Friday, May 31, 2019

Alabama executes man who killed pastor in 1991

The 9th Execution of 2019
Christopher Lee Price's execution was carried out on May 30, 2019 at 8:12 p.m. ET. at William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama Bob Horton, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections, said in an email to CNN. Price was pronounced dead at 8:31 p.m. ET, according to Horton.
"Tonight, the family of Pastor Bill Lynn, who was brutally murdered nearly 30 years ago, has finally seen Lynn's killer face justice," Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement.
Marshall said Price was "fighting until the very end to avoid facing the consequences of his heinous crime."

The execution went ahead after the US Supreme Court narrowly denied a request for a stay from the 46-year-old inmate. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. It was the second time the nation's highest court has addressed Price's case.
In a narrow decision in April, the Supreme Court ruled that Price's execution could go forward hours after Price's death warrant in Alabama had expired.
Price had argued the lethal injection protocol would cause him severe pain and asked that the state use lethal gas as an alternative. Two lower courts agreed to put the execution on hold.
But after Marshall petitioned the Supreme Court, the majority agreed to lift the stay of execution. The court said that Price had waited too long to make his claim.
Death row inmates in Alabama had the choice back in 2018 to elect to "be executed via nitrogen hypoxia" but that Price did not do so, the majority said in the unsigned order.
"He then waited until February 2019 to file this action and submitted additional evidence today, a few hours before his scheduled execution time," the majority held.
Breyer, joined by the three other liberal justices on the high court, penned a dissent.
Price and an accomplice wielded a sword and a knife in 1991 and stabbed Lynn to death, according to the state attorney general's office.
"On December 22, 1991, Bill Lynn was wrapping Christmas gifts for his grandchildren when he was ambushed outside his home, slashed and stabbed with a sword dozens of times," Marshall said in an earlier statement.
"His killer has dodged his death sentence for the better part of three decades by employing much the same strategy he has pursued tonight -- desperately clinging to legal maneuverings to avoid facing the consequences of his heinous crime," the statement said.
Earlier on Thursday, Price released a statement to his victim through his attorneys.
"I am so terribly sorry to the victim and his family for my crime. Neither he nor his family deserved what I did. Nobody deserves that," he said.
To read more CLICK HERE

New Hampshire becomes 21st state to abolish the death penalty

New Hampshire is the 21st state to abolish the death penalty, reports the ABA Journal.
The state Senate voted Thursday to override the governor’s veto of a bill to repeal capital punishment, report the Washington Post, the Concord Monitor and New Hampshire Public Radio. The state House voted last week to override the veto.
New Hampshire was the last state in New England with capital punishment still on the books.
The Washington Post called the repeal of the death penalty “largely symbolic, because New Hampshire has neither an active death penalty system nor any executions on the horizon.”
Only one person is on death row in the state, and there are no imminent plans to execute him because the state has no lethal injection drugs. The last execution in the state was 1939.
The death-row inmate, Michael Addison, was sentenced more than a decade ago for killing a police officer. New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu vetoed the death-penalty repeal earlier this month at a facility named for the officer. In a statement Thursday, Sununu said he was “incredibly disappointed” by the veto override.
The repeal affects cases going forward and does not apply to Addison.
Twenty-nine states still have the death penalty, but the number of actual executions is declining.
New Hampshire was one of 11 states that still had the death penalty but hadn’t carried it out in more than a decade, according to a March article by the Pew Research Center. The other states were Kansas (last execution in 1965); Wyoming (1992); Colorado and Oregon (1997); Pennsylvania (1999); California, Montana, Nevada and North Carolina (2006); and Kentucky (2008). The last federal execution was in 2003.
States that regularly execute people include Texas, Florida, Alabama and Georgia.
Cases in Alabama, Texas and Missouri have divided the Supreme Court this term, according to stories in the ABA Journal and
According to the article by University of California at Berkeley law dean Erwin Chemerinsky, four justices believe the death penalty is cruel and unusual. Five justices with the opposite view want to reduce obstacles to its implementation. And justices on both sides are writing opinions “with a passion that is relatively unusual for Supreme Court opinions,” he writes.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Mueller: 'If we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that'

Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued a statement at the Department of Justice reviewing the findings of his investigation and closing down his office, reported Jurist.
Mueller began by reviewing the order creating his office and the grand jury indictments that allowed him to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller also highlighted his investigation into possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, which arose out of actions the president undertook while the investigation was ongoing.
Mueller reiterated statements from the Mueller Report that “if we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that.” He also once again stated that his office did not make a determination about whether the president had committed a crime due to longstanding Department of Justice policy asserting that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Mueller said that the same policy preventing him from indicting the president suggests an alternative constitutional remedy for holding a president accountable. The alternative remedy is heavily implied to be impeachment and the purview of Congress. 
Mueller ended his statement by saying that any testimony he gave to Congress would not go beyond what was already in the report as the document should speak for itself. Mueller thanked the various attorneys and staff who worked on the investigation and announced that he was closing the Special Counsel’s Office and resigning from the Department of Justice to return to private life.
A number of responses have been released regarding the Special Counsel’s statement. Trump is holding firmly on the line of “No Obstruction, No Collusion” with a statement released by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. Several members of the House are calling for impeachment inquiries to begin, including Justin Amash (R-MI), Bill Pascrell(D-NJ) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Several Democrats in the Senate have called for impeachment as well, including Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), each of whom is running for president in the 2020 election. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler held a press conference announcing intentions to hold the president accountable, stating that all options including impeachment are on the table but refusing to commit to impeachment at this time.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Bucks County, PA on the hook for $67 Million for willful disregard of criminal info act

A federal jury on Tuesday ruled against Bucks County in a class-action lawsuit, finding that county officials had acted with reckless disregard or indifference in disseminating protected criminal-history information on about 67,000 people in an online inmate-lookup tool.
The eight-member jury in Philadelphia awarded $1,000 to each of the roughly 67,000 members in the class — the approximate number of people who had been booked into the county jail from 1938 to 2013 — meaning that Bucks County could have to pay out about $67 million.
U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone already had ruled in March 2016 that Bucks County violated the state’s Criminal History Record Information Act by making protected criminal-history information publicly available on its online Inmate Lookup Tool.
At issue before the jury this month was whether the county had “willfully” violated the state’s criminal-records act by making such information available online, and if so, how much to award each class member. The act mandates an amount from $1,000 to $10,000.
Beetlestone on Tuesday told jurors that a willful violation meant that county officials acted with a “reckless disregard or indifference.” She said it did not mean that officials intended to violate the act.
The claim stemmed from a 2013 lawsuit brought against the county by Daryoush Taha, of Sicklerville, N.J. Taha had been arrested by Bensalem Police in September 1998 and charged with harassment, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. He was locked up in the Bucks County Correctional Facility and released the next day.
After Taha completed a one-year probationary program for nonviolent first-time offenders, a Bucks County judge ordered that his arrest record be expunged.
But in 2011, Taha discovered that his incarceration information, including his photograph, personal details, and charges, was available on the online Inmate Lookup Tool. As a result, Taha suffered emotional distress and the invasion of his privacy, he alleged in his lawsuit. After the suit was filed, the county removed all inmate mugshots and most arrest information from the online tool.
Beetlestone agreed to give the lawsuit class-action status.
Theodore Schaer, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, told jurors in his closing argument Tuesday that “this is an important case” about privacy that affects everyone in Pennsylvania.
“Residents have the right to expect local governments to follow the law,” he said, adding: “Your decision today is far-reaching and important and maybe even precedential.”
Taha had testified during the one-week trial, but was not in court Tuesday. Schaer, who represented the plaintiffs with lawyers Jonathan Shub and Alan Denenberg, said after the verdict that the jury was sending all municipalities in the state a clear message that “privacy and data security have to be taken seriously.”
Frank Chernak, a lawyer for Bucks County, said in his closing that Bucks officials did not realize that the Inmate Lookup Tool violated the act. “From our knowledge, nobody reported it as a problem,” he said.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Balko: 'Parolees don’t enjoy the same full set of rights as everyone else'

Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post, Parolees don’t enjoy the same full set of rights as everyone else. Parole is considered part of their sentence. So they’re subject to searches, check-ins and drug testing. New York’s system is particularly punitive, vesting an extraordinary amount of power with parole officers. At an officer’s discretion, a parole violation can mean instant arrest and incarceration. Violators have no right to bail and no right to an attorney. In a case such as Wright’s, there’s no Sixth Amendment right to confront your accuser or to see the evidence against you. When I spoke with Albert on Tuesday, he had just received information on the brand and model of the drug test used in Wright’s case a couple of hours before our phone call, after Wright had spent more than 20 weeks in jail.
Parolees typically have dozens of stipulations they must follow, very few of which are actual laws — stipulations such as curfews, prohibitions on frequenting bars and no contact with anyone else with a criminal record. Parole officers can even dictate whom parolees can date, or where they can live. A few years ago, a parolee claimed he was violated for wearing a hat.
Research has shown that such rules don’t actually help people successfully complete parole. In fact, it seems they’re more likely to hurt. Each year, New York finds 7,000 parolees in violation, more than any state but Illinois. And about 65 percent of the parolees are sent back to prison for technical violations, not for committing new crimes.
Legally, the state has 90 days to hold a hearing after an alleged violation, but Albert says that each time the state offered Wright a plea bargain, which he refused, they restarted the clock. That, too, isn’t uncommon. “It’s a Wild, Wild West type of system,” says Vincent Schiraldi, co-director of the Columbia University Justice Lab and a former commissioner of New York City’s probation system. “You have parole officers with dozens of cases who get nothing if a client successfully completes their sentence, but who could lose their job if a client commits a new crime. It’s just a deeply profound trivialization of people’s liberty.”
One parole officer told Gothamist that the state’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) “is interested in only one thing: making sure they don’t get blamed when a case goes bad. So their solution is simply to lock everybody up that you can.”
Allegations of parole violations are supposed to be heard by impartial administrative law judges. But those judges work for DOCCS as well. In Wright’s case, they worked out of the same office. They’re represented by the same union, and media inquiries are handled by the same communications office.
The anonymous official also told Gothamist that because of new leadership, the administrative law judges were being “stripped ... of their independence and discretion,” and that the system was "biased ... in favor of re-incarceration.”
Judges who opt to re-incarcerate, for example, can do so independently. But to free someone found to have violated his or her parole required consultation with a supervisor, off the record, and outside the presence of the parolee and any attorney who might be present with the parolee. (Remember, there’s no right to an attorney here.) The result is a system that is opaque, hostile to media inquiries and generally closed to the public.
This isn’t how parole is supposed to work. Allegedly, the entire goal of parole is to successfully transition formerly incarcerated people back into society. But on an individual level, parole officers are incentivized to find violations, not to help their clients succeed. And on an institutional level, the more successful the parole system is at its idealized vision, the fewer parolees there will be, which could well mean fewer parole officers, fewer administrative judges and perhaps a smaller budget. New York certainly isn’t alone when it comes to these problems, but it does seem to be lagging behind much of the rest of the country. According to research by the Columbia University Justice Lab, about half the state’s parolees are eventually re-incarcerated, vs. less than 30 percent nationwide.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, May 27, 2019

Philly DA seeks to undo death sentences

Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner, a Democrat and former criminal defense attorney, had made clear while running for office his opposition to capital punishment, reported the Philadelphia Enquirer.  "I will never seek the death penalty — ever,” he said in a 2017 campaign video. “The DA’s Office is not required to do it and there’s no good reason to do it. It costs a fortune. We don’t execute anyone anyway, and Philadelphia does not have to remain the only city in the Northeast that still has the death penalty.”
But his efforts to reverse death sentences in years-old convictions have raised concerns among law enforcement officials and victims’ advocates about whether his office has been transparent with victims’ families. They also have brought pushback from those who say Krasner is attempting to impose his agenda by asking courts to undo punishments decided by juries.
In one filing last year, a former ranking Philadelphia prosecutor now working for the state Attorney General’s Office said letting new district attorneys invoke “prosecutorial discretion” to overturn past verdicts and decisions could lead to “chaos” in the courts.
“Each new prosecutor could quickly work to reverse every legal precedent of predecessors with whom he disagreed,” said the brief from Ronald Eisenberg, senior appellate counsel in the AG’s Office. “Thousands of convictions would be in jeopardy every four years; the law would be a seesaw.”
Asked to elaborate on the office’s stance on death-row appeals, Krasner’s spokesperson Ben Waxman said all post-trial decisions about whether or not to pursue the death penalty are considered by a committee within the District Attorney’s Office, which then makes a recommendation.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, May 26, 2019

California seeks to restrict use of deadly force by police

Major law enforcement organizations dropped their opposition to California legislation that strengthens standards for when officers can use deadly force, a shift that followed changes to the measure, reported The Associated Press.
The measure would bar police from using lethal force unless it is “necessary” to defend against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to officers or bystanders. It was prompted by public outrage over fatal police shootings, including the killing of unarmed vandalism suspect Stephon Clark in Sacramento last year.
The current standard lets officers kill if they have “reasonable” fear they or others are in imminent danger, a threshold that makes it rare for officers to be charged following a shooting and rarer still for them to be convicted.
“With so many unnecessary deaths, I think everyone agrees that we need to change how deadly force is used in California,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego, who wrote the measure. “We can now move a policy forward that will save lives and change the culture of policing in California.”
The issue has spawned emotional testimony from those who have lost loved ones in confrontations with police and from officers who have been involved in shootings on the job.
Law enforcement officials did not explain their decision. But a revised version of the bill filed Thursday drops an explicit definition of “necessary” that was in the original. The deleted language said officers could open fire when there is “no reasonable alternative.”
The amended measure also makes clear that officers are not required to retreat or back down in the face of a suspect’s resistance and officers don’t lose their right to self-defense if they use “objectively reasonable force.”
Amendments also strip out a specific requirement that officers try to de-escalate confrontations before using deadly force but allow the courts to consider officers’ actions leading up to fatal shootings, said Peter Bibring, police practices director for the American Civil Liberties Union of California, which proposed the bill and negotiated the changes.
“The courts can still consider whether officers needlessly escalated a situation or failed to use de-escalation tactics that could have avoided a shooting,” he said.
The ACLU considers the revised measure to still have the strongest language of any in the U.S., though legal experts split on the significance of Thursday’s changes.
“This is so watered down,” said Ed Obayashi, a use-of-force consultant to law enforcement agencies and a Plumas County deputy sheriff. “The language is virtually legally synonymous with current constitutional standards for use of force. It really is a distinction without a legal difference.”
But University of South Carolina law professor and former Tallahassee, Florida, police officer Seth Stoughton called it a significant change to current state law.
The revised bill “does a better job than any law that I’m aware of in defining what is an imminent threat,” he said.
“It doesn’t do everything the original bill had in it, but it brings California from the lowest tier in the country in to the highest tier in the country and you’re left with a feasible, reasonable standard that I think is going to go a long way to protecting officers and community members,” Stoughton said.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic leaders in the Legislature backed the revised version, which is set for an Assembly vote next week. Newsom called it “an important bill, one that will help restore community trust in our criminal justice system.”
Law enforcement opponents blocked passage of a similar measure introduced last year after police killed Clark, an unarmed black man. The death set off intense protests.
The Peace Officers Research Association of California, which represents rank-and-file officers, and the California Police Chiefs Association both removed their opposition and moved to neutral positions. The groups were the key law enforcement negotiators with Weber’s office and the ACLU.
Six other associations representing state, county and local law enforcement officers and the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association all also withdrew their opposition.
Law enforcement organizations are backing a related Senate measure that would require that every officer be trained in ways to avoid opening fire.
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, May 25, 2019

GateHouse: America’s bail system in crisis

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
May 24, 2019
There is a crisis in America’s pretrial system. The crisis is costly, promotes excessive - and potentially abusive - use of the plea bargain and needlessly deprives men and women of their liberty. The bail system - when and how a decision is made about the freedom of an accused pending trial - is, at best, in crisis and, at worst, an unconstitutional deprivation of legal representation and liberty.
The 1963 landmark Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright guaranteed the right to counsel for indigent defendants. Gideon referred to a lawyer as “a necessity, not a luxury.” The right to counsel should commence when a defendant first appears before a judicial officer.
In a significant majority of states, that’s not how it works.
The current bail system denies freedom to thousands of people who are presumed innocent but are financially challenged. Those who sit in jail are at risk of losing their jobs, their homes and their families.
Certainly, it’s unfair to incarcerate someone merely because they cannot afford bail. It is equally unfair to every man and woman in America to spend about $1 trillion, according to the Pretrial Justice Institute, on pretrial incarceration, which amounts to about 6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.
According to White House Council of Economic Advisors, the use of bail has exploded in the past two decades, driving a 59 percent rise in the number of unconvicted jail inmates.
Correcting the bail crisis is not out of reach. This isn’t about being tough on crime. It’s about being fair. For some, even a nominal bond is out of reach. When an accused has no money, $1,500 might as well be $150,000.
For taxpayers the issue is just as compelling. If the cost of pretrial detention could be cut in half, taxpayers could save literally billions annually.
Bail serves two purposes: To guarantee that defendants appear for court; and to protect the public from those who are a potential threat. Proponents of cash bail say the money to post bail often comes from family members, and serves as a deterrent to fleeing.
Lawmakers would do well to remember that bail is not punitive. Although violent crime rates are at historic lows, lawmakers continue to label violent crime as a top priority. Tough on crime rhetoric continues to be the theme of the day, although some reform-minded prosecutors have been elected around the country.
There is something that can be done immediately to have an impact on pretrial detention.
Fulfill the promise of Gideon at the very earliest stages of a prosecution. Counsel must be appointed for the detention hearing or preliminary arraignment when bail is set.
According to The Constitution Project, attorneys are never present at the first bail hearing in eight states - Alabama, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Attorneys appear on behalf of the accused infrequently in 17 states - Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming.
In 11 other states - Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia and Washington - a poor person has about a 50 percent chance of obtaining an assigned attorney for a detention hearing.
For instance, Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation in which funds for indigent defense are paid exclusively on a local level. The state provides no funding for court-appointed counsel. No wonder Pennsylvania is one of those states that infrequently provides counsel at initial bail hearings.
Philadelphia can afford to pay for counsel at initial bail hearings, but economically disadvantaged Lawrence County in western Pennsylvania, population 87,000 and falling, can’t afford to do the same.
There are simple solutions that may cost money up-front but will literally save billions in the long run.
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 read more CLICK HERE

Friday, May 24, 2019

Florida executes serial killer known as 'Classified Ad Rapist'

The 8th Execution of 2019
“I wanted to be the first person he saw,” said Noland, now a 52-year-old deputy at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office — the same agency that arrested her rapist, reported Washington Post.
Bobby Joe Long, one of Florida’s most notorious serial killers, died by lethal injection at 6:55 p.m. on May 23, 2019 after 34 years on death row. After his arrest in 1984, Long, 65, ultimately confessed to killing 10 women and raping dozens of others in the Tampa area between March and November of that year. He often preyed on sex workers and exotic dancers, or women selling furniture through classified ads in the newspaper, earning him the “Classified Ad Rapist” moniker. Of those he killed, all were between the ages of 18 and 28, all last seen while walking alone late at night or after leaving a bar, club or work.
He pleaded guilty to eight of the deaths. For charges including rape, kidnap and murder, he was sentenced to life 33 times and to death once, for the murder of Michelle Simms, a 22-year-old former beauty pageant contestant from California, working as a receptionist at a massage parlor in Fort Pierce, Fla., at the time of her death.
“If I could have had my way, he would have been executed for every person’s life he took,” said Algalana Douglas, sister of victim Chanel Williams, who was fatally shot in October 1984. She was 18.
Back in 1984, it was tiny red carpet fibers from the floor of a car that alerted police that they had a serial killer on their hands, and it was Nolan who led them to him.
It started in the spring of that year, when police found the body of Ngeun Thi “Peggy” Long, a 19-year-old from Southern California who had just quit her job at a Tampa nightclub to go back to college. Two boys walking in a vacant field near an interstate overpass were the first to find her in May, nude and strangled with a rope around her neck.
“Right at the scene we realized we had a problem,” Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Gary Terry told Congress in 1986, explaining how they managed to capture Bobby Joe Long. They decided to take the evidence from the scene to the FBI in Washington, and that’s how authorities detected the fibers that would later become the crucial piece of evidence.
The red fibers, apparently from a carpet, were also found on the next woman’s body. Two weeks later, Simms was found bound by ropes, her throat slashed, again in a field near an overpass. Then came the third body, the fourth and fifth and sixth — with little physical evidence pointing police to a suspect, except for the same red fibers.
But then there was Lisa Noland.
She was 17 and working a double shift at the Krispy Kreme on Nov. 3, 1984, the night Long snatched her off her bicycle as she rode past a church parking lot. She had left the doughnut shop around 2 a.m., and she had no plans to return. Noland said she had been molested for three years by her grandmother’s boyfriend and had been planning to end her life. The suicide note she had written the night before was on her mind as she pedaled home, she said at a news conference earlier this month.
But then suddenly, a hand was grabbing her, and the cold tip of a pistol was pressed against her left temple, she said.
She remembers screaming, and then saying, “God, whatever you do, just don’t kill me."
He dragged her to his car, a red Dodge Magnum. He ordered her to undress, bound her, blindfolded her and drove her back to his apartment. There, for hours, he raped her over and over.
At a certain point, Noland said, she asked him, “Why are you doing this to me?”
He told her: “To get back at women.”
An unemployed X-ray technician and 10th-grade dropout from West Virginia, Long had just came to the end of two bad relationships, as his parents would soon reveal to the St. Petersburg Times in 1984. He and his high school sweetheart were divorced, and then he found out his new girlfriend was seeing another man. His mother, Louella Long, remembered the day her son called and said, “I can’t find any decent girls in the world.” Two months later, the bodies started piling up.
Lisa Noland said she zeroed in on his bad experiences with women, trying to seem sympathetic to him, compassionate. She had invented a story about being the sole caretaker of a sick parent, so that he would feel sympathetic for her, the Tampa Bay Times reported. She doesn’t know why he let her go, but she guessed the story helped her case. “It saved my life,” she said of her sympathetic facade.
At 4:30 the next morning, he ordered her back into the car, still blindfolded but now clothed, and dropped her on the curb in her neighborhood. Once she made it home, she told her grandma and her grandma’s boyfriend she was kidnapped. The man thought she was lying. Police believed her, she said.
She started from the beginning, revealing only what she could glimpse by peaking underneath her blindfold. She knew she was inside a red car, the Dodge Magnum she had spotted as she pedaled past it that night. She knew the car had a red carpet, virtually the only thing she could see while tied up in the back seat — and immediately police perked up. Like many of the victims, Lisa Noland’s clothes also contained the same tiny red fibers.
But as police combed through registration records for hundreds of Dodge Magnums in the area, two other women, Virginia Lee Johnson, 18, and Kim Marie Swann, 21, would disappear and end up dead within the next few days that November. Police knew it was the work of the same man: The red fibers were there again, the Times reported at the time.
When police staked out the area where Noland believed she had been taken, authorities finally saw the red Dodge Magnum they believed they were looking for, beginning a 36-hour surveillance operation. On Nov. 16, 1984, police arrested Long for Simms’s death as he left a movie theater.
He had no explanation for what he had done.
“It was like A, B, C, D. I’ll pull over. They get in. I’d drive a little way. Stop. Pull out a knife, a gun, whatever. Tie ‘em up. Take ‘em out. And that would be it,” he told CBS News in a pretrial interview in 1986. “And the worst thing is I don’t understand why. I don’t understand why.”
Speaking after his execution Thursday, the families of the victims said the pain had dragged on for three decades, as they waited for Long’s execution. Noland said she wished she could have said something to him. She said she wanted to tell him, “Thank you.” From the time he kidnapped her to when he released her, she said, he had given her a reason to fight for her life, and to potentially save the lives of future victims. She later ripped up the suicide note.
“I wanted to look him in the eye,” she said. But she never got the chance. As he lay on the gurney, Bobby Joe Long never opened his eyes. He didn’t say anything.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Furor continues over SFPD raid of journalist's home

San Francisco police chief  William Scott addressed reporters hours after police agreed in court to return property seized from journalist Bryan Carmody in raids aimed at uncovering the source of a leaked police report into the unexpected death of the city’s former elected public defender, Jeff Adachi, reported The Associated Press.
Tensions are high in the case, which has alarmed journalism advocates and put pressure on elected leaders in the politically liberal city to defend the press.
Authorities believe a police department employee was involved and had contact with Carmody.
“We believe that that contact and that interaction went across the line. It went past just doing your job as a journalist,” Scott said.
He added: “This is a big deal to us, as well it should be. It’s a big deal to the public. It’s a big deal to you all.”
Media organizations across the country criticized the May 10 raids as a violation of California’s shield law, which specifically protects journalists from search warrants. The Associated Press is among dozens of news organizations siding with Carmody and seeking to submit a friend-of-the-court brief.
The case will soon return to court. Carmody’s attorney and media organizations have asked to unseal warrant materials and revoke the search warrants. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Samuel Feng has not ruled yet on those requests, but he set deadlines for further filings.
The editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle has joined other publications in criticizing city leaders, including Mayor London Breed, for failing to quickly condemn the police actions. A Chronicle report published Monday named supervisors who have not returned messages for comment on the raids.
When they arrived at Carmody’s home, police had a sledgehammer, and they cuffed him for hours. The police chief said Carmody was cuffed because of the possibility he might have firearms in the house.
Breed initially defended the raids but on Sunday posted messages on Twitter saying she was “not okay” with raids on reporters.
District Attorney George Gascon, whose office would normally be responsible for possibly prosecuting Carmody, condemned the police. He said he has not seen the warrants, which are sealed, but he could not imagine a situation where warrants would be appropriate.
“Seizing the entire haystack to find the needle risks violating the confidences Mr. Carmody owes to all his sources, not just the person who leaked the police report,” he said in a Monday tweet.
The police chief acknowledged the uproar, saying that in hindsight the department could have done things differently and will strive to learn from its mistakes.
“We respect the news media,” he said. “We have to own what we own and move forward, and try to get better at what we do.”
In court documents, Carmody has said he is a veteran journalist who is often the first on the scene of breaking news. He provides video news packages to outlets in return for payment.
He said a source gave him a preliminary police report on Adachi’s death that contained unsavory details. Carmody went on to sell copies of the report along with video footage from the scene of the death and information obtained from interviews to three news stations.
The leak infuriated city supervisors. They scolded police for anonymously releasing the report to the press, saying it was an attempt to smear the legacy of Adachi, who was an outspoken critic of police. An autopsy blamed Adachi’s Feb. 22 death on a mixture of cocaine and alcohol that compromised an already bad heart.
People who want to crack down on journalists come in all political stripes, said Jim Wheaton, founder of the First Amendment Project, a public interest law firm.
“They went after him because he’s all by himself,” Wheaton said. “And the fact that he sells the materials that he packages. He puts together a journalism report including documents and sells it. That’s what journalism is.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Trump considers pardoning war criminals

President Donald Trump’s reported plans to pardon several U.S. servicemen accused or convicted of war crimes elicited bipartisan criticism in the Senate on Tuesday, reported the Huffington Post.
“I think it’s a terrible idea to pardon someone who is legitimately convicted of committing war crimes. It’s unthinkable,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told HuffPost when asked about the New York Times report.
According to the Times, the White House over the weekend requested the necessary paperwork to issue a pardon for a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes who was turned in by the men who served with him.
Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher is charged with firing on civilians in Iraq in 2017 and fatally stabbing a wounded teenage ISIS fighter. He allegedly bragged about racking up civilian kills and threatened members of his SEAL team if they reported him. He has pleaded not guilty.
Others who are reportedly up for a pardon include a former Blackwater security contractor who was found guilty of shooting dozens of unarmed Iraqis and an Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010.
The Trump administration asked for pardon paperwork on the men by the Memorial Day weekend, according to the Times.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said she “would have some issues” about the potential pardons when asked about the Times report.
“I just want to make sure we’re doing the right thing for servicemembers as well,” added Ernst, an Army National Guard combat veteran who served in Iraq.
Earlier this month, Trump issued a pardon for former Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, who drove an Iraqi prisoner into the desert in 2008, stripped him and fatally shot him. Behenna was convicted of unpremeditated murder and was already serving a reduced sentence when the president pardoned him.
Critics say that presidential pardons of accused war criminals can undermine the military’s ethical code against atrocities and threaten current U.S. servicemembers abroad who could face retaliation.
“Absent evidence of innocence or injustice the wholesale pardon of US servicemembers accused of war crimes signals our troops and allies that we don’t take the Law of Armed Conflict seriously. Bad message. Bad precedent. Abdication of moral responsibility. Risk to us,” retired U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey tweeted. Dempsey served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Barack Obama.
Senate Democrats, meanwhile, accused Trump of abusing his pardon power.
“I don’t think presidential pardon powers and especially something as egregious as war crimes should be something done as a political ploy, and that seems like what he’s doing,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who also served in the Army during the Iraq War.
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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

One man sits on New Hampshire's death row as the death penalty teeters on the brink of extinction

Michael Addison is the only man on death row in New Hampshire. He spends his days alone in a concrete cell with a mattress, a sink, a toilet, and a tall, narrow window. His visitors are members of his legal team, who file the court documents that constitute his only communication with the wider world, reported the Boston Globe.
But as the state grapples with the likelihood that the Legislature will vote this month to override a gubernatorial veto and repeal the death penalty, Addison looms large on both sides of the debate. He is a black man in an almost all-white state who killed a police officer and father of two, and who was sentenced to death weeks after a white millionaire also facing the death penalty was given life in prison. In the philosophical clash over ethics and justice, Addison is a brutal fact.
 “When we talk about the death penalty in the abstract, there’s a growing movement toward abolition because of concerns about fairness, accuracy, discrimination, and cruelty,” Northeastern University law professor Daniel Medwed said. “But on a granular level, in an individual case, it gets complicated.”
Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs was an hour from the end of his shift in the early morning of Oct. 16, 2006, patrolling the east side of the city on his bike, when the call came in: a gunshot fired during a domestic incident in an apartment. He and his partner pedaled to the scene.
The outcry over Briggs’s death swept New Hampshire. His funeral procession wound for miles through downtown Manchester, thousands of police officers escorting a hearse and a riderless horse into a baseball stadium filled with hundreds of civilians, where, according to local media, his casket was laid on home plate.
His killing sparked heated debate over capital punishment. Then-Attorney General Kelly Ayotte announced she’d seek the death penalty, and legislators earmarked a budget for the case bigger than her office’s entire litigation budget for that fiscal year, legislators said at the time. Then-Governor John Lynch called the killing of Briggs a crime that “strikes at the very heart and fabric of our society.”
The state hadn’t executed anyone since 1939. Two men were sentenced to death in 1959, but their lives were spared when the US Supreme Court struck down state death penalty laws in 1972. The last time the death penalty was sought before Addison was in a 1997 killing of an Epsom police officer, but that case ended in a plea arrangement that allowed the defendant to avoid execution. Execution was rarely pursued and hotly contested when it was.
New Hampshire’s death penalty statute can only be applied to certain types of murders, including the murder of an on-duty police officer or judge, murder for hire, murder connected to a kidnapping, and murder during a rape. Bills aiming to abolish capital punishment have come before the Legislature nearly every session for the past two decades, and at times, repeal advocates have come close to success.
In 2000, the House and Senate both passed legislation to end the death penalty, only to see it vetoed by then-Governor Jeanne Shaheen. In 2014, repeal legislation failed on a tie vote in the state Senate. Last year, current Governor Chris Sununu vetoed a bill identical to House Bill 455.
Today, though, the death penalty seems poised to fall. The House and Senate both passed the current bill, and while Sununu vetoed it May 3, the Legislature appears for the first time to have enough votes to override the veto. The House is expected to vote on it Thursday. If that override passes, the Senate is expected to vote the following week.
The repeal would not be retroactive, and so it would not directly affect Addison’s case, though legal experts and precedent suggest the courts would not allow him to be executed if New Hampshire no longer had the death penalty.
Still, Addison has figured prominently in the public dialogue. When Sununu vetoed the repeal bill, he did so from inside the Manchester Police Athletic League Officer Michael Briggs Community Center, blocks from where Briggs was killed, flanked by police officers and Briggs’s family.
“This is common sense,” Sununu said. “New Hampshire has always exercised great prudence, great responsibility, in its application of the death penalty. I firmly see, along with many folks across this state, this bill is an injustice. Not just to Officer Briggs and his family, but to law enforcement and other victims of violent crime across the state.”
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Monday, May 20, 2019

George Kelling of "Broken Window" fame has died

“Consider a building with a few broken windows,” wrote James Q. Wilson, a government professor at Harvard University, and George L. Kelling, a criminal-justice professor at Rutgers University, in a 1982 article for The Atlantic. “If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.” Disorder, in other words, led to serious crime.
Wilson and Kelling posed a revolutionary theory: If the original windows were repaired, the escalating string of crimes that followed might be checked before it began. Kelling died this week; Wilson, in 2012. 
Their theory has been celebrated by some, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former NYPD Chief William Bratton, as the driving force behind a historic reduction in crime in New York City in the 1990s. It’s also been questioned by many sociologists and criminologists, and associated with controversial policing practices such as New York’s “stop and frisk” program. For years, Kelling participated in the debate his work had sparked, clarifying his and Wilson’s reasoning and criticizing some of the ways others applied it. 
, that debate will continue without him. Kelling described their thinking while writing the original article in a 2015 essay titled “An Author’s Brief History of an Idea.” “Although we believed that police should do something about disorder,” he wrote, “at that time we were not sure what—concerned as we were about issues of justice, equity, and racism and limited by the state of police thinking of the time.” They knew that the history of policing in America was rife with abuses of African American communities, he added in a follow-up piece, including the arrests and convictions of black men for minor crimes under the Black Codes. They also knew that their theory would likely ignite controversy, and could lead to accusations of racial profiling, or worse.
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Sunday, May 19, 2019

Facial recognition under scrutiny in some cities

Facial recognition technology raises fears of a dystopian surveillance state, with vanishing privacy and a high potential for abuse, reports The New York Times. Such concerns led San Francisco this week to ban any use of facial recognition by the police and other city agencies.
But it is also a powerful and efficient tool that, much like DNA analysis, offers a way to bring policing into the modern age and help catch wrongdoers or solve crimes that have gone cold.
It has been used to arrest men accused of child sex abuse, including a fugitive who had fled to Nepal and a man in Oklahoma who had been at large for two decades. It has helped nab a trio of jewel thief suspects and people who the authorities said were trying to enter the country under fake names.
It is difficult to say exactly how many of the nation’s 18,000 police departments use facial recognition or how they deploy it. Some departments have been caught using it without the public’s knowledge, or to search crowds of protesters for people with outstanding warrants.
But since the San Francisco ban, several agencies have come forward to argue that it is counterproductive to forbid any use of what they call a valuable tool that generates investigative leads.
Some departments, including the New York Police Department, have policies that say that a possible match found by facial recognition does not constitute an identification or probable cause for an arrest.
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Saturday, May 18, 2019

GateHouse: The NRA’s greatest fraud

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
May 17, 2019
In 1991, retired Chief Justice Warren Burger, being interviewed on PBS News Hour, described the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) lobbying in support of an expansive interpretation of the Second Amendment like this, “One of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special-interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
The NRA has taken fraud to a whole new level.
In a battle to take control of the NRA, the organization’s president Oliver North and Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre began to publicly air the NRA’s dirty (and expensive) laundry. For starters, according to the New York Times, LaPierre billed to the NRA $275,000.00 for purchases at the Zegna luxury men’s wear boutique in Beverly Hills. North, who was going to serve without pay, had a contract worth millions of dollars a year. Other payments included $60,000 for advertising on a TV show featuring the rock musician and NRA board member Ted Nugent.
All this while gun deaths of school-age children in the United States have increased at an alarming rate, with 38,942 fatalities among 5- to 18-year-olds from 1999 to 2017, according to a new study by Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine, reported CNN.
Dr. Charles Hennekens, the study’s senior author said, “It is sobering that in 2017, there were 144 police officers who died in the line of duty and about 1,000 active duty military throughout the world who died, whereas 2,462 school-age children were killed by firearms,”
No one will challenge the gun lobby, even though much of what is touted is based on a false premise. The Second Amendment provides, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
In an excerpt from former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens’ forthcoming memoir he writes, “Throughout most of American history there was no federal objection to laws regulating the civilian use of firearms.” He went on to write, when he was appointed in 1975 to the Court, ”(B)oth state and federal judges accepted the Court’s unanimous decision in United States v. Miller as having established that the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to bear arms was possessed only by members of the militia and applied only to weapons used by the militia.”
In Miller, the National Firearms Act was used to convict a man for transporting a 12-gauge shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches long across state lines. The man neither registered the gun nor had a written order for it, as required by the Act.
The Supreme Court found that the National Firearms Act did not violate the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The Court could not find that a sawed-off shotgun had any reasonable relation to the preservation of a well-regulated militia, and “therefore cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees to the citizen the right to keep and bear such a weapon.”
Miller remained the law until 2008, when by a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court recognized an individual’s right to possess a firearm under the Constitution. Justice Stevens calls the decision “unquestionably the most clearly incorrect decision that the Supreme Court announced during my tenure on the bench.”
E.J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post says the NRA’s overzealous support of the Second Amendment is about more than guns, it’s about politics. “The anti-government right knows it can’t sell Americans of modest incomes on its opposition to minimum wages, corporate regulation or more progressive taxes. So they channel their arguments through the gun issue and pretend that this is really a culture war ... ”
It is unquestionably the NRA’s greatest fraud.
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, May 17, 2019

Alabama and Tennessee inmates executed within four minutes of each other

The 6th and 7th Executions of 2019
Michael Brandon Samra and Donnie Edward Johnson were executed within four minutes of each other on May 16, 2019, in Alabama and Tennessee, respectively, reported The Marshall Project.  Samra was convicted of capital murder and was sentenced to death for his role in the 1997 killings of Randy Duke, his fiancĂ©e, Dedra Mims Hunt, and her two daughters, 6-year-old Chelisa Nicole Hunt and 7-year-old Chelsea Marie Hunt. Randy Duke was the father of Samra's friend and co-defendant, 16-year-old Mark Duke.
The adults were shot to death, but court records state Mark Duke and Samra, then 19, slit the girls' throats with kitchen knives after they ran out of bullets.
According to court records, Mark Duke planned the murders after he got into a fight with his father over using a pickup truck. Mark Duke was also convicted and sentenced to death, but that sentence was later changed to life in prison without the possibility of parole because of Mark Duke's age at the time of the crime.
Johnson was sentenced to death for the Dec. 8, 1984 murder of his wife, Connie Johnson, in Memphis.
He suffocated his wife by stuffing a large plastic bag down her mouth in the offices of a camping equipment center where he worked, according to court documents. Johnson then asked an inmate on work-release at the camping center to help him move Connie Johnson’s body into her van.
They moved the body and left the van in a mall parking lot, where it was found the next day.
Donnie Johnson initially told police he was not involved in the murder, but he no longer contests his guilt. Instead, Johnson, now 68, says he should be spared because of how much he’s changed over the course of three decades behind bars.
In a clemency application submitted to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Johnson’s lawyers said he had gone from "a liar, a cheat, a con man and a murderer" to an ordained elder in the Seventh-day Adventist Church "with a flock in prison."
Johnson’s appeal for mercy leans heavily on his Christian faith and his relationship with his stepdaughter, Cynthia Vaughn, the victim’s daughter.
Vaughn initially condemned Johnson for killing her mother, at one point saying, "I want the freak to burn." But after meeting with Johnson in 2012, she forgave him and became the most compelling advocate in his fight to avoid execution. Vaughn has requested a meeting with the governor to make the case for mercy. Lee's Christian faith played a central role in his campaign for governor.
Johnson can decide if he will be executed by lethal injection or electric chair. His attorneys say he is postponing that choice until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a pending challenge to Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol.
Johnson was initially set to die by electrocution in 2006, but a federal appeals court delayed it days beforehand in order to vet a complaint about the main witness against him. Johnson’s legal team has said they don’t plan to make any other attempts to delay or block his execution aside from the petition for clemency.
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Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Vindicator: MATTHEW MANGINO | ‘Dysfunctional’ Ohio Parole Board urgently needs parole guidelines

Matthew T. Mangino
The Vindicator
May 15, 2019
When former Ohio lawmaker Shirley Smith resigned from the Ohio Parole Board, she told the Dayton Daily News that the agency was “dysfunctional, secretive and toxic.”
There are approximately 49,500 inmates in Ohio’s state prison system. The parole board has discretion over only about 9,000 inmates. In 1996, the state enacted truth-in-sentencing requiring sentences of a specific term. As a result, the board has discretion over about 3,900 inmates sentenced under the old law and another 5,000 inmates serving life sentences for serious crimes such as murder.
The Ohio Parole Board may only grant parole “if in its judgment there is reasonable ground to believe that ... paroling the prisoner would further the interests of justice and be consistent with the welfare and security of society.”
According to the Daily News, between 2011 and October 2018, the parole board granted release for 1,076 inmates out of the 10,575 interviews it conducted – a parole rate of 10.2 percent.
Video conference
Board members are appointed by the director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Board members interview parole-eligible inmates via video conference. Interviews and deliberations are closed, but decisions are public record.
The Ohio Parole Board operates largely behind closed doors. Records are kept secret, full board meetings are open to the public but debate and votes are conducted behind closed doors.
Smith’s departing critique of the board has opened the system, and process, to scrutiny. Criticism has begun to grow from crime victims, inmates and attorneys.
The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has a new director – Annette Chambers-Smith. The new director is talking about reform. She believes change is needed, including increased transparency.
Gov. Mike DeWine has also jumped into the fray. DeWine would like to add new members to the parole board from different backgrounds, improve training and establish new guidelines weighing inmate misconduct.
Inadequate suggestion
Although the governor’s suggestion to create behavior guidelines is a step in the right direction, it too is inadequate. Ohio needs to establish guidelines to aid board members in making decisions. For instance, the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, on which I served for six years, uses a regularly normed parole guideline. The instrument is generated for every inmate eligible for parole and being interviewed by a panel of the parole board.
The Pennsylvania parole guidelines consider such things as behavior in prison, program completion, prior supervision history, prior criminal history, future risk and the nature of the offense resulting in the inmate’s incarceration.
Each inmate is provided a numerical score which indicates whether the inmate is “likely” or “unlikely” to be paroled.
The Pennsylvania Board also uses various assessments including risk, sex offending, mental health and drug and alcohol. The guidelines provide uniformity to the board’s decision making. The parole rate for the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole is about 58 percent.
That is not to suggest that Ohio’s parole rate should be comparable. Pennsylvania’s board sees, or votes on, the parole of every violent and non-violent offender in state prison who is eligible for parole.
Hefty sentences
Ohio’s board is only seeing inmates who were incarcerated before truth-in-sentencing was established. The inmates who are left received hefty sentences and many presumably committed serious, violent offenses. The other segment of the prison population Ohio deals with are lifers. The lifers are usually the worst of the worst.
DeWine said his administration is appointing three new members to the board – a public defender, a prosecutor and a state lawmaker.
“The reforms of the Parole Board are a work in progress. There is going to be more besides what we are announcing today,” he told the Daily News, adding that he is working with state lawmakers on additional changes.
Creating parole guidelines would provide consistency and transparency to the parole process in Ohio and would go a long way toward gaining the confidence of the governor, lawmakers and most importantly, the public.
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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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Study: More school-age children die from guns than police officers and soldiers combined

Gun deaths of school-age children in the United States have increased at an alarming rate, with 38,942 fatalities among 5- to 18-year-olds from 1999 to 2017, according to a new study by Florida Atlantic University's Schmidt College of Medicine, reported CNN.
Indeed, spikes in gun deaths over the past decade amount to epidemics, researchers said.
"It is sobering that in 2017, there were 144 police officers who died in the line of duty and about 1,000 active duty military throughout the world who died, whereas 2,462 school-age children were killed by firearms," said Dr. Charles Hennekens, the study's senior author and an academic adviser at the medical college.
The study, to be published in the American Journal of Medicine, found that children are being gunned down in staggering numbers, with the death rate six to nine times higher than other developed nations.
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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

SCOTUS fights about last minute execution appeals

An ongoing feud between Supreme Court justices over the application of the death penalty escalated again as the justices filed opinions in two death penalty cases and took the rare step of issuing public explanations to explain their bitter divide, reported CNN. Death penalty cases are sometimes decided late at night, and the conservative justices on the court, especially Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, believe that inmates are engaging in last-minute appeals as a dilatory tactic. That dispute has been playing out in various cases all year long.The orders further unmasked the tension building between the three conservative justices and liberals who think the justices should defer to lower courts when it comes to specific facts in individual death penalty cases, as well as Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who have also sided at times with inmates.
Monday's first case concerned Alabama inmate Christopher Lee Price, who challenged his planned lethal injection execution last month. The court denied his stay of execution in an opinion that triggered a nearly 3 a.m. dissent from Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by three other liberal justices, who asserted the planned sentence would be carried out in an "arbitrary way." Price's death warrant expired before the justices acted.
Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch criticized their fellow justices for waiting beyond midnight to handle the effort to block the execution, resulting in what will be a seven-week delay.
Thomas said he wanted to "set the record straight," about how things were handled. He called Price's complaints "procedurally unremarkable and constitutionally acceptable," and said the issue is all about timing.
"Of course, the dissent got its way by default. Petitioner's strategy is no secret, for it is the same strategy adopted by many death-row inmates with an impending execution: bring last-minute claims that will delay the execution, no matter how groundless," Thomas wrote. "The proper response to this maneuvering is to deny meritless requests expeditiously."
"Whatever the right answer is to how the Supreme Court should handle 11th hour applications in capital cases, this isn't it," said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
"The justices are clearly at loggerheads over what the rules should be when death-row inmates seek to challenge the method of their execution, but the right thing to do is to take a case on the merits, have full briefing and argument, and resolve the matter conclusively -- rather than continuing to snark at each other in separate opinions across different cases," he added.
According to the state, Price and an accomplice wielded a sword and a knife in 1991 and stabbed Bill Lynn, a minister, to death.
Awaiting execution, Price had recently argued that Alabama's lethal injection protocol would cause him severe pain and asked that the state use lethal gas as an alternative. Two lower courts had agreed to put the execution on hold, but after Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall petitioned the Supreme Court, the majority agreed to lift the stay of execution.
Price is now scheduled to be executed on May 30, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.
Thomas went to great lengths to describe the murder that Price was accused of committing involving a minister, Bill Lynn, who was returning from church, and criticized Breyer for failing to include those details.
Thomas wrote that while "Bill died a slow lingering and painful death," 20 years after the conviction Lee was trying to delay his death.
"It is difficult to see his litigation strategy as anything other than an attempt to delay his execution," Thomas wrote.
The second case involved Patrick Henry Murphy, who argued that he should not be executed in Texas because the state would not allow his Buddhist spiritual adviser to be present in the death chamber.
In that case, the court stayed Murphy's execution.
On Monday, Alito, joined by Thomas and Gorsuch, said he wanted to take the opportunity to explain why "the court's decision to grant the stay was seriously wrong."
Alito, picking up on the same theme from the Alabama case, said that Murphy was "egregiously delayed" in raising his claims.
"By countenancing such tactics, the court invites dispute," Alito wrote.
But Kavanaugh, joined by Roberts, wrote to explain their votes to allow the stay. They noted that under Texas' policy at the time, inmates who were Christian or Muslim could have their spiritual advisers in the room. But inmates of other religions could not.
"That discriminatory state policy violated the Constitution's guarantee of religious equality," Kavanaugh wrote. They noted that Texas has now changed the policy and no longer allows any religious ministers in the viewing room.
"In sum, this court's stay in Murphy's case was appropriate, and the stay facilitated a prompt fix to the religious equality problem in Texas' execution protocol," Kavanaugh said.
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Monday, May 13, 2019

The rights of the accused vs. The rights of the victim

Andy Hoover, the communications director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, wrote the piece below as part of a series on Due Process for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star:

It’s accepted as conventional wisdom in civil liberties advocacy to avoid legal terms when communicating with people who aren’t lawyers. Bogging people down with phrases like consent decree, pro bono, and Title 18 is a great way to lose the interest of your audience.
And yet the phrase “due process” is one that resonates. Decades of courtroom dramas in television and film have apparently convinced Americans that due process is something we really should care about.
The simplest definition of due process is this: When the government intends to deprive a person of their liberty – be it by detaining the person or seizing their property or even ending their life by execution – the person has a right to a process in which the burden is on the government to show why such drastic action is necessary.
Unfortunately, the aspiration of due process doesn’t always match the reality that plays out in the legislature and in courts around the commonwealth.
Legislation currently before the state Senate is a prime example. Known as Marsy’s Law, the bill is an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution to guarantee certain rights for people who are victims of crimes and for people who allege that they are victims of crimes.
You may wonder why the distinction. Our criminal justice system presumes people are innocent until proven guilty. It is the government’s burden to prove that a crime occurred and that the accused is guilty of committing that crime.
But Marsy’s Law, which will be on the ballot in the general election in November if it is passed by the Senate, establishes constitutional rights for victims and alleged victims even before an accused person has been convicted, thereby putting those rights on a constitutional collision course.
For example, Marsy’s Law gives an alleged victim the right to be notified of pretrial hearings. The person who is accused has a preliminary arraignment hearing shortly after arrest, at which point a court considers whether or not to assign cash bail or detain that person.
What will a court do when the accused person is detained but the alleged victim has not been notified of the hearing? Whose rights will prevail?
If Marsy’s Law passes, the Pennsylvania Constitution will legally recognize people as victims even before the accused has been proven guilty, effectively undermining a lynchpin of our system – the presumption of innocence.
The assignment of cash bail is a well-known but often opaque process in the criminal justice system in Pennsylvania, and it is a proceeding that is already plagued by a lack of due process for people who are accused.
Over the last two years, volunteers and staff from the ACLU of Pennsylvania observed more than 2,000 bail hearings in Philadelphia, and what we observed was astonishing.
In contradiction to the court rules that judges are supposed to follow, arraignment courts in Philadelphia consistently assigned cash bail to people who could not afford it, effectively criminalizing poverty.
People accused but not convicted were assigned cash bail amounts of thousands and tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars with no consideration for the fact that many of them were unemployed, living on public assistance, or even homeless.
The people we observed in these courts were incarcerated because they were poor, not because the court found that they posed a threat to public safety or a flight risk.
That’s why we filed a lawsuit against the Philadelphia court system to force the judges to comply with the state Supreme Court’s Rules of Criminal Procedure. We have no doubt that the excessive and unfair assignment of cash bail is not isolated to Philadelphia.
Due process is a high-minded ideal and one we should aspire towards. But public officials in the General Assembly and in the courts in Pennsylvania sometimes fail to live up to that most basic American value.
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