Saturday, October 31, 2015

GateHouse: Police have no business in classroom management

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
October 30, 2015

The time has come to remove police officers from America’s classrooms. The safety and security of students is of utmost importance, but the risk of a student being arrested or brutalized for common disciplinary infractions outweighs the benefit of a school-based law enforcement presence.

Although the number of police officers assigned to school duty has increased across the country, not everyone is convinced of its effectiveness. “There is no evidence that placing officers in the schools improves safety,” Denise C. Gottfredson, a criminologist at the University of Maryland told the New York Times. “And it increases the number of minor behavior problems that are referred to the police, pushing kids into the criminal justice system.”

This week, a new video emerged out of South Carolina portraying an incident between a deputy sheriff and a student. In the video, a female student can be seen sitting in her chair in a classroom with other students. The deputy assigned to the school can be seen grabbing the student out of her desk, causing the chair to flip over. Once the student is on the ground, the officer can be seen grabbing the student and aggressively dragging her for several feet.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott told reporters after first viewing footage of his deputy, “I wanted to throw up … [t]his makes you sick to your stomach when you see that initial video.” Lott has fired the deputy and called on the Department of Justice to investigate.

This would be disturbing if it was an isolated incident, but it is not. Some police actions within schools involve alarming physical altercations, with kids subdued and handcuffed, reported the Center for Public Integrity.

Juvenile crime rates are plummeting, and the number of Americans in juvenile detention has dropped. According to a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the juvenile incarceration rate dropped 41 percent between 1995 and 2010.

But school discipline policies are moving in the opposite direction — out-of-school suspensions have increased about 10 percent since 2000. They have more than doubled since the 1970s.

As more and more school districts add police officers or armed security guards to their payroll, the number of students who are arrested as a form of discipline has soared. The surge in arrests for misdemeanor nonviolent behavior has been referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline.

Virginia leads the nation in the rate of referrals from school discipline to criminal courts at 15.8 referrals per 1,000 incidents. The national average is about six referrals per 1,000 incidents.

Prosecuting kids for low-level offenses like disorderly conduct and battery often stigmatizes students for life. A growing number of criminal justice practitioners contend that research and experience has convinced them this trend has gone too far.

The Obama administration is also urging school districts to keep the business of routine discipline in the hands of schools and counselors, not law enforcement. Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon told the Center for Public Integrity that disorderly conduct allegations are a “red flag” for her office, which can investigate school districts for violating students’ civil rights and withhold federal funds as a result.

In 2013, Texas took action to stem the flow of the school-to-prison pipeline. The new laws barred police officers from arresting students for misdemeanors that occur on school grounds. Officers also cannot issue citations for school offenses such as causing disruptions in class or on a school bus.

According to the Austin American Statesman, the laws have fueled a larger-than-anticipated 83 percent decline in the number of Texas schoolchildren prosecuted in adult court for infractions such as disrupting a classroom.

Texas is on the right track. A parent should not fear that their child who leaves for school in the morning might end up in handcuffs and with an arrest record by the end of the day.

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.
To visit the column CLICK HERE

Friday, October 30, 2015

Assaults on police officers are down sharply

The FBI recently released its data on assaults on police officers in 2014, reported the Washington Post.
The good news is that reported assaults are down sharply. Unarmed and assaults with guns both dropped, while assaults with knives and edged weapons went up slightly. But overall, as this chart tweeted by University of South Carolina law professor Seth Stoughton shows, assaults on cops are at their lowest point since 1996 and have been dropping consistently since 2008.
This is just the latest piece of data to undermine the whole “war on cops” narrative. When you counter the war rhetoric by pointing out that killings of police officers are also in decline, and that this year is on pace to be the second safest on record, law-and-order types argue that the drop in fatalities is just due to better body armor, weapons and the willingness of cops to use lethal force.
But if assaults are in decline as well, it isn’t just about body armor. It means that people aren’t trying to attack the police nearly as often. And that’s a pretty hard phenomenon to square with any perceived “war on cops.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Democrat presidential candidates and the death penalty

Hillary Clinton supports the death penalty her opponents in the race for the Democratic nomination for President do not.
Clinton said recently at the Politics & Eggs event at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, "I do not favor abolishing it, however, because I think there are certain, egregious cases that still deserve the consideration of the death penalty,” reported The Hill.
“But I’d like to see those be very limited and rare, as opposed to what we’ve seen in some states where there are a hundred people on death row who wouldn’t be there in a comparable state."
Clinton added that new evidence suggests that the penalty has been “too frequently applied and, very unfortunately, oftentimes in a discriminatory way.” She said she’s in favor of states taking a harder look at how to use the death penalty.
Both of Clinton’s rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Gov. Martin O’Malley (Md.) disagree.
O’Malley’s campaign put out a statement shortly after Clinton’s comment that highlighted his opposition to the death penalty.
“The death penalty is racially-biased, ineffective deterrent to crime, and we must abolish it. Our nation should not be in the company of Iran, Iraq, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen in carrying out the majority of public executions,” he said.
“That's why I abolished it in Maryland, because it is fundamentally at odds with our values. As President, I would work to build consensus to end it nationally."
Sanders has regularly voted against the death penalty while in office, according to analysis by PolitiFact.  He added during an interview in May on the Thom Hartmann radio show, "I'm against capital punishment in general. 
"With so much violence in this world today, I just don't think the state itself, whether the state or federal government, should be in the business of killing people. When you have people who have done terrible, terrible things, they are going to spend the rest of their lives in jail and that's a pretty harsh punishment." 
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

PA sued over delays in treating mentally ill defendants

Pennsylvania is so overwhelmed by demand for state hospital beds to treat defendants who have been found incompetent to stand trial that at least two have died in jail while waiting for beds in recent years, reported
Those deaths are highlighted in a class-action lawsuit filed last week by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania over delays that have left some of the state's most severely mentally ill waiting months – and on many occasions more than a year – in county prisons that are poorly equipped to handle them.
"These are people who have essentially been left to rot in jails because there isn't enough room in the hospitals where they belong," said Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "I could sugarcoat it, but that's really what's going on here."
Defendants in Pennsylvania are transferred to one of two state hospitals when they are deemed incompetent to stand trial and require intensive treatment to be restored to competency. But delays to transfer defendants to those hospitals – Torrance State Hospital near Pittsburgh and Norristown State Hospital near Philadelphia – have surged in recent years.
Federal courts have ruled that defendants shouldn't wait longer than a week to be transferred to a state hospital for treatment following a commitment order. By contrast, according to the ACLU's lawsuit, the last 25 defendants transferred from Philadelphia's prison system to Norristown State Hospital waited an average of 391 days for beds – with one defendant waiting 589 days.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Supreme Court to review racial bias in jury selection

On November 2 the U.S. Supreme Court will hear whether allowing lawyers to peremptorily dismiss potential jurors has simply become a way to discriminate, according to The Washington Post.
It has been almost three decades since the Supreme Court in a case called Batson v. Kentucky ruled that it was unconstitutional to strike jurors because of their race.
But almost no one thinks the problem has been eliminated. Prosecutors and defense attorneys need only find a benign reason for dismissal: a failure to maintain eye contact and an age too close to the defendant’s were among those accepted in the Georgia case.
Studies and experience have concluded that only the most incompetent lawyer will fail to come up with a justification that a judge can accept.
“Among those who laud its mission, it seems that the only people not disappointed in Batson are those who never expected it to work in the first place,” wrote Michigan State University law professors Catherine M. Grosso and Barbara O’Brien in a 2012 study of racial bias in jury selection in North Carolina.
If anything, lawyers might have more reason to rely on racial stereotypes today in choosing a jury than they did when Batson was decided.

Monday, October 26, 2015

PA Senate begins process to remove AG Kane

The Pennsylvania Senate has initiated proceedings to remove Attorney General Kathleen Kane from office, beginning with the creation of a committee tasked with assessing whether Kane is able to perform the functions of attorney general, reported The Legal Intelligencer.
Plans to form the bipartisan special committee were announced by state Sen. Joseph B. Scarnati III, R-Jefferson, president pro tempore of the upper house, on Oct. 23. Scarnati said the move was motivated by the suspension of Kane's law license going into effect last week.

Article VI, Section 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution details the removal of civil officers. It states: "All civil officers elected by the people, except the governor, the lieutenant governor, members of the General Assembly and judges of the courts of record, shall be removed by the governor for reasonable cause, after due notice and full hearing, on the address of two-thirds of the Senate."
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an order Sept. 21 announcing the suspension of Kane's license. The order took effect last week. The Supreme Court's suspension order came about six weeks after Kane was criminally charged with leaking secret grand-jury material and lying under oath about it.
To read more CLICK HERE 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mississippi injustice: Guilty until proven innocent

The Mississippi Supreme Court, back in 1995, declared that the quality of representation for poor defendants "goes to the very heart of how we as a civilized society assure equal justice to rich and poor alike." Unfortunately, 20 years later, some counties in Mississippi are spending less than $2 per capita on indigent defense, reported Al Jazeera. To make matters worse for poor defendants, there is no state oversight of this patchwork system. Circuit court judges are the highest legal officers in the counties, and the only check on their judgment is the ballot box.
At least one of these judges, Marcus D. Gordon, has admitted to not assigning public defenders until after indictment—when formal charges are filed against a defendant. Gordon has claimed the policy is necessary because of scarce resources. But in a state that sets no time-limit on how long someone can be held in jail before indictment, the result is that poor defendants who can’t afford bail routinely end up in jail for months without ever speaking to a lawyer.
In fact, his response during the Al Jazeera interview to the following question will startle you and give you an insight to Mississippi's criminal justice system.
But what if months pass between the arrest and the time of indictment?
Lady, people charged with crimes, they are criminals. And they say what meets their purpose. Now they told you they had requested an attorney. They had not requested an attorney in 98 percent of the cases. You never hear of that. I never hear of that.
I don’t know whether they have requested an attorney or not. They would not be entitled to an attorney until indictment, as a policy of this district by myself and the other circuit judge. It would be an additional burden on trial attorneys to go out there and investigate every single case.
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, October 24, 2015

GateHouse: The Kane Mutiny: Can things get worse for Pennsylvania's AG?

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
October 23, 2015

In Pennsylvania politics the sublime has become the surreal. A Hollywood producer might have cause to pause if the state’s ongoing political scandal were handed to her as a movie script. To start, the attorney general, Pennsylvania’s top law enforcement officer, has had her law license suspended. But she has made it clear that the inability to practice law will have little effect on her ability to function as attorney general.
Kathleen Kane, Pennsylvania’s attorney general, is under indictment for leaking secret grand jury testimony. The leak was meant to embarrass former AG staffers who had challenged her decision to review the sexual assault investigation of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
During the course of her office’s review of the Sandusky investigation, a trove of pornographic emails exchanged between prominent member of the AG’s office and high ranking government officials were discovered. Those emails resulted in the resignation of a state Supreme Court justice, a member of the former governor’s cabinet and a member of the state board of probation and parole.
In late 2014, a court filing, attempting to quash the grand jury investigation of Kane’s alleged leak, detailed an alleged conspiracy to discredit Kane. According to Kane’s attorneys, the criminal investigation of Kane was orchestrated by longtime state prosecutors Frank Fina and E. Marc Costanzo, who had left the Attorney General’s Office prior to Kane taking office.
“These two men – peddlers of pornography and obscenity depositing state paychecks . . . is an injustice of the highest order that cannot be allowed to stand,” Kane argued in the court filing.
The porn scandal continues. A second Supreme Court justice is being investigated by the Judicial Conduct Board for his role in sending and receiving pornographic emails on state time.
Kane license was placed on emergency temporary suspension by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last month, as a result of perjury, official oppression and now a second set of similar charges all brought by the Montgomery County district attorney. The Disciplinary Board contended that the attorney general had taken part in “egregious conduct” that violated rules of professional conduct and “caused substantial public and private harm.”
The suspension officially took effect at the end of business on Oct. 21.
Kane told her staff this week that the suspension of her law license will have little effect on her work as attorney general. “She said that virtually everything she does is either administrative or ministerial, and she intends to continue doing those things,” spokesman Chuck Ardo told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “And the two percent of what the attorney general does that may require a valid law license; she has asked senior staff to take care of.”
Robert Power, associate dean at Widener University Law School, told the Post-Gazette that Kane is probably right that much of an attorney general’s work is management. But making recommendations about prosecutions or litigation strategy “would seem to me to constitute practicing law,” he said.
“If she is to make final decisions even on just strategies of how to proceed in a particular matter, whether to proceed in a particular matter, those are all legal decisions,” Power said. “Just because someone else signs the papers and appears in court does not change that fact.”
However, it is not clear if Kane can survive yet another challenge, this one by her own staff. Ardo made it clear there is not unanimous agreement within the office with Kane’s position, reported the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
He said it was not immediately clear whether any of Kane’s top deputies would formally contest her position.
A porn scandal, conspiracy, indictment, suspension and now the talk of mutiny--Captain Queeg had it easy compared to Kathleen Kane.
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.
To visit column CLICK HERE


Friday, October 23, 2015

Unable to practice law, how long will Kane stay as AG?

Robert S. Tintner of Fox Rothschild, who represents attorneys and law firms, said Kane is potentially exposing herself to future prosecution by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, reported The Legal Intelligencer.
"She has requirements now as a formerly admitted attorney, and if she does not adhere to the requirements ... my sense is the ODC will go after her for that," Tintner said. "It's fine for her to say she's going to do these ministerial tasks, but they are all law-related, and she wasn't elected by the citizens of Pennsylvania to perform ministerial tasks."
Ardo said he is unfamiliar with that particular section of the code, "but certainly the attorney general and her legal advisers believe she is on solid legal ground in both staying in office and limiting her activity to matters that don't require an active law license."
When asked who was the attorney supervising Kane, Ardo said he did not know the answer, and repeated that he was unfamiliar with the rule.
Rule 217(j) lists acceptable activities for formerly admitted attorneys, and how they must be conducted. Formerly admitted attorneys have to do their law-related work under the supervision of an attorney in good standing, it says, and are limited to completing specified clerical and preparatory tasks.
"She's not acting under the supervision of anybody," Fox said.
Fox said if Kane is leading the office, she could be violating Rule 5.1 of the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct.
"She's got the ultimate authority for supervising the work of these lawyers," Fox said. "I can delegate, but that doesn't remove the responsibility."
Reich said he is curious as to how Kane did her analysis of the job duties she would be able to continue.
"We just don't see how she can practically continue as the attorney general," Reich said. "You're putting a square into a circle. It's just not going to get through."
Reich said the parameters of Rule 217 were put into place to keep disbarred or suspended attorneys from staying in their office as a paralegal or other nonlawyer staff member and continuing to address cases or client concerns.
"The rule was enacted to be prophylactic, to avoid formerly admitted attorneys being put in a position with clients or prospective clients who would not understand they were not really a lawyer," Reich said.
Tintner said the rule prohibits former attorneys from holding themselves out as lawyers.
Kane "seems to be ignoring that," Tintner said. "I think that is inconsistent with the purpose and the spirit behind Rule 217."
Haimowitz said the question of whether Kane stays in office will "eventually reach the Supreme Court, the legislature or the voters. They'll make the decision."
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Starting today Pennsylvania's attorney general can't practice law

The day begins in Pennsylvania with an attorney general whose license to practice law has been suspended.  Kathleen Kane, the state's top law enforcement official, is under indictment for perjury and related offenses, for allegedly leaking secret grand jury information to embarrass political foes.

She told her office yesterday that it would be business as usual in the AG's office, except the AG cannot appear in court, sign any official documents or make tactical decisions that would otherwise require the right to practice law.

In the meantime, she has suggested that she will release some additional porn emails that have to date resulted in the resignation of a Supreme Court justice, a cabinet member of the former governor and a member of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. The new emails are targeted at a second Supreme Court justice.

Don't forget this whole thing started over the sexual assault investigation of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Stay tuned this scandal is begging for prime time as a made for TV movie.

Ohio halts executions until 2017

Ohio delayed the scheduled executions of a dozen inmates, citing difficulties getting the necessary drugs, reported CNN. Ohio was at one time a leading state in carrying out executions.
The next execution in Ohio is now set for January 2017, according to a release from the state's Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC).
"DRC continues to seek all legal means to obtain the drugs necessary to carry out court ordered executions, but over the past few years it has become exceedingly difficult to secure those drugs because of severe supply and distribution restrictions," the release read. "The new dates are designed to provide DRC additional time necessary to secure the required execution drugs."
Earlier this year, Ohio announced that it would delay the executions of seven death row inmates while searching for an adequate supply of drugs that complies with its new execution protocol.
The state decided to stop using the two-drug regimen of midazolam and hydromorphone.
That drug combination was last used in January 2014 on convicted murderer Dennis McGuire. Witnesses said he convulsed and gasped about 10 minutes before he died.
The McGuire execution was closely watched because midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller, had never been used in a U.S. execution.
Ohio, like many states, was forced to find new execution drugs after European-based manufacturers banned U.S. prisons from using their drugs in executions -- among them, Danish-based Lundbeck, which manufactures pentobarbital.
Ohio said in early January that it would add thiopental sodium, a drug the state used for lethal injections from 1999-2011. Thiopental sodium and pentobarbital will be the only drugs used.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Crying not protected by spousal immunity in North Carolina

Tom Hanks famously said in the movie A League of Their Own, "there is no crying in baseball." But apparently in North Carolina their is crying in court and that crying can lead to 20-25 years in prison.  The North Carolina Court of Appeals recently ruled that crying isn't protected by confidential communication between spouses--spousal immunity--according to The Associated Press.
The case involves alleged serial rapist Lesiba Simon Matsoake, a South African man who appealed his conviction in the rape of a woman on a Kill Devil Hills beach in June 2003. His now ex-wife, Ruth Hart, testified that she first became suspicious of her husband when he started crying while looking at a composite sketch of the attacker, presumably a drawing that looked similar to him.
Shortly after the rape, Matsoake and Hart were traveling from their home in Point Harbor, North Carolina, to a doctor's appointment in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Hart was driving. Matsoake was sitting in the passenger seat reading the paper.
"I heard like water, I heard a tear drop hit the paper and I looked over and (the defendant) was crying," she said at trial, over the objection of Matsoake's attorneys.
Before Hart's testimony, Matsoake's defense attorney argued that the crying was a communication and that the defendant was making "some sort of tacit admission to some sort of involvement" in the attack, which was a "form of nonverbal communication (that) shouldn't be allowed."
The Court of Appeals noted that the North Carolina Supreme Court has held that either spouse can prevent the other from testifying to a confidential communication. But the appeals court agreed with the trial court that spoken words, not crying, are a protected communication.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

President Barack Obama to launch his rock star-esque "Nonviolent Crime and Punishment Tour"

President Barack Obama will launch his rock star-esque "Nonviolent Crime and Punishment Tour" of America to promote criminal justice reform.  He told The Associated Press he’ll travel the country in the coming weeks to encourage reform and a reduction of incarceration rates.
Obama says he’s encouraged by lawmakers’ efforts to reduce the mandatory minimum sentence for nonviolent drug offenders. They’re also looking at rewarding prisoners with shorter sentences if they complete certain programs to cut the number of repeat offenders.
Obama says 500,000 people were behind bars in America 30 years ago. Now, there are 2.2 million.
He says many of the people in prison belong there but that the U.S. is also locking up more nonviolent offenders than ever before.
During his travel, Obama says he’ll meet with police chiefs, a community battling drug abuse and former prisoners.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, October 19, 2015

Supreme Court to decide constitutionality of Florida's capital sentencing procedure

Florida’s idiosyncratic capital sentencing system appeared to be in peril at the Supreme Court, with several justices questioning whether it gives enough authority to jurors, wrote Adam Liptak of the New York Times.
In Hurst v. Florida, No. 14-7505, Timothy Lee Hurst, was convicted of the 1998 murder of Cynthia Lee Harrison, a co-worker at a Popeyes restaurant in Escambia County, Fla. He was tried and sentenced to death in 2000.
After the Florida Supreme Court ordered him resentenced, a second jury in 2012 recommended a death sentence by a 7-to-5 vote. The judge then independently considered the evidence concerning the appropriate punishment and concluded that Mr. Hurst should be executed.

“There is no other state that permits anyone to be sentenced to death other than by a unanimous determination by the jury,” he said. “And the State of Florida requires unanimity for shoplifting, just not for death.”
Only two states — Louisiana and Oregon — allow nonunanimous verdicts in most criminal cases, and even then at least 10 of the 12 jurors have to agree. The two states require unanimous verdicts in capital cases.
The Supreme Court upheld Oregon’s approach in 1972.  Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested that the court should consider overruling that decision.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that would not be necessary to rule against Florida in the case before the justices. “Does 10 to 2 automatically mean that 7 to 5 is O.K.?” she asked Allen Winsor, Florida’s solicitor general.
Mr. Winsor said a simple majority vote was acceptable thanks to another challenged feature of Florida’s approach. “Even if it’s a 7-to-5 vote, you still have the judge coming behind that jury” to make the final determination, he said.
But in 2002, in Ring v. Arizona, the Supreme Court ruled that juries and not judges must make the factual findings to support death sentences. Mr. Winsor said the state’s procedure satisfied Ring because juries did make the required threshold determination that the defendant was eligible to be executed.
Justice Elena Kagan disagreed. “The crucial death eligibility determination is being made by the judge because that’s the only death eligibility determination that the appeals court is ever going to review,” she said.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Vindicator: Early release of 6,000 federal prisoners could spell trouble

Matthew T. Mangino
The Youngstown Vindicator
October 18, 2015

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is slated to release 6,000 prisoners as a result of an overhaul of federal criminal sentencing statutes. Why the need to overhaul the system? Since 1980, federal prison population has increased by 800 percent, and prisons are nearly 40 percent over capacity. Federal prisons consume a third of the Justice Department’s $27 billion budget.
The rhetoric of policy makers is that the release of these 6,000 inmates would focus primarily on “nonviolent drug offenders.”So who are these 6,000 inmates?
According to The Marshall Project, they are mostly black and Hispanic men. The average age is mid-30s. Their drug of choice was cocaine, including crack, followed by methamphetamines.
They are most likely to return to southern states, but 736 of those inmates are from Ohio and Pennsylvania.State and federal prisons release about 13,000 inmates every week as they complete their sentences, but 6,000 at once is different— “the largest one-time federal release,” according to The Washington Post.
An Associated Press analysis of about 100 of those inmates slated for release found that they are not as “nonviolent” as has been suggested. Some have histories that include carrying semi-automatic weapons, past convictions for robbery and other crimes, some moved cocaine shipments across states lines, while others participated in international heroin smuggling.
Twenty years ago, the Bureau of Justice found that trafficking in illicit drugs tended to be associated with commission of violent crimes. That has not changed. Some reasons for the relationship between drug trafficking and violence include:
Competition for drug markets and customers;
Disputes and ripoffs among individuals involved in the illegal drug market;
Individuals who participate in drug trafficking are prone to use violence;
Locations where drug markets proliferate tend to be disadvantaged, and social controls against violence tend to be ineffective there.
A greater concern is that any effort to get back to historic levels of incarceration would require prison population to be reduced substantially, which can’t be achieved by releasing only “non-violent drug offenders.”
More than half of today’s state inmates are in prison for violent crimes. There is no reason to believe that those numbers are not also representative of the federal prison system. Solving mass incarceration requires releasing some violent and dangerous people. The problem is how to do that without compromising public safety.
Even those who support the mass release of prisoners see the potential for failure. An increase in crime, including violent crime, seems almost inevitable. Eunisses Hernandez, who works at the Amity Foundation, told National Public Radio, “They’re going to say, ‘We told you so.’” “If they released, like, half the population right now, without services and with the re-entry systems that are currently available, I do believe that more crime will exist,” Hernandez said. “Because people need to survive, and they’re gonna do what it takes to survive.”
Gradual transition
Mark A.R. Kleiman, Angela Hawken, and Ross Halperin wrote last spring for Vox Media, “For the transition from prison to life outside to be successful, it needs to be gradual. If someone needed to be locked up yesterday, he shouldn’t be completely at liberty today. And he shouldn’t be asked to go from utter dependency to total self-sufficiency in one flying leap. He needs both more control and more support. Neither alone is likely to do the job.”
Will the support be there for the 6,000 federal inmates about to walk out of prison? If not, the consequences will be disruption of already vulnerable communities and an increase in victimization.

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 @MatthewTMangino.

Visit The Vindicator CLICK HERE

Ohio considering legislation to protect severely mentally ill from death penalty

Murder suspects with a severe mental illness at the time the crime was committed could be exempted from the death penalty, under a bill before Ohio lawmakers that would still allow offenders to be convicted and sentenced to prison including life without parole, according to ABC News.
The proposed legislation would allow a hearing before trial on an offender's mental condition and permit a judge to rule out the death penalty if severe mental illness is proven. If the judge keeps the death penalty on the table, the issue could be raised again during the trial.
Current death row inmates could also challenge their sentences on the same grounds. The bill does not affect defendants who plead not guilty by reason of insanity.
Prosecutors say the legislation opens the door to challenges from practically every inmate on Ohio's death row. Bill supporters estimate only about 15 percent of those prisoners might have legitimate claims, or about 20 of the 140 inmates currently sentenced to die in Ohio.
Illnesses covered by the bill include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. Ohio would be the second state with such a law if enacted after Connecticut, which has since abolished the death penalty. Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee have considered similar measures.
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, October 17, 2015

GateHouse: Feds prepare for mass release of prisoners

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
October 16, 2015

During Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate, Hillary Clinton said, “We have got to stop imprisoning people who use marijuana.” Carly Fiorina said during a recent Republican debate, “Two-thirds of the people in our prisons are there for nonviolent offenses, mostly drug-related.”

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is slated to release 6,000 prisoners as a result of modest changes to federal sentencing guidelines. Why the need to overhaul the federal system? Since 1980, federal prison population has increased by 800 percent, and prisons are nearly 40 percent over capacity. Federal prisons consume a third of the Justice Department’s $27 billion budget.

The rhetoric, as perpetuated by Clinton and Fiorina, is that the release of these 6,000 inmates would focus primarily on “nonviolent drug offenders.”

The reality is — according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission — of 21,907 drug offenders sentenced under federal sentencing guidelines in 2014, only .3 percent were for marijuana possession. Roughly 18 percent of those drug sentences were for trafficking marijuana.

So who are these 6,000 inmates set for release? According to The Marshall Project, they are mostly black and Hispanic men. The average age is mid-30s. Their drug of choice was cocaine, including crack, followed by methamphetamine.

State and federal prisons release about 13,000 inmates every week as they complete their sentences, but 6,000 at once is different — “the largest one-time federal release,” according to The Washington Post.

An Associated Press analysis of about 100 of those inmates slated for release found that they are not as “nonviolent” as has been suggested. Some of those being released have histories that include carrying semi-automatic weapons, past convictions for robbery and other crimes, some moved cocaine shipments across states lines, while others participated in international heroin smuggling.

Twenty years ago, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that trafficking in illicit drugs tended to be associated with the commission of violent crimes. That has not changed. Some of the reasons for the relationship between drug trafficking and violence include competition; ripoffs among traffickers; dealers are prone to violence and drug markets proliferate in violent neighborhoods.

A greater concern is that any effort to get back to historic levels of incarceration would require prison population to be reduced substantially, that cannot be achieved by releasing only “nonviolent drug offenders.”

More than half of today’s state inmates are in prison for violent crimes, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics. There is no reason to believe that those numbers are not also representative of the federal prison system. Solving mass incarceration requires releasing some violent and dangerous people. The problem is how to do that without compromising public safety.

Mark A.R. Kleiman, Angela Hawken, and Ross Halperin wrote last spring for Vox Media, “For the transition from prison to life outside to be successful, it needs to be gradual. If someone needed to be locked up yesterday, he shouldn’t be completely at liberty today. And he shouldn’t be asked to go from utter dependency to total self-sufficiency in one flying leap. He needs both more control and more support. Neither alone is likely to do the job.”

Presidential hopefuls and policy-makers continue to suggest that prisons are flooded with “nonviolent drug offenders.” That argument is specious. The focus should not be on how many inmates can be released wholesale, but rather where the resources are going to come from to help those released succeed in society as law abiding, tax paying, productive citizens.

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, October 16, 2015

Texas executes cop killer

The 24th Execution of 2015

A Texas man, Licho Escamilla, was put to death on October 14, 2015 for the 2001 murder of Christopher Kevin James who was trying to break up a brawl involving Escamilla. The 33-year-old prisoner was pronounced dead at 6:31 p.m. CDT — 18 minutes after the lethal injection began, according to The Associated Press.
Before dying, Escamilla looked at the slain officer's daughter, who was seated a few feet away watching through a window, and told her: "God bless your heart."
He turned to his relatives watching through another window and said he loved them and everyone who supported him.
"Pope Francis, God's children has asked the state of Texas to switch my death sentence to life in prison," he said. "But the state of Texas has refused to listen to God's children.
"They will have to take that up with God," he added.
He took two breaths as the sedative pentobarbital took effect, then became still. His sister cried and screamed for God not to take him.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review his case last week and no additional appeals were filed as his execution neared. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday decided against a reprieve and clemency.
James and three other uniformed officers were working off-duty when the brawl started. Escamilla pulled out a gun and opened fire on the officers as they tried to end the fight.
The bullets from his 9 mm semi-automatic handgun struck James twice, knocking him to the ground. Escamilla then calmly walked up to the officer and fired three more shots into the back of his head before running and exchanging shots with other officers, witnesses said. A second officer wounded in the shootout survived.
Escamilla's trial attorneys told jurors he was responsible for James' slaying but argued it didn't merit a death sentence because James wasn't officially on duty, meaning the crime didn't qualify as a capital murder.
He was sentenced to death in October 2002. At his trial in Dallas, Escamilla grabbed a water pitcher off the defense table and threw it at the jury as the judge was reading his sentence.
Escamilla also started kicking and hitting people and hid under the table until he was subdued by deputies who triggered an electronic stun belt he was wearing.
Testimony showed Escamilla bragged to emergency medical technicians who were treating his wounds that he had killed an officer and injured another and that he'd be out of jail in 48 hours. He also admitted to the slaying during a television interview from jail.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Supreme Court takes up retroactivity of Miller v. Alabama

Retroactivity sounds like a really boring legal subject. Until you learn that some 2,000 people serving terms of life without parole could have a shot at release if the Supreme Court rules that Miller v. Alabama, a 2012 decision, is retroactive, according to Nina Totenberg of NPR.
Three years ago, the court struck down state laws that imposed a mandatory and automatic sentence of life without parole on juvenile murderers. The decision clearly applied prospectively, and many states changed their laws to comply. But what about those juvenile killers sentenced to mandatory life without parole before 2012? Does the decision apply to them too? That was the question before the Supreme Court.
Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben, representing the federal government, was midway through his argument time.
Dreeben gratefully grasped at the chief justice's invitation to switch direction. He said that the court's 2012 decision should be retroactive because the ruling went "far beyond" mere procedural changes and required states to adopt new sentencing options that included penalties less severe than life without parole.
He noted that the Supreme Court itself, in striking down mandatory life without parole for juvenile killers three years ago, found the penalty was often "disproportionate" and that the sentence was not consistent with "the mitigating characteristics of youth" the court has recognized repeatedly.
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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Arkansas death row inmates challenging constitutionality of lethal injection secrecy laws

The state of Arkansas was ordered to release information about its supplier of lethal injection drugs to attorneys for death row inmates who are challenging the state's execution secrecy law, .
Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen said the state must "identify or otherwise object to disclosure" of the manufacturers, distributor, seller or supplier of Arkansas' three lethal injections drugs by Oct. 21. That includes turning over package inserts, shipping labels, laboratory test results and other information to the court and the inmates' attorneys.
The state can submit a request for a protective order for the drug manufacturer and supplier information, Griffen said.
The state attorney general could ask Griffen to uphold the state's secrecy law as it's written, which requires information about the source of the drugs to be kept under wraps. It could also ask that if the source is shared with the inmates' attorneys, they be barred from releasing it to anyone else.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge "is considering her options," according to Judd Deere, a spokesman for the her office, which is representing the Department of Correction in the lawsuit.
Jeff Rosenzweig, an attorney for the inmates, said he and the other counsel would not comment on the order.
Griffen temporarily halted executions for eight inmates who were scheduled for lethal injections between Oct. 21 and Jan. 14 in a recent ruling.    
The state's three-drug protocol includes the sedative midazolam, the paralytic vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride, which would stop the inmate's heart. The state purchased the drugs in late June for about $24,000.
The vecuronium bromide in the state's medical storage safe will expire in June 2016. The potassium chloride expires in January 2017, while the midazolam expires in April 2017. Midazolam was implicated after executions last year in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma went on longer than expected, with inmates gasping and groaning as they died.
The death row inmates are challenging the constitutionality of Arkansas' secrecy law, including whether it violates a previous settlement agreement from a different lawsuit where the state agreed to tell the inmates the source of the lethal drugs.
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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Where are the 6,000 federal inmates scheduled for release going?

Here is were the 6,000 federal drug offenders are going when they are released at the end of October according to The Marshall Project:

8North Carolina470
13New York336
14South Carolina329
17West Virginia258
20Puerto Rico218
31New Jersey107
37South Dakota73
45District of Columbia45
46Rhode Island36
47North Dakota32
48New Hampshire28
49New Mexico24
53Mariana Islands1

Monday, October 12, 2015

Malcolm Gladwell examines school shootings in The New Yorker

Malcolm Gladwell proposes an interesting theory on school massacres in The New Yorker.  Gladwell examines research on riots to explain the motivation of school shooters. Gladwell writes:

In a famous essay published four decades ago, the Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter set out to explain a paradox: “situations where outcomes do not seem intuitively consistent with the underlying individual preferences.” What explains a person or a group of people doing things that seem at odds with who they are or what they think is right? Granovetter took riots as one of his main examples, because a riot is a case of destructive violence that involves a great number of otherwise quite normal people who would not usually be disposed to violence.
Most previous explanations had focussed on explaining how someone’s beliefs might be altered in the moment. An early theory was that a crowd cast a kind of intoxicating spell over its participants. Then the argument shifted to the idea that rioters might be rational actors: maybe at the moment a riot was beginning people changed their beliefs. They saw what was at stake and recalculated their estimations of the costs and benefits of taking part.
But Granovetter thought it was a mistake to focus on the decision-making processes of each rioter in isolation. In his view, a riot was not a collection of individuals, each of whom arrived independently at the decision to break windows. A riot was a social process, in which people did things in reaction to and in combination with those around them. Social processes are driven by our thresholds—which he defined as the number of people who need to be doing some activity before we agree to join them. In the elegant theoretical model Granovetter proposed, riots were started by people with a threshold of zero—instigators willing to throw a rock through a window at the slightest provocation. Then comes the person who will throw a rock if someone else goes first. He has a threshold of one. Next in is the person with the threshold of two. His qualms are overcome when he sees the instigator and the instigator’s accomplice. Next to him is someone with a threshold of three, who would never break windows and loot stores unless there were three people right in front of him who were already doing that—and so on up to the hundredth person, a righteous upstanding citizen who nonetheless could set his beliefs aside and grab a camera from the broken window of the electronics store if everyone around him were grabbing cameras from the electronics store.
Granovetter was most taken by the situations in which people did things for social reasons that went against everything they believed as individuals. “Most did not think it ‘right’ to commit illegal acts or even particularly want to do so,” he wrote, about the findings of a study of delinquent boys. “But group interaction was such that none could admit this without loss of status; in our terms, their threshold for stealing cars is low because daring masculine acts bring status, and reluctance to join, once others have, carries the high cost of being labeled a sissy.” You can’t just look at an individual’s norms and motives. You need to look at the group.
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Sunday, October 11, 2015

DOJ to release 6,000 inmates to ease overcrowding

The Justice Department is set to release about 6,000 inmates early from prison — the largest one-time release of federal prisoners — in an effort to reduce overcrowding and provide relief to drug offenders who received harsh sentences over the past three decades, according to U.S. officials, reported the Washington Post.
The inmates from federal prisons nationwide will be set free by the department’s Bureau of Prisons between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2. About two-thirds of them will go to halfway houses and home confinement before being put on supervised release. About one-third are foreign citizens who will be quickly deported, officials said.
The early releases follow action by the U.S. Sentencing Commission — an independent agency that sets sentencing policies for federal crimes — that reduced the potential punishment for future drug offenders last year and then made that change retroactive.
The commission’s action is separate from an effort by President Obama to grant clemency to certain nonviolent drug offenders, an initiative that has resulted in the early release of 89 inmates.
The panel estimated that its change in sentencing guidelines eventually could result in 46,000 of the nation’s approximately 100,000 drug offenders in federal prison qualifying for early release. The 6,000 figure, which has not been reported previously, is the first tranche in that process.
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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ohio fights FDA to import execution drugs

Ohio prison officials think they have found a way to potentially import an execution drug without running afoul of the federal Food and Drug Administration, reported the Columbus Dispatch.

In a letter sent today to the FDA, Stephen Gray, chief counsel of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, argued that if the state meets a series of five criteria, including that the drug, sodium thiopental, is from an FDA-registered source, then it is legal to import.

Ohio has not executed an inmate since Jan. 16, 2014, when Dennis McGuire struggled and gasped for several minutes before succumbing to a combination of drugs being used for the first time anywhere in the U.S.

The FDA in June warned state prison officials that the agency learned the state was trying to obtain bulk dosages of sodium thiopental, which is not available in the United States.

“Please note that there is no FDA-approved application for sodium thiopental, and it is illegal to import an unapproved new drug into the United States,” the FDA wrote.

The state did not follow through with a foreign drug purchase, and state officials responded today arguing that there is a legal way to import the drug under a 2012 court ruling.

“The responsibility to carry out lawful and humane executions when called upon by the courts to do so is enormous, and it is the responsibility that ODRC does not take lightly,” Gray wrote. “ To that end, ODRC has no intention of attempting to procure drugs for legal injection in a manner that would violate a proper interpretation of the (Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act).”

Gray wrote that he wants to start talks with the FDA to determine how to legally procure drugs for lethal injection.

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Friday, October 9, 2015

GateHouse: Crime-free zones do more harm than good

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
October 9, 2015
Officials in Charlotte, North Carolina, are considering whether to create “public safety zones,” areas within the city where people with past convictions, and merely arrests, would be restricted from entering.

Charlotte is not the first city to pursue such restrictions. In 2011, North Arlington, Texas, home of Cowboy Stadium, made the neighborhoods around the stadium prostitution-free zones before and during Super Bowl XLV.

In 1992, Portland, Oregon, was the first jurisdiction to create drug and prostitution exclusion zones. Some crimes, such as prostitution, easily fit into zones where all such activity is closely monitored and aggressively pursued.

Fifteen years later, former Portland Mayor Tom Potter abolished the zones, saying they just moved criminal activity to new areas and that African-Americans were being disproportionately excluded from the designated areas.

This is not Charlotte’s first foray into unusual attempts to curb crime. In 2005 the city created “prostitution-free zones” that later expired after three years, having made no real impact on crime. Two years ago, in another crime fighting innovation, according to the Charlotte Observer, the city was granted an injunction that barred gang members from the Hidden Valley Kings from associating with one another.

One obvious problem with public safety zones is the wide net they cast. An individual with an arrest, not just a conviction, may be prohibited from entering a safety zone. This limits a former offender, or a non-offender for that matter, access to employment, accommodations, medical treatment and other essential services and recreational activities.

The other problem with public safety zones is that people of color are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. As a result, minority and low-income neighborhoods will be disproportionately affected by public safety zones.

Research by the Justice Policy Institute conducted in Massachusetts and Connecticut supports the notion that urban communities of color are disproportionately impacted by prohibited zones, and that enforcement of the laws have little or nothing to do with protecting the public. Research also suggests that there may be sharp disparities in the way crime-free zone laws are enforced.

Under Charlotte’s controversial proposal, the police chief could designate a high-crime area as a safety zone in response to crimes such as drug sales or discharging guns on public property.

Someone who has been arrested for crimes in the area could be issued a notice that they are no longer allowed to enter, for as long as the safety zone is in effect. Entering the zone after being prohibited would result in a misdemeanor charge.

According to Justice Strategies, a Brooklyn based nonprofit research organization, a stunning 96 percent of New Jersey prisoners sentenced under the state’s drug-free zone laws were African-American or Hispanic. In Connecticut, majority nonwhite cities had ten times more zones per square mile than cities where less than 10 percent of residents were African-American or Hispanic.

Charlotte City Council member Al Austin told the Observer, “We were looking for additional tools that could address some of the criminal behavior. … We want something more flexible.” There is some urgency to finding new solutions. Violent crimes — including homicides — are up this year in Charlotte compared with 2014.

“Truthfully, I don’t know if they will do any good,” said city council member Claire Fallon, who chairs the public safety committee. “If someone doesn’t obey the law, do you think a safety zone will impress them?”

The uses of crime-free zones as proposed in Charlotte have the potential to do more harm than good. Stigmatizing former offenders and alienating individuals who are under court ordered supervision may make neighborhoods less safe and citizens more vulnerable.

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, October 8, 2015

Texas executes gang member who killed a man for $8

The 23rd Execution of 2015
Juan Martin Garcia, a teenage Houston gang member who spent his entire adulthood on Texas' death row, was executed on October 6, 2015 for the 1998 robbery murder of one-time Mexican missionary Hugo Solano.
According to the Houston Chronicle, although Garcia's lawyers fought to save him by asserting that he was mentally impaired, and thus ineligible for execution, and that the punishment phase of his trial was tainted by a psychologist's racially tinged testimony, state and federal courts declined to act in his favor. Garcia's last hope ended when the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 5-2 not to recommend clemency.
Garcia, 35, administered a massive dose of sodium pentobarbital, was the 11th Texas killer executed this year. Three others currently are scheduled to be put to death by year's end.
Solano, 36, the father of two young children, was shot four times in the head and neck on Sept. 17, 1998 as he was accosted in an apartment complex parking lot in the 17000 block of Cali by Garcia and three other men. He was robbed of $8.
Lynn Hardaway, chief of the Harris County District Attorney's Post-Conviction Writ Division, said the robbery was part of a crime spree, which included nine additional aggravated robberies and the shooting of two other individuals.
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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

DOJ: Use-of-Force Data is Vital for Transparency and Accountability

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch called for national, consistent data on law enforcement interactions with the communities they serve, especially data collection on the use-of-force.  The Attorney General noted that the department has already taken steps to improve the accuracy and consistency of use-of-force data from law enforcement.
“The department’s position and the administration’s position has consistently been that we need to have national, consistent data,” said Attorney General Lynch.  “This information is useful because it helps us see trends, it helps us promote accountability and transparency,” said Attorney General Lynch.  “We’re also going further in developing standards for publishing information about deaths in custody as well, because transparency and accountability are helped by this kind of national data.”
Currently, federal authorities publish annual figures on the number of “justifiable homicides” by law enforcement.  But this reporting is voluntary and not all police departments participate, causing the figures to be incomplete.  That’s why the Justice Department and the Obama Administration are taking steps to work with law enforcement to improve the process.
“This data is not only vital – we are working closely with law enforcement to develop national consistent standards for collecting this kind of information,” Attorney General Lynch added.
The FBI recently announced that the Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics (UCR) will begin to collect data on non-fatal shootings between law enforcement and civilians.
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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

California passes racial profiling law, police aren't happy

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation mandating that law enforcement agencies in the state collect and make public data on the racial makeup of all those encountered by police, The Los Angeles Times says that for civil rights activists, the measure is a big step toward protecting minorities from racial profiling. For many in law enforcement, it creates a massive new bureaucratic headache that will do little to illuminate the question of whether police treat minority groups fairly.
"It's a terrible piece of legislation," said Lt. Steve James, president of the Long Beach Police Officers Assosication and the national trustee for the California Fraternal Order of Police. The law will require officers to collect data on anyone they stop, including "perceived" race and ethnicity, the reason for the encounter and whether arrests were made.
The Crime Report posted, law enforcement organizations, including the state Fraternal Order of Police and the 65,000-member Peace Officers Research Association of California, had asked Brown to veto the bill, arguing that its reporting requirements would be burdensome to police and costly to taxpayers. Said James: "We have contact with the public all the time that requires no documentation, no paperwork. Now, the amount of time we have to spend doing documentation and paperwork has gone up. The time doing menial tasks has gone up."\
James contended that there is no racial profiling but rather "criminal profiling" by police. That position would be a hard sell to the bill's supporters, who cited studies showing that unarmed black men are many times more likely to die by police gunfire than unarmed white men.
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Monday, October 5, 2015

Supreme Court rules request for stay "moot" after execution

Last week, the Supreme Court issued a posthumous response to Alfredo Prieto, a serial killer on Virginia's death row whose lawyers had petitioned the court several times to put his execution on hold, according to The Huffington Post.
In the short, unsigned order, the justices dismissed Prieto's request "as moot" -- meaning neither a grant nor a denial of a stay of execution would have helped him. Prieto was executed on October 1, 2015.
The day before, the court had denied two other petitions from Prieto's attorneys, who were hoping legal challenges over Virginia's drug protocol would sway the justices to temporarily delay their client's execution.

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Oklahoma tries to squeeze out an execution with unauthorized drug

Oklahoma officials considered improvising once again during an execution when they realized they had a drug not legally approved for use in Oklahoma lethal injections, sources told The Frontier.
Officials “briefly considered” using potassium acetate for the scheduled execution of Richard Glossip last week, a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin said. The drug is not part of Oklahoma’s legally approved protocol.
Now three scheduled executions will be stayed indefinitely as state officials say they’re investigating what went wrong this time, so Oklahoma “can properly and lawfully administer the sentence of death.”
Two hours before Glossip’s scheduled execution, Department of Corrections officials said, prison staff opened a sealed box of drugs that had arrived hours earlier to find that it contained potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride.
After a request from the Attorney General’s office, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals issued indefinite stays for Glossip and two other inmates scheduled to die in October.
State officials repeatedly used the phrase “legal ambiguity” Thursday in reference to questions about whether the state considered substituting potassium acetate at the last minute for Glossip’s execution.
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Saturday, October 3, 2015

GateHouse: School rampages are many, answers are few

Matthew T. Mangino
The GateHouse Media
October 2, 2015
A man opened fire at Umpqua Community College in Oregon on Thursday. News reports said that nine people were killed and another nine were injured in the shooting.
Whether it’s a public school, college or university, leaders in buildings and on campuses are required not only to educate but to protect. The latter responsibility has been complicated by the random, senseless, violent rampages that have plagued schools across the country. Educators, law enforcement and parents are looking for answers.
For students educated in a post-Columbine America, the idea that they must prepare for bad people who open fire in classrooms, school libraries and playgrounds has become routine, reported the Los Angeles Times several years ago.
The tragedies stretch from Umpqua to Newtown and are repeated in cities and towns from coast to coast. The response to these catastrophic events by police and educators has evolved over the years.
The U.S. Department of Education has promoted a tactic for teachers and students to deal with an active shooter —“Run, hide or fight.”
Studies of past school shootings show that students and staff who took action survived more than those who went into traditional lockdown and did nothing. In the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, most of the victims were shot in the library, where a teacher told students to get under desks and keep silent.
In the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, 30 people died in classrooms on one floor. Of those, 28 were in classrooms where students and instructors did not actively resist or try to escape the gunman. Other students and instructors saved lives by barricading doors or jumping out of windows.
In the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, survivors included students whose teachers barricaded doors, including the use of a filing cabinet, and kids who ran from classrooms, though some students were shot as they fled.
Unfortunately, mass shootings have gone beyond the schoolyard. In 2012, a mass shooting occurred inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The gunman, dressed in tactical clothing shot into the audience with multiple firearms. Twelve people were killed and 70 others were injured.
This past June, a mass shooting took place at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. During a prayer service, nine people were killed.
Run, hide or fight provides three options for dealing with an active shooter—run away from the shooter, seek a secure place where you can hide or “as a last resort when confronted by the shooter, adults in immediate danger should consider trying to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter by using aggressive force and items in their environment, such as fire extinguishers and chairs.”
School leaders and law enforcement officials say fighting back empowers faculty, who fear they will be helpless if a shooter attacks their classroom.
“Why would you just lie there, and just wait to – and I hate to use these words, because it’s not sensitive – and wait to be killed when there are so many other options out there?” Sgt. Nancy Wilkey of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s told the Orange County Register. “If someone is trying to hurt you, why wouldn’t you fight for your life?”
The news accounts out of Oregon indicate that the killer was armed with at least four firearms. Fire extinguishers are no match for firearms, and policy makers nationwide should take heed of President Barack Obama’s comments: “It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.”

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, October 2, 2015

Virginia carries out first execution in three years

The 22nd Execution of 2015
Alfredo Prieto was executed at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarrat, Virginia on Thursday, October 1, 2015, reported The Associated Press. The 49-year-old was injected with a lethal three-drug combination, including the sedative pentobarbital, which Virginia received from Texas.
Prieto, wearing jeans and a light blue shirt, showed no emotion as he was strapped to the gurney.
"I would like to say thanks to all my lawyers, all my supporters and all my family members," he said, before mumbling, "Get this over with."
The El Salvador native was sentenced to death in Virginia in 2010 for the murder of a young couple more than two decades earlier. Rachael Raver and her boyfriend, Warren Fulton III, both 22, were found shot to death in a wooded area a few days after being seen at a Washington, D.C., nightspot.
Prieto was on death row in California at the time for raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl and was linked to the Virginia slayings through DNA evidence. California officials agreed to send him to Virginia on the rationale that it was more likely to carry out the execution.
He has been connected to as many as six other killings in California and Virginia, authorities have said, but he was never prosecuted because he had already been sentenced to death.
Prieto had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, saying he's intellectually disabled, and therefore ineligible for the death penalty. But the high court declined to grant his requests to stay the execution.
His attorneys argued that the state should reconsider whether Prieto is intellectually disabled because the measure used during his 2008 trial was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled last year that Florida can't use rigid cutoffs on IQ test scores to determine whether someone is intellectually disabled. Virginia had a nearly identical law.
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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Deaths in high speed police chases drastically under reported

The U.S. government has drastically understated the number of people killed in high-speed police car chases, potentially by thousands of fatalities over several decades, a USA TODAY investigation shows.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration overlooked at least 101 motor-vehicle deaths in 2013 that were related to a police chase, according to a USA TODAY review of police reports and internal documents, court records, police-car videos and news accounts based on police statements. NHTSA's count of 322 chase-related deaths in 2013 — the most recent year for which its records are publicly available — understates the total by at least 31%, the investigation shows.
NHTSA's undercount suggests that the actual number of people killed in police chases since 1979 could be more than 15,000 — far more than the 11,506 chase-related deaths found in the agency's public records — and that chases result in a death much more frequently than studies have stated.
The findings expose potentially major flaws in how the federal government tracks motor-vehicle fatalities and, to a lesser extent, how police document high-speed chases, which often result in innocent people being killed and have been sharply restricted in some cities. USA TODAY reported in July that as many as one-fourth of those killed were bystanders and another one-fourth were passengers in cars fleeing police.
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