Sunday, September 30, 2018

Supreme Court to decide if a state should be barred from executing inmate with dementia

Last November, the U.S. Supreme Court summarily rejected the appeal of an Alabama death row prisoner, principally because the inmate’s habeas plea could not meet the tough standards for federal relief, reported the ABA Journal.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer filed a separate concurrence, noting that 67-year-old Vernon Madison, convicted of the murder of a police officer in 1985, “is one among a growing number of aging prisoners who remain on death row in this country for ever longer periods of time.”
“Given this trend, we may face ever more instances of state efforts to execute prisoners suffering the diseases and infirmities of old age,” Breyer continued.
Breyer and Justice Sonia Sotomayor also joined a separate concurrence in the case, by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that suggested the issue of “whether a state may administer the death penalty to a person whose disability leaves him without memory of his commission of a capital offense is a substantial question” that would merit the court’s attention if “appropriately presented.”
Three months later, due to some factual and procedural twists, just such a case came along—a separate appeal by Madison, this one unencumbered by the intricate habeas restraints imposed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
On Jan. 25, Madison had eaten a last meal of two oranges and was a half-hour away from lethal injection when the Supreme Court intervened with a stay of execution.
“It is undisputed that Mr. Madison suffers from vascular dementia as a result of multiple serious strokes in the last two years and no longer has a memory of the commission of the crime for which he is to be executed,” said the stay application filed by his lawyers with the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.
“His mind and body are failing,” the filing continued. “He suffers from encephalomalacia [dead brain tissue], small vessel ischemia, speaks in a dysarthric or slurred manner, is legally blind, can no longer walk independently, and has urinary incontinence as a consequence of damage to his brain.”
On Feb. 26, over the objections of Alabama state officials, the high court granted full review of Madison’s case, based on the questions of whether the Eighth Amendment and relevant court precedents permit a state to execute someone who whose mental disability leaves him without memory of his commission of the capital offense, and whether evolving standards of decency bar the execution of a prisoner whose competency has been compromised by vascular dementia and multiple strokes.
Arguments are scheduled for Oct. 2, the second day of the court’s new term.
“This case is going to have something to say about dignity, and who we execute and why,” says John H. Blume, a professor at Cornell Law School and the director of the Cornell Death Penalty Project.
Blume has represented defendants in many death penalty cases, though he is not involved Madison’s case.
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Saturday, September 29, 2018

GateHouse: Cosby’s troubles may be just beginning

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
September 28, 2018
Bill Cosby was convicted in April of aggravated indecent assault in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. His day of reckoning has come. He was sentenced to three to 10 years in a Pennsylvania state correctional facility.
“This was a serious crime,” Judge Steven O’Neill said while sentencing Cosby. “Mr. Cosby, this has all circled back to you. The day has come, the time has come.”
The circle began in 2004 when Cosby gave Andrea Constand pills to incapacitate her and then sexually assaulted her. Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Cosby to five to 10 years in prison, saying he had shown “no remorse” for his crime.
His attorneys said they intend to file an appeal.
Cosby’s fate is now in the hands of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. The board will decide if and when Cosby is released from prison.
Pennsylvania has an indeterminate sentencing scheme. Every sentence over two years is considered a state sentence and all sentences have a maximum and a minimum.
The maximum must be at least twice the minimum. In Pennsylvania you can have a two- to four-year sentence but not a two- to three-year sentence or as with Cosby a maximum that is more than two times the minimum.
Once a state sentence is imposed (greater than two year maximum) the local court relinquishes jurisdiction over the case to the parole board.
Every inmate in a state correctional facility will be eligible for parole at some point, except those convicted of first and second degree murder and certain sex offenders who refuse treatment.
Those eligible for parole will be interviewed by a panel of two parole board members and a decision to parole in serious cases will be made by a majority of the full board.
Not everyone eligible for parole gets paroled, as they like to say in Pennsylvania “Parole is a privilege not a right.” I know, because in 2006 the Governor of Pennsylvania appointed me to a six-year term on the Board of Probation and Parole.
Pennsylvania uses a sophisticated assessment tool, as compared to a number of other state paroling authorities, for determining whether an inmate is a good candidate for parole.
The parole guidelines consider the seriousness of the offense, successful completion of rehabilitative programming, the behavior of the inmate while incarcerated, and the level of risk to the public.
There three things that came up during and after the sentencing that people advising Cosby should be concerned about. First, the need to participate in sex offender treatment, second his lack of remorse and finally his attorneys’ statement regarding appeal.
Let’s take the last issue first. Cosby has an automatic right to appeal. He will presumably seek a new trail. Anything he says in treatment or to the parole board can be used against him at a second trial.
As a result, many inmates in Cosby’s position refuse treatment and refrain from making any admissions about the crime in the presence of the board. His chances of parole are about zero. In fact, an inmate in Pennsylvania who refuses to participate in sex offender programming is, by law, not entitled to a parole interview — essentially ineligible for parole.
The issue of remorse is also an extremely important issue when it comes to parole. The board expects that those convicted of crime will take responsibility for their conduct and be able to articulate sincere remorse.
This isn’t just an exercise by the board to flex its muscles. An inmate who shuns responsibility and shows no empathy for those he or she has harmed is doomed to repeat the conduct.
Cosby is considered a geriatric inmate — he is 81-years-old. The cost of housing a geriatric inmate is significantly higher than younger inmates — although age alone is not a mitigating factor for parole. The Pennsylvania Department of Correction, like most states, is prepared for aging inmates. The state has correctional facilities that cater to older, infirm and unfortunately dying inmates.
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.
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Friday, September 28, 2018

Texas executes killers on consecutive nights

The 17th and 18th Executions of 2018
Texas executed Troy Clark and Daniel Acker by lethal injection on consecutive nights, reported The Associated Press. Acker who insisted he didn't run over and kill his girlfriend in a jealous rage more than 18 years ago was executed on September 27, 2018 in Huntsville.
Acker was sentenced to die for the March 2000 slaying of Marquetta George of Sulphur Springs.
Prosecutors say Acker ran over George with his truck in rural northeast Texas because he believed she had been unfaithful to him.
Acker's attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay his execution, arguing he's innocent of capital murder because his 32-year-old girlfriend's fatal injuries were a result of her decision to jump from his truck after he abducted her.
The court declined to halt the execution.
Clark taunted jurors to sentence him to death was executed just after 6 p.m. September 26, 2018 in Huntsville for torturing and drowning an East Texas woman in his bathtub and then stuffing her body into a barrel.
Clark murdered his former roommate, Christina Muse, 20, of Tyler. Authorities say Clark, a drug dealer, had worried his ex-roommate would snitch on him.
Clark had argued his trial attorneys failed to present evidence of his troubled childhood, which might have convinced jurors to spare his life.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to recommend a commutation of Clark's sentence.
Clark was the ninth prisoner put to death this year in Texas, the nation's busiest capital punishment state. Acker was the tenth.
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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Florida prosecutors drop 119 cases over planted evidence

Prosecutors in Florida  have dropped charges in 119 cases after finishing their review of arrests involving a former Jackson County deputy accused of planting drugs on motorists, reported the Tallahassee Democrat.
The charges involved everything from misdemeanor and criminal traffic offenses to felonies, including possession of methamphetamine and other controlled substances. All of the cases involved former Deputy Zachary Wester, who was fired Sept. 10 and remains under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
"We have completed the work we know about," said State Attorney Glenn Hess. "If additional information is received, we will follow that up. I have not received the FDLE report so I cannot say for sure that we are finished."
On Tuesday alone, some 49 cases were dismissed after a proceeding before Jackson County Judge Wayne Mercer. The state began dismissing cases on Sept. 13 that either were initiated by Wester or heavily involved him.
Derek Blount, an assistant public defender, asked Mercer to set aside pleas and vacate sentences for the 40-some defendants, some of whom had more than one arrest involving Wester. After Mercer granted the motions in open court, Assistant State Attorney Laura Parish announced the state was dropping charges in all of the cases.
Mercer asked Blount whether there was any problem with his clients not being present in the courtroom, adding, “I can’t think of any prejudice.”
“Your honor,” Blount replied. “I’m waiving the presence of my clients being here. It’s to their benefit.”
“I think I agree totally,” Mercer said. “But (do) the clients even know about this?”
“No, sir, probably not,” Blount said. “Because some of these are closed and we’re unable to get in contact. Our addresses, phone numbers have changed from the intake sheet. Some of them plead first appearance and that’s the only contact we have for them.”
“I cannot imagine a situation where they would not want you to make this motion on their behalf,” Mercer said.
For seven solid minutes, Blount read all 49 names and case numbers into the record. Mercer said he’d sign orders in the set-aside pleas and vacated sentences after the hearing.
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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Pennsylvania lawmakers approve bill giving adult victims of child sexual abuse more time to sue

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow older victims of childhood sexual abuse more time to seek legal redress, reported Manny Marotta on Jurist.
The legislation would lift a limitation for accusers over the age of 30 from seeking legal action for abuses suffered when they were children. The bill also lifts entirely the statute of limitations for criminal cases.
As a result of the revelation of new information regarding sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, several class action lawsuits have been filed in the past 12 months linking some members of Pennsylvania’s clergy to sexual abuse scandals. The amendment to the bill was drafted in part due to a 900-page grand jury report which outlines in detail alleged atrocities committed by Pennsylvania priests.
The bill also opens a two-year window for past victims to bring civil suits.
The House voted 173-21 to give final approval to the bill, which now moves back to the Senate.
 To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Texas' reach-back sex offender laws breach plea agreements

Over the past 20 years, state and federal lawmakers have passed ever-stricter sex offense laws, requiring more people to be listed on public sex offender registries, typically for life. In some cases, the new laws have reached back to include those whose crimes occurred years before the statutes were enacted and contrary to the deals they struck with prosecutors, reported the Austin American-Statesman.
The U.S. Constitution prohibits new laws that pile additional punishments onto old crimes. In the past, government lawyers have successfully sidestepped that by arguing that retroactively requiring sex offenders to register for decades-old crimes is not really a punishment. Instead, they contended, it is merely a regulation that promotes public safety.
By being forced to follow new terms that, in some instances, the men were specifically promised they would never face, “it’s the state of Texas reneging on their deal,” said Richard Gladden, an attorney specializing in sex offender laws.
The number of registered sex offenders in Texas climbs by nearly a dozen every day. Although the state has created a legal path to get off the list, the number of successful applicants is inconsequential. Today, according to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which tracks lists in all 50 states, Texas’s sex offender registry includes about 100,000 people — 3.5 per 1,000 residents, considerably above the national average. The vast majority of its registrants are considered low risk.
Spurring the growth have been new laws requiring more sex offenders to be added to the list, for longer periods. Like most states, Texas has adopted a series of increasingly severe statutes, often in response to horrific, high-profile crimes against a child.
The state’s initial sex offender registration law, passed in 1991, applied only to those convicted of certain sex crimes. Two years later, Texas legislators passed another law requiring defendants who, like Curtis and Miller, had received so-called deferred adjudication deals for their sex crimes, to register as well.
The rules applied only to new offenders charged after the law passed. But in 1997, Texas expanded its sex offense laws again — this time reaching backward. Now, anyone who had been convicted of, or who received a deferred adjudication deal for, sex crimes since 1970 had to register as an offender on Texas’ public list.
The latest rules still limited the retroactive portion to offenders who were still in prison or on probation when the law passed. But in 2005, that clause was repealed when the Legislature decided to broaden Texas sex offense laws once again.
According to the new statute, no matter what state prosecutors had promised — or when or how many years the offender had been out of prison or off probation — every qualifying sex offender was ordered onto the state’s registry. Since 2006, the Texas Department of Public Safety has doubled the number of employees working on the registry and quadrupled their budget.
The law’s author, Ray Allen, a seven-term state representative from Grand Prairie who left the Legislature in 2006, said that wasn’t the goal. “At the time we were writing the laws, we were trying our best to find the really dangerous people,” he said. “And I think we threw the net way too wide. I’m not sure we got the right people. But we didn’t change the laws back.”
It is difficult to tally how many current registered sex offenders fall into the same category as the men arguing that Texas broke its word when prosecutors struck deals years ago that did not include the registration requirement, only to add it later. In a recent Texas Supreme Court filing, lawyers for the DPS warned that if Curtis won his case it would relieve “numerous other sex offenders of their duty to register.”
An American-Statesman analysis of the Texas registry identified just over 2,800 sex offenders who, according to the terms of their probation, were no longer required to register, yet remain on the list. Gladden said he suspected many of those fell into the same category as Curtis and Miller.
“I’ve had a lot of (similar) cases, and I’m just one lawyer,” added Scott Smith, an Austin lawyer who specializes in representing sex registrants.
When Texas passed its reach-back sex offender laws, “I was very surprised the Legislature made them retroactive,” said Keith Hampton, an Austin civil rights attorney who has studied the statutes. “A plea bargain is essentially a contract. If one side just changes the rules, you can’t have any sort of contract law for that.”
Texas wasn’t alone in expanding its sex offender statutes to include those who thought their social debt had been cleared years earlier. Most states passed laws that roped in offenders from old cases. Lawsuits protesting the laws violated the Constitution’s prohibition against additional punishments for old crimes began almost immediately.
That argument was effectively quashed in 2003, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Alaska’s law retroactively requiring old sex offenders who’d completed their sentences to register was legal because the registry wasn’t intended to be punitive.
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Monday, September 24, 2018

Bill Cosby sentencing to begin today: Is he a sexually violent predator?

Bill Cosby’s sentencing hearing today will begin with testimony about his sex offender evaluation and, presumably, a fierce debate over whether the 81-year-old actor should be branded a sexually violent predator, reported The Associated Press.
The stakes are high given the lifetime counseling, community alerts and public shaming the designation would trigger. And it could become evidence in the defamation lawsuits filed against Cosby by accusers who say he branded them liars when he denied molesting them.
Defense lawyers say Pennsylvania’s latest sex-reporting law, despite several revisions, remains unconstitutional.
“It’s the modern-day version of a scarlet letter,” said lawyer Demetra Mehta, a former Philadelphia public defender, “which I think is sort of an interesting philosophical issue at this time with the #MeToo movement, but also criminal justice reform.”
Pennsylvania’s sex-offender board has examined Cosby and recommended he be deemed a predator, concluding that he has a mental defect or personality disorder that makes him prone to criminal behavior. Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill will have the final say Monday.
O’Neill has presided over the case for nearly three years, from shortly after Cosby’s December 2015 arrest to a 2017 trial that ended in a jury deadlock to the jury finding this past April that Cosby drugged and molested a woman at his suburban Philadelphia estate in 2004. He faces anything from probation to 30 years in prison on the three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault.
It’s unclear if the judge, in weighing the predator label, will consider the dozens of other Cosby accusers who have gone public or his deposition in the trial victim’s 2006 lawsuit, when Cosby acknowledged getting quaaludes to give women before sex; described sex acts as the “penile entrance” to an “orifice” and “digital penetration”; and said he often gave young women alcohol but didn’t drink or take drugs himself because he liked to stay in control.
Defense lawyers fighting the predator label note that sexual offender registration laws are in flux in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
Numerous courts, including the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, have found the laws so vague as to be unconstitutional. Courts have also debated whether the programs unfairly amount to extra punishment, especially for people convicted of misdemeanors. Cosby has added one of the state’s top appellate lawyers, Peter Goldberger, to his defense team.
“This is going to probably be a very important case for sex-offender law when it’s up on appeal,” Mehta said. “It’s an area of law that is just sort of unsettled right now. There’s a lot up on appeal, but there’s not a lot decided.”
Pennsylvania alone now has 2,200 people classified as sexually violent predators, of the more than 20,000 people on its Megan’s Law list of sex offenders. The Megan’s Law group has their names, pictures and towns listed online, but they’re not subject to the same monthly counseling mandates as the “predator” group, and authorities don’t actively warn communities of their nearby presence.
The stigma may not be as paralyzing for a man like Cosby — in his 80s, living in a gated house and presumably not looking for work or going to the local gym. However, it’s one more stain on his reputation.
Defense motions note that the sex offender board’s recommendation followed an evaluation by just a single board member, and that the evidence needs only to meet a “clear and convincing” standard.
That violates Cosby’s “right to reputation without confrontation, without trial by jury and without proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” defense lawyer Joseph Green Jr. argued in a July court filing.
Legal experts believe a “predator” classification would be a legal finding that Cosby accusers could use in their defamation suits, including one involving seven women plaintiffs that’s pending in Massachusetts.
“That may [also] be about legacy protection, about what the obituary says, what the Wikipedia page says,” said Daniel Filler, dean of Drexel University’s Kline College of Law. “You can bet, especially in crowd-sourced things, everything’s going to begin with ‘he’s a sexually violent predator.’ It’s like a slogan. He has a tag now.”
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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Mangino explains Kavanaught controversy on WFMJ-TV21

Watch my interview regarding the Kavanaugh confirmation controversy with Malaynia Spiva on WFMJ-TV21 Weekend Today.

To watch the interview CLICK HERE

The myth of the'superpredator'

The myth of the “superpredator” would have terrible consequences for American children, wrote Nathan J. Robinson in the Jacobin. In the mid 1990s, fueled by alarmist pseudo-scholarship by quack criminologists, a number of politicians sounded the alarm about a concerning new trend: the rise of a new breed of sociopathic juvenile delinquent, incapable of empathy and hellbent on robbing, raping, and terrorizing every decent churchgoing middle American community.
The 1980s and 1990s were a heyday for nationwide moral panics. The coming of the superpredators was just one of the paralyzing terrors of the period, which also included widespread fear of Satanic abuse at daycares and razorblades in Halloween candy. The superpredator legend, however, was more deeply insidious.
The term was coined by John DiIulio Jr, a professor at Princeton University. DiIulio interpreted rising juvenile crime statistics to mean that a “new breed” of juvenile offender had been born, one who was “stone cold,” “fatherless, Godless, and jobless,” and had “absolutely no respect for human life and no sense of the future.”
DiIulio and his coauthors elaborated that superpredators were:
Radically impulsive, brutally remorseless youngsters, including ever more preteenage boys, who murder, assault, rape, rob, burglarize, deal deadly drugs, join gun-toting gangs, and create serious communal disorders. They do not fear the stigma of arrest, the pains of imprisonment, or the pangs of conscience. They perceive hardly any relationship between doing right (or wrong) now and being rewarded (or punished) for it later. To these mean-street youngsters, the words “right” and “wrong” have no fixed moral meaning.
For devising this theory, DiIulio was rewarded with an invitation to the White House, where he and a group of other experts spent three and a half hours with President Clinton.
Confirming DiIulio’s analysis was James Q. Wilson, the conservative political scientist who had devised the theory of “broken windows” policing. The broken windows theory posited that minor crimes in a neighborhood (such as the breaking of windows) tended to lead to major ones, so police should harshly focus on rounding up petty criminals if they wanted to prevent major violent crimes.
Put into practice, this amounted to the endless apprehension of fare-jumpers and homeless squeegee people. It also created the intellectual justification for totalitarian “stop and frisk” policies that introduced an exasperating and often terrifying ordeal into nearly every young black New Yorker’s life.
“Broken windows” had very little academic support (it hadn’t been introduced in a peer-reviewed journal, but in a short article for the Atlantic), but Wilson still felt confident in pronouncing on the “superpredator” phenomenon. He predicted that by the year 2000, “there will be a million more people between the ages of fourteen and seventeen than there are now” and “six percent of them will become high rate, repeat offenders — thirty thousand more young muggers, killers and thieves than we have now.”
DiIulio and Wilson said that it was past time to panic. “Get ready,” warned Wilson. Not only were the superpredators here, but a lethal tsunami of them was rising in the distance, preparing to engulf civilization.
As James C. Howell documents, just a year later, as crime rates continued to decrease, DiIulio “pushed the horizon back ten years and raised the ante.” This time DiIulio projected that “by the year 2010, there will be approximately 270,000 more juvenile super-predators on the streets than there were in 1990.” Like a Baptist apocalypse forecaster, the moment the sky didn’t fall according to prophecy, a new doomsday was announced, with just as much confidence as the last.
So despite all evidence to the contrary, segments of the Right continued to anticipate “a bloodbath of teenager-perpetrated violence,” perpetrated by “radically impulsive, brutally remorseless” “elementary school youngsters who pack guns instead of lunches” and “have absolutely no respect for human life.”
The notion gained political cache, and was spoken of in Congress and on the national media. It was even propagated, and given a major credibility boost, by one or two prominent liberals, perhaps the most prominent of whom was Hillary Rodham Clinton.
There was always a race element to the superpredator theory, which is why The New Jim Crow author and legal scholar Michelle Alexander says Clinton “used racially coded rhetoric to cast black children as animals.”
It wasn’t just subtext; DiIulio spoke in explicitly racial terms. “By simple math,” he wrote, “in a decade today’s 4-to-7-year-olds will become 14-to-17-year-olds. By 2005, the number of males in this age group will have risen about 25 percent overall and 50 percent for blacks. [emphasis added] To some extent, it’s just that simple: More boys begets more bad boys . . . [The additional boys will mean] more murderers, rapists and muggers on the streets than we have today.”
DiIulio speculated that “the demographic bulge of the next 10 years will unleash an army of young male predatory street criminals who will make even the leaders of the Bloods and Crips — known as OGs, for ‘original gangsters’ — look tame by comparison . . . ” DiIulio explained that these boys traveled in “wolf packs,” and that black violence “tended to be more serious” than white violence, “for example, aggravated assaults rather than simple assaults, and attacks involving guns rather than weaponless violence.”
Michelle Alexander may therefore overstate the extent to which the superpredator language was “coded” in the first place; the theory’s most prominent advocate was openly stating that the “wolves” in question were black. He could only have been more explicit about his meaning if he had simply written the “n-word” over and over on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal.
In the years since, nearly everyone has abandoned the superpredator story, for the essential reason that it was, to put it simply, statistically illiterate race-baiting pseudoscience. As a group of criminologists explained in a brief to the Supreme Court, “the fear of an impending generation of superpredators proved to be unfounded. Empirical research that has analyzed the increase in violent crime during the early- to mid-1990s and its subsequent decline demonstrates that the juvenile superpredator was a myth and the predictions of future youth violence were baseless.”
In fact, the criminologists had “been unable to identify any scholarly research published in the last decade that provides support for the notion of the juvenile superpredator.” Among the criminologists who filed the brief were John DiIulio and James Q. Wilson, who humbly conceded that their findings had been in error.
The harm done to young people, however, was incalculable.
Having been scientifically diagnosed as remorseless and demonic, poor children accused of crimes were increasingly given the kind of harsh punishments previously reserved for adults. New York University criminologist Mark Kleiman says there was a direct link between that single “fallacious bit of science” and the expansion of the use of the adult justice system to prosecute children.
“Based on [the superpredator theory],” Kleiman writes, “dozens of states passed laws allowing juveniles to be tried and sentenced as adults, with predictably disastrous results.” As the Equal Justice Initiative has observed, “the superpredator myth contributed to the dismantling of transfer restrictions, the lowering of the minimum age for adult prosecution of children, and it threw thousands of children into an ill-suited and excessive punishment regime.”
In early 1996, the Sunday Mail described the panic that was overtaking Illinois:
“It’s Lord of the Flies on a massive scale,” Chicago’s Cook County State Attorney Jack O’Malley said . . . We’ve become a nation being terrorized by our children . . . ” Already, the State of Illinois has introduced new laws to deal with this terrifying new “crime bomb,” ruling that children as young as 10 will be sent to juvenile jails. The State is rushing construction of its first “kiddie prison” to replace the traditional, less punitive “youth detention facility” to enforce the get-tough policy of jail cells instead of cozy dormitories.
The shift to viewing kids as comparable to the worst adult offenders allowed all manner of abuses to be inflicted on young people for whom the effects are especially damaging. Juvenile solitary confinement has been routinely used in American prisons, despite having been recognized as a form of torture by United Nations Human Rights Committee. Kids have been held in tiny cells for twenty-three hours per day, leading to madness and suicide.
The practice produces stories such as that of Kalief Browder, who was sent to Rikers Island jail at the age of sixteen, spending two years in solitary confinement awaiting trial for stealing a backpack, and ultimately killing himself after finally being released and having the charges dropped. A joint report by the ACLU and Human Rights Watch, which interviewed over one hundred people who had been held in solitary confinement while under the age of eighteen, summarized some of the intense psychological torment inflicted:
Many of the young people interviewed spoke in harrowing detail about struggling with one or more of a range of serious mental health problems during their time in solitary. They talked about thoughts of suicide and self-harm; visual and auditory hallucinations; feelings of depression; acute anxiety; shifting sleep patterns; nightmares and traumatic memories; and uncontrollable anger or rage. Some young people, particularly those who reported having been identified as having a mental disability before entering solitary confinement, struggled more than others. Fifteen young people described cutting or harming themselves or thinking about or attempting suicide one or more times while in solitary confinement.
Housing juveniles in adult facilities can be an equally inhumane practice in itself. As the weakest members of the population, juveniles housed in adult facilities are likely to be brutally raped by older inmates, and are at an increased risk of suicide.
T. J. Parsell was sent to prison in Michigan at the age of seventeen for robbing fifty-three dollars from a one-hour photo store using a toy gun. He describes his arrival:
On my first day there — the same day that my classmates were getting ready for the prom — a group of older inmates spiked my drink, lured me down to a cell and raped me. And that was just the beginning. Laughing, they bragged about their conquest and flipped a coin to see which one of them got to keep me. For the remainder of my nearly five-year sentence, I was the property of another inmate.
Teenagers like Parsell were being housed in adult facilities long before the “superpredator” horror stories. But the more young offenders are dehumanized, the more dilapidated becomes the thin barrier of empathy that keeps society from inflicting psychological, physical, and emotional torment on the weak. As Natasha Vargas-Cooper writes, while “the scourge of the super-predators never came to be … the infrastructure for cruelty, torture, and life-long captivity of juvenile offenders was cemented.”
But to say the “superpredator” notion has been “discredited” is to overestimate the extent to which it was accepted in the first place, and risks exonerating those who recited the term during the mid nineties. The moment the “superpredator” concept was introduced, reputable criminologists stepped forward to rebut it. Few serious scholars gave the notion any credence, and they made their objections loudly known.
“Everybody believes that just because it sounds good,” the research director of the National Center for Juvenile Justice told the press in 1996. Harvard government professor David Kennedy said that “What this whole super-predator argument misses is that [increasing teen violence] is not some inexorable natural progression” but rather the product of “very specific” social dynamics such as the easy availability of guns.
Other public policy experts called the idea “unduly alarmist” and said its proponents “lack a sense of history and comparative criminology.” DiIulio himself didn’t try to persuade the rest of his field; the Toronto Star reported that “asked recently to cite research supporting his theory, DiIulio declined to be interviewed.”
The political conservatism of the theory was hardly smuggled in under cover of night. DiIulio’s “Coming of the Super Predators” first appeared in William Kristol’s conservative Weekly Standard, and the handful of scholars who peddled the theory had strong, open ties to right-wing politics, so it was plainly partisan rather than scholastic.
Even the language used by the professors, of “Godless” and “brutal” juveniles without “fixed values,” was plainly the talk of Republican Party moralists, rather than dispassionate social scientists. Nobody in the professional circles of a “children’s rights” liberal like Hillary Clinton would have given the “superpredator” concept a lick of intellectual credence, even when it was at the peak of its infamy.
It was therefore deeply wrong to spread the lie even when it was most popular. Yet to defend it in 2016, as Bill Clinton did, is on another level entirely.
When Bill Clinton said in Philadelphia that he didn’t know how else one would describe the kids who got “thirteen-year-olds hopped up on crack and sent them out to murder” other kids, he revived an ugly legend that led to the incarceration and rape of scores of young people.
Speaking this way can still have harmful ripple effects. When Washington Post writer Jonathan Capehartreported Hillary Clinton’s apology for her remark, he implied that superpredators did exist, but that they didn’t include upstanding young people like the Black Lives Matter activist who had challenged Clinton. Folk tales are slow to die, and people’s fear of teen superpredators is easily revived.
It took years to debunk this tale the first time around; once people believe that young people are potential superpredators, they become willing to impose truly barbaric punishments on kids who break the law.
After all, if such offenders are not actually children, but superpredators, one need not empathize with them. One can talk in terms like “bring them to heel,” which is the sort of thing one says about a dog.
It may have been surprising, given that Hillary Clinton has made a strong effort to connect with African-American voters, that Bill Clinton would have revived a nasty racist cliché about animalistic juveniles. But in fact, this simultaneous maintenance of warmth toward individual African Americans and support for policies that hurt the African American community has been a consistent inconsistency throughout Bill Clinton’s political career.
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Saturday, September 22, 2018

GateHouse: Where does Kavanaugh rift leave #MeToo?

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
September 21, 2018
The teetering confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court may be a harbinger of the collapse — or lasting impact — of the #MeToo movement.
Conservative prosecutors, law enforcements agencies and lawmakers are at a crossroads with their counterparts on the left who want to pursue sexual assault at all cost — no matter how long ago.
In Pennsylvania, lawmakers expressed frustration with the state’s statute of limitations that prohibited the prosecution of 299 out of 301 predatory priests listed in a recent bombshell grand jury report. Advocacy groups were also quick to attack the statute of limitations for blocking victims from pursuing Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein.
Professor Christine Blasey Ford has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault which occurred 36 years ago, in Maryland. There is no statute of limitations for rape or sexual assault in Maryland.
According to the Washington Post, Senate Republicans have signaled that they will move ahead with Kavanaugh’s confirmation in spite of Ford calling for a pause and the intervention of the FBI.
Why not have the FBI reopen Kavanaugh’s background investigation? The FBI reopened Justice Clarence Thomas’ background investigation in 1991 after Anita Hill came forward — or let the Montgomery County, Maryland District Attorney’s office conduct a criminal investigation.
Ford has described a sexual assault by a U.S. Supreme Court nominee who is about to take a lifetime appointment on one of the most powerful tribunals in the world.
A spokesperson for the Montgomery County Police Department told The Intercept that since “nobody has come forward to report any allegation or incident” they can’t start an investigation. Don’t they have televisions in Montgomery County?
Why abolish the statute of limitations if a prosecutor chooses to ignore the highest profile allegation of sexual assault in modern history with no limitations on his ability to act?
In June, the New York Times reported, “The battle over statutes of limitations for sexual assault is so fraught that it has upended traditional political alliances. Women’s rights activists typically partner with progressives on political issues ... those who advocate abolishing the limits find their staunchest allies in conservative lawmakers.”
As Kavanaugh’s confirmation presses forward it is ironic that Senator Mitch McConnell and his GOP colleagues in the Senate are pushing for a Monday hearing — with or without Ford.
McConnell was a major force behind the effort to push out Senator Larry E. Craig, the Idaho Republican arrested at an airport in 2007 in an undercover sex sting. McConnell was the chairman of the ethics committee when Oregon Senator Bob Packwood resigned after he was accused of sexual harassment. He pushed for the resignation of Minnesota Senator Al Franken amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
Last year, McConnell said Roy Moore, a Senate candidate from Alabama, would be unfit to serve in the senate after multiple women accused him of long ago sexual abuse.
Surprising, McConnell doesn’t require the same level of fitness for the United State Supreme Court as he does the United States Senate.
I recently wrote that there is a purpose behind the statute of limitations. The statute, or some version of it, has been around since antiquity. There has long been a concern that individuals should not be forced to defend themselves years and years after an event that allegedly caused harm to another person.
Today Show co-host Megyn Kelly — an unlikely ally of the Trump Administration — said this week, “It’s been 34 years. He (Kavanaugh) was allegedly 17 when it happened. How is he supposed to defend himself? There’s a reason we have statutes of limitation in this country and that’s because ... memory fades, details fade and it’s impossible for him to prove a negative.”
As the flaws of abolishing the statute of limitations are laid bare — the challenge for victim advocates is to convince the public that victims — however long ago their victimization — are entitled to be heard whether in a courtroom or a senate hearing room.
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, September 21, 2018

Double standard: Texas judge who sentenced woman to prison for voting also violated election laws

Crystal Mason, a 43-year-old mother of three, made headlines in March when she was sentenced to five years in prison for voting. Because of that conviction, on Aug. 30 a federal judge found her in violation of the terms of her supervised release and sentenced her to 10 months in prison, plus two years and two months of probation, reported The Appeal.
Mason says she didn’t know she was ineligible to vote when she cast a provisional ballot in Fort Worth, Texas, in the November 2016 presidential election. But she was on supervised release after a federal prison term for tax fraud, making her vote illegal. She found out three months later, when she was arrested for it.
“They tell you certain things like you can’t be around a felon, you can’t have a gun,” she told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram last year. “No one actually said, ‘Hey, you can’t vote this year.’”
The original case against Mason was brought by Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson in February 2017. But critics say it was not only unduly harsh—it was also hypocritical. Wilson, a Republican, has been far more lenient in handling an election-related forgery case involving a Republican justice of the peace, they point out. And she also committed an election-related impropriety of her own in 2016: asking her staff for personal contact information and then using it to solicit them for funds for her re-election.
Legal experts are mixed over whether that was a criminal offense, and a special prosecutor declined to pursue action against her. But Grant Hayden, a law professor at Southern Methodist University, said it’s unfair for Wilson to hold voters like Mason accountable for not knowing election rules and then claiming not to know rules herself. “Yeah, it looks like a double standard on its face,” Hayden told The Appeal. “And that’s a problem.”
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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Big city crime wave debunked, homicide on the decline

A new report issued by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University projects an overall decline in crime in big cities in 2018, with a larger drop-off in homicides, particularly in cities where violent crime has spiked in recent years, reported The Crime Report.
Authors of the report calculate that murder rates in America’s 29 largest cities will drop by 7.6 percent over the previous year; falling off to levels approximately equal to 2015 rates.
Notably, the report projects a 35 percent decline in homicides in San Francisco, 23.2 percent in Chicago, and 20.9 percent in Baltimore. If projections hold, this would mean a hard reverse in Baltimore’s murder trend, dropping to levels not seen since 2014.
“These findings directly undercut claims that American cities are experiencing a crime wave. Instead, they suggest that increases in the murder rate in 2015 and 2016 were temporary, rather than signaling a reversal in the long-term downward trend,” wrote the authors.
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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Balko: Here is proof of racism in the criminal justice system

Radley Balko of the Washington Post writes:
Systemic racism means  . . .  we have systems and institutions that produce racially disparate outcomes, regardless of the intentions of the people who work within them. When you consider that much of the criminal-justice system was built, honed and firmly established during the Jim Crow era — an era almost everyone, conservatives included, will concede rife with racism — this is pretty intuitive. The modern criminal-justice system helped preserve racial order — it kept black people in their place. For much of the early 20th century, in some parts of the country, that was its primary function. That it might retain some of those proclivities today shouldn’t be all that surprising.
His column provides literally 100's of links to research that supports the premise that the criminal justice system is tainted with racism.
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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

PLW: Pa. Looks to Statute of Limitations as the State Faces Another Sex Abuse Scandal

Matthew T. Mangino
Pennsylvania Law Weekly
September 13, 2018
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s bombshell grand jury report on sex abuse of children by priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses has been met with universal derision and unrelenting criticism of  the Catholic Church.
As the furor toward the church continued the attorney general told “CBS This Morning,” “Because of the sophisticated cover-up, because of the efforts that went through the bishops stretching all the way up to the Vatican, they shielded these predator priests from the arm of the law.”
The shield has been provided by the statute of limitations. The public, advocates for victims of predatory sexual crimes and victims themselves are incensed that an accepted legal tenant can keep prosecutors and plaintiffs from holding 299 out of 301 priests named in the grand jury report from being held accountable.
Concern over a statute that can bar a claimant from raising a viable claim for recompense is not new. Over a century ago, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. asked in a Harvard Law Review article, “What is the justification for depriving a man of his rights, a pure evil as far as it goes, in consequence of the lapse of time?”
Pennsylvania has grappled with the statute of limitations and child sex abuse. Last term, H.B. 1947 proposed eliminating the statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions and expanding the civil statute of limitation for a victim abused as a child to age 50. The sticking point has been creating a retroactive window to all victims to look back and seek damages for abuse committed beyond the current statute of limitation.
The current statute provides for criminal prosecutions until the victim’s 50th birthday and within 12 years of turning 18 years of age to pursue a civil claim. The statute of limitations can also be extended if DNA evidence becomes available and is used to “identify an otherwise unidentified individual as the perpetrator,” 42 Pa. C.S.A. Section 5552 (c) (3).
Some senators and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church suggest that the Pennsylvania Constitution, Article I, Section 11, known as the Remedies Clause, prohibits the General Assembly from eliminating certain fixed rights, including the right to assert an established defense.
At a public hearing in 2016, Bruce Castor, at the time Pennsylvania’s solicitor general, testified, “House Bill 1947, if enacted into law in its current form and without amendment will, in our opinion, violate the remedies clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.” Castor continued, “Potential defendants, who have had the statute of limitations pass without their being subjected to suit, will rightly claim a vested right in the applicable statute of limitations.”
Castor and others were concerned that a retroactive statute of limitations would infringe on a vested right already afforded individuals accused of harming a child. Those accused individuals can rely on the protections of the statute of limitations and to take that right away would violate Pennsylvania’s Constitution.
Is creating a window to seek compensation for damages for a specific group of victims the important question here?
The sexual abuse of children is a reprehensible and cowardly act—a heinous crime whose perpetrators deserve no mercy. State Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, a tireless advocate for child victims and the sponsor of legislation to expand and eliminate the statute of limitation posted on his legislative website, “One in four girls and one is six boys in your district have been sexually abused before the age of 18. Only one in 10 will ever tell. You probably interact with survivors every day … I too, am a victim of child sexual abuse.”
There is a purpose behind the statute of limitations. The statute, or some version of it, has been around since antiquity. There has long been a concern that individuals should not be forced to defend themselves years and years after an event that allegedly caused harm to another person.
As time passes memories fade, potential witnesses disappear or die and evidence spoils. An individual that is accused of a specific act that occurred on May 1, 1988, may have recalled his whereabouts in 1990 or even remembered where he was and who he was with 10 years later. But, what is the likelihood he can remember that specific day 30 years later?
Certainly fairness to an alleged victim is extremely important—but is it not the only factor?
Before we throw out the statute of limitations, let us look at the reasons that it has been around for so long.
Santa Clara University professor Tyler T. Ochoa and Judge Andrew Wistrich in “The Puzzling Purposes of Statutes of Limitation,” suggest that the statute of limitation reduces uncertainty. A person accused of a crime should be able to rely on the law and make decisions based on the law as it currently exists. If the legislature wants to abolish the statute of limitation for the crime of sexually abusing a child, then all people know, or should, know the law.
Ochoa and Wistrich contend that the statute of limitations prevents fraud. “The deterioration of evidence may make it more difficult to decide claims correctly, limiting the time within which actions can be filed may help to check the temptation to resort to fraud in filing or litigating,” 28 Pac. L. J. 453 (1997).
The authors continue, “This purpose rests on the premise that the longer the gap in time between the events at issue and trial on the merits, the more vulnerable the defendant is to spurious claims. It has two aspects: first, to prevent fraudulent claims from succeeding; and second, to prevent the use of fraudulent evidence in support of nonfraudulent claims.” Another words avoiding the dangerous idiom, “the end justifies the means.”
The statute of limitations also preserves the integrity of the legal system. “Courts do not want to be perceived to be haphazard guessers about facts. Not only would this be demeaning to the legal system, but it would breed disrespect for the political system as well,” 28 Pac. L. J. 453 (1997).
There will be a battle in the General Assembly.
Senate Bill 261, approved by the Senate 48-0, would eliminate the statute of limitations for child sex crimes and gives victims until the age 50 to file civil actions against their alleged abuser.
House Bill 612 would eliminate the criminal and civil statutes of limitations for child sex abuse and would allow for a two-year window to pursue a civil case were the statute has already expired.
Attorney General Shapiro recently told that he favors the creation of a retroactive window for sex abuse victims to bring civil claims. He said, “It’s the reforms as a whole—including the civil window, ending any age-based deadline for bringing criminal prosecutions of child sexual abuse, and clarifying state law on the duty to report child abuse—are needed to prevent these types of widespread abuse and cover-up from ever happening again.”
The rage over the grand jury report and the Catholic Church is palpable. There was also rage over Bill Cosby and the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal—yet the debate continues.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010″ was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
To visit the PLW CLICK HERE

Nominee Kavanaugh and accuser Ford to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the professor who has accused him of attempted sexual assault when they were teens, will have the opportunity to publicly testify next week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced. according to the Huffington Post.
“Anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford has done deserves to be heard,” Grassley said in a statement, promising to give the psychology professor’s allegations a “full airing” in a hearing scheduled next Monday.
The extraordinary move effectively postponed Thursday’s planned committee vote on the nomination, as Democrats had been demanding since Ford first spoke out publicly over the weekend. Moreover, Grassley’s statement appeared to be a result of tremendous pressure from other members of the GOP Senate conference, who were increasingly wary about the prospect of an all-male Republican committee majority denying Ford an opportunity to speak just weeks before the midterm elections.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, told reporters on Monday that he informed leadership he could not support the judge’s bid to the high court without first giving Ford a chance to be heard. He said “overwhelming” resistance among GOP members of the committee contributed to the scheduling of a public hearing.
The White House seemed to endorse the decision, with spokesman Raj Shah releasing a complementary statement Monday evening.
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Monday, September 17, 2018

Juveniles being used for violent crime because punishment is lenient

Increased instances of juvenile violent crimes reflect an alarming new strategy by Denver street gang leaders to arm young recruits with guns and have them carry out vendettas against rival gangs, including fatal shootings because laws protect juvenile killers from serving lengthy prison terms, reported the Denver Post.
The cycle continues.  As the treatment of juveniles becomes more lenient--the death penalty is gone, mandatory life in prison is gone and states begin reconsider harsh sentences for juveniles--criminal enterprises are back to using juveniles for violent crime.
“Adult and older gang members are becoming more sophisticated. They realize that young members don’t have the same severe consequences as they do. The guns are handed off to the younger kids,” said Kelly Waidler, senior deputy district attorney in Denver District Attorney Beth McCann’s juvenile unit. She formally served in the office’s gang unit.
Teenage killers and robbers adjudicated in juvenile court spend a maximum of five to seven years in a Colorado Division of Youth Services facility depending on their age. It is possible, however, that teens tried in adult court could initially go to youth services and later be transferred to an adult prison to serve out a lengthier sentence, Waidler said.
The rising number of arrests of juveniles for illegal possession of handguns in Denver and an increase in juvenile gun crimes including robbery and homicide may reflect a new strategy of arming younger gang members, said Courtney Johnston, chief deputy attorney in the juvenile unit.
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Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Kansas drug offender registry, Megan's Law for drug offenders

Under Kansas law, having a drug conviction means that a photograph and other identifying details are displayed in the same public registry that includes more than 10,000 convicted sex offenders. Many registrants also appear on third-party websites like “Offender Radar” and “Sex Offender Spy,” and it’s easy for a visitor to miss the single word — “drug” — that differentiates drug offenders from sex offenders," report The Marshall Project.
Lawmakers have long justified sex offender registries as a way to notify people about potentially dangerous neighbors or acquaintances, while critics say they fail to prevent crime and create a class of social outcasts. Over the years, several states have expanded their registries to add perpetrators of other crimes, including kidnapping, assault, and murder. Tennessee added animal abuse. Utah added white collar crimes. A few states considered but abandoned plans for hate crime and domestic abuse registries. At least five states publicly display methamphetamine producers.
But Kansas went furthest, adding an array of lesser drug crimes; roughly 4,600 people in the state are now registered as drug offenders. As deaths from opioids rise, some public officials have focused on addiction as a public health issue. Kansas offers a different approach, as law enforcement officials argue that the registry helps keep track of people who may commit new offenses and cautions the public to avoid potentially dangerous areas and individuals. At the same time, many registrants say it can be hard to move on when their pasts are just a click away for anyone to see.
The Kansas legislature is currently considering a bill proposed by the state’s sentencing commission that would remove drug offenders from the registry. “It is a drain on resources with no science, studies, or data to justify it,” defense lawyer Jennifer Roth told lawmakers at an early February hearing.
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Saturday, September 15, 2018

GateHouse: Fraud: The crime that can kill

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
September 14, 2018
In the latest issue of The Atlantic, Rene Chun writes “The third leading cause of workplace death ... is homicide.”
The first thing that comes to mind is the disgruntled former employee who comes to the office and shoots the place up or a workplace romance gone sour. Another more sinister reason for workplace homicide is the concealment of fraud.
White-collar crime is typically financially motivated, committed by business men and women bent on illicit financial gain. White-collar crime was coined by sociologist Edwin Sutherland in 1939 to describe “a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation”
The justice system has, for the most part, classified white-collar criminals as non-violent, giving them lenient sentences in “country club” prisons. White-collar criminals are often viewed as educated, “upper-class” workers who a made poor decisions.
However, in reality white-collar criminals are already adept at manipulation and have used deceit to exercise their criminality. White-collar criminals often have a lot at stake and may resort to violence to protect themselves and their “reputation” in the workplace and community.
Murder as a method of concealment is referred to as fraud-detection homicide. Violence is used as a means to conceal fraud through silencing the victim or witness who had detected or may be on the trail of detecting criminality.
Chun wrote about Frank S. Perri, a lawyer who teaches forensic accounting at DePaul University. Perri coined the term “red-collar” crime, in a 2015 article in the International Journal of Psychological Studies.
Why would a white-collar criminal turn to murder? Perri writes, “White-collar criminals thrive on being able to avoid detection in order to carry out their fraud schemes; they have the ability, like a chameleon, to adapt to a given environment.” The threat of detection turns the white-collar to red.
Perri continues, “As the threat of detection increases, so does the probability that the individual will rationalize murder as a solution to his or her problems ... red-collar criminals do not reject violence as a solution to a perceived problem, so killing is just as viable a solution as using deceptive and manipulative characteristics to satisfy their needs.”
When one thinks of a criminal who is stealing from his employer, and would use violence to protect his criminality, that person’s profile might include self-centeredness, lying, lack of empathy, lack of conscience, narcissism and the pursuit of their desires above all others in a way that disregards the well-being others.
That is a shorthand definition of a psychopathy.
Not all psychopaths are criminals. According to Amy Morin writing in Psychology Today, psychologists’ estimate one percent of the population meets the criteria of psychopathy. Not surprisingly, about 15 percent of prison inmates are estimated to be psychopaths. However, three percent of business leaders fit the profile for psychopathy as well.
Dr. Robert S. Hare is a criminal psychology researcher who developed The Hare Psychopathy Checklist, the definitive tool in evaluating psychopathy. Dr. Hare wrote, ”(I)t is possible to have people who are so emotionally disconnected that they can function as if other people are objects to be manipulated and destroyed without any concern”
As Morin points out, Psychopathy can lead to success in business. Psychopaths have a grandiose sense of self, “When they say they can skyrocket the company to new heights, they believe it. And they often convince others that they’re capable and competent too.”
It may not be the major merger that a red-collar criminal can manipulate his way through, but it may be skimming millions of dollars from the family business. A cunning, violence prone red-collar criminal can do considerable damage to the bottom line and the top brass.
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, September 14, 2018

Trump's former campaign manager to cooperate with special counsel

U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort will cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian election meddling as part of a plea deal, prosecutors told a federal court in Washington on Friday.
Manafort, 69, also pleaded guilty to two criminal counts, becoming the most prominent former Trump campaign official to plead guilty in Mueller's investigation.
In a statement, the White House distanced Trump from the veteran Republican operative who helped get him elected against the odds in 2016.
"This had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said of the Manafort news on Friday. "It is totally unrelated.”

One in three homicides go unsolved

Earlier this week, NPR reported that more than one-third of homicides in America go unsolved and examined why police investigators don’t close more murder cases. The Marshall Project asked Thomas Hargrove, the founder of the Murder Accountability Project and, to talk about what he’s learned in a career of studying data on homicide investigations across the country. After 37 years as an investigative reporter, Hargrove recently retired from journalism, to “spend my remaining time and energy to improve the accountability of unsolved murders.”
In the 1980s, about 27 percent of the killings of both black men and white men were reported to be unsolved at the time of reporting to the FBI. But from 1990 on, 29 percent of white male killings were unsolved compared to 38 percent of black male killings. Why the difference? Some criminologists point to the rise of drug- and gang-related violence in the murder statistics. These kinds of killings are certainly more difficult to solve. But there are many, many police departments where the clearance rates between white and black victims does not show this kind of disparity. It is most likely that the failure of solve homicides is a failure of will by local leadership. Police and community leadership in tandem has demonstrated in many communities that the “no snitching” rule can be overcome by compassionate leaders.
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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The third leading cause of workplace death is homicide

The third leading cause of workplace death—behind “falls to a lower level” and “roadway collisions with other vehicles”—is homicide, reported The Atlantic.
This sobering data point comes courtesy of the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics study on fatal occupational injuries. What’s behind all this shooting (the leading m.o. of workplace murderers, according to the study) and “stabbing, cutting, slashing, piercing” (the runner-up category)? News reports point to doomed love triangles and disgruntled co-workers. Another cause, however, has been largely overlooked: fraud. Imagine a boss who kills his assistant to keep a Ponzi scheme afloat, or a crooked accountant who poisons an especially thorough auditor. In the world of CFEs (certified fraud examiners), these offenses have their own, pulpy label: red-collar crime.
Frank S. Perri, a CFE and defense attorney who teaches forensic accounting at DePaul University, coined the term after working on a murder case in 2005, an embezzlement scam that ended with a salesman—Perri’s client—convicted of smashing his partner’s skull with a claw hammer. Perri says his client was well-spoken and had no known history of violence or arrests. That’s part of why he was so dangerous. “Research shows the more that people reflect our own image, the more we are inclined to give them what is called an ‘implied credibility,’ ” he told me. “But these people can be very predatory.”
In “Red Collar Crime,” published in the International Journal of Psychological Studies in 2015, Perri describes a few dozen fraud-related homicides and attempted homicides that he researched in detail. Consider Aaron Hand, the former president of American Financial Group who plotted a $100 million mortgage fraud. After he was jailed, Hand tried to hire hit men to silence an informer. His quotes read like dialogue from a Scorsese movie (“I wish I was there to watch him suffer”). Hand’s bid failed, but Perri describes others that succeeded. Entries from the article’s accompanying tables suggest a special office edition of Clue: Irwin—Accounting Fraud, Gun; Albert—Identity Fraud, Bludgeon; Velma—Forgery, Poison.
Perri finds two traits to be most correlated with white-collar violence: narcissism and psychopathy. The latter is even more common than you might expect in the business world. In a 2010 study, researchers administered a test frequently used to gauge psychopathy to 203 managers and executives at seven companies. On a 40-point scale, the average person scores 3 or below. Shockingly, eight subjects pulled a score of 30 or higher, which is serial-killer territory. “Their excellent communication and convincing lying skills, which together would have made them attractive hiring candidates in the first place, apparently continued to serve them well,” the researchers concluded.
How many office psychopaths turn violent is less clear: The FBI doesn’t track red-collar crime, nor does OSHA. Richard G. Brody, another CFE and an accounting professor at the University of New Mexico, sometimes trawls the web for murder trials involving white-collar defendants, and has become convinced that red-collar crime is more prevalent than most people suspect. Detectives don’t always spot such homicides, he told me, so crime scenes may be contaminated and murders may pass for suicide. “Whenever I read about high-profile executives who are found dead, I immediately think red-collar crime,” he said. “Lots of people are getting away with murder.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

California governor granting clemency at record pace

Twenty killers serving life sentences that were recently commuted by California Gov. Jerry Brown, reported the Washington Post. With barely four months left in office, California’s longest-serving governor is granting forgiveness to record numbers of criminals.
Brown has handed out more than 1,100 pardons benefiting a wide array of individuals, including those convicted of dealing drugs, driving while intoxicated and forgery. The tally is staggeringly greater than the totals of his immediate predecessors. Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger granted 15 pardons, and Democrat Gray Davis ended with zero.
Perhaps more remarkable are the commutations, which grant parole hearings to — and often spell early release for — criminals who previously may have had no chance of ever being paroled. Brown has issued 82 in the past seven years, far more than any California governor since at least the 1940s. Criminal justice reformers nationwide applaud him. Victims rights advocates are livid.
“2018 is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Patricia Wenskunas, founder and chief executive of the Crime Survivors Resource Center. “The sad reality is, California is not a victim-friendly state. It’s an offender-friendly state.”
California was once a leader in tough-on-crime policies, which turned its prisons into inmate warehouses. Then in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that overcrowding in the state’s prison system amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. The decision accelerated a wave of legal reforms that have reduced the prison population by 25 percent. About 115,000 inmates remain locked up in the state’s 33 facilities. The vast majority of those released to date have been nonviolent offenders.
Brown’s commutations for the 20 murder convicts were tucked into a larger batch of pardons and commutations that he handed out last month. The designation isn’t synonymous with freedom but amounts to a reduction of an original sentence. For these 20 men and women, most of whom had been sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole, it means they’ll be granted a hearing.
The governor sees his action not as a sign of lenience so much as a societal course correction. “There has been an overshoot in the time many people expect [criminals] to be locked up in a cage or cell,” he said in an interview.
In the 1970s, those convicted of first-degree murder tended to serve about a decade for their crimes, he noted; now it isn’t unusual for such sentences to span a half-century. Some 5,000 prisoners today are serving life sentences without parole in California.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, September 10, 2018

Judging like umpiring is about more than balls and strikes

Jim Evans, a former major league umpire, and special adviser to the president of Minor League Baseball, wrote the following op-ed for the Washington Post:
I have been an umpire since I was 14. I have worked at every level, from Little League on up, and I worked thousands of games in the major leagues for 28 years. I don’t remember when I first heard the popular analogy comparing judges to umpires calling balls and strikes, but recently it’s been everywhere. When Brett Kavanaugh was first nominated to the Supreme Court, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council called him “a constitutionalist — someone who will call balls and strikes.” This past week, as Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings began, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) described him as “somebody who calls balls and strikes and doesn’t come up with his own strike zone.” Supposedly a judge is, and should be, as mechanical as an ump.
It’s true that there are similarities. Umpires have always been considered authority figures, like judges. Both are subject to a lot of scrutiny, and we do what we think is right by rule and tradition. Umpiring is a special calling and a learned skill that requires extraordinary mental toughness. When you put on your uniform, you are supposed to leave all your subjective feelings in that dressing room. Personal integrity and respect for the game are at stake.
But we have never been robots who simply call balls and strikes. Judges and analysts who describe an umpire’s job in those terms are oversimplifying.
Seeing the televised rectangle that allegedly represents the strike zone, you might surmise that any 3-year-old should be able to tell whether that little white sphere is in or out of that box. Replay has reinforced the feeling that it’s simple and obvious.
Yet there are many intangibles when it comes to calling balls and strikes. What the umpire’s actually doing is gauging a baseball’s relative position as it travels 95 miles an hour into a three-dimensional area. You’re judging a pitch as it leaves the pitcher’s hand and goes to the catcher’s mitt in less than half a second.
And when it lands, there are considerations beyond the strike zone: Did the batter swing and miss? Did the ball graze the bat even though the batter did not swing? Did the batter commit to the pitch without taking a full swing? Even if the ball is outside the strike zone, if the batter committed to the pitch, it’s a strike. Did he get his body in a hitting position before moving his bat? If he was in a hitting position, how far did the bat travel? Those critical adjustments happen in thousandths of a second. If you’re not trained to use your eyes properly, you’ll miss them.
Then there are the other plays, on the bases and at the plate, that require rule interpretations and judgment calls: catches and no catches, fair and foul balls, safes and outs, and base-running.
For example, the rule book states that a runner must avoid a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball. If you collided with a shortstop who was bent over in the act of fielding a ground ball, you would be guilty of interference. But if the shortstop had completed the act of fielding and was attempting to tag you when the collision occurred, there would be no penalty. Among elite athletes, this all happens in milliseconds, and to the untrained eye, the plays look the same — both violent collisions with the ball on the ground. This requires an interpretation of when one act ended and another began, and whose rights are in effect. This is a judgment call.
And it has to happen fast. Unlike a judge, an umpire can’t deliberate over days or weeks, reading briefs over and over, debating with law clerks or fellow judges. Umps don’t have that luxury. Both teams, a manager whose job may be on the line and a stadium full of paying spectators are impatiently awaiting an instant ruling.
When baseball was invented in the mid-19th century, it was a bit more like our adversarial court system. There were three umpires: One was hired by the home team and one by the visiting team, and a neutral third party was there to step in if the advocates couldn’t agree. But the teams disagreed so much that, eventually, the sport’s administrators decided that only the one impartial guy was needed. That one guy had to own his decision regardless of how spectators or players reacted. Nowadays, umpires work in crews and own their decisions as a crew. And at the major league level, replay officials thousands of miles away may have the ultimate decision — which you could consider the final appellate court.
As an umpire, you learn to position yourself on the field so that you’re in the most advantageous location to observe a pitch or a play. You learn to read cues and make the proper adjustments when something changes. It can take years of experience, an exhaustive understanding of the rules and consistency in your calls to become a credible umpire, and even then, you’re going to be in the middle of a lot of arguments and controversies. As a mentor of mine reminded me when I started: There was only ever one perfect man, and they crucified him, so umpires have to learn how to handle criticism. As with judging, the tough calls are hardly ever obvious. Balls and strikes are elusive creatures.
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