Sunday, June 30, 2024

SCOTUS decision expected tomorrow on presidential immunity

 The Supreme Court is set to rule tomorrow whether former President Trump has immunity from criminal prosecution, a monumental decision that comes just days after the court dropped a decision throwing into doubt charges against hundreds of Jan. 6 rioters and Trump himself, reported The Hill.

The stakes are as high as Trump’s ask of the court is broad. The former president is pleading with the court to toss his federal Jan. 6 case with his claims of immunity.

While the court could well reject the sweeping immunity sought by Trump, several justices signaled an openness during April arguments to carving out some form of protection from criminal prosecutions for former executives. 

“The question becomes — as we’ve been exploring here today, a little bit — about how to segregate private from official conduct that may or may not enjoy some immunity,” Justice Neil Gorsuch, one of the court’s six conservatives, said in April.

The immunity decision comes on the heels of another Jan. 6-related case decided Friday that narrowed the use of the obstruction of an official proceeding charge levied against many of those who stormed the Capitol. 

“Big News!” Trump wrote on Truth Social reacting to the Supreme Court’s decision.

It also follows Thursday’s presidential debate, where a shaky performance by President Biden left some Democrats more worried than ever that Trump would win the election in November and earn another four years at the White House.

The Supreme Court typically concludes its summer decision-making by the end of June, but it is headed into overtime to directly weigh in on Trump’s case, mulling whether he is immune from the charges altogether.

Chief Justice John Roberts announced Friday that “all remaining” Supreme Court opinions will come down Monday beginning at 10 a.m. EDT. The immunity decision will drop along with decisions on three other cases that were heard.

The justices spent ample time in April questioning what actions would qualify as official ones a president might enjoy immunity for, compared to personal actions for which they would not. 

Trump’s legal team suggested during arguments that even a president ordering the assassination of his political rival could be protected from prosecution.

It seems unlikely the court will take the case to that logical extreme, but even a more nuanced ruling could hold benefits for Trump, who across all his criminal cases has embraced a strategy of seeking delay wherever possible.

The court might spell out a test for immunity that offers some protections for a former president, kicking the case back to the district court for Judge Tanya Chutkan to weigh whether Trump’s actions meet their criteria.

That could result in a lengthy battle where Chutkan determines Trump is still not immune from prosecution, facing appeal up to the high court yet again.

To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Mangino appears on Scripps News to discuss mass shooter reneging on plea

Watch my interview on Scripps News discussing Robert Crimo III, the Illinois mass shooter who refused to accept negotiated plea. 

To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Oklahoma man executed after 40 years on death row

The 9th Execution of 2024

After waiting almost 40 years to be executed, convicted child murderer Richard Norman Rojem Jr. had nothing to say, reported the Oklahoman.

There was no final declaration of innocence Thursday. There were no expressions of remorse or regret.

On the execution gurney, he mumbled he had no final words. "I've said my goodbyes," he added.

At 10:03 a.m., the drugs began flowing in the death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. At 10:16 a.m., he was pronounced dead.

Rojem, 66, was executed by lethal injection for murdering his former stepdaughter, Layla Dawn Cummings, in 1984. She was 7.

Her mother, Mindy Cummings, watched from a witness room.

"We are grateful today for justice served and the peace of knowing that Richard Rojem can never hurt us or any other person again," she said in a statement read by Oklahoma's attorney general to the media.

Rojem was the longest-serving death row inmate in state history, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. He also was one of the longest-serving death row inmates in the United States.

His execution was delayed for decades largely because he twice successfully challenged his punishment. He was resentenced in 2003 and 2007 and did not exhaust his appeals until 2017. At that time, executions were on hold in Oklahoma.

He was the 13th inmate to be executed since the state resumed capital punishment in October 2021 after a hiatus of more than six years.

Executions were put on hold in 2015 because of a series of issues with the procedure. The first one after the hiatus was widely described as botched after media witnesses reported the inmate repeatedly convulsed and vomited.

Rojem's execution, though, was the latest to be carried out without any visible complications. "There were no incidents, issues or problems," said Steven Harpe, the executive director of the Department of Corrections.

Tulsa television reporter Reagan Ledbetter described the execution as very routine. "I've witnessed four of these now. It appeared to go smooth," he said.


Rojem did not seek any last-minute stays. He maintained all along that he was innocent.

"I did not kidnap Layla, I did not rape Layla, and I did not murder her," he told the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board earlier this month.

Layla Dawn Cummings was abducted late July 6 or early July 7 in 1984 from an Elk City apartment while her mother was at work at a McDonald's restaurant. Photos of the kidnapping scene show her doll atop her bed. Her brother, Jason, then 9, said "Rick" was in the apartment at the time she was taken, according to testimony from his 1985 trial.

A farmer found her body on the morning of July 7 in a plowed field near Burns Flat. She had been raped and stabbed.

Rojem, then 26, lived at the time in Burns Flat. He married the victim's mother while he was in prison in Michigan for sex offenses against two teenage girls, according to court records. She was the sister of his cellmate. He came to Oklahoma after being paroled in 1982.

He and Mindy Cummings had been divorced for about two months at the time of the murder. He had been seeking a reconciliation.

In her statement Thursday, the mother also blamed Rojem for the death of Layla's father.

"Today, we also honor the memory of Layla and Jason's father, Don Cummings, who is not with us today due to the absolute evil of a monster who purposely tormented him to the brink of despair that ended his life," she said.

Don Cummings committed suicide in Michigan in 1985, writing in a note, "Maybe now I can rest," according to the AG's office.

Attorney General Gentner Drummond, who witnessed the execution, said afterward that his prayer is that "today's action" brings a sense of comfort to those who loved Layla.

In the death chamber with Rojem was a spiritual adviser, a Buddhist monk from California. Reverend Master Daishin Yalon stood at Rojem's feet under the watch of a guard after the execution began. The adviser and Rojem at least twice spoke to each other before Rojem became unconscious.

Rojem became a Zen Buddhist in prison and was known by other followers as Daiji, according to his attorneys.

Rojem had his last meal at 5:48 p.m. Wednesday. He had two small Little Caesars double cheese double pepperoni pizzas and two cups of vanilla ice cream, corrections officials said. He also had a bottle of Vernors ginger ale.

The Pardon and Parole Board voted 5-0 on June 17 to deny Rojem clemency. That vote meant Gov. Kevin Stitt could not commute his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Up next is Emmanuel Littlejohn, who was sentenced to death for the 1992 murder of an Oklahoma City convenience store owner. His execution has not been scheduled yet but will likely take place in September.

To read more CLICK HERE

Friday, June 28, 2024

Texas man executed for 2001 rape and murder of 18-year-old woman

 The 8th Execution of 2024

Texas executed Ramiro Gonzales by lethal injection on June 26, 2024 for a 2001 murder, the state Department of Criminal Justice said, following unsuccessful appeals to the US Supreme Court that argued, in part, he should have been ineligible for the death penalty under state law because he was no longer dangerous, reported CNN.

Gonzales, 41, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2006 for the sexual assault and killing of 18-year-old Bridget Townsend, court records show. His execution was the first of two – the other in Oklahoma – carried out this week in the United States.

Gonzales was pronounced dead at 6:50 p.m., the state criminal justice department said.

The department provided Gonzales’ last statement before he was executed, in which he repeatedly apologized to the Townsend family and said he “never stopped praying” for their forgiveness: “I can’t put into words the pain I have caused y’all, the hurt what I took away that I cannot give back.”

“I hope this apology is enough. I lived the rest of this life for you guys to the best of my ability for restitution, restoration, taking responsibility,” Gonzales said. “I never stopped praying that you would forgive me and that one day I would have this opportunity to apologize.”

During the penalty phase of Gonzales’ trial, jurors were required to find, as they are in all capital cases in Texas, a “probability” Gonzales would continue to “commit criminal acts of violence.” Without this determination, capital defendants in the Lone Star State are not eligible for the death penalty, per state law.

In their appeals to the Supreme Court, Gonzales’ attorneys said his track record these last 18 years shows he was not dangerous, pointing to his commitment to his Christian faith, ministry to others behind bars and his unsuccessful attempts to donate a kidney to a stranger in need.

Additionally, they said the evidence relied upon to make the finding of future dangerousness was false: An expert witness who diagnosed the inmate with antisocial personality disorder relied on recidivism data later found to be incorrect, and he later evaluated Gonzales and walked back his testimony.

In a pair of brief orders Wednesday, the US Supreme Court gave no comment in its denial of Gonzales’ requests. There were no noted dissents.

“We have finally witnessed justice being served,” Townsend’s brother, David, said Wednesday after witnessing Gonzales’ execution, according to the Associated Press. “This day marks the end of a long and painful journey for our family. For over two decades we have endured unimaginable pain and heartache.”

Gonzales’ death “provides us a little bit of peace,” he said. “I do want to say we are not joyous. We are not happy. This is a very, very sad day for everyone all the way around.”

Gonzales had grieved for Townsend and her family, as well as another woman he kidnapped and raped before confessing to Townsend’s killing, his attorneys said Wednesday night in a statement.

“Ramiro knew he took something from this world he could never give back. He lived with that shame every day, and it shaped the person he worked so hard to become,” said the attorneys, Thea Posel and Raoul Schonemann. “If this country’s legal system was intended to encourage rehabilitation, he would be an exemplar.”

In his final statement before execution, Gonzales also thanked his family and friends, along with two officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for “the opportunity to become responsible, to learn accountability and to make good.”

The state of Texas had also opposed Gonzales’ appeals, arguing in part his team had misconstrued the eligibility requirement and contending the question of whether Gonzales would continue to be a threat was not limited to the inmate’s behavior on death row.

Even taking into account his behavior post-conviction, “there’s undoubtedly sufficient evidence to uphold the finding of future dangerousness,” attorneys for the state wrote, pointing to the subsequent kidnapping and rape of another woman and a litany of transgressions he committed while in jail.

“Even if a jury could somehow consider events that had not happened yet, i.e., Gonzales’s behavior on death row, the jury could still have rationally believed Gonzales would be a danger in the future,” they said.

On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to recommend clemency in a 7-0 vote. Without that recommendation, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott only could have given Gonzales a one-time 30-day reprieve.

In a statement, the Medina County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case, said the death penalty is never “taken lightly” in Texas.

“Nothing about an execution is easy. Nothing about losing a loved one to murder is easy,” District Attorney Mark Haby said. “However, it seems to be a fitting end that the defendant was executed on the birthday of the person he killed, Bridget Townsend. May both their souls find peace.”

CNN has reached out to members of Townsend’s family for comment.When Townsend told Gonzales her boyfriend wasn’t home, he went to the house in search of drugs. He stole money, then kidnapped Townsend, tying her hands and feet before driving her to a location near his family’s ranch, the opinion states. There, he raped and fatally shot her, it says.

The case went unsolved for 18 months. Then, while sitting in jail after pleading guilty to the rape of another woman, Gonzales confessed to Townsend’s killing and led authorities to her body.

Gonzales’ execution was the nation’s eighth this year, according to data from the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit organization that tracks capital punishment in the US and has in the past been critical of the way it’s administered.

It was followed by the ninth Thursday in Oklahoma, which executed Richard Rojem for the 1984 kidnapping, rape and murder of his 7-year-old stepdaughter, Layla Cummings. Rojem was pronounced dead at 10:16 a.m., the director of the state Department of Corrections confirmed in a statement. The state’s parole board voted last week against recommending clemency for Rojem, who had claimed he was innocent, according to CNN affiliate KOCO.

Rojem, like Gonzales, was the second person executed in his respective state so far in 2024, according to the center’s data. By this time last year, 13 inmates had been put to death in the US, the data shows.

To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Connecticut company that furnished execution drugs to federal government stops production


A Connecticut chemicals manufacturer that was identified as having sold a lethal drug to the Trump administration for use in its execution spree has said that it will no longer produce the substance, according to a letter obtained by The Intercept.

John Criscio, the president of Absolute Standards, wrote to two Connecticut legislators last month that his company stopped manufacturing pentobarbital in December 2020. “We have no intention to resume any production or sale of pentobarbital,” Criscio added. 

The one-page letter, which has not previously been reported on, is the first formal acknowledgment by Criscio that his small family business was making pentobarbital, a barbiturate that has been used both by itself and in combination with other drugs to carry out lethal injection executions. 

The letter notes that the company had been registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency to manufacture pentobarbital, and it makes no mention of whether the company had provided execution drugs to the federal Bureau of Prisons. On two previous occasions, Criscio denied to The Intercept that his company had done so. The Intercept called Absolute Standards multiple times on Friday and was told that Criscio was not around. The company did not respond to an email requesting comment, nor did Criscio respond to messages sent to his personal email account. 

To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Creators: Supreme Court's 'Modest' Gun Ruling Hardly a Victory

Matthew T. Mangino
June 24, 2024

Last Friday, advocates for sensible gun access applauded a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision appeared to slow a trend by the court to eradicate any limitation on gun ownership.

The Supreme Court ruled that the government can take guns away from people subject to restraining orders for domestic violence. According to Adam Liptak of The New York Times, just two years ago, the court expanded the scope of the Second Amendment when it formulated a new test to assess all gun-related laws, one that would judge constitutionality by looking to tradition and historical practices.

Recently, I wrote about the Supreme Court's "new" method of interpreting the U.S. Constitution — "history and tradition." History and tradition is a spinoff of "originalism." Former Justice Antonin Scalia was a proponent of originalism and argued that high court decisions should be grounded in the moment the Constitution was written, to prevent judges from substituting their values for the wisdom of the nation's founders.

In New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, a New York state law required anyone wanting to carry a concealed handgun outside the home must show "proper cause" for the license.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects a broad right to carry a handgun outside the home for self-defense. In the future, according to Amy Howe of the SCOTUSblog, courts should uphold gun restrictions only if there is a tradition of such regulation in U.S. history.

In United States v. Rahimi, decided Friday, the Supreme Court was tasked with deciding whether a Texas man could be prosecuted under federal law making it a crime for people subject to domestic violence restraining orders to possess guns. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for an 8-1 majority, wrote, "Since the founding, our nation's firearm laws have included provisions preventing individuals who threaten physical harm to others from misusing firearms."

The court found through history and tradition that the Second Amendment has limits. That is important. Roberts went on to write, "The appropriate analysis involves considering whether the challenged regulation is consistent with the principles that underpin our regulatory tradition."

Court watchers held their breath waiting on the Court's decision. Could the Court find that a domestic abuser, deemed dangerous, should be allowed to possess a gun?

As little as 10 years ago, it would have been unthinkable that persons found to have battered their partners would be guaranteed the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Oh, but how things have changed. The 6-3 conservative bent of the Supreme Court has some Americans celebrating as a "victory" what would have, not so long ago, been thought of as a "no-brainer" — disarming perpetrators of domestic violence.

Justice Clarence Thomas, the lone dissenter, wrote that the government cannot "strip the Second Amendment right of anyone subject to a protective order — if he has never been accused or convicted of a crime."

Apparently, proving someone is a batterer in civil court, in Thomas' mind, is not enough to disarm the person. Only, for now, a criminal conviction would be adequate.

According to Liptak, the chief justice said the court's opinion was modest. "We conclude," Roberts wrote, "only this: An individual found by a court to pose a credible threat to the physical safety of another may be temporarily disarmed consistent with the Second Amendment."

For those supporting sensible gun restrictions, this "modest" decision is hardly a victory; it is merely a reminder of how much ground has been lost in the battle to reduce the number of injuries and deaths as the result of easy access to firearms.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book "The Executioner's Toll, 2010" was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.

To read more CLICK HERE

Mangino joins Nancy Grace to discuss arrest in Rachel Morin murder

Watch my discussion with Nancy Grace on Dr. Phil's Merit Street Media discussing the arrest in the murder of Rachel Morin.


Monday, June 24, 2024

SCOTUS makes Sixth Amendment confrontation ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court sent the case of an Arizona man convicted of drug possession back to the state courts, reported Amy Howe of the SCOTUSBlog. Jason Smith argued that when an expert witness testified for the prosecution about drug analysis performed by another forensic scientist, it violated his right under the Sixth Amendment “to be confronted with the witnesses against him.”

In an opinion by Justice Elena Kagan, the court agreed with Smith that the requirements of the Sixth Amendment’s confrontation clause normally apply to a scenario like the one presented by his case – that is, when an expert appears before a jury to relay the statements of an absent analyst in support of her opinion, and the analyst’s statements only provide that support if they are true. But the justices sent the case back to the state courts for them to determine whether the absent analyst’s statements qualified as “testimony” – another criteria for the confrontation clause to apply.

The case came to the court after police officers executing a search warrant found methamphetamine and marijuana in a shed on a property owned by Smith’s father. Greggory Longoni, a forensic scientist from the state’s Department of Public Safety, testified at Smith’s trial that the substances that the officers found were indeed illegal drugs. Longoni relied on testing conducted by Elizabeth Rast, another DPS scientist who no longer worked for the state and did not testify. Smith was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.

Smith appealed his conviction, but a state court ruled that the use of Longoni’s testimony did not violate the confrontation clause because Longoni had merely offered his independent opinion, relying on analysis prepared by Rast. Smith had been able to cross-examine Longoni, it concluded, and he could have subpoenaed Rast to testify.

The Supreme Court on Friday disagreed. Writing for the court, Kagan explained that Smith could only prevail if Rast’s statements were used at trial to show that what she said was true (as Smith argued), rather than to serve as the basis for Longoni’s opinion (as the state contended). For purposes of testimony like Longoni’s, Kagan wrote, “truth is everything.” “If an expert for the prosecution conveys an out-of-court statement in support of his opinion,” she reasoned, “and the statement supports that opinion only if true, then the statement has been offered for the truth of what it asserts.” Or to put it another way, Kagan continued, the out-of-court statements are useful to the prosecutors precisely because they are true.

In this case, Kagan observed, Longoni could only testify about his opinion that the substances found on the property were illegal drugs because “he accepted the truth of what Rast had reported about her work in the lab — that she had performed certain tests according to certain protocols and gotten certain results.”

Kagan stressed that experts like Longoni can still “play a useful role in criminal trials.” For example, she noted, Longoni could testify about how the lab where Rast worked normally operated, or about forensic guidelines and techniques more broadly. But most of his testimony “took no such permissible form,” she concluded.

The court did not weigh in on the separate question whether Rast’s out-of-court statements were “testimony,” so that the requirements of the confrontation clause apply. Smith did not raise that issue in his petition for review, Kagan wrote. So the court sent Smith’s case back to the state courts for them to determine whether Rast’s records were testimonial (as well as whether he had waived his right to broach that question).

Justice Clarence Thomas joined most of the court’s ruling, but he rejected the court’s contention that the state courts should determine whether Rast’s statements were testimonial by looking at their “primary purpose.” In his view, the confrontation clause only applies to formal testimony – such as affidavits, depositions, or testimony in court.

Justice Neil Gorsuch also expressed skepticism about the “primary purpose” test for testimony, explaining that he was “concerned, as well, about the confusion” such a test “may engender.” But he believed that the court should not have weighed in on the issue at all.

Justice Samuel Alito (in an opinion joined by Chief Justice John Roberts) agreed with the result that the court reached but not its reasoning. In his view, Friday’s ruling “inflicts a needless, unwarranted, and crippling wound on modern evidence law,” which has generally permitted experts to disclose the information that was the basis for their opinions. That doctrine developed, Alito explained, to replace a “highly artificial” and “awkward” prior practice in which “expert witnesses were required to express their opinions as responses to hypothetical questions.”

But Alito nonetheless agreed that the case should go back to the state courts because, in his view, “Longoni stepped over the line and at times testified to the truth of the matter asserted,” thereby implicating the confrontation clause.

Cases: Smith v. Arizona

To visit the SCOTUSBlog CLICK HERE


Sunday, June 23, 2024

SCOTUS addresses expert witness testimony on state of mind in criminal cases

 The US Supreme Court clarified a rule on expert witness testimony that prohibits them from giving an opinion on a defendant’s state of mind, reported Bloomberg News.

In a 6-3 ruling by Justice Clarence Thomas on Thursday weighing in on the question of criminal intent or mens rea, the court said expert witnesses can testify on what most defendants would typically know when an offense was being committed.

The decision that crossed ideological lines agreed with prosecutors that their expert witness didn’t go too far when telling a jury that drug dealers typically don’t entrust large quantities of narcotics to “blind mules.” Those are people who unwittingly traffic drugs.

Testimony about what most people know, as opposed to what all people know, doesn’t violate Federal Rule of Evidence 704(b), the court said in upholding Delilah Guadalupe Diaz’s conviction for attempting to smuggle more than $350,000 worth of methamphetamine across the US-Mexico border.

A dissent written by Justice Neil Gorsuch called the court’s distinction between what most or all people know a “charade,” and said the question of what a defendant knows is one for the jury alone.

“Jurors are more than up to performing that task, and they hardly need the help of some clairvoyant,” Gorsuch said.

Ultimate Issue

The rule limiting expert witnesses testimony was a reaction to the acquittal of would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley Jr.

Hinckley, who shot and wounded President Ronald Reagan in 1981 in Washington, was found not guilty by reason of insanity after dueling experts testified about his mental state.

Congress responded with an exception to the general rule that experts can provide an opinion about the “ultimate issue,” which in the newly decided case involves mental state.

Emphasizing that the exception was “narrow,” the court said that “Rule 704(b) applies only to opinions about the defendant.” Because the expert in the drug smuggling case “did not express an opinion about whether Diaz herself knowingly transported methamphetamine, his testimony did not violate” that rule.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson broke with her liberal colleagues in agreeing that the testimony passed muster. But she wrote separately to emphasize that the rule is “party agnostic.”

The “type of mental-state evidence that Rule 704(b) permits can prove essential not only for prosecutors, but for defendants as well,” Jackson wrote.

‘Junk Science’

Gorsuch’s dissent, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, was dismissive of the evidence offered at Diaz’s trial. Prosecutors called a federal agent “as an expert on the minds of drug couriers (yes, really),” Gorsuch wrote.

He warned that the “problem of junk science in the courtroom is real and well documented.” Perhaps “no ‘science’ is more junky than mental telepathy,” he said.

In addition to calling into question the validity of the evidence, Gorsuch said allowing its use usurps the jury’s role to determine the defendant’s state of mind. “On that particular issue, Congress has concluded that jurors need no help from experts,” Gorsuch wrote.

The case is Diaz v. United States, U.S., No. 23-14.

To read more CLICK HERE

Mangino discusses SCOTUS' latest gun ruling on WFMJ-TV21

 To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Local Constitutional expert gives perspective on Louisiana mandating Ten Commandments in public schools

Watch my interview with Chris Cerenelli on WFMJ-TV21 about Louisiana's new law requiring the Ten Commandments in every classroom in the state.

To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

ICC members support arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Hamas leaders

 Ninety-three member states of the International Criminal Court (ICC) declared their “unwavering support” for the court to independently carry out its professional duties, in a joint statement reported Jurist. The statement comes after several ICC members have been threatened, particularly ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan after he declared to seek arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as three Hamas leaders.

In the statement, the member states of the Rome Statute contended that the court, together with its officials and staff, is an independent and impartial judicial institution and should act unhindered and without intimidation. They also called on all countries to cooperate fully with the court to enforce its mandates. The member states believe that by stating their support, the ICC can continue contributing to the end of impunity for international crimes and the prevention of the recurrence. The statement also seeks to promote the respect of international law.

The Rome Statute of the ICC provides for the establishment of the court, its international personality and the jurisdiction the court possesses. Upon becoming a party to the Rome Statute, the state party accepts the court’s jurisdiction with respect to the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. In May and August 2002, the US and Israel expressed their intention not to become a party to the statute respectively even though they both became signatories in 2000.

Accordingly, the US disputed whether the ICC possesses legitimate jurisdiction over the US or Israel. 12 US senators in April threatened to sanction Khan if the ICC prosecutors attempt to assert its jurisdiction by any means against the US and its allies. Netanyahu also called on the international community to prevent the court from issuing warrants, thereby undermining Israel’s inherent right of self-defense.

Following the announcement of the warrant applications on June 4, the US House of Representatives passed a bill compelling the US President to impose sanctions on the ICC and the related prosecutors through visa restrictions and property freezes. Joe Biden has so far opposed the bill. However, the speaker of the house Mike Johnson maintained that the ICC’s decision fell outside its jurisdiction and stated that Israel is respecting the rule of law.

To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Monday, June 17, 2024

Creators: Pennsylvania Court to Review 'Death-By-Incarceration'

Matthew T. Mangino
June 10, 2024

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, the former state attorney general, has called for the end of the state's death penalty. Pennsylvania has not carried out an execution in 25 years. Moreover, 60 years have passed since the state's last involuntarily execution.

Although executions have stopped for now, Pennsylvania has thousands of prisoners serving de facto death sentences — referred to as "death-by-incarceration."

What is death-by-incarceration? Offenders condemned to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Under Pennsylvania's sentencing scheme, offenders — other than lifers — are sentenced to a minimum and a maximum term of sentence. The maximum must be at least twice the minimum.

Once an inmate has served her minimum sentence, she is eligible for parole. Release from prison is determined by the state's parole board. Once released, the offender is supervised on parole until the expiration of her maximum sentence.

A life sentence in Pennsylvania has no minimum — there is no opportunity for parole — life means life in Pennsylvania.

Not all lifers are the same in Pennsylvania. There are lifers who have killed another human being but avoided the death penalty, and then those who committed a felony that resulted in another's death. The law in Pennsylvania is clear: If a death occurs during the commission of a felony, the death is considered murder and anyone who participated in the felony is equally responsible for the murder, regardless of whether they had any criminal intent to harm or cause death.

Felony murder is a statutory crime in Pennsylvania promulgated at 25 P.S. 2502 (b) providing "Criminal homicide constitutes murder of the second degree when it is committed while defendant was engaged as a principal or an accomplice in the perpetration of a felony."

At one time in Pennsylvania, first- and second-degree murder were punishable by death. In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily banned the death penalty, finding it was arbitrary in the manner it was imposed.

Two years later, the legislature rewrote the death penalty statute and felony murder became second-degree murder, eliminating capital punishment as a sentencing option — but felony murder continued to be mandatory life without parole.

As a result, Pennsylvania is home to thousands of people sentenced to die in prison. The state has the second-highest number of people serving life without parole, nearly 5,100 inmates, approximately one in five have been convicted of felony murder, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

Pennsylvania lawmakers have tried to provide hope for those serving life sentences. A pending bill would allow lifers a chance at parole after serving 35 years on a first-degree murder conviction and 25 years on second-degree murder. The proposal has not made it to the floor for a vote.

Several years ago, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of six people convicted in their late teens of "felony murder," arguing that prohibiting parole consideration for felony murder is cruel and unconstitutional under Pennsylvania law. Article I, Section 13 of the Pennsylvania Constitution prohibits "cruel punishment." Pennsylvania's constitutional provision predates the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In 2022, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed the suit on grounds that it was improperly filed as a civil lawsuit and the court lacked jurisdiction. The court found the plaintiffs could still challenge the legality of their sentences after exhausting the appeals process, but those claims had to be filed through the criminal court.

Subsequently, a second claim in criminal court was rejected by the Pennsylvania Superior Court. In a concurring opinion, Superior Court Judge Alice Beck Dubow urged the state Supreme Court to revisit the matter "in light of changes in related case law from other states and research and policy concerns regarding the criminal justice system."

Now, Pennsylvania's highest court will consider the constitutionality of mandatory life without parole in cases where the defendant "did not kill or intend to kill and therefore had categorically diminished culpability." The case pending before the court is out of Pittsburgh and was brought on behalf of a prisoner whose accomplice, during the commission of a robbery, shot and killed a man.

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 Creators CLICK HERE

Maryland governor pardons 175,000 marijuana convictions

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore will issue a mass pardon of more than 175,000 marijuana convictions, one of the nation’s most sweeping acts of clemency involving a drug now in widespread recreational use, reported the Washington Post.

The pardons will forgive low-level marijuana possession charges for an estimated 100,000 people in what the Democratic governor said is a step to heal decades of social and economic injustice that disproportionately harms Black and Brown people. Moore noted criminal records have been used to deny housing, employment and education, holding people and their families back long after their sentences have been served.

“I’m ecstatic that we have a real opportunity with what I’m signing to right a lot of historical wrongs,” Moore said in an interview. “If you want to be able to create inclusive economic growth, it means you have to start removing these barriers that continue to disproportionately sit on communities of color.”

Moore called the scope of his pardons “the most far-reaching and aggressive” executive action among officials nationwide who have sought to unwind criminal justice inequities with the growing legalization of marijuana. Nine other states and multiple cities have pardoned hundreds of thousands of old marijuana convictions in recent years, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Legalized marijuana markets reap billions in revenue for state governments each year, and polls show public sentiment on the drug has also turned — with more people both embracing cannabis use and repudiating racial disparities exacerbated by the War on Drugs.

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Friday, June 14, 2024

What? Crime is falling, while 'tough-on-crime' makes a comeback

The overall crime rate is nearly as low as it’s been in decades, but that hasn’t stopped officials from pushing draconian measures likely only to fuel mass incarceration and harm public safety, reported The Appeal. It’s time for a different approach.

Around the U.S., in states ranging from Georgia to California and even deep-blue cities like Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, policymakers are responding to fears of crime with draconian proposals reminiscent of the 1990s. Among the most popular are measures to expand cash bail requirements, reduce and/or eliminate parole opportunities, increase the number of young people being tried as adults, and impose extreme penalties for certain types of offenses. 

The past tells us this “tough-on-crime” approach will predictably fuel mass incarceration and increase recidivism, wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on efforts that disproportionately damage low-income communities of color and ultimately harm long term public safety. Unlike the past, however, we are watching history repeat itself at a time when crime data shows rates are actually nearly as low as they’ve been in decades.

Politicians have portrayed these measures as necessary responses to crime, but this ignores the mountains of research showing incarceration to be an ineffective deterrent that may actually increase crime in states with already overcrowded prisons. Incarceration also yields many other social and economic harms, including racial inequity, unemployment, generational poverty, and poor health outcomes, all of which contribute to a broader economic desperation and insecurity that is antithetical to public safety. 

Despite this well-documented record of failure, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are yet again rejecting robust investments in programs designed to address the root causes that often lead to people’s involvement with the criminal legal system, and instead embracing the craven, ineffectual politics of “getting tough.” 

In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, recently signed a bill that will significantly increase the number of charges requiring cash bail in the state, while also restricting the efforts of community bail funds that seek to combat jail overcrowding. This will lead to more people being held in already overpacked and inhumane jails while they await trial. A similar effort has already been adopted in Kentucky despite clear evidence that cash bail perpetuates racial and economic disparities and harms public safety.

In Louisiana, Republican Governor Jeff Landry signed a slew of crime bills this spring, including one that effectively eliminates parole for most people incarcerated in the state. Another new law restricts the amount of “good time credit” incarcerated individuals can accumulate to reduce their sentences. Such measures do little to encourage rehabilitation, instead furthering commitments to spend millions of dollars imprisoning people who could otherwise safely return to the community.    

Landry also signed a bill reversing a 2017 reform that mandated charging 17-year-olds as juveniles. Similarly, in Vermont, implementation of a 2020 “Raise the Age” law is at a standstill as the state’s Democratic Governor, Phill Scott, delays applying the measure to 19-year-olds as previously promised. 

In many of the above-mentioned states, as well as Oregon and others, lawmakers have also successfully pushed through legislation imposing harsher penalties for multiple offenses ranging from retail theft to “unlawful camping” to certain drug charges. In California, voters are meanwhile set to consider a ballot initiative in November that would roll back portions of Proposition 47, a 2014 measure that loosened penalties for some low-level crimes.

Earlier this year, the council of Washington, D.C., supposedly one of the most liberal cities in the country, approved a dramatic expansion of punitive measures with a bill adding new offenses and increasing penalties for certain existing offenses. Democratic mayors in New York City and San Francisco have also responded to crime concerns by adopting reactionary policies of criminalization while cutting budgets for critical reentry services. In 

This approach did not work in the past, and it will not work now. Even today, communities across the country—disproportionately those that are Black and brown or lower-income—are still reeling from the impacts of misguided policies hinging on the false premise that we can police, arrest, and imprison our way to safety.  

If the goal is to build safer, stronger, healthier communities, we cannot continue to wage war on people. The insistence on prioritizing punishment over care only contributes to an environment of desperation, which ultimately breeds the crime and disorder politicians purportedly want to eradicate.

We have a roadmap for a better path forward, grounded in community-based, health-first strategies that have been proven to effectively promote public safety, reduce recidivism, and boost economic stability. These alternatives to incarceration create lasting change by supporting people rather than criminalizing them, helping them to access the resources they need to take care of themselves, support their families, and lead productive lives in their communities. And this ultimately costs far less than an enforcement-first approach, both in terms of upfront spending and the collateral costs of blanketing neighborhoods with armed police officers. 

There is still time for lawmakers to reconsider the direction they have chosen to take us in. Americans nationwide should urge their elected officials to work with community leaders and directly impacted individuals to craft commonsense, restorative strategies that work best for their communities. To achieve sustainable public safety, stability, and wellbeing, we must address the damage wrought by the flawed, overly harsh policies of the past. At the very least, we must not repeat those mistakes.

To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, June 13, 2024

FBI: Violent crime takes dramatic fall

On Monday, June 10, 2024, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program released the Quarterly Uniform Crime Report (Q1), January-March, 2024 and the National Use-of-Force Data Collection Update, March 2024, on the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer (CDE) at

The Quarterly Uniform Crime Report (Q1), January-March, 2024, provides a preliminary look at crime trends for January through March 2024 compared to January through March 2023. A comparison of data from agencies that voluntarily submitted at least two or more common months of data for January through March 2023 and 2024 indicates reported violent crime decreased by 15.2 percent. Murder decreased by 26.4 percent, rape decreased by 25.7 percent, robbery decreased by 17.8 percent, and aggravated assault decreased by 12.5 percent. Reported property crime also decreased by 15.1 percent.

National Use-of-Force Data Collection data was historically released on a quarterly basis, with each release building cumulatively throughout a calendar year. This cadence required the participation percentage to reset at zero every year. Beginning in January 2024, the participation percentage for the National Use-of-Force Data Collection will be determined using a rolling 12-month span. This change provides continuity in the participation percentage.

Information released from the National Use-of-Force Data Collection in June 2024 reflects data from 72 percent of the law enforcement population participating in the collection. The following is a breakdown of the types of use-of-force events reported from April 1, 2023, through March 31, 2024:

Death – 31.7 percent

Serious Bodily Injury – 55.3 percent

Discharge – 13.6 percent 

The number of incidents will be publicly released when 80 percent participation levels are met.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Missouri executes former firefighter for double murder

The 7th Execution of 2024

David Hosier, 69, convicted of killing his former lover and her husband in what prosecutors described as a fit of rage was executed on June 10, 2024 in Missouri, reported The Associated Press. He was pronounced dead at 6:11 p.m. following a single-dose injection of the sedative pentobarbital at the state prison in Bonne Terre. Hosier was convicted of the 2009 killings of Angela and Rodney Gilpin in the state capital of Jefferson City.

Hosier turned his head a couple of times and breathed hard twice as the drug was administered. All movement stopped within seconds, even as his spiritual adviser seated next to him, the Rev. Jeff Hood, continued to pray.

Investigators said Hosier had a romantic relationship with Angela Gilpin and was angry with her for breaking it off and reconciling with her husband. Hosier maintained until the end that he was innocent and shouldn’t have been convicted on circumstantial evidence.

The way was cleared Monday when Gov. Mike Parson declined to grant clemency, citing Hosier’s “lack of remorse.” Parson, a Republican and former county sheriff, has overseen 10 executions since taking office in 2018. Hosier’s lawyers said no court appeals were pending in the hours before the scheduled execution.

“I leave you all with love,” Hosier had said as part of a final statement released before the execution. “Now I get to go to Heaven. Don’t cry for me. Just join me when your time comes.”

Hosier was the son of an Indiana State Police sergeant killed in the line of duty. Glen Hosier went into a home searching for a murder suspect in 1971 when he was shot to death. Other officers returned fire and killed the suspect.

David Hosier, then 16, was soon sent to military school and enlisted in the Navy after graduating. He served four years of active duty and later moved to Jefferson City, Missouri, where he worked for many years as a firefighter and EMT.

In previous interviews with The Associated Press, Hosier acknowledged having an affair with Angela Gilpin that she ended before getting back with her husband. In September 2009, the two were fatally shot near the doorway to their apartment.

Detective Jason Miles told AP that Hosier made numerous comments to other people threatening to harm Angela Gilpin in the days before the killings. After the shootings, police found an application for a protective order in Angela Gilpin’s purse, and another document in which she expressed fear that Hosier might shoot her and her husband.

Hosier was an immediate suspect, but police couldn’t find him. They used cellphone data to track him to Oklahoma. A chase ensued when an Oklahoma officer tried to stop Hosier’s car. When he got out, he told the officers, “Shoot me, and get it over with,” court records show.

Officers found 15 guns, a bulletproof vest, 400 rounds of ammunition and other weapons in Hosier’s car, the court documents state. The weapons included a submachine gun made from a kit that investigators maintain was used in the killings, though tests on it were inconclusive.

A note was found in the front seat of Hosier’s vehicle. “If you are going with someone do not lie to them,” it read in part. “Be honest with them if there is something wrong. If you do not this could happen to YOU!!”

Hosier said he wasn’t fleeing to Oklahoma, but was simply on a long drive to clear his mind. He had the guns because he likes to hunt, he said. He didn’t recall a note in the car.

The Missouri Supreme Court upheld Hosier’s conviction in 2019.

Hosier wheezed at times when he spoke by phone to AP last week, and his voice was weak. In mid-May, he was taken from the prison to a hospital — a rare move for death row inmates. He was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.

Hosier was the seventh person executed in the U.S. this year and the second in Missouri. Brian Dorsey was executed in April for killing his cousin and her husband in 2006.

Missouri is scheduled to execute another man, Marcellus Williams, on Sept. 24, even though Williams is still awaiting a hearing on his claim of innocence in the 1998 stabbing death of Lisha Gayle.

In January, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell requested a court hearing after DNA technology unavailable at the time of the crime showed that someone else’s DNA — but not Williams’ — was found on the knife used in the stabbing.

Williams was hours away from execution in 2017 when then-Gov. Eric Greitens granted a reprieve and appointed a board of inquiry to examine his innocence claim. The board never reached a conclusion and Parson dissolved it last year.

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Mangino discusses Hunter Biden conviction on WFMJ-TV21

Watch my interview on WFMJ-TV21 with Derek Streyer discussing the conviction of Hunter Biden.

To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Arizona ignores SCOTUS on JLWOP

The U.S. Supreme Court has twice rebuked the Arizona Supreme Court for defying its precedents in capital cases, reported The New York Times.

A third ruling from the state court last year seemed to run headlong into another Supreme Court precedent. It said juvenile offenders could be sentenced to die in prison under a state law that did not allow for the possibility of parole.

That decision gave rise to a kind of judicial déjà vu, 15 law professors told the justices in a recent supporting brief.

“Once again, individuals in Arizona are forced to come to this court to vindicate firmly established constitutional rights, all because Arizona refuses to follow precedent,” the professors wrote, urging the court to hear a juvenile offender’s appeal. “This time, absent intervention, individuals sentenced to mandatory life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles will continue serving unconstitutional sentences.”

In 2012, in Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court rejected such mandatory sentences for youths who committed murders before they turned 18. To be constitutional, the court said, state laws must at least allow judges the option of sentencing juvenile offenders to life with the possibility of parole.

As recently as 2021, even after the Supreme Court shifted to the right, it reaffirmed the core principle that “an individual who commits a homicide when he or she is under 18 may be sentenced to life without parole, but only if the sentence is not mandatory and the sentencer therefore has discretion to impose a lesser punishment.”

The new case involves Lonnie Bassett, who was convicted of two murders committed when he was 16. When he was sentenced in 2006, Arizona law did not give the judge the option of sentencing him to anything but life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In a unanimous opinion last year, the Arizona Supreme Court did not dispute that. But it said an idiosyncratic feature of the state law, allowing judges to choose between “natural life” without the possibility of release in any fashion and life without parole but with the theoretical possibility of clemency from the governor, rendered it constitutional.

Rejecting the usual understanding of the governing precedent, the court said, “Miller and its progeny do not specifically require the availability of parole when sentencing a juvenile offender.”

To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, June 10, 2024

What is next for Trump as he faces sentencing

Will Donald Trump avoid prison? It may depend partly on his ability to convince a probation officer that he would be “amenable to supervision.”

That’s according to Martin Horn, a former commissioner of both the New York City Department of Probation and the city’s Department of Correction, who spoke to POLITICO Magazine about the process Trump is about to undergo as he tries to stay out of the slammer.

In a typical case, a convict will be interviewed by a probation officer in the days after the verdict and be given the opportunity to accept responsibility and present mitigating factors that could reduce any sentence. That is going to be difficult for a man who has constantly railed against the case against him — not to mention the very judge who will decide the sentence.

Horn, who is a professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said a probation officer will have to answer: “Is this individual going to accept that he has been justly convicted and accept the strictures and restrictions and requirements of a probation sentence?”

That will be one of several key factors for Justice Juan Merchan to weigh before he announces his sentence for the former president-turned-convicted felon on July 11.

To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Compassionate release from prison nearly nonexistent in Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania man who had been serving life for second-degree murder died over the weekend, 12 days after being granted a medical transfer from prison to a facility that could better treat his condition, including quadriplegia, reported The Associated Press.

Ezra Bozeman, 68, died on Saturday at the UPMC Altoona medical center, Ryan Tarkowski, communications director for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, confirmed on Tuesday.

He had been jailed for 49 years before an Allegheny County judge granted his request for compassionate release last month.

Bozeman had been on life support. He had a back injury that had been misdiagnosed for several years, according to his lawyer, Dolly Prabhu, and he required extensive medical care after he became paralyzed from the chest down after surgery.

An aide to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, whose office had opposed the release, said they had no comment on Bozeman’s death.

Prabhu, with the Abolitionist Law Center, described Bozeman as “the sweetest, sweetest person.”

“He was always, always so optimistic,” Prabhu said Tuesday. “And he was confident that it wasn’t a matter of if he gets out, it was when he gets out.”

Bozeman had been convicted in 1975 in the shooting death of Morris Weitz, a dry-cleaning business co-owner, during an attempted robbery. He had maintained he was innocent.

Pennsylvania’s compassionate release law covers incarcerated people who are seriously ill and expected to die within a year. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that about 50 people have been granted compassionate release over the past 15 years.

Prabhu said it is common for prisoners seeking compassionate release to be close to death, which she said is a consequence of the terms of Pennsylvania’s law on compassionate release. She said there are “hundreds of Ezra Bozemans” in the state’s prisons, and prisons are not equipped to care for very sick, elderly people.

“We have such harsh sentencing laws, and so we have so many elderly people right now incarcerated,” Prabhu said. “And compassionate release is one of the few avenues they have in getting out and getting the care that they need.”

To read more CLICK HERE


Saturday, June 8, 2024

The true crime phenomenon can be traced to Truman Capote's 1966 release of 'In Cold Blood'

In 1966, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood all but created the true crime genre, reported Vox. Nearly 50 years later, radio journalist Sarah Koenig decided the case of a Baltimore high school student, Adnan Syed, convicted of murdering his teenage ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, needed a second look

With its high production values, conversational style, and a storyline unfolding in real time across episodes, 2014’s Serial fueled a new wave of interest in true crime and transformed podcasting. Its first season — with its piano-plinking earworm of an opening theme and endless parodies — was once the most downloaded podcast in the world at 300 million, a number that now feels almost quaint thanks to the influence Serial has had on the entire medium. 

But Serial’s most consequential effect was on the criminal justice system itself.

Before the landmark series, the main way we received our pop culture narratives about crime came through police procedurals like Law & Order and high-profile investigations like that of O.J. Simpson or JonBenét Ramsey, where the accompanying media circus often overshadowed the facts; serious deconstruction of individual cases was relegated to niche internet forums or the occasional prestige documentary. Even in more routine circumstances, police departments typically controlled the stories around criminal investigations, choosing what the public got to know and when they knew it. This grip on information often meant the media had no choice but to parrot the police narrative of a case — a framing mirrored by the onscreen “copaganda” of procedurals and other scripted shows.

Serial changed that by ushering in an age of increased scrutiny over the narratives we’re fed about policing and by making millions of listeners more fundamentally aware of the limits and flaws of the justice system. From that awareness has come serious action that arguably helped free Serial’s own subject.

Much has been made of the ways in which the true crime podcasting boom may have normalized the more negative stereotypes of the genre: obsessed fans harassing suspects and thinking they know better than authorities, or boozed-up white women joking about murder as millions of fans laugh along without regard for victims or survivors. To be sure, thorny complications can arise, but little attention has been given to the positive outcomes of this kind of collectivism when it’s applied to an unjust system.

True crime podcasts, starting with Serial and the high-profile podcasts that followed, “have offered a critical lens through which to scrutinize the procedures and decision-making in the criminal justice system,” Kent Bausman, a criminologist and sociology professor at Maryville University, told Vox in an email. “They have enlightened the public consciousness about the convoluted machinations of the system and revealed with great clarity the human experience of miscarriages of justice.” Bausman noted that true crime podcasts frequently provide insight into “everything from the production and use of false confessions and the inherent problems that exist regarding the use of forensic evidence in the courtroom.”

Bausman pointed out that organizations like the Innocence Project have existed for decades, yet it’s only recently that they’ve become better known as a result of the true crime explosion. We’ve gained a broader cultural awareness of the factors that lead to the wrongful convictions that the Innocence Project and its peers help overturn — things like false confessions, police misconduct, bad forensics, and false testimony at trial. Additionally, terms like “Missing White Woman Syndrome” and “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women” have sprung up to encompass an entire range of police inadequacies when it comes to the racial and socioeconomic gaps between “perfect” victims and forgotten ones.

True crime has “revealed with great clarity the human experience of miscarriages of justice”

True crime fans are now loud advocates for thorough investigations. They’re more knowledgeable about shady criminal justice techniques, from entrapment and “Mr. Big” operations to Brady violations and the Reid technique. There’s an increased familiarity with nonprofits that help law enforcement solve cases, from Texas EquuSearch to the DNA Doe project, as well as those that seek criminal justice reform, like End the Backlog.

Several of these organizations build upon what is perhaps the biggest recent breakthrough in criminal investigations: forensic genealogy. The use of familial DNA to catch culprits has revolutionized crime-solving amid the true crime boom. In 2018, when forensic genealogy led to the capture of the Golden State Killer, the true crime world greeted the announcement like sports fans might celebrate winning the World Series — a comparison that captures the complicated nature of a genre that makes entertainment out of tragedy. Wider concerns about genealogical privacy and private companies sharing user information quickly followed.

That collectivity and the sense that a “true crime community” exists also largely came about because of Serial.  After Serial, millions of people became amateur detectives. Legions of fans have made themselves an invaluable part of the crime-solving process via social media, as well as longtime true crime forums like Websleuths. They’ve pored over cases until they’ve become nigh experts themselves, drummed up tips to law enforcement, generated new interest in cold cases, and often all but led authorities by the nose to conclusions they should have reached long ago; in one famous case, this latter scenario played out before the ears of millions of listeners after an amateur sleuth made his own podcast to draw attention to the Kristin Smart case and forced his local cops to pay attention. 

Journalist-led true crime podcasts have also had a direct impact on the cases they’ve investigated in the intervening years — like In the Dark, which helped free its season two subject, Curtis Flowers, from death row in 2019. In 2022, the runaway hit Murdaugh Murders helped catalyze the re-investigation of the death of Stephen Smith, which is widely believed to be connected to the byzantine crimes of Alex Murdaugh

Not all criminal investigations benefit from millions of newly minted amateur sleuths diving into the fray. Bausman warns it can in fact “commodify both offenders and victims for the public’s amusement.” He also pointed out that despite the renewed attention true crime podcasts can bring to stagnant investigations, the clearance rates for homicide cold cases have not increased due to this influence. 

Still, Serial continues to have an outsized impact on our cultural understanding of the criminal justice system, and this sea change ultimately came full circle back to Adnan Syed. 

Legions of fans have made themselves an invaluable part of the crime-solving process

In 2022, Syed’s hometown of Baltimore revisited dozens of convictions as part of a larger overall effort by Maryland to atone for decades of draconian sentences handed out to juvenile and young offenders, many of whom spent their entire adult lives in prison with no opportunity for parole. This is just one example of how prosecutorial divisions across the country are reexamining wrongful and unfair convictions through what are known as conviction integrity units and sentencing review units. These programs are part of the normalization of criminal justice reform that has come amid an enormous shift in attitudes about prosecutions in the decade since Serial aired.

It was a dogged pursuit of local criminal justice reform that allowed Syed to finally walk free, though the flashier “whodunit” aspects of his case that initially attracted Koenig also delivered a twist. Syed’s case review uncovered new evidence, including two new suspects, that cast reasonable doubt on his trial and conviction. Prosecutors dropped all charges against Syed just days later; they later walked this back on a technicality. Those nuances also reflect a post-Serial shift in public advocacy and focus: on the rights of victims and their families in cases like this one.

Although his case is still in limbo, Syed remains out of jail, his conviction stayed until Hae Min Lee’s family’s concerns can be resolved. It’s the kind of messy, satisfyingly unsatisfying conclusion that befits both Serial itself and the evolved criminal justice era we’re in — one in which answers rarely come easily, but for perhaps the first time, all of us are looking.

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