Wednesday, July 31, 2019

GOP 'conspicuously and shamefully silent' on racism

John L.  Micek, editor-in-chief of the Pennsylvania Capital-Journal and syndicated columnist, wrote recently:

 “The next time a Republican tries to tell you that he or she is an heir to the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, remind them that in 2019, when the GOP had a chance to stand up to the worst kind of bigotry and un-American behavior, the self-styled “Party of Lincoln” was conspicuously and shamefully silent.”

Micek elaborated on President Trump's blatant racism for the Pennsylvania Capital-Journal:

We shouldn't have to say this, but we will: It is nothing except racist to tell four, duly elected members of Congress, all women of color, three of whom were born in the United States, the fourth a naturalized citizen, to "go back" to the countries they came from.
It's a racist and bigoted trope that's been used for years, and has been deployed against other generations of newcomers to the United States.
It is racist and bigoted to describe to parts of the United States, where there are majority-minority populations - as "infested." That is particularly true when President Donald Trump has a long history of using that freighted adjective to describe communities of color.
We could probably stop here and argue here that it is also profoundly un-American and unpatriotic for the president of the United States to use that kind of language to describe parts of his country, the nation that he took an oath to protect and represent.

Silence is not the answer.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Pennsylvania throws in 'cash' for capital defense

For the first time ever, Pennsylvania lawmakers have set aside state funds to represent poor criminal defendants facing the death penalty, reported the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.
The only problem, according to criminal justice advocates? It’s not nearly enough money.
In June, tucked into a piece of budget legislation known as the fiscal code, lawmakers approved a $500,000 allocation to reimburse counties for costs of indigent criminal defense in capital cases.
The money will be distributed through a grant program administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
Drew Crompton, a top lawyer for Senate Republicans, said this year’s allocation is “in the spirit” of a 2018 recommendation from the Joint State Government Commission, which found in a study of Pennsylvania’s death penalty that the state didn’t provide sufficient resources for poor, or indigent, defendants.
While the $500,000 grant program might not cover all costs related to indigent defense in capital cases, Crompton said, it could lead to larger investments in the future.
“I don’t think we were looking to offset every dollar of capital cases,” Crompton told the Capital-Star on Monday. “We’re just going to have to see how the program works.”
Under the sixth amendment of the U.S. Constitution, anyone charged with a crime is entitled to a lawyer. If a defendant is too poor to hire one, a court will assign a public defender to their case.
Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that doesn’t allocate general funds for indigent defense, according to a 2011 study by the Joint State Government Commission. Those costs are borne entirely by the state’s 67 counties, which each maintain their own public defender’s office.
The system “is particularly burdensome to the poorer counties, which must contend with the dual handicap of scant resources and high crime rates,” the report reads.
Last year, an investigation by Keystone Crossroads found that those problems had hardly improved. In addition to wide spending disparities among counties, reporters found that the caseload for public defenders had risen, even as crime has fallen across the state.
Phyllis Subin, a former public defender who now heads the Pennsylvania Coalition for Justice in Philadelphia, has long called on Pennsylvania to direct state funds to indigent defense. A $500,000 earmark for capital murder cases, she says, isn’t nearly enough to ensure fair representation for the state’s poor defendants.
“It’s a small and … an unrealistic appropriation,” Subin said. “This is pretty much a drop in the bucket of what’s really needed in terms of appropriate and systemic change.”
Marc Bookman, a lawyer and director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, an anti-death penalty legal aid group based in Philadelphia, put it another way.
“Imagine there’s a terrible drought across Pennsylvania and the Legislature decides to address the problem by opening up a lemonade stand in Harrisburg,” Bookman said. “That’s what they’ve done here to address the state-wide problem with capital punishment.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, July 29, 2019

The failure of sex offender residency restrictions

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the first sex offender registration law. In 1994, Congress passed the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, 42 U.S.C. 14071, which required states to create procedures to track the whereabouts of sex offenders.
In 1996, Megan’s Law, 42 U.S.C. 13701, allowed states to publicize information about registered sex offenders, and now all states are required to maintain publicly accessible Internet registries.
According to Jill S. Levenson of Barry University, writing for the ABA, community notification has increased awareness about the locations of sex criminals, resulting in the enactment of laws restricting where convicted sex offenders can live. At least thirty states have passed laws preventing registered sex offenders from residing within a specified distance of schools, parks, day care centers, school bus stops, or other places commonly frequented by children.
No empirical evidence exists to support the notion that restricting where sex offenders live protects children from sexual abuse.
Sex offenders do not molest children because they live near schools. They abuse when they are able to establish relationships with children and their families and misuse positions of familiarity, trust, and authority. According to the Justice Department, 93 percent of sexually abused children are molested by family members, friends, or acquaintances.
Perhaps the greatest irony is that transience, homelessness, and instability interfere with effective tracking, monitoring, and probation supervision, undermining the very purpose of sex offender registries. If sex offenders cannot find compliant addresses to register, their whereabouts may become unknown. Many research studies show a clear link between housing instability and increased criminal recidivism. Therefore, according to Levenson, laws that foster instability for offenders simply will not serve the best interest of public safety.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, July 28, 2019

GateHouse: Shame at the border

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
July 26, 2019
It is a federal crime to assist, aid or abet an undocumented person illegally crossing the border. The law makes sense when used to thwart “Coyotes,” those who smuggle undocumented migrants across the Mexico-U.S. border. Coyotes charge refugees exorbitant fees to help facilitate the dangerous and illegal crossings.
However, the use of federal law to arrest and prosecute humanitarians who seek to help other human beings in peril as a result of their decision to seek refuge in the U.S. seems callous and un-American.
For instance, Scott Warren, a college geography instructor from Ajo, Arizona, left food and water for migrants - no one specific, just hungry, thirsty migrants traversing the Arizona desert.
According to NPR, Warren was arrested in 2017 and faces three felony counts including conspiracy to transport and harbor migrants.
Teresa Todd, a lawyer, is under investigation for pulling her vehicle over in Texas and letting a man and his very ill 18-year-old sister sit in her car while she sought guidance on how she could help the two undocumented migrants.
A sheriff’s deputy pulled up and now Todd faces possible indictment. The sheriff of Presidio County, whose deputy called the Border Patrol, defended the action against Todd. He told NPR that any person with undocumented migrants in their car risks arrest.
Manisha Sinha, recently wrote in the New York Review of Books, “Today, in criminalizing the provision of humanitarian assistance to migrants we have resurrected the fugitive slave laws of antebellum America. Just as abolitionist activists were once targeted, human rights activists have found themselves in the sights of the Trump administration.”
The media is replete with stories of refugees or asylum seekers being detained, housed in deplorable conditions and even families being separated. Refugee status or asylum may be granted to people who have been persecuted, or fear they will be persecuted, because of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political group. Refugee status is sought upon leaving a country and asylum is sought upon entering a new country.
The idea of illegal migrants pouring into the country and taking American jobs, committing crime and spreading disease is fantasy.
More than 60% of immigrants in the United States today have lived here for at least 15 years, and the large majority - 76% - of immigrants have lawful status. Of the approximately 43.7 million immigrants in the U.S. in 2016, 20.2 million were naturalized citizens, reported the Pew Foundation.
The idea that the Trump administration is rounding up illegals and sending them back is not consistent with the data. Approximately 295,000 immigrants were deported from the U.S. in fiscal 2017, the lowest number since 2006. Overall, the Obama administration deported about 3 million immigrants between 2009 and 2016, a significantly higher number than the 2 million immigrants deported by the Bush administration between 2001 and 2008, according to Pew.
Instead of deportation the Trump administration insists on discouraging migrants from seeking asylum through dehumanizing tactics such as detaining refugees without bail - keeping thousands in jail indefinitely while they wait for the resolution of their asylum requests.
As the number of refugees at the border continues to grow, the administration is looking for places to detain refugees and asylum seekers fleeing the strife and persecution in their home countries.
The Trump administration’s decision to use Fort Sill, Oklahoma as a refugee internment camp is the best example of the dangerous path the U.S. is heading down. As Sinha pointed out in the New York Review of Books, “Fort Sill symbolizes a bloodline of state-sponsored cruelty throughout American history, first as a reservation for dispossessed Native Americans, then as an internment camp for Japanese-American citizens during World War II” and now as a refugee internment camp.
Philosopher George Santayana, wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Whether this president doesn’t know, or doesn’t care, America is repeating some of the most shameful episodes in its history.
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

Baltimore Sun condemns President's racism

The Baltimore Sun has not taken lightly President Trump’s racist attack on Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings.
“It’s not hard to see what’s going on here,” wrote the paper. “The congressman has been a thorn in this president’s side, and Mr. Trump sees attacking African American members of Congress as good politics, as it both warms the cockles of the white supremacists who love him and causes so many of the thoughtful people who don’t to scream.”
“Finally,” concluded the editorial, “while we would not sink to name-calling in the Trumpian manner — or ruefully point out that he failed to spell the congressman’s name correctly (it’s Cummings, not Cumming) — we would tell the most dishonest man to ever occupy the Oval Office, the mocker of war heroes, the gleeful grabber of women’s private parts, the serial bankrupter of businesses, the useful idiot of Vladimir Putin and the guy who insisted there are ‘good people’ among murderous neo-Nazis that he’s still not fooling most Americans into believing he’s even slightly competent in his current post. Or that he possesses a scintilla of integrity. Better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Barr orders resumption of federal executions

Attorney General William Barr directed the Justice Department on Thursday to adopt a new rule for carrying out the death penalty, which would restore executions in the federal system for the first time in 16 years, reported NBC News.
"We owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system," Barr said.
In response to the order, the Bureau of Prisons set execution dates for five men on federal death row who have exhausted their legal appeals, all of whom were convicted of murdering children in especially violent crimes. Four of the five also killed adult victims. Their executions are to be carried out in December and January.
"Under administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals," Barr said. Additional executions will be scheduled at a later date, the department said in a statement.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Oregon changes law that automatically charged juveniles as adults

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has signed into law reforms that end a decades-old practice of automatically sending youths accused of serious crimes to adult court, the Oregonian reports. Under the law, which takes effect Jan. 1, prosecutors must request a hearing to determine whether anyone ages 15 to 17 should be moved to adult court when facing charges under a 1994 mandatory-minimum sentencing law called Measure 11. Adult-court referrals previously were automatic.
Measure 11 charges come with high bail and long prison sentences. Crimes covered by the law include sex offenses, murder, robbery and assault. The bill had broad support from a cross-section of organizations and leaders. Oregon Department of Corrections and Oregon Youth Authority leaders supported it. So did the association that represents juvenile department directors. Dozens of retired circuit court and appellate judges from across the state submitted a letter to the legislature encouraging a yes vote. “By changing the sentencing guidelines for youth offenders, our communities will be safer,” the governor said in a statement. “And more Oregonians will have better chances of using their time in custody to make a turnaround in their lives.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Should California death penalty moratorium stop new death sentences?

The California Supreme Court essentially froze the death penalty trial of Jade Douglas Harris, which was set to start this month, as it decides whether it will consider an argument by his defense attorney that he can’t get a fair trial in light of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s moratorium on executions in the state, reported the Los Angeles Times.
The court has until Aug. 30 to decide whether to take up a matter that could result in essentially blocking death penalty trials in California while the moratorium is in effect during Newsom’s term.
Public defenders representing Harris, who is accused in a shooting rampage that left three people dead and two others wounded, argue that jurors must believe that when they hand down a death sentence, it will be carried out.
Harris is charged with killing three people in Downey after responding to a Craigslist ad from a family selling their Chevy Camaro. He has pleaded not guilty.
The attorneys say a fair decision is impossible given that Newsom granted a reprieve to the more than 700 prisoners on death row and had the state’s execution chamber dismantled — with much fanfare in front of cameras.
“It’s just really impossible for a jury to go into a jury room and say, ‘We’re going to ignore that,’” said Robert Sanger, a defense attorney who first made this argument on behalf of a defendant in an unrelated capital case in Los Angeles County.
Sanger’s client is Cleamon Johnson, a gang leader known as “Big Evil” who is charged with five counts of murder in a case coming up for trial in January.
 “The jury making that order has to really believe it, because if they don’t, they could be cavalier about it and just say: ‘Well, let’s send a message.… We know [the death sentence] is never going to happen, but let’s do it anyway,’” Sanger said.
Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School, said there’s a real risk to the accused if that is the mindset of jurors.
“The question is likely to be: Is there any kind of instruction or precautionary steps that a trial judge can take to prevent that from occurring?” she said.
It’s hard to predict what the court will decide, Levenson said, but its stay in the Harris case signals that the state’s highest justices are taking his petition seriously.
“It’s not a frivolous issue,” she said.
Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, said he was disappointed the court was seriously considering what he called a “meritless argument.”
“Newsom’s moratorium only lasts for the duration of his term as governor. Nobody sentenced today would be executed within the next seven years anyway,” said Scheidegger, whose organization backed a measure to speed up executions in California. “And everybody pretty much knows that.”
Prosecutors in Johnson’s case said in court papers that any of his concerns can be handled through appropriate jury instructions and during voir dire, when jurors are questioned before the trial to determine their fitness. They argued that concerns about fairness can also be assessed on appeal.
“Jurors are routinely asked to set aside these types of things in order to reach a just verdict based on the evidence and the law,” prosecutors wrote.
A Los Angeles County district attorney’s office spokeswoman said in a statement that the law hasn’t changed, and until it does, prosecutors will “continue to fairly evaluate all special circumstance cases and seek death against the worst of the worst offenders, including child murderers and serial killers.”
Newsom’s office did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, July 22, 2019

'Too old to kill' 77-year old violent felon kills woman

A 77-year-old convicted murderer, whom a judge once deemed to be too old to hurt someone again, has been convicted of fatally stabbing another woman, reported The Huffington Post.
A jury on Wednesday convicted Albert Flick in the July 15, 2018, murder of Kimberly Dobbie, 48, outside a laundromat in Lewiston, Maine.
Dobbie’s twin 11-year-old sons were nearby and witnessed their mother’s violent death, which prosecutors said occurred after Flick had obsessed over the single mother to the point of stalking.
“The obsession became if I can’t have her, I will kill her and that’s exactly what he did,” Assistant Attorney General Robert Ellis told the jury, according to Portland station WCSH-TV.
The attack followed a series of other violent incidents involving Flick and women over nearly four decades as well as a judge arguing against giving him a longer prison sentence, eight years before his latest attack, because of his age.
In 1979, he was first sentenced to 25 years in prison for stabbing his estranged wife to death in front of her daughter from an earlier marriage.
After his release, he was convicted of assaulting another woman in 2010. A prosecutor recommended that he serve eight years behind bars but the judge agreed to four, stating Flick’s old age ― Flick then being in his late 60s ― hindered his ability to hurt anyone again.
“At some point, Mr. Flick is going to age out of his capacity to engage in this conduct,” Maine Superior Court Justice Robert E. Crowley said at the time, according to the Portland Press Herald, “and incarceration beyond the time he ages out doesn’t seem to me to make good sense from a criminological or fiscal perspective.”
After Flick’s release from prison in 2014 he moved to Lewiston where he eventually met Dobbie, who was living in a homeless shelter with her two sons, and became infatuated with her, prosecutors said.
To read more CLICK HERE

The Vindicator: Torch carried by The Vindicator since 1869 is being extinguished

Matthew T. Mangino
The Youngstown Vindicator
July 20, 2019
The Mahoning Valley should “rage at the dying of the light”
Beyond the three traditional branches of government – legislative, executive and judicial – there is another equally powerful, and indeed essential, component to a free democratic society: the free press referred to as the Fourth Estate.
The First Amendment protects freedom of the press. A free press is the cornerstone to a thriving democracy, functioning as a watchdog that can investigate and report on government wrongdoing.
The Fourth Estate, as the political philosopher Edmund Burke referred to it, was considered to be the most important power estate of his time. At the time of Burke, and into the 20th century, it was difficult for an individual to be heard. The newspaper was a vehicle that people relied upon to keep power in check.
Political corruption
Over the years The Vindicator wrote about the evils of unchecked corporate greed and the plight of Mahoning Valley workers; the ills of McCarthyism and the corruption and excesses of Watergate. Locally, this paper was a tireless voice against political corruption and organized crime.
Soon that voice will go silent. The Mahoning Valley has endured countless hardships. Steel mills closed, businesses of all sorts moved out of town, even as light began to shine at the end of the tunnel GM Lordstown closed. However, nothing is quite like the loss of a town’s newspaper.
Much of the litigation over the years regarding the First Amendment focused on what is known as prior restraint – the review and restriction of speech prior to its release.
Prior restraint has a history of being viewed as a form of oppression in the United States. The Founding Fathers had experienced the effects of prior restraint while under British rule, and they specifically used language in the First Amendment to guard against prior restraint, which they felt was a violation of democratic principles.
demise of newspapers
Unfortunately here in Youngstown, and in many cities and towns across the nation, a form of prior restraint is being foisted upon the people. The news in not being reviewed and censored, it is being voluntarily silenced. Could you image in 1882 or 1982 if the government came along and said we’re going to close The Vindicator? There would have been an armed insurrection. Today, it’s “Oh well, another business is closing shop.’
The newspaper is not just another business. Sure, newspapers have a bottom line and things haven’t been good. The total estimated circulation of daily newspapers in the United States has steadily declined since the late 1980s, from approximately 63 million to 31 million. Advertisement revenue has plunged from $49 billion in 2005 to $17 billion in 2017.
Yet, the newspaper is the fabric of the community. It is a forum to exchange ideas. In 2006, The Vindicator gave me a chance to express my views about crime and punishment. In the last 13 years I have written about 136 columns for The Vindicator; today’s is my last.
Newspapers are where ordinary, and extraordinary, people celebrate their achievements and share their sorrows–births, deaths, graduations and championships to name a few.
Shining light
A newspaper is a shining light in the community. States across the country, including Ohio, have Sunshine laws that ensure that the work of the government is not done in secret. Often violations of Sunshine laws are unearthed by zealous reporters who discovered government officials not following the rules.
That light is beginning to dim in Youngstown. But that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. As the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote in 1947, “Do not go gentle into that goodnight ... rage, rage at the dying of the light.”
The Mahoning Valley needs to keep kindled the torch carried by The Vindicator for a century and a half.
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

Sunday, July 21, 2019

GateHouse: Death penalty may have its day in court

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
July 19, 2019
The death penalty is a bundle of contradictions that promotes both support and opposition to its continued use.
The support for the death penalty as an effective deterrent has all but disappeared. The rarity of imposition and the handful of times each year that it is carried out mutes any impact the death penalty has on crime.
Pennsylvania may be the next major battleground for the death penalty. This week, in an extraordinary move by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, his office filed a brief with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in support of a claim by two death row inmates that the death penalty in Pennsylvania violates the Eighth Amendment to the United State Constitution.
Krasner, whose opposition to the death penalty was a major component of his 2017 upset DA victory, now joins a small group of prosecutors from across the country - including the Boulder County, Colorado District Attorney, Orlando, Florida States Attorney and King County, Washington Prosecuting Attorney - who have called for their states to abolish the death penalty, reported the Huffington Post.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office based its position on a review of every case where a Philadelphia defendant received a death sentence between 1978 and 2017. The study found that 72 percent of those 155 sentences were ultimately overturned - more than half of them for ineffective assistance counsel.
Pennsylvania is one of 30 states that has the death penalty, although Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf four years ago announced a temporary halt on executions in one of his first acts as governor. The moratorium still stands.
Since 1978, three men have been executed in Pennsylvania. Gary Heidnik, convicted of killing of two women he imprisoned in his Philadelphia home, was the last person put to death in the state, in 1999.
The current appeal has attracted support from groups like the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
It is not just progressives who want to see the end to the death penalty in Pennsylvania. Hannah Cox, National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, suggested, “Conservatives in Pennsylvania and across the country increasingly realize the death penalty is a failed government program that threatens innocent people and is marred by racial disparities, as well as inconsistency in how it has been used.”
The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association is alright with the death penalty. “If the death penalty is abolished, that would have a very real effect on a limited number of cases - which happen to be the most heinous cases,” said Greg Rowe, legislation and policy director for the PDAA. The Pennsylvania attorney general, the Philadelphia chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, and several groups of Republican state lawmakers filed briefs in support of the death penalty.
If racial disparities and poor lawyering are not enough to oppose the death penalty, those supporting the end to the death penalty have more to argue. In 2016, The Reading Eagle reported that Pennsylvania paid an estimated $816 million on the death penalty since 1978.
The Juvenile Law Center and Youth Sentencing and Reentry Project cites impetuosity and susceptibility to negative peer influences for 18- to 25-year-olds - who make up over one third of Pennsylvania’s current death row - as evidence of the overall arbitrary and disproportionate nature of Pennsylvania’s death penalty.
Quinn Cozzens, an attorney with the Pennsylvania-based Abolitionist Law Center, argues that that the death penalty can be unfairly “used as a tool” in the plea bargaining process. “They’re able to hang that over the heads of defendants,” Cozzens said.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court may soon have a say whether the death penalty is fine as it is, needs repaired or ended.
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

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Gov. Wolf signs justice reform legislation

With the Legislature out of session for the summer, Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday ceremonially signed six bills designed to boost the rights of crime victims in Pennsylvania, reported the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.
The legislation Wolf officially signed into law on June 28 are, per his office:
House Bill 315, which criminalizes female genital mutilation by making it a first-degree felony.
House Bill 502, which amends the Crime Victims Act to allow the victim to be present in any criminal proceeding unless the court determines the victim’s own testimony would be altered by hearing other witnesses.
House Bill 504, which prevents prosecutors bringing up the victim’s sexual history or prior allegations of sexual abuse while prosecuting certain crimes.
Senate Bill 399, which makes updates to the Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act, including requiring the Pennsylvania State Police to create procedures for anonymous victims and establishing timelines for submitting, testing, and storing rape kits.
Senate Bill 469, which establishes procedures protecting victims and witnesses with intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorder, including allowing for testimony and questioning to take place outside of a courtroom.
Senate Bill 479, which expands the list of crimes for which an out-of-court statement made by a child under 12 can be used.”
The commonwealth has in recent years made headlines for bipartisan criminal justice reform, including a landmark law that automatically seals certain criminal records.
But at the Capitol on Monday, state Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm said this legislative session has been just as profound for crime victims. She called 2019 a “historic and unprecedented” year, thanks to the passage of nine bills that make “necessary and vital changes” to existing state law.
“At a time when our system is ever-changing and reforming,” Storm said, “we are obligated to ensure that crime victims are at the forefront of everything we do.”
Flanked by several state lawmakers, Wolf said he would “continue to pursue this goal into the fall session.”
Storm also mentioned Marsy’s Law, a proposed constitutional amendment that would enshrine crime victims statutes in the state Constitution.
It does not require Wolf’s signature, as Storm noted. Rather, “it will be the citizens of Pennsylvania who will decide if it will become law,” this November.
Critics, most prominently the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, say Marsy’s Law will endanger the due process rights of the accused.
Storm has rejected those concerns, countering that the amendment will simply give crime victims recourse if their rights are violated — something they don’t have at the moment.
“Marsy’s Law changes that,” she said. “It is in my humble opinion the most important thing we can do for victims.”
Wolf has publicly backed the proposal.
“There’s a balance we’re trying to strike,” Wolf said in a response to a reporter’s question about the ACLU’s objections. “I’m not a big believer in slippery slope arguments.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Friday, July 19, 2019

Time to stand up to the U.S. internment of human beings

Manisha Sinha writes in the New York Review of Books: Some historical analogies can mislead, granted, but we should be mindful of the lessons from history that can shine light on our current humanitarian crisis. The first is that evils we had thought long banished from civilized societies can reappear, and with alarming speed. From concentration camps for Uighurs in China, the largest mass-detention since the Holocaust, to migrant detention centers in America, we’re seeing an increase in the systemic internment of human beings worldwide. In the US, perhaps the most fraught example is Fort Sill, Oklahoma, an Army post proposed as a migrant detention center. Fort Sill symbolizes a bloodline of state-sponsored cruelty throughout American history, first as a reservation for dispossessed Native Americans, then as an internment camp for Japanese-American citizens during World War II, and now in its present planned use by ICE as a holding pen for migrants.
The second lesson from history is how quickly such measures can be accepted as necessary, even “natural.” That ordinary people of any ethnicity or nationality can partake in and support evil actions at any time is not news to historians. The blithe assurance of top advisers like Stephen Miller and senior bureaucrats like Kirstjen Nielsen who devise cruel policies to suit the needs of the system they’re working within, and implement them seemingly without thought, recalls Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil.” More shocking is that many border patrol agents appear not only to be following orders but, according to a recent ProPublica report, have paraded their own racist, misogynistic, and sadistic tendencies in Facebook posts. That the Trump administration has announced new nationwide raids by ICE agents recalls the kidnappings and roundups by nineteenth-century slave-catchers and federal marshals.
The out-group mentality is always a danger, but there are still individuals who, regardless of race and ethnicity, do not accept or support their government’s unjust and inhumane policies. If the history of slavery and the fight against it has taught us something, it is that racial proscriptions and divisions suit those who seek to dehumanize and exploit people they construe as the other. For this reason, the interracial nineteenth-century abolition movement can provide valuable inspiration to those involved in today’s efforts to provide humanitarian aid to migrants and refugees and to resist the threatened descent into authoritarianism, mass atrocity, and inhumanity.
The 1793 federal Fugitive Slave Act required Northern free states to return runaway slaves to Southern slaveholders, enforcing the fugitive slave clause of the US Constitution. By the turn of the nineteenth century, free blacks and mostly Quaker abolitionists resisted the implementation of the fugitive slave law by forming humane societies to prevent the kidnapping of free blacks, as well as fugitive slave rendition. Northern states such as Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York passed personal liberty laws guaranteeing the due process of law and trial by jury for suspected fugitives.
The plight of today’s “Dreamers” and citizens and legal immigrants married to undocumented immigrants is comparable to the status of runaway slaves who married free blacks and raised children in free states. 
The prosecutions of those rendering aid to migrants and refugees across Europe and America demand that we extend anew our moral imaginations and recommit ourselves to universal human rights and democracy. The abolitionists’ protests against the fugitive slave laws, which deprived large groups of people of their liberty and criminalized those who offered assistance to them, should be an inspiration in our dismal times.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Philly DA supports inmates' request to abolish death penalty

A petition before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court by two death row inmates could upend Pennsylvania's dysfunctional death penalty, and it has one extremely unusual supporter: the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, reported Reason.
In a legal brief filed Monday night in support of the petition, Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner, who ran for office promising to never pursue a death sentence, argues Pennsylvania's death penalty is applied unreliably and arbitrarily, violating the state constitution's ban on cruel punishment.
To reach its conclusions, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office reviewed every case where a Philadelphia defendant received a death sentence between 1978 and 2017. The study found that 72 percent of those 155 sentences were ultimately overturned—more than half of them for ineffective legal assistance.
"Where nearly three out of every four death sentences have been overturned—after years of litigation at significant taxpayer expense—there can be no confidence that capital punishment has been carefully reserved for the most culpable defendants, as our Constitution requires," the office wrote in its brief. "Where a majority of death sentenced defendants have been represented by poorly compensated, poorly supported court-appointed attorneys, there is a significant likelihood that capital punishment has not been reserved for the 'worst of the worst.'"
The brief was filed in the case of Jermont Cox and Kevin Marinelli, who were sentenced to death for three drug-related murders in 1992 and a fatal 1994 shooting, respectively. Their petition argues that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court should strike down the state's capital punishment system because of its "pervasive unreliability" and "systemic dysfunction," citing the scores of reversed death penalty sentences, as well as six death row exonerations.
Cox and Marinelli's petition has attracted amici briefs from groups like the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania attorney general, the Philadelphia chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, and several groups of Republican state lawmakers filed briefs opposing the petition. But it appears to be the first time, at least as far as several criminal justice experts can tell, that a district attorney has argued broadly in court against a state death penalty. 
"There have been individual cases where a particular defendant challenges the death penalty and a prosecutor who reviews the case on appeal decides, you know, we can't defend what happened here," says David Rudovsky, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. "I don't know of any case of a broad-scale attack like this on the whole system, where a prosecutor agreed that the death penalty, at least in application here in Pennsylvania, is unconstitutional."
Last year, the prosecuting attorney for King County, Washington, wrote an op-ed calling on the state to end the death penalty.
Krasner, a former civil rights attorney, was elected in 2017 and is one of the most high-profile members of a wave of progressive candidates who have run for prosecutor offices in major cities in recent years, promising to roll back policies they say contribute to mass incarceration.
Krasner pledged during his campaign to never seek the death penalty. That decision, along with others, has led to intense opposition from police unions and critical local news coverage.
Although Pennsylvania is one of 30 states where the death penalty is still on the books, there have only been three executions in the state since 1978. The last took place in 1999. Four years ago, Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf announced a moratorium on the death penalty that still remains in place.
Nationwide, the use of capital punishment has steadily declined and become more geographically isolated over the past few decades. Only a handful of counties in the U.S. are responsible for the majority of new death penalty sentences. Last year, the Washington Supreme Court struck down the state's death penalty "because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner"—much the same argument that Cox and Marinelli, as well as Krasner, make.
However, the extraordinary cost of death penalty trials and near non-existence of executions have not stopped Pennsylvania prosecutors from pursuing capital punishment. A 2016 analysis by the Reading Eagle found that the state had spent $816 million on the death penalty since 1978.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

PA Supreme Court case that could end death penalty

A little-known case before Pennsylvania’s highest court could strike down the death penalty and block the executions of scores of people on death row, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.
At the heart of the case before the state Supreme Court, Commonwealth v. Cox,  is whether Pennsylvania’s death-penalty system is so flawed that it violates the state constitution’s prohibition on cruel punishment. The justices’ decision could affect not just future cases, but also the 142 inmates awaiting execution, potentially forcing the courts to resentence them. 
 “If the death penalty is abolished, that would have a very real effect on a limited number of cases — which happen to be the most heinous cases,” said Greg Rowe, legislation and policy director for the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.
It could also set the stage for another showdown with the Republican-controlled legislature, which just last year accused the Democratic-majority court of trying to set public policy from the bench.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Monday, July 15, 2019

PA legislature gives AG role in Philadelphia gun case

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and state Attorney General Josh Shapiro wound up on opposing sides of a bill designed to give the AG’s office new powers to prosecute gun crimes in Pennsylvania’s largest city, reported WHYY-FM.
Proponents of the new legislation, which quietly passed last week, say expanding Shapiro’s role will help stem the tide of shootings in the city. But critics say establishing so-called “concurrent jurisdiction” between the city’s DA and the state AG weakens Philadelphia’s home-rule powers, and Krasner’s supporters say it’s designed to undermine the progressive district attorney’s efforts to choose which cases do — and don’t — go to trial.
But on Tuesday, Shapiro was quick to distance himself from the legislation and pledged to continue collaborating with his Philadelphia counterpart.
“I’m going to continue to work in partnership with the District Attorney’s Office,” he said. “I didn’t seek this law and I didn’t advocate for it … And it doesn’t change anything.”
Krasner, who has sought to cut the city’s jail population and reduce criminal sentencing, has already seen federal U.S. Attorney William McSwain file tougher federal charges in a case in which Krasner’s office accepted a plea deal, and Police Commissioner Richard Ross has implied that too many gun charges were being sent to diversionary programs. And Shapiro’s office has notably hired some of the prosecutors dismissed by Krasner during his first week in office.
However, Shapiro’s comments were also a surprise to some of the state lawmakers who said they were confused about the language in the bill and stunned by its swift and near-unanimous passage during the hectic climax of Harrisburg’s budget season.
State Rep. Chris Rabb, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee and was one of the few Democrats who voted against the final version of the bill, was succinct when asked who was lobbying for the concurrent-jurisdiction legislation.
“The attorney general,” he said.
Rabb allowed that Republican State Rep. Martina White, who cosponsored the legislation, and Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police were active in promoting the bill as well. But State Rep. Mary Jo Daley also told the online news outlet The Intercept –– which first broke news of the legislation –– that Shapiro’s office had sought to quickly pass concurrent-jurisdiction language.
Rabb called it “a pretty bad bill,” and echoed other critics’ observations that the language was pared down to only extend Shapiro’s powers in Philadelphia and only for the duration of Krasner’s first term in office.
“It was amended to punish Philadelphia. That’s ultimately what Martina White’s bill did,” he said.
Gov. Tom Wolf similarly criticized the final amendment for failing to create a statewide concurrent-jurisdiction system. Advocates of this language counter that Philadelphia drives much of the state’s gun crime.
“District Attorney Krasner deserves a direct explanation from Attorney General Shapiro of how this targeted attack on his local authority came to be authored, passed without the apparent knowledge of most lawmakers, and signed into law by a Democratic governor who otherwise is supportive of efforts to dramatically reform our system of criminal justice,” Krasner’s office said in a statement.
In an earlier comment to The Intercept, Roh said she had “serious concerns” with the bill “and what it signifies for the justice movement at large.”
Shapiro still struck a positive tone Tuesday. He pointed to a collaborative relationship between his and Krasner’s offices through the state-funded Gun Violence Task Force, which focuses on clearing illegal guns off city streets.
“[Concurrent jurisdiction] doesn’t change the great, collaborative work that’s being done literally right now by the task force,” Shapiro said. “People are dying every single day in the city of Philadelphia because of everyday gun violence. And it’s critically important that no one, my office or anyone else, acts territorial.”
The AG made these remarks while flanked by numerous local law enforcement officials, during a press conference to announce a joint drug raid that had broken up a fentanyl ring in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood. Among them was Police Commissioner Ross and Executive Deputy AG Jen Selber, who left the city’s District Attorney’s Office for Shapiro’s about one year before Krasner’s inauguration.
Krasner, meanwhile, was not in attendance. A staffer from his office observed the proceedings along with reporters and other onlookers.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, July 14, 2019

GateHouse: Pre-trial electronic monitoring as onerous as cash bail

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
July 13, 2019This week the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided to weigh in on the use of cash bail in the city of Philadelphia. In March, attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of 10 inmates, arguing that “bail magistrates in Philadelphia’s First Judicial District have failed to consider alternatives to cash bail and have assigned cash bail to people who are too poor to afford it.”
According to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, ACLU Executive Director Reggie Shuford said, “People who have not been convicted of a crime are sitting in Philadelphia jails only because they are too poor to pay the bail they’ve been assigned. The Philadelphia courts have effectively criminalized poverty.”
As advocates scramble to find alternatives to pretrial detention, one option may be as detrimental to the accused as incarceration.
The movement to overhaul cash bail by challenging the constitutionality of jailing defendants pretrial, has pushed judges, prosecutors and law enforcement to turn to electric monitoring as a “humane” and cost effective substitute.
Electronic monitoring is a method of supervising an accused pre-trial without housing the individual in a costly jail or prison.  The defendant wears an electronic GPS monitor, housed in an ankle bracelet, permitting court or law enforcement personnel to can keep track of their movements. The monitor provides a layer of public safety that doesn’t exist when a defendant is simply walking free pending trial.
States and cities incur the brunt of the costs for jails and prison.  In an effort to cut down on government expenses, more and more local policymakers are passing the financial burden of the monitoring devices onto those who wear them.
A recent investigation by ProPublica and the New York Times cited a 2014 study by NPR and the Brennan Center that found, with the exception of Hawaii, every state required defendants to pay at least part of the costs associated with electronic monitoring.
As the cost of incarceration has soared, and state and local budgets have shrunk, electronic monitoring—paid for by the accused—must have seemed like a life preserver floating in a sea of government debt.
Yet as ProPublica and the New York Times suggested, “like the system of wealth-based detention they are meant to help reform, ankle monitors often place poor people in special jeopardy.”
Many local government agencies engage private entities to operate and manage pre-trial monitoring programs. These for-profit entities often charge defendants more over time than the cost of cash bail at the outset. Private companies set their own rates and charge interest when defendants fall behind in payments. Defendants can pay with a credit card or utilize financing set up through the company and often rack up debt they can never repay. 
In some jurisdictions the expanding use of electronic monitoring has outpaced court rules. Some judges do not, nor are they required to, conduct hearings on a defendant’s ability to pay for private supervision before assigning them to wear a bracelet rather than sit in jail.
It’s not only debt that can send defendants back to jail. Individuals being monitored can be punished for breaking the rules that come with the devices—things like curfew, use of alcohol or maintaining a job.
In 2011, then U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stated that keeping people awaiting court dates in county jails costs around $9 billion a year. The urgency to address those costs and the concern that cash bail disproportionally affects the poor has created a form of “debtor’s supervision.”
Today, eight years after Holder’s admonition, policymakers risk further exacerbating the plight of the poor by forcing those merely accused of a crime to choose between financial stability and freedom.
(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

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Pa. Supreme Court: Possession of Gun Alone Not Indicia of Dangerousness

Matthew T. Mangino
The Legal Intelligencer
July 11, 2019
Michael Hicks walked into an Allentown convenience store at 3 a.m. on a summer morning in 2014. He had a handgun in his waistband and a license to carry a concealed weapon. That didn’t prevent the police from stopping Hicks’ vehicle before he left the parking lot.
Things got worse for Hicks. Once confronted by the police the officer smelled alcohol and found marijuana in his pocket.
How did Hicks, lawfully carrying a firearm, end up arrested for DUI and possession of marijuana?
The police relied on a 50-year-old landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision and a 1991 ruling from the Pennsylvania Superior Court.
Prior to Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968) the concept of an investigatory stop was pretty straightforward. A police officer could act on a hunch and attempt to voluntarily engage an individual. However, once that encounter became involuntary the suspect was considered seized and the police needed probable cause to detain the suspect.
That all changed after Terry. The Supreme Court created a degree of suspicion somewhere between a hunch and probable cause—now known as reasonable suspicion. The Supreme Court authorized police officers lacking probable cause for an arrest to conduct a frisk for weapons if the officer believed the individual was dangerous.
On Halloween in 1963, a veteran Cleveland detective saw two men standing on a downtown street acting in a way that seemed suspicious to the detective. The detective observed the two men, one of whom was John Terry, take turns walking back and forth, in front of a store window. After each trip the two men would talk. The detective recalled that the men repeated this ritual at least a half dozen times. A third man came along as the two men spoke.
The detective approached the three, suspecting they were planning to rob the store. He identified himself as a police officer, and asked their names. Unsatisfied with the responses, the detective spun Terry around, patted down the outside of his clothing, and felt a pistol in his overcoat pocket.
Terry and another man were subsequently charged with carrying a concealed weapon and both filed a motion to suppress the guns as the fruits of an unlawful search.
The Supreme Court found that the detective “seized” Terry and subjected him to a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. But the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, so the court next had to determine whether Terry’s seizure and search were “reasonable.”
The events the detective witnessed made it reasonable for him to believe that either Terry or his companions were armed. “The record evidences the tempered act of a policeman who in the course of an investigation had to make a quick decision as to how to protect himself and others from possible danger, and took limited steps to do so.”
The court found that the search was reasonable, and concluded that the gun found on Terry was properly admitted into evidence.
Over time the reasonable suspicion standard from Terry evolved from an investigatory tool to a crime-fighting tool through the advent of “stop and frisk.”
In the early 1980s, if a police officer had reasonable suspicion of a possible crime, she had the authority to stop an individual and ask questions. Reasonable suspicion could be established by a neighborhood’s crime rate or even the time of day or night. For her safety, and the safety of others, the officer could pat-down the individual—if a gun was found the inquiry could continue or an arrest, based on probable cause, could ensue.
If, based on the subject’s answers, the suspicion level did not escalate to probable cause for an arrest the person would be released immediately.
Stop and frisk became popular in New York City. Opponents of stop and frisk argued that the police stops were discriminatory because they did not reflect the city’s overall census numbers.
Supporters argued there were 2,245 murders in New York City in 1990. By 2012, the number had dropped to 414, the lowest since police began keeping records.
Finally, in 2012, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin put a stop to it. She called the city’s stop-and-frisk tactics “indirect racial profiling.” The police used the tactic more than 4.4 million times between 2004 and 2012. The vast majority of the stops were of African Americans, 52%, and Hispanics, 31%. And 88% of stops resulted in no further law enforcement action.
Stop and frisk is not unconstitutional. There is no question that Pennsylvania law provides that an individual may be stopped, briefly detained and frisked for investigatory purposes if the police observe unusual and suspicious conduct on the part of the individual seized.
That brings us closer to Hicks’ dilemma.
In 1989, Charles Robinson Sr., was observed by a Pittsburgh police officer bending over into a van with a gun sticking out of the back of his pants.
Because of the presence of children in the area, the officer decided to confer with her partner. The officers returned and stopped Robinson’s van.
After Robinson stepped out of the van, the officer informed him that she had seen a gun in the back of his pants. She performed a quick pat down of Robinson and discovered a holster inside the back of his shorts.
The officer then looked into the van and saw a gun on the floor beside the driver’s side seat with deep scratches through the serial number.
In Commonwealth v. Robinson, 600 A.2d 957 (1991) the Pennsylvania Superior Court found that possession of a concealed firearm by an individual in public is sufficient to create a reasonable suspicion that the individual may be dangerous. The court found that the observation of a weapon in and of itself was enough to trigger reasonable suspicion—and permit a police officer to temporarily detain that individual.
In Commonwealth v. Hicks, No. 56 MAP 2017, decided May 31, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned Robinson, a 28-year-old precedent.
Hicks was armed and had a license to carry a concealed weapon. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice David Wecht writing for the majority contends, “A police officer in the field naturally relies upon his or her common sense when assessing criminal activity. When many people are licensed to do something, and violate no law by doing that thing, common sense dictates that the police officer cannot assume that any given person doing it is breaking the law. Absent some other circumstances giving rise to a suspicion of criminality, a seizure upon that basis alone is unreasonable.”
In overturning Robinson the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said evidence from Hicks’ detention should have been suppressed. Wecht wrote, Robinson “contravenes the requirements of the Terry doctrine and thus subverts the fundamental protections of the Fourth Amendment.”   Wecht concludes, “The Superior Court patently has erred in concluding that the ‘possession of a concealed firearm by an individual in public is sufficient to create a reasonable suspicion that the individual may be dangerous.’”
Some people are barred from gun ownership, and a license is required for a concealed firearm, the court said. But “there is no way to ascertain an individual’s licensing status, or status as a prohibited person, merely by his outward appearance.”
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 column CLICK HERE

Friday, July 12, 2019

Mangino provides legal analysis on Pennsylvania parole for WFMJ-TV21

Watch my interview on WFMJ-TV21 regarding the parole of accused child killer Keith Burley. To watch the interview CLICK HERE

NJ puts limits on the use of solitary confinement in prison

A lengthy and vocal campaign to strictly limit solitary confinement in New Jersey’s prisons came to a close Thursday when Gov. Phil Murphy signed a long-stalled reform measure into law, reported NJ.Com.
“I am proud to stand together with New Jersey’s criminal justice reform advocates and legislators to advance a humane correctional system that allows for the safe operation of facilities and focuses on strengthening reentry initiatives, substance use disorder treatment, and recovery programs,” the Democratic governor said in a signing statement Thursday.
Supporters say the measure is among the most comprehensive controls on the controversial practice of placing prisoners in isolation in the United States.
Its passage followed several years of debate in the state Legislature that culminated in 2016 when then-Gov. Chris Christie trashed the proposal, claiming solitary confinement did not happen behind bars in the Garden State.
It was a position long held by corrections officials in New Jersey, where prisoners could be placed in “restrictive housing,” “protective custody,” “administrative segregation” and other methods of isolation.
There are many reasons why corrections officials might need to remove an inmate from the general population, including for their own safety or because they pose a danger to other prisoners.
The current acting corrections commissioner, Marcus Hicks, said in a statement Thursday that the new law “will codify certain existing New Jersey Department of Corrections policies into law and prevent isolated confinement from wrongful overuse in the state of New Jersey by future administrations,” suggesting the practice was not currently an issue in the state’s prison system.
But prison reform and civil rights advocates have long argued the bureaucratic language used by the corrections department obscures how often inmates are placed in isolation as an act of punishment or retaliation.
In recent months, a coalition of advocacy groups under the banner of the NJ Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement renewed a push to strictly curtail the practice, collecting testimony of inmates who claimed they spent months in isolation.
“The agony of solitary confinement is that it doesn’t just lock up your body – it locks in your mind," said Nafeesah Goldsmith, a community organizer who says she spent 60 days in solitary confinement while serving a New Jersey prison sentence.
“For New Jersey to institute dramatic restrictions on solitary acknowledges the suffering we’ve endured, along with the scars we’ll bear for the rest of our lives.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, July 11, 2019

UN Report: Organized crime kills more people than armed conflict

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published a report on Monday that showed that organized crime kills more people than armed conflict, reported Jurist.
According to the report, “[o]rganized crime kills as many people as all armed conflicts combined.” The report also stated that “up to 19 per cent of all homicides recorded globally in 2017 were related to organized crime and gangs.” The report found that while more men were victims of homicide, women were more likely to be killed by their partners or their family.
The report concluded with several policy implications. According to the report, “the only way of obtaining a long-term and sustainable reduction in the homicide rate is by combating impunity, improving the rule of law and governance, and investing in education.” The report also noted that alcohol and drugs “are important facilitators of violence and homicide” and that providing treatment to people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs would reduce “the risk of their becoming involved in crime.”
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

PA Supreme Court to review Philadelphia cash bail system

In an order issued Monday, the high court says it’s open to suggestions to improving the existing cash bail system, but “any attempt to advocate for the abolition of cash bail,” is not on the table, reported the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.
In its order, the court agreed to take on the inquiry as part of its “King’s Bench” powers, which gives it supervisory powers over the rest of the statewide judiciary. Typically, the court only wields this authority in matters of “great public importance. Judge John M. Cleland, a senior judge from McKean County, has been named the special master who will oversee the investigation, court documents indicated.
In March, attorneys for the Pennsylvania branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Washington D.C.-based law firm Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer filed a lawsuit on behalf of 10 incarcerated people, as well as a community advocacy group, arguing that “bail magistrates in Philadelphia’s First Judicial District have failed to consider alternatives to cash bail and have assigned cash bail to people who are too poor to afford it.”
In a statement, ACLU Executive Director Reggie Shuford, said his organization is “grateful that the court understands that this situation needs more investigation.
“People who have not been convicted of a crime are sitting in Philadelphia jails only because they are too poor to pay the bail they’ve been assigned. The Philadelphia courts have effectively criminalized poverty,” he said.
In its legal filing, the ACLU claims that Philadelphia courts are violating procedural rules with their bail practices. The high court’s Monday order gives the ACLU and the Philadelphia court officials named as defendants in the case 90 days to submit their evidence. From there, Cleland has 60 days to submit his recommendations to the high court.
“There are people sitting in Philadelphia’s jails right now who have not been proven guilty of a crime,” Nyssa Taylor, criminal justice policy counsel for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “Bail hearings in Philadelphia typically last less than three minutes, which is wholly insufficient to inquire into someone’s ability to pay, and the person whose liberty is on the line is not even in the room, as they watch the proceedings by video. The bail system in Philadelphia must change.”
Some legal reform groups, including the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, have called for the elimination of cash bail, arguing that the decision regarding “whether a defendant should be jailed while awaiting trial is often based on a defendant’s wealth and not on public safety considerations.”
The center’s research has further found that “80 percent of the accused are too poor to afford an attorney, more than 60 percent are people of color, and the bulk of the cases are low-level, non-violent offenses. Most of this population cannot afford bail and are incarcerated before trial for long periods even though they have not been found responsible for any crime.”
“[Sixty] percent of the jail population is not convicted but being held pretrial,” Brennan researchers pointed out in a 2012 report, adding that this “issue is a huge contributor to the mass incarceration of people in the United States, resulting in overcrowded facilities and unsustainable budgets … those too poor to pay a money bail remain in jail regardless of their risk level or presumed innocence … U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in 2011 stated that keeping people awaiting court dates in county jails costs around $9 billion each year.”
 To read more CLICK HERE