Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Trump: Let's put more guns in schools to stop school shootings?

 President Donald Trump, after listening to a series of emotional stories and pleas to enhance school safety at the White House, floated the idea of arming teachers and school staff, an idea that was met with support from many of the attendees, reported CNN.
"If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly," he said, stating that schools could arm up to 20% of their teachers to stop "maniacs" who may try and attack them.
"This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun, and it would be, it's called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They'd go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone," Trump said. "Gun-free zone to a maniac -- because they're all cowards -- a gun-free zone is 'let's go in and let's attack because bullets aren't coming back at us.' "
Trump tweeted he "never said 'give teachers guns'" and then repeated his quote from Wednesday about looking into the possibility of "giving concealed guns to adept teachers with military or special training."
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

PA GOP doesn't like new congressional map, call for impeachment of justices

In a sign of Republican mobilization, Pennsylvania’s most senior elected Republican, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, delivered a blistering verbal attack  just as fellow Republicans filed papers in federal courts seeking to block the new districts, reported The Associated Press.
The state court’s decision, Toomey told reporters, is a “blatant, unconstitutional partisan power grab that undermines our electoral process.” He did nothing to tamp down impeachment talk, calling it a conversation that state lawmakers should have.
Talk of impeaching a justice is rare in Pennsylvania, so rare that it did not arise even as three justices left the bench amid scandals in the past five years.
“Their reaction right now is rather bizarre. It’s not befitting people in those positions to say, ‘when we get a decision we don’t like, let’s impeach the judges,’” Doyle said. “We’re not a nation that operates that way. We’re a nation of laws.”
In any case, impeachment talk may be little more than saber-rattling.
Pennsylvania lawmakers have started an impeachment process a number of times, but successfully impeached a public official just once since 1803, according to the House parliamentarian. That was ex-Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen in 1994 — after he was ejected from the bench by a criminal conviction.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, February 26, 2018

Mangino on WFMJ-TV21 Weekend Today

Watch my interview on WFMJ TV21 Weekend Today from Sunday, February 25, 2018.
To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Florida executes sex offender who murdered college student

The 4th Execution of 2018
Eric Scott Branch was executed in the state of Florida on February 22, 2018.
Before Branch was set to be executed for his horrific crimes — the rape and brutal murder of a Florida college student — he turned to correctional officers and told them that they shouldn’t have to kill him.
That job, Branch argued, should belong to Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) and the state Attorney General Pam Bondi (R).
“Let them come down here and do it,” Branch told the Florida State Prison officers Thursday evening, according to the Associated Press. “I’ve learned that you’re good people, and this is not what you should be doing.”
Moments later — as the 47-year-old death-row inmate began to receive the lethal injection drugs — he started to squirm and shout.
Then, the AP reported, Branch screamed: “Murderers! Murderers! Murderers!”
Branch was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. at the state prison in Starke, more than 40 miles southwest of Jacksonville.
When asked about Branch’s scream and whether it could have been caused by the drugs, Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman Michelle Glady told the AP that “there was no indication” that was the case.
Branch had been sentenced to die for the brutal rape and killing of 21-year-old Susan Morris, a video production student at University of West Florida.
According to the AP, Branch had also been convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old in Indiana “and of another sexual assault in the Florida Panhandle that took place just 10 days before Morris was killed, court records show.”
The jury in his murder case recommended the death penalty by a 10-2 vote under Florida’s old capital punishment system, which was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016. The high court said juries must reach a unanimous recommendation for death and judges cannot overrule that. Florida legislators subsequently changed the system to comply.
One of Branch’s final and unsuccessful appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court involved whether he deserved a new sentencing hearing because of that jury’s 10-2 vote in his 1994 trial. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the new system of sentencing did not apply to inmates sentenced to death before 2002.
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, February 24, 2018

GateHouse: A win at the High Court doesn’t always bring success

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
February 23, 2018
The Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole recently denied parole to a 71-year-old man convicted of killing a sheriff’s deputy.
No big surprise — unless the 71-year-old man happens to be Henry Montgomery. Sixty-four years ago when Montgomery was a juvenile, he fatally shot East Baton Rouge sheriff deputy Charles Hurt. Montgomery was convicted and ultimately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
So why was Montgomery even being considered for parole?
In 2012, in a case out of Alabama, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a “mandatory” sentence of life in prison without parole for a juvenile was unconstitutional.
There were about 2,000 inmates serving mandatory life without parole for killings committed as juveniles and in spite of the decision, few were being released.
Why? The Court didn’t provide any rules or guidelines for carrying out the decision.
Individual states were left to decide whether the Court’s decision applied to all juvenile life sentences — those to be imposed in the future and those having been imposed in the past. Simply, the High Court didn’t say whether the decision was retroactive.
In steps Henry Montgomery.
He was initially sentenced to death after a jury convicted him. After the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled he didn’t get a fair trial and threw out his murder conviction, Montgomery was retried, found “guilty without capital punishment” and automatically sentenced to life without parole, reported The Associated Press.
Although mandatory life-without-parole was outlawed as “cruel and unusual” punishment in 2012, it wasn’t until Montgomery v. Louisiana that the justices made their decision retroactive.
Justice Anthony Kennedy said prisoners like Montgomery “must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and, if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside prison walls must be restored.”
Montgomery got his chance, and it didn’t go well.
“In 54 years of incarceration, all you’ve taken were two classes,” Board member Kenneth Loftin said to Montgomery, before voting against parole. “You’re only doing exactly what you can to get by.”
For Montgomery’s first 30 years of incarceration, classes were not available to inmates serving a life sentence, reported The Advocate. He worked at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola’s silk-screen shop for 20 years.
Although the Montgomery decision provided an opportunity for parole it did not guarantee it. Parole is discretionary in most states and a parole board is quite within its power to keep an offender in prison.
Henry Montgomery, who lent his name to the case that is being used to parole juvenile offenders across the country, is not getting out.
That’s not the only time a case named for a Defendant didn’t end up helping the Defendant so named. In 1996, Daryl Atkins killed a navy seaman Eric Nesbitt. Atkins had an IQ of only 59. He, like Montgomery, was convicted and initially sentenced to death. Atkins appealed. The issue of his mental disability made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002. The court, in a decision that bears the name Atkins v. Virginia, banned the execution of the mentally disabled.
Atkins’ case was sent back to Virginia to determine if he was mentally disabled. The guy whose case abolished the execution of the mentally disabled was subsequently determined not to be mentally disabled and placed back on death row.
His case was remanded a second time for resentencing and he was again sentenced to death. Atkins was later removed from death row for completely unrelated reasons and is now serving a life sentence.
The notoriety of winning before the High Court doesn’t always guarantee victory outside the hallowed halls of the U.S. Supreme Court.
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 column CLICK HERE

Friday, February 23, 2018

The “good guy” with a gun never entered Stoneman Douglas H.S. to confront mass killer

Eight days after a man armed with an AR-15 murdered 17 people inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Broward’s top cop revealed a stunning series of failures by the sheriff’s department, reported the Miami Herald.
A school campus cop heard the gunfire, rushed to the building but never went inside — instead waiting outside for another four agonizing minutes as the slaughter continued.
And long before the killer embarked on the worst school shooting in Florida history, Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies had multiple warnings that the 19-year-old was a violent threat and a potential school shooter, according to records released.
In November, a tipster called BSO to say the killer “could be a school shooter in the making” but deputies did not write up a report on that warning. It came just weeks after a relative called urging BSO to seize his weapons. 
Two years ago, according to a newly released timeline of interactions with the killer’s family, a deputy investigated a report that he “planned to shoot up the school” — intelligence that was forwarded to the school’s resource officer, with no apparent result.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Three people are scheduled for execution today in Florida, Alabama and Texas

Three people are scheduled for execution today in Florida, Alabama and Texas, reported  Mother Jones Magazine. The last time this happened in the US was April 28, 1999, when Texas, Missouri, and Virginia each put a man to death. But barring any intervention from the courts, February 22 could tie that record.
The first person scheduled to die is Florida inmate, Eric Branch, whose execution is set to begin at 6:00 pm. He’s been on death row since 1994 for the 1993 sexual battery and murder of Susan Morris, who was walking to her car on the University of West Florida’s campus.
Just one hour after Branch is scheduled to die, Alabama prison officials will be preparing to execute Doyle Hamm who has been on death row since 1987 for the murder of Patrick Cunningham, a motel clerk. He is now 61 years old, having spent more than half of his life in prison. Hamm is also suffering from cranial and lymphatic cancers. According to court documents, the cancer was discovered in 2014, and he underwent treatment. But in early 2017, the cancer returned, and a doctor ordered surgery. 
At the same time Hamm’s execution is scheduled to begin, a few hundred miles west in Texas, prison officials will be preparing to put 38-year-old Thomas Whitaker to death. In 2007, he was convicted of arranging the murder of his family in order to obtain $1 million in inheritance. Now his father is fighting to save his remaining child’s life.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Texas board makes rare recommendation of clemency for condemned inmate

In an exceedingly rare move, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to recommend a lesser sentence for a death row inmate facing execution, reported the Texas Tribune.
The board voted unanimously in favor of clemency for Thomas Bartlett Whitaker, a man who is set to die on tomorrow evening. The decision now falls on Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who can approve or deny the recommendation to change Whitaker’s death sentence to life in prison.
The last time the board recommended clemency for a death row inmate was in 2007.
Abbott said at a political rally Tuesday night that he and his staff would base his decision on the facts, circumstances and law.
“Any time anybody's life is at stake, that's a very serious matter,” Abbott said. “And it deserves very serious consideration on my part.”
Whitaker, 38, was convicted in the 2003 murders of his mother and 19-year-old brother as part of a plot to get inheritance money. His father, Kent Whitaker, was also shot in the attack but survived and has consistently begged for a life sentence for his son.
“Victims’ rights should mean something in this state, even when the victim is asking for mercy and not vengeance,” Kent Whitaker said at a press conference at the Texas Capitol just before the board’s vote came in.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Students motivated to stop gun violence plan march on Washington

Michael Udine, a county commissioner in Broward County, which includes Parkland, talked to President Trump Saturday, according t the Washington Post, telling him that students “are extremely motivated and well spoken and they are going to be demanding change in Washington and Tallahassee. . . . The president said, ‘Well, I would welcome that.’­ ”
Udine said Trump was thoughtful on the call and repeatedly expressed
David Hogg survived the Florida shooting and is demanding that Congress take action to stop it from happening again. 
“Any politician who is coming to just talk or just to give their thoughts and prayers, that’s not needed,” Udine said. “Thoughts and prayers are not good enough anymore.”
The students said they are organizing “March for Our Lives” rallies in Washington and other major U.S. cities on March 24 to demand action on curbing gun violence.
About 20 students have launched “Never Again MSD,” a group that will push for changes in gun laws. The rallies are being planned with help from various groups, including organizers of the Women’s March, and have gained support from several prominent Democrats and gun-control groups, according to Alex Wind, one of the student organizers.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, February 19, 2018

One in 4 juveniles held in placement for noncriminal offenses

States send less than half as many youth to residential facilities as they did in the late 1990s, but new data from the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention show that many juveniles in out-of-home placements were not confined for serious and violent crimes. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, in 2015, 23 percent of youth in residential facilities nationwide were put there either for status offenses (5 percent)—which include truancy, running away, and underage drinking and would not violate the law if committed by an adult—or technical violations of supervision (18 percent), such as skipping meetings. This marks a small increase since 2007, when 19 percent of confined juveniles were held for such noncriminal acts.
West Virginia leads the nation in removing youth from their homes for status offenses, with 43 percent of juveniles in its facilities held for such infractions. Eight other states also confine youth for status offenses at more than double the national rate of seven per 100,000 youth. Six states report holding no youth for status offenses.
The proportion of youth confined for technical violations also varies considerably, ranging from a reported high of 46 percent in New Mexico to zero in the District of Columbia, Maine, and Vermont. Like New Mexico, the states of Alaska, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania hold juveniles for probation violations at more than twice the national rate of 27 per 100,000 juveniles.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, February 18, 2018

DOJ shutters Obama-era Office for Access to Justice

The Justice Department has effectively shuttered an Obama-era office dedicated to making legal aid accessible to all citizens, according to two people familiar with the situation, reported the New York Times.
The division, the Office for Access to Justice, began as an initiative in 2010 under former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to increase and improve legal resources for indigent litigants in civil, criminal and tribal courts. Though the head of the office reports directly to the associate attorney general, it never gained much visibility within the Justice Department because it did not oversee a large staff of prosecutors.
While Attorney General Jeff Sessions cannot close the office without notifying the Congress, he can sideline it by moving its resources elsewhere. Its offices now sit dark on the third floor of the Justice Department building. The staff of a dozen or so has dwindled and left the department over the past few months, the people said. Maha Jweied, the acting director of the department, left this month to start a consulting business, according to her LinkedIn profile.
The Justice Department did not respond to repeated requests for comment, and Ms. Jweied did not respond to an emailed request for comment. Career prosecutors emphasized that new administrations reshuffle the Justice Department’s priorities, de-emphasizing or shuttering projects that previous administrations had supported to devote resources to their own agendas.
The office’s stated mission was to “deliver outcomes that are fair and accessible to all, irrespective of wealth and status.” It worked with other federal, state and local entities in the justice system to “increase access to counsel and legal assistance” for people who could not afford lawyers.
Civil rights groups objected to its effective closure.
“Sessions’ shutting down the Access to Justice Initiative sadly speaks for itself,” said Vanita Gupta, the chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the former head of the civil rights division of the Justice Department under former President Barack Obama.
Added Sharon McGowan, director of strategy at Lambda Legal and a former official in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department in the Obama administration: “Ever since he became attorney general, Sessions has advanced positions that are irreconcilable with where we are as a country.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, February 17, 2018

GateHouse: Access to assault rifles must be part of the dialogue

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
February 16, 2018
The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, marks the country’s 18th school shooting since the beginning of the year. Not all the shootings are mass killings, but is any school shooting acceptable?
The non-profit Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund doesn’t think so. Everytown uses a straightforward definition for a school shooting: Any time a firearm discharges a live round of ammunition inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds, as documented by the media and confirmed by law enforcement or school officials.
According to Everytown’s website their mission is to “improve our understanding of the causes of gun violence and the means to reduce it — by conducting groundbreaking original research, developing evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge ...”
Why do we need an independent, charitable organization to research gun violence? The simple answer is no one else is doing it.
Last year, following the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, Democrats in Congress revealed that the federal ”(G)overnment dedicate $240 million a year to traffic safety research, more than $233 million a year for food safety and $331 million a year on the effects of tobacco, but almost nothing on firearms that kill 33,000 Americans annually.”
How can that be?
Have you ever heard of Jay Dickey? In 1996, as a member of Congress, Dickey was a self-proclaimed “point-man” for the National Rifle Association (NRA). The Arkansas Republican authored a now infamous amendment to an otherwise obscure appropriations bill that removed $2.6 million from the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) budget, the amount the agency’s injury center had spent on firearms-related research the previous year.
Since the Dickey Amendment passed, the United States has spent almost nothing on research for firearm injuries. To no surprise, gun deaths now out pace automobile deaths in nearly half the states nationwide.
That’s not to mention the nearly 300 school shootings in America since 2013—an average of about one a week.
Law enforcement officials said the Parkland killer legally purchased the assault weapon used in the attack. Should an 18- or 19-year-old buying an assault rifle raise a red flag?
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he wants the Justice Department to study how mental illness and gun violence intersect, to better understand how law enforcement can use existing laws to intervene before school shootings happen. Does that mean that funding will be returned to the CDC for research? Not likely.
“It cannot be denied that something dangerous and unhealthy is happening in our country,” Sessions told a group of sheriffs in Washington, D.C. In “every one of these cases, we’ve had advance indications and perhaps we haven’t been effective enough in intervening.”
Wouldn’t we all be better off if no one, but law enforcement and the military, had access to assault rifles?
Two years ago, an organization known as Doctors for America, presented a petition signed by more than 2,000 physicians in all 50 states demanding an end to the Dickey Amendment.
“It’s disappointing to me that we’ve made little progress in the past 20 years in finding solutions to gun violence,” Dr. Nina Agrawal, a New York pediatrician told Think Progress. “In my career, I’ve seen children (sic) lives saved from measles, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, motor vehicle accidents ... because of federal scientific data and research. It’s frustrating that the CDC is not permitted to do the same type of research for gun violence.”
The problem in this country is the easy access to guns. How many suicides could be averted if a troubled individual couldn’t just walk over to a desk drawer and pull out a gun? How many mass shootings could have been thwarted or neutralized if the shooter didn’t have access to an assault rifle.
When we talk about mass violence in schools, the elephant in the room is the firearm. Examining school violence without considering access to firearms is like talking about highway safety without considering the impact of automobiles. There can be no meaningful or responsible conversation about violence without guns being part of the dialogue.
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 column CLICK HERE

Friday, February 16, 2018

Hamilton County Ohio in the top 25 nationwide for death row inmates

Raymond Tibbetts and Robert Van Hook, whose executions are set for later this year, had one more strike against them: They were convicted of murder in a place that embraces the death penalty like few others in America, reported the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Hamilton County has sent more people to death row and is responsible for more executions than any county in Ohio since capital punishment returned to the state in 1981.
The county has a larger death row population per capita than the home counties of Los Angeles, Miami or San Diego. And it has more people on death row than all but 21 of the more than 3,000 counties in the United States.
“Hamilton County kind of stands out,” said Sister Helen Prejean, an author and anti-death penalty activist.
Tibbetts and Van Hook are among 24 convicted killers from Hamilton County on death row today. Ten others from the county have been executed since the death penalty's return.
The answer is rooted in the county’s culture, politics and history, but also in a tough-on-crime mindset that took hold when Cincinnati was a frontier town.
The first known executions here happened in 1789, when two soldiers who’d deserted Fort Washington were captured and shot by firing squad, according to Charles Greve’s “Centennial History of Cincinnati.” The commander of the fort, John Wilkinson, later explained in a letter that future deserters should be shot and beheaded, lest anyone misunderstand the seriousness of the crime.
“One head chopped off in this way and set upon a pole on the parade might do lasting good in the way of deterring others,” Wilkinson wrote. 
Civilian executions, usually by hanging, soon followed, with many taking place at a gallows set up at Fifth and Walnut streets, near what today is Government Square. They often drew a crowd.
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“The execution was public, as all such affairs were at that time, and the people gathered to see it,” Greve wrote of one such hanging. “Excursions were brought into the city and many came as far as fifty miles.”
The executions of Tibbetts and Van Hook by lethal injection would not be such a public spectacle, but they would be every bit as much a Hamilton County production. Their prosecutors and judges made the same call as those who sent Mays to the gallows more than two centuries earlier.
And as in the late 1700s, the decision was made with the support of a population that viewed capital punishment, if not favorably, as a necessity. There was an expectation that violence would be met with violence.
The death penalty’s popularity in the United States has eroded over the years, especially in the past two decades. But recent polls show a plurality of Americans still support the notion that capital punishment is justified in at least some cases.
Though Hamilton County residents haven't been polled on the subject in years, capital murder trials still occur here more frequently than in most counties and local politicians continue to tout their death penalty credentials on the campaign trail.
“There’s a political currency to the death penalty,” said Prejean, who recently visited Cincinnati to speak about the convicted killer who became the basis of her book, "Dead Man Walking."
“The easiest way to show you’re tough on crime is to be for the death penalty,” she said. 

 To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Another tragic day in an American school--17 dead in Florida

The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL marks the country’s 18th school shooting of 2018, just 45 days into the year, reported the Huffington Post. Not all the shootings are mass killings, but is any school shooting acceptable?
That’s an average of one school shooting every 60 hours thus far in 2018, more than double the number of school shootings recorded in any of the previous three years in that same period. Those numbers are according to data compiled by the gun control advocacy organization Everytown for Gun Safety, which defines a school shooting as any time a firearm is discharged on or around a campus.
Details are still emerging about what happened during Wednesday’s shooting at Stoneman Douglas High but at least 17 dead and scores injured.

President Donald Trump has spoken vaguely about the need to curb shootings, saying after the Las Vegas massacre in October that the U.S. would start “talking about gun laws as time goes by.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The gun bubble has burst--Remington files for bankruptcy

For two centuries, Remington has been a totem of America’s gun culture -- a name emblazoned on frontier flintlocks and U.S. Army .45s. 
Remington Outdoor Co., which traces its history back to 1816, said it would file for bankruptcy protection, reported Bloomberg, succumbing to a slump in business worsened by, of all things, a president who has steadfastly supported Americans’ right to bear arms.  
The bankruptcy is a blow to the private-equity mogul Stephen Feinberg, who has been a prominent supporter of President Donald Trump. Feinberg’s firm, Cerberus Capital Management, acquired Remington in 2007 and subsequently saddled it with almost $1 billion in debt. The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing will let Remington stay in business while it works out a plan to turn around the company and pay its creditors.
Remington has been around for over 200 years, dating back to 1816 when Eliphalet Remington II worked with a local gunsmith to create a flintlock rifle. It received its first contract in 1845, manufacturing 5,000 “Mississippi” rifles for the U.S. military. Today, the company employs 3,500 people and is among the largest American manufacturers of ammunition and firearms. 
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Murder rates for big cities in the first half of 2017

CBS News compiled a list of the supposedly deadliest U.S. cities, based on data for the first six months of 2017 compiled by the Major City Chiefs Association. St. Louis is listed as the city with the highest homicide rate, 29.1 per 100,000 population. Baltimore is second, at 27.3, followed by New Orleans, 24.5, Detroit, 20.2 and Cleveland, 14.5.
Pittsburgh was a surprise at number 16 on the list, with 8.6 murders per 100,000 people.
Chicago has been notable for its high murder totals in recent years, but on a per capita basis, the city ranks only number eight on CBS’s list, with a rate of 12.1 per 100,000 population. The FBI and criminologists warn against using crime data to rank cities, saying it can produce misleading results because of vagaries in city boundaries and other factors.
To read the Report CLICK HERE

Monday, February 12, 2018

Maryland's 'tough new approach' to crime is so 1990s

As violence in Baltimore continues at unacceptably high levels, city residents are desperate for solutions, reported the Washington Post. Unfortunately, GOP Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan  has proposed crime bills that sound tough but that won’t actually reduce crime. Stealing a page from the Trump-Sessions playbook, the governor’s plan relies on lengthy mandatory-minimum prison sentences. This approach will waste taxpayer dollars and exacerbate racial disparities in the state’s prisons without making the public safer.
2017 was a record-setting year in Baltimore — and not in a good way. The city’s murder rate reached an all-time high as violent crime in the rest of Maryland and in many other major cities around the country fell. While residents and some crime experts point to the city’s beleaguered and scandal-ridden police department and a lack of job opportunities as possible causes, some officials, including Hogan, say the state simply needs to lock up more people for mandatory prison terms.
Legislation sponsored by the governor would increase the length of mandatory minimum sentences and increase the number of crimes to which they would be applied; decrease access to treatment; and transfer youth to adult court where we know they don’t receive the education, support or services they need to return to society as contributing, responsible, adults. This is certainly one approach to fighting violent crime, but it’s not the right one.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, February 11, 2018

PA Supreme Court overturns death sentence

In Commonwealth v. VanDivner the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned a death sentence due to the intellectual disability of the defendant, reported Justia.
James VanDivner appealed the Court of Common Pleas’ denial of his petition for relief under the Post Conviction Relief Act (“PCRA”). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reviewed this case following two remands to the PCRA court for supplemental opinions. In response to the PCRA court’s second supplemental opinion, Vandivner requested, and was granted, permission to file a supplemental brief. Although also permitted to do so, the Commonwealth did not file a brief in response.
VanDivner was convicted in the death of his fiancée, Michelle Cable. Prior to trial, he filed a motion to preclude the Commonwealth from seeking the death penalty, contending he was intellectually disabled and, thus, imposition of the death penalty would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The trial court conducted a four-day hearing, after which it determined that VanDivner failed to establish that he was intellectually disabled.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded VanDivner was intellectually disabled, and, thus, ineligible for the death penalty under Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002). Accordingly, his death sentence was vacated and judgment of sentence was modified to reflect the imposition of a life sentence on his first-degree murder conviction, subject to appellant review of his remaining guilt phase and sentencing claims.
Moreover, as this matter was now a noncapital case, the Supreme Court transferred this appeal to the Superior Court for disposition of these remaining claims.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

GateHouse: The shame of forced sterilization continues

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
February 10, 2018
A federal judge in Oklahoma once told a woman involved in a counterfeiting ring that he would consider — as part of her background, character and conduct — whether she would undergo a “voluntary” sterilization, or as he put it she was “rendered incapable of procreation.”
This issue didn’t come up in some dusty old courtroom in 1917 — 10 years after Oklahoma became a state. No sir, it came up in 2017. The woman was sterilized in November and is scheduled to be sentenced this week.
The stink of forced sterilization permeated the first part of the 20th Century.
In 1907, Indiana became the first state to enact sterilization legislation, followed closely by California and soon a majority of states.
At the time, sterilization was about two things — Eugenics, trying to escape the imperfections of heredity and punishing people for criminal conduct. Sterilization rates across the country were relatively low, until 1927 and the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Buck v. Bell.
Buck v. Bell was not the high-water mark for U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence and was certainly not the jewel of the hundreds of opinions written by long time justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
In fact, the tragedy of Buck v. Bell was vividly portrayed by Maximillian Schnell in his Academy Award-winning performance as an attorney representing a judge at the Nuremberg war trials. Schnell read from a passage in Buck v. Bell and then slowly revealed that it was written by “Oliver ... Wendell ... Holmes.”
What Holmes wrote in 1927 was: “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind ... Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
That decision and the work of eugenicist Harry H. Laughlin were the framework for the Nazi sterilization program.
In 1933, the Nazi’s enacted a law that provided for compulsory sterilization of any person who, according to the opinion of a “Genetic Health Court,” suffered from a genetic disorder. Under Nazi rule, over 400,000 people were sterilized against their will.
After World War II, public opinion toward eugenics and sterilization programs soured in light of their connection with the Nazi atrocities.
In this county, the practice of forced sterilization has stopped, or so we thought. If you think a so-called “voluntary” sterilization was not forced, think again. Imagine a judge tells you “if you do this, (sterilization) I might act favorably toward you” — would you feel compelled to do it?
Some states feel the shame. In 2013, North Carolina announced that it would spend $10 million to compensate men and women who were sterilized in the state’s eugenics program. North Carolina sterilized about 7,600 “mentally unfit” people from 1929 to 1974.
Unfortunately, the quest to sterilize wrongdoers continues. In the early and middle part of the 20th century, sterilization was used to thwart those in institutions for the “Feebleminded.” Today, the targets are men and women in prison.
In 2015, a criminal case in Tennessee involving a mentally ill woman and a controversial plea bargain ignited outrage over the proposed use of sterilizations as a bargaining chip in plea negotiations.
The Tennessean reported that a 36-year-old woman had been charged with neglect after the death of her 5-day-old baby. The prosecutor would not go forward with a plea bargain to keep her out of prison unless she agreed to undergo a sterilization procedure.
After a buzz of media attention, the DA withdrew the plea.
In an interesting twist, the assistant U.S. Attorney in the pending Oklahoma case said the defendant “has a fundamental constitutional right to procreate ... (and her) decision to have additional children ... is irrelevant to determining a sentence.”
Such an ugly time in our history should not be so easily forgotten or set aside by the very people we expect to protect the helpless and downtrodden.
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 column CLICK HERE

Friday, February 9, 2018

El Chapo's trial to have anonymous jury--Sixth Amendment concerns?

A US judge in Brooklyn has ruled that the identities of jurors expected to decide the fate of accused Mexican drug lord Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán at a trial later this year will be kept secret, reported the Guardian. 
US district Judge Brian Cogan said jurors’ names, addresses and places of employment will be shielded from Guzmán, his lawyers, prosecutors and the press. 
He also ordered that jurors be transported to and from the courthouse by federal marshals, and sequestered from the public while there.
Prosecutors offered “strong and credible reasons” why the jury needs protections, including Guzmán’s use hitmen to carry out thousands of acts of violence over more than two decades, Cogan wrote in the order, recently released by the prosecutor’s office.
That history “would be sufficient to warrant an anonymous and partially sequestered jury, but that many of the allegations involve murder, assault, kidnapping or torture of potential witnesses or of those suspected of assisting law enforcement makes the government’s concerns particularly salient”, he said.
Guzmán’s attorney, Eduardo Balarezo, said  that his client was disappointed by the ruling. The defense had argued that an anonymous jury would give the false impression that Guzmán is dangerous. Not to mention the Sixth Amendment implications---a violation of the defendant's right to a fair trial..
“All he is asking for is a fair trial in front of an impartial jury,” Balazero said in a statement.
Guzmán has pleaded not guilty to charges of running a massive international drug trafficking operation. 
Since his extradition in January 2017, he has been held in solitary confinement at a high-security federal jail in Manhattan, with US officials mindful of how he twice escaped from prison in Mexico, the second time via a mile-long tunnel dug to the shower in his cell.
In the past, Guzmán used his connections to continue to run his drug empire from behind bars, prosecutors said. They also claim that in the United States, Guzmán had the support of criminals who are not under his direct control.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Florida Supreme Court cuts post-conviction rights of death row inmates

Decisions have been coming out of the Florida Supreme Court so quickly the past two weeks, they’re starting to read like form letters. Life-or-death form letters, writes John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times.
Since Jan. 22, the court has rejected more than 70 requests from death row inmates to have their sentences reviewed by a jury. Mind you, these aren’t just random prayers from desperate prisoners.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled two years ago that Florida’s longtime method of handing down punishments in capital cases was unconstitutional. So, naturally, condemned inmates were suddenly eager to have their sentences reviewed and, possibly, changed to life in prison.
And the Florida Supreme Court supports that. Up to a point.
And that point is June 24, 2002.
The court has basically drawn a line on a calendar when it comes to whether prisoners get a chance to argue that their constitutional rights were infringed.
"It’s not honest. It’s not proper,’’ said Stephen Harper, director of the Florida Center for Capital Representation. "There are a number of people who will not get relief even though they have very strong cases.’’
Here’s the basic issue:
Florida used to have juries vote on whether to recommend a death sentence, and then allowed a judge to make the final decision. When faced with a similar situation in a case in Arizona in 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that judges should not be making that call.
It took 14 years, and another U.S. Supreme Court decision, for Florida to figure that out. The Legislature has since passed a law requiring a unanimous jury verdict for a death sentence. Where it gets tricky is the retroactive issue.
The Florida Supreme Court has essentially said the state screwed up by not paying attention to the Arizona case, and thus any death row cases from 2002-16 should be subject to review.
That makes sense. The sentences, after all, were unconstitutional.
But so were the cases prior to 2002, right?
"The Florida Supreme Court’s decision to make the rule retroactive to some people but not others, finds absolutely no support in anything that I’m aware of anywhere in the country,’’ former Stetson law professor and current U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Michael Allen told a Florida legislative committee last year. "It really is like being pregnant. You either are pregnant, or you’re not. There is no middle.
"A constitutional rule is either retroactive to people, or it’s not. Because the result of this is truly strange.’’
You want strange? Consider this scenario: Two juries recommend death. One by a 7-5 vote in May 2002. Another by an 11-1 vote in July 2002. The defendant from May is out of luck. The defendant in July could be re-sentenced.
If you were suspicious, you might even wonder if the decision had anything to do with the practical matter of re-doing hundreds of sentences. The state already will have to review about 150 cases post-2002, and would have about 200 more if pre-2002 cases were considered.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

San Francisco PD first department to agree to state oversight

The San Francisco Police Department will be the first in the nation to voluntarily agree to state oversight after the U.S. government ended an Obama-era program aimed at easing tensions amid fatal police shootings of black men across the country, reported The Associated Press.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said his office will oversee the implementation of nearly 300 reforms recommended by federal officials to help the San Francisco department rebuild community trust.
At least 15 law enforcement agencies nationwide had been receiving nonbinding federal advice and technical assistance to improve practices involving use of force, racial bias, recruitment and other issues.
However, the DOJ opted in September to stop providing resources or guidance for the Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, program.
Instead, the department announced the program would focus on tackling such issues as violent crime and gangs to more closely reflect the Trump administration's law-and-order agenda.
"We made a promise to our residents and to our communities that we were going to transform our police department — and partnering with Attorney General Becerra will allow us to follow through on that pledge," Mayor Mark Farrell said.
Becerra, who has filed a number of lawsuits over Trump administration policies, said the federal government should not abandon local law enforcement agencies that reach out for support.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Trump Lawyers Advise No Interview With Mueller

Lawyers for President Trump have advised him against sitting down for a wide-ranging interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, raising the prospect of a long court battle over whether the president must answer questions under oath, the New York Times reports. His attorneys are concerned that the president, who has a history of making false statements and contradicting himself, could be charged with lying to investigators. Their stance puts them at odds with Trump, who has said he is eager to speak with Mueller as part of the investigation into possible ties between his associates and Russia’s election interference, and whether he obstructed justice. Trump’s decision about whether to speak to prosecutors will shape one of the most consequential moments of the investigation. Refusing to sit for an interview opens the possibility that Mueller will subpoena the president to testify before a grand jury, setting up a court fight that would drastically escalate the investigation and could be decided by the Supreme Court.
Rejecting an interview with Mueller would prompt accusations that the president is hiding something, and a court fight could prolong the special counsel inquiry, casting a shadow over Republicans as November’s midterm elections approach or beyond into the president’s re-election campaign. John Dowd, a defense lawyer representing Trump, wants to rebuff an interview request, as do deputy Jay Sekulow, and many West Wing advisers. The lawyers and aides believe the special counsel might be unwilling to subpoena the president and set off a showdown that Mueller could lose in court.
To read more The Crime Report

Monday, February 5, 2018

Gorsuch and Alito square off over Fourth Amendment

A major split seems to be developing between conservative justices Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito over the issue of property rights and the Fourth Amendment, reported Reason Magazine.
The most recent evidence of this division came on January 9, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Byrd v. United States. This case arose in 2014, when a woman named Natasha Reed rented a car and allowed her fiancé, Terrence Byrd, to drive it in violation of her rental contract, which listed her as the sole authorized driver. When the state police stopped Byrd for a minor traffic infraction, the officer searched the trunk and discovered heroin and several flak jackets. Byrd is fighting to have that evidence thrown out as the fruits of an illegal search.
The question presented to the Supreme Court is this: "The Fourth Amendment protects people from suspicionless searches of places and effects in which they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Does a driver in sole possession of a rental vehicle reasonably expect privacy in the vehicle where he has the renter's permission to drive the vehicle but is not listed as an authorized driver on the rental agreement?"
During the oral arguments, Justice Neil Gorsuch observed that Byrd's lawyer, Robert Loeb, had offered a property rights theory "on which you might prevail." That theory, "essentially as I understand it," Gorsuch said, is "that possession is good title against everybody except for people with superior title."
"We think the property interest here, the right that...Mr. Byrd would have had to bring a trespass action," Loeb replied, "demands a recognition of his right to invoke the Fourth Amendment."
In other words, Byrd had "possession" of the car under common law principles. If, while driving it, somebody else tried to break in and steal it from him, he would have a common law right "to bring a trespass action," as Loeb put it, against that would-be thief. In this case, the trespasser is law enforcement, which, absent probable cause, has no authority to search the trunk.
Justice Samuel Alito apparently did not like the sound of that. "The problem with going down this property route is that we go off in search of a type of case that almost never common law, where an unauthorized sub-bailee brings an action for trespass to chattel against a law enforcement officer. When would that ever have happened in 18th-century America? Never."
Loeb pushed back on Alito's characterization. "It's your right to bring trespass action against a stranger," he told Alito. "The fact that you can exclude a stranger and bring a trespass action against him is what supports your property right under the Constitution."
A few minutes later, Alito tried to poke another hole in the property rights theory that Gorsuch had seemingly endorsed.
"The Constitution uses the word 'property' numerous times," Alito told Loeb, "but the word 'property' doesn't appear in the Fourth Amendment. It talks about effects, which is defined by Samuel Johnson's dictionary as 'goods or movables.'... Is it your argument that any property interest whatsoever falls within the definition of effects if we are going to go back to an originalist interpretation of the Fourth Amendment?"
"I think if the common law recognizes your [right]," Loeb replied, "then both under the common law and common sense, that it makes sense to recognize a right to invoke a Fourth Amendment right."
Gorsuch remained quiet during those exchanges between Alito and Loeb. But he spoke up again in favor of the property rights theory during the second half of the oral arguments, when Assistant to the Attorney General Eric Feigin was presenting the government's side of the case.
According to Feigin, Byrd, "like other unauthorized drivers, simply has no connection to the car at all."
"Mr. Faigin, you keep saying that," Gorsuch said, "but as a matter of property law, now and forever, a possessor would have a right to exclude other people but for those with better title. So someone in this position would have a right, I think you'd agree, to exclude someone who's attempting to get in the car to hijack it, carjack it. You'd also have a right to throw out a hitchhiker who had overstayed his welcome....I think you're having to argue that the government has a special license that doesn't exist for any other stranger to the car."
Feigin rejected that description of the government's position.
"Do you agree that— that Mr. Byrd could have excluded a carjacker?" Gorsuch asked.
"I think by virtue of simply being in the car, he probably could have fended off a carjacker and we wouldn't oppose his right to do so," Feigin answered.
"By virtue of his possession he would have a right to do so," Gorsuch corrected him. "And he would have a right to throw out a hitchhiker as well....So why not the government?"
To summarize: Gorsuch pushed a property rights theory of the Fourth Amendment that, if adopted by the Supreme Court, would cause the government to lose this case and plenty of others. Alito promptly spoke up in opposition to that theory. A little bit later, Gorsuch advanced the theory again in greater detail.
If that dynamic sounds familiar, it's because we've already seen it once before. In the November 2017 oral arguments in the warrantless cell phone records search case Carpenter v. United Staes, as I noted at the time, "Gorsuch proffered a property rights argument that might allow Carpenter to win the case, and Alito came out swinging hard against it."
I suspect that Gorsuch and Alito's battles over this issue are just getting started.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Montgomery still in prison two years after landmark case said he should be released

In January 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that Henry Montgomery’s life prison sentence was unconstitutional and that he had the right to seek release from Louisiana’s most notorious prison, Angola, reported Mother Jones. But two years later, the 71-year-old Montgomery is still there.
A Baton Rouge jury convicted Montgomery of murder and sentenced him to life in prison for shooting a deputy sheriff, Charles Hurt, in 1963, when he had just turned 17. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that such mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional. Montgomery petitioned the court with the help of a jailhouse lawyer, asking it to apply the Miller decision retroactively to people who’d received such sentences before 2012. The court ruled in his favor.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that “prisoners like Montgomery must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and, if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside prison walls must be restored.”
The decision has prompted many states to actively reduce the number of people sentenced to life as juveniles through criminal justice reform legislation and court resentencing hearings. When the court handed down its decision in 2016, 2,600 people nationally were serving life sentences without parole that were issued when they were minors. Today, that number has been cut in half.
Montgomery hasn’t been so lucky. Despite being housed in a famously brutal prison for half a century, he has been a model prisoner, the court noted. But the local prosecutor has fought his attempts at release, arguing that Montgomery should simply be resentenced to life without parole. Hurt’s children and grandchildren have also opposed Montgomery’s release.
This year, a state judge finally granted Montgomery the right to a parole hearing, which was scheduled to take place last month. But on the day of the hearing, the board voted to postpone it while the board and the state attorney general fight over how many board members need to be present to hear the case under a new state law. The board said it hoped to meet again in 60 days, but no hearing has been scheduled.
As Marsha Levick, the chief counsel for the Juvenile Law Center who assisted with Montgomery’s Supreme Court case, pointed out to me this summer, Montgomery “is an old man.” Every day he sits in Angola makes it more likely that he’s going to die there, as nearly all Angola inmates do, despite having prevailed at the Supreme Court. “The idea that there is any value for anyone to be gained by keeping him in prison is to me completely unfathomable,” Levick said. “It’s just throwing money away to house him in an environment that he has more than earned the right to be let out of.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, February 3, 2018

GateHouse: The government tinkers on verge of constitutional crisis

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
February 2, 2018
The nation is on the verge of a constitutional crisis. The White House authorized the release of an Intelligence Committee memo written by Republican committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes.
Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Caroline Fredrickson of the American Constitution Society and Noah Bookbinder of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington described President Donald Trump’s action in Politico Magazine as ”(A) Saturday Night Massacre in slow motion.”
The original Saturday Night Massacre came during the Watergate investigation. Special prosecutor Archibald Cox was canned after refusing President Richard Nixon’s offer to turn over some of the White House tape recordings requested by Cox. Nixon ordered — through his chief of staff Alexander Haig — Attorney General Elliot Richardson fire Cox.
Richardson refused, and resigned. Haig then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus also refused, and resigned.
Haig finally convinced Solicitor General Robert Bork to fire Cox.
FBI agents were sent to Cox’s office to prevent his staff from removing files. After his firing, Cox said, “Whether ours shall continue to be a government of laws and not of men is now for Congress and ultimately the American people.”
The current Congress, because of the reckless conduct of the GOP members of the Intelligence Committee, has compromised its influence in this matter of constitutional importance.
It appears that Trump supporters in Congress have launched an all-out assault on the FBI and Department of Justice. The end game appears to be to discredit the FBI, fire the Deputy Attorney General overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller and install a new deputy attorney general who will fire Mueller.
In December, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee chose to protect President Trump — as columnist Dana Milbank suggested —” at the cost of Americans’ faith in the justice system and the rule of law.”
When FBI Director Christopher A. Wray — appointed by Trump after firing James Comey — appeared before the judiciary committee, where according to the Washington Post, members charged that “Mueller’s probe and the Clinton email probe have been tainted by ‘bias.’”
Committee members insisted that the FBI and Mueller have a anti-Trump bias. Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis speculated that bias led the FBI to conclude that Russia interfered in the U.S. election, and he went so far as to threaten Wray, “I think you’re walking into contempt of Congress.”
The whole idea of bias by Mueller is baseless. According to the Post, Mueller is a longtime Republican who was appointed FBI director by President George W. Bush. He was named special counsel by Rosenstein, who was appointed by Trump to be deputy attorney general. Comey, is a Republican who served in Bush’s Justice Department, made political contributions to John McCain, Mitt Romney and other Republicans. Wray is also a Republican who has contributed to GOP candidates.
This struggle between the president, FBI and Department of Justice is not a partisan political fight. It is about discrediting important democratic institutions. The attacks are focused on planting seeds of distrust in traditionally strong, apolitical government entities.
The last line of defense is FBI Director Wray. This week, he told the White House he opposes release of the classified Nunes memo. A person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that Wray said the memo contains inaccurate information and paints a false narrative. The FBI released a statement that said, in part, the FBI has “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
Thursday, sources close to the President’s Chief of Staff John Kelly told CNN that Kelly believes (Wray’s resignation) is a real possibility and has been working on a way to avoid another departure from the Trump administration.
Wray has a duty to his colleagues in the FBI and the American people to walk away from an administration that defies his admonishment and uses an ill-advised and politically motivated memo to discredit a legitimate and much needed investigation by the special counsel and his staff.
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 Column CLICK HERE

Friday, February 2, 2018

Texas executes man who killed his two daughters while mom was on the phone

The 3rd Execution of 2018
"Well hi, Mary Jean," a Texas death row inmate said to his ex-wife as he was executed for murdering their two daughters in 2001, reported the BBC.
"See ya'll later. Go ahead please," said John Battaglia, 62, as he prepared for Thursday night's lethal injection.
The former accountant murdered his six- and nine-year-old daughters in his apartment as ex-wife Mary Jean Pearle listened helplessly on the phone.
Lawyers filed a last-minute appeal to spare his life, but it was rejected.
Battaglia's legal team had asked the US Supreme Court to review his case because his "perception of reality may be so distorted that he is incompetent to be executed".
After the lethal injection was administered, he closed his eyes for several moments, opened them, smiled and asked: "Am I still alive?"
Battaglia then grinned and sighed, according to Dallas Morning News.
"Oh, here, I feel it," he said before gasping for breath and beginning to snore.
After 22 minutes Battaglia was pronounced dead at 21:40 local time (03:45 GMT on Friday).
"I've seen enough of him," his ex-wife said as she walked away from the glass window that separated her from Battaglia, according to the Associated Press.
He was the third prisoner put to death in the US this year. All the executions in 2018 have taken place in the state of Texas.
Battaglia and Ms Pearle divorced a year before the killings.
She was seeking his arrest for violating a protective order against her on the day he murdered their daughters Liberty, six, and Faith, nine.
On that evening in May 2001, Battaglia was scheduled to have dinner with the two girls when police informed him that he was violating probation and needed to surrender, court documents show.
taWhen the girls arrived at his Dallas apartment he called his wife and put her on speaker phone.
Faith asked: "Mommy, why do you want Daddy to go to jail?"
A few seconds later Ms Pearle said she heard her daughter say: "No, Daddy, please don't, don't do it."
Ms Pearle then heard gunshots and screams.
The girls were found dead in Battaglia's apartment after being shot multiple times, police said.
According to court documents, he went to a bar with his girlfriend after killing his daughters.
Battaglia was later arrested at a tattoo parlour where he was getting tattoos of roses to remember them.
A jury took 20 minutes to convict him in 2002.
Experts determined that he had "delusional disorder of the persecutory type" after examining him.
However, prosecutors said that Battaglia was aware of his crimes and therefore fit to be executed.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, February 1, 2018

FBI director opposes release of classified GOP memo

FBI Director Christopher Wray told the White House he opposes release of a classified Republican memo alleging bias at the FBI and Justice Department because it contains inaccurate information and paints a false narrative, according to a person familiar with the matter, reported Bloomberg .
The FBI came close to publicly opposing the memo’s release, saying in a statement Wednesday that it has “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
But House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes called the objections from the FBI and the Justice Department “spurious” and criticized officials for “stonewalling” the panel.
“It’s clear that top officials used unverified information in a court document to fuel a counter-intelligence investigation during an American political campaign,” the California Republican said Wednesday in a statement. “Once the truth gets out, we can begin taking steps to ensure our intelligence agencies and courts are never misused like this again.”
The spat comes amid a new report from CNN that President Donald Trump asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in December for an update on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe and whether Rosenstein was “on my team.” Rosenstein oversees Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
The memo on actions early in the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign is being reviewed by “our national security lawyers in the White House,” who are “slicing and dicing it,” White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said Wednesday on Fox News Radio. But he left little doubt about the outcome, saying the disputed memo will be released “pretty quick, I think, and the whole world can see it.”
To read more CLICK HERE