Wednesday, December 31, 2014

PA Commonwealth Court limits prosecutors' use of drug forfeitures

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has restricted the circumstances under which prosecutors can seize homes used by convicted drug dealers, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The 5-2 majority opinion by Commonwealth Court applies to homeowners who can show they had little or no involvement in the illegal activity.
The Commonwealth Court decision would establish sweeping new rules of evidence the city must meet if it is to prevail in some seizure cases. Those are cases involving parents or others who own homes used by drug dealers without the owners' knowledge or consent.
Seizures of properties by law enforcement have caused an outcry across the country because such civil forfeitures can move forward even if the homeowner has not been criminally convicted.
"My sense overall is that this decision will ensure a more rigorous constitutional analysis," said Jessica Anthony, who led the team of pro bono lawyers at Ballard Spahr that filed the appeal and argued the case.
Commonwealth Court said the lower-court judge erred by failing to properly consider whether the house was instrumental in drug dealing.
The ruling pointed out that the police had directed informants on multiple occasions to go to the house to purchase drugs, but that it was never established at trial whether the bulk of the activity was occurring there.
The appeals court, noting that a neighbor had testified that the house was not known as a locus of drug dealing, said law enforcement cannot rely on general claims of the harmfulness of drug dealing to society. In such proceedings, they must show that there are impacts within the immediate vicinity.
In addition, the court said, authorities must show a forfeiture penalty bears some relationship to the seriousness of the offense. The case was returned to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.

To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Police killed by firearms jumped 56 percent in 2014

The number of law enforcement officers killed by firearms jumped by 56 percent this year and included 15 ambush deaths, reported The Associated Press. But gun-related police deaths still remain far below historic highs and lower than the average annual figures in the past decade.
The annual report by the nonprofit National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund found that 50 officers were killed by guns this year. That's higher than the 32 such deaths last year but the same as 2012 figures.
In 2011, 73 officers were killed in gunfire, the most in any year in the past decade. The average since 2004 is 55 police deaths annually.
In all, the report found that 126 federal, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty in 2014. That's a 24 percent jump from last year's 102 on-duty deaths, though below the average annual figures since 2004 and the all-time high of 156 in 1973, said Steve Groeninger, a spokesman for the memorial fund.
Of the 126 officer deaths this year, shootings were the leading cause, followed by traffic-related fatalities, at 49.
This year's increase in gun-related deaths among officers followed a dramatic dip in 2013, when the figure fell to levels not seen since the 19th century.

To read more CLICK HERE 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Mandatory minimum sentencing takes a toll on federal system

No one knows whether locking up so many nonviolent drug offenders reduced crime rates, according to New York University law professor Rachel Barkow.
"This wonderful crime drop we're experiencing right now, sadly, criminologists can't tell you exactly why it's happening," Barkow told NPR. She also sits on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the group that sets sentencing guidelines for federal crimes.
To her young law students, Barkow says, she stresses this idea.
"Imagine if I gave you a four-year sentence that would mean your entire college stretch, you would be away in prison," she says. "You'd miss all those birthdays, you'd miss the passing of loved ones, you would miss things that happen in your family's lives that you can't get back."
Then, Barkow says, she asks her students to imagine going to prison for 10 years, or 20, or the rest of their lives — and whether those drug crimes fit that punishment.
Often mandatory minimum sentences are bargained away by the prosecutor.
In the current system, only 3 percent of federal cases ever go to trial. Brooklyn Federal Judge John Gleeson says prosecutors can use the threat of mandatory minimums to coerce guilty pleas and long sentences.
"Plea bargains are struck in the United States attorney's office — nobody sees them happen, there's no transparency," Gleeson told NPR. "Transparency in and of itself is a very important value in our system, and we don't have enough of it. The trials are disappearing."
To read more CLICK HERE  

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Death sentences at an all time low

Death sentences hit a 40-year low last year and have been in steep decline for the last two decades, plunging from 315 in 1994 to about 72 in 2014, reported NBC News.
"The realization that mistakes have been made, that innocent people are still being freed, has made juries hesistant," Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center said. "They are willing to convict but not sentence to death. There is a demand for perfect proof, and so prosecutors are taking more plea bargains."
Seven death-row inmates were exonerated last year, the most since 2009.
A majority of Americans still support capital punishment. In a May poll by NBC News, 59 percent said they favor the death penalty as the ultimate punishment for murder, while 35 percent said they are opposed. That reflects the erosion of support since the 1990s, when more than 70 percent backed executions.
To read more CLICK HERE 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ohio lawsuit challenges secrecy surrounding executions

The governor’s signature had just enough time to dry before a lawsuit was filed challenging a new law to shield the identity of the makers of Ohio’s execution drugs and others involved in the process, reported the Toledo Blade.
The suit argues that House Bill 663, signed by Gov. John Kasich last week, violates the First Amendment rights of the death row inmates by offering at least temporary anonymity to a compounding pharmacy that agrees to manufacture the state’s preferred execution drug and permanent anonymity to most of the rest of the execution team.
The suit names Mr. Kasich as defendant along with Attorney General Mike DeWine, Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Gary Mohr, and Southern Ohio Correctional Facility Warden Donald Morgan.
The Southern Ohio prison in Lucasville is where Ohio’s lethal injection chamber is located.
The law’s supporters have argued that is necessary if Ohio is to resume carrying out capital punishment after the problematic execution of Dennis McGuire, of Montgomery County, nearly a year ago.
Ohio couldn’t get its preferred drug, the powerful sedative pentobarbital, because its European commercial manufacturer refused to make it available for executions.
The state fell back on Plan B, overdoses of midazolam, a barbiturate, and hydromorphone, a painkiller. Witnesses described McGuire as struggling against his restraints and making choking sounds for 26 minutes after the drugs began to flow.
In addition to the First Amendment argument and the penalties associated with releasing what is supposed to be sealed information, the suit challenges the law’s intrusion into the medical disciplinary and licensing process as it pertains to those who might be involved in the execution process as well as court access to the information.
House Bill 663, sponsored by Reps. Matt Huffman (R., Lima) and Jim Buchy (R., Greenville), would allow a compounding pharmacy supplying execution drugs to ask for its identity to be sealed for 20 years after it ceases doing business with the state.
The identities of most of the others on the execution team would be sealed in perpetuity.
The law has a 2-year expiration date, after which a pharmacy entering into an agreement with the state may not be guaranteed such protections. A special legislative committee is to meet in the interim to make recommendations for a new law to replace House Bill 663.
To read more CLICK HERE

Friday, December 26, 2014

Local police struggle with social media

In monitoring social media, most local police forces lag U.S. intelligence agencies, which despite their vast surveillance networks still struggle to prevent attacks such as the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, reported Reuters.
The National Security Agency had raw intercepts pointing to a person matching the 2009 "underwear bomber's" description, but failed to stop him from boarding a plane.
The Department of Homeland Security monitors about 100 social media sites, but there are restrictions that keep their agents from sharing all the information that they collect directly with local law enforcement.
Social media monitoring by police tends to be reactive: analysts hit the Internet when someone phones in a tip. Investigators use social networking sites to identify victims, look for witnesses and perpetrators, generate leads or search for evidence in the aftermath of a crime.
"Most of the stuff, honestly, we get is when people send it to us," said Los Angeles Police Department spokesman, Commander Andrew Smith.
That's not to say there have not been some successes. The LAPD, which employs around 40 people to monitor social media manually, uses software from a startup called PredPol Inc, which stands for predictive policing. The software analyzes LAPD and other internal police databases to identify crime-ridden areas and determine the best times to patrol.
PredPol marketing manager Benjamin Hoehn said crime dropped around 20 percent within 10 months of deploying the system in Modesto, California, in January.
The LAPD is also exploring the use of Geofeedia Inc, which incorporates user-location data as it crawls through sites from Twitter and Facebook to Google Inc's (GOOGL.O) YouTube and Yahoo Inc's (YHOO.O) Flickr.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Off-Duty African American NYPD Officers Experience Profiling

Reuters interviewed 25 African American male officers on the NYPD, 15 of whom are retired and 10 of whom are still serving. All but one said that, when off duty and out of uniform, they had been victims of racial profiling, which refers to using race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed a crime.
The officers said this included being pulled over for no reason, having their heads slammed against their cars, getting guns brandished in their faces, being thrown into prison vans and experiencing stop and frisks while shopping. The majority of the officers said they had been pulled over multiple times while driving. Five had had guns pulled on them.
Desmond Blaize, who retired two years ago as a sergeant in the 41st Precinct in the Bronx, said he once got stopped while taking a jog through Brooklyn’s upmarket Prospect Park. "I had my ID on me so it didn’t escalate," said Blaize, who has sued the department alleging he was racially harassed on the job. "But what’s suspicious about a jogger? In jogging clothes?"
The NYPD and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the police officers’ union, declined requests for comment. However, defenders of the NYPD credit its policing methods with transforming New York from the former murder capital of the world into the safest big city in the United States.
"It makes good headlines to say this is occurring, but I don’t think you can validate it until you look into the circumstances they were stopped in," Bernard Parks, the former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, who is African American, told Reuters.
"Now if you want to get into the essence of why certain groups are stopped more than others, then you only need to go to the crime reports and see which ethnic groups are listed more as suspects. That’s the crime data the officers are living with."
Blacks made up 73 percent of the shooting perpetrators in New York in 2011 and were 23 percent of the population.
A number of academics believe those statistics are potentially skewed because police over-focus on black communities, while ignoring crime in other areas. They also note that being stopped as a suspect does not automatically equate to criminality. Nearly 90 percent of blacks stopped by the NYPD, for example, are found not to be engaged in any crime.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Maine to launch first of its kind DV risk assessment

Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, officers across the state of Maine will begin going through a risk assessment checklist when they investigate cases of domestic violence assault, according to WMTW-TV.
Maine is the first state in the country to make the change that advocates hope will save lives.
Usually, about half the homicides in Maine every year end up being related to domestic violence.  In 2014, public safety officials are classifying 12 of the state’s 19 homicides as domestic-violence related.
Beginning on New Year’s Day every police officer in Maine will also fill out checklist during a domestic violence abuse investigation.
“There are 13 items that predict the likelihood that someone will commit an assault and sooner, more frequently, and more seriously,” Fay Luppi, Violence Intervention Partnership for Cumberland County, said.
Luppi pushed for change in legislation.
The system was created in Canada and is called ODARA- Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment. It’s an evidence-based risk assessment checklist that an officer can complete in five or 10 minutes.
Advocates hope the new step will save lives by tailoring the way law enforcement officials respond to domestic violence incidents.
“The intervention is going to be different depending on what the factors are, so there might be different bail conditions. There might be different kinds of sentencing. There might be different safety planning depending on the factors that are involved,” Luppi said.
The checklist will not be mandatory for officers investigating domestic abuse involving same-sex partners. Luppi said there is not enough evidence in those cases to prove if the checklist is effective.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, December 22, 2014

Florida detains sex offenders based on risk of future behavior

The Florida legislature began a massive overhaul of state sex predator laws this year, prompted in part by the abduction and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Periwinkle from a Jacksonville Wal Mart, and in part by a damning series by the Sun-Sentinel that showed hundreds of new crimes committed by previously convicted sex offenders, reported First Coast News.
Lawmakers said they wanted to make Florida "Scorched Earth" for offenders, and the changes they approved greatly expanded the authority of law enforcement under the state's Jimmy Ryce Act. That law, named for a South Florida boy raped and murdered in 1995, allows the state to permanently detain inmates whom officials believe might re-offend at some time in the future. Because the law anticipates future behavior, rather than past crimes, it is opposed by civil libertarians, but has thus far survived legal challenges.
The expansion of the law this legislative session includes a provision that permits the State Attorney's Office to "red-flag" inmates being held at the Duval County jail, and recommend them for review for possible permanent confinement. Previously, only the state Department of Children and Families could order such a review, and only when an inmate was being released from Department of Corrections custody.
Now, even someone picked up on a misdemeanor charge – like petit theft -- is subject to review.  The State Attorney's Office can decide an offender's history of offenses made him too dangerous to ever release.
Citing "a mental abnormality and/or personality disorder which makes him likely to engage in acts of sexual violence," the office can asked that an offender be evaluated by a team of psychologists. Through the use of  a risk matrix obtained by First Coast News, an offender receives a numerical score that indicates whether the offender is a high risk to reoffend.
Since the new laws went into effect July 1, State Attorney spokesperson Jackelyn Barnard says the office has reviewed 253 jail inmates for possible indefinite commitment. Only one inmate has been detained.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, December 21, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court to decide retroactivity of Miller v. Alabama

The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether a decision it made in 2012, Miller v. Alabama, barring mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile killers must be applied retroactively, reported the New York Times.
The case concerns George Toca, a Louisiana man who was 17 in 1984 when, according to witnesses, he fatally shot a friend during a botched armed robbery. Mr. Toca was convicted of second-degree murder and automatically sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, as required by Louisiana law.
In the 2012 decision, Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court ruled that such mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The Constitution forbids “requiring that all children convicted of homicide receive lifetime incarceration without possibility of parole, regardless of their age and age-related characteristics and the nature of their crimes,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the majority.
Rather, she wrote, judges and juries must take account of the distinctive characteristics of youth.
“Mandatory life without parole for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features — among them, immaturity, impetuosity and failure to appreciate risks and consequences,” she wrote. “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.”
Life-without-parole sentences remained permissible, she wrote, but only after such individualized consideration.
According to the Times' Adam Liptak, the decision followed two others concerning harsh penalties imposed on juvenile offenders. In 2005 in Roper v. Simmons, the court eliminated the juvenile death penalty. In 2010 in Graham v. Florida, the court ruled that sentencing juvenile offenders to life without the possibility of parole was also unconstitutional, but only for crimes that did not involve killings.
The question in the new case, Toca v. Louisiana, No. 14-6381, is whether the Miller decision entitles Mr. Toca to a new sentencing hearing. The Louisiana Supreme Court said no.
In a case involving a different inmate in the same situation, the Louisiana court explained its reasoning, saying that retroactivity was not required because the Miller decision “merely sets forth a new rule of criminal constitutional procedure.” In urging the United States Supreme Court to hear the case, Mr. Toca’s lawyers said the supreme courts of Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Texas have ruled in favor of retroactivity.
On the other hand, the brief continued, the supreme courts of Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania have rejected retroactivity.
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Correctional decline slows to a trickle

The nation’s correctional population continues to drop, reported The Crime Report. However, the rate of decline has slowed to a trickle, according to a report recently released by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).
The annual report, which tracked the size and change in total correctional population during the year 2013, is based on several BJS data collections.
The overall correctional population — which includes those in jails and prisons, as well as under the supervision of the correction system — dropped 0.6 percent in 2013.
About 6,899,000 people were under the supervision of correctional systems at the end of 2013, a decline of about 41,500 from the year before, according to BJS.
That rate represents a significant slowdown since 2010, when the correctional population dropped 2.1 percent.
“All of the decline in the correctional population during 2013 resulted from decreases in the probation (down 32,100) and local jail (down 13,300) populations,” researchers wrote in the report.
Read the full report HERE

Friday, December 19, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

GateHouse: The future of the death penalty in question?

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
December 18, 2014

The last 12 months may well mark the beginning of the end for the death penalty in America.

This has been an inauspicious year for state-sponsored death. For the first time in recent history, a state other than Texas executed more men than any other state. Missouri executed 10 men and Texas executed eight men. Not to be outdone, Texas also executed two women.

There were 35 executions carried out across the country, so to speak. Only eight states carried out executions in 2014, in fact three states — Texas, Missouri and Florida — were responsible for 28 of the 35 executions.

There are 32 states that have the death penalty on the books — so to speak. Governors in Oregon, Colorado and Washington have imposed moratoriums on executions. In Ohio, a federal judge has stopped all executions. In seven other states with the death penalty, there has not been an execution carried out in at least 10 years.

Eight executions scheduled for December were postponed by the court. Three of those postponed executions were to take place in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has executed three people since 1977, and all three volunteered to be executed. Pennsylvania has not involuntarily executed a condemned inmate since 1962.

Some of the executions in 2014 created quite a stir. In January, the Ohio execution of Dennis McGuire took much longer than anticipated. The execution lasted 25 minutes. According to NBC News, witnesses said McGuire appeared to be gasping for breath. Ohio did not carry out another execution after McGuire’s. Prior to that, going back to 2010, no state other than Texas had executed more inmates than Ohio.

Three months later, Clayton Lockett’s execution in Oklahoma went terribly awry. Lockett began to twitch and gasp after the lethal injection process began. He called out “man” and “something’s wrong,” according to The New York Times.

The administering doctor intervened and discovered that “the line had blown,” meaning that drugs were no longer flowing into Lockett’s veins. At 7:06 p.m., 43 minutes after the execution began, Lockett died of a heart attack.

Prior to Lockett’s execution, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin questioned the state Supreme Court’s authority to stay Lockett’s execution. Fallin rescheduled the execution in defiance of the Supreme Court. The near constitutional crisis focused national attention on the state just in time for the catastrophically failed execution.

Then came December. In Texas, Scott Panetti narrowly escaped execution. Panetti suffers from severe mental illness. He defended himself at trial, subpoenaing over 200 witnesses, including Jesus Christ, the pope and John F. Kennedy.

His mental health had not been evaluated by any court for more than seven years prior to his scheduled execution. The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals intervened less than eight hours before his scheduled execution.

On Dec. 12, Paul Goodwin was not so lucky. Efforts to spare Goodwin’s life centered on his low IQ and claims that executing him would violate a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling which prohibits the execution of the mentally disabled.

Goodwin’s attorney, Jennifer Herndon, said Goodwin had an IQ of 73, and some tests suggested it was even lower. Goodwin received special education as a child. As an adult, he relied on relatives or his girlfriend to help with tasks such as buying groceries or paying bills.

According to Goodwin’s sister, when his girlfriend died, Goodwin wasn’t mentally capable of handling the grief and turned to alcohol, which was a factor in his crime.

There are no more executions scheduled for 2014. The 35 executions carried out this year are the fewest in 20 years. Things don’t look much better for the death penalty in 2015. The first three out of four executions for 2015 have already been postponed. The fourth is scheduled for Pennsylvania, and if history is a guide, there is little likelihood of that execution being carried out.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George. His book, “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010,” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

UN to vote on death penalty moratorium

The United Nations General Assembly is expected on Thursday to vote on a draft resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, reported Al Jazeera.
The resolution was first adopted by the General Assembly in 2007; this is the fifth time member states will vote. On Nov. 21, 114 of the 193 U.N. member states voted “yes” on the draft resolution at a session of the Third Committee, which is responsible for social, humanitarian and cultural issues. Thirty-six countries opposed the resolution.
The U.S. has repeatedly lodged “no” votes alongside countries with troubling human rights records — including China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the top four executing countries in 2013. The United States ranked fifth.
The draft resolution calls on states to suspend executions, with a view to abolition, and asks that countries restrict their use of capital punishment, share information about the sentencing and executions they carry out and respect international standards to protect people facing execution.
The resolution, which is nonbinding, “is a very powerful symbolic gesture for the United Nations General Assembly,” said Chiara Sangiorgio, a death penalty expert at New York–based NGO Amnesty International.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Supreme Court: Police don't violate Constitution with mistaken understanding of law

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police officers don't necessarily violate a person's constitutional rights when they stop a car based on a mistaken understanding of the law, reported National Public Radio. The ruling prompted a lone dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who warned that the court's decision could exacerbate public suspicion of police in some communities.
In 2009, Nicholas Heien and a friend were traveling down a North Carolina highway when they were pulled over for having a broken tail light. A subsequent search of the car found a plastic bag containing cocaine. It turns out, though, that police had no legal right to stop the car in the first place because, under North Carolina law, having a single broken tail light is not an offense. Heien contended that just as ordinary citizens cannot claim ignorance of the law as a defense, police can't either, and because the traffic stop was illegal, the evidence from the search that followed should not have been permitted in evidence against him.
But the Supreme Court, by an 8-1 vote, ruled that since the officer's mistake was reasonable, it did not violate the constitution's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.
Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that the keystone of the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable search and seizure is the word "unreasonable." And in this case, the officer's belief that having a broken tail light was illegal counted as a reasonable mistake. The traffic stop and the subsequent consensual search of the car were therefore also reasonable.
The maxim "ignorance of the law is no excuse," does not apply here, Chief Justice Roberts maintained, because Heien "is not appealing a brake light ticket; he is appealing a cocaine-trafficking conviction as to which there is no asserted mistake of fact or law."
The decision gives police "somewhat more power, but it's hard to imagine that it's a lot," says professor John Barrett, of St. John's University School of Law in New York City.
That's because most state traffic laws are both clear and well known. Justice Elena Kagan joined in the majority but wrote separately to stress that the ruling applies to a small number of "exceedingly rare" cases where the law is unclear. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined the concurrence.
But Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in dissent, worried about giving police a further fudge factor.
Traffic stops can be "annoying, frightening, and perhaps humiliating," she observed. And permitting stops based on a mistaken reading of the law has "human consequences for communities and their relationships with the police."
The perverse effect of permitting police to go ahead with a mistaken reading of the law, she wrote, is to prevent or delay clarification of the law so that doubt continues to exist in the minds of the public or police about what is and is not legal.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pennsylvania death penalty costs millions, no executions

Pennsylvania's death penalty has cost taxpayers more than $350 million for a dysfunctional system that has sentenced hundreds but hasn't executed anyone in 15 years, reports the Reading Eagle. State legislators have called for an detailed report on Pennsylvania's death penalty, but the long-overdue report is at least several months away from being issued. There has been no reckoning of the system's massive financial or psychological cost, including the agony of justice-seeking family members and the pain of families waiting for condemned relatives to be executed
There are 185 condemned inmates, making Pennsylvania's death row the nation's fifth largest. The death penalty is likely to get more scrutiny as prosecutors move ahead with a capital case against Eric Frein, accused of ambushing and murdering a state trooper this year. The newspaper's cost estimate is likely a conservative number. The estimate, which relies on a 2008 Maryland study by the Urban Institute, was calculated using the Pennsylvania inmates now on death row. It does not account for unsuccessful death penalty cases tried by prosecutors, nor does it include death row inmates whose sentences were overturned on appeal. The 2008 study found that Maryland spent an average of $1.9 million more on cases that led to death sentences than on cases where the death penalty could have been sought but was not.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, December 14, 2014

US Supreme Court takes on threats posted on Facebook

Matthew T. Mangino
The Vindicator
December 14, 2014
In 1998, recording artist Marshall Mathers—better known as Eminem—wrote a song about killing his ex-wife Kim. The lyrics included the following:“Come on, we’re going for a ride B-----. Sit up front. We’ll be right back, well I will; you’ll be in the trunk.”
Mathers was not prosecuted for his threatening language. Instead, he went on to win 13 Grammys for similar hard-edged music. Anthony Elonis was not so lucky. In his effort to veil a threat against his estranged wife through the “art” of rap music, Elonis ended up on the wrong side of the law.Elonis was indicted in federal court in Pennsylvania on five counts of interstate communication of illegal threats on Facebook. ‘Rap lyrics’After his wife left him, taking the couple’s children with her, Elonis began posting about her on his Facebook page in the form of “rap lyrics.”
For instance he posted:“There’s one way to love ya, but a thousand ways to kill ya,And I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess,Soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.Hurry up and die b----.”
At the end of his federal trial, according to National Public Radio, the judge instructed the jury that to convict it must find that Elonis’ Facebook posts constituted true threats, meaning that “a reasonable person would foresee that the statements would be interpreted ... as a serious expression of an intent to inflict bodily injury.”He was convicted and sentenced to 44 months in prison.
Elonis appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, contending that under the U.S. Constitution and federal law, a jury must find not only that a reasonable person would interpret the words as threatening, but that Elonis actually intended his words to be threatening.Elonis’ case arrived at the Supreme Court on Dec. 1.
“How does one prove what’s in somebody else’s mind?” asked Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In this case, she said, a “reasonable person [would] think that the words would put someone in fear.”Elonis’ attorney John Elwood argued to the Supreme Court that the postings were protected by the First Amendment citing the lyrics of various artists including Eminem. "The disclaimer posted all around the page saying basically, ‘this is all for entertainment purposes only’ or that ‘this is venting, don’t take this too seriously,’ and when you put all that in context…he did not have an intent to put anyone in fear,” argued Elwood.According to the Los Angeles Times, none of the justices appeared to agree. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., although sympathetic to the plight of aspiring artists, said Elonis can claim “it’s therapeutic or it’s art,” but that should not be enough to escape prosecution.Justice Samuel A. Alito said leaning on rules protecting artistic expression “sounds like a road map for threatening a spouse and getting away with it.”
Although much has been made of the connection of this case with Facebook, and the explosion of threatening language on the Internet, the decision’s impact will not be limited to threats on social media.“You’re accountable for the consequences” of your words, argued Deputy Solicitor Gen. Michael Dreeben.
 He reminded the high court that it is a federal offense to transmit “any threat to injure” another person via the Internet.Garrett Epps wrote in The Atlantic, “Make it too easy to prove a threat, and government can muzzle those it dislikes; make it too hard, and the rest of us — on the job, on the streets, and in our homes—are at the mercy of men like Elonis.” The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision by summer.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His recent book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Supreme Court will decide if Miller v. Alabama is retroactive

The Supreme Court will decide whether its 2012 ruling barring mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile killers must be applied retroactively, the New York Times reports. George Toca of Louisiana was 17 in 1984 when he fatally shot a friend during a botched armed robbery. Toca was automatically sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, as required by Louisiana law.
In the case of Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court ruled that such mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders violated the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The question now is whether the Miller decision entitles  Toca to a new sentencing hearing. The Louisiana Supreme Court said no. In another case, the Louisiana court said retroactivity was not required because the Miller decision “merely sets forth a new rule of criminal constitutional procedure.” The supreme courts of Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Texas have ruled in favor of retroactivity. The supreme courts of Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania have rejected retroactivity.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Missouri carries out its record 10th execution

The 35th Execution of 2014
A Missouri inmate, Paul Goodwin, was put to death on December 10, 2014 for fatally beating a 63-year-old woman with a hammer in 1998, the state's record 10th lethal injection of 2014 to match Texas for the most executions in the country this year, reported the Associated Press.
Goodwin, 48, sexually assaulted Joan Crotts in St. Louis County, pushed her down a flight of stairs and beat her in the head with a hammer. Goodwin was a former neighbor who felt Crotts played a role in getting him kicked out of a boarding house.
Goodwin's execution began at 1:17 a.m., more than an hour after it was scheduled, and he was pronounced dead at 1:25 a.m.
Efforts to spare Goodwin's life centered on his low IQ and claims that executing him would violate a U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibiting the death penalty for the mentally disabled. Attorney Jennifer Herndon said Goodwin had an IQ of 73, and some tests suggested it was even lower.
Goodwin's sister, Mary Mifflin, wrote in a statement that the death penalty "is not a just punishment for his crime — an act that occurred out of passion, not premeditation, by a man with the mental capabilities of a child, not an adult."
But Goodwin's fate was sealed when Gov. Jay Nixon denied a clemency request and the U.S. Supreme Court turned down two appeals — one on the mental competency question and one concerning Missouri's use of an execution drug purchased from an unidentified compounding pharmacy.
Missouri's 10th execution of 2014 matches the state's previous high of nine in 1999. Neither Missouri nor Texas has another execution scheduled this year. Texas, Missouri and Florida have combined for 28 of the 34 executions in the U.S. this year.
Goodwin received special education as a child but still failed several grades, Mifflin wrote. He relied on relatives or his girlfriend to help with such tasks as buying groceries or paying bills, she said.
When the girlfriend died, Goodwin wasn't mentally capable of handling the grief and turned to alcohol, which was a factor in his attack on Crotts, Mifflin wrote.
Crotts' daughter, Debbie Decker, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Goodwin deserved no mercy.
"I've been sitting back waiting for this to happen," Decker said of the execution. "I'm hoping all these bad memories will go away."
In the mid-1990s, Goodwin lived in a St. Louis County boarding house that was next door to Crotts' home. The two had been involved in several verbal confrontations.
Goodwin was evicted in 1996 after he and friends harassed Crotts, including throwing beer cans into her yard. Court records show that Goodwin blamed Crotts for his eviction, telling her, "I'm going to get you for this," according to court testimony.
On March 1, 1998, Goodwin entered Crotts home and confronted her. After a sexual assault, he pushed her down the basement stairs before striking her head several times with a hammer. She was taken to a hospital, where she died.
Police found a handwritten note that read, "You are next" on the kitchen table. Fingerprints from the note and a Pepsi can matched Goodwin's. His hearing aid was also found inside Crotts' home. He admitted the crime after his arrest.
Missouri has scheduled one execution each month since November 2013. Two were halted by court action, but 12 were carried out over the past 14 months.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, December 11, 2014

GateHouse: UN takes a swipe at torture in America

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
December 10, 2014

This week, the Senate Intelligence Committee released the results of a five-year investigation of CIA interrogation methods used on terrorism suspects after the 9/11 attacks.

According to USA Today, the investigation concluded that the interrogations were more brutal than the CIA had previously admitted. Committee chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in some cases, the conduct amounted to “torture.”

With a “little” less fanfare, the United Nations Commission Against Torture recently released a report on the United States’ involvement in questionable conduct that the Senate Intelligence Committee seemed to confirm.

Not surprisingly, the report referenced the use of extraordinary rendition, enhanced interrogation techniques, overseas torture and issues relating to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

A closer look at the U.N. report reveals some concern about issues closer to home. The 15-page report released by the Committee Against Torture suggests a link between torture and U.S. policies regarding the death penalty, juvenile life without parole, excessive use of force by police and solitary confinement.

Regarding the issue of solitary confinement the U.N. raised concerns about extensive use of solitary confinement and other forms of isolation in U.S. prisons “for purposes of punishment, discipline and protection, as well as for health-related reasons.”

Although the U.N. did not recommend the complete abolition of solitary confinement the report did recommended only using “solitary confinement as a measure of last resort, for a (sic) short time as possible, under strict supervision.”

A new report from the University of North Carolina School of Law suggests that long-term solitary confinement is a cruel, inhumane and degrading form of punishment. The report, “Solitary Confinement as Torture,” contends that solitary confinement as a form of punishment is “beyond the bounds of human decency.”

Next, the U.N. took up the issue of juvenile life without parole. The U.N. applauded the U.S. Supreme Court decisions eliminating life for juveniles convicted of non-homicide offenses and a more recent decision abolishing mandatory life without parole for juveniles.

The report expressed dismay regarding a half-dozen states that have ruled that the latter decision does “not apply retroactively, and that a majority of the 28 states that required mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for children have not passed legislation” to prohibit the practice.

Beyond those concerns, the U.N. has called on the U.S. to “abolish the sentence of life imprisonment without parole for offences committed by children under 18 years of age,” regardless of the crime.

With the police-related deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York, the U.N. committee made a broad statement concerning “the frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals.”

Earlier this year, USA Today reported that nearly two times a week in the United States, a white police officer killed a black person during a seven-year period ending in 2012. The data was from the most recent accounts of justifiable homicide reported to the FBI. On average, there were 96 such incidents among at least 400 police killings each year that were reported to the FBI by local police.

The U.N. recommended that “police brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement officers are investigated promptly, effectively and impartially by an independent mechanism.
Finally, the U.N. committee recommended the abolition of the death penalty. The U.N. suggested that the death penalty is torture, because it inherently includes “the threat of imminent death.” The committee also condemned lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment.

The U.S. Supreme Court disagrees on the death penalty, and has consistently made rulings contrary to the position of the U.N. on domestic issues of punishment and accountability.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George. His recent book, “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010,” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.

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Georgia executes man who claimed attorney drunk during trial

The 34th Execution of 2014
Georgia death row inmate Robert Wayne Holsey, a prisoner who claimed an intellectual disability, was executed on December 9,2014, reported the Washington Post. In the hours leading up to his death, the Supreme Court denied his appeal, in which he argued he had not been given the opportunity to demonstrate his disability during trial — a violation of his constitutional rights. In his petition, he said the state’s standard “creates an unacceptable risk of wrongful execution of the intellectually disabled,” according to USA Today.
The state said Holsey had been fairly represented and that he was not disabled at the time of his trial, claiming he “understood complicated legal concepts, and had a sophisticated vocabulary.” His IQ has been measured around 70, his lawyers said.
Holsey also argued his original trial attorney was an alcoholic who had admitted chugging a quart of vodka one day during the murder trial. The attorney has since been disbarred.
“Robert Wayne Holsey is an intellectually disabled African-American man who was represented at trial by a chronic alcoholic who was more concerned about avoiding his own criminal prosecution than defending his client against the death penalty,” Brian Kammer, Hosley’s current attorney, said, according to NBC News.
Hosley, 49, was convicted in the 1997 murder of Baldwin County sheriff’s Deputy Will Robinson, whom he shot moments after a convenience store robbery, court documents said.
Before his execution at the state prison in Jackson, Ga., Tuesday night, Holsey addressed the officer’s father.
“Mr. Robinson, I’m sorry for taking your son’s life that night,” he said. “He didn’t deserve to die like that.”
Holsey added: “I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me and my family.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Investigations of excessive force expanding

Police departments not already under federal oversight to reduce deadly force by officers are pursuing reforms on their own in response to growing criticism that police use too much force too often, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice civil rights division announced it found a pattern of “unreasonable and unnecessary use of force” by the Cleveland police, whose officers it said used guns, Tasers, pepper spray and their fists excessively, unnecessarily and in retaliation. The investigation was underway two years before the fatal shooting Nov. 22 of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was waving a toy gun in a park.
Cleveland will become one of nine U.S. cities to enter a consent decree with the civil rights division — a court-backed agreement to enact wide policy changes. That list includes Seattle, New Orleans and Albuquerque, N.M. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s comment that Ferguson police need “wholesale change” suggests they will join the list when the Justice Department’s civil rights investigation is complete.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

White police officer killing black person not an anomaly

Earlier this year the USA Today reported that nearly two times a week in the United States, a white police officer killed a black person during a seven-year period ending in 2012.  The data was from the most recent accounts of justifiable homicide reported to the FBI.
On average, there were 96 such incidents among at least 400 police killings each year that were reported to the FBI by local police.
The reports showed that 18% of the blacks killed during those seven years were under age 21, compared to 8.7% of whites.
While the racial analysis is striking, the database it's based on has been long considered flawed and largely incomplete. The killings are self-reported by law enforcement and not all police departments participate so the database undercounts the actual number of deaths. Plus, the numbers are not audited after they are submitted to the FBI and the statistics on "justifiable" homicides have conflicted with independent measures of fatalities at the hands of police.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, December 8, 2014

Illinois one of the most overcrowded prison systems in America

Illinois houses an estimated 49,000 people in its prison system, and a recent report finds it’s one of the most overcrowded systems in the nation, according to the Jacksonville Journal Courier. In fact, only Alabama’s prisons are more crowded. The Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics’ most recent census of prisoners found Illinois is operating at more than 170 percent of design capacity.
Alan Mills, attorney and executive director of the Uptown People’s Law Center, pointed out that the Department of Corrections budget has decreased by more than 10 percent in the past few years. He said the human impact is devastating, especially at maximum-security facilities.

“There is not enough capacity to provide programming for these folks,” he said. “There are no more education programs; there aren’t even any jobs for them to do. They simply sit there and stare at the walls, or a TV set if they are ‘lucky’ — and I put that in big quotes — enough to have one. And these are not necessarily all people in segregation.”
The main cause of overcrowding, according to Mills, is the number of nonviolent prisoners, people with mental illness or substance-abuse disorders who he says would benefit more from treatment than from being locked in a cell.

“We’re asking the people who work at the Department of Corrections to do an impossible job, which is to care for a huge number of both physically and mentally ill people with no money,” he said. “And they don’t do a very good job at it — but not because they’re terrible doctors, but because they’re asked to do the impossible.”

A Pew Research Study found Illinois is 50th among states in the amount of money it spends delivering medical services in prisons.

To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, December 7, 2014

UN Committee on Torture challenges U.S. death penalty

Last month the United Nations addressed the death penalty in the United States, first citing concerns and then recommending changes. The UN Committee Against Torture included the following in its report:

While welcoming that six states have abolished capital punishment during the period under review, the Committee expresses its concern at the State party’s admission that it is not currently considering abolishing the death penalty at the federal level. It also expresses its concern at reported cases of excruciating pain and prolonged suffering that procedural irregularities have caused to condemned prisoners in the course of their execution. The Committee is specially troubled by the recent cases of botched executions in Arizona, Oklahoma, and Ohio. The Committee is equally concerned at the continued delays in recourse procedures which keep prisoners sentenced to death in a situation of anguish and incertitude for many years. The Committee notes that in certain cases such situation amounts to torture in so far as it corresponds to one of the forms of torture (i.e. the threat of imminent death) contained in the interpretative understanding made by the State party at the time of ratification of the Convention (arts. 1, 2 and 16).
The State party (United States) should review its execution methods in order to prevent pain and prolonged suffering. The Committee recalls that according to the Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty (approved by Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50 of 25 May 1984), where capital punishment occurs, it shall be carried out so as to inflict the minimum suffering.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

LA Times: Heartening year for death penalty opponents

For opponents of the death penalty, this has been something of a heartening year, reported Scott Martelle of the Los Angeles Times. The country is on a pace for its fewest executions since 1994, and although public support for the death penalty remains at a stubborn majority, high-profile exonerations and botched executions have led to new calls for its abolition. And with states finding it increasingly difficult to procure the drugs needed for executions, states are carrying out fewer executions — with the exception of Missouri.
Some quotes and observations fromt he past year:

"For all practical purposes then, a sentence of death in California is a sentence of life imprisonment with the remote possibility of death — a sentence no rational legislature or jury could ever impose.
"Of course, for an arbitrarily selected few of the 748 inmates currently on Death Row, that remote possibility may well be realized. Yet their selection for execution will not depend on whether their crime was one of passion or of premeditation, on whether they killed one person or ten, or on any other proxy for the relative penological value that will be achieved by executing that inmate over any other. Nor will it even depend on the perhaps neutral criterion of executing inmates in the order in which they arrived on Death Row. Rather, it will depend upon a factor largely outside an inmate’s control, and wholly divorced from the penological purposes the State sought to achieve by sentencing him to death in the first instance: how quickly the inmate proceeds through the state’s dysfunctional post-conviction review process."
"The overwhelming majority of those facing execution today have what the court termed in Hall to be diminished culpability. Severe functional deficits are the rule, not the exception, among the individuals who populate the nation’s death rows. A new study by Robert J. Smith, Sophie Cull and ZoĆ« Robinson, published in Hastings Law Journal, of the social histories of 100 people executed during 2012 and 2013 showed that the vast majority of executed offenders suffered from one or more significant cognitive and behavioral deficits….
"As the execution of Elroy Chester, John Ferguson, Daniel Cook and many more like them illustrates, barring the death penalty for intellectually disabled and juvenile offenders did not solve the death penalty’s dignity problem. Rather, those cases gave us cause to look more closely at the people whom we execute. And when you look closely, what you find is that the practice of the death penalty and the commitment to human dignity are not compatible."
--Charles J. Ogletree Jr., Harvard Law School professor

"Then at 2:05, Wood's mouth opened. Three minutes later it opened again, and his chest moved as if he had burped. Then two minutes again, and again, the mouth open wider and wider. Then it didn't stop.
"He gulped like a fish on land. The movement was like a piston: The mouth opened, the chest rose, the stomach convulsed. And when the doctor came in to check on his consciousness and turned on the microphone to announce that Wood was still sedated, we could hear the sound he was making: a snoring, sucking, similar to when a swimming-pool filter starts taking in air, a louder noise than I can imitate, though I have tried.
"It was death by apnea. And it went on for an hour and a half. I made a pencil stroke on a pad of paper, each time his mouth opened, and ticked off more than 640, which was not all of them, because the doctor came in at least four times and blocked my view.
"I turned to my friend Troy Hayden, the anchor and reporter from Fox 10 News, who was sitting next to me. Troy and I witnessed another execution together in 2007, and he had seen one before that, so he also knows what it looks like.
"'I don't think he's going to die,' I said."
—Michael Kiefer, Arizona Republic reporter who witnessed the botched, nearly two-hour execution of Joseph Woods
"When you’re talking about the ultimate penalty, when you’re talking about the state taking someone’s life, there has to be a great deal of flexibility within the system to deal with things like deadlines. There is always a need for finality in the system, that is a good thing. But there has to be enough flexibility so that you can look at the substance of a claim, especially when the death penalty is at stake. If you rely on process to deny what could be a substantive claim, I worry about where that will lead us.
"I disagree very much with Justice Scalia’s certitude that we have never put to death an innocent person. It’s one of the reasons why I personally am opposed to the death penalty. We have the greatest judicial system in the world, but at the end of the day it’s made up of men and women making decisions, tough decisions. Men and women who are dedicated, but dedicated men and women can make mistakes. And I find it hard to believe that in our history that has not happened.”
Eric H. Holder Jr., U.S. attorney general

"It’s terrifying that our justice system allowed two intellectually disabled children to go to prison for a crime they had nothing to do with, and then to suffer there for 30 years. Henry watched dozens of people be hauled away for execution. It’s impossible to put into words what these men have been through and how much they have lost.”
—Ken Rose, lawyer for half-brothers Henry McCollum and Leon Brown of North Carolina, who were released after more than 30 years in prison for a murder they did not commit.

"I just thank God that I’m out of this place. I knew one day that I was going to be blessed to get out of prison, I just didn’t know when that time was going to be….They took 30 years away from me for no reason, but I don’t hate them. I don’t hate them one bit.”
—Henry McCollum upon leaving prison

"Florida seeks to execute a man because he scored a 71 instead of 70 on an IQ test. Florida is one of just a few States to have this rigid rule. Florida’s rule misconstrues the Court’s in Atkins that intellectually disability is characterized by an IQ of 'approximately 70.' Florida’s rule is in direct opposition to the views of those who design, administer, and interpret the IQ test. By failing to take into account the standard error of measurement, Florida’s law not only contradicts the test’s own design but also bars an essential part of a sentencing court’s inquiry into adaptive functioning. Freddie Lee Hall may or may not be intellectually disabled, but the law requires that he have the opportunity to present evidence of his intellectual disability, including deficits in adaptive functioning over his lifetime.
"The death penalty is the gravest sentence our society may impose. Persons facing that most severe sanction must have a fair opportunity to show that the Constitution prohibits their execution. Florida’s law contravenes our Nation’s commitment to dignity and its duty to teach human decency as the mark of a civilized world. The States are laboratories for experimentation, but those experiments may not deny the basic dignity the Constitution protects."
—Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in Hall vs. Florida 

"To this day, Mr. Panetti hears voices and experiences delusions. Chief among his delusions is the belief that the State of Texas seeks to kill him to prevent him from preaching the Gospel to his fellow inmates on Texas death row and from exposing rampant corruption at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He cannot rationally understand that he is being executed for the murder of his wife’s parents. …
"Seven years have now elapsed since mental health experts last evaluated Mr. Panetti. During that time, no cure has been discovered for schizophrenia, and Mr. Panetti’s mental condition continues to decline. Texas’ rush to execute Mr. Panetti is unseemly. Undersigned counsel, who have represented Mr. Panetti for nearly a decade, became aware of Mr. Panetti’s current execution date only after a newspaper article appeared in the Houston Chronicle on October 30, 2014. Only then did counsel discover that the State had issued the Execution Warrant two weeks earlier, on October 16, 2014. The State’s failure to provide counsel with any notice in a case of this magnitude, where compelling questions of sanity and competency remain at issue, is unconscionable.”—Kathryn M. Kade and Gregory W. Wiercioch, Scott Panetti’s attorneys, in a filing seeking clemency before his scheduled Dec. 3 execution in Texas. A federal appeals court has stayed the execution.

To read more CLICK HERE


Friday, December 5, 2014

NYC: Crime down without 'stop-and-frisk'

Last year, when New York City's controversial stop-and-frisk program was stymied after a federal court ruling found it unconstitutional, and the election of Mayor Bill de Blasio, observers predicted crime in the city would skyrocket, says the Christian Science Monitor.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said, "no question about it, violent crime will go up." But the number of reported stop and frisks is down 79 percent this year, and crime has gone way down.
The 'stop and frisk' program enables a police officer to stop, question, and if needed, frisk a person for weapons if the officer reasonably suspects he or she is about to commit, or has committed a crime. The tactic is controversial and critics say it promotes racial profiling. Last year, a federal court found the policy unconstitutional because the tactics illegally targeted minorities, who consistently made up about 85 percent of all stops.
A closer look at the number underscores the dramatic drop in its usage. In 2011, police performed nearly 700,000 stops, the highest total on record. In 2013, it was down to 179,065, through Sept. 30. This year police performed 38,456 stops through the same period – far fewer than previous years.
And yet, serious crime in the city is down 4.4 percent, a 20-year-low.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Man with drunk attorney faces execution in Georgia

Robert Wayne Holsey is scheduled to be executed in Georgia on December 9, 2014 for killing a deputy sheriff in 1995. Holsey has a clemency hearing on December 8, according to WABE-FM in Atlanta.
According to Holsey’s current attorney, Brian Kammer, Holsey's trial attorney, Andy Prince was an alcoholic. Prince's alcoholism made presenting any reasonable evidence to the jury impossible, especially during the sentencing phase.
“Since [Holsey] was a child, he tested of an IQ about 70. That puts [him] in the mild range of intellectual disability. You know, his teachers were available to testify he had incredible difficulty in school.”
Aside from that, Kammer says evidence would have shown what he calls “the horrific conditions” of Holsey’s childhood.
“The home where he lived in Milledgeville was known to the neighbors as the torture chamber because of the way they observed his mother to treat him, which was to beat him merciless.”
None of this evidence was presented during Holsey's original trial.
Andy Prince ultimately was disbarred for embezzling clients’ money and later would be indicted.
The night before Holsey's death penalty phase, Prince turned the case over to another lawyer who had no experience in capital punishment cases.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Federal Appeals Court stops execution of mentally ill Texas inmate

A federal appeals court in New Orleans halted the execution of Texas killer Scott Panetti, whose case has sparked a global debate over whether people with severe mental illnesses should be put to death for their crimes, reported the USA Today.
Panetti's lawyers say he is too delusional to be executed. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a reprieve less than eight hours before Panetti was scheduled to receive a lethal injection. The court said it needed more time to "allow us to fully consider the late-arriving and complex legal questions at issue in this matter."
The court said oral arguments would be scheduled in the case. The Texas Attorney General's Office said it won't fight the ruling and that the execution would not happen Wednesday. Panetti's legal team issued a statement expressing gratitude for the court's decision.
To read more CLICK HERE

Texas set to execute mentally ill inmate

Scott Panetti is scheduled for execution in Texas on December 3, 2014.
In 1992, Panetti went off his medication, shaved his head, and dressed in camouflage fatigues. He went to his in-laws house and murdered his mother and father-in-law in front of his wife and daughter, according to The Atlantic.
The subsequent trial and sentencing bordered on the unbelievable. Panetti was allowed to represent himself during both the guilt and penalty phases of the proceedings. He wore a cowboy costume and a purple bandana to court. He attempted to subpoena John F. Kennedy, the Pope, and Jesus Christ, among 200 others. His statements were rambling and incoherent. He fell asleep during trial. While describing the shooting, he assumed the personality of a character he called “Sarge” and narrated the events in the third person. He pointed an imaginary rifle at jurors, visibly frightening them. His stand-by attorney called the trial a “judicial farce.”
Panetti has suffered from schizophrenia and other mental illness for over thirty years. He first exhibited signs of a psychotic disorder as a teenager. Beginning in 1978, he was hospitalized for mental illness on fifteen separate occasions. He developed a delusion that he was engaged in spiritual warfare with Satan. He tried to exorcize his home by burying furniture in the backyard because, he claimed, the devil was in it. He was involuntarily committed after swinging a sword at his wife and daughter and threatening to kill them.
Unsurprisingly, a jury convicted Panetti of murder. After calling only one witness—his stand-by counsel—at the penalty phase of his trial, the jury sentenced Panetti to death after only one day of deliberation.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Overdose deaths more than doubled in U.S.

Drug overdose deaths more than doubled from 1999 to 2012, according to a new CDC National Center for Health Statistics's report, reported Time.
The new data shows drug overdose deaths from drugs like painkillers and heroin have risen from 6.1 per 100,000 population in 1999 to 13.1 in 2012. Drug overdose deaths involving heroin in particular have nearly tripled over the time period.
According to the report, in 2012 alone, there were 41,502 drug overdose deaths, of which 16,007 involved opioid analgesics and 5,925 involved heroin.   
It's no question America has a painkiller problem. An earlier CDC report from July revealed that 46 people die from an overdose of prescription painkillers every day. The data also showed that doctors in the U.S. wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, which comes out to enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills. States with overall higher rates were primarily in the south.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, December 1, 2014

Mangino talks with WFMJ-TV

Watch my interview on WFMJ-TV in Youngstown, Ohio with regard to the grand jury proceeding in Ferguson, Missouri.

To watch the interview CLICK HERE