Results matching “Mark Wolf”

News Scan

PA Gov. Postpones Executions:  Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's authority to postpone executions in the state was upheld Monday by the state's high court.  Marc Levy of the Morning Call reports that Wolf, who says the death penalty system is "riddled with flaws, making it error prone," has issued temporary reprieves in the cases of five convicted killers.  Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams challenged the governor in court, arguing that reprieves had never been meant or used to indefinitely postpone an execution, but it was rejected in a unanimous decision by the high court, which ruled that the governor's "constitutional power to issue reprieves never required a specific end date...."  Wolf announced that the moratorium will remain in effect until he receives a report from a legislative commission, expected in 2016.  The Philadelphia prosecutor's office, while respectful of the court's decision, expressed disappointment in a statement extending "condolences to the victims of these horrendous crimes, who will not soon see the justice that was imposed by the jury and upheld by the courts."  The last year an inmate was executed in the state was 1999.

Somali Citizen Smuggling People across Border:  A citizen of Somalia, operating within the United States, was arrested for smuggling illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona.  Sylvia Longmire of Breitbart reports that Omar Haji Mohamed was stopped at a border checkpoint near a Native American reservation, the Tohono O'odham Nation, which is a haven for human smugglers and drug traffickers because accessibility in the region for U.S. Border Patrol agents is limited due to conflicts between the agency and tribal leadership.  The Department of Homeland Security granted Somali nationals temporary protective status (TPS) in 1991, which provides Somali citizens who have resided in the U.S. continuously since 2012 relief from deportation through 2017.  As more of these reports come to light, the challenges with our immigration system become all the more clear:  refugees and other immigrants shielded from deportation, unwillingness to cooperate with federal authorities and a frighteningly porous border.

Arguments to Delay MO Execution Lacking:  A Missouri state attorney said in a court filing Monday that the argument to delay the execution of a convicted triple murderer fails to satisfy the requirement to show his chosen alternative execution method to the state's lethal injection protocol is feasible and readily available.  Alan Burdziak of the Columbia Daily Tribune reports that 55-year-old Ernest Lee Johnson, was initially scheduled to be put to death on Nov. 3.  He appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals claiming that occasional seizures brought on by a 2008 brain surgery will be triggered by the lethal injection drug, pentobarbital, and cause significant pain.  To comply with Glossip Johnson asked for the alternative of the gas chamber.  Missouri Assistant Attorney General Gregory Goodwin said in his filing that Johnson, who was required by precedent to offer an alternative method of execution that could be readily implemented, did not provide evidence that his chosen alternative, death by lethal gas, would reduce his risk of severe pain.  Additionally, Goodwin argued that Johnson waited to file his claim long after the five-year statute of limitations expired, holding "his claim in reserve, hoping to avoid his execution date."  Johnson has until Jan. 4 to respond to Goodwin.

Baltimore Homicides Still Breaking Records:  As homicides continue to mount in Baltimore, the second-highest total on record has been reached - 336.  Kevin Rector and Sean Welsh of the Baltimore Sun report that the soaring number of murders has put the city's per-capita homicide rate at 54 per 100,000 residents, the highest in Baltimore history.  Only one other year, 1993, saw more homicides deaths, 353, but also had 100,000 more residents.  The year took a hellish turn in April following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, which sparked violent rioting and enduring unrest.  Six Baltimore police officers were arrested and charged with crimes ranging from misconduct to murder in connection with Gray's death, and the first trial, in the case of Officer William Porter, resulted in a mistrial last week.  His new trial date is set for June 13.

News Scan

Top LE Officials Oppose Sentencing Reform:  Forty former top federal law enforcement officials, in a letter sent to Senate leaders, have called to halt the rolling back of mandatory minimum sentences and leave the current sentencing regime alone.  Dan Friedman of the Washington Examiner reports that the group, which includes former New York mayor and U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani, former Attorney General John Ashcroft and drug control czar William Bennett, argued in a letter that, "Mandatory minimums and proactive law enforcement measures have caused a dramatic reduction in crime over the past 25 years, an achievement we cannot afford to give back." While critics of mandatory minimums claim that its use results in disproportionate incarceration of black men for nonviolent crimes, the former officials warn that retroactively altering previously-applied sentencing guidelines would allow thousands of armed career criminals to be released from prison, noting that the proposed legislation would "roll back mandatory minimums for gun crimes like a bar on felons possessing firearms."

Patrol Officers See Changes as Tensions Rise:  Following several deadly, high profile confrontations between police officers and unarmed black men over the course of more than a year, officers are taking notice that the job has changed due to increased tension.  Jeffrey Collins of the AP reports that beat cops and their supervisors are worried that heightened fear of public scrutiny might cause officers to "overthink what should be split-second decisions in dangerous situations, putting themselves or others at risk."  Officers also express a new fear of being ambushed, such as Sgt. Jeff Weed of the Lexington County Sheriff's Department, who stated that he no longer feels secure doing paperwork while sitting in an empty lot in his patrol car.  A South Carolina deputy, Shane Reece, says that he gets more attention while on patrol than he used to; whether the attention is positive or negative, "Both sides are more vocal.  You don't get to go quietly many places anymore."  Departments nationwide have begun using body cameras as "an unflinching witness to an incident."  Officers are being encouraged to get out of their patrol cars and interact with the public so that when videos of incidents are widely publicized and scrutinized, people can better recognize police officers as people, not just uniforms.

Gitmo Detainee Released by Obama Seen in Terror Video:  A former Guantanamo inmate released by an insistent Obama administration, adamant that he would not fall back into terrorism, has resurfaced as a top al Qaeda leader in a video urging Muslims to kill Americans.  Rowan Scarborough of the Washington Times reports that Ibrahim al-Qosi, once a close associate of Osama bin Laden, was released in 2012 by the Defense Department to his native Sudan after he pleaded guilty to a minor terrorism charge, and the Sudanese government was supposed to reintegrate him into society as a law-abiding citizen.  Instead, al-Qosi is now chief spokesman for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, featured in a video urging "individual jihad" on Americans, also known as lone wolf attacks.  According to a Director of National Intelligence report, of the 653 Gitmo prisoners released as of last summer, 117 have been confirmed as terrorists and another 79 have been suspected of re-engaging in terrorism.  President Obama has vowed to close the facility in Cuba, transferring the remaining 107 prisoners to the U.S., but has been met with fierce opposition from Republicans concerned that the inmates are too dangerous to be moved and that the White House has failed to submit a plan on how to accomplish the closing and transfers.

Andrew Wolfson has this article in the Courier-Journal centered on Facebook posts made by Jefferson Circuit Judge Olu Stevens regarding the racial makeup of juries, and the subsequent debate that erupted between him and Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine.  The debate begs the question of whether or not it is proper for a judge, who has taken an oath to be impartial, to publicly blast attorneys or opine on legal issues on social media.  Some background to the story:

The fiery dispute between Stephens and Wine arose when the judge dismissed a jury panel in November 2014 because it had no black members - even though the prosecution had nothing to do with that result.
Wine then asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to clarify whether judges have that power when there is no evidence minorities have been removed for discriminatory reasons. Stephens in turn took to his Facebook page to blast Wine as trying to "protect the right to impanel all-white juries" in a series of posts that suggested the prosecutor is racist.

Stevens said that while the panel was drawn at random - and the black juror was struck at random - the defendant was denied a right to a jury representative of a county in which about 21 percent of residents are black.
Here is some of what Judge Stevens had to say on Facebook:

News Scan

DEA Chief Agrees with FBI Chief on Ferguson Effect:  The nation's top drug enforcement official echoed the sentiments of FBI Director James Comey Wednesday when he called Comey's remarks that violent crime surges in many major cities may be linked to police officers' reluctance to engage suspects as "spot on."  Kevin Johnson of USA Today reports that the chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Chuck Rosenberg says he believes Comey's comments were "thoughtful and measured" when he suggested that the "Ferguson effect," a term coined following civil unrest last year in Ferguson, Mo. to describe law enforcement's hesitance to do their jobs out of fear of causing similar unrest, is possibly contributing to the uptick in violence in cities across the nation, such as Baltimore, Chicago, St. Louis and Milwaukee.  Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn adds that "police in cities feel like they are not being supported by the federal government," and that coupled with a general breakdown of public support for officers is affecting the way communities are being policed. 

CA Univ. Attacker Praised by ISIS:  The student who was killed by University of California Merced police after stabbing four people on campus Wednesday received praise on Twitter Thursday from ISIS, which last week released videos encouraging lone wolf stabbing attacks.  Fox News reports that the attacker, 18-year-old freshman Faisal Mohammad, was described by his roommate as a loner, and a witness said that he was "having fun" and smiling he was stabbing fellow students.  Mohammad, a computer science and engineering major, began stabbing people with a large hunting knife around the start of an 8 a.m. class before being fatally shot by pursuing campus officers, who acted quickly.  Mohammad's backpack has been detonated by police and they are in the process of testing a substance found inside.  All four stabbing victims are expected to survive. 

Drug Overdoses Kill more than Guns, Car Crashes:  The Drug Enforcement Administration announced Wednesday that drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States, surpassing motor vehicle and gun deaths.  Susan Jones of CNS News reports that in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, 46,471 Americans died as a result of drug overdoses, more than half of which were attributed to prescription painkillers and heroin.  In comparison, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention tallied motor vehicle deaths at 35,369 and firearms deaths at 33,636.  The National Drug Threat Assessment concludes that "Mexican gangs remain the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States."

Breitbart v. Redstate on Sentencing Reform

One of the interesting (and in my view, curious) aspects of the battle over sentencing reform is that conservatives are split (e.g., Sen. Grassley on one side and Sen. Sessions on the other).

The split has reflected itself in major conservative websites, with Breitbart opposing reform and Redstate supporting it.

I do not generally read either site (I look at more conventional sources like the WSJ, Commentary and the Weekly Standard, among other publications),  Nonetheless, when Breitbart called to interview me, I was happy to talk to them, as I will do with the great majority of media, liberal or conservative.  Breitbart's article is here, written by Ms. Katie McHugh.  The more libertarian-leaning Redstate responded, with a less than flattering assessment of my remarks as reported by Breitbart.

For conservatives who might be leaning Redstate's way, I want to provide at least the sketch of a reply.

News Scan

Death Penalty Upheld in 1986 Murder:  The Nevada Supreme Court upheld the death penalty Tuesday for a man convicted of abducting, sexually assaulting and strangling a Las Vegas woman.  Cy Ryan of the Las Vegas Sun reports that 60-year-old Richard Haberstroh argued the excessiveness of the death penalty, citing a family history of alcoholism, abuse and mental problems.  However, the court determined that the circumstances of the crime and his lengthy criminal history were sufficient to allow his death sentence to stand, and it was unanimously upheld.  In 1986, Haberstroh kidnapped 20-year-old Donna Kitowski from the parking lot of a Las Vegas grocery store and took her to the desert where she was robbed, sexually assaulted and strangled.  The attack left her with severe brain damage that led to her death.

Professor Sues Campus over Gun Ban:  An associate law professor at the University of Missouri has filed a lawsuit arguing that the university's ban on concealed weapons on campus violates his constitutional rights.  The AP reports that Royce de R. Barondes, who is licensed to carry a concealed firearm, filed the suit against the Board of Curators and President Tim Wolfe, contesting that the ban also violates a state law permitting the storage of guns in the passenger compartment of a vehicle by an adult with a permit and infringes on his right to keep and carry weapons for self-defense.  Last year, Missouri voters approved an amendment stating that Missouri residents "have an unalienable right to bear arms and any gun regulations must be subject to 'strict scrutiny.'"  The lawsuit is pending.

Previously Deported Sexual Predators Arrested at Border:  U.S. Border Patrol agents have made frequent arrests in recent weeks of previously deported sexual predators with criminal convictions attempting to cross the border.  Ildefonso Ortiz of Breitbart reports that two criminal aliens were arrested last month and another two last week.  Some were recently deported, including one man convicted of attempted sexual assault of a child and sentenced to just 30 days in prison before being deported in April.  U.S. officials are concerned of the impact that the new Priority Enforcement Program might have on public safety, as it has allowed many convicted criminal aliens to be released from custody and remain in the U.S.

U.S. Deports Wanted Illegal Alien:  A previously deported illegal immigrant, wanted for raping and killing a 14-year-old girl and murdering her father in Guatemala last June, has been turned over to Guatemalan authorities by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.  Katie McHugh of Breitbart reports that after 27-year-old Juan Figueroa-Martinez murdered the girl and her father, he fled to the U.S. where he roamed before being apprehended in August.  He was previously deported in March 2013 following an arrest in New Jersey.  It is not certain why Figueroa-Martinez chose to flee to the U.S. rather than a neighboring country, such as Mexico, though he may have been trying to avoid Mexico's tough immigration laws.

A small newspaper in central Pennsylvania published an editorial on Monday hailing Governor Tom Wolf's statewide moratorium on the death penalty.  It begins with a quote from novelist Raymond Chandler claiming that law is not justice but rather an imperfect mechanism that randomly jets out results - sometimes we get what we call justice; sometimes naught. 

 

The editorial proceeds by mentioning the case that led to the moratorium:  Hubert Lester Michael Jr.  Michael was convicted of the murder of 16 year old Trista Eng.  Eng had posted an ad to sell a chair, which Michael responded to.  Later Michael picked her up while she was hitchhiking. He bound, raped and killed her.  Eng's life was over at 16 because she posted an ad to sell someone a chair.   Her family is left to pick up the pieces. 

 

To which the editorial staff at the York Daily Record state:

All of us feel for these families. Many of us will never fully understand what they are going through.

And certainly, for them, and for many others, the death penalty is an emotional issue. But for the sake of justice, however imperfect, we have to be able to take a rational look at the death penalty and its purpose, its cost and its flaws, no matter how difficult that may be.

Mr. Michael is a poor candidate for this kind of rational reflection. He admitted his crimes. He had a history of brutality. He is a monster. It is easy to say, as York County District Attorney Thomas Kearney did, that he is "the poster child" for the death penalty.

Perhaps Mr. Michael deserves death.

But he is not what this debate is entirely about.

The rational debate about the death penalty is - at base - really about retributive justice.  The abolition movement is fond of recounting the "death is different" motto, which the Supreme Court invoked at least as far back as 1977.  But that is precisely the point: murder is a uniquely grievous crime that calls upon any civilized and orderly society to punish in an exceptional manner.   Society, of course, wants to deter murder and it wants to preserve the safety of its citizens, but justice, at least in this world, is an entirely human enterprise and it derives from the simple idea that people deserve to be punished when they have transgressed seriously against the social norms embodied in the law.

There is no "perhaps" in Michael's just deserts; what he deserves is worse than death but he mercifully gets less.  The conversation, though, is about deserving.  It is emotional but that does not render it irrational.  The touchstone of our humanity is that we can feel for others: the families of the victims; the outrage at the conduct of someone like Michael; the loss of safety that we all experience upon hearing of a horrendous crime; the brief thought: that could have been my child.  It is this same emotional affair that lends us to extend a lesser punishment for those who have truly extenuating circumstances.  Justice is not cold nor should it be because it is an entirely human endeavor not a mechanical one.   The debate about the death penalty does include concerns about its reliability as does the entire criminal justice system, but it is, at heart, a debate about what people like Hubert Lester Michael deserve and that is reason at its best. 

News Scan

ISIS Border Threat:  Judicial Watch published a report last month with information revealing that a camp operated by the terror group Islamic State (ISIS) is located across the Mexican border, just a few miles from El Paso, Texas.  Tom Fitton of Breitbart reports that the area where the camp is located, known as Anapra, is a cartel-dominated region which makes it dangerous for the Mexican Army or Federal Police to traverse and investigate.  The Mexican government and the Obama Administration have denied ISIS is operating in Mexico.

ISIS Claims Responsibility for Texas Attack:  ISIS claimed responsibility today for Sunday's attack at a cartoon contest in Texas that depicted images of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.  The attack left one security guard injured and both suspects dead.  Fox News reports that the message, delivered on the group's Syrian based radio station, warned of more attacks on America, describing what is to come as "bitter and harsher."  It is not immediately clear whether ISIS is capitalizing on a "lone wolf" attack, but authorities have uncovered connections between one of the gunmen and overseas Twitter accounts.

Prop. 47 And Realignment's Unintended Consequences:  Riverside County's top law enforcement officials, county sheriff, District Attorney, and head of probation all agree that the state's AB 109 prison Realignment law and Proposition 47 have "resulted in many unintended consequences."  Jeff Stahl of KESQ reports that both laws have allowed criminals to repeatedly get away with their crimes, essentially removing any deterrent effect.  Officials believe that the state should transition back to progressive sentencing, which "provides increasingly harsh sentences for people who repeatedly break laws."

Illegal Immigrant Kidnaps, Beats Woman:  A Texas woman was kidnapped and badly beaten over the weekend at her home by an illegal immigrant.  Everything Lubbock reports that the victim was found tied up on her front porch with serious trauma to her head and body.  Texas Rangers identified Juan Gutierrez Cortez as a suspect, who confessed to the crime when he was brought in for questioning.  Cortez has been charged with aggravated kidnapping and burglary with intent to commit assault.  Due to his illegal immigrant status, ICE has placed a hold on him.  

News Scan

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Death Row Inmate: A divided Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday in favor of convicted murderer and death row inmate Freddie Lee Hall. The Court's 5-4 ruling will make it more difficult for states to sentence inmates to death if they claim to suffer from an intellectual disability.  Richard Wolf of USA Today reports that Florida must now apply a margin of error to IQ tests administered to Hall.  Prior to the ruling, the Florida law provided that an IQ score above 70 made prisoners eligible for a death sentence.  Some mental health groups argued that the number should instead be 75.  Last week, a federal appeals court prevented Texas from executing a death row inmate after his attorneys made claims that he suffered from an intellectual disability. 

Cold Case Murderer Sentenced to Life: An Ohio man has been sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to the murder of a Cleveland teenager nearly 30 years ago. WKYC reports that 59-year-old Hernandez Warren was arrested and charged with the cold case killing in 2013 after a new DNA test linked him to the crime.  In addition to the life sentence for murder, Warren was also sentenced to 10 to 25 years for rape, he will be eligible for parole after serving a minimum of 30 years behind bars.

Jailed Marine to Plead Case to Mexican Judge: A U.S. Marine who has been held in Mexican jail for nearly two months after accidentally crossing the border will finally have his day in court Wednesday when he goes before a federal judge in Tijuana,  the country's sixth-largest city.  Joseph J. Kolb of Fox News reports that Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi had three registered guns in his vehicle when he entered Mexico through a 'poorly-marked crossing', he was immediately detained and has since spent time in two different Mexican prisons where his mother says he has received multiple death threats and has had his feet and hands shackled.  Efforts made by Secretary of State John Kerry to have the soldier released and allowed to travel back to the U.S. have  been unsuccessful.  

News Scan

CA Former Lt. Gov. Rails Against AB109:  Paige St. John and Seema Mehta of the Los Angeles Times report that former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado is beginning a campaign to overturn realignment. Maldonado says AB109 is effectively an early release program for criminals as counties are not able to handle the influx of state prisoners to their jails. Hoping to get a repeal initiative on the ballot, Maldonado has suggested building more prisons to house inmates, a plan already adopted by previous Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger until Gov. Brown cancelled it. Maldonado hopes that by repealing AB109 the state will be able to comply with federal standards without compromising public safety.

Fed. Prosecutors Seeking to Reinstate Death Penalty for MA Killer: 
Lane Lambert of the Patriot Ledger reports that federal prosecutors are seeking reinstatement of the death penalty for Gary Sampson, convicted of three Massachusetts homicides in 2003. Because the state does not have a death penalty, Sampson was prosecuted under federal law.  In October 2011, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf overturned the sentence citing a juror's falsification of her family's criminal history.  Federal prosecutors argued Wednesday that the sentence should be reinstated as the juror's failure to disclose information had no bearing on Sampson's case.

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Denise Lavoie reports for AP:

A ruling ordering Massachusetts officials to provide sex-change surgery for a transgender inmate takes prisoners' constitutional rights to adequate medical care to "new heights," a government lawyer argued Tuesday to a federal appeals court.

No SCOTUS Crim Action, Again

Seems like yesterday I was posting that the US Supreme Court had decided two civil cases and was hearing argument in two others, with no criminal law action.  Actually, it was yesterday.  Today is not Groundhog Day, though; it's the vernal equinox.

Over at SCOTUSblog, John Elwood has his relist watch post on Monday's orders list, which does include some criminal law action.  He notes, "the Court denied cert. without comment in Wolfenbarger v. Foster, 12-420, passing up Michigan's invitation to revisit Wiggins v. Smith in light of Harrington v. Richter.  The Court did, however, GVR in Ryan v. James, 12-11, in light of Johnson v. Williams, after taking a couple of weeks to mull it over."

In addition to the cases John notes, the Court has relisted for March 29 the cross petitions in the California capital case of Richard Louis Arnold Phillips, Nos. 12-544 and 12-5890.  The Question Presented in the state's petition (by our friend Eric Christoffersen) is, "Whether the Ninth Circuit conflicted with the 'reasonable likelihood' materiality standards of Napue v. Illinois and Brady v. Maryland by substituting a standard based on 'any conceivable, speculative possibility' of a different result."  This is the second relist.  Is a summary reversal being drafted?  The author of the Ninth Circuit opinion is identified by name in the petition.  Take a wild guess.

News Scan

Judge Awards Over $700K to Transgender Killer's Attorneys: Milton J. Valencia of the Boston Globe reports Chief U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf announced Thursday he will award the lawyers of convicted killer Michelle Kosilek more than $700,000 in legal fees. Kosilek is transgender, and sued the state to be given sex reassignment surgery. As reported in this News Scan, Judge Wolf had granted Koselik's request for the operation. The decision was appealed by the state of Massachusetts.  (USCA1 No. 12-2194.)  As this News Scan explains, the surgery would cost taxpayers about $20,000. Kosilek, known as Robert at the time of the killing, was convicted in 1990 of murdering his wife. He has since undergone hormone treatments and currently lives in an all male prison as a woman. The state Department of Corrections argued the hormone treatment is adequate, so his Eighth Amendment right is not being violated.

AZ Jury Recommends Death For Father That Killed His Kids: The Associated Press reports the jury in the case of Andre LeTeve recommended the death penalty in Arizona Thursday. The same jury convicted LeTeve of the March 31, 2010 shooting his two sons, ages 1 and 5, to death.  LeTeve also attempted to commit suicide before calling the police to report the killings.  He was going through a divorce and facing financial ruin at the time of the murders.

UT Company's Bulletproof Backpack Sales Skyrocket: CBS Los Angeles reports a Utah-based company called Amendment II has sold out of bulletproof Ballistic Backpacks for girls, boys, and teen/young adults following the Connecticut school shooting last Friday. The demand by customers on the online store has actually caused the company's site to crash multiple times. The backpacks have a carbon nanotube lining.  They cost $300 a piece and are slightly heavier than a regular backpack. The company also sells children's tactical vests and adult designer armor.

News Scan

UT Inmate Pleads Guilty in Guard's Death: Shannon Dininny of the Associated Press reports Utah inmate Curtis Allgier plead guilty to killing a prison guard in 2007, agreeing to a sentence of life without parole. Allgier, a neo Nazi, took the plea to avoid the death penalty. Allgier admitted to shooting the guard to death with his own gun while being escorted to a doctor's appointment. Allgier's extensive criminal history includes disarming a police officer, aggravated escape, robbery, possessing a firearm while on parole, attempted murder, forgery, burglary, and theft dating back to 2000. Allgier is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 5.

Oakland Homicides Spike, 5 Dead: Henry Lee of the San Francisco Chronicle reports over the course of 18 hours on Tuesday, five men were shot and killed in Oakland, California. Two of the victims were killed by the same shooter. Police have not disclosed any motives nor made any arrests.

Mass. Appeals Judge's Sex Change Decision:
The Associated Press reports Massachusetts filed an appeal Tuesday of U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf's decision to grant convicted murderer Michelle Koselik's request for a sex change. The sex reassignment surgery would be paid for by tax payers. Continued from this news scan.

CA Quad-Killer Denied Parole: Larry Welborn of the Orange County Register reports the California State Parole Board denied Brett Matthew Paul Thomas' bid for parole Tuesday. The parole hearing was held at the R. J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego. The daughter and sister of two of the victims traveled to the hearing from the East Coast to oppose the convicted quadruple murderer's parole. Thomas will be up for parole again in 2014. The original news scan is here.

Man Denies Murder in TV Interview, Confesses to Police:
Tyler Rudick of Culture Map Houston reports that Mark Augustin Castellano confessed to murdering his girlfriend and dumping her body two days after telling TV psychologist Dr. Phil he did not kill her. Castellano confessed on Sunday to grabbing his girlfriend by the throat during a verbal dispute, breaking her neck, and finally dumping her body in an oil field in Texas. Castellano has been charged with murder.

News Scan

Mass. to Appeal Murderer's Sex Reassignment: The Associated Press reports Massachusetts prison officials announced Wednesday the state will appeal U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf's decision to grant convicted murderer Michelle Kosilek's request for sex reassignment surgery. Koselik, named Robert when convicted of murdering his wife in 1990, has been receiving hormone treatment and lives in an all male prison, as a woman. Prison officials argue that allowing the surgery would put Koselik at risk for sexual assaults from other inmates. Many insurance companies consider the surgery elective; transgender inmates are typically treated with hormone treatments and psychotherapy. The state Department of Corrections argues denying the request would not violate Koselik's Eighth Amendment rights as Koselik is already receiving adequate treatment. The surgery would cost taxpayers up to $20,000. 

High-Risk Sex Offender Attacked Victim Twice: Janon Fisher of the US Daily News reports Jonathan Stewart allegedly attacked and raped his victim twice on Saturday in New York according to prosecutors. Stewart, a high-risk level 3 sex offender, chased his victim down after she escaped his first attack and violently raped her again. The victim managed to escape a second time and fled naked; Stewart remained in pursuit until he saw her talking with police. Officers found a shirtless Stewart shortly after. Stewart had been previously convicted of robbing and sexually assaulting two women with a knife in 2004. He was arraigned Sunday.

Daughter, Sister of Murder Victims Opposes Killer's Parole: Larry Welborn of the Orange County Register reports that Lynette Duncan, the daughter/sister of two victims of murderer Brett Thomas, is traveling from the East coast to a correctional facility in San Diego to argue against his parole. Thomas and his accomplice Mark Titch shot Duncan's father to death with a shotgun in front of their home. One of the pellets hit her 18-year-old sister in the heart, killing her.  The pair also shot Duncan's mother, who survived the attack. Five days prior, Thomas and Titch gunned down a drive-in dairy employee during a robbery attempt. The nude body of the their first victim, Laura Anne Stoughton, 20, was found Jan. 21, 1977, on a rocky hill in East Orange, her hands clutching a crucifix. Both men pleaded guilty to taking four lives in California over the course of nine days in 1977 and were sentenced to life in prison. Fortunately for both killers, California did not have death penalty in January of 1977.  It was reinstated by the Legislature, over Governor Jerry Brown's veto, in August of that year, too late to apply to them.  


News Scan

Private Jobs Going to Prisoners: Elizabeth Prann of Fox News reports that American Apparel and American Power Source, which makes military uniforms in Alabama, will be losing their government contract and cutting many jobs in October. The positions of making military clothing will be going to Federal Prison Industries, also called UNICOR. The uniforms will also come with a 15% increase in price. FPI argues that the prisoners that work for them are 24% less likely to reoffend and 14% more likely to find log-term employment upon release.

Taxpayers to Fund Killer's Sex Change and Attorney Fees: Fox News reports that U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mark Wolf has ruled that convicted killer Michelle Lynne Kosilek, born as Robert Kosilek, will have both his sex change and legal fees covered by taxpayer dollars. Wolf ruled in favor of Kosilek's claim that his 8th Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment was violated, making him eligible to have not only his sex change covered but awarded his attorney's fees. Kosilek's lawyers will submit their bill to the court Thursday. The Mass. Department of Corrections has until Oct. 9 to appeal the decision.

En banc Review of California's DNA Law:  A February 23 decision by a divided Ninth Circuit panel upholding California's law allowing DNA testing of arrestees is being reviewed by an 11 judge en banc panel of the court.  AP writer Paul Elias reports that the panel will hear oral argument from the ACLU Wednesday claiming that the testing of arrestees is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy and that the cold cases solved through DNA matches resulting from testing arrestees comes at the expense of civil liberties.  The California Supreme Court has already agreed to review a state Appellate Court ruling which voided the law for violating the Fourth Amendment.   Last April the Maryland Court of Appeals held that Maryland's DNA collection law was unconstitutional.  A petition for certiorari seeking review of that decision is pending in the U.S. Supreme Court.  (See prior post.)

News Scan

CA Debates Prop 34: Sam Stanton of the Sacramento Bee reports the debate over Proposition 34, which would end the death penalty and resentence death row inmates to life in prison without parole if passed, has increased with the vote approaching. Supporters of Prob 34 argue the death penalty is too expensive. However, opponents to the proposition point out supporters of Prop 34 are responsible for creating the extensive hurdles limiting the carrying out of executions in California. Since 1978, only 13 murderers have been executed. There are currently 729 inmates on death row. The primary reason for this are lawsuits challenging CA's 3-drug protocol. According to Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully, adopting the single-drug protocol would fix the state's death penalty system. CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger noted that 13 of the inmates on death row have exhausted all appeals and could be executed immediately. CA voters will consider Prop 34 in November.

CA Death Penalty Defense Lawyers Drive Up Costs: Kevin Fagan of SF Gate reports since Douglas "Chief" Stankewitz was sentenced to death in CA, the first since 1977, 57 other Death Row inmates have died of natural causes before being executed. Stankewitz was convicted of shooting a young black Fresno woman point blank in the head. Proponents for Prop 34 argue re-sentencing Death Row inmates to life in prison without parole would save the state money. Opponents to Prop 34, including Stankewitz, say that the costs accrued by the state's death penalty process can be reduced.  Defense lawyers in capital cases are said to be making "big bucks", driving up costs by filing decades' worth of appeals in each case.

Matching Jurors in Drew Peterson Case: The Associated Press reports the 12 jurors in the case of Drew Peterson have been coordinating their court outfits the past month. The matching attire has included not only color matching, such as all yellow, black, blue or green, but also business suits and sports jerseys. Peterson has pleaded not guilty to charges of murdering his third wife, who was found dead in her bathtub in 2004. Initially, her death was believed to be a suicide, but it was reclassified as a homicide following the disappearance of Peterson's fourth wife in 2007, for which he has not been charged. Closing arguments began Tuesday morning.

Mass. Prison System to Provide Inmate Sex-Change: Kari Huus of NBC News reports that U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ordered the Massachusetts Department of Corrections Tuesday to provide sex-change surgery for transgender LWOP inmate Michelle Kosilek, born Robert Kosilek.  Kosilek was convicted of murdering his wife in 1990. Kosilek won a initial lawsuit in 2002 which allowed him to undergo hormone treatments and live as a woman in an all-male prison. Kosilek's gender identity disorder has led to his attempted self castration and two suicide attempts.  Kosilek's lawsuit in 2006 resulted in the judge's ruling that, by failing to provide Kosilek with sex-change surgery, the state prison system had violated his 8th Amendment right to adequate treatment for his serious medical need. The Mass. DOC has not stated whether it would appeal the ruling.

Charles Manson Album Released: Alyssa Newcomb of ABC News reports a vinyl album from convicted mass murderer Charles Manson has sold a couple hundred copies at a Hollywood, CA boutique. The album includes never-before-heard tracks of Manson playing guitar and reciting poetry and spoken word lyrics dating back to the 1980s. It is said to have the sound of raw country or old blues. Manson will not make any profit or receive any royalties from album sales.


News Scan

Massachusetts Judge Orders New Trial for Serial Killer: On Thursday, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf threw out the death sentence, ordering a new trial for the serial killer Gary Sampson, on the grounds that he was denied his constitutional right to have his sentence decided by an impartial jury. Wolf had already investigated previous jury biases as reported here, but found that one of the jurors proved to have a "high risk" of sentencing Sampson based on her life experiences she never disclosed. Mike Rizzo the father of one of Sampson's victims told reporters: "I wish I could say I was surprised. I'm not surprised, I'm extremely disappointed and phenomenally outraged at the fact that one man with the ego the size of Judge Wolf's tried to overturn the good work done by so many people in coming to the right decision many years ago." AP has this story in the Washington Post.

Prison Realignment Reduces Jail-time: Andy Furillo reports in the Sacramento Bee of Judge Ben Davidian's decision to give long-time criminal Herbert Hale Sr. a 2.5 year county-jail term instead of the usual 21 years in prison, making him the first Sacramento inmate affected by the state's new realignment plan that went into effect Oct. 1. Hale was arrested by police in January for the purchase and transportation of 10-bindles of black-tar heroin outside McClatchy Park. California's prison reduction has caused far more "low-level" offenders, like Hail, to be sentenced to county jails that are not adequate for long-term lockups, hence the short term despite their criminal histories.

Lawsuit Claims Alabama Counties Keep Blacks Off Juries: The Equal Justice Initiative filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday alleging that Houston and Henry counties in south east Alabama create obstacles to exclude blacks from some juries. The lawsuit claims that in a series of cases between 2006-2010 where the death penalty was imposed, blacks only made 5% of the jurors in the two counties that contain 29% and 23% respectively.

Ex-Con Sentenced For Life for Xmas-Slaying
: Cook County Judge James B. Linn sentenced Lee Cration to life imprisonment for shooting retired state employee and civil rights activist Ralph Elliott while on parole for a 1985 murder conviction. As Judge Linn handed down the sentence for Cration he stated parolee as a danger and a menace and telling him, "This court has no mercy for you. You will never have an opportunity to hurt an honest person again." Lauren Fitzpatrick has this story.

Texas Wife Finally Faces Charges For Husband's Death: Mary-Ann Rivera, 76, finally faces charges for the 1970 murder of her husband which she allegedly doused with hot grease. Rivera was a fugitive for more than four decades having fled from Texas to Lake Park, Georgia on a bail of $10,000 with her children.Though many of her Georgia friends question the arrest after all of this time, especially with her old age and poor health, spokeswoman for the Harris County District Attorney's Office, Donna Hawkins stated: "The defendant was charged with committing a rather brutal murder of her husband. Although she was able to elude authorities for over 40 years, she ultimately must face judgment in a court of law for the murder of her husband." CBS News has this story.

News Scan

Serial Killer Seeks New Trial:  J.M. Lawrence of The Boston Globe reports U.S. District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf is investigating whether jurors who recommended death for a serial killer lied on their jury questionnaires.  In 2003, a Massachusetts federal jury recommended a sentence of death for Gary Lee Sampson, convicted of killing three men during a 2001 criminal rampage.  Judge Wolf summoned three of the jurors last November to testify in closed court about their juror questionnaires, according to court documents released on Friday.  Among a few discrepancies discovered, one juror admitted to omitting prior driving violations, and another to failing to disclose that her boyfriend was a university police officer.  Federal prosecutors claim these discrepancies do not amount to juror bias warranting reversal of Sampson's sentence.

New Police Task Force Solves Cold Case:  Katherine Krueger of The Badger Herald (WI) reports a cold case has been cracked by Madison Police Department's new task force, the Cold Case Review Team (CCRT).  Founded in 2010 and funded in part by a Department of Justice grant, the CCRT assess the "solvability" of cold cases using a number of factors.  After the CCRT determined a high level of solvability in the case of Dorothy Paige, found stabbed to death in her home nearly two decades ago, an investigation led to the first degree murder charge of a previous suspect in the case.  "This is critical in terms of bringing justice to victims," says Madison Police Department Chief Noble Wray.  "Not only do we have a new manner to approach cold cases, families at home can know it's not just a lottery of waiting for new tips in an investigation."

Duke Accuser Charged With Murder:  The woman who falsely accused three Duke lacrosse players with rape was charged today with murdering her boyfriend, reports Mike Baker of the AP.  Crystal Mangum is charged with the stabbing death of Reginald Daye, who died in a hospital earlier this month nearly two weeks after the attack.

Massachusetts Attorney General Reacts to Court Ruling:  In response to a ruling from the state's high court (see previous post here), Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley today called for an update to the state's wiretapping law.  The current wording of the statute permits wiretapping only in connection with investigation of organized crime, but Coakley says the "whole face of crime has changed totally" and that wiretapping is also needed to combat "disorganized crime," such as street gangs and shoplifting rings.    John R. Ellement of The Boston Globe has this story.

News Scan

21 Life Terms... Plus 433 Years:  After being convicted earlier this month of 22 felony counts, a Los Angeles man was sentenced yesterday to 21 life terms (10 of which were stayed) and a base term of 433 years, reports the AP.  In 2008, Charles Juan Proctor's use of a razor blade during his attacks of six women in the Long Beach area gave him the nickname "box cutter."  One victim testified that Proctor dug a blade into her neck and cheek and twisted it to make the wound deeper.  During sentencing, presiding Judge Gary Ferrari referred to the Proctor's crime spree as "unconscionable" and told him "I can say absolutely ... you deserve each of these 433 years."

Federal Judge Holds Hearing in MA Death Penalty Case:  A federal judge yesterday held a hearing in the case of Gary Lee Sampson, the first person to be scheduled for execution in Massachusetts since 1947.  After Sampson pleaded guilty to the stabbing deaths of two men in 2001, a federal jury recommended a sentence of death - rejecting his proferred defense of mental disease or brain damage.  After imposing the sentence, presiding U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf angered some family members of the victims by stating that he believed Sampson was indeed mentally ill.  Judge Wolf is now also the presiding judge over Sampson's federal habeas proceeding, and family members are concerned that he will get a second chance to avoid imposing a death sentence for Sampson.  Read the Boston Globe's story here.
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