Thursday, April 30, 2015

PA sends 300 state troopers to Baltimore

Three hundred Pennsylvania state troopers will head to Baltimore to help in the wake of riots there.
Trooper Adam Reed, state police spokesman, said personnel from 15 troops will leave today or Friday.
“It’s important to help our neighbors out with any assistance they may need,” Reed said. “I am sure Maryland would do the same for us if anything like this happened in Pennsylvania.
“We will be available for anything that will happen.”
The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency also will deploy its Emergency Management Compact Team, which is trained to provide help in emergencies.
Gov. Tom Wolf said Maryland accepted Pennsylvania’s offer to provide the services.
“Our troopers and emergency personnel are sources of pride for our commonwealth,” Wolf said. “Our thoughts will be with them and their families as they help our neighbors in Baltimore during this difficult time. We hope that with their assistance, calm will prevail and the Baltimore community can begin to move forward.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Police officers jailed for repeated tasing of suspect

Two South Carolina police officers were jailed for repeatedly tasing a mentally ill suspect, reported the FBI. Franklin Brown, 35, and Eric Walters, 39, both former police officers with the city of Marion Police Department in Marion County, South Carolina, were sentenced to serve 18 months and one year and one day in prison, respectively, today in federal court in Florence, South Carolina, by U.S. District Court Judge R. Bryan Harwell for repeatedly tasing a former local female resident during the course of her detainment.
For both defendants, three years of supervised release will follow the prison sentences and they each face a $100 special assessment. Brown and Walters previously pleaded guilty to violating the victim’s civil rights during this incident.
According to court documents, on April 2, 2013, in the course of detaining the victim, Walters tased the victim causing her to fall to the ground and injure her head. Once she was on the ground, Walters continued to tase the victim multiple times. Brown subsequently arrived on scene and proceeded to tase the victim as she was seated on the curb, restrained in handcuffs and surrounded by law enforcement. Walters and Brown admitted there was no legitimate law enforcement purpose for repeatedly tasing the victim as she did not pose a threat to the officers.
“The defendants abused their authority as law enforcement officers by repeatedly tasing a defenseless, compliant victim,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “Today’s sentence is a reminder that this type of abusive and dishonorable behavior will not go unpunished.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

NYC Council looks to decriminalize low-level violations

New York City police officers issued between 1,200 and 1,600 summonses per day between 2003 and 2013, for “quality of life” violations of various municipal codes, according to a new study from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, reported The Crime Report.
The college’s president, Jeremy Travis, presented the study’s findings Monday to the non-profit watchdog group the Citizens Crime Commission.
“Summonses for low-level violations constitute the most frequent form of contact the public has with law enforcement,” said President Travis. “Our findings point to the need for policy discussions about this important, and under-examined, aspect of our criminal justice system.”
The dramatic drop in violent crime has often been attributed to the Broken Window Theory of law enforcement, wherein the police crack down on low level quality of life crimes that undermine a neighborhood.  Mayor Rudy Giuliani and William Bratton championed the idea in the 1990s.
Yet,  the New York City Council plan to decriminalize low-level violations like public urination or drinking alcohol in public from an open container has prompted intense debate among state and city officials about how these so-called quality-of-life offenses should be treated by police and the courts, reports the Wall Street Journal. A path to a possible compromise appeared to be emerging as the state’s top judge voiced support for moving some of these offenses to civil court. Police Commissioner William Bratton, who has voiced strong reservations about decriminalizing any offenses, said he believes there is a “real opportunity for all of us to find common ground on this issue.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, April 27, 2015

Black men ages 25 to 54 have disappeared from every day life

In New York, almost 120,000 black men between the ages of 25 and 54 are missing from everyday life, reported the New York Times. In Chicago, 45,000 are, and more than 30,000 are missing in Philadelphia. Across the South — from North Charleston, S.C., through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi and up into Ferguson, Mo. — hundreds of thousands more are missing.
They are missing, largely because of early deaths or because they are behind bars. Remarkably, black women who are 25 to 54 and not in jail outnumber black men in that category by 1.5 million, according to an Upshot analysis. For every 100 black women in this age group living outside of jail, there are only 83 black men. Among whites, the equivalent number is 99, nearly parity.
African-American men have long been more likely to be locked up and more likely to die young, but the scale of the combined toll is nonetheless jarring. It is a measure of the deep disparities that continue to afflict black men — disparities being debated after a recent spate of killings by the police — and the gender gap is itself a further cause of social ills, leaving many communities without enough men to be fathers and husbands.
Perhaps the starkest description of the situation is this: More than one out of every six black men who today should be between 25 and 54 years old have disappeared from daily life.
“The numbers are staggering,” said Becky Pettit, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas.
And what is the city with at least 10,000 black residents that has the single largest proportion of missing black men? Ferguson, Mo., where a fatal police shooting last year led to nationwide protests and a Justice Department investigation that found widespread discrimination against black residents. Ferguson has 60 men for every 100 black women in the age group, Stephen Bronars, an economist, has noted.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Police may not delay a traffic stop for dog sniff

The US Supreme Court ruled that extending an already completed traffic stop in order to conduct a drug sniff violates the Constitution as an unreasonable seizure, reported Jurist. In a 6-3 decision by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the majority held in Rodriguez v. United States that "a seizure justified only by a police-observed traffic violation, therefore, 'become[s] unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete th[e] mission' of issuing a ticket for the violation."
Denny Rodriguez, stopped and warned by Officer Morgan Struble for driving on the shoulder, was detained after refusing to consent to a drug sniff following the conclusion of the traffic stop. Upon conducting the sniff, officers found methamphetamine in the vehicle. In deciding the case, the court relied on precedent set in 2005 in Illinois v. Caballes , in which the court determined that a traffic stop is only warranted as long as it takes to complete the "mission," in this case to ticket Rodriguez for driving on the shoulder. Any detention beyond that mission constitutes an unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment . The court did not determine if reasonable suspicion would permit an officer to extend an already completed stop.
To visit Jurist CLICK HERE

Saturday, April 25, 2015

GateHouse: Faulty hair analysis has far-reaching implications

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
April 24, 2015

Two years ago, the FBI agreed to review more than 2,000 cases processed between 1985 and 2000 in which hair samples helped secure convictions.

At the time, Peter Neufeld, of the Innocence Project, told McClatchy Newspapers, “The government’s willingness to admit error and accept its duty to correct those errors in an extraordinarily large number of cases is truly unprecedented.”

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project are assisting the government with this unprecedented review and the initial findings are startling and may be far-reaching.

Since at least the 1970s, written FBI lab reports typically stated that a hair association could not be used as positive identification. For years some agents went beyond the science and testified that their hair analysis was a near-certain match.

Although the FBI continued to support hair analysis, the accuracy of hair analysis came into question. A 2009 National Academy of Sciences report found no good studies of the technique’s error rates. The academy concluded that hair analysis had “limited probative value” and isn’t able to pinpoint individual defendants.

When the joint review was originally announced, FBI Special Agent Ann Todd said, “There is no reason to believe the FBI Laboratory employed ‘flawed’ forensic techniques,” adding that microscopic hair analysis is “a valid forensic technique and one that is still conducted at the lab” alongside DNA testing.

“The purpose of the review is to determine if FBI Laboratory examiner testimony, and reports, properly reflect the bounds of the underlying science,” Todd noted.

The early results of the review firmly challenge the validity of hair analysis and certainly the scope of the examiner’s testimony.

This week, the Justice Department and FBI formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in the FBI’s microscopic hair comparison unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period.

According to The Washington Post, of 28 examiners in the unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed.

The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. According to The Post, 14 have been executed or died in prison.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that one of the men executed was Missouri inmate Jeffrey Ferguson. He was executed on March 26, 2014. The Missouri State Public Defender’s Office said that the FBI analyst, Michael Malone, made several errors in the cases against Malone “exceeded the limits of science” in claiming the hair “could be associated with a specific individual to the exclusion of all others,” reported The Post-Dispatch.

They also say Malone erred in assigning a statistical probability to his claim and in citing the number of other comparisons performed to bolster his conclusion.

Before one concludes that an innocent man has been executed because of faulty hair analysis consider that although Ferguson originally claimed he was innocent, he later expressed remorse for the killing while behind bars. He acknowledged his guilt to a Post-Dispatch columnist, but said he was too drunk to remember the crime.

When complete, the hair analysis review will encompass about 2,500 cases in which forensic examiners have testified about hair matches drawn from over 21,000 federal and state requests to the FBI’s hair-comparison unit between 1972 and 1999, reported The New American.

Even if all of the federal cases are addressed there are another 500 to 1,000 state and local crime-lab analysts who were trained by the same FBI examiners who gave the flawed testimony.

The number of cases could be extraordinary. State and local government offices will have to decide if they will conduct reviews and who will pay for those reviews.

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 @MatthewTMangino.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Gov. Wolf funding local efforts to fight herion use

As part of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s 2015-16 budget proposal, the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) announced that it is seeking proposals from the local county drug and alcohol agencies to address the heroin and opioid overdose epidemic.
“We know that individualized treatment conducted with clinical integrity, is an effective solution in addressing the current epidemic,” DDAP Acting Secretary Gary Tennis said in a news release, reported WKBN-TV. “This funding opportunity will improve intervention strategies, increase the use of best practices, and increase access to treatment through the local counties.”
The proposal asks counties to develop and implement strategies that will provide individuals the full continuum of care while facilitating their application for funding through Medicaid or private insurance. In addition, the proposal calls for the participating county to track the outcomes of opioid addicted individuals who are referred into treatment.
Additional proposal options include developing or enhancing current methods to access funding for treatment services, use of medications as companions to clinically appropriate treatment, ensuring overdose survivors are referred to treatment and utilizing evidence-based prevention programs.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, April 23, 2015

DC Judge gives advice on 'stop and frisk'

“I do not wish to have an encounter with the police right now. Am I free to leave?”
That’s advice from Judge Janice Rogers Brown about what to say to police on patrol in Washington for illegal guns. According to The National Law Journal, Brown urged citizens to address officers “firmly, politely, respectfully,” but to exercise their right to end what are supposed to be voluntary encounters with law enforcement.
Brown was part of a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that said members of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Gun Recovery Unit were allowed to approach people on the street to ask if they were carrying contraband and if they would consent to a search.
But Brown, writing a separate concurring opinion, expressed her unhappiness with the situation.
“Our jurisprudence perpetuates a fiction of voluntary consent where none exists,” Brown wrote.
Confronted by police officers in tactical gear who might use a refusal or other reaction as justification to conduct a search anyway, Brown said, the person being questioned in fact had little choice about whether to comply.
Brown wrote,
With the guise of voluntary consent stripped away, the reality of the District’s regime is revealed. It is a rolling roadblock that sweeps citizens up at random and subjects them to undesired police interactions culminating in a search of their persons and effects. If the Fourth Amendment is intended to offer meaningful protection in the context of Terry stops, the voluntary-consent exemption cannot be used to engage with members of the public en masse and at random to fabricate articulable suspicions for virtually every citizen officers encounter on patrol.

After offering her advice about what a person should say to police during such an encounter, Brown said that if an officer said the person was not free to leave, “then coercion will cease to masquerade as consent. Our courts will be forced, at last, to directly grapple with the reality of the District’s policy of routinized and involuntary seizures.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

DOJ backs police in excessive-force cases before Supreme Court

According to the New York Times, the Justice Department has supported police officers every time an excessive-force case has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Even as the DOJ has opened more than 20 civil rights investigations into local law enforcement practices, the department has staked out positions that make it harder for people to sue the police and that give officers more discretion about when to fire their guns. Police groups see Attorney General Eric Holder as an ally in that regard, and that pattern has rankled civil rights lawyers, who say the government can have a far greater effect on policing by interpreting law at the Supreme Court than through investigations of individual departments.
To read more CLICLK HERE

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

In Arkansas not paying rent is a crime

Arkansas, the only state in the nation that classifies the nonpayment of rent (while remaining on the property) as a criminal act, punishable by up to 90 days in jail, reported The Marshall Project. In every other state, disputes over rent are considered a civil matter, in which the worst that can happen is eviction.  If a landlord in Arkansas claims that a tenant is even one day late in making a payment, he can stick the tenant with a ten-day notice to vacate. If the tenant has not vacated after the ten days, the landlord may file an affidavit for an arrest warrant, which the local sheriff will then promptly carry out.
Arkansas' law has exactly one precedent – a Florida statute enacted in 1933 and repealed in 1973 that criminalized the act of "holding over," i.e. staying in a property beyond the end of the lease, which was considered a form of trespassing.
According to a 2013 analysis by Lynn Foster, a law professor at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, over 2,000 Arkansans per year are prosecuted as criminals for not meeting rent deadlines. Of these, Foster found, a plurality were low-income black women.
“This is really the worst of what we call the ‘criminalization of poverty,’” says Amy Johnson, the executive director of Arkansas Access to Justice and an expert on landlord-tenant policies in the state. “You see it elsewhere, with debtors’ prisons – people sentenced to jail only because they can’t afford to pay fees,” as well as the quality-of-life policing used in some cities, by which the homeless are arrested for loitering in the street.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, April 20, 2015

Support for death penalty down, still supported by majority of Americans

A majority of Americans favor the death penalty for those convicted of murder, but support for the death penalty is as low as it has been in the past 40 years. A new Pew Research Center survey finds 56% favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, while 38% are opposed.
The share supporting the death penalty has declined six percentage points, from 62%, since 2011. Throughout much of the 1980s and 90s, support for the death penalty often surpassed 70%. In a 1996 survey, 78% favored the death penalty, while just 18% were opposed.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Scalia: No constitutional protection for wrongfully executed

When it comes to the death penalty Justice Antonin Scalia doesn't pull any punches.  When writing the dissent in the case of Troy Anthony Davis, No. 08-1443 in 2009, Scalia said:
This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is “actually” innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged “actual innocence” is constitutionally cognizable.
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, April 18, 2015

GateHouse: Mass incarceration enters the national consciousness

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
April 17, 2015

This week, Grammy Award winner John Legend announced an initiative, Free America, a movement to bring attention to the ills of mass incarceration. He has scheduled a series of performances at correctional facilities in various states, along with press events, to raise awareness of the far-reaching impact of over-incarceration. 

“We have a serious problem with incarceration in this country,” Legend said in an interview with The Associated Press. “When you look deeper and look at the reasons we got to this place, we as a society made some choices politically and legislatively, culturally to deal with poverty, deal with mental illness in a certain way and that way usually involves using incarceration.”

How serious is the problem? Last year, the New York Times described America’s mass incarceration problem in this way: “Since the early 1970s, the nation’s prison population has quadrupled to 2.2 million, making it the world’s biggest. That is five to 10 times the incarceration rate in other democracies.”

Race and poverty often overlap and as a result a growing effort to crack down on crime has overwhelmingly fell on communities of color, and particularly on young black men.

According to the Washington Post, minorities constitute 60 percent of the U.S. prison population. Men under the age of 40, the poorly educated, people with mental illness and those dependent on drugs and alcohol are also over-represented. 

In her book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” Ohio State University associate professor Michelle Alexander wrote that many of the gains of the civil rights movement have been undermined by the mass incarceration of black Americans. She compared the modern criminal justice system to the Jim Crow system of the South that mandated the segregation of public schools, public places and public transportation.

Under Jim Crow laws, black Americans were relegated to a subordinate status for nearly a century. Things like literacy tests for voters and laws designed to prevent blacks from serving on juries were commonplace in nearly a dozen Southern states, reported National Public Radio.

Alexander wrote that although Jim Crow laws are now off the books, millions of blacks arrested for minor crimes remain marginalized and disfranchised, trapped by a criminal justice system that has branded them as felons and denied them basic rights and opportunities that would allow them to become productive, law-abiding citizens.

Today, more than one out of every 100 Americans is behind bars, and the U.S. has the largest prison population in the world, both in terms of the actual number of inmates and as a percentage of the total population. According to the Prison Policy Institute, there are more people locked up in the U.S. than in China. In fact, the U.S. is home to nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners, despite accounting for just 5 percent of the overall global population.

With more prisoners comes more cost. Americans are spending $80 billion a year on incarcerating criminals. State spending on corrections increased by more than 400 percent, between 1980 and 2009. 

Spending at the state level has outpaced budget increases for just about every other function of government, including education, transportation and welfare. Only spending on Medicaid at the state level has grown faster in the last 20 years.

Increased incarceration comes at more than just a monetary cost. John Legend is also championing the reduction of some crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. “Once you have that tag of a felony on your name, it’s hard for you to do anything,” Legend said. “Getting those reduced to misdemeanors really impacted a lot of lives and we hope to launch more initiatives like that around the country.” 

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

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Thirteen states asks Supreme Court to support lethal injection

Alabama and twelve other states  filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the three-drug combination being used by Oklahoma to execute inmates, reported
Lethal injection executions in Alabama and a number of other states have been put on hold pending the outcome of an Oklahoma case before the Supreme Court.
"These killers have raped and murdered children and stabbed prison guards to death.  It is outrageous for them to argue that lethal injection has too high a risk of pain to be a constitutional method of execution.  It is better than they deserve," Alabama Attorney General Strange, whose office joined in the brief, stated in a press release.
The amicus - or friend of the court - brief was filed in the Oklahoma case of Glossip v Gross. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in that case April 29 and is expected to rule in June.
The states' brief calls on the Supreme Court "to close the litigation floodgates" that "have ground executions to a halt in many states" by affirming "the constitutionality of Oklahoma's three-drug protocol."
Alabama and the other twelve states argue that the three-drug lethal injection protocol used by Oklahoma complies with the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, the press release states. It explains that states have adopted the protocol because of their inability to acquire other drugs and that Florida has used the protocol for 11 executions that were humane and successful.
Alabama and the other states state in the brief that offenders have repeatedly used court challenges of certain lethal injection drugs as ways to delay or avoid lawful executions, according to the press release. "There is no execution method or drug protocol that the states can adopt to stanch the flood of litigation, unless this Court strictly requires plaintiffs to identify a readily available alternative to the state's method of execution,"
The states joining Alabama in the amicus brief are Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Texas executes cop killer

The 13th Execution of 2015
Texas executed Manuel Garza Jr. on April 16, 2015 for killing a police officer, the second time in less than a week the state has put a convicted cop-killer to death, reported the Huffington Post.
Garza, 34, was pronounced dead at the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville at 6:40 p.m., the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said. Asked to make a final statement, Garza said he was sorry for causing pain to his family, friends and "especially police officers," according to the Department of Criminal Justice.
“I know you probably hate me," he said. "What happened between me and Rocky happened too fast. I didn’t know what happened. I wish y’all peace and love. I hope you have found God just like I have. God bless y’all. I will see you on the other side. I love you.”
Garza was executed without last-minute appeals. His post-conviction lawyers were unsuccessful in a 2013 appeal that claimed Garza's defense during his 2001 trial was inadequate.
Garza was convicted in the February 2001 killing of San Antonio police officer John "Rocky" Riojas, 37, a member of an elite SWAT unit that had been targeting a rash of property crimes at an apartment complex, The Associated Press reports. When Riojas stepped out of his police car to ask Garza for his name, Garza, who had several outstanding arrest warrants, sprinted off.
“As I started running the cop was telling me to stop. I just wanted to get away. I knew I was gonna go to jail and I didn’t want that,” Garza said at the time, according to court records.
Riojas caught Garza and a struggle ensued. Garza grabbed the officer's weapon and fired, fatally striking the officer in the head.
The execution was the 524th in Texas since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, the most of any state, according to Reuters.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Missouri carries out execution, the 15th in less than 18 months

The 12th Execution of 2015
Andre Cole was executed in Missouri only hours after a judge granted him a stay of execution. On April 14, 2015, Cole became the third convicted killer put to death this year in Missouri. His fate was sealed after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down several appeals, including one claiming Cole was mentally ill and unfit for execution, reported The Associated Press.
Gov. Jay Nixon refused a clemency petition that raised concerns about the fact that Cole, who was black, was convicted and sentenced by an all-white jury.
Mike O'Connell, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Corrections, said Cole was executed by lethal injection at 10:15 p.m. and pronounced dead nine minutes later.
In the execution chamber, Cole nodded as relatives blew kisses his way. He chose not to make a final statement. He breathed deeply a few times as the drug was administered.
Cole declined any sedatives prior to the execution. He also declined to order a last meal and instead received the day's inmate tray, O'Connell said.
Attorney General Chris Koster said in a statement he hoped "that the sentence carried out tonight brings those forever impacted by this tragedy a sense of justice and a measure of closure."
Cole and his wife, Terri, were married for 11 years and had two children before divorcing in 1995. The couple fought about visitation and he was upset about child support payments, authorities said.
By 1998, Cole was $3,000 behind in child support. Koster said Cole became angry when he learned that a payroll withholding order was issued to his employer, taking the money out of his check.
"Before I give her another dime, I'll kill (her)," Cole told co-workers, according to Koster.
The first deduction appeared on his Aug. 21, 1998, paycheck. Hours later, Cole forced his way into his ex-wife's home by throwing a tire jack through a glass door, Koster said. He was confronted by Anthony Curtis, a friend who was visiting.
Andre Cole used a kitchen knife to repeatedly stab Curtis, then Terri Cole. Curtis died but Terri Cole survived.
Cole fled the state but surrendered 33 days later. He claimed at trial that he did not bring a weapon into Terri Cole's house and that Curtis initiated the attack with a knife.
No relatives of Terri Cole or Anthony Curtis attended the execution.
Andre Cole's brother, DeAngelo Cole, 38, of Las Vegas, said the attack was out of character for his sibling. He called it a crime of passion.
"It was a one-time thing," DeAngelo Cole said. "He didn't have a history of that kind of behavior."
Cole's attorney, Joseph Luby, said Cole's mental health deteriorated during the more than a decade he spent in prison. He said Cole was plagued by psychosis and constantly heard voices in his head.
The courts were not convinced.
Both the Missouri Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to halt the execution based on mental health concerns. The U.S. Supreme Court also turned away appeals based on Missouri's secretive method of obtaining the execution drug pentobarbital and over how instructions were given to the jury.
The jury itself was the source of the clemency request to Nixon. Advocates for Cole, including the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and others, said his case was among many in which St. Louis County prosecutors unfairly prohibited black jurors from hearing a death penalty case involving a black suspect.
All 12 jurors in Cole's case were white. Kimber Edwards, who was scheduled for execution in May, was also convicted and sentenced by an all-white jury. The Missouri Supreme Court, without explanation, canceled the execution orders for Edwards earlier this month.
Missouri tied Texas for the most executions in 2014 with 10. Missouri has now executed 15 men since November 2013.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Missouri halts execution

Missouri death row inmate Andre Cole was supposed to die at 6 p.m., but a stay of execution order handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Perry halted that action, reported
Cole was originally placed on death row after a jury convicted him for fatally stabbing his ex-wife's friend, Anthony Curtis, 17 years ago in St. Louis County. Authorities said Cole was upset about child support payments.
However, Judge Perry ruled Monday night that Cole is "entitled to an evidentiary hearing on the issue of competence" before an execution can take place.
According to court documents, Cole showed signs of mental illness during a two-and-a-half hour interview with a forensic psychiatrist in February. The documents stated that Cole reported "being depressed, overwhelmed, and distracted by voices unfamiliar to him" in his head.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, April 13, 2015

PA Governor Wolf: State Police to carry heroin antidote

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf wants to widen access to a prescription drug that can prevent fatalities from drug overdoses, reported The Associated Press.
In an op-ed piece published Monday by, Wolf said the Pennsylvania State Police will begin carrying nasal-spray kits of naloxone, also known by its brand name Narcan, in their patrol cars.
A spokesman says the policy will take effect in the coming weeks.
Wolf also says he's directed state Physician General Dr. Rachel Levin to write a "standing order" that serves as a prescription that allows every Pennsylvanian to obtain naloxone. The non-addictive drug can reverse the effect of heroin and other opioids such as oxycodone.
A new state law allows police to administer the antidote. It also allows doctors to prescribe it to friends and relatives of addicts.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Oklahoma legislature passes nitrogen hypoxia as execution method

A bill allowing the use of nitrogen gas in executions is headed to the desk of Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, reported the Tulsa World.                                                                              
The Senate on Thursday passed House Bill 1879, by Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, and Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, by a vote of 41-0. The measure comes after last year’s execution of Clayton Lockett using a new, three-drug drug protocol.
The execution has been called a “procedural disaster” by an appellate court and thrust the state into the national spotlight after the inmate spent 43 minutes on the gurney before dying.
House Bill 1879 says that if lethal injection is held unconstitutional or otherwise unavailable, the execution should be carried out by nitrogen hypoxia.
Christian said the use of nitrogen gas is practical, efficient and humane.
“The process is fast and painless,” Christian said. “In fact, it is so painless that a person will pass out before they recognize they are in danger.”
Nitrogen gas has not been used to carry out an execution in the United States.
The measure retains lethal injection, electrocution and firing squads as forms of allowable executions.
“We don’t have a crystal ball, but we all know — and I think everyone here would agree — that lethal injection is on its way out,” Christian said. “It has become experimental.”
Oklahoma switched to a new drug in the three-drug cocktail after the original drug because unavailable. A lawsuit challenging the state’s new three-drug method is pending.
“Today, we are sending a message to the U.S. Supreme Court and the rest of the world that the people of Oklahoma realize that we have a problem and the people of Oklahoma have found a solution,” Christian said.
Christian said he expects other states to follow Oklahoma’s lead.
Meanwhile, the House on Thursday passed Senate Joint Resolution 31 by Sykes and Christian that would let people vote to affirm that the death penalty is not cruel and unusual punishment and that execution methods may be designated by the Legislature.
The measure passed by a vote of 80-10.
House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, said the measure was the authors’ way of reaffirming the state’s position that Oklahomans are supportive of the death penalty, but it didn’t have any real significant legal effect.
“I do not think there is any danger whatsoever of the death penalty being overturned in Oklahoma, nor even at the federal level,” Inman said.
Sykes said he expects the constitutional amendment to overwhelmingly pass a vote of the people in November 2016.
That measure does not need Fallin’s signature, Sykes said.
To read more CLICK HERE

New York City homicides spike, up 16% from same time last year

Homicides in New York City spiked by nearly 16% this year, according to recently released NYPD statistics, reported the New York Daily News.
As of last week, 82 people have been murdered in the city — up 11 from the same period a year ago, officials said.
Shootings have climbed by 4%, with 258 people being wounded by gunfire so far this year compared with 248 in the first three months of 2014.
Nearly a quarter of the homicides took place in the Bronx, but the neighborhood with the largest amount of homicides was East New York, Brooklyn, where six people were slain.
Staten Island had the lowest number of homicides, followed by northern Manhattan, according to officials.
The jump in killings came despite a 12-day span over the first two weeks of February when no murders were recorded.
NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis said six of the 11 additional killings are considered “reclassified homicides,” meaning the criminal deed occurred months or years earlier, but the victim had just recently died.
“The actual increase in homicide incidents occurring this year is five as of midnight (Sunday),” Davis said. “An increase or decrease of five incidents, given the overall numbers, is not considered at this point to be evidence of an unusual trend.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, April 11, 2015

GateHouse: Mangino: Police must be held to account when they use deadly force

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
April 10, 2015

Forty years ago, Tennessee state law authorized the use of deadly force to stop a fleeing suspect. The statute provided, “if, after notice of the intention to arrest the defendant, he either flees or forcibly resists, the officer may use all the necessary means to effect the arrest.”
On an October night in 1974, two Memphis police officers were dispatched to a reported burglary. One officer went looking for the suspect as his partner radioed back to the station. The officer observed a person running through the yard. The fleeing suspect, Edward Garner, stopped at a chain-linked fence.
The officer could see Garner’s face and hands, and admitted that Garner did not appear to be armed. Garner was small in stature and was only 15 years old. The officer ordered Garner to stop. Garner began to climb the fence and the officer shot him in the back of the head, killing him. The officer believed that had Garner made it over the fence he would have escaped.
Garner died with $10 and a purse taken from the burglarized house.
This week, the video of a South Carolina police officer shooting a black man in the back as he ran away has renewed the debate about police use of force. Michael Slager, a North Charleston police officer, said he shot 50-year-old Walter Scott in self-defense after Scott grabbed his Taser. He is facing a murder charge after a video surfaced that disputed his claim. The video depicts Scott running away, and the evidence indicates he was shot in the back.
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents the family of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by a police officer last summer, told the USA Today, “Those who shoot and kill suspects often escape prosecution because the criminal justice system places a high value on an officer’s word and often accepts their narrative of events.”
In 1974, Edward Garner’s family sued the city of Memphis and the state of Tennessee. The case ultimately made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1985.
The high court in Garner v. Tennessee held that, under the Fourth Amendment, when a law enforcement officer is pursuing a fleeing suspect, the officer may not use deadly force to prevent escape unless the officer believes that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.
Justice Byron White wrote, “It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape.” He continued, “The fact that the police arrive a little late or are a little slower afoot does not always justify killing the suspect.”
White, writing for the majority in Garner, established the circumstances under which deadly force would be justified. Deadly force can be used when the officer reasonably believes that the suspect posed “a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others.”
Recent deaths at the hands of the police — Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in New York City and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland — have brought officer involved killings into the public consciousness. Brown was unarmed when he was shot and killed by police; Garner died after being put in a chokehold by a police officer during an arrest for allegedly selling cigarettes; Rice was shot in a park while holding a pellet gun.
The first step in dealing with abuse of power is to hold the abuser accountable. In South Carolina accountability appears to be underway. Officer Slager has been fired and charged with murder. Maybe now the healing can begin and public trust restored.
Contact Matthew T. Mangino at
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Friday, April 10, 2015

Texas carries out first execution in more than three weeks

The 11th Execution of 2015
Kent Sprouse was convicted of killing a Dallas-area police officer.  According to the Associated Press, he apologized to victims' families just before his execution on April 9, 2015.
Sprouse, 42, became the fifth convicted killer put to death this year in Texas, the nation's most active death penalty state.
Sprouse was sentenced to death for the October 2002 killing of 28-year-old Harry Marvin "Marty" Steinfeldt III, a police officer in Ferris, who died during a shootout that followed the killing of a customer outside a convenience store.
Before his execution, Sprouse apologized to the families of his victims and his own family "for all the trouble I've caused everyone." Then he thanked his family members for their support. "I guess that's it," he said.
He took several deep breaths after the execution drug pentobarbital began taking effect, then began snoring. Within a minute, all movement stopped. He was pronounced dead 22 minutes later at 6:33 p.m. CDT.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review Sprouse's case in November, and no last-day appeals were filed for him in the courts.
Witnesses said Sprouse carried a shotgun into the Ferris Food Mart store while he made a purchase and then walked outside and fired toward two men at a pay phone. He went to his car and appeared to have some trouble with it, then shot and killed 38-year-old Pedro Moreno, a customer who was pumping gas near him.
Steinfeldt responded to a 911 call about a customer shot at the store and came under gunfire. He was struck twice under the arm where his protective vest did not cover him. He managed to fire 17 shots, reloading his gun once, and wounded Sprouse in the chest, leg and hand.
Court records indicate Sprouse told an officer who accompanied him in an ambulance to a hospital that he believed Moreno was an undercover officer, so he shot him.
"And I shot the other officer that was in uniform," Sprouse said, according to the records.
Sprouse was charged in Moreno's killing, but wasn't tried for it.
Relatives of both Steinfeldt and Moreno declined to speak with reporters after Sprouse's execution. Michelle Steinfeldt, the officer's widow, released a statement saying the execution was "the emotional end of a long, excruciating journey."
Tests showed that Sprouse, a Boone County, Missouri, native, had taken methamphetamine and other illegal drugs within 48 hours of the killings.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Police officer shoots fleeing suspect in the back

Thirty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a police office may not shoot a fleeing suspect in the back.  That doesn't mean it still doesn't happen. 
The video of a South Carolina police officer shooting a black man in the back as he ran away gives victims of police misconduct new ammunition to overturn common assumptions about police brutality, but families of victims and civil rights advocates wonder if it will be enough to spur real change, reported the USA Today.
Police who shoot and kill suspects often escape prosecution because the criminal justice systems places a high value on an officer's word and often accepts their narrative of events, says attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents the family of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was killed by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer last summer. A grand jury declined to indict the officer.
In the most recent incident, North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager, 33, who claimed he shot Walter Scott, 50, in self-defense after Scott grabbed his Taser, is facing a murder charge after a video surfaced that disputed his claim.
"They use this narrative all the time," Crump said. " 'I was in fear of my life. I felt threatened. They reached for my weapon.' That's how they justify killing us. Now that it's been exposed with this case, will America challenge it?"
In 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court in Garner v. Tennessee held that, under the Fourth Amendment, when a law enforcement officer is pursuing a fleeing suspect, he or she may not use deadly force to prevent escape unless the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others. 
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Thiel College-The Death Penalty

Thiel College-Comment Project No. 6

In 1972 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty had become "freakishly" random in the way it was imposed.  Has the death penalty now become freakishly arbitrary in the way it is carried out?

Explain your position in detail.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Tell me what you think?

In 1972 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty had become "freakishly" random in the way it was imposed.  Has the death penalty now become freakishly arbitrary in the way it is carried out?

Add your comment below, then click "publish" to let me know what you think.

Alabama pursuing long awaited prison reform

The Alabama State Senate passed a prison reform bill aimed at addressing the state's prison reform crisis through new investments in parole and probation services and a targeting of recidivism.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, passed 31 to 2 after a lengthy debate. It goes to the House, where Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, has said it will be a priority for the chamber.
"No one ever runs for election putting on a bumper sticker or a yard sign, 'I fixed prisons,'" Ward said after the vote Thursday afternoon. "This is not the ultimate fix, but it is a huge step in the right direction. I can guarantee you a few years ago, no one would have expected Alabama to take step toward these type of reforms."
The state's prisons, which stood at 185 percent capacity in December, have been overcrowded for decades, and that overcrowding has been a major factor in physical and sexual violence reported in numerous corrections facilities.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Mangino appears on WFMJ-TV Weekend Today

Watch my interview on WFMJ-TV Weekend Today. To watch the interview CLICK HERE

California death row runs out of room, only 13 executions in 37 years

More than 850 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978 any only 13 have been executed. Now, with no executions in nearly a decade and newly condemned men arriving each month, the nation's largest death row has run out of room, reported the Los Angeles Times. 
Warning that there is little time to lose, Gov. Jerry Brown is asking the California Legislature for $3.2 million to open nearly 100 more cells for condemned men at San Quentin State Prison. The proposed expansion would take advantage of cells made available as the state releases low­-level drug offenders and thieves under a new law voters approved last year. 
California's death penalty has been the subject of a decade of litigation. One case led to a halt to executions in 2006. Another resulted in a federal judge's ruling last July that the state's interminably slow capital appeals system is unconstitutionally cruel. Through it all, the death row population has grown from 646 in 2006 to 751 today. "Until the litigation is resolved, this cost­effective proposal allows [the state corrections department] to safely house condemned inmates going forward," corrections department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said last week. Legislators would have to approve the governor's funding request as part of the state's $113 ­billion budget. 
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Delaware senate committee votes to repeal death penalty

For the second time in three years, lawmakers in the state Senate narrowly voted to repeal the death penalty, setting up a fight in the House, where police groups and the chamber's top Democrat will oppose the effort.
The Delaware State Senate recently voted 11-9 on in favor of repeal the death penalty after about an hour of debate. 
"I wanted an amendment so that the death penalty conviction would guarantee that the individual convicted would be 23 hours in a cell, one hour outside the cell forever," Marshall said.
Senate Majority Leader David McBride, flipped his vote from no to yes, saying the death penalty is a "failed public policy that serves no purpose in our criminal justice system."
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Karen Peterson, includes an exemption for the 15 inmates currently sitting on Delaware's death row, who would still face execution by lethal injection.
Gov. Jack Markell has yet to weigh in. A spokeswoman for Markell said in an email Thursday that the governor is following the debate, but would not take a position.
To read more CLICK HERE

Mangino discusses rape and arson on WFMJ-TV

Watch my interview on WFMJ-TV regarding a 10-year-old witness in a rape trial killed in a fire and the resulting legal ramifications.

To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Friday, April 3, 2015

Mangino comments on sentencing for WFMJ-TV

Watch my interview on WFMJ-TV concerning the sentencing of a Greenville, Pennsylvania mother and grandparents who starved a 7-year-old boy.

To watch the interview CLICK HERE

GateHouse: Prison deaths on the rise

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
April 3, 2015
Last year, 35 inmates were executed nationwide. During that same period, 10 times as many inmates died in Florida’s prison system alone — by means other than lethal injection.
Unfortunately, deaths in prison are common. For Florida, a record 346 prisoners died while behind bars in 2014 — a dubious distinction.
Many of the deaths came to light through a Miami Herald series. The stories documented a pattern of inhumane treatment, abuse and unexplained inmate deaths. As a result, the Florida legislature began to look into the matter.
Several prison guards testified at legislative hearings about the stressful conditions they are forced to endure on a daily basis. According to National Public Radio, corrections officer Timothy Butler said staff shortages and a lack of communication with the administration have made the prisons unsafe for inmates and guards. “It’s to the point,” he said, “where that if I was to walk down on a compound, I feel scared ... I don’t even know where we have enough people on there to help.”
According to the Department of Justice-Bureau of Justice Statistics, 958 inmates died while in the custody of local jails in 2012. This was an eight percent increase from 2011 and marked the first annual increase in the number of jail deaths since 2009.
State prisons reported 3,351 deaths in 2012. The mortality rate increased two percent, from 260 deaths per 100,000 state prisoners in 2011 to 264 deaths per 100,000 prisoners in 2012.
Florida has the nation’s third-largest prison population with more than 100,000 men and women behind bars. Due to budget cuts totaling nearly a half-billion dollars conditions in Florida’s state prisons have been impacted by staff shortages, declining services to inmates and a deteriorating infrastructure. All of which create dangerous and often deadly conditions for inmates and a frightening work environment for staff.
Florida is not alone. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, America’s jails and prisons hold more than 2.4 million people. Those inmates are scattered among 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 2,259 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,283 local jails, and 79 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities and civil commitment centers.
As jails and prisons burst at the seams, it is evident the United States is not just leading the world in incarceration rates, but that men and women are dying in prison at an unprecedented rate. Florida is ground zero for prison-related deaths, but certainly not alone in the crisis.
Julie Jones, recently appointed Florida’s corrections secretary by Gov. Rick Scott, is the seventh head of the Department of Corrections in the last eight years. Jones believes the legislature and the media are making too much of the high number of inmate deaths.
“I would submit to you, if you look at the raw numbers, it tells you, ‘Oh my gosh, we have a problem,’’” she told NPR. “If you drill in, the actual stats don’t portray it’s a crisis.”
Last fall, her predecessor fired 32 guards in the wake of an investigation into inmate deaths. Former Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Michael Crews dismissed the guards after an investigation of inmate deaths at four different prisons. All of them had been accused of criminal misconduct or wrongdoing in the inmates’ deaths.
In Florida, the average age of a prison inmate is about 33. Yet the mortality rate for inmates is more than half the mortality rate Floridians of all ages. This is an issue that demands more scrutiny, not just in Florida, but across the country.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.
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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Florida Supreme Court: Miller v. Alabama retroactive

The Florida Supreme Court held unanimously that the United State Supreme Court’s holding in Miller v. Alabama barring mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles applies retroactively to juveniles whose sentences were imposed years ago.
According to the ACLU, Florida joins the supreme courts of Nebraska, New Hampshire, Illinois, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Texas, and Wyoming, as well as federal courts across the country.
The court also held in a companion case that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Graham v. Florida applied to term-of-year sentences so lengthy that they were de facto life sentences.  

Mangino interviewed on WKBN-TV

Watch my interview on WKBN-TV regarding the murder of a 94-year-old woman in Youngstown, Ohio.

To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Pharmacists vote to oppose participation in executions

The American Pharmacists Association voted to oppose participation in executions, declaring that helping put prisoners to death violates the goals and oath of the profession, reported NBC News. The move comes a week after the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists adopted a similar stance.
Neither policy is binding, but they could dissuade specialty pharmacists — now the only source for lethal injections in many states — from selling their products to prisons for executions.        
"It adds to the difficulty," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which supports capital punishment. "It's unfortunate that groups such as this would allow themselves to be dragged into a political dispute."
The big manufacturers of the chemicals that were used in executions for years have stopped selling their wares to correctional systems under pressure from anti-death penalty activists.
That has forced states to turn to compounding pharmacies for specialty orders — but their products are not FDA-approved and critics have expressed concern about the sterility and quality of the drugs.
To read more CLICK HERE