Saturday, December 31, 2016

GateHouse: 3 things to think about in 2017

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
December 30, 2016
As 2016 comes to a close, there are three criminal justice issues that must be addressed in the coming year.
First, the uptick in homicides in major cities across the country. Homicide rose in most big cities in America, continuing a trend for police and criminologists that began last year, even as murder rates in most cities are far below the levels of two decades ago, reported the Wall Street Journal.
Sixteen of the 20 largest police departments reported a year-over-year rise in homicides as of mid-December, a Wall Street Journal survey found. Some cities had minor increases, while Chicago saw one of the most dramatic jumps, with more than 720 murders — up 56 percent from 2015.
Nationally, the murder rate rose in 2015 for the first time in nearly a decade, though it remains well below the murder rates of the 1990s.
Nationally, 37 of the 65 largest police agencies, including ones in San Antonio, Las Vegas and Memphis, Tennessee, reported year-over-year homicide increases as of Sept. 30, reported the Wall Street Journal.
Second, the state of the death penalty. The death penalty by all accounts is on the decline.
This year juries handed down 30 new death sentences — a dramatic decline from 49 in 2015. This year marked the fewest death sentences since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. That number is also far below the 315 death sentences meted out in 1995.
In 2016, 20 people were executed in the U.S., down from 28 the previous year. The high water mark for the modern death penalty was 98 executions in 1999. At the rate of 20 executions a year and 30 new death sentences, the 2,984 men and woman on death row will continue to climb without any possibility that a majority of those will ever be executed.
In light of those ridiculous numbers, voters in three states — California, Oklahoma and Nebraska — had an opportunity to abolish the death penalty. All three states voted to reinstate or continue the death penalty.
Finally, the use of lethal force by police officers.
The number of fatal shootings by officers in 2016 remained nearly unchanged from last year when a little fewer than 1,000 people were killed by police.
Through this writing, law enforcement officers fatally shot 957 people in 2016 — close to three each day — down slightly from 2015 when 991 people were shot to death by police officers, according to The Washington Post. The Post has an ongoing project that tracks the number of fatal shootings by police officers.
Also of concern, nearly half of the 135 police officers killed while working this year were fatally shot, including 21 police officers who died in ambush-style attacks carried out across the country, reported Time Magazine.
Although the number of officers killed in the line of duty pales in comparison to 1930, the deadliest year on record for U.S. law enforcement, when 307 officers were killed in the line of duty, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Some law-enforcement experts attribute the rise in violent crime to the widely debated view that increases are tied to the civil unrest that roiled numerous cities after police killings of young black men, starting with the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The theory suggests that many officers have shied away from confrontation, emboldening criminals.
The numbers do not bear that out. The police have certainly not shied away from lethal force. Some bent on killing have targeted the police and the utility of the death penalty as a deterrent to crime — namely murder — is minimal if not nonexistent.
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 and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino

To visit the Column CLICK HERE

Friday, December 30, 2016

Newark, NJ sees crime tumble, while other big cities see increase

Crime in Newark, N.J., has declined this year to its lowest level since 1967, reports Through Christmas, overall crime in the city was down 13 percent from last year, according to police. Burglary was down 23 percent and vehicle theft 16 percent. Among violent crimes, robbery was down 23 percent, murder 10 percent (to 93) and rape 2 percent. Among standard crime categories, only aggravated assault increased, by 10 percent. The declines occurred amid highly publicized surging violent crime in some American cities, including Chicago. Three years ago, Newark had the third highest murder rate in the nation, according to FBI statistics.
Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose and Mayor Ras Baraka credited the crime declines to changes in the police department over the past year. Among other department initiatives, the officials pointed to the department’s shooting response team, which they said responds to calls of “shots fired” as if they’re known to be homicides. The officials said assistance from the New Jersey State Police, Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, the county Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman’s Office was also a major factor. Ambrose took the job last January as part of a restructuring of the department that has included more officers, increased street patrols and partnerships with citizen groups and clergy to promote community policing.

To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Book Review: Impartial Justice - The Real Supreme Court Cases that Define the Constitutional Right to a Neutral and Detached Decisionmaker

Matthew T. Mangino
Book Review, Impartial Justice by Eric T. Kasper
The Champion
November, 2016

Impartial Justice is chock full of analysis about what constitutes a neutral, impartial, and unbiased decisionmaker. Part one focuses on juries, part two judges, and part three noncourt settings. Part one and two are of particular interest to the criminal justice practitioner and important in light of recent action by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kasper invokes Robert H. Jackson, a U.S. Supreme Court justice who took leave from the Court to prosecute war criminals at Nuremburg. Kasper quotes Jackson to bring focus to the fundamental aspect of the book, the “right to fair trial is the right that stands guardian over all other rights.”
In June of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Williams v. Pennsylvania that a judge who had “significant, personal involvement” in a case during his previous role as a prosecutor must recuse himself when the case comes before the bench. Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille refused to recuse himself in a case involving a death row inmate’s appeal where Castille had been in charge of the prosecution years earlier while serving as district attorney. Castille ultimately joined the opinion of the state supreme court, even writing separately to make clear what he thought of the lower court’s ruling. In an opinion laced with withering criticism, Castille suggested the trial court had become “unmoored from its lawful duty.” He accused the defendant’s lawyers of sidestepping procedural rules and “pursuing an obstructionist anti-death penalty agenda.” A defiant Castille talked to the Associated Press before the U.S. Supreme Court argument: “In Pennsylvania, we leave it up to the judge’s personal conscience. … I’ve always been confident that I can be fair and impartial.” The Supreme Court disagreed.
Kasper also explores juror bias. In doing so, he writes about Batson v. Kentucky, the 1986 decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that race-based discrimination in jury selection was unconstitutional and required lawyers accused of it to provide a nondiscriminatory explanation. The landmark decision in Batson was intended to eliminate racial bias in the use of peremptory challenges in jury selection. “Hopefully, most prosecutors (and lawyers generally) are beyond the crabbed notions of racial stereotypes,” Kasper writes.
The 2016 Supreme Court decision in Foster v. Chatman suggests that Kasper’s conclusion is a bit premature. The high court is still sorting out the parameters of Batson. The Court ruled in favor of a black Georgia death row inmate, Timothy Foster, convicted in 1987 of murdering an elderly white woman. The Court found that prosecutors unlawfully excluded black potential jurors when selecting an all-white jury. Chief Justice Roberts wrote in Foster v. Chatman, “We are left with the firm conviction that the strikes (of two of the African American potential jurors) were motivated in substantial part by discriminatory intent.” Unfortunately, evidence of the sort that surfaced in Foster is rare, and the Batson decision remains easy to evade.
Kapser also spends some time exploring due process under court supervision, in jail, and before parole boards. Those issues are no better understood after Kasper’s treatment, but generally Impartial Justice is timely and informative. As a lawyer and municipal judge, Kasper’s erudite take on timeless issues of fairness and impartiality has limitations, as he writes that “being a lawyer judge does not wipe one clean of any and all biases … or [require one] be ethical enough to be fair and impartial.
To visit The Champion CLICK HERE

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Not so Merry Christmas in Chicago

It was a grim holiday weekend in Chicago, where the Chicago Tribune counted 61 shooting victims from Friday afternoon to Monday night, the Christmas weekend. Eleven were killed and more than a dozen others were in serious or critical condition. Authorities said eight of the shootings had multiple victims, including two double homicides. 
The number of people shot over the holiday weekend also sharply outpaced recent years. During the Christmas weekend in 2015, 29 people were shot and seven of them died. In 2014, when Christmas fell on a Thursday, the four-day weekend included 35 people shot and seven people killed, according to Tribune data.
One was an attack this year in the East Chatham neighborhood that left two dead and five others wounded, and an attack in the Austin neighborhood left two dead. The violence added to the tolls this year in Chicago, where more than 700 homicides have been recorded with more than 4,000 people shot — a level of violence not seen in Chicago since the late 1990s. Last year, 488 people were killed in Chicago.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, December 26, 2016

Ohio at the center of the of the capital punishment controversy

Ohio which several years back was only second to Texas in the number of execution carried over the course of a year has been at the intersection of several trends, reported the Washington Post. The first is halting executions for what will turn out to be at least three years after it changed its lethal-injection protocol and sought new drugs.
Ohio planned to resume executions in January for the first time since a lethal injection in 2014 lasted nearly a half-hour.
It is not clear whether Ohio will resume executions as planned. Second, in response to a lawsuit challenging the secrecy law shielding the identities of whoever makes the state’s execution drugs, a judge this week stayed those executions. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) then rescheduled those executions once again, pushing the first back to at least February.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Remembering the WW I Christmas Truce of 1914

On a crisp, clear morning 102 years ago, thousands of British, Belgian and French soldiers put down their rifles, stepped out of their trenches and spent Christmas mingling with their German enemies along the Western front, reported Time Magazine.
Most accounts suggest the truce began with carol singing from the trenches on Christmas Eve, “a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white almost everywhere”, as Pvt. Albert Moren of the Second Queens Regiment recalled, in a document later rounded up by the New York Times. Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade described it in even greater detail:
“First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing ­– two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”
Pope Benedict XV, who took office that September, had originally called for a Christmas truce, an idea that was officially rejected. Yet it seems the sheer misery of daily life in the cold, wet, dull trenches was enough to motivate troops to initiate the truce on their own — which means that it’s hard to pin down exactly what happened. 
The next morning, in some places, German soldiers emerged from their trenches, calling out “Merry Christmas” in English. Allied soldiers came out warily to greet them. In others, Germans held up signs reading “You no shoot, we no shoot.” Over the course of the day, troops exchanged gifts of cigarettes, food, buttons and hats. The Christmas truce also allowed both sides to finally bury their dead comrades, whose bodies had lain for weeks on “no man’s land,” the ground between opposing trenches.
The phenomenon took different forms across the Western front. One account mentions a British soldier having his hair cut by his pre-war German barber; another talks of a pig-roast. Several mention impromptu kick-abouts with makeshift soccer balls.
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, December 24, 2016

GateHouse: Missouri criminalizes growing up

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
December 23, 2016
Remember Farkus the school bully who pushed around Ralphie and his friends in the holiday favorite "A Christmas Story." Finally, Ralphie, tired of the harassment, stood up to Farkus and beat him up on the school playground.
If Ralphie would have lived in Missouri after January 1, 2017 he'd be arrested, charged with a felony and possibly sent to a juvenile detention facility. The Missouri legislature has criminalized growing-up.
A Missouri statute that goes into effect the first of the year will no longer treat fights in schools or on school buses as a minor offense, regardless of the student's age or grade.
Instead, school resource officers and local law enforcement will now intervene by arresting and charging students who get in schoolyard brawls.
When a school allows a SRO to arrest a student or refer a student to law enforcement or juvenile court as a form of discipline-they are using the juvenile justice system as a stand-in for school discipline and the consequence can be dire.
This process of moving disruptive students from the principal's office to the courthouse is known as the school-to-prison pipeline. When young people are criminalized for their behavior in schools, exposed to law enforcement - and the rest of the criminal justice system - at an early age, they become more likely to interact with that system down the line.
According to the U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights Data Collection during the 2011-2012 school year, schools referred approximately 260,000 students to law enforcement, and approximately 92,000 students were arrested on school property during the school day or at school-sponsored events.
The number of student suspensions and expulsions have also dramatically increased in recent years. According to the CRDC, the Justice Policy Institute reported that approximately 3.45 million students were suspended at least one time during the 2011-2012 school year, and approximately 130,000 were expelled from school during that same time period.
One of the common criticisms of SROs is, due to lack of training, they fail to understand that the behavior of students may be a reflection of typical teenage rebellion against authority or other behavioral challenges confronting adolescents.
A 2009 study from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville found that students in schools with officers were almost three times more likely to be arrested.
While some students are arrested and charged for violent offenses and rightfully so, others are punished for minor disciplinary infractions--being loud in the hallways, disrupting a class, or, as in Ralphie's case, getting into a playground fight. The school building is best suited for addressing these infractions - not the police station.
Regardless of where kids live, a single arrest doubles the likelihood that the student will drop out, and kids who make a court appearance are four times more likely to leave school early.
Students removed from class often fall behind in their school work and miss out on valuable social interactions that contribute to their overall development. In turn, they are more likely to engage criminal behavior that will lock them into the system for life and drastically reduce access to education, employment and housing - the collateral consequences of crime.
Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers told the US News and World Report, "The number one goal of an SRO, based on our training, should be to bridge the gap between law enforcement and youth."
Unfortunately, the relationship between SROs and students appear to be more antagonistic than positive. Fighting in the schoolyard shouldn't land a kid in prison. A criminal record can do a whole lot more harm than a black eye.

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 and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino
To visit the column CLICK HERE

Friday, December 23, 2016

Report: Pennsylvania should stop suspending driver's license for drug offense

A recent report from a criminal justice reform group said Pennsylvania should stop automatically suspending driver’s licenses for drug convictions not related to driving, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The report by the Prison Policy Initiative focuses on the 12 states, including Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C., that automatically suspend driver’s licenses for all drug convictions.
Such policies are a relic of the War on Drugs and should be changed, the report’s authors advocate.
These laws make it harder for those with such convictions to access jobs, the report said.
The report noted that only Virginia, Michigan, Florida and New Jersey suspend more licenses annually than Pennsylvania.
“These suspensions are part of a whole world of suspensions that are completely unrelated to driving,” such as suspensions for child support and unpaid court fines, said Joshua Aiken, policy fellow for the Massachusetts-based Prison Policy Initiative.
License suspensions should be reserved for unsafe drivers, he said, and not for other criminal justice issues.
“One unnecessary driver’s license suspension could throw any person’s life off track. But for people who are formerly incarcerated, or finishing probation/​parole, the consequences are especially harsh. At the very time people should be finding stable housing, securing employment, and reconnecting with their communities, drug-related license suspension laws remove a critical avenue to success,” the report stated.
A bill introduced in the last legislative session by state Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln-Lemington, that would have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana also would have ended license suspension for that offense. Mr. Gainey could not be reached.
Patrick Nightingale, a local criminal defense attorney and marijuana reform activist, said in his view such suspensions are not a deterrent to drug use, and in fact force people to drive with suspended licenses.
“It’s absurd and I think it is having the opposite effect,” Mr. Nightingale said.
“Every one of our clients who we handle a suspension for, it is a barrier to employment,” said Morgan Jenkins, an attorney at the Neighborhood Legal Services Association in Pittsburgh, an organization that assists low-income people with legal issues.
In Ohio, a law passed earlier this year generally eliminated the mandatory six months to five years license suspension for specified drug-related offenses
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, December 22, 2016

PLW: Pa. Prosecutors Out In Front on Police Shootings

Matthew T. Mangino
The Legal Intelligencer-PA Law Weekly
December 16, 2016
As of a week ago, 896 people have been shot and killed this year by police officers across the country. Only last year, The Washington Post began keeping track of officer-involved shooting deaths nationwide. This year's number is slightly off pace with last year's total of 991 deaths.
The high-profile police killings of Michael Brown in Missouri; Laquan McDonald in Illinois; Tamir Rice in Ohio; and Walter Scott in South Carolina have brought intense scrutiny to police use of force protocols and the resulting investigations.
Recently the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) got out in front of the curve with regard to officer-involved shootings. The PDAA's Best Practices Committee established 16 guidelines dealing with processing, investigating and public communications in officer-involved shootings.
According to a PDAA press release, the 16 recommendations include, but are not limited to, the following:
• Investigations should be independent.
To ensure the integrity of the investigation of an officer-involved shooting, investigations should be conducted by an agency separate and independent from the law enforcement agency involved in the shooting.
• District attorneys should direct investigations.
Under the Commonwealth Attorneys Act, the district attorney is charged with determining if any shooting is justified or if charges should be filed.
• On-site safety and security is essential.
The first issue at every officer-involved shooting scene is the safety and security of all those involved and the community.
• Utilize best-available technology to process the scene.
Officer-involved shooting scenes are often large and confusing. Detailed evidentiary review and documentation of the scene is the first and essential step to determining the facts.
• Communicate with the public.
The district attorney may give a preliminary report on the status of the event after it happens, understanding that the detailed investigation may uncover more evidence.
A potentially controversial portion of the recommended policies provides that an officer involved in a shooting who is not criminally charged "will not be named."
"There really is not a blanket policy," Dave Arnold, Lebanon County district attorney and president of the PDAA told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
"There are times when, even if no one is charged, it would make sense for the community, the officer, the department, to let that officer's name be known," he said.
Allegheny County district attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. recently told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that his practice has always been to release names of officers involved in shootings. "It is a recommendation—it's not binding," he said of the guidelines. "I don't see what reason that would not be something of interest to the public."
The PDAA's recommendation comes on the heels of Gov. Tom Wolf's veto of a bill that would protect the identity of officers involved in shootings.
Wolf, whose decision overrode the Republican-backed legislature, rejected the measure as an "anti-transparency" bill whose premise jeopardizes the trust between citizens and government.
"I cannot allow local police department policies to be superseded and transparency to be criminalized," Wolf said. "Local departments are best equipped to decide what information is appropriate to release to the public."
According to the Washington Post, of the 896 deaths caused by police shootings so far this year, officers have been identified in only 268 cases.
Releasing the identity of police officers involved in shootings has been dealt with inconsistently by jurisdictions across the country and can be attributed to the lack of national standards.
In an attempt to address the lack of national standards governing police use of force, Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum, has proposed 30 "guiding principles" for police use of force.
During the "Taking Policing to a Higher Standard" forum earlier this year, Wexler proposed prioritizing the preservation of human life, adopting de-escalation as a formal agency policy, quickly releasing information about any use of force incident, and training officers that it is their duty to intervene to prevent another officer from using excessive force.
The state of the law has made it difficult to indict police officers, not to mention effectively prosecute them for inappropriate use of deadly force.
In 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court in Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985), 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."
The Garner decision established that a police officer's use of force be "objectively reasonable."
Reasonableness would be determined four years later by the high court in Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989). The court ruled that a police officer who perceives a threat in the same manner as an objectionably reasonable officer would perceive it, is justified in using deadly force even if the shooting itself violates department policy or the threat turns out not to exist.
Courts have universally deferred to the law enforcement officer's own personal assessment of the threat at the time. The Graham analysis essentially prohibits any second-guessing of the officer's decision to use deadly force.
Although the PDAA has touted their efforts as a first-of-its-kind for prosecutors nationwide there are other states and jurisdictions taking on this issue. After an officer-involved shooting inMassachusetts, a team of local and state police officers and officials from the district attorney's office descends on the scene of the shooting to conduct a multifaceted investigation.
Like Pennsylvania, Massachusetts law requires the district attorney's office be involved in the investigation. In Massachusetts, the district attorney's office, by statute, has the duty and authority to direct all death investigation.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police has also established an officer-involved shootings investigative protocol. Some of the suggested protocols are not consistent with evolving protocols in other jurisdictions including Pennsylvania. For instance, delaying the interview of the involved officer has been widely rejected as an effective practice.
In October, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced several steps by the Department of Justice to enable nationwide collection of data related to the use of force by law enforcement officers.
Lynch noted that President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st century policing called on law enforcement agencies to "collect, maintain and report data ... on all officer-involved shootings, whether fatal or nonfatal, as well as any in-custody death."

Special to the Law Weekly Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George. His book "The Executioner's Toll, 2010" was released by McFarland Publishing.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Vindicator: Chance at redemption in Pa.

Matthew T. Mangino
The Youngstown Vindicator
December 18, 29016
Just in time for Christmas, a gift from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to many of the 3 million Pennsylvanian’s with a criminal record.
A criminal record often carries a lifetime of consequences, and even a minor criminal record can be a serious impediment to employment, housing, education and public assistance. More than half the states nationwide, including Ohio, allow some misdemeanor and even felony convictions to be expunged or sealed. Pennsylvania has now joined the ranks of those states offering its citizens a chance at redemption.
Act 5 of 2016 took effect last month and provides an opportunity for people who have been convicted of most second- and third- degree misdemeanors – such as driving under the influence and low level thefts like shoplifting – to ask the court to seal their criminal record.
“The United States is the world leader in incarceration and a criminal record often carries a lifetime of consequences that often lead to poverty or re-incarceration,” Gov. Wolf said in a recent press release. “This law is a commonsense, positive and unprecedented step to help Pennsylvanians with minor or dated criminal records have a fighting chance at opportunities for gainful employment.”
Sealing a criminal record does not make the conviction disappear; it only limits access to law enforcement and certain state licensing authorities.
The main difference between sealing criminal records and expungement is the way the records are reported and maintained. When an expungement is granted under Pennsylvania law, an order of court accompanies the expungement for all authorities to destroy the records, including photographs, fingerprints, state police records and all county records.
Under the new Pennsylvania sealing statute, law enforcement is required to maintain a record of the conviction, but is no longer allowed to disseminate the records to anyone outside of law enforcement. The order of court is labeled as “Limited Access.” This means the Pennsylvania State Police may maintain the record, but may not disseminate the record to an individual, a noncriminal justice agency or an internet website.
A pardon is another option to erase a criminal record. Although an expungement is very limited, a pardon can erase any conviction. A pardon relieves an individual of the consequences of a criminal conviction. A pardon constitutes total forgiveness by the governor, treats the crime as if it never happened and allows a job applicant to deny she was ever convicted of the crime.
Similar to Pennsylvania, Ohio adult convictions cannot be “expunged” or completely erased from a criminal record. Ohio utilizes a similar court ordered process known as “sealing a criminal record.”
In order to be eligible to have a criminal record sealed in Pennsylvania, the following conditions must be met:
Free of arrest and conviction for a period of 10 years;
Never convicted of certain crimes (felonies, first- degree misdemeanors some assault and sex offenses);
Have fewer than four misdemeanor convictions; and
All fines and costs associated with the conviction have been paid.
The benefits of having a criminal record sealed are compelling. Most states make criminal history information accessible to the general public through the internet, making it extremely easy for employers to disqualify applicants based on old or minor convictions.
Many public housing agencies deny eligibility for federally assisted housing based on even minor criminal convictions. Private landlords can lawfully refuse to rent housing to persons with certain criminal convictions.
Gun ownership is widely restricted after a criminal conviction.
Even students with convictions for minor drug offenses can feel the pain. The Higher Education Act of 1998 makes students convicted of drug-related offenses ineligible for any grant, loan or work assistance.
This holiday season, if you, or someone you know, has a minor misdemeanor conviction in Pennsylvania and $132 for the filing fee, treat yourself to a Christmas gift that promises to bring more than just a smile to your face.

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
To visit The Vindicator CLICK HERE

Saturday, December 17, 2016

GateHouse: Does Dylann Roof deserve to die?

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
December 16, 2016
During a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Roof killed nine African Americans worshipers. Roof was quickly identified as the main suspect, and became the focus of a massive manhunt that ended quickly with his arrest in North Carolina. He later confessed that he committed the shooting in hopes of igniting a "race war."
Roof was convicted of 33 charges, nine of them involving hate crimes. Jurors began deliberating shortly after 1 p.m. on Wednesday. After about two hours they asked to review some evidence and came back within minutes with their verdict.
The next question is whether the jury will give Roof the death penalty. The penalty phase of the trial is set to begin on Jan. 3.
Are there some people that are just so evil that the death penalty is the only option? The death penalty has been on a steady downward curve since it reached a high of nearly 80 percent of Americans supporting it in 1994, according to Pew Research Center.
However, as W. James Antle III wrote in The Week, "Some crimes are so heinous; there is no other just punishment for them."
Antle wrote that Roof is the posterchild for the death penalty. He confessed to killing nine people praying is an historic church. The execution-style killings were premeditated and displayed a "burning in his (Roof's) heart."
Antle wrote many of the common objections to the death penalty do not apply in Roof's case. There is no doubt about his guilt. "I went to that church in Charleston and I did it," Roof confessed with a laugh. "Did you shoot them?" a law enforcement officer asked. "Yes," Roof replied, laughing again.
In the past, when support for the death penalty hovered at the mid-60 percent support, survey participants, when asked about specific cases like Timothy McVeigh or Saddam Hussein, support for executions rose above 80 percent.
In my book, "The Executioner's Toll, 2010," I wrote about a condemned inmate who cried out for the death penalty - literally - and deserved it as well.
John David Duty was in an Oklahoma penitentiary serving three life sentences after being convicted of armed robbery, kidnapping, first degree rape and shooting with intent to kill. It was December 2001 and Duty decided he that he had served enough time in prison, he and been in prison since 1978, and at the age of 49 he was not prepared to spend another 30 years in prison.
Duty did not try to escape or even commit suicide. He decided he would murder his cellmate, ask for the death penalty and have the state of Oklahoma put an end to his miserable existence in the state penitentiary system.
Duty's diabolical plan involved treachery, murder and the heartless effort to compound the suffering of his victim's family.
About an hour after killing his cellmate Curtis Wise, Duty sat down and wrote a cold blooded letter to Wise's mother.
The letter included the following: "Well by the time you get this letter you will already know that your son is dead. I know now because I just killed him an hour ago."
At some point after the murder, Duty wrote a second letter, this one to the district attorney's office. He told the DA if you don't execute me, "you're only telling me it's ok for me to kill again ...; Only next time it will be a guard or staff member."
The death penalty was the only way to keep Duty from killing again. Support for the death penalty may be waning but it still has utility in some cases.

- Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book, "The Executioner's Toll, 2010," was recently released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.
To visit the Column CLICK HERE

Friday, December 16, 2016

Black Women Overrepresented in Solitary Confinement

A new report co-authored by the Association of State Correctional Administrators and The Arthur Liman Program at Yale Law School reveals significant overrepresentation of black women in solitary confinement across the United States.
 Among 40 jurisdictions providing data (38 states, the federal system, and the Virgin Islands), black women constituted 24% of the total female incarcerated population but comprised 41% of the female restricted housing population. 
The report documents smaller but substantial racial disparities in male isolation and estimates the disparities in each jurisdiction. Its authors define restricted housing as “the separation of prisoners from general population and in detention for 22 hours per day or more, for 15 or more continuous days, in single-cells or in double-cells.” 
To read the full report CLICK HERE

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Dylann Roof is why we need a death penalty

W. James Antle III wrote in The Week:
Some crimes are so heinous, there is no other just punishment for them.
For an example, look no further than the trial of Dylann Roof. Roof has confessed to murdering nine innocent Americans during a prayer service at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. He killed them in cold blood while they prayed, in premeditated fashion, because of the hatred burning in his heart.
Many of the common objections to the death penalty do not apply in Roof's case. There is no doubt about his guilt. "I went to that church in Charleston and I did it," he confessed with a laugh. "Did you shoot them?" a law enforcement officer asked. "Yes," Roof replied, laughing again.
Sentencing Roof to death would not illustrate structural racism. Quite the opposite. It would enhance racial justice and signify progress in a region of the country where the state did not always protect African Americans from racist murderers. It would be a public affirmation that black lives matter.
Wielding the noose infrequently makes its occasional uses a more powerful statement of our society's intolerance of certain acts of evil without allowing it to devalue life itself. Consider the countries that do not normally have the death penalty but executed Nazi war criminals. Osama bin Laden's death would have been an act of justice even if he could have been apprehended peacefully.
Murder is a gruesome and barbaric business. Its perpetrators deserve the ultimate punishment. But a society must try to balance its power and right to impose that penalty with its need to avoid becoming an accomplice to murder itself.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, December 12, 2016

Post conviction relief has its limits in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, once a defendant is no longer under the jurisdiction of the state, either in jail or on probation the opportunity to seek vindication is lost. Emma Turner’s conviction was overturned in Philadelphia.  Before she could get a new trial her probation sentence ended.
According to Newsworks, prosecutors kept asking for more time to respond until her probation was over, then they appealed. The matter made its way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which ruled in 2013 in a precedent-setting case that since Turner was no longer on probation, she doesn't have a case anymore. Under the PCRA law, a person filing must be incarcerated, or on probation. However, Turner's case took it a step further when the high court declared it not a violation of constitutional rights when an appeal becomes moot, even if the petition was originally filed while in state custody. 
Or, as rendered by the court, Turner "has no protected liberty interest in collateral review at this juncture because she is no longer subject to a state sentence."
To Turner's attorney, who argued that her due process rights should not be violated by dint of a short sentence, the court cited a state precedent that said striking a reasonable balance between "society's need for finality in criminal cases and the convicted person's need to demonstrate there has been an error" can place limits on someone's ability to appeal.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Alabama executes man for 1994 killing

The 20th Execution of 2016
Ronald Bert Smith Jr. who killed an Alabama convenience store clerk more than two decades ago was put to death on December 8, 2016 an execution that required two consciousness tests as the inmate heaved and coughed 13 minutes into the lethal injection, reported The Associated Press.
Smith was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m., about 30 minutes after the procedure began at the state prison in southwest Alabama.
Smith was convicted of capital murder in the Nov. 8, 1994, fatal shooting of Huntsville store clerk Casey Wilson. A jury voted 7-5 to recommend a sentence of life imprisonment, but a judge overrode that recommendation and sentenced Smith to death.
Smith heaved and coughed repeatedly, clenching his fists and raising his head at the beginning of the execution. A prison guard performed two consciousness checks before the final two lethal drugs were administered.
In a consciousness test, a prison officer says the inmate's name, brushes his eyelashes and then pinches his left arm. During the first one, Smith moved his arm. He slightly raised his right arm again after the second consciousness test.
The meaning of those movements will likely be debated. One of Smith's attorneys whispered to another attorney, "He's reacting," and pointed out the inmate's repeated movements.
The state prison commissioner said he did not see any reaction to the consciousness tests.
"We do know we followed our protocol. We are absolutely convinced of that," Alabama Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said Thursday evening. "There will be an autopsy that will be done on Mr. Smith and if there were any irregularities those will hopefully be shown or born out in the autopsy. I think the question is probably better left to the medical experts," Dunn said when asked if the movement's indicated the state's process should be changed.
Alabama uses the sedative midazolam as the first drug in a three-drug lethal injection combination. Smith and other inmates argued in a court case that the drug was an unreliable sedative and could cause them to feel pain, citing its use in problematic executions. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the use of the drug.
Smith replied, "No ma'am" when asked by the prison warden if he had any final words. A member of Wilson's family, who was not identified, witnessed the execution. The victim's family did not make a statement.
Wilson was pistol-whipped and then shot in the head during the robbery, court documents show. Surveillance video showed Smith entering the store and recovering spent shell casings from the bathroom where Wilson was shot, according to the record.
In overriding the jury's recommendation at the 1995 trial, a judge likened the slaying to an execution, saying Wilson had already been pistol-whipped into submission and Smith ignored his pleas for mercy. Wilson had a newborn infant at the time of his death.
"The trial court described Smith's acts as 'an execution style slaying.' Tonight, justice was finally served," Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said in a statement after the execution.
U.S. Supreme Court justices twice paused the execution as Smith's attorneys argued for a delay, saying a judge shouldn't have been able to impose the death penalty when a jury recommended he receive life imprisonment.
Four liberal justices said they would have halted the execution, but five were needed to do so.
Smith's attorneys had urged the nation's highest court to block the planned execution to review the judge's override.
Smith's lawyers argued a January decision that struck down Florida's death penalty structure because it gave too much power to judges raises legal questions about Alabama's process. In Alabama, a jury can recommend a sentence of life without parole, but a judge can override that recommendation to impose a death sentence. Alabama is the only state that allows judicial override, they argued.
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, December 10, 2016

GateHouse: Police officer convictions increasingly elusive

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
December 9, 2016
In 2014, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri by police officer Darren Wilson. This incident was described by St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar as a "physical confrontation" that started inside a police car and spilled onto the street.
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who represented the family of Michael Brown at the time, 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."
Crump's words were prescient. Charges were never filed against Wilson and as we've learned during the course of the last month, even when charges are filed against a police officer conviction is difficult.
In the last 30 days, juries in South Carolina, Oklahoma and Ohio have failed to reach verdicts in cases involving police officers charged with murder.
The trial of a South Carolina police officer accused of murdering an unarmed black motorist was declared a mistrial this week. A video showed Officer Michael Slager, who is white, shooting 50-year-old Walter Scott, who is black, multiple times in the back as he ran away from the officer.
The jury deliberated for more than 22 hours over the course of four days, when Judge Clifton Newman announced that the jury was hopelessly deadlocked.
Contrary to original reports, the jury was not hung 11-1 in favor of guilty. Jury foreman Dorsey Montgomery II, told the "Today Show" that the jury had agreed that murder was not the appropriate charge and they considered a lesser charge of manslaughter, but five jurors could not vote for guilty, despite the fact that shooting a fleeing suspect in the back has long been outlawed.
In 1974, the United States Supreme 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."
Last month, a judge declared a mistrial in the murder trial of now retired Tulsa police officer Shannon Kepler. The officer was off duty when he confronted his daughter's boyfriend and shot him in the chest and neck killing him and endangering others.
The jurors said they were stuck at 11-1 in favor of guilty. Kepler, who was off duty, claims that he was looking for his 18-year-old daughter. When he found Lisa Kepler she was with her boyfriend. Kepler then fired at the boyfriend with a .357-caliber revolver -- killing him.
This past month in Ohio, jurors hearing the case against University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing could not reach a unanimous decision on charges of murder or voluntary manslaughter.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters revealed that after 25 hours of deliberations the jury vote was 8-4 in favor of a voluntary manslaughter conviction. At least three jurors were willing to find Tensing, who is white, guilty of murder in the killing of the black motorist he shot during a traffic stop.
Jury nullification has long been accepted where a jury decides that the evidence supports conviction but renders a "not guilty" verdict because it feels that a conviction would be unjust.
Are these decisions by individual jurors the product of conscientious deliberation or "juror nullification?"
Some jurors may find it simply unconscionable to convict a police officer and by holding out -- juror nullification -- they can take a stand on what they perceive as the unjust treatment of the police.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book, "The Executioner's Toll, 2010," was recently released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino
To visit the column CLICK HERE

Mangino explains constitutionality of Ohio's abortion bills

Watch my interview on WFMJ-TV regarding Ohio's two abortion bills sitting on the desk of Governor Kasich.
To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Friday, December 9, 2016

Grim milestone: In 2015 more died from heroin than guns

Opioid deaths continued to surge in 2015, surpassing 30,000 for the first time in recent history, according to CDC reported the Washington Post.
That marks an increase of nearly 5,000 deaths from 2014. Deaths involving powerful synthetic opiates, like fentanyl, rose by nearly 75 percent from 2014 to 2015.
In a grim milestone, more people died from heroin-related causes than from gun homicides in 2015. As recently as 2007, gun homicides outnumbered heroin deaths by more than 5 to 1.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mangino mentioned on

Richard Miller the former mayor of Greenville, Pennsyslvania writes on his blog

The most enlightening opinion is expressed by Matt Mangino, a former prosecutor and the most practical criminal justice blogger in America.

Mr. Mangino writes that Comey should learn from the medical profession.

“Do no harm,” Mangino published in a blog four days before the election.  “The harm that has been done goes beyond this election and to the reputation of the FBI and the growing distrust of the American system of justice.”

To read the Blog CLICK HERE

Crime rates and interest rates are they linked?

Crimes rates have plummeted in the U.S. since the mid-1990s.  Most of the credit for this remarkable trend has been given to an enlarged criminal justice system—largely more police, tougher sentencing and a massive prison complex.
But we have found a larger and much more powerful explanation:  A drop in interest rates and, in particular, long-term interest rates, writes James Austin a criminologist and Gregory D. Squires a professor of sociology at the George Washington University, in The Crime Report.
When interest rates go up, crime goes up.  When interest rates go down, crime goes down.
This has been the case in the U.S. at least since 1953.  And it is almost a perfect correlation. 
Today, both crime rates and interest rates are at historic lows. Conversely, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, both reached historic highs. Rarely does social science research yield such a high statistical association and strong relationship between two phenomena, particularly when they are not intuitively related.
What accounts for this startling finding?  What does it mean?  And how might it inform public policy?
One critical implication is that lower interest rates mean not just lower crime rates, but also greater economic prosperity.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Georgia carries out yet another execution, the 9th this year

The 19th Execution of 2016
A six-man “strap down” team eased William Sallie onto the gurney in the death chamber at 9:38 p.m. Tuesday. Each kept his hands on the condemned man until both legs, both arms and both shoulders were secured to the bed, reported the Atlanta Journal Constitution..
Four nurses then prepared him for IVs.
Sallie, 50, had eaten all of the pizza he’d requested as his last meal. Now he winced as the needles pierced his skin.
Ten minutes later, witnesses filed into the chamber. Some were relatives of the man Sallie killed in 1990. The inmate raised his head, and spoke:
“I am very, very sorry for my crime. I really am sorry,” he said. “Man is going to take my life tonight, but God saved my soul. I’ve prayed about this. I do ask for forgiveness.”
Then he asked for a prayer.
As the lethal drug pentobarbital flowed into his veins, Sallie’s shoulders twitched four or five times, but his eyes remained closed. Then he was still.
Time of death was 10:05 p.m.
Georgia had just executed its ninth murderer in 2016, more than any other state this year and the most in Georgia since capital punishment was reinstated more than 40 years ago.
It was a quiet end to the life of a man who went on a rampage one night in 1990, destroying the family of which he had been a part for years. Sallie, in the midst of a breakup with his wife and having just l0st custody of his son, shot his father-in-law six times, killing him, shot his mother-in-law four times (she survived) and then abducted his wife and her sister, sexually assaulting both of them over a period of several hours.
Tuesday, nine protesters stood vigil in the chilly night air at an area just inside the entrance to the prison grounds in Jackson.
Sallie’s execution had been scheduled for 7 p.m., but Georgia does not act until all courts have weighed in, which usually puts the actual time of death well into the night and sometimes into the early hours of the next day.
Tuesday afternoon, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously denied Sallie’s request for a stay of execution. His lawyers then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court.
As he waited, Sallie ate his pizza and visited with six family members, four friends, three members of the clergy and four paralegals.
He had repeatedly failed to get any court to consider his claim of juror bias, and on Monday the State Board of Pardons and Paroles also rejected that argument and refused to grant a stay of execution.
Sallie was convicted of murdering his father-in-law John Moore in 1990, shooting and wounding his mother-in-law Linda Moore, and kidnapping his estranged wife and her sister.
Sallie broke into his in-laws’ home in Bacon County — where his wife, Robin, and their 2-year-old son, Ryan, were sleeping — after he lost a custody battle and his wife filed for divorce.
In court filings and a clemency petition, Sallie’s lawyers wrote that the domestic turmoil in William and Robin Sallie’s lives was much like that lived by a juror who denied ever being embroiled in a volatile marriage, a custody dispute or domestic violence.
When the woman was questioned during jury selection for the Sallie murder trial, she said her marriages — four of them — had ended amicably.
Sallie’s lawyers said that was false, contending in their clemency petition that the juror fought with soon-to-be ex-husbands over child custody and support payments and lived with domestic abuse.
That juror also told an investigator for Sallie’s lawyers that she pushed six fellow jurors to change their votes from life in prison to death, making the jury’s decision unanimous.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Trump's pick for AG: Marijuana is 'a very real danger'

Last month, California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevadav oted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, bringing the total number of states where recreational pot use is legal to eight, reported The Week. And medical marijuana use is either legal or about to be implemented in 28 states and the District of Columbia. The legal marijuana industry is expected to do about $7 billion in sales in 2016, and to grow almost exponentially as more states pursue recreational and medical legalization. Meanwhile, popular support for legalized pot is higher than it's ever been in Gallup's 47-year history of asking Americans about weed, with three in five supporting legalization.
But what about Donald Trump? And more specifically, what about his choice for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)?
Sessions has called for more federal prosecutions of marijuana growers and businesses in states where it is legal. He said in April that it's important for the government to send a "message with clarity that good people don't smoke marijuana." He declared that "we need grownups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it's in fact a very real danger."
One of the major difficulties in the burgeoning pot industry has long been the federal government's ability to prosecute businesses that the states say are legal. Making Sessions the head of the agency in charge of federal law enforcement and prosecutions has many in the cannabis community quite concerned.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Mangino talks sealing criminal records on WFMJ-TV

Watch my interview on WFMJ-TV about the new Pennsylvania law permitting the sealing of a former offender's criminal record for certain minor offenses.
To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Saturday, December 3, 2016

GateHouse: Drawing the line on civil commitments

Mathew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
December 2, 2106
A popular phrase among zealous law and order advocates is “Do the crime, do the time.” Many law abiding citizens would be surprised to know that there are thousands of people in this country who have done their time and remain behind bars indefinitely.
Civil commitment gained support in state capitols around the country a quarter century ago as cable news channels brought high profile sex offenses into living rooms nationwide. A crime across the country had the same emotional effect on viewers as a crime across the street.
Today, 20 states, along with the federal government, detain some sex offenders for treatment beyond their prison time.
Minnesota has the highest population of civilly committed offenders per capita in the nation, and the lowest rate of release. Costs have soared as well. According to the New York Times, it costs about $125,000 per resident per year, at least three times the cost of an ordinary prison inmate in Minnesota.
Pennsylvania currently has eight men locked-up who have served their complete sentence for a crime committed years ago. These men are considered sexually violent predators, as determined by a civil court, and are being detained indefinitely.
Pennsylvania’s neighbor to the west, Ohio, does not have a civil commitment statute for sex offenders.
Civil commitment is not new. The procedure has been used for decades with regard to the mentally ill and those with highly contagious diseases. More recently it has been applied to sex offenders with a diagnosable mental abnormality and a likelihood to re-offend.
In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court found that civil commitments were an appropriate state action. The high court upheld the Kansas Sexually Violent Predator Act. The court found that the statute violated neither the double jeopardy clause, punishing an offender for the same crime twice, or ex post facto, punishment through a law applied retroactively.
In 2006, the federal government got into the civil commitment business. Congress passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which gave the federal government authority to seek civil commitment of “sexually dangerous persons” already held in its custody. That authority, in turn, allowed the government to seek to have individuals who are either completing federal prison sentences, or incompetent to stand trial, remain in federal custody indefinitely as a result of their “sexually dangerous” status.
To secure the continued detention of an individual completing his sentence, the government must demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the individual “is a sexually dangerous person.” If the federal government can prove that, the individual is committed without a specific period of detention, possibly for life.
In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government has the authority under the U.S. Constitution to require the civil commitment of individuals already in federal custody. According to the Washington Post, during the argument before the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “You are talking about endangering the health and safety of people. The government has some responsibility.”
Just how far does the concept of protecting the health and safety of the public reach? The state of Virginia uses risk assessment to determine the duration of sentences. The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing has been charged with incorporating risk assessment into the state’s sentencing guidelines. The City of Philadelphia uses risk assessment to determine appropriate supervision of probationers. Couple a high risk for violent re-offending with a mental abnormality and could the civil commitment of extremely violent predators be far off?
Stephen McCallister, a law professor and Kansas solicitor general does not think it implausible. He told NPR in 2010, “Constitutionally, it might be possible,” to extend the rationale for civil commitment to other kinds of crimes. “I don’t have a constitutionally limiting line for what kinds of mental disorders might be permissible and what (might) not. If they lead to danger to others, potentially, they could be covered under such a law.”

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

Friday, December 2, 2016

PA DA's Association release guidelines for officer involved shootings

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association presented guidelines  to all 67 counties on how to investigate and prosecute officer-involved shootings, reported the Harrisburg Patriot.
Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said, in some ways, the added public and media interest in police-involved shootings is good for transparency. Yet, video can shape judgment before an investigation is complete.
“These investigations have changed,” Marsico said. “Ferguson, Baltimore have put a different spin on them.”
Marsico said prosecutors need to evolve on the way an investigation is handled. He was an active member of the Best Practices Committee for the PDAA. Over the past several months, the committee comprised 16 guidelines to best handle an officer-involved shooting.
“There are things that have been tested and are working for prosecutors for these really important investigations,” he said. “(PDAA) wanted to give guidance to prosecutors ... it’s really important that we have an independent investigation.”
Hiring an independent agency or investigator is the main recommendation for all counties to follow. Most counties, including Dauphin County, already do this as standard procedure. However, there were never any concrete policies in place.
Prosecutors are also encouraged to communicate with the public more often, explain the process, and release preliminary findings to help ensure transparency. Marsico said this was key during the Earl 
Another lesson learned was the challenge of releasing video to the public in a timely manner while holding the integrity of the investigation. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Parole boards ignore U.S. Supreme Court on JLWOP

Almost everyone serving life in prison for crimes they committed as juveniles deserves a shot at going home, said the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court’s message in these cases is that children are different than adults when it comes to crime and punishment — less culpable for their actions and more amenable to change, reported The Marshall Project. As such, court rulings have determined all but the rarest of juvenile lifers are entitled to “some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.”
The court left it up to states how to handle this year's new ruling but suggested parole boards were a good choice. “Allowing those offenders to be considered for parole,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in January, gives states a way to identify “juveniles whose crimes reflected only transient immaturity—and who have since matured.” Most states have taken this option, changing juvenile lifers’ sentences en masse from life without to lifewith the possibility of parole.
But prisoner’s rights advocates and attorneys have begun to argue whether parole boards, as they usually operate, may not be capable of providing a meaningful opportunity for release. A handful of courts have agreed.
Last month, a New York state appeals court judge ruled that the state’s parole board had not “met its constitutional obligation” when it denied parole to a man who had killed his girlfriend when he was 16. Dempsey Hawkins is now 54 and has been denied parole nine times in hearings that, the court said, did not adequately weigh what role his youth and immaturity had played in his crime.
To read more CLICK HERE