Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Ohio legislature looks at abolishing the death penalty

Ohio’s governor continues to issue reprieves of execution for inmates on death row in the state as lawmakers reconvene in Columbus to consider banning the punishment in the future, reported ABC13 in Toledo.

Earlier this month, Gov. Mike DeWine pushed back the dates of four executions scheduled to take place in the first half of 2022. He previously issued reprieves for all executions scheduled in 2021.

No inmates have been put to death during his tenure as governor. DeWine halted the use of lethal injection, the only legal execution method in the state, due to concerns that the drugs used in the process could cause “severe pain and needless suffering.”

Lawmakers in the Senate introduced a bipartisan bill earlier this year to outlaw the practice, led by Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood). A nearly identical bill was also introduced in the House.

State senators heard testimony in favor of banning the death penalty earlier this year. Now, back from their summer break, lawmakers in the House heard similar testimony on the bill moving through their chamber.

An aide to Sen. Antonio told 13abc that the senator believes the legislation will pass out of the Senate and move to the House, instead of the other way around, “but frankly movement in either chamber to advance the bill would be progress,” she said.

Marg Godsey, with the Ohio Innocence Project, was among those who testified Thursday in the House. He shared the story of one of his clients, Ricky Jackson.

Jackson spent nearly four decades in prison after he was sentenced to death for the 1975 murder of a businessman in Cleveland. He was 19 when he was sentenced, without physical evidence, and only the eyewitness account of a 12-year-old boy. That witness recanted his testimony in 2014, leading to the dismissal of Jackson’s case.

“The risk of convicting an innocent person is real,” Godsey said.

Ohio currently has 133 inmates on death row. Many have been there for decades.

In a report this year on capital crimes, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost called the state’s system time-consuming, costly and lethargic.

Members of Ohio’s faith community agree and testified Thursday that capital punishment is inhumane. 

“Executions only exacerbate the cycle of death, while they erode the state’s moral credibility,” said Jack Sullivan Jr., the Executive Director of the Ohio Council of Churches.

To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, September 27, 2021

Mangino appears on Court TV to talk about the R. Kelly trial

Watch my interview about the R. Kelly trial on Court TV with Ashley Willcott.



To watch a portion of the interview CLICK HERE

Philadelphia gun violence claims its 400th victim of 2021

 Philadelphia’s gun violence epidemic has claimed the lives of more than 400 people in 2021, reported WHYY-FM.

The city recorded its 400th homicide on Saturday — the highest number at this time of year in more than a decade, according to police data.

The city reached the grim milestone despite a slight dip in shootings between mid-July and mid-August and much-touted state and city grants awarded to grassroots community organizations working to stop mostly young people from picking up guns in the first place.

Among Philadelphians doing violence prevention work — offering recreation space, giving away gun locks, connecting people to jobs — the fear is that the shootings in the city will only continue to rise before they decline. They say they could help be the “boots on the ground,” if only they got the help they need.

“[Officials] just need to put the people who are already on the streets, who already made the connection with people on the streets, and follow their lead,” said Rosalind Pichardo, a longtime Kensington activist, who is fighting the shootings and illegal drug crisis in her backyard.

“I mean, you can’t combat gun violence sitting behind a desk,” she said.

Drugs and shootings are so intertwined in Kensington, Pichardo has made it her mission to deliver what she calls “community kits” that come with the opiate reversal drug Narcan, gun locks, and a tourniquet.

According to Pichardo, the costs of her kits are manageable, but it would help to have people on street corners helping her distribute them. She said she hasn’t applied for any grants because the strings attached tend to restrict what she can do, such as distributing Narcan.

Leaders of organizations that have been awarded state funding to combat violence say they haven’t seen it yet.

At the start of September, State Sen. Vincent Hughes announced that the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency awarded $5 million in gun violence reduction grants to Philadelphia and other parts of the commonwealth seeing a rise in violence.

Well-known groups like the New Options More Opportunities (NOMO) Foundation and Every Murder is Real (EMIR) Healing Center were tapped to receive more than $224,000 each.

According to Gov. Tom Wolf’s May announcement encouraging organizations to apply, the goal was to have the projects begin by Oct. 1.

But, just days before that deadline, NOMO CEO and Executive Director Rickey Duncan said it’s still unclear when that money will be available. Whats more, the sum awarded to NOMO is spread over three years and on a reimbursement basis.

“The city, the government, the state, and the federal government need to come together, find a way where they can enrich these boots-on-the-ground organizations with its hands-on money,” said Duncan. “A lot of these organizations are going to go borrow money to spend the money, just to get the money.”

On Sunday, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney took to Twitter to say he was “heartbroken and outraged that we’ve lost more than 400 Philadelphians to preventable violence this year.”

In his message, he asked residents to share any information they had regarding crime with police so authorities could continue taking illegal firearms off the streets. Kenney also said more violence prevention grants were slated to be announced this week.

Grassroots organizations, however, have described the process of applying for these funds as cumbersome.

Still, Duncan doesn’t put the entire weight of the gun violence epidemic on city and state officials. He bemoans the loss of “the village” needed to raise children. To Duncan, shaping a safer Philadelphia will require help from the businesses headquartered here, as well as celebrities with city ties.

“We need everybody to step up,” said Duncan. “I’m tired of us just saying, what is the mayor going to do? What is the police going to do? What are we going to do as a community?”

To read more CLICK HERE

 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

PA AG intervenes in GOP subpoena of personal voting records

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that his office is suing Senate Republicans in order to stop them from subpoenaing the personal information of voters, reported Jurist. The lawsuit alleges that their efforts to subpoena the personal information of nine million Pennsylvanians invades Pennsylvanians’ right to informational privacy under the Pennsylvania Constitution.

As part of a “forensic investigation” of the 2020 election, Senators Chris Dush, Jake Corman, and the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee requested the name, date of birth, partial Social Security number, and driver’s license number for every Pennsylvanian who voted in the 2020 presidential election. They also wanted to know the method of voting and when each registered voter cast a ballot. As a reason for that request, they cited concerns about the integrity of the election.

In response, the Office of the Attorney General filed a lawsuit Thursday in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of State, and Acting Secretary Veronica Degraffenreid.

The lawsuit argues that the committee’s concerns about alleged integrity issues during the election are based on false, partisan narratives. Additionally, the lawsuit argues that providing the personal information of so many voters is a great risk, especially because the committee did not implement needed security protocols to protect the information from third-party companies.

Shapiro stated: “Giving this data away would compromise the privacy of every Pennsylvania voter—that violates Pennsylvanians’ constitutional rights. By trying to pry into everyone’s drivers license numbers and social security numbers they have gone too far.”

In Pennsylvania, there have been challenges to the 2020 presidential election and to the state’s voting rules and requirements. The US Supreme Court dismissed the final challenge to the 2020 presidential election from Pennsylvania in April. In early September, 14 Republican lawmakers filed a complaint challenging Act 77, which established universal mail-in voting in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in October 2019, as unconstitutional.

To read more CLICK HERE

Friday, September 24, 2021

Gabby Petito and the 'missing white woman syndrome'

Charles M. Blow writes in The New York Times:

In 2004, at the Unity journalists of color convention in Washington, Gwen Ifill coined the phrase “missing white woman syndrome,” joking that “if there is a missing white woman you’re going to cover that every day.”

It is not that these white women should matter less, but rather that all missing people should matter equally. Race should not determine how newsroom leaders assign coverage, especially because those decisions often lead to disproportionate allocation of government resources, as investigators try to solve the highest-profile cases.

The obsessive fascination with missing white women also leads to a slanting in sympathies. All missing-persons stories are human tragedies, and because we are all human we empathize with the people we see. But this also erases the trauma of other missing people, as if nonwhite people never go missing, when they absolutely do.

It all becomes cyclical: Media raises the profile; law enforcement engages because of that high profile; the public becomes invested; then the media continues its coverage because of the massive law enforcement response and widespread public interest.

Just like that, we have all been manipulated into playing a part in the white damsel ideology, that young white women, often attractive, are the very epitome of innocence and virtue. The devotion is nearly religious, rendering them as cherubic or angelic.

In this construct, all efforts must be made to protect them. So, what of the Indigenous women, or the Black women, or the Hispanic women who disappear? Why does society not see them as equally in need of honor and protection?

To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Murder rose by almost 30% in 2020

The United States in 2020 experienced the biggest rise in murder since the start of national record-keeping in 1960, according to data gathered by the F.B.I. for its annual report on crime, reported The New York Times.

The Uniform Crime Report will stand as the official word on an unusually grim year, detailing a rise in murder of around 29 percent. The previous largest one-year change was a 12.7 percent increase in 1968. The national rate — murders per 100,000 — still remains about one-third below the rate in the early 1990s.

The data is scheduled to be released on Monday along with a news release, but it was published early on the F.B.I.’s Crime Data Explorer website.

The F.B.I. said some numbers could change by Monday as it reviews possible discrepancies and receives updates. But the main conclusions of the data are highly unlikely to change.

Separately, an independent analysis of big cities finds at least one promising sign that the murder rate may be starting to flatten this year: The increase in murders this summer does not appear to be as large as the record spike last summer.

Here are the main takeaways from the crime data for 2020 as well as the best evidence of where things stand so far in 2021.

Previously, the largest one-year increase in total number of murders was 1,938 in 1990. The F.B.I. data shows almost 5,000 more murders last year than in 2019, for a total of around 21,500 (still below the particularly violent era of the early 1990s).

To read more CLICK HERE

 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

PA Supreme Court hears arguments on Marsy's law

 After appearing on the ballot nearly two years ago, a constitutional amendment for victims’ rights went before the state’s highest court, reported the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard oral arguments about whether the Marsy’s Law amendment, which appeared on the 2019 general election ballot, should have been presented in separate questions. Unofficial election results show that voters approved the referendum. However, it has yet to take effect due to ongoing litigation that argues the ballot question introduces too many changes to the state constitution at once.

Marsy’s Law is part of a national advocacy movement backed by a billionaire tech executive. Seventy-four percent of Pennsylvania voters approved it in the Nov. 2019 municipal election, following an expensive advertising campaign. The Republican-controlled General Assembly approved the language for the ballot question in near-unanimous votes in 2018 and 2019.

The state Supreme Court could move to put the ballot question into the constitution, adding 15 new constitutional rights for crime victims — including changes that would notify victims about the accused’s case and the right to attend and give input during plea hearings. The ballot question also allows for “reasonable notice” of any release or escape of the accused and “reasonable protection” from the accused.

Ahead of the 2019 election, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit against the state’s top election official, with support from the American Civil Liberties Union. In response, the state Supreme Court ruled that votes for the change would not be counted until the legal proceedings were complete.

In January, a state appellate court ruled 3-2 that the Marsy’s Law amendment was unconstitutional and invalidated referendum votes because the question violated a constitutional provision that limits individual ballot questions to one subject.

Mary Catherine Roper, a staff attorney with the ACLU, argued that the 15 changes are not sufficiently interrelated to be considered one objective. The ACLU and League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania also have argued that the language for the ballot question is vague and that it “undermines the rights of people who are accused of crimes.”

“The state constitution gives the people of Pennsylvania the power to amend that document,” Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “It also ensures that voters cannot be overwhelmed with too many changes at once, proposed by an overzealous Legislature. This case is about the right to vote, specifically the right of the people to consider multiple changes to the constitution as separate questions on which to vote. Instead, state lawmakers gave the voters a single choice — yes or no — on more than a dozen changes to the constitution.”

David Pittinsky, who represents the four voters who want to see the votes counted and the constitutional change take effect, argued that all 15 amendments pertain to victims’ rights. The ballot question, he said, gives victims of crimes equal rights to those who are accused.

“The important thing about Marsy’s Law is giving victims a voice in the criminal justice system,” Jennifer Riley, state director for Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania, told reporters after oral arguments. “We have a legal argument that took place today, but what we don’t want to lose sight of is the fact that crime victims deserve to have a voice here in this state. And it’s all hinging upon whether or not crime victims should have constitutional rights in Pennsylvania.”

Pittinsky said the state Supreme Court could decide on the case by the end of the year.

To read more CLICK HERE

 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Two private civil enforcement suits filed under Texas' controversial abortion law

A man in Arkansas and another in Illinois on Monday filed what appeared to be the first legal actions under a strict new abortion law in Texas that is enforced by ordinary citizens, regardless of where they live, reported the New York Times.

The Arkansas man, Oscar Stilley, who was described in the complaint as a “disbarred and disgraced” lawyer, said in an interview that he had filed the lawsuit against a Texas doctor, who publicly wrote about performing an abortion, to test the provisions of the law. The Supreme Court declined to stop the law, which has effectively ended most abortions in the state since going into effect this month.

The law bars enforcement by state officials, a novel maneuver aimed at circumventing judicial review, and instead relies on citizens to file legal claims against abortion providers or anyone suspected of “aiding or abetting” an abortion. Successful suits can bring the plaintiffs awards of at least $10,000.

Proponents of the law and anti-abortion activists had been satisfied that the threat of legal action appeared to stop most abortions in Texas. Some feared that the openness of the law — allowing anyone to file suit — could result in a first test case that was unfavorable to their cause.

Mr. Stilley said he was not trying to halt abortions by Dr. Alan Braid, a San Antonio physician who wrote in The Washington Post on Saturday that he had violated the Texas law — which prohibits abortions after cardiac activity is detected, or roughly six weeks into pregnancy.

“I’m not pro-life,” Mr. Stilley, 58, said in an interview. “The thing that I’m trying to vindicate here is the law. We pride ourselves on being a nation of laws. What’s the law?”

The Justice Department has sued Texas over the law, known as Senate Bill 8, and argued in an emergency motion last week that the state adopted the measure “to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights.”

“It is settled constitutional law that ‘a state may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability,’” the department said in the lawsuit, referring to the standard set in the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade. “But Texas has done just that.”

Dr. Braid was also sued on Monday by an Illinois man, Felipe N. Gomez, who described himself in his complaint as a “pro-choice plaintiff.” Mr. Gomez could not be immediately reached for comment about his lawsuit, which was earlier reported by KSAT news in San Antonio.

To read more CLICK HERE

 

Monday, September 20, 2021

Mangino of WFMJ-TV21 Weekend Today

Watch my interview on WFMJ-TV21 talking about Ohio SB 256 and juvenile life without parole. 

To watch the interview CLICK HERE

New NY governor takes on Rikers Island and parole violations

Gov. Kathy Hochul ordered the release of nearly 200 detainees from New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex, underscoring the growing alarm about violence and unbridled disorder at the notorious facility, reported the New York Times.

Ms. Hochul’s move came amid increasing calls for federal or state intervention at the city-run jail, which officials and detainees say has plunged into chaos — Ms. Hochul described it as a “pressure cooker” — and is rife with health and safety risks for inmates and employees alike. Ten detainees have died there since December, including several from suicide.

But the plan will not significantly reduce overcrowding, and it may do little to address two continuing crises at Rikers, one rooted in an acute staff shortage at the complex, the other in an increase in coronavirus cases there in recent weeks.

In addition to the release of the 191 detainees she announced Friday, Ms. Hochul also said she would transfer 200 others to state prisons in the coming days. Even with those moves, Rikers will be far more crowded than it was in spring 2020, when a wave of releases during the pandemic lowered the population below 4,000. On Friday, more than 6,000 people, the vast majority of them awaiting trial, were being held there.

Hochul that seeks to reduce jail populations by ending the practice of incarcerating people who commit certain technical parole violations.

But the law does not tackle what a court-appointed federal monitor has described as the widespread absenteeism among correction officers that has contributed to a deterioration of security and health conditions at the complex. With hundreds or thousands of guards not showing up to work daily, officials and detainees alike say that basic jail functions have ground to a halt: Gangs patrol hallways, detainees are held in showers repurposed as stalls and some incarcerated people are going without water, food or medical care for days.

On Friday, some local officials suggested that the federal authorities might seek to wrest control of the crisis from the city. Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn district attorney, urged the monitor to ask a federal judge to order authorities to increase staffing levels. The monitor was appointed in 2015 under a settlement between the city and the Justice Department that was meant to resolve a class-action civil rights lawsuit that detailed abuses at Rikers.

To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Justice Thomas: Don't politicize the Supreme Court

Justice Clarence Thomas, during rare public remarks at the University of Notre Dame, warned against politicizing the Supreme Court, reported Axios. Thomas one of the five justices who, 20 years ago, joined in the 5-4 partisan decision in Bush v. Gore.

Driving the news: Thomas, the court's longest-serving member, said that the justices do not rule based on "personal preferences" and that politicians should not "allow others to manipulate our institutions when we don’t get the outcome that we like," per the Washington Post.

Thomas, 73, also criticized some of his colleagues, without naming names, for veering into the role of politicians, saying that "[w]hen we begin to venture into the legislative or executive branch lanes, those of us, particularly in the federal judiciary with lifetime appointments, are asking for trouble."

"The court was thought to be the least dangerous branch and we may have become the most dangerous," he added.

What he's saying: "It is not about winning or losing at the court, it is about the entire country and the idea of this country," Thomas said.

"I think we should be careful destroying our institutions because they don't give us what we want, when we want it."

The big picture: Thomas is the latest justice to talk publicly about the Supreme Court before its new term.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative appointed by former President Trump, said earlier this week that the court "is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks" and that "judicial philosophies are not the same as political parties."

Justice Stephen Breyer, who has been promoting a book, warned against expanding the court, saying Democrats "better be pretty careful about it because two can play at that game."

To read more CLICK HERE

 

Friday, September 17, 2021

Delaware: Smell of pot from vehicle not probable cause

The Delaware Supreme Court has ruled that marijuana and cocaine seized after police arrested a juvenile should be suppressed because the pot smell emanating from the vehicle in which she was a passenger didn’t provide probable cause for her arrest, reported the ABA Journal.

The court ruled 4-1 for Heather Juliano, which is a pseudonym used for the juvenile who was 15 years old at the time of her arrest, Law360 reports.

She was charged after she handed over the drugs in her pants in an effort to avoid a strip search.

Police pulled over the car in which Juliano was riding because she wasn’t wearing a seat belt. One of two officers on the scene decided to arrest the car’s occupants after detecting the smell of marijuana. All four occupants of the vehicle were removed and handcuffed. At the police station, Juliano retrieved a bag of marijuana and a bag of cocaine from her pants.

Juliano was found delinquent on charges of aggravated possession of cocaine, drug dealing and aggravated possession of marijuana.

The Delaware Supreme Court noted in its Sept. 10 opinion that Delaware lawmakers decriminalized personal-use quantities of marijuana in 2015. Possession of smaller amounts of marijuana was a misdemeanor for juveniles younger than age 18 and a civil offense for adults.

Delaware law allows warrantless arrests for misdemeanors when the officer has probable cause to think that the offense was committed in the officer’s presence. Warrantless arrests for civil violations are not permitted.

The smell from the vehicle didn’t establish a fair probability that Juliano consumed the marijuana in a moving vehicle, the state supreme court said. And the record does not support a conclusion that the officers knew that Juliano or other vehicle occupants were younger than age 18. Nor is there evidence providing officers with a reasonable belief that Juliano had a larger quantity of marijuana that was subject to stiffer penalties, the state supreme court said.

“Under the totality of the circumstances presented by the state in this unusual case, including the vagueness of the officers’ description of the marijuana odor, the timing of their detection of that odor, and the absence of any other observations indicative of criminality, Juliano’s arrest was unreasonable,” the Delaware Supreme Court said in its majority opinion.

To read more CLICK HERE

 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Missouri AG fights to protect the COVID-19 from mask-wearing residents

There’s a particular spot in Jefferson City, Missouri, the state capital, where you can walk a few yards and pass through three different sets of masking rules. Struggling against the heavy wooden doors of the state-supreme-court building and stepping through, you leave the zone of the city and county recommendations—mask when you can’t keep distance—and enter a space where masks are required by order of the court. From there, you can peer through a glass door into a government office, a parallel pandemic universe where no one can tell you what to put on your face—and where trying to do so is a form of government overreach and social control.

This is the fiefdom of Eric Schmitt, the Missouri attorney general and Republican U.S. Senate candidate, reported The Atlantic. Schmitt has routinely snagged national headlines throughout the pandemic for his habit of suing people, most recently over masks. He is certainly not the only or best-known state official with bigger political ambitions battling public-health mandates in the name of personal freedom. Florida has Ron DeSantis, Texas has Greg Abbott—both governors wielding executive orders and fueling presidential speculation. Missouri does not have such a governor. Instead it has Schmitt, an ambitious attorney general wielding lawsuits.

He started by suing the People’s Republic of China for unleashing the pandemic through “an appalling campaign of deceit, concealment, misfeasance, and inaction.” Then it was a Missouri business that he accused of wildly overcharging for masks. Lately, Schmitt has turned his powers of litigation against attempted COVID-19 mitigation that he deems unnecessary and harmful. His latest salvo, filed in late August, is a lawsuit targeting mask mandates in Missouri public-school districts; this month he promised still more lawsuits over the Biden administration’s new vaccine mandates.

Meanwhile, within the very office that generates these lawsuits, young staffers politely don masks to step into public areas where signs have proliferated to warn Schmitt people that they’re entering court territory. Here, a bitter statewide fight over masks plays out as a passive-aggressive workplace drama. Here, too, the contradictions offer a fitting backdrop for Schmitt’s evolution from a personable, aisle-crossing state legislator who once voted for a vaccine mandate to a firebrand partisan primary candidate who now says that public-health mandates show only that “the Left is obsessed with power & control.”

Schmitt has placed himself at the center of the COVID wars in a state where vaccinations fall stubbornly below the national average and where, earlier in the summer, the Delta variant ignited its first major outbreak in the United States. In Missouri as elsewhere, the mask-mandate fight is overshadowing the promotion of vaccines—which, as Schmitt himself has noted in lawsuits, remain the best way to combat the pandemic. He rarely advertises this. And although some of his Republican primary rivals encourage vaccination while emphasizing personal choice, Schmitt has appeared hostile even to admitting being vaccinated himself. (He is.) His story, along with the ways in which his ambition has drawn him into partisan combat in a public-health culture war, is a vivid demonstration of how national politics has poisoned local debates, pitting people against one another instead of against COVID-19, even as state and local governments remain the front line of pandemic response.

To read more CLICK HERE

 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Mangino talks school mask order on KDKA-TV

Watch my interview with Amy Wadas on KDKA-TV about the Department of Health's mask order for schools.

To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Police violate man's constitutional rights granted qualified immunity

Police violated the constitutional rights of an Alabama man when they repeatedly shot at his car, first as he inched forward in it nonthreateningly and then as he drove away, hitting him either five or six times and requiring that he receive emergency surgery, a federal court ruled last week, reported Reason.

The same panel found that the officers are entitled to qualified immunity and thus cannot be sued in connection with the incident. The legal doctrine allows state actors to violate your rights without fear of civil liability if the exact manner in which they misbehaved has not been declared unconstitutional in a preexisting court precedent. (A practical example: Two cops in Fresno, California, allegedly pocketed $225,000 while executing a search warrant, but the victims were not permitted to sue because no ruling on the books said that stealing under those precise circumstances is a violation of someone's rights.)

On June 14, 2014, Bessemer Police Department (BPD) Officers Daniel Partridge and Christopher Asarisi responded to a complaint from a woman who reported what she thought was a domestic violence dispute somewhere nearby and that she thought she heard two gunshots. When the cops arrived, they found Marcus Underwood and Ray James, who appeared to be arguing.

The men immediately dispersed; Underwood, who got in his car, responded that they were just "clowning." Both officers say they told him to stop, but Underwood inched forward with "the foot off the brake," according to Asarisi. The officers allegedly then began shooting at his vehicle, prompting Underwood to accelerate and collide with Partridge, who was not injured. They fired a total of 20 shots and continued to shoot from behind as Underwood drove away. He ultimately crashed the vehicle into a house and needed immediate medical attention.

Analyzing the case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit found that the officers violated Underwood's Fourth Amendment rights. "While Underwood was not obeying orders to stop and was evading talking to the police, Underwood was not driving aggressively or in a threatening way," wrote Circuit Judge Charles R. Wilson. "The car was still eight feet away, [Partridge] did not warn Underwood that he would use deadly force, and there was no critical need to prevent a known dangerous person from escaping and harming others."

The most important bit: "We conclude that under the totality of the circumstances a reasonable jury could find that the Officers' use of deadly force was unreasonable and therefore unconstitutional."

But Underwood won't get that chance. It's not because he doesn't have a plausible case; the court acknowledges the reverse. Rather, he will not have the right to ask a jury of his peers to consider it because neither the 11th Circuit nor the Supreme Court has litigated a case with almost identical facts.

"The Officers are entitled to qualified immunity because Underwood has not demonstrated that his rights were clearly established," wrote Wilson. "As an initial matter, Underwood does not point to a factually similar case, nor does he contend that a broader principle applies here. And probably for good reason, as this case is not directly analogous to other binding qualified immunity cases involving vehicles and the use of deadly force."

It's a prime example of the outsourcing of such matters to a few bigwigs on the federal judiciary as opposed to what the Constitution prescribes: jury trials. Legislated into existence by the Supreme Court, qualified immunity protects government agents from facing accountability even when the courts admit they violated the Constitution—a privilege not bestowed to anyone without government status. It has protected a cop who allegedly beat a subdued man in a brutal fashion, a cop who destroyed a man's vehicle during an illegal search for which he lied to get consent, and more than two dozen cops who blew up an innocent 78-year-old man's home during a SWAT raid that targeted the wrong house. It has shielded cops who have shot children, cops who assaulted and filed bogus charges against a man for standing outside his own home, and corrupt college administrators who flouted a student's First Amendment rights on campus.

Underwood's version of events was corroborated by testimony from Elizabeth Harrington, the woman who called 911 and watched from her porch as it unfolded. Meanwhile, the officers contend that Partridge only began shooting after Underwood accelerated. But the court highlights a problem: Partridge's testimony contradicts itself at certain turns and also fails to line up with Asarisi's statement.

"The district court should have recognized the inconsistencies within Officer Partridge's own testimony and between the Officers' testimony," said Wilson. "Of course, a jury could instead credit some of the Officers' testimony and come to the same conclusion as the district court—that the Officers' actions were reasonable. But these sorts of issues should not be decided [by the judiciary]." They should be up to a jury.

Underwood won't go before one. But could he file a suit against the city? He has to contend with Monell, a legal doctrine that shields municipalities from civil suits unless they had a concrete policy that directly led to the alleged misbehavior. In some ways, it's a standard even more rigorous than qualified immunity.

He lost there too. "Underwood does not provide evidence of either a pattern or knowledge of improper training," noted Wilson. "He only claims that both Officers were in 'cowboy mode' on the night of the incident." Whether or not a jury would have agreed such behavior merited a settlement for Underwood's injuries will remain a mystery.

To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, September 13, 2021

Holmes trial exposes juror vulnerabilities in era of true crime television

 A federal judge admonished the 12 jurors and five alternates serving in the criminal fraud trial of Theranos’ founder Elizabeth Holmes to avoid media regarding the case after an especially lengthy three-day jury selection, reported Law.com.

Almost every potential juror that was questioned had heard of Holmes’ defunct blood-testing company and many had read books, watched documentaries or listened to podcasts detailing the alleged fraud at the center of the government’s case against Holmes.

Although America’s modern fixation on high-profile crimes and courtroom drama is at least decades old, criminal defense attorneys and jury consultants say the influx of streamable true-crime content has affected juror behavior.

Jina Choi, a Morrison & Foerster partner and former director for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s San Francisco regional office, said the podcast phenomenon is reminiscent of the “CSI-effect,” where jurors would ask “where’s the DNA evidence,” as a result of the hit crime forensics TV show. Choi, who also was a federal prosecutor in Texas, said people are able to access a lot of information about cases and defendants as a result of podcasts and documentaries. “I could see that having an effect on jury trials,” she said.

U.S. District Judge Edward Davila of the Northern District of California, who is presiding over the Holmes trial in San Jose, California, spent several hours each day asking prospective jurors if it was possible to “unread that book” or “unring that bell,” and if not, what would they do to try to put aside the narratives that they had encountered?

One potential juror who said he had consumed a variety of media, including a documentary, regarding Holmes and the company, told the judge he would focus on “what’s here, what’s now today.”

“It’s going to be tough, difficult. But I feel like I’m up for the task,” the juror said.

Several other people who had been summoned for jury duty said they didn’t feel they could set aside the information they’ve been exposed to about Holmes and Theranos.

Tara Trask, the founder and president of litigation strategy, trial consulting and jury research firm Trask Consulting, said the questions regarding documentaries, podcasts and books in the Holmes trial were pretty standard. However, Trask said she has seen multiple effects from the “huge increase” in true crime documentaries and podcasts.

“First, I think the increased amount of this type of content has had a desensitizing effect for many people,” she said in an email. “What used to be sensational is now run-of-the-mill. Additionally, much of the true crime content is quite well-done from an entertainment perspective, meaning that it is often compiled in a very dramatic way through excellent storytelling. I think jurors expect a great deal of drama and intrigue.”

In real-life cases, Trask said jurors face a level of uncertainty they often do not encounter when they are passively watching CSI or true crime documentaries on Netflix.

Trask said her team also sees prospective jurors who seem to quickly jump to the notion that there is more going on than meets the eye. “We have observed that many jurors are more inclined toward conspiratorial thinking and are more likely to embellish fact patterns than in the past,” she said.

The combination of visual storytelling over print and the blurring of fact and opinion has created “a perfect storm,” she said. “Jurors’ expectations about what evidence they will be presented has made prosecutors job’s tougher,” she said. “YouTube and social media have increased jurors’ propensity to default to confirmation bias in the current moment, which can cause problems for both sides in criminal cases.”

In some ways, jurors might recognize they are becoming the next chapter of a true crime story. During the Holmes trial, Davila noted that jurors likely walked past a line of journalists to get into court. Some of those journalists are podcasting the trial as it unfolds, including the Wall Street Journal’s John Carreyrou, who wrote a best-selling book on Theranos that several of the jurors said they had read.

Jack Sharman, a white-collar defense and government investigations lawyer with Lightfoot, Franklin & White in Birmingham, Alabama, said that realization could potentially affect jurors’ decision-making.

“It would be hard to predict how it’s going to affect it, but there’s no doubt that there is sort of a 15-minute-fame effect in this kind of case,” Sharman said.

As a defense lawyer, Sharman said the primary weapon to combat jurors who are biased from media consumption is to strike them from the panel, but that process might become even harder during the pandemic. “A lot of judges who, especially in a COVID or post-COVID era, are really looking for jurors are very reluctant to agree with you that it is cause to strike Miss Jones, because she likes true crime podcasts,” he said.

Marc Axelbaum, a Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman litigation partner who leads the firm’s Northern California corporate investigations and white-collar defense practice, said the overall concern about jury taint hasn’t changed, but the volume and diversity of information, as well as misinformation, coming at potential jurors has.

“The biggest shift in fairly recent times, I suppose, has been the ubiquity of information, where alerts from news outlets and social media may pop up on a potential juror’s cellphone years (and also days) before she or he reports for jury duty,” Axelbaum said in an email. “Social media perhaps increases the likelihood a potential juror has been exposed to information about a case before counsel first introduces evidence, heightening the need for a defense lawyer to ask probing voir dire questions about myriad potential sources of misinformation.”

Jeffrey Bornstein, a white-collar partner at Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld and former federal prosecutor in San Francisco, said Davila appeared to be mindful of the potential biases and had taken the time to go into a lot more detail than is typical during jury selection in federal trials.

The criminal legal system needs to change alongside the instantaneous information cycle, Bornstein said. “That requires slowing down a little bit,” he said. “Even though everything is speeded up on the information flow side, slowing down a little bit to unpack it, to make sure that you’re dealing with fair and impartial people who can then sit in judgment on a particular human being who’s charged with serious crimes.”

Bornstein said it’s the equivalent of mindfulness, taking a breath and slowing down.

“You can’t be in a big hurry to impanel a jury in a complex case where there’s been lots of publicity about it, because you need to find out who has done what, who’s read what, who’s heard what, who’s seen what, who’s talked to whom about what and how that may affect them,” he said.

To read more CLICK HERE

Friday, September 10, 2021

COVID-19 leading cause of line-of-duty police deaths

The resurgence of COVID-19 this summer and the national debate over vaccine requirements have created a fraught situation for the nation’s first responders, who are dying in larger numbers but pushing back against mandates, reported The Associated Press.

In the first half of 2021, 71 law enforcement officials in the U.S. died from the virus — a small decrease compared to the 76 who died in the same time period in 2020, per data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Last year, the total figure was 241 — making the virus the leading cause of law enforcement line-of-duty deaths.

Despite the deaths, police officers and other first responders are among those most hesitant to get the vaccine and their cases continue to grow. No national statistics show the vaccination rate for America’s entire population of first responders but individual police and fire departments across the country report figures far below the national rate of 74% of adults who have had at least one dose.

Frustrated city leaders are enacting mandates for their municipal employees — including police officers and firefighters — as the delta variant surges. The mandates’ consequences range from weekly testing to suspension to termination. It’s a stark contrast from the beginning of the vaccine rollout when first responders were prioritized for shots.

“It makes me sad that they don’t see it as another safety precaution,” Octavia Tokley said. “You wear masks, you wear bulletproof vests. You protect each other. That’s what you do, you protect and you serve.”

 “This vaccine really is about not just protecting yourself but protecting your coworkers, your community, people who go to your church, people in your kids’ school,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, whose city requires all employees to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or face termination.

Unions across the country are fighting back. Shon Buford, president of San Francisco Firefighters Local 798, is urging city leaders to delay their Oct. 13 vaccinate-or-terminate deadline.

Twenty workers who did not disclose whether they had received a shot by a previous deadline may receive 10-day unpaid suspensions. One firefighter has sued San Francisco, which was the first major U.S. city to adopt a vaccine mandate for its workers. The overwhelming majority of the city’s workforce of 36,000 is vaccinated, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

Buford, who is vaccinated, says he needs more time to educate his hesitant members, and he’s disappointed that San Francisco took such a harsh stance from the beginning. Firefighters like Salas have threatened to retire, and others say they will risk termination.

“To me, they deserve more than an ultimatum,” Buford said.

In Los Angeles, over 3,000 employees in the police department have been infected by the virus and the numbers continue to climb. Ten LAPD workers have died, as well as three spouses.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, has proposed required weekly testing for cops— like the New York City Police Department — in lieu of the mandate signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti on Aug. 20 that makes vaccinations part of city workers’ job conditions.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore said 51% of the department has been vaccinated as of Aug. 31 and more than 100 personnel got their shots in the last week and a half.

In California’s state prisons, a federal judge could order all correctional employees and inmate firefighters to be vaccinated under a class-action lawsuit. In mid-July, 41% of correctional officers statewide had at least one dose of a vaccine, compared to 75% of inmates.

Officials fear a repeat of last summer’s outbreak at San Quentin State Prison north of San Francisco, which sickened 75% of the prison’s incarcerated population. Twenty-nine people, including a correctional officer, died.

“Every minute, every day, every week we delay, it’s putting our clients at greater and greater risk,” said Rita Lomio, a staff attorney at the nonprofit Prison Law Office, which is representing the state’s incarcerated people in the lawsuit.

To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

PA Republican legislative leaders sue Secretary of Health over school masking order

The Republican leader of the state Senate and a group of parents filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Wolf administration’s new mask mandate for Pennsylvania schools, reported The Associated Press.

The governor’s spokesperson dismissed what she called the GOP’s “effort at undermining public heath.”

The suit, filed in Commonwealth Court, asserts that Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam failed to comply with state law when she ordered masks to be worn in all Pennsylvania public and private schools, as well as child care facilities.

The masking order isn’t valid because it didn’t go through the state’s regulatory review process, the lawsuit said. It also accused the Wolf administration of trying to circumvent newly approved constitutional amendments limiting a governor’s emergency powers.

 “The Secretary of Health’s order subjects healthy, non-infected teachers, children, students, staff, and visitors ... to the wearing of face coverings,” the suit said. The plaintiffs, it said, are “not patients, they are heathy, non-infected children.”

The plaintiffs include Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre; Rep. Jesse Topper, R-Bedford; two private Christian schools; and parents in three public school districts — Wyomissing Area in Berks County, and Butler Area and Slippery Rock Area, both in Butler County.

The parents said in affidavits that they intend to send their children to school without masks, claiming Beam’s order is illegal.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the masking order. The court scheduled a hearing for Sept. 16.

To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Texas once had the strictest gun laws in the U.S., what happened?

 Karen Attiah writes in the Washington Post:

Texas’s brand-new permit-less carry measure has been getting all the national attention, but that’s not the only worrying new gun law in Texas as of this week. Under the so-called Second Amendment Sanctuary State Act, state agencies are now prohibited from enforcing any new federal gun restrictions. School marshals in public, private and charter schools can carry concealed weapons instead of having to store them. And hotel guests are permitted to have firearms and ammunition in their rooms.

This is all mind-boggling. Texas once had some of the strictest gun laws in the United States. Whatever happened to the responsibility to protect public safety?

Sensible leaders, if Texas had them, would be steering in the exact opposite direction right now. Gun deaths in the state have climbed over the past two decades. Gun sales have spiked during the pandemic, leading to worries about an increase in the number of suicides. Dallas police scaled up road patrols this summer after a surge in road-rage violence left eight people shot or killed in four weeks. Police groups have spoken out about their fear that permit-less carry will inevitably make their jobs more dangerous, and a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll found that most Texans share their concerns about the law. Yet Texas lawmakers’ answer is to enact this siren of a law to seduce even more people into the state’s pervasive gun culture.

Gun culture is the key concept in trying to square this madness. It’s what makes it so hard to have a reasoned debate about guns. There’s no getting around the fact that, for many people, shooting guns provides a sense of pleasure and feeling of protection. A family friend who owns guns and has shot AR-15s at ranges recently told me enthusiastically about just how good it feels. There is a strong social ecosystem around guns that provide people with connection and community. That was clear enough during my visit to DFW.

And while White gun culture was birthed around White people’s feelings that they need protection from government, the rise of gun groups for Black women and other minorities suggests that many of us are feeling a need to protect ourselves in an anti-Black and misogynistic society — and are finding community in taking action together. I can easily imagine how it feels just for the formerly oppressed to embrace the legal sanction to carry openly. That’s Texas “gun culture,” too.

But we should tread carefully here. The siren song of guns is full of menace.

Because in the end, an even more heavily armed Texas can only increase the perils faced by women and minorities. White men have historically enjoyed the freedom to surveil and wield lethal violence against less powerful groups — and how deeply has that changed? Women and minorities face harsher legal punishments for using a gun in self-defense. The fear of Black people having guns is often the justification for police violence. We know that having a gun in the house increases the chances that a woman will be killed by her partner.

I thought about all these things as I went through the 20-minute safety tutorial with the Glock and dummy bullets. I struggled to get the correct grip, and it wasn’t easy to get the feel for loading and discharging the bullet chamber. Frankly, the idea that someone as untrained as me can now buy and openly carry a gun without mandated permits or safety training is absolutely crazy.

“So, are y’all ready to shoot?” the instructor asked. The other women said yes. But I said no. I was able to resist the seduction of Texas gun culture. At least for now.

To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, September 6, 2021

Mangino provides trial analysis for Law and Crime Network

I had the pleasure of providing legal analysis for Law and Crime Network on the Stanley Ford arson/murder trial in Akron, Ohio. 


To watch the segment CLICK HERE

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Mangino on WFMJ-TV21 Weekend Today

Watch my interview on WFMJ-TV21 Weekend Today about the Texas abortion law and the Sackler family settlement. 

To see the interview CLICK HERE

The is no 'great resignation' among America's police officers

Since last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, there’s a popular refrain echoing through urban police precincts, rural sheriff’s offices and city halls everywhere in between: Officers are fleeing America’s police forces in big numbers, officials say. And the timing couldn’t be worse, amid a rise in murders and shootings. Many argue cities must hire more police, but against the backdrop of nationwide scrutiny of police killings, morale has dropped to the point that few people want to be officers, according to The Marshall Project.

According to federal data, those worries are unfounded. Last year, as the overall U.S. economy shed 6% of workers, local police departments lost just under 1% of employees after a decade of steady expansion, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s about 4,000 people out of nearly half a million employees in municipal police departments and sheriff’s offices nationwide. State and federal law enforcement departments actually saw a slight increase in the number of employees. 

Local Police Employment Remained Steady During The Pandemic

From 2019 to 2020, the number of people working at local police departments and sheriff's offices decreased by less than 1%, according to monthly data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The decrease is much slower than the overall employment, or industries such as restaurants, education and healthcare. Even as many industries started to bounce back, local police hiring hasn’t picked up because it takes months, or even years, to train to become a police officer.

The push to hire more police is gaining ground. The Biden Administration recently announced that cities can use part of the $350 billion American Rescue Plan relief money to hire more officers to combat gun violence. Cities — big and small — are jumping on that offer, with claims that their police departments are running out of officers.

Many of the most worried officials have latched onto recent data from a non-scientific survey conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum think tank, that shows a 45% increase in the law enforcement retirement rate and other “dramatic” losses. The survey of 194 departments compares 2020 with the previous year, but 2019 came at the end of a long period of steady police job growth. Compared with the previous year, the 2020 numbers appear dramatic. Looking across the past decade, police employment in 2020 was roughly the same as in 2018.

Law enforcement’s employment numbers tend not to fluctuate dramatically. Policing is a secure job, according to Peter Moskos, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which explains the relatively small increase in retirements and resignations over 2020. Police jobs are often last on the chopping block when cities are considering budget cuts. Pensions and relatively high pay make it appealing to stay. Many of the officers who retired in 2020 were probably going to retire in a couple of years anyway, says Moskos, who suspects very few police would quit outright. Morale may be low, but, in Moskos’s view, that’s always been the case.

“They are financially locked in,” Moskos says, “If you quit, you don’t get your pension. Cops are human, too. They have a mortgage to pay. You can’t quit.”

To read more CLICK HERE

Mangino interviewed on KDKA-TV

 Talked with Jon Delano of KDKA-TV about the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health's order requiring masking in Pennsylvania schools.

To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Friday, September 3, 2021

Former Georgia prosecutor indicted for shielding men who killed Ahmaud Arbery

 A former Georgia prosecutor was indicted Thursday on misconduct charges alleging she used her position to shield the men who chased and killed Ahmaud Arbery from being charged with crimes immediately after the shootings, reported NBC News.

A grand jury in coastal Glynn County indicted former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson on a felony count of violating her oath of office and hindering a law enforcement officer, a misdemeanor.

The indictment resulted from an investigation Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr requested last year into local prosecutors' handling of Arbery's slaying after a cellphone video of the shooting and a delay in charges sparked a national outcry.

"While an indictment was returned today, our file is not closed, and we will continue to investigate in order to pursue justice,” Carr, a Republican, said in a statement.

Arbery was killed Feb. 23, 2020, after a white father and son, Greg and Travis McMichael, armed themselves and pursued the 25-year-Black man in a pickup truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood outside the coastal city of Brunswick, about 70 miles (112 kilometers) south of Savannah.

A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan joined the chase and took cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery at close range with a shotgun. The McMichales said they believed Arbery was a burglar and that he was shot after attacking Travis McMichael.

Police did not charge any of them immediately following the shooting, and the McMichaels and Bryan remained free for more than two months until the cellphone video of the shooting was leaked online and Gov. Brian Kemp asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to take over the case.

Both McMichaels and Bryan were charged with murder and other crimes in May 2020 and face trial this fall. Prosecutors say Arbery was merely jogging in their neighborhood and was unarmed when Travis McMichael shot him. They say there is no evidence Arbery had committed a crime.

Greg McMichael had worked as an investigator in Johnson's office, having retired in 2019. Evidence introduced in pretrial hearings in the murder case shows he called Johnson's cellphone and left her a voice message soon after the shooting occurred.

“Jackie, this is Greg,” he said, according to a recording of the call included in the public case file. “Could you call me as soon as you possibly can? My son and I have been involved in a shooting and I need some advice right away.”

A record of Greg McMichael's cellphone calls that day does not show that Johnson called him back.

The indictment says Johnson showed “favor and affection” toward Greg McMichael in the investigation and interfered with police officers at the scene by “directing that Travis McMichael should not be placed under arrest.”

Johnson did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment Thursday afternoon. She has previously insisted she did nothing wrong, saying she immediately recused herself from the case because Greg McMichael was a former employee.

“I’m confident that when the truth finally comes out on that, people will understand our office did what it had to under the circumstances,” Johnson told The Associated Press in November after she lost reelection.

Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery's mother, said in a statement Thursday that prosecutors “must be held accountable when they interfere with investigations in order to protect friends and law enforcement.”

Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, posted her reaction on Facebook: “Former DA Jackie Johnson....Indicted!!! JusticeForMyBaby!!!!”

In his call for an investigation into prosecutorial misconduct, Carr asked the GBI not only to investigate Johnson's actions related to the killing but also those of Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill. No charges have been announced against Barnhill.

After the shooting, Johnson called Barnhill to handle questions from police about how to handle the shooting.

Carr ended up appointing Barnhill to take over on Feb. 27, four days after the shooting. In his letter ordering an investigation last May, Carr said he was never told that Barnhill had already advised police “that he did not see grounds for the arrest of any of the individuals involved in Mr. Arbery’s death.”

Barnhill later recused himself as well, after Arbery's family learned his son worked for Johnson as an assistant prosecutor. But before he stepped aside, Barnhill wrote a letter to a Glynn County police captain saying the McMichaels “were following, in ‘hot pursuit,’ a burglary suspect, with solid first hand probable cause, in their neighborhood, and asking/ telling him to stop.”

“It appears their intent was to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived. Under Georgia Law this is perfectly legal,” Barnhill advised in the letter, referencing Georgia's Civil War-era citizen arrest statute.

That law was repealed in May 2021, with overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats, as a reaction to Arbery's death.

Johnson told the AP in May 2020 that Glynn County police contacted two of her assistant prosecutors on the day of the shooting. She said it was the officers who “represented it as burglary case with a self-defense issue.”

"Our office could not advise or assist them because of our obvious conflict,” Johnson said.

Johnson blamed the controversy over Arbery's death for her election defeat last year after a decade as top prosecutor for the five-county circuit in southeast Georgia. She was defeated by independent candidate Keith Higgins, who had to collect thousands of signatures to get on the ballot.

To read more CLICK HERE

 

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Attorneys for police don't want second Floyd trial livestreamed

 Attorneys for two former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd's death are asking a judge to bar their upcoming trial from being livestreamed, saying some witnesses won’t testify if the proceedings are broadcast, reported The Associated Press. 

The request from attorneys for Thomas Lane and J. Kueng is an about-face from their earlier request to have the trial publicly broadcast, and it's opposed by prosecutors and news media outlets including The Associated Press. It’s among a few legal issues expected to be argued at a Thursday hearing before Judge Peter Cahill. 

Lane, Kueng and Tou Thao are scheduled for trial next March on charges of aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s May 2020 death. Their co-defendant, Derek Chauvin, was convicted in April of murder and manslaughter after weeks of proceedings that marked the first time in Minnesota that a criminal trial was livestreamed in its entirety. 

Before Chauvin’s trial, attorneys for all four men requested the trials be broadcast, but now attorneys for Lane and Kueng say in nearly identical motions that the “worldwide publicity” from televised coverage of Chauvin’s trail “crushed” their clients’ right to a fair trial. Attorneys Earl Gray and Tom Plunkett say the public access led some witnesses to decline testifying for the defense, noting one witness in the Chauvin trial has been harassed and another faced professional scrutiny.

“Cameras in the Chauvin Courtroom brought us to the dangerous pass where people are deterred from testifying for the defense because they fear the wrath of the crowd,” they wrote.

Thao's attorney hasn't said whether his client still wants the trial broadcast.

Minnesota court rules usually ban cameras at criminal trials unless both sides agree to them. Cahill ordered the trials to be broadcast live, over the initial objections of prosecutors, because of the intense global interest in the case and limited courthouse space due to the pandemic. The livestreaming was widely praised and has led the state to consider expanding its rules for broadcasting future court proceedings. 

Prosecutors initially opposed livestreaming Chauvin's trial but now say it was the right move — protecting everyone involved during the pandemic, allowing for meaningful public access and letting people to watch the fair administration of the justice system. 

 To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Arizona eliminating peremptory challenges in jury selection

 Arizona’s top court is eliminating the longstanding practice of allowing lawyers in criminal and civil trials in state courts to remove potential jurors without explanation, a move that proponents said would help prevent discrimination in the selection of trial jurors, The Associated Press.

So-called peremptory challenges will end Jan. 1., under a groundbreaking rule change ordered by the Arizona Supreme court.

In the meantime, a court task force will recommend possible changes to current court rules that also allow opposing sides in trials to ask judges to remove potential jurors for valid reasons such as stated bias or inability to serve, the order said.

Peremptory challenges are a hot-button legal issue nationally as illustrated by jury selection in the trial that resulted in the conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer in George Floyd’s death.

Robert Chang, a Seattle University law professor, said during an interview Saturday that he believed Arizona’s impending outright elimination of peremptory challenges is believed to be a first such step by a U.S. state, though others such as Washington and California have recently moved to place new restrictions on the challenges.

“Arizona clearly has gone further,” said Chang, the director of a legal center that endorsed a competing Arizona rule-change proposal to restrict but not eliminate peremptory challenges. “Arizona’s move is big, and it will be fascinating to see what other states and courts do.”

The Arizona court rejected the competing proposal and, as is its practice when it acts on requests to change rules, did not comment on its reasoning for its actions.

However, the two state Court of Appeals judge who proposed the rule change in January said it was “a clear opportunity to end definitively one of the most obvious sources of racial injustice in the courts.”

While many lawyers view peremptory challenges as a way to “structure a jury favorable to his or her cause,” that interest should be secondary “if elimination of racial, gender and religious bias in the court system a controlling goal,” Judges Peter Swann and Paul McMurdie wrote in their proposal.

The current system of allowing a side to object to the other side’s peremptory challenge of a potential juror if discrimination is thought to be the unstated motive is ineffective and inefficient, according to the proposal by the two former trial judges.

Their proposal drew some support but also strong opposition from within the state’s legal community while it was under consideration by the Supreme Court.

Eliminating peremptory challenges would make it harder to pick a fair and impartial jury because some potential jurors would be chosen if they said they could be impartial even though one side in a trial thought they likely weren’t acknowledging biases, opponents said in comments on the proposal.

“Expecting a prospective juror to candidly admit that they cannot be fair is not realistic,” Maricopa County attorney Allister Adel said in a comment.

Supporters included nearly all the judges on a trial court in one mid-size county. Apart from preventing discriminatory abuse of peremptory challenges, their elimination presents opportunities to streamline jury selection, the Yavapai County Superior Court judges’ comment said.

Chang, the Seattle University professor, said it’ll be important to follow up the elimination of peremptory challenges by changing other rules to allow lawyers more time in court to question potential jurors about potential biases.

Otherwise, “it’s really hard to get the basis for making for-cause challenges,” Chang said.

To read more CLICK HERE