also have embraced scientific studies that consider a 70 IQ a threshold for impairment, and the high court justices are reviewing a Florida law stipulating that number for death penalty eligibility.
To read more Click Here

Monday, April 21, 2014

Texas executes Mexican national who also killed in Mexico

The 16th Execution of 2014
A man who escaped prison in his native Mexico while serving a murder sentence was executed in Texas on April 9, 2014 for fatally beating a former Baylor University history professor and attacking his wife more than 16 years ago, reported The Associated Press.
Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas, 44, was lethally injected in the state's death chamber in Huntsville.
He was in the U.S. illegally when he was arrested for the October 1997 slaying of 49-year-old Glen Lich. Just 10 days earlier, Lich had given Hernandez-Llanas a job helping with renovations at his ranch near Kerrville, about 65 miles northwest of San Antonio, in exchange for living quarters.
Investigators said Hernandez-Llanas lured Lich from his house by telling him that there was a problem with a generator, then repeatedly clubbed him with a piece of steel rebar. Armed with a knife, he then attacked Lich's wife. She survived and testified against Hernandez-Llanas, who also had been linked to a rape and a stabbing.
Strapped to a gurney inside the death chamber, Hernandez-Llanas asked for forgiveness. He also said he was at peace and thankful for being able to see relatives, and he urged them not to be sad.
"I'm happy... I am sorry for what I have done," he said, speaking in Spanish during a nearly five-minute final statement. "I'm looking at the angel of God."
He raised his head from the gurney three times and blew three loud kisses toward a brother, a sister and two friends watching through a window. He also thanked prison officers and the warden.

"I say this with a lot of love and happiness: I have no pain and no guilt. All I have is love," he said.
As the lethal drug took effect, he snored loudly twice, then appeared to go to sleep. Within seconds, all movement stopped. He was pronounced dead 11 minutes later, at 6:28 p.m.
Lich's son, who also witnessed the execution, declined to speak with reporters afterward.
Hernandez-Llanas was the second Texas inmate to receive a lethal injection of a new supply of pentobarbital. Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials have refused to identify the source of the powerful sedative, contending secrecy is needed to protect the drug's provider from threats of violence from capital punishment opponents. The U.S. Supreme Court backed the state's position in a related case last week.
Texas and other states that have the death penalty have been scrambling for substitute drugs or new sources for drugs for lethal injections after major drugmakers — many based in Europe with longtime opposition to the death penalty — stopped selling to prisons and corrections departments.
Hernandez-Llanas' appeals were exhausted, and the Texas parole board on Tuesday refused to delay his death sentence or commute it to life in prison.
He was among more than four dozen Mexican citizens awaiting execution in the U.S. when the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled in 2004 that they weren't properly advised of their consular rights when arrested. A measure mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court to enforce that ruling has languished in Congress.
On Wednesday, the Mexican government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement condemning the execution.
"This is the fourth case of a Mexican being executed in clear violation of the judgment of the International Court of Justice," the ministry said. "The Government of Mexico expresses its most vigorous protest at the failure to comply."
But that issue never surfaced in Hernandez-Llanas' appeals, which focused primarily on claims that his mental impairment made him ineligible for the death penalty. Testimony from psychiatrists who said he was not mentally impaired and would remain a danger was faulty, his attorneys argued.
According to trial testimony, Hernandez-Llanas was arrested just hours after the attacking Lich and his wife. He was sleeping in the bed where he had wrapped his arm around the terrorized woman, who managed to wriggle from his grasp and restraints without waking him and call police.
Evidence showed Hernandez-Llanas was in Texas after escaping from a Mexican prison, where he was serving a 25-year sentence for a 1989 bludgeoning murder in Nuevo Laredo. He was linked to the rape of a 15-year-old girl and a stabbing in Kerrville. While awaiting trial, evidence showed he slashed another inmate's face with a razor blade. In prison, he was found with homemade weapons.
"This is exactly why we have the death penalty," Lucy Wilke, an assistant Kerr County district attorney who helped prosecute Hernandez-Llanas, said ahead of the execution. "Nobody, even prison guards, is safe from him."
Hernandez-Llanas was the sixth prisoner executed this year in Texas, the nation's busiest death penalty state.
To read more Click Here

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Today is the day to launch a crusade against hate

On this Easter morning when we think of peace, love and sacrifice--we need to be vigilante against the hate that continue to be spread by groups that spew hate in the name of racial, sexual or religious superiority.  NBC News recently expounded on the state of hate in the wake of the recent deadly attack outside two Jewish centers in Kansas.
The only way to fight racial, sexual or religious hatred is understand and know the reach and extent of the problem. Here, by the numbers, is a snapshot of hate crime in America in 2014.
How many ‘hate groups’ are there?
There are 939 active hate groups in the United States – a 56 percent increase since 2000, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The number of such groups surged in response to President Barack Obama’s election and the economic downturn – growing from 888 in 2008 to 1,007 in 2012 – before falling back slightly last year, according to Mark Potok, who tracks extremist groups for the SPLC. Members of these groups and others were involved in 5,796 “incidents” in 2012, the most recent year for which the FBI has compiled data. While that number declined from the 6,222 incidents reported in the prior year, 7,164 people were victimized.
What is a hate crime?
As defined by the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990, hate crimes are “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, gender or gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.”
For reporting purposes, it does not matter whether or not the perpetrators of the crime were ever charged with a hate crime.
How often do hate crimes occur?    

The FBI is charged under the Hate Crime Statistics Act with compiling statistics on hate crimes. In its most recent report, for 2012, it counted 5,796 incidents resulting in 7,164 victims. That was a decline from the previous year, in which the FBI tallied 6,222 incidents.
Separately, the Bureau of Justice Statistics has been collecting data on crimes motivated by hate since 2003 for its National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). That survey, which includes data on crimes believed by the victims to have been motivated by hate but not reported to police, showed a spike in hate crimes from 2011 to 2012.
What trends do the data show?
According to the FBI’s data for 2012, most hate crime is motivated by race, accounting for 48 percent of all such reports.
Here are some other trends from the data since 1995:
Overall incidence of hate crimes
The number of hate crimes has fallen by about one-fourth over the years from 1995 through 2012, the latest year for which numbers are available. In 1995, the FBI counted 7,947 incidents. The count remained generally steady, with ups and downs, until the late 2000s, when it dipped into the 6,000s before hitting 5,796 in 2012. These changes could be attributable, in part, to variations in the agencies reporting to the FBI from year to year.     

Average incidents per year
Over the entire period, the average number of incidents reported per year was 7,573, with an average of 9,455 victims per year. For the latest year, 2012, the numbers are 5,796 incidents with 7,164 victims.
To read more Click Here

Saturday, April 19, 2014

GateHouse: Prosecutors face off in public quarrels

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse News Service
April 18, 2014
Ongoing public battles over the reach and authority of prosecutors has cast a shadow over corruption probes in two states. The American Bar Association established a set of standards for prosecutors to use as a guide for professional conduct and performance. Cases in New York and Pennsylvania have tied these standards in knots.
Recently, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara challenged New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's decision to dismantle a commission examining public corruption and said his office would take over the investigations.
Bharara has made pursuing corruption at the state capital a priority since being appointed by the president in 2009. The New York Times quoted him as saying during a radio interview, "Nine months may be the proper and natural gestation period for a child, but in our experience not the amount of time necessary for a public corruption prosecution to mature."
In Pennsylvania, the attorney general, a former lead prosecutor in the attorney general’s office and the district attorney of Philadelphia are embroiled in a bitter dispute. The acrimony boiled over after Attorney General Kathleen Kane decided to drop a political corruption probe in Philadelphia.
The spectacle of prosecutors engaging in bitter public debates is unsettling.
The ABA standards provide, “The decision to institute criminal proceedings should be initially and primarily the responsibility of the prosecutor.” In fact, section 3-3.9 (b) provides, “The prosecutor may in some circumstances and for good cause consistent with the public interest decline to prosecute, notwithstanding that sufficient evidence may exist which would support a conviction.”
In March, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Kane's office shut down a corruption investigation that reportedly involved at least four Philadelphia legislators allegedly accepting improper payments.
The following day, Kane held a press conference saying that she dropped the investigation because it became “non-prosecutable” once charges were dismissed against the informant in the case. Kane also said that the investigation was mismanaged, and that her office found evidence that it was racially biased.
A former lead prosecutor in the attorney general’s office, Frank G. Fina, countered in an Inquirer op-ed. “My colleagues and I conducted our investigation honestly, ably, and with integrity. I am willing to sit down at the same table with Kane … where we can each respond to any questions that are posed about the investigation.”
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams was also sharply critical of Kane. Fina is now a prosecutor in Williams’ office. The attorney general “drops a case supported by hundreds of hours of devastating tapes because the main witness got a deal on a bunch of government fraud charges," he wrote in an op-ed that also appeared in The Inquirer. “As a DA, I think this might be the most disturbing aspect of the whole sordid spectacle. You don't have to be a prosecutor to know this is how it's done."
Kane recently fired off a letter to the Philadelphia district attorney suggesting that "any law enforcement agency interested in taking this case should do so." Williams wrote back immediately, telling the attorney general to hand over all of the original evidence although he had already told The Inquirer that Kane's criticism of the investigation and its key undercover operative have permanently tainted any potential prosecution.
In New York, an area where federal prosecutors have turned their notoriety into elective office — Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie — Bharara kept railing against Cuomo, "The sequence of these events gives the appearance, although I am sure this is not the intent, that investigations potentially significant to the public interest have been bargained away as part of the negotiated arrangement between legislative and executive leaders."
Asked about reports that Cuomo's aides interfered in the commission's decisions, Bharara told The Times, "I don't know what all the facts are there. … What I can tell you is, it is impossible to overstate the importance of independence on the part of any investigative body."
There appears to be no end to the unseemly and unsettling war of words.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” is due out this summer. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.
Visit the Column

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Cautionary Instruction: Confidential informants under increasing scrutiny

Matthew T. Mangino
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
April 18, 2014
In 2013, 246 people were murdered in Philadelphia but the police only received 82 tips about those homicides. Officials say those numbers are indicative of the “no snitching” culture in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia officials are actively trying to recruit informants to help solve murders through innovative social media efforts and good old fashioned rewards. Ironically, at the same time a high profile Philadelphia informant is being eviscerated in the media. Tyrone B. Ali an informant who was helping the Attorney General’s office in a corruption probe has been hung out to dry.
Informants are a hot topic in Philadelphia. Anyone thinking of cooperating with police is certainly going to be influenced by the battle between the attorney general, a former lead prosecutor in the attorney general’s office and the district attorney of Philadelphia.
Last month, Attorney General Kathleen Kane decided to drop a political corruption probe in Philadelphia.
One of the primary prosecutors in the investigation was Frank G. Fina. He is now front and center in this embarrassing public dispute along with his new boss Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.
The dispute is centered on the viability of corruption prosecutions which hinge on the credibility, or lack thereof, of Ali.
A confidential informant is a person usually accused of a crime that either comes forward, or is asked by police, to offer assistance in exchange for leniency. Jailhouse informants, inmates often already convicted, are commonly recruited to testify about statements made by other inmates accused of murder, organized crime, sexual assault and just about any other crime.
The confidential informant has a useful place in the investigation and prosecution of criminal conduct. The closely vetted and reliable confidential informant can provide a wealth of information about an ongoing criminal enterprise. A drug informant can make controlled hand-to-hand purchases of illegal drugs without which there would be few successful drug prosecutions.
At times, confidential informants go sour. In Sarasota, Florida prosecutors dropped or reduced felony drug charges against more than a dozen people after learning that the police informant who set up the drug deals had sex with some of the defendants.
The informant crossed ethical and legal boundaries in what is already a murky world where criminals work with undercover officers under unseemly and often dangers circumstance to document criminal activity.
Although almost invisible to the public, the use of criminal confidential informants permeates the criminal justice system across the country. According to Alexandra Natapoff in Secret Justice: Criminal Informants and America’s Underground Legal System, “These deals typically take place off-the-record, subject to few rules and little oversight. While criminal informants…can be important investigative tools, using them has some serious costs.”

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His book The Executioner's Toll, 2010 is due out this summer.
Visit Ipso Facto

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Texas executes serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells

The 15th Execution of 2014
Convicted serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells, who was sent to prison in 1999 and claimed responsibility for dozens of murders across the country, was executed on April 3, 2014 in Texas, reported ABC News.
Sells, 49, was convicted of killing 13-year-old Katy Harris while she slept in her Del Rio, Texas, home. Her murder landed Sells on death row, but he has been linked to at least 17 other killings and claims he has killed as dozens more.
Sells declined to make final remarks before his death, then took a few breaths, closed his eyes and began to snore as the lethal-injection drugs took effect, The Associated Press reported. He soon stopped moving and was pronounced dead 13 minutes later at 6:27 p.m. CT.
Sells' execution earlier had been halted when a district court ruled that the Texas prison system was required to disclose information about its lethal-injection drugs supplier and how the drugs are tested. But a federal appeals court on Wednesday threw out the ruling and reversed the decision.
Sells' attorneys made a plea to the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the serial killer's execution, but their plea was rejected Thursday.
In a statement to ABC News Thursday, Sells' attorneys said, "It is our belief that how we choose to execute prisoners reflects on us as a society. Without transparency about lethal injections, particularly the source and purity of drugs to be used, it is impossible to ensure that executions are humane and constitutional. It is our hope that the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas courts will ultimately agree that we must have transparency about the execution process in order to ensure that prisoners are able to protect their Eighth Amendment rights."
Sells, an extreme example of someone with a murderous mind, talked about his gruesome past with ABC News in a chilling 2010 jailhouse interview.
As a young boy growing up in St. Louis, Sells was addicted to killing by the time he was 14.
"I am hatred. When you look at me, you look at hate," Sells said in 2010. "I don't know what love is. Two words I don't like to use is 'love' and 'sorry,' because I'm about hate."
To read more Click Here

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Philadelphia police will ignore immigration detainers

Philadelphia police will no longer honor immigration detainers if the mayor signs an executive order today outlawing the practice, reported the Philadelphia Daily News.
The order is expected to preclude police from honoring detainer requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement except in cases where a person is convicted of a first- or second-degree felony involving violence, and only when ICE secures a warrant to support the detainer.
Michael Resnick, the city's director of public safety, had testified about that pending change at a City Council hearing last month. He did not return a call for comment late yesterday afternoon.
Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald would not comment yesterday on whether the mayor is going to sign the order tomorrow.
ICE detainers or "holds" are requests by federal immigration authorities for police to hold a person who was detained for an alleged crime for up to an additional 48 hours. That would allow ICE to take the person - if suspected of being an undocumented immigrant or a noncitizen - into their custody for possible deportation.
To read more Click Here

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

California's state-of-the-art medical prison a 'bust'

California's $840-million medical prison — the largest in the nation — was built to provide care to more than 1,800 inmates, reported the Los Angeles Times.
Since opening in July, the state-of-the-art facility has been beset by waste, mismanagement and miscommunication between the prison and medical staffs.
Prisoner-rights lawyer Rebecca Evenson, checking on compliance with disabled access laws, was shocked by the problems. "This place was supposed to fix a lot of what was wrong," she said. "But they not only were not providing care, but towels or soap or shoes."
Reports by prison staff and inmate-rights lawyers described prisoners left in broken wheelchairs and lying on soiled bedsheets. Administrators had to drive into town to borrow catheters from a local hospital.
The state also had underestimated the number of nurses and guards needed, and there were not enough staffers to unlock doors, help disabled prisoners move about or take patients to the showers. Other inmates were recruited to help. Prisoner advocates reported seeing a man in a wheelchair whose job it was to push the wheelchair of another inmate. A disabled prisoner said he had been left to sit on the toilet for hours.
To read more Click Here

Monday, April 14, 2014

'Active Shooter' incidents not on the rise-contrary to public opinion

As defined by the federal government, an active shooter "is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area, typically through the use of firearms." Even though they may wish to kill large numbers of victims, these assailants typically fall short of their objective.
Among the 110 active shooter cases identified since 2000, nearly three-quarters resulted in fewer than four fatalities, which is the usual threshold for mass murder, wrote James Alan Fox, the Lipman Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at Northeastern University, in the USA Today.
Moreover, nearly one-quarter of the active shooter cases were resolved without any victims losing their lives. While all of these episodes were undoubtedly frightening to those impacted directly or indirectly, the majority should not be equated with the few catastrophic slayings that have grabbed the headlines and alarmed the nation.
Besides the confusion surrounding terminology, evidence suggesting an increase in active shooters is suspect, at best. The data used by the FBI and others focusing on active shooter incidents derive in large part from newspaper sources. That the term "active shooter" is of recent vintage tends to bias any attempt to examine trends based on searching news coverage.
In sharp contrast to the "active shooter panic" is that mass shootings, instances in which four or more are killed by gunfire, are not on the rise. Over the past three-plus decades, according to official homicide data reported annually by law enforcement agencies nationwide, there have been on average about 20 mass shootings a year, with neither an upward or downward trajectory. The only increase has been in publicity and dread.
Fox concludes, "The reason why the rampant misimpression about a raging epidemic in active shooters matters so greatly is in how it drives public opinion and public policy on guns, mental health and security. Excessive alarm, fueled by misleading news reports, leads to knee-jerk responses that are not necessarily for the best."
To read more Click Here

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Looking for what works in preventing school violence

Teaching students alternatives to violence and improving their access to mental health services are among the best ideas officials say they have for preventing the kind of bloodshed that has struck a long list of schools, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
 Researcher Manny Sethi, an orthopedic trauma surgeon and a Vanderbilt assistant professor of orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation said, from anti-bullying and zero-tolerance initiatives to metal detectors and programs that allow students to report threats anonymously, schools have embraced a variety of measures to keep schools safe.
But some simply don't work, Dr. Sethi said. After reviewing data on 27 programs, he and his team decided to pilot one of them -- designed by Harvard psychologist Ron Slaby -- in a violence-plagued Nashville middle school.
Before the study, the students completed questionnaires regarding their beliefs about violence and ability to manage volatile situations. Over several weeks, students used role-playing to learn how to avoid violence at heated moments, such as when one student calls another a name or hits on a peer's girlfriend.
Dr. Sethi said the exercises helped students "build the machinery of understanding conflict and how it progresses and how to get yourself out of it."
On a second questionnaire, administered after the exercises, students reported that they were less likely than before to be a target of bullying, less likely to hit or push others, less likely to cheer if a fight broke out and more likely to try to defuse a potential altercation. Some of the improvements were statistically significant, while others fell below that threshold.
Alicia Chico, a social worker with the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, said strategies are available for training staff and identifying troubled students. But, she said, teachers are often too busy to deal with the issues.
"This has to start with who is interacting with students the most and that is the teacher. But a lot of times these issues aren't addressed because teachers have so many things they have to get done and so many constraints on them," Ms. Chico said.
Cirecie West-Olatunji, president of the American Counseling Association, agreed that more training and consultation with mental health professions is needed for classroom teachers. In addition, she said, counselors, social workers and school psychologists should be given time to walk the halls of schools and develop relationships with students and their families.

To read more Click Here

Saturday, April 12, 2014

GateHouse: Street law - a resurgence of vigilante justice

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse News Service
April 11, 2014
Last week, a man was savagely beaten by an angry mob after he accidentally hit a kid with his pickup on a Detroit street. Steve Utash stopped to help David Harris, a 10-year-old boy he struck while on his way home from work. That’s when a group of about a dozen men, who had gathered after the accident, began to beat him, reported the Detroit News.
The mob attack is an example of “vigilante justice”—the actions of a group of people who claim to enforce the law but lack the legal authority to do so. A vigilante can also be a single person who seeks to take the law into his own hands. The term can also describe a general state of disarray or lawlessness.
One of the best known vigilantes is Bernhard Goetz. In 1984, Goetz was on a New York City subway when two teenagers approached him. One of the teens demanded money. Goetz pulled a gun and fired five shots. Four young men were wounded—one suffering a severed spinal cord. New York City newspapers dubbed the gunman "the subway vigilante."
At the time, New York City’s violent crime rate was unprecedented, and in some circles Goetz was praised as a hero.
During some of the darkest times in American history, lynching was viewed as vigilantism. In reality, lynchings were evidence of a general state of lawlessness. In the South, an estimated two or three blacks were lynched each week in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In Mississippi alone, 500 blacks were lynched from the mid-1800s to 1955. Nationwide, the figure climbed to nearly 5,000, according to the Public Broadcasting System.
Today lynching is not only outlawed but also a sign of collective incivility. Lynching is often defined as "any act of violence inflicted by a mob upon the body of another person which results in the death of the person.” For instance, South Carolina law defines a “mob” as "the assemblage of two or more persons, without color or authority of law, for the premeditated purpose and with the premeditated intent of committing an act of violence upon the person of another."
At times the color of law is often blurred. In 1933, a prominent California business owner’s son was kidnapped for ransom. The kidnapping turned to murder and two men were arrested.
After the victim’s body was discovered, the media announced that the two “killers” would be lynched at San Jose’s St. James Park. Some 15,000 people gathered in the park. Gov. James Rolph refused to take any action to protect the men. He even announced that anyone who participated in the lynching would receive a pardon.
In 2010, John D. Murphy wrote about the lynching in the San Jose Mercury, “Never before or since has the rule of law been so collectively subverted by law enforcement (including the FBI), public officials, community leaders, everyday citizens and the press.”
Lynchings in the South were often covered in the local newspaper. The website for PBS’s American Experience provided examples of newspaper headlines from about the same time as the California lynching. “Negro and White Scuffle; Negro Is Jailed, Lynched" was published in the Atlanta Constitution on July 6, 1933. "Negro Is Slain By Texas Posse: Victim's Heart Removed After His Capture By Armed Men" was published in The New York World Telegram on Dec. 8, 1933.
Vigilante justice is nothing new in Detroit. In 2013, a mob located a man accused of raping a 15-year-old girl with Down syndrome. They beat him repeatedly. Witnesses at one point saw five attackers. At least one was armed with a baseball bat.
In 2011, the city had 32 self-defense killings, a 79 percent increase from the previous year, according to the Daily Mail.
Detroit’s lawlessness is on the mind of the young and old alike. “We got to have a little Old West up here in Detroit. That’s what it’s gonna take,” 73-year-old Julia Brown told the Daily Mail. “I don’t intend to be one of their victims, I’m planning on taking one out.”
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” is due out this summer. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.
Visit the Column

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Cautionary Instruction: DOJ unveils National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice

Matthew T. Mangino
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
April 11, 2014
The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced a major new initiative aimed at enhancing public safety by strengthening relationships between law enforcement and communities. The DOJ has established the National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice.
For years, criminal justice practitioners have advocated for better relationships between the police and the public. Eight years ago, Police Chief Magazine suggested, “By building trust with the community, police officers can persuade citizens to come out of their houses and businesses to talk about problems.”
A better police community relationship serves four important objectives. First, it enables police officers and community prosecutors to develop a plan for solving problems and finding solutions. Second, it provides invaluable information that law enforcement can use to develop witnesses. Third, it builds the trust in the criminal justice system that is necessary to cultivate potential jury pools. Fourth, citizens who feel that their problems are taken seriously become part of the problem-solving process, providing the court with victim impact statements on how crime affects them.
The new DOJ initiative will expand the base of knowledge about what works to improve procedural fairness, reduce bias, and promote racial reconciliation. The initiative will help communities address the challenges arising from suspicion, distrust and lack of confidence in our law enforcement agencies.
Tony West, Associate Attorney General of the United States recently said that the creation of the National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice is in response to President Barack Obama’s initiative, My Brother’s Keeper, a call to action to invest in collaborative, multi-disciplinary approaches to build opportunity and unlock the full potential of boys and young men of color.
The DOJ initiative will encompass a broad range of areas in which fairness and trust are implicated—from stops and searches to wrongful convictions. A team of cross-disciplinary experts will fuel the initiative by conducting research, piloting and testing innovative ideas, developing models for rigorous evaluation, and disseminating the latest research and best practices to the field in the form of community policing strategies.
Community policing is an essential part of any effort to build trust within communities. The initiative will bring the collective experiences of police chiefs, community activists, civil rights organizations and civic leaders from across the country to bear on this problem, identify ways in which law enforcement and the community can work together to strengthen relationships and enhance public safety.
U.S. Attorneys will lead coordination efforts of the National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice with five pilot sites that will implement and test policing strategies.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His book The Executioner's Toll, 2010 is due out this summer.
Visit Ipso Facto

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cuomo backs off college for prison inmates

In February, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo unveiled what he billed as a bold plan to attack the problem of high rates of recidivism: The state would pay for college classes for prison inmates, reports the New York Times.
But six weeks later, after lawmakers approved the state budget this week, the governor acknowledged that his highly promoted proposal, which his advisers talked up as a major advancement in criminal justice policy, was so politically controversial that he would no longer pursue using public money to finance it.
Cuomo said he had decided against seeking public money for the prison classes because of opposition from lawmakers, particularly in the State Senate, who pointed out that many law-abiding families are struggling to pay for college.
“I understand the sentiment,” the governor said. “I don’t agree with it, but I understand it, and I understand the appearance of it.”
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, had proposed creating publicly-funded college programs at 10 state prisons. His office estimated the program would cost $1 million in the first year, a minuscule sum in a state whose corrections agency has an operating budget of $2.8 billion.
College programs in prisons dwindled two decades ago after President Bill Clinton signed legislation denying Pell grants for inmates. Gov. George E. Pataki, a Republican, later made prisoners ineligible for New York’s Tuition Assistance Program, cutting off another source of public funding.
The idea provoked outrage in Washington: Three Republican congressmen from upstate New York introduced what they called the Kids Before Cons Act, which would prevent federal money from being used to pay for college classes for federal or state prison inmates.
The proposal also gave fodder to Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive, who is campaigning to unseat Mr. Cuomo in November. During a recent visit to Buffalo, Mr. Astorino, a Republican, spoke about how he and his wife were saving to pay for their children to go to college. “Maybe our 10-year-old son, we should sit him down and explain how to rob a bank,” Mr. Astorino said.
A Siena College poll conducted last month found that 53 percent of voters supported the governor’s proposal, compared with 43 percent who opposed it. But the poll found strong opposition among some groups: 68 percent of Republicans, and 66 percent of upstate voters.

To read more Click Here

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mangino on WKBN-TV talks about school rampage

Watch the interview Click Here
Recently, gun violence made headlines with tragedy hitting Fort Hood, a gun firing that put the campus of Kent State on lock-down, and Wednesday, gunfire took place inside the Los Angeles Police Department.
But Wednesday’s incident at a school outside of Pittsburgh in which 20 students were injured involved a knife, and some feel there is little to prevent such events aside from preparation.
“It caught me by surprise when I saw that it was a knife that was involved,” said Warren City Schools Superintenent Michael Notar.
Notar said his district approved new safety measures Tuesday and will install special barricades this summer.
Notar doesn’t want to see metal detectors in his school and doesn’t feel they are effective. Former Lawrence County District Attorney Matt Mangino agrees.
“It’s not going to prevent someone who has a plan, who meticulously puts that plan in place and tries to carry it out,” Mangino said.
Canfield Superintendent Alex Jordan said via phone that active shooter training can still be effective in these situations, and Notar agrees.
Mangino feels people need to pay attention to warning signs, but that too may be difficult…

“There are lots of signs that after the fact look like they could have been good predictors, but they’re actually pretty common and almost no one goes and does something violent like that,” said Youngstown State University Professor Michael Raulin.
Raulin feels this behavior is rare and that predicting such violence is very difficult.
Notar said most schools in Trumbull county have completed ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate) training, as did Jordan. Boardman Schools also completed an active shooter simulation drill last year. Both superintendents said they feel these simulations have given their faculty the skills needed to respond should violence happen.

Arkansas AG candidate calls for return of electric chair

The four candidates running for Arkansas attorney general agree they want to resume executions that have been halted for nearly a decade by court challenges and shortages of the drugs used for lethal injections.
However, one candidate, David Sterling, said he thinks the state should look to electrocution to carry out the death penalty while the state's lethal injection law remains in limbo. Sterling is running against Leslie Rutledge and Patricia Nation for the GOP nomination. State Rep. Nate Steel is the only Democrat running for the post.
"The electric chair is still authorized to be used in executions in the state of Arkansas. The electric chair has withstood constitutional scrutiny throughout the country for many, many decades. And so with it being available as a method of execution, I'm not sure why we're not employing it," Sterling told The Associated Press last week.
Sterling raised the electric chair as a possibility while he talked about how to restart the state's executions. Arkansas has 33 inmates on death row, but hasn't executed anyone since 2005.
Arkansas hasn't used electrocution to execute anyone since 1990, and the state's electric chair now sits in a museum.
To read more Click Here

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

DOJ establishes National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice

Associate Attorney General Tony West announced, at the Strengthening the Relationship Between Law Enforcement and Communities of Color Forum in New York City on April 4, 2014, a major new Department of Justice initiative aimed at enhancing public safety by strengthening relationships between law enforcement and communities.  Under a new solicitation the DOJ is committing up to $4.75 million to establish the National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice. 
 This initiative – which will be jointly supported by the Office of Justice Programs, COPS Office, Civil Rights Division, Office on Violence Against Women, and Community Relations Service – will expand the base of knowledge about what works to improve procedural fairness, reduce bias, and promote racial reconciliation.  It will help communities address the challenges arising from suspicion, distrust and lack of confidence in our law enforcement agencies.
 This effort will encompass a broad range of areas in which fairness and trust are implicated -- from stops and searches to wrongful convictions.  A team of cross-disciplinary experts will fuel the initiative by conducting research, piloting and testing innovative ideas, developing models for rigorous evaluation, and disseminating the latest research and best practices to the field.   U.S. Attorneys will lead coordination efforts with five pilot sites that will implement and test strategies focused on procedural justice, implicit bias, and racial reconciliation.
 The initiative will engage an array of criminal and juvenile justice agencies, including law enforcement, probation, parole, and the courts; as well as community stakeholders, like faith-based groups and victim service organizations.
 The goal is to build on the pioneering work already underway in some of America’s most challenged areas and to open doors of cooperation that will ultimately lead to safer and healthier communities. 
To read more Click Here

Monday, April 7, 2014

Texas executes serial killer

The 15th Execution of 2014
Tommy Lynn Sells, a serial killer, was put to death April 3, 2014 in Texas after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his lawyers' demand that the state release information about where it gets its lethal injection drug.
Sells was the first inmate to be injected with a dose of newly replenished pentobarbital that Texas prison officials obtained to replace an expired supply of the powerful sedative. When asked if he wanted to make a statement before his execution, Sells replied: "No."
As the drug began flowing into his arms inside the death chamber in Huntsville, Sells took a few breaths, his eyes closed and he began to snore. After less than a minute, he stopped moving. He was pronounced dead at 6:27 p.m. CDT—13 minutes after being given the pentobarbital.
Terry Harris, whose 13-year-old daughter, Kaylene Harris, was fatally stabbed by Sells in 1999 in South Texas, watched as Sells was executed, saying the injection was "way more gentle than what he gave out."
"Basically, the dude just took a nap," the father told reporters later outside the prison.
Court records show Sells claimed to have committed as many as 70 killings across the U.S.
In 2003, Sells was indicted but never tried for the slaying of 13-year-old Stephanie Mahaney in Missouri. He also pleaded guilty to capital murder in the 1999 death of 9-year-old Mary Bea Perez, who was strangled during an outdoor festival in Texas. Prosecutors waived the death penalty in exchange for the plea.
Among his other confessions was the slaying of an Illinois family in 1987. Those victims included Ruby Dardeen, who was eight months pregnant. Her fatal beating forced her to prematurely give birth. The newborn was killed along with her 3-year-old sibling.
To read more Click Here

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Chief Justice O’Connor slams door on debtors’ prisons

Matthew T. Mangino
The Vindicator
April 6, 2014

Roughly a year ago, I wrote about a number of Ohio counties that were locking away indigent defendants who were too poor to pay off their fines and costs. The action continued in spite of state and federal laws to the contrary.
Recently, the Ohio Supreme Court addressed the issue. The Supreme Court’s action is in direct response to a report released last year by the ACLU, “The Outskirts of Hope.” The report suggested the inability to pay a fine in Ohio is “the beginning of a protracted process that may involve contempt charges, mounting fees, arrest warrants and even jail time.”
In the wake of the report, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor held a meeting with the ACLU and created a plan to draft and distribute new instructions to courts across Ohio. The Supreme Court issued new “bench cards” to all the state’s judges with different alternatives to jail for offenders unable to pay fines and court costs.
“Debtors’ prisons are not only unconstitutional, they are a cruel albatross that traps low-income people in a never-ending cycle of poverty, debt, and incarceration,” said ACLU of Ohio spokesman Mike Brickner. “We expect our courts to protect the vulnerable and seek justice. It is our hope that the Supreme Court of Ohio’s actions … have moved our courts closer to fulfilling that vision.”
Nearly 30 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that courts cannot properly revoke a defendant’s probation for failure to pay a fine and make restitution, absent evidence that the defendant was willfully refusing to pay.
If a court initially determined a fine was the appropriate penalty for a crime, the court could not later imprison a person solely because he lacked the resources to pay the fine.

What were some Ohio judges doing?
A number of Ohio counties were jailing offenders because they were too poor to pay fines. That type of court action, besides being illegal, was also perpetuating an antiquated and draconian process — debtors’ prison.
Jail is not an option in Ohio for failure to pay court costs and restitution. The Ohio Supreme Court had ruled that fines are criminal sanctions, and costs and restitution are civil. Yet, according to the ACLU’s report, some Ohio counties regularly incarcerated people who failed to pay court costs.
Case law
The Ohio Constitution explicitly prohibits debtors’ prison, and the concept is further prohibited by statute and case law. The procedure is clearly defined in Ohio. Before jailing an individual for failure to pay fines, a judge must conduct a hearing where the individual is represented by counsel and has the opportunity to present evidence regarding her ability to pay the fine.
Despite those clear directives, Ohioans were regularly jailed for their inability to pay, and the Supreme Court had to intervene.
The new two-page bench card will change the way judges do business in Ohio. The law is clear; only a willful refusal to pay a fine that an offender has the ability to pay can result in jail time in Ohio.
Anything short of a willful refusal will be handled in accordance with the directives of the bench card. Methods authorized to collect a fine include payment plans, community service and attachment of personal funds among other options. Methods explicitly prohibited include contempt of court, forfeiture of confiscated money, and the extension of probation.
With regard to court costs, jail time is never an option but payment plans and community service, as with fines, are also available.
The Ohio Supreme Court’s fast action is an important step in shedding the state’s dubious distinction of imprisoning debtors.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” is due out this summer. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino
Visit The Vindicator

Saturday, April 5, 2014

GateHouse: The horror of filicide, parents killing their own children

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse News Service
April 4, 2014
Last month, Ebony Wilkerson, a pregnant mother of three, drove her minivan into the ocean off the coast of Daytona Beach, Fla. The South Carolina woman and her three children—ages 3, 9 and 11—were all in the van. Their lives were saved by a couple of good Samaritans and fast-acting police.

Wilkerson is charged with attempted murder. According to a police affidavit, one of her children told detectives that "Mom tried to kill us."

The case is reminiscent of another South Carolinian, Susan Smith, who in 1994 murdered her two children. Smith confessed to letting her vehicle roll into the John D. Long Lake, drowning her 3-year-old and 14-month-old children strapped inside the vehicle.

The public was outraged when it learned that Smith led police on a fictitious manhunt for suspects that did not exist and repeatedly appeared before television cameras feigning distress and seeking the public’s sympathy. Smith blamed her behavior on troubles with her new boyfriend, who did not want the children around.

Homicide is the leading cause of death for children 4 years of age and younger. The media seems to focus on the fear of stranger abductions and brutal murders at the hands of predators. The reality is that 61 percent of children murdered before the age of 5 are killed by their parents.

Filicide, the deliberate act of a parent killing his or her own child, is also the third leading cause of death for American children ages 5 to 14, according to Dr. Phillip Resnick, director of forensic psychiatry at Case Western University.

In 1969, Resnick created one of the most influential classifications of familial child murder. He developed five categories to account for the motives driving parents to kill their children. Parents who kill their children because they believe it is in the best interest of the child are categorized as altruistic killers. There are also psychotic killers; parents who kill unwanted children; accidental killers who kill as a result of ongoing abuse; and spousal/partner revenge killings.

One of the most recognizable psychotic child killings was that of Andrea Yates. The Texas mother of five killed her children in 2001. Yates drowned all five of her children—Noah, 7; John, 5; Paul, 3; Luke 2; and Mary, 6 months—in the bathtub of the family’s home.

Yates was initially convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison. An appeals court granted her a new trial. In 2006, she was found innocent by reason of insanity and continues to be institutionalized in a mental health facility.

One of the most extraordinary cases of child murder in the 20th century took place in Schenectady, N.Y. Unlike the Smith and Yates cases where the victims were killed during one tragic incident, these events took place over a period of nearly 14 years.

In 1986, Marybeth Tinning, a housewife and former school bus driver, was arrested and charged with the murder of her 4-month-old daughter, Tami Lynne.

Tami Lynne was among nine of Tinning's children, including an adopted son, who died before the age of 4 between 1972 and 1986. According to Mark Gado of the Crimelibrary, authorities suspected Tinning's first child died naturally — but she murdered the other eight children.

Tinning is serving 20 years to life for the killing of only the one child. Recently she was denied parole for the third time since becoming eligible for release in 2007.

Can filicide be prevented? Resnick and professor Susan Hatters Friedman believe it can. Filicide can often be the result of fatal maltreatment. Mothers who kill often abuse their children prior to killing them.

Intervention to protect the child and provide treatment for the parent is the highest priority. All 50 states have mandatory reporting laws for professionals who suspect child abuse. Parenting classes, emotional support, and emergency numbers to call when mothers are overwhelmed can be helpful in preventing filicide.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” is due out this summer. You can reach him at, and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.
Visit the Column

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Cautionary Instruction: The tarnished image of the Secret Service

Matthew T. Mangino
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
April 4, 2014
Jack Ready died on February 24, 2014 in Ft. Washington, Maryland. He was 86 years old. There was so much more to Ready’s life. Ready was a special agent in the U.S. Secret Service, assigned to the presidential motorcade as it made its way through Dealey Plaza in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
Ready was assigned to the car following the presidential limousine positioned on the car’s right-front running board. His position placed him opposite agent Clint Hill.
When the shots rang out, Hill rushed forward and—in a scene that would become iconic -- jumped onto the limousine in an effort to shield the president and the first lady. Ready held his position.
Hill would later say, “I know that it was devastating to Jack that he was unable to do anything.”
It wasn’t until 1902 that the Secret Service, created in 1865 to eradicate counterfeit currency, assumed official full-time responsibility for protecting the president. Before that, security for the president could be unbelievably lax.
The most astounding example was the scant protection afforded President Abraham Lincoln on the night he was assassinated. Only one man, an unreliable Washington cop named John Frederick Parker, was assigned to guard the president at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.
The secret service has become more and more sophisticated and at times more heroic. On March 30, 1981, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy stepped in front of a bullet, fired by John Hinckley Jr., intended for President Ronald Reagan.
"You never dream that you are going to be in this situation. You train intensely, there's a reason for doing it, and frankly I never thought it would happen to me," McCarthy said in an interview with CNN last year. “I'm just thankful that on that particular day I was able to do what I was trained to do."
Lately the news about the Secret Service has been anything but heroic—starting with a South American prostitution scandal last year that made world-wide headlines.
Thirteen agents were accused of partying with female foreign citizens at a hotel in the seaside resort of Cartagena, Colombia, where they were staying before President Barack Obama's arrival for a Latin American summit. Some of the women were prostitutes and the incident came to light after an agent had a fight in the hotel with a prostitute over payment.
Last month, two agents in Florida were involved in a traffic accident that reportedly involved alcohol. Then there was an incident involving an agent recently found drunk in a hotel in the Netherlands.
Not the stuff of Jack Ready, Clint Hill or Tim McCarthy.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His book The Executioner's Toll, 2010 is due out this summer.

Visit Ipso Facto

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Ohio's death row shrinks by one-third over 10 years

Ohio has carried out 54 executions since 1999, including three last year, the same as in 2012, reported the Columbus Dispatch. In recent years Ohio has been one of the leading states in carrying out executions.
The 2013 Capital Crimes Report issued this week by Attorney General Mike DeWine’s report says 316 people have been sentenced to death in Ohio since 1981, when capital punishment was restored after being overturned as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the past decade, Ohio’s Death Row has shrunk by one-third, from 209 to 139.
The report cites 18 gubernatorial commutations of death sentences: four by Kasich, five by Gov. Ted Strickland, one by Gov. Bob Taft and eight by Gov. Richard F. Celeste.
In all, 26 convicted killers have died in prison, including Billy Slagle of Cleveland, who committed suicide on Death Row on Aug. 4, 2013.
DeWine reported that 74 capital-punishment sentences were removed by the courts, and six, including Donna Roberts, the only woman currently sentenced to death in Ohio, are facing resentencing.
There have been 34 whites and 19 blacks executed, all males. They spent an average of 16.6 years in prison before being executed.
Of their 85 victims, 65 were adults and 19 were children. White victims outnumbered blacks 2-1.
To read more Click Here