News Scan

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Chicago: Murders Increase as Detectives Decrease:  The city with up to 90 shootings a week and a murder rate on track to hit the highest level in nineteen years is losing detectives.  Since 2008, the number of detectives in the Chicago Police Department has dropped from 1,252 to 922 according to this story by Flona Ortiz and Justice Madden of Reuters.  The clearance rate seems to have suffered, with just 46% of last years 480 murders solved, while other large cities solve an average of 68%.  Contributing to the difficulty in clearing murder cases is the fact that 61% of homicides are gang related and witnesses are afraid to get involved for fear of retaliation.   This story from CBS Chicago indicates what police are dealing with.  Appearing in court on a charge of attempted murder of a police officer, Kentrell Pledger, a 29 year-old gang member, told the judge "I should have smoked his ass.  He shot at me first, so get your story straight, dog."  Then he told the African American judge, "You ain't black, you're white, bitch."   

Divided Eleventh Circuit Rejects Murderer's Appeal:  In a 6-5 decision that some claim will reduce federal court review of death penalty cases, the Eleventh Circuit denied the claim of a man convicted of the shotgun murder of a prison guard who offered him a ride.  The Court's holding deferred to the summary denial of murderer's appeal by the Georgia Supreme Court.  Bill Rankin of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the dissenters worry that precedent set by the court will deprive death-row inmates chance to get relief with filing appeals-writs of habeas corpus- in federal court that challenge their convcitions and sentences.  But the decision in Wilson v. Georgia does not break new ground.  On more than one occasion, the Supreme Court  has affirmed that a State Supreme Court's summary denial of a death penalty appeal is entitled to deference by the federal courts.

Selling Access

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The AP reports that President Obama today met with the family of Alton Sterling, a black man shot last month by Baton Rouge police.  The story mentions (in one sentence) that he also met with the families of the three policemen ambushed in "response" to that killing.

Because I do not adequately know the circumstances of the Sterling shooting, I'm not going to comment on the prudence of the President's meeting with his relatives.  The nearly simultaneous meeting with the officers' families implies a moral equivalence of which I am skeptical, but, again, not in a position to say much more than that.

I do have a question, however:  Where is Obama's meeting with the families of Erveena Hammonds and her daughters, aged seven and ten?  They were knifed to death in January by Wendell Callahan, who had been in federal prison but was released early under the Fair Sentencing Act, gushingly supported and signed by Mr. Obama on August 3, 2010. But for Callahan's early release under that bill, Ms. Hammonds and her little girls would be alive today.

Their murder scene was so gruesome that responding police had to be given counseling afterward.  Apart from the FSA, Callahan's windfall early release was facilitated by the false representation from Obama's US Attorney's Office in Columbus, Ohio that Callahan did not present a danger to the community. 

As we have seen before, Mr. Obama is happy to blame local police, but takes not a shred of responsibility for grotesque child murders his Presidential signature, and the lies from his Justice Department, facilitated.

News Scan

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Seattle May Open Homeless Housing Allowing Heroin Use:  The creation of a safe-consumption site for addicts -- a supervised facility where an addict could obtain clean needles, anti-overdose medication, medical attention and treatment opportunities -- has been endorsed by Seattle's Heroin Task Force.  Bob Young and Vernal Coleman of the Seattle Times report that the task force, formed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine, has proposed a dormitory-style homeless shelter that would welcome pets, partners, storage for personal belongings and intoxicated residents in an effort to coax residents out of encampments, such as the the city's infamous Jungle.  "But you need to allow people to use on-site, so they don't in an alley or back in The Jungle," said Kris Nyrop, an outreach worker and drug-policy researcher in the city.  However, the idea, which would be funded by taxpayers, is controversial and the limited data available on similar models has policymakers moving "slowly and cautiously."  The task force is expected to announce formal recommendations next month.  If the idea comes to fruition, it will be the first in the U.S.

CA High Court Overturns Death Penalty Conviction:  In a 4-3 ruling, the California Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of a man convicted of murdering an elderly Shasta County woman over two decades ago.  Damon Arthur of the Redding Record Searchlight reports that Gary Grimes was sentenced to death in 1999 for the 1995 stabbing and strangling of Betty Elizabeth Bone, 98, during a home invasion robbery he committed with two other men, John William Morris and Patrick James Wilson.  Shortly after their arrests, Morris killed himself while in custody but allegedly had told a witness that he killed Bone, not Grimes or Wilson, and stated to another that Grimes and Wilson were present in Bone's home during the murder but didn't participate.  Another witness said Grimes played a leadership role in the slaying.  The former statements were not allowed at Grimes' trial, but the latter was.  Justices ruled that Morris' statements to witnesses should have been allowed at Grimes' trial because it could have swayed the jury.  Though Grimes' death sentence was overturned, his murder conviction was not.

Stockton Cop Killed in Hit-and-Run Crash:  An off-duty Stockton police officer was fatally struck by a car operated by an unlicensed driver in a hit-and-run crash over the weekend.  KCRA reports that Officer Justin Kepler, who had been with the Stockton Police Department since 2012, was riding his motorcycle Saturday evening when Isidro Urista-Meza, 27, turned into hit path and collided with him, throwing him from his motorcycle.  Kepler was pronounced dead at the scene.  Urista-Meza fled the scene on foot but was arrested a short time later.  He faces charges of driving unlicensed, felony hit-and-run and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.  Officials say alcohol and drugs were not a factor in the crash.

FBI Investigating Whether VA Stabbings were ISIS-inspired: 
Dual stabbings in Virginia over the weekend are being investigated by federal authorities to determine whether the attack was inspired by the Islamic State terror group.  Fox News reports that Wasil Farooqui, 20, faces two counts of aggravated malicious wounding after stabbing and seriously wounding a man and woman at a Roanoke apartment complex on Saturday while yelling "Allah Akbar."  Authorities believe he may have been attempting to behead the male victim.  He had no connection to either victim.  Farooqui had traveled to Turkey within the last year, leading investigators to believe he may have sneaked into Syria to meet with ISIS militants.  The FBI is working with the Roanoke County Police Department on the case and have declined to provide any further details.

News Scan

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Arrests Plunge in CA, Lowest on Record due to Prop 47:  California has just revealed its lowest arrest rate in state history and experts say it is the result of Proposition 47, the 2014 voter-approved initiative that reduced penalties for certain drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.  CBS reports that according to state Department of Justice statistics, the number of felony arrests plunged 28.5% last year and misdemeanor arrests rose 9%, resulting in 52,000 fewer arrests overall and the fewest felony arrests since 1969.  Law enforcement officials believe the "de facto decriminalization of drugs" under Prop. 47 may be having a serious impact, noting that there were about 22,000 fewer drug arrests last year.  Other figures found by the state Department of Justice include a 10% jump in violent crime last year over 2014 and increases in property crime, namely a 12% increase in shoplifting and an 11% spike in thefts.  Mangus Lofstron, a researcher with the Public Policy Institute of California, acknowledged that "it's quite clear that Prop. 47 is the major contributor to the changes we've seen," but also said the plummeting arrests are part of a long-term decline that dates back to the 1980s which stems from the law, crowded jails and fewer police.

VA Gov. Announces Restoration of 13,000 Felons Voting Rights:  Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Monday that he has restored the rights of over 13,000 felons on a case-by-case basis, an order which is complicated by a state Supreme Court ruling that overturned his original order to restore the rights of hundreds of thousands of felons.  Michael Martz of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that McAuliffe's executive order was announced on April 22 and outlined a plan to restore voting and other civil rights to 206,000 felons with completed terms.  However, the Supreme Court of Virginia struck it down in a 4-3 ruling as unconstitutional on July 22 and ordered the Virginia Department of Elections to cancel the registration of the roughly 13,000 "invalidly registered" felons under the now-overturned order.  McAuliffe's promise to restore the rights of the 13,000 felons who registered to vote prior to the high court's ruling -- part of his announcement today -- further complicates the already-problematic rights restoration dispute.  Since his initial order four months ago, felons have run for office, voted in Richmond's mayoral race and purchased firearms.

Man who Killed GA Teens Could Face Death Penalty:  The man who fatally shot two Georgia teens behind a grocery store earlier this months could face the death penalty, says legal analysts.  Christopher Hopper of WXIA reports that Jeffrey Hazelwood, 20, has admitted to killing teenagers Natalie Henderson and Carter Davis on Aug. 1.  He allegedly followed the two behind the grocery store, watched them for some time and moved in to attack them.  He admitted to pistol-whipping Davis before shooting him in the head and sexually battering Henderson before killing her.  Writings discovered by detectives indicate that Hazelwood wanted to be an assassin.  Since the crime involved two victims that died horrific, torturous deaths, 11Alive News legal analyst Phil Holloway says the case is eligible for the death penalty.  The case is headed to the grand jury and a decision is expected in September.  More chilling details about the crime can be read here.

The Racial Bias Lie

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Too many otherwise rational people share the opinion that the American Criminal Justice System is racially biased.   This group includes the Koch Brothers, Newt Gingrich, B.Wayne Hughes and other influential people who for some reason, have chosen not to evaluate these claims for themselves rather than taking the word of known liars like Al Sharpton, Eric Holder, the ACLU and policy-driven liberal think tanks like the Marshal Project and the Sentencing Project. There has been no legitimate excuse for this for at least the last 25 years, but for some it is simply easier and less judgemental to believe the lie.   While numerous scholars have debunked the narrative of racial bias in modern law enforcement, Professor Barry Latzer's new book  "The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America" is the most exhaustively researched work on this subject.  It thoroughly disproves the assertions of social reformers on crime policy going back to the 1960s.  That book is available here:

Don't have time to read it, then click on the link below to hear Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald's brief but excellent comparison of the lies and the truth.
Thursday I noted a paper by Ernest Goss, et al. with a quotation that was purportedly from me but was completely false. I did not write those words, and the words report my study as finding the opposite of what I actually found.

If I received notice that a paper with my name on it contained a gross error, I would make the correction with scrupulous care and go over the correction with a fine tooth comb -- myself, not delegated -- to be very certain that the corrected paper was unimpeachably correct.  Evidently, Professor Goss does not share this view.  The "corrected" version remains a serious misrepresentation, either deliberately deceptive or with reckless disregard of the truth, which are morally about the same thing.

Just say no to marijuana, kids

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Now this is interesting....finally a scientifically backed article on the realities of marijuana use among adolescents.  

Bill noted earlier today the poll by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.  Let's look a little more at these data.

Four years ago, we defeated a death penalty repeal initiative, but the opponents got closer than they should have.  I believed at the time that the reason was not opposition to the death penalty as such but rather the success of the opponents in blocking enforcement of the death penalty and the absence of a reform alternative on the same ballot.

The topline results of the new poll tend to confirm this hypothesis.  For the repeal initiative, the poll found 45.1% in favor and 54.9% opposed.  For the reform initiative, the poll found 75.7% in favor and 24.3% opposed.  At a minimum, then, one fifth of the people of California intend to vote for both initiatives.  That is, if all of the 24.3% who intend to vote no on reform vote in favor of repeal, then 20.8% who intend to vote for reform also intend to vote for repeal.  If anyone intends to vote no on both, though I'm not sure why anyone would, then the "yes on both" vote is that much larger.  A large segment of the population of California is so fed up with the status quo that, although they would like to see the system fixed, they would rather scrap it than go on as we are.

The "crosstabs" are also interesting.  What would happen if California Democrats decided this issue by themselves?
In comments to Bill's post on incarceration rates there is discussion of the issue of whether the higher (although shrinking) incarceration rate for African Americans is due to higher offending rates or discriminatory enforcement.  I did a quick search for research on this subject.

News Scan

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CA Probationer, Parolee Lead Cops on Chase, Nearly Striking One:  Two California men, one a probationer and another a parolee, were taken into custody Wednesday night after leading Hemet police on a chase that ended in a crash.  Patch reports that a patrol officer observed an SUV make a traffic violation and attempted to stop it, but the driver, Justin Manuel Leon, 30, refused to pull over and sped off with his passenger, Michael Ray Kaphan, 24.  When a second patrol unit joined the pursuit, Leon attempted to ram the vehicle.  The suspects' car plowed through a gate and several fences before becoming disabled, at which point the men took off on foot, though they were quickly apprehended.  No one sustained any injuries.  Kaphan, who has prior theft-related convictions, was booked on suspicion of parole violations.  Leon, who was sentenced to 36 months of probation in April after pleading guilty to auto theft, was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, felony evading, reckless driving, vandalism and probation violations.

Suspect in FL Face-Biting Attack May Face Death Penalty: 
The Florida teen who was found biting the face of a man after fatally stabbing him and his wife outside their home could face the death penalty, says the Martin County Sheriff's office.  CBS reports that Austin Harrouff, a 19-year-old college student, will be formally charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of John Stevens, 59, and his wife, Michelle Mishcon, 53, once he is released from the hospital.  He will also face an additional charge of attempted first-degree murder for stabbing the couple's neighbor who tried to intervene.  Investigators believe a synthetic drug like Flakka or bath salts contributed to the attack, which was random.  Authorities are still waiting for results of a lab test to confirm suspicions.

Judges Allow Nearly 100,000 Illegals Remain in the U.S.:  Immigration judges have gone against the Department of Homeland Security's attempts to deport some 96,223 illegal immigrants, including criminals, over the last 10 months, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a Syracuse-University based nonprofit.  Malia Zimmerman of Fox News reports that TRAC's report cites several reasons why a judge may allow an individual to remain in the county, such as finding that the government failed to meet its burden to show the individual is deportable; finding the individual eligible for asylum; or simply granting relief under alternative legal provisions.  The government can also request that a particular case be administratively closed through ICE's prosecutorial discretion, or other reasons.  There is currently a backlog of approximately 500,000 pending cases in immigration courts, causing judges becoming more lenient as it continues to grow.  Records were shattered last year when judges allowed 106,676 illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. despite DHS's efforts to remove them, but TRAC estimates that this year's numbers are on track to surpass that staggering amount.

CO Man who Stabbed Son to Death Could Face Death Penalty:  Arapahoe County prosecutors are considering seeking the death penalty against a Colorado man who fatally stabbed his six-year-old son earlier this year.  Noelle Phillips of the Denver Post reports that Brandon Johnson, 27, had a new arraignment set Thursday for Oct. 25, after which prosecutors have 60 days to decide whether to pursue the death penalty against him.  Colorado law allows the death penalty in this case because it involves the death of a victim younger than 12.  On Feb. 10, a woman called the police to report that she had been sexually assaulted by Johnson at knifepoint.  Upon deputies' arrival, they discovered Riley Johnson dead from stab wounds and Brandon Johnson bleeding from self-inflicted stab wounds.  A two-year-old boy, the son of the woman who called police, was present but unharmed and the woman was hospitalized and treated for her injuries.  Johnson faces eight charges, including first-degree murder.
A report out today from the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California at Berkeley states:

California voters oppose an effort to abolish the death penalty and strongly support a competing measure that would streamline procedures in capital cases, according to a new poll released today by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Respondents opposed the abolition measure 55.1 percent to 44.9 percent, while three out of four respondents supported the streamlining proposition, the survey found. Since the two measures conflict, if both should pass, the measure receiving more votes would take effect.

The poll used online English-language questionnaires to survey respondents from June 29 to July 18. All respondents were registered California voters, and the responses were then weighted to reflect the statewide distribution of the California population by gender, race/ethnicity, education and age. The sample size for the questions on the two death penalty initiatives was 1,506 respondents for one question and 1,512 for the other.

The chances that a UC Berkeley poll would overstate support for the death penalty are the same as the chances that I'll be giving $10,000 to Black Lives Matter.

News Scan

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Death Penalty Sought Against CA Woman:  Monterey County prosecutors announced Wednesday that they will seek the death penalty for a woman responsible for the deaths of her young niece and nephew, as well as the severe abuse of their sister.  Tommy Wright of the Monterey Herald reports that Tami Huntsman faces multiple charges of murder, torture, child abuse and conspiracy in the deaths of Shaun Tara, 6, and Delylah Tara, 3, who were discovered in a Redding storage unit in December along with their nine-year-old sister, found severely abused but alive.  Huntsman's boyfriend, Gonzalo Curiel, 18, received similar charges but faces a life sentence instead of capital punishment because he was a minor at the time of the offenses.  Huntsman and Curiel both pleaded not guilty to the charges in January and received a trial date of Feb. 6, 2017 in April.  The last time the Monterey County DA's Office proceeded with a death penalty case was in 2000.

Illegal Immigrant Felon Arrested for Carjacking:
  An illegal immigrant with a violent felony record was arrested in Kansas City, Mo., on Tuesday after carjacking two women, one of whom was 91-years old.  Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller reports that Eduardo Irhneis Escobar, 25, approached the vehicle in a Walgreen's parking lot and demanded that the driver, a 63-year-old woman, get out of the car.  He proceeded to drive off with the elderly woman still inside and then pushed her out of the car while it was moving.  He was apprehended following a high-speed pursuit and charged with first-degree robbery and armed criminal action.  Fortunately, neither woman sustained injuries.  Court records show Escobar was first held on bond for a May 2009 incident, for which he plead guilty in January 2010.  He was sentenced to six years in prison and three years of probation.  A police report also indicates he has a conviction for first-degree felony assault.  It's unclear if he has ever been deported or when he first entered the U.S.

WV City has 27 Heroin Overdoses in Four Hours:  Huntington, West Virginia, saw 27 heroin overdoses, one of them fatal, in four hours on Monday in what officials are equating to "a mass casualty event."  Tony Marco of CNN reports that all of the overdoses occurred within a mile and a half radius, leading officials to believe that they all stem from the same batch of heroin that was likely laced with something to make it dangerous.  Huntington, a city of approximately 50,000 people, typically sees 18 to 20 overdoses in a week, proving this short span of hours to be "catastrophic," according to Cabell County EMS Director Gordon Merry.  So far this year, there have been 440 overdoses in Cabell County, 26 of them fatal.  Merry believes a third of the overdoses are related to fentanyl.

NM Gov. Backs Restoring Death Penalty:  New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez will pursue the death penalty as part of her legislative agenda in January, an announcement that comes on the heels of the senseless killing of a police officer last Friday.  KVIA reports that Hatch Police Officer Jose Chavez, a two-year veteran of the department, was killed during a traffic stop by Jesse Denver Hanes, an Ohio man who is suspected of another murder in his home state.  Hanes faces a first-degree murder charge in Chavez's death, but cannot receive the death penalty because it was abolished in New Mexico in 2009.  Gov. Martinez stated that she believes cop killers deserve the ultimate penalty, concluding that "a society that fails to adequately protect and defend those who protect all of us is a society that will be undone and unsafe."  Lawmakers in the state have begun discussing drafting a bill that would to reintroduce capital punishment next legislative session.
Update:  See follow-up post.

I have been battling the opponents of the death penalty for a very long time.  In that time, I have found that the intentionally misleading half-truth is their weapon of choice, and I spend a lot of time correcting the mistaken impressions they intentionally create.

However, the opponents are not above outright lying when they think they can get away with it.  A whopper has just come to my attention from the state of Nebraska, where the people are going to vote on whether to abolish or retain the death penalty.

Ernest Goss, Scott Strain, and Jackson Blalock have released a paper titled The Economic Impact of the Death Penalty on the State of Nebraska: a Taxpayer Burden?  The paper is sponsored by the anti-death-penalty campaign.  On page 23 we find this:

According to Scheidegger,48 "There is no credible evidence that replacing the DP with LWOP will result in significant added trial costs to the state due to defendants refusing to plead guilty and forcing prosecutors to meet their burdens at trial. The few studies that have been completed support the proposition that the threat of the DP does not increase plea bargain rates."

48Kent S. Scheidegger, The DP and Plea Bargaining to Life Sentences, Criminal Justice Legal Foundations, Feb. 2009, p. 10.
Note the quotation marks.  The authors are not saying that this is their interpretation of my results.  They are saying that these are my exact words and my interpretation.  This is a bald-faced lie.

Misreporting Science

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Robert Gebelhoff has this article in the WaPo on the misreporting of research.

One of the main problems is an effect that I have called "big story bias."  Journalists have an incentive to shade their reports in the direction of making the event more newsworthy.  This effect is not limited to stories about research.  We see it across the board. 

Researchers and their institutions, also, have an incentive to produce research that makes news.  Gebelhoff notes, "At the same time, researchers have become very good at playing with data -- such as shifting the length of their experiments or picking and choosing which variables to control for -- in order to come out with the results they want." 

Once more, with feeling, what "studies show" ain't necessarily so, and no, that is not an "anti-science" position.

News Scan

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OH Man to Face Death Penalty:  Prosecutors announced Tuesday that they are seeking the death penalty against an Ohio man accused of abducting and killing a young woman last month.  Ryan Dunn of the Toledo Blade reports that a grand jury returned a 19-count indictment against James Worley, who faces an array of charges in the death of Sierah Joughin, 20. Joughin disappeared while riding her bike down a rural road and her remains were found three days later; she was handcuffed and had died of asphyxiation.  An autopsy found no evidence of sexual assault.  A search of Worley's property yielded a secret room in his barn, where authorities discovered restraints and a freezer with blood in it.  He is charged with two counts each of aggravated murder, murder, abduction, felonious assault, aggravated robbery.  The grand jury added four charges of kidnapping and single counts of possessing criminal tools, gross abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.  Prosecutors explained that although the indictment alleges multiple counts of several individual crimes, each is based on a different section of Ohio law.  Worley previously served three years in prison after being convicted of abducting a 26-year-old woman in 1990.

AL Inmate who Shot at Cops Escapes from Jail:  An Alabama man who was convicted last week of shooting at a sheriff's deputy escaped from jail Tuesday night.  Fox News reports that Eric Washington, 23, overpowered staff members and stole a pair of keys before fleeing on foot.  Authorities believe he may be armed with a shank.  Washington was days away from being transferred to a state prison to serve a 30-year sentence for shooting at a sheriff's deputy during a police pursuit last year.  He was initially charged with attempted murder but found guilty of second-degree assault and discharging a gun into an occupied vehicle.  A manhunt for him is underway.

Two SC Teens Arrested for Fatal Shooting of Good Samaritan:  Two teens are facing murder charges after one of them fatally shot a man who had just helped them pull an SUV from a ditch on a North Charleston road Monday night.  Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post reports that Chadwick Garrett, 45, agreed to help Michael Odell Anthony Dupree-Tyler, 19, and Deon Antonio Frasier, 17, pull their SUV from a roadside ditch for a $20 fee, and was shot in the chest by Frasier when he was finished.  Dupree-Tyler then drove he and Frasier away from the scene in the vehicle back to their apartment.  Shortly after the shooting, a woman called the police to report that two teens had taken her SUV without permission, and provided the teens' description.  Police responded, and the teens were taken into custody after a brief standoff and admitted to their respective roles in the crime.  Both face a charge of murder, while Frasier faces an additional charge of possession of a firearm during a violent crime.

Trump Speech on Law and Order

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A script of Donald Trump's speech on law and order is available on his site.  There are many good points there.  He is clearly listening to Rudy Giuliani, which is good.

Can he stay on message, and, if so, can he regain the 10% he has foolishly handed to Hillary Clinton on a silver platter since the convention?  We shall see. 
Amy Wang reports in the WaPo:

Kathleen Kane, once a rising star in Pennsylvania politics, said Tuesday that she will resign as the state's attorney general after she was found guilty of nine criminal charges, including two felony perjury counts.

"I have been honored to serve the people of Pennsylvania and I wish them health and safety in all their days," the first-term Democrat said in a statement the afternoon after her conviction.

Kane, who was elected in 2012, was accused of leaking information to the media about a 2009 grand jury probe as a way to get back at Frank Fina, a political rival and former state prosecutor.

Prosecutors said Kane masterminded the leak and a subsequent coverup -- and then lied to a grand jury about it.
Politicians never seem to learn that the cover-up gets you in more trouble than the original transgression.
To listen to BLM and its allies, Amerika is hellbent to imprison those it "dislikes," with African Americans heading the list.

Like so much the Left says, it's simply false.  As the Washington Post writes in an article by Stanford Professor Keith Humphreys, "Black incarceration hasn't been this low in a generation."

Th[e] heated debate about whether the 1994 [Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act] is responsible for African Americans increasingly being behind bars can never be resolved, for a reason that may surprise many observers: The African American imprisonment rate has been declining for many years. Indeed, the likelihood of African American men and women being in prison today is lower than it was a generation ago when the law was passed...

I would love to think (but don't) that the Left is merely behind the times rather than deceitful.  Unfortunately, since it has spent years falsely claiming that more incarceration doesn't contribute significantly to decreasing crime, and months falsely claiming that violent crime is at "historic lows" (it's been rising since 2014), belief in its mere failure to keep up has become impossible.

I should note that the decrease in the rate of black incarceration began on approximately the day George W. Bush became President, and has continued under his successor.  In addition, the amount of the decrease in the incarceration rate for black males over that time is an amazingly large 23%, and the decrease for black females more than twice that much.

News Scan

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No Need to Police SF Prosecutors:  A San Francisco prosecutor in a robbery case is accused of prosecutorial overreach for charging a defendant with kidnapping after she and two other men stole her supervisor's cell phone and accompanied him to an ATM to swap it for cash.  Debra J. Saunders has this article in the SF Chronicle noting that LaSonya Wells, 40, could have spent the rest of her life behind bards if found guilty of the kidnapping charge; and while Saunders agreed that the kidnapping charge "goes too far," she says Wells,who has a lengthy criminal history that includes three stints in state prison, "is a great example of an offender who deserves to have the book thrown at her."  CJLF President Michael Rushford concurs that the case doesn't amount to kidnapping but is troubled that prosecutors would be accused of being too tough on repeat offenders like Wells.  The kidnapping charge against Wells was dropped, though she and her co-defendant son, Damian Wells, 20 still face charges for robbery, extortion and grand theft.

CA High Court Overturns Death Sentence:  In a unanimous decision on Monday, the California Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of a man convicted of the 1993 murders of two former co-workers, who he ambushed and killed after being passed over for a promotion.  Maura Dolan of the LA Times reports that Sergio Dujuan Nelson was 19-years-old and had no criminal history when he fatally shot Robin Shirley and Lee Thompson while they sat in a vehicle in the parking lot of the Target where he used to work.  Nelson confessed to the killing but argued that they were brought on by depression.  At his trial, two juries failed to reach a decision whether to sentence Nelson to life in prison without parole or death.  After the second deadlocked jury, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Clarence Stromwall allowed the jurors to be questioned about their deliberations, and removed one of the holdouts.  The state high court determined this week that the death verdict in Nelson's trial had been "tainted" by the "intrusive influence" of the trial court's questions and comments, and granted him a new trial on his sentence.  Nelson's special circumstance conviction of lying in wait was also overturned in a 5-2 decision.

CA Lawsuit Leads to Reduced Cellphone Prison Penalties:
  A California lawsuit filed by an inmate over legislation passed five years ago imposing new penalties on inmates for using cellphones has prompted a reduction in some of the penalties under the legislation.  Jim Miller of the Sac Bee reports that SB 26 was passed in 2011 following years of warnings that inmates were using contraband phones to commit crimes from prison, but a lawsuit arguing that lawmakers were unclear about who the maximum penalties applied to lead state prison officials to downgrade some of the law's rules.  The measure initially called for the loss of 90 days of good time credit if an inmate was found in possession of cellphones and cellphone accessories such as SIM cards and charges, but now an inmate will only face the loss of 30 days of good time credit.  Officials say the reduced penalties will not impede efforts to prevent inmates from obtaining cellphones.  The changes will go into effect later this month.  In 2010, a year before SB 26 was enacted, about 11,000 cellphones were confiscated in California prisons.

In Milwaukee over the weekend, yet another black man with most of his life ahead of him was gunned down by the police.  This has sparked calls for peace, and for a renewed national conversation about police misconduct and community trust.

I thought it would be useful to see what the conversation looks like.

News Scan

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Milwaukee Endures Two Nights of Unrest after Police Shooting:  Two nights of violent protests in Milwaukee, following the fatal shooting of an armed black man by a police officer on Saturday, has resulted in 11 wounded officers, a teen seriously injured by gunfire, 14 arrests for disorderly conduct and significant damage to the city.  Fox News reports that nearly a dozen officers were wounded after demonstrators turned violent, hurling chunks of concrete and rocks at them and shattering squad car windows.  The city's ShotSpotter system recorded 48 instances of gunfire on Saturday and 30 on Sunday, with one of those instances injuring an 18-year-old man who had to be retrieved by an armored vehicle.  Businesses were looted and burned on Saturday and on Sunday, three squad cars were damaged, a police BearCat was struck by two bullets, a car and several dumpsters were set on fire and a store's window was smashed.  The violence erupted following the death of Sylville Smith, who was shot by an officer during a traffic stop on Saturday after he refused to drop his gun when the officer ordered him to.  Police Chief Edward Flynn declined to identify the officer but said he is black, and his body camera footage clearly shows a gun in Smith's hand and he "was raising up with it.  The officer "certainly appeared to be within lawful bounds," said Flynn.  An investigation into the shooting is still ongoing.

GA Officer Fatally Shot, Suspect on the Loose:  A Georgia police officer was fatally shot over the weekend by a suspect who is still at large.  The AP reports that Eastman Patrol Officer Tim Smith, 31, was shot and killed Saturday evening while responding to a call of a suspicious person and encountering Royheem Delshawn Deeds, 24, who then fled the scene.  Smith was a father of three children and had been with the Eastman Police Department since 2011.  His death came just hours before two teenage suspects were arrested after opening fire at three officers outside Atlanta.  Officer Scott Davis, a 10-year veteran, was shot in the leg and is recovering in the hospital.  A manhunt is underway for Deeds.

Audit of CA Gang Database Finds Numerous Errors:  An audit of California's gang database, CalGang, found several problems regarding privacy issues, transparency and control.  CBS reports that the state began compiling a database of known gangsters and gang affiliates in 2003 so law enforcement agencies could access it for the purpose of adding people to gang injunctions, supporting arguments for sentencing enhancements in court and even disqualifying families from living in public housing.  The recent audit, conducted by State Auditor Elaine M. Howle, found numerous issues with CalGang, the most egregious of which was 42 individuals added to the list "whose birthdates indicated that they were less than one year old at the time their information was entered, 28 of whom were entered into the system in part because they admitted to being gang members."  Other problems included:  adding individuals without sufficient evidence, difficulty removing individuals despite sufficient evidence, the illegal use of the database for employment screening and inadequate parental notification for juveniles put on the list, violating a 2013 law.  CalGang is state-funded and overseen by an executive board and advisory committee comprised of local law enforcement with no statutory authority.

News Scan

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AL Man's Death Penalty Trial to Begin:  The capital murder trial is set to begin this month for an Alabama man accused of killing a manager two years ago during a robbery at a Taco Bell where he was employed.  Erin Edgemon of AL reports that Renauldous Chisholm, 22, faces the death penalty for killing Vettia Roche, 43, who was shot twice, kicked in the abdomen and beaten in the head with a carjack during a robbery gone awry.  Chisholm and two other men, Kenneth Temple and Gacolby Green, plotted to rob Roche of the night deposit in March 2014, but the plot took a deadly turn when Roche recognized Chisholm and Temple as two of her employees.  The state is seeking the death penalty against Chisholm due to "aggravating circumstances," citing that the murder was committed during a robbery and was "especially heinous, atrocious and cruel."  Chisholm's trial begins on Aug. 22, Temple's capital murder trial is set to begin on Jan. 23 and Green's murder trial is scheduled to start Sept. 26.

Two CA Death Sentences Overturned, One Upheld:  Three decades-old California capital murder cases received rulings  Thursday by appellate courts, with two death sentences tossed out and a third affirmed.  Erica Evans of the LA Times reports that the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction and death sentence of James Edward Hardy, who was on death row for the 1981 stabbing deaths of a mother and her son.  The Federal court agreed with a previous court ruling that Hardy's defense attorney failed to investigate and present evidence that the prosecution's key witness may have been the actual killer, and called for a new trial.  The California Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction and death sentence of Craigen Lewis Armstrong, who was convicted in 2004 of the 2001 triple homicide of three brothers.  The state high court found that a juror was discharged by the judge during the guilt phase of Armstrong's trial without a demonstrable reason to indicate the juror was unable to complete her duty.  Then in a separate ruling, the state high court affirmed the conviction and death sentence of Michael Ray Burgener, who was condemned to die for murdering a man during a convenience store robbery in 1981.  There are now 746 inmates on California's death row.

Two with Long Criminal Histories Arrested, One on AB109:  Two people with extensive criminal histories, including one who was free under AB109, were arrested last week in Murrieta, Calif., on numerous charges after being found with a stolen vehicle.  Trevor Montgomery of My Valley News reports that Lauren Taylor James, 28, was found Aug. 8 passed out in a stolen vehicle and determined to have a misdemeanor warrant for her arrest and a lengthy history for narcotics, burglary and stolen property.  Her passenger, Tarren Rippel, 30, had two felony warrants for carjacking and PRCS violation, and a misdemeanor warrant for theft.  Rippel was free on Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) under AB109 (the so called Public Safety Realignment).  The 2011 law that allows "less serious" offenders to remain free on probation rather than behind bars, where they would have been prior to the law's implementation.  James was booked on suspicious of possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of narcotics paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance, as well as her warrant for possession of a controlled substance.  Rippel was booked for his felony warrants and misdemeanor warrant.  His criminal history includes charges of vehicle theft, carjacking, two counts of false imprisonment, two counts of spousal abuse, two counts of grand theft, providing a false identity to a peace officer and disobeying a court order.

Bill to Increase Penalty for Fentanyl Trafficking Shelved:  A committee of the California Legislature has blocked passage of SB1323, a bill to increase the penalty for trafficking the deadly drug fentanyl to match penalties for dealers of heroin and cocaine.  The drug, which is several times more powerful than heroin has caused a spike in fatal drug overdoses, including 10 in Sacramento, California's state capital, so far this year.  Sacramento Bee writer Anshu Siripurapu reports that the bill was opposed by the ACLU which argued that tougher penalties would not deter trafficking of the drug.  The Assembly Appropriations Committee, chaired by San Diego Democrat Lorena Gonzalez, has become the gatekeeper for crime legislation in that house, held the bill without a vote Thursday.    

Another Phony DOJ Report

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A 161-page U.S. Department of Justice report on the Baltimore Police Department released yesterday concluded that the city's police intentionally target African Americans for stops and arrests, violating their civil rights.  Not unlike a similar report tarring the Ferguson Police Department, the DOJ found that police contacts with minorities, and particularly blacks, were disproportionate compared with other races, evidencing racially biased policing practices.  While drawing such conclusions by comparing the ratio of members a particular race stopped or arrested with their ratio of the population is thoroughly bogus, the national media swallowed it whole, as usual.  Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald dismantles the report with this piece in today's National Review.           

Pot Classification

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Alicia Caldwell reports for AP:

The Obama administration has decided marijuana will remain on the list of most-dangerous drugs, fully rebuffing growing support across the country for broad legalization, but said it will allow more research into its medical uses.

The decision to expand research into marijuana's medical potential could pave the way for the drug to be moved to a lesser category. Heroin, peyote and marijuana, among others, are considered Schedule I drugs because they have no medical application; cocaine and opiates, for example, have medical uses and, while still illegal for recreational use, are designated Schedule II drugs.

The Drug Enforcement Administration said the agency's decision came after a lengthy review and consultation with the Health and Human Services Department, which said marijuana "has a high potential for abuse" and "no accepted medical use." The decision means that pot will remain illegal for any purpose under federal law, despite laws in 25 states and District of Columbia that have legalized pot for either medicinal or recreational use.

News Scan

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FL Appeals Court Clears Way for 4 Death Penalty Cases:  A Florida appeals court Wednesday cleared the way for four death penalty cases to proceed with trials, countering rulings by lower courts that recent changes to state law only allow sentences of life in prison.  Arek Sarkissian of Naples Daily News reports that circuit judges in two Florida counties had used the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Hurst v. Florida to bar prosecutors from seeking capital punishment, but the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that "trial courts simply have no authority to determine the applicability of the death penalty to defendants who have not been convicted of capital felonies."  The court also states that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling "has no impact on the state's executive decision to prosecute capital offenses."  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in January that Florida's death penalty sentencing process violated the Sixth Amendment by giving too much power to judges rather than juries in deciding whether to issue a death sentence.  The Florida Legislature introduced an alternative policy that requires 10 of 12 jurors to agree on a death sentence.  The state high court has not yet ruled on how to apply to federal ruling.

New CA Bill Challenges Brown's Ballot Measure: 
A California bill on rape introduced recently conflicts with Gov. Jerry Brown's November ballot measure that would grant inmates convicted of a "nonviolent felony offense" parole eligibility after completion of the full term of his or her primary offense, as well as shaving time off their sentences for good behavior. In this Sac Bee piece, Dan Walters says that while Brown's measure, Proposition 57, does not define "nonviolent" crime, his campaign said it would apply to any felony not listed specifically in Penal Code Section 667.5.  That means that offenses such as assault with a deadly weapon, soliciting murder, intimidating a crime victim or witness, resisting arrest that injures a police officer, violent elder or child abuse, arson with injury, human trafficking and several forms of manslaughter and rape, including the rape of an unconscious person, will all be classified as a "nonviolent felony offense."  The bill, Assembly Bill 29, carried by Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, for a bipartisan group of female legislators, would require any person convicted of raping an unconscious person or spouse to serve a full sentence with no time off for good behavior.  The bill came on the heels of widespread outrage after Standford University swimmer Brock Turner, who faced up to 14 years in prison, received a six-month jail sentence for three counts of sexual assault on an unconscious woman.  If the bill reaches Brown's desk, he will have to decide whether to sign itl, going against his own ballot measure, or vetoing the bill, essentially implying that raping an unconscious person in not a violent crime.

Colorado U Rape Case Echoes Stanford Case:  A rape case in Colorado strongly resembles the Brock Turner case at Stanford in both the crime and the light sentence the defendant received.  Rob Quinn of Newser reports that Austin James Wilkerson, 22, a former University of Colorado student, skirted a prison sentence on Wednesday after being found guilty of the 2014 sexual assault of an intoxicated female student.  Prosecutors sought a state prison sentence of four to 12 years, but the judge used his discretion to give Wilkerson a much lighter sentence consisting of probation for 20 years to life and two years in county jail under a work-release program that will allow him to leave jail daily for work or school.  The assault occurred after a St. Patrick's Day party two years ago when Wilkerson told a heavily intoxicated freshman student's friends that he was going to take care of her.

Marijuana to Remain Classified as Dangerous Drug:  The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said it will not reclassify marijuana and remove it from the list of most dangerous drugs.  CBS New York reports that the DEA made the announcement in a notice in the Federal Register after consulting with the Heath and Human Services Department, stating that while marijuana will remain classified as a drug that has "no accepted medical use in the United States," the agency will pursue plans to make marijuana more available to researchers by expanding the number of agencies allowed to grow marijuana legally for the purpose of research.  Marijuana is classified as a "Schedule 1" drug, the same as heroin.
Shane Newell has this article with the above title in the LA Times.

Top Los Angeles County officials including Sheriff Jim McDonnell and Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey have joined a November election battle, announcing support for preserving California's death penalty and reforming the state's appeals process.

The death penalty should be "for the worst of the worst," McDonnell said Monday night at an event dubbed, "Mend, Don't End California's Death Penalty."

"We want to be in a position to be able to say that there is a disincentive for the most horrific of murders," McDonnell said.

Also speaking out at the event was Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. The goal: opposing Proposition 62, which would abolish executions and replace them with life without parole, and supporting Proposition 66, which aims to speed up executions in California.

News Scan

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Two AR Cops Shot, Suspect in Custody:  Two Arkansas police officers were shot and wounded on Wednesday by a suspect who was taken into custody following an hours-long standoff.  Fox News reports that Sebastian County Deputy Bill Cooper is in an intensive care unit in extremely critical condition and Hackett Chief of Police Darrell Spells was treated and released from the hospital after being grazed in the head by a bullet.  Cooper and Spells were shot by accused gunman Billy Jones when they were at Jones' house after responding to a call from his father asking officers to check on him.  Jones has an extensive criminal history, including a 2007 conviction for manufacture and possession of a controlled substance and a 2011 conviction for theft of property, as well as a February 2016 charge of possession of firearms and possession of a controlled substance.  "It's a shame the price that law enforcement officers are paying right now," said U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, who represents Sebastian County.  Update:  Deputy Bill Cooper died from his injuries.  He was a 15-year veteran and a former Marine.

Grim Sleeper Sentenced to Death:  The serial killer known as the "Grim Sleeper," who terrorized the streets of South Los Angeles for over two decades, was sentenced to death on Wednesday.  Marisa Gerber and James Queally of the LA Times reports that Lonnie David Franklin Jr., 63, was convicted in May of 10 counts of murder for killing nine women and a teenage girl, as well as the attempted murder of another woman.  The women, most of whom were shot to death, were drug addicts and prostitutes killed between 1985 and 2007 and dumped along roadsides or in the trash.  The slayings were linked to a single killer through ballistic and genetic evidence found at the crime scenes, and eventually matched to Franklin in 2010.  Franklin was dubbed the "Grim Sleeper" because of a gap in the killings between 1988 and 2001, suggesting he had gone dormant.  However, it is now believed that he continued to kill during that period.  Prosecutors connected him to five other murder during the penalty phase of his trial, but detectives think that he is responsible for up to 25 murders.

Be Careful What You Ask For

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When a defendant has gotten off with less than he or she deserves with a plea bargain, it is not a good idea to have the entire judgment vacated and go back to square one.  From the Ninth Circuit's decision yesterday in Fox v. Johnson, No. 13-56704:

Candace Lee Fox pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1984 in California Superior Court and, pursuant to a plea agreement, was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of fifteen years to life. Approximately five years later, Fox successfully petitioned to withdraw her guilty plea after establishing that the sentencing court failed to inform her that she would receive a mandatory term of lifetime parole as a direct consequence of her plea. At her subsequent trial, Fox was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, and the special circumstance that the murder was committed in the course of a burglary. She was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. In this 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254 habeas proceeding, Fox now argues that the State originally promised her a term of imprisonment no greater than seven and one-half years in exchange for her plea, and asks for specific performance of that purported agreement.

We refuse Fox's request and affirm the district court, because Fox chose in the state habeas proceedings to seek vacation of her conviction, rather than specific performance of the purported plea agreement. She therefore has no due process right to specific performance of the rescinded agreement.

Back from AGACL

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Some readers may have noticed I have not blogged much in the last week.  I was in New Orleans at the annual convention of the Association of Government Attorneys in Capital Litigation.  (I am not, of course, a government attorney, but they tolerate me there anyway.)  I will have more to say on this conference later in the week.

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