Maybe the Vogt Case Wasn't Certworthy

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Rory Little has this post at SCOTUSblog on yesterday's argument in City of Hays v. Vogt.  The case involves the use at a preliminary proceeding, not a trial, of a statement a former police officer was required to make.  Is that a Fifth Amendment violation for which he can sue the city?

But there are complications that make the case a problematic "vehicle" to address that question.  One thing just coming out now is that Vogt may not have made any objection to the introduction of the evidence.  That is important.  Generally, any objection to evidence not made at the time of introduction is forfeited.

Commenter Registration

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The commenter registration system has been turned off for the time being.  Our creaky old blog software is causing problems, and I do not presently have time to implement the replacement system.

I can register commenters manually, when I have time.  Requests may be emailed using the link on our contact page.

News Scan

Deincarceration California Style:  As has been noted many times on this blog, most serious and violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders.  Since the mid-1990s, a proven formula for reducing crime was adopted both locally and nationally with great success.  The ingredients were targeted proactive policing and progressive sentencing.   Over the past decade, in response to claims by academics, activists, and liberal politicians that these policies targeted minorities and condemned otherwise upstanding citizens to decades in prison for minor offenses, several big cities and some states adopted reforms backing off policing and reducing sentences for habitual criminals.  California has been a leader in this movement, adopting four major sentencing reduction laws and numerous local policies limiting policing over the past eight years.  The most recent of these is Proposition 57, adopted in 2016 after a multi-million dollar publicity campaign convinced voters that it would only allow for early parole for well-behaved inmates convicted of non-violent crimes.  Almost immediately, district attorneys reported that a car thief, wife beater, or drug dealer eligible for early parole under this law could have prior convictions for rape or even murder.  Governor Brown, who helped finance the initiative along with George Soros, claimed that this was flat wrong.  Last week, NBC Los Angeles reported that the Governor was the one who was flat wrong, noting that numerous inmates with priors for crimes like murder and violent assault have been granted parole under Proposition 57.  Prosecutor Michele Hanisee, President of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) for Los Angeles, told reporters that the public was duped by the proposition's supporters.  "It's very clear they intended to release violent offenders by re-describing them, despite their crimes, as nonviolent offenders."   Both the news story and the ADDA blog cite examples of the kinds of criminals now considered non-violent and eligible for early parole.

Rafael Mangual of the Manhattan Institute has this article in the City Journal:

Last November, a deranged 26-year-old man, Devin Patrick Kelley, opened fire on worshipers inside a church in Sutherland, Texas, killing 26. High-casualty mass shootings are tragic in human terms but anomalous statistically, at least in terms of the portion of total U.S. homicides that they represent. The vast majority of murders, which take place disproportionately in America's low-income and minority neighborhoods, don't get nearly the same attention. The Texas church shooting does have an important point of commonality with the majority of American murders, however: its perpetrator had a troubling criminal record. The deincarceration movement, which would return thousands of convicts to American streets, presents a threat to public safety. Repeat offenders already commit a substantial portion of the nation's violent crime--according to one study, 53 percent of killers have at least one prior felony conviction. They will be walking the streets in greater numbers if deincarceration advocates have their way.
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The U.S. Supreme Court today decided Murphy v. Smith, No. 16-1067:

This is a case about how much prevailing prisoners must pay their lawyers. When a prisoner wins a civil rights suit and the district court awards fees to the prisoner's attorney, a federal statute says that "a portion of the [prisoner's] judgment (not to exceed 25 percent) shall be applied to satisfy the amount of attorney's fees awarded against the defendant. If the award of attorney's fees is not greater than 150 percent of the judgment, the excess shall be paid by the defendant." 42 U. S. C. §1997e(d)(2). Whatever else you might make of this, the first sentence pretty clearly tells us that the prisoner has to pay some part of the attorney's fee award before financial responsibility shifts to the defendant. But how much is enough? Does the first sentence allow the district court discretion to take any amount it wishes from the plaintiff 's judgment to pay the attorney, from 25% down to a penny? Or does the first sentence instead mean that the court must pay the attorney's entire fee award from the plaintiff 's judgment until it reaches the 25% cap and only then turn to the defendant?
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At the end of the day, what may have begun as a close race turns out to have a clear winner. Now with a view of the full field of textual, contextual, and precedential evidence, we think the interpretation the court of appeals adopted prevails. In cases governed by §1997e(d), we hold that district courts must apply as much of the judgment as necessary, up to 25%, to satisfy an award of attorney's fees.

This could be an important case on statutory interpretation, beyond the context of the Prison Litigation Reform Act.

If you hadn't guessed from the style of the above paragraphs, the opinion is by Justice Gorsuch.  Justice Sotomayor dissented, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan.

Guilty Pleas and Appeals

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The U.S. Supreme Court today decided Class v. United States, No. 16-424:

Does a guilty plea bar a criminal defendant from later appealing his conviction on the ground that the statute of conviction violates the Constitution? In our view, a guilty plea by itself does not bar that appeal.
Justice Breyer wrote the opinion of the Court.  Justice Alito dissented, joined by Justices Kennedy and Thomas, criticizing the majority for leaving a "muddle."

News Scan

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Lies Fueling Debate on CA Bail Reform:  Last year, the California Senate passed an ACLU-sponsored bill (SB10) which would have essentially eliminated money bail from the state's criminal justice system, replacing a judge's decision of whether a defendant should be released prior to trial with computer software to assess a defendant's risk of fleeing or committing new crimes.  Although the bill had Governor Brown's support, it failed to pass in the Assembly and is being reconsidered this year.  Proponents of the bill argue that having judges set the amount of bail is racist and discriminates against the poor.  They cite horror stories about poor minority defendants arrested for minor crimes languishing in jail awaiting trial for lack of money to post bail.  Prosecutor Eric Siddall, Vice President of the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys, has this piece calling out a proponent's op-ed in the Los Angeles Times for a "glaring lack of candor" when describing the case of Kenneth Humphrey.  In their Times piece, two San Francisco public defenders claimed Humphrey had languished in jail for 250 days for "stepping into his neighbor's room at a senior citizen complex" and stealing $5 and a bottle of cologne.  Siddall notes that this narrative leaves out a few important facts.  The defenders go on to claim that the SF District Attorney conceded that Humphrey posed no threat to society.  This was a lie.  The prosecutor actually said that he was "a great public safety risk."   It would be nice, particularly when considering policies which directly impact the safety of innocent citizens, if both sides were able to stick to the truth.
I previously noted here and here the controversy over an op-ed by professors Amy Wax and Larry Alexander.  In Saturday's WSJ, Professor Wax has an article headlined "What Can't Be Debated on Campus," with the subhead "Pilloried for her politically incorrect views, University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax asks if it's still possible to have substantive arguments about divisive issues."

It's even worse than we thought.
The New York Times is a wonderfully reliable mouthpiece for the interests of criminals, drug pushers in particular, and it does not disappoint in yesterday's editorial.  What it adds, however, are two  point-blank lies early in the piece designed to smear Donald Trump.  

This is the editorial's first sentence:  "In the decade or so before Donald Trump became president, America's approach to criminal justice was changing fast -- reckoning with decades of destructive and ineffective policies that had ballooned the prison population and destroyed countless lives."

The proposition that our criminal justice policies were "ineffective" is not merely breathtakingly false but upside down.  Over roughly the last three decades, starting in the term of President George H. W. Bush, crime rates fell by half.  These policies, in particular more police, more aggressive policing, determinate sentencing systems, and increased use of incarceration, have to count by any sane reckoning as one of the biggest success stories of the post-WW II era.  And they did not destroy lives; they saved lives, by the thousands.

The Times quickly moves on with this:  "Within minutes of taking office, Mr. Trump turned back the dial, warning darkly in his Inaugural Address of 'American carnage,' of cities and towns gutted by crime -- even though crime rates are at their lowest in decades."

Good grief.  Crime rates are not "at their lowest in decades."  In the two years before Trump took the oath in January 2017, violent crime had skyrocketed from what it was just in 2014.  Murder increased by more than 20% nationwide in 2015 and 2016.  Indeed, in those two years alone, we gave back all the gains we had made against violent crime since 2010.  The Times can read the same statistics anyone can find in less than thirty seconds  --  and it very likely did, and simply chose to lie about them.

Should Judges Have Sentencing Rules?

Judges are given considerable leeway in sentencing.  No serious person thinks this is a bad idea.  The question subject to debate, at least in academia, is whether their judgment and outlook are so uniformly to be trusted that the legislature should be disabled from establishing any mandatory sentencing limits.

The following story provides the answer all by itself.  Its headline is, "Judge Cuts Pedophile's Prison Term Claiming 3-Yr-Old 'Asked' To Be Raped":

A California judge has caused outrage after slashing 15 years off the prison sentence of a pedophile convicted of raping a 3-year-old child.

Orange County Superior Court Judge M. Marc Kelly cut the child rapist's prison term down to ten years from 25 years claiming that "he didn't mean to harm" the 3-year-old girl that he raped.

He also backed the claim from child rapist Kevin Rojano that the young girl initiated the act of sodomy. Rojano said in his own defense that "she asked me to do it."

News Scan

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74% of Arrested Illegals Have Criminal Records:  A report released yesterday by the Pew Research Center indicates that last year almost three quarters of the illegal aliens arrested in the United States had prior criminal records.  This compares with just 39% of illegals arrested in 2009 with criminal priors.  The report also notes that the number of illegals arrested by ICE during the Obama administration dropped from almost 300,000 in 2009 to just over 140,000 in 2017.  The most common prior convictions among those arrested were for DUI and drug offenses.  While arrests of criminal illegal aliens increased nationally by 12% last year, they decreased in most of California, Southern Texas and Pennsylvania.  Not surprisingly, most cities in California, many in  Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, and the two largest cities in Southern Texas (Austin & Houston) are sanctuary cities.     
When can sentencing laws enacted by the people by initiative be changed by the legislature?  The answer varies by state.

Noelle Crombie reports for the Oregonian:

A three-judge panel of Clackamas County Circuit Court judges unanimously concluded Wednesday that a controversial state law reducing sentences for some property crimes is unconstitutional, the latest development in a political conflict erupting over the statute.

The judges, Susie Norby, Michael Wetzel and Thomas Rastetter, concluded that the law, which the Legislature passed last year, needed a two-thirds majority instead of a simple majority because it revised Measure 57. The voter-approved measure cracked down on repeat property offenders with longer prison sentences.

Each time we have one of these horrific mass shootings, many people shake their heads and ask, "What on earth could make somebody want to do something like this?"  In most cases, the perpetrator is dead and did not plan to survive the attack.  This time we have a living perpetrator, so perhaps we will learn more.

I suspect that a strong desire to be in the headlines is part of the motivation.  Too many young people place too much emphasis on being "famous" and have lost the distinction between being famous and being infamous.  There is even a television series titled, "Murder Made Me Famous."

In December 1941, President Roosevelt famously declared that the 7th was "a day that will live in infamy."  He didn't say "fame," and everyone knew the difference.  The perpetrators would go down in history, but as villains, and that was universally regarded as a bad outcome for them.

Pretending Our Way to Murder

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This essay by Paul Mirengoff puts as starkly a I have seen the price to be paid, in honesty and in lives, for refusing to acknowledge reality because it does not square with leftist ideology.  It's hard to tell if this phenomenon is more disgusting, more tragic, or more ironic  --  the latter because it's leftist academia that brays incessantly that we need "evidence-based" this or "research-centered" that.  In truth, it could care less about what research or evidence shows.  This is visible most prominently, in criminal law debates, in the fact that the Left denounces as racist more and more aggressive policing and increased use of incarceration  --  even though overwhelming evidence shows that these things made major contributions to the decline of murder and violent crime over the last 25 years, and thus saved thousands of black lives we otherwise would have lost.

The snarling subordination of evidence to ideology is well illustrated by the race-norming of school discipline.  As Paul explains:

We're screwed if we must pretend that black students in public schools are suspended and otherwise disciplined at a disproportionately high rate (including by black teachers) mainly because of their race rather than because of their behavior and, underlying that behavior, their upbringing and family structure. And if we must therefore  relax disciplinary standards. Lest we be accused of racism.

We're screwed if we apply the same kind of fiction to adult criminals and redefine what's a crime and what's a proper criminal sentence in an attempt to create racially equal outcomes in our (until now Anglo-American) justice system. Lest we be accused of racism. 

Annie Sweeney reports for the Chicago Tribune:

On Tuesday, Bauer was fatally shot in the Loop by a four-time felon who had drawn the suspicion of tactical teams in the busy downtown area, police said. Officers tried to stop the man a few blocks from the Thompson Center, but he took off running, according to radio traffic of the incident.

Bauer encountered him at the Thompson Center, where a physical struggle resulted at a stairwell outside the government building, Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. Bauer was found by other officers. The suspect was taken into custody.

Though the suspect had a lengthy record of interaction with police, he had not been arrested by Chicago police since 2014, and each of his felony arrests resulted in prison sentences, according to public records.

We do not yet have information on what those priors were, but if they all resulted in prison sentences, it seems likely that a well-written and regularly enforced Three Strikes law would have kept this person off the street and Commander Bauer would still be alive.

In an essay on the nation's 20-year crime drop, New Yorker scribe Adam Gopnik announces that the "urban crime wave is over" and that anyone who says otherwise, especially President Trump, is a bigot feeding the racist American Imagination.  Is Mr. Gopnik right?  Probably not.  Heather MacDonald's piece in today's City Journal suggests that ignoring the 20% increase in homicides between 2014 and 2016 and the almost 7% increase in violent crime may well represent actual racism, because most of the victims were blacks.  While blacks make up just 13% of the U.S. population, over half of all murder victims are black.  Specifically, 6,095 blacks were murdered in 2014, 7,039 were murdered in 2015, and 7,881 were murdered in 2016.  That's an increase of 2,731 murdered black men, women and children in just three years.  Mr. Gopnik called this a bump in the numbers.  Perhaps the fact that almost all of these victims were murdered by black criminals, conflicts with the liberal narrative that hundreds of innocent black men are being gunned down by racist police every year, and that pro-active policing, which helped generate the 20 -year-crime drop, is inherently racist.  Do black lives actually matter to liberals?    

News Scan

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Illegal Kills Toddler in DUI Crash:  An illegal alien from El Salvador was driving drunk at 1:00 a.m. Sunday when he broadsided an ambulance in North Carolina, injuring three and killing a three-year-old child.  Robert Gearty of Fox News reports that Jose Duran Romero, 27, blew .19 on a breathalyzer, twice the legal limit, two hours after he was arrested for crashing into the ambulance, causing it to roll over, injuring two paramedics and a woman passenger whose little boy died of injuries on Monday.  After the crash, Romero and a passenger tried to run away, but one was held by a citizen who observed the accident and police caught the other a short time later.  In addition to being very drunk, Romero was driving without a license.  He was charged with drunk driving, but could face the charge of vehicular manslaughter because of the child's death.  ICE has placed a detainer on Romero.  Fortunately, there are no sanctuary cities in North Carolina.

Death Sentence Upheld for Craigslist Killer:  The death sentence given to an Ohio man convicted of murdering three men who answered a job offer posted on Craigslist, was upheld in a 7-0 decision by the state Supreme Court last Friday.  Eric Heisig of reports that habitual criminal Richard Beasley was convicted of the 2011 murders of Ralph Geiger, 56, David Pauley, 54, and Timothy Kern, 47. Marylin Miller of the Akron Beacon Journal reports that along with a 16-year-old accomplice, Beasley posted an offer of $300 per week and free housing for the caretaker of a 600-acre ranch in rural Noble County.  Beasley, who had priors for drug dealing and pimping, arranged interviews with four applicants at the ranch.  Three were shot and buried; one was shot but escaped and later testified at trial.

Murder in the Max

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Maximum security prison can guarantee a killer will never kill again, right?

The Folsom Telegraph reports:

A California State Prison, Sacramento (SAC) inmate was found dead in his cell this morning, Feb. 12. Prison officials are investigating the death as a homicide.

At 11:10 a.m., Monday, Feb. 12, staff discovered inmate Juan Victoria, 48, unresponsive in his cell. Medical staff was summoned and a responding physician pronounced Victoria deceased at 11:22 a.m.

Victoria's cellmate David Acuna, 34, was placed in restraints and removed from the area. Acuna had minor injuries that showed signs of a possible struggle between the two inmates. He has been identified as a suspect.
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Acuna was received into CDCR custody from Sacramento County on Sept. 16, 2015, with a sentence of 39 years-to-life with the possibility of parole for first-degree murder with use of a firearm and arson of an inhabited structure with special circumstances.
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Activated in 1986, SAC is a maximum-security prison that houses approximately 2,100 general population inmates and employs about 1,700 people.
Of course, Acuna is presumed innocent until proven guilty and all that.  Conceivably it could be self-defense.  Even so, the incident demonstrates that incarceration does not fully incapacitate.
The San Diego Union-Tribune has this editorial on Proposition 57 and the recent court decision on its application to sex offenders:

The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board has advocated for criminal justice reform more often than any other editorial board in California in recent years for good reason. The U.S. has more -- to much more -- crime than nations with less punitive judicial systems, and in California, tough-on-crime policies from the 1990s have led tens of thousands of people with salvageable lives to be warehoused in prison long after they posed a likely public threat.

Even so, in 2016, our board could not bring itself to endorse Proposition 57, a deeply flawed measure Gov. Jerry Brown trumpeted as a big step forward for the criminal justice reform movement. The problem was that the measure was originally supposed to target juvenile justice, but it was revamped into a much broader constitutional amendment that stated anyone convicted of a nonviolent felony offense would be eligible for early parole consideration. A lower court ruling said the changes were unacceptable, but in June 2016, the California Supreme Court overturned the ruling on the grounds that a 2014 state law allowed flawed measures to be fixed before being put before voters.

Now we know how flawed this measure truly was.
It takes a lot for a major California newspaper to denounce a criminal justice "reform" measure.  They generally march in step with the soft-on-crime crowd.  I hope we see more newspapers marching to a different drummer as the truth becomes more clear.

Policing Saves and Extends Black Lives

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My friend and sometimes debate antagonist Wally Olson of the libertarian Cato Institute, in a remarkable display of the intellectual honesty for which he is renowned, brings to my attention (via Facebook) this article, titled "Crime Imprisons and Kills."

...the most disadvantaged people have gained the most from the reduction in violent crime.

Though homicide is not a common cause of death for most of the United States population, for African-American men between the ages of 15 and 34 it is the leading cause, which means that any change in the homicide rate has a disproportionate impact on them. The sociologist Michael Friedson and I calculated what the life expectancy would be today for blacks and whites had the homicide rate never shifted from its level in 1991. We found that the national decline in the homicide rate since then has increased the life expectancy of black men by roughly nine months.

...The everyday lived experience of urban poverty has also been transformed. Analyzing rates of violent victimization over time, I found that the poorest Americans today are victimized at about the same rate as the richest Americans were at the start of the 1990s. That means that a poor, unemployed city resident walking the streets of an average city today has about the same chance of being robbed, beaten up, stabbed or shot as a well-off urbanite in 1993. Living in poverty used to mean living with the constant threat of violence. In most of the country, that is no longer true.

That's Patrick Sharkey writing in the New York Times.

More police on the street is one cause, among many, of lower crime. It's important in the debate over better policing that we not lose sight of the value of policing. Given the benefits of reduced crime and the cost of police, it's clear that U.S. cities are under policed (e.g. here and here). We need better policing-including changes in laws-so that we can all be comfortable with more policing.

News Scan

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Illegal Busted With $560,000 of Meth:  An illegal alien who had been deported three times last year was caught with seven kilos of methamphetamine in November and is facing trial on drug trafficking charges.  David Neal of the Miami Herald reports that Saul Bustos and Irepan Salgado rolled into Florida with the meth, planning to sell most of it to a contact at an IHOP in Hialeah.  The buyer had contacted Salgado's brother to set up the deal.  The problem was, the buyer was an undercover drug agent.  After the deal went down, both men were arrested and face 10-years-to-life in federal prison if convicted.  Bustos, who admitted illegally crossing the U.S. border on April 13, 2017, and again on July 6th and 19th, faces additional time.

Racists Under Every Bed


During the infamous McCarthy Era, it was said that Senator Joe McCarthy and his cohorts were "seeing communists under every bed."  Accusations of racism today occupy exactly the same as position as accusations of communism then.  There are, of course, real racists today just as there was some amount of communist infiltration then.  But the grossly excessive accusations on the thinnest evidence and the willingness of far too many people to pounce on the accused has created a witch-hunt atmosphere.

The latest incident is so absurd that it could very well be a satire in The Onion, but it is not.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions, giving a speech to the National Sheriff's Association, said, "The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo American heritage of law enforcement."  Who could possibly object to an innocuous and historically accurate statement like that?  According to Aaron Blake at the WaPo:

Perhaps the two most full-throated responses came from Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and the NAACP. Schatz called it "appalling." The NAACP said they were Sessions's "latest racially tinged comments" and that it "qualifies as the latest example of dog-whistle politics."
William McGurn has this column in the WSJ:

In the past few days, the calls for a special counsel to look into the FBI and Justice Department have grown louder. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham want one. So do Reps. Bob Goodlatte, Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan and others. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is thinking about it. Meanwhile, President Trump's deputy press secretary has told reporters that the president's lawyers want one too.

It's a tempting proposition. Republicans are plagued by a special counsel whose mere existence calls into question the legitimacy of the last election. Why shouldn't they inflict the same menace on Mr. Trump's opponents? The answer is that a special counsel is not only unnecessary but counterproductive.

Leniency Legislation Is Back

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Paul Mirengoff has this post with the above title at Powerline.

Two years ago at this time, a bipartisan coalition of Senators was pushing legislation that would have slashed mandatory minimum sentences for many federal drug crimes. Such a bill had cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wisely declined to bring it up for a vote in the Senate because his caucus was divided on the merits.

Now, Team Leniency is trying again. The same bill that died two years ago is before the Judiciary Committee.

It will breeze through that body. Three of the legislation's main opponents two years ago -- Jeff Sessions, David Perdue and David Vitter -- are no longer on the committee (Sessions and Vitter are no longer in the Senate). Sens. Orrin Hatch and Ted Cruz remain and are likely to oppose the bill again, and Sen. Ben Sasse, a new member of the committee, might join them. But the committee will approve the leniency legislation, most likely with only three dissenters.

What happens then? I hope McConnell will make the same calculation he made two years ago under similar circumstances. However, Team Leniency, which includes the Majority Whip (Sen. Cornyn) and the Judiciary Committee chairman (Sen. Grassley), will push hard for a vote.
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News Scan

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Quad Killer's Death Sentence Upheld:  The death sentence of a Kansas man who murdered his estranged wife, her grandmother and two daughters in 2009, was upheld by the state Supreme Court last Friday.  Morgan Chilson of the Topeka Capital-Journal reports that attorneys representing James Kahler claimed that misconduct at trial by the prosecutor and the judge voided his conviction.  The defendant also claimed that his death sentence was unconstitutional because he was suffering severe mental impairment at the time of the murders.  In a divided decision the Supreme Court rejected all ten of the defense claims. The facts presented in the decision described how at around 5:30 pm on November 28, 2009, Kahler, who was separated from his wife, walked into the kitchen of his wife's grandmother's house during a family gathering and shot the wife dead.  He then walked into the other rooms and shot the grandmother and two daughters aged 16 and 18.  Both daughters died later that evening, the grandmother survived for a few days before dying.  Kahler did not shoot his 9-year-old son, who ran to a neighbor's house when the shooting started.   
Michele Hanisee has this post for the L.A. Association of Deputy District Attorneys:

We repeatedly warned prior to the election that the ambiguities of language in Prop 57 would allow sex offenders to be released early from prison.  The proponents realized the public wouldn't support that, so led by Governor Jerry Brown they responded by promising that CDCR would write regulations to make sure sex-offenders weren't released early. And so they did.  CDCR wrote into their regulations that registered sex offenders were excluded from the early release provisions of Prop 57.

We knew that approach would fail, because a regulation cannot expand the scope of the law that it purports to implement. Now, the completely foreseeable result of this poor drafting has occurred. This Friday, a Superior Court struck down CDCR's after-the-fact attempt to write into the regulations what was not in the underlying law. "The Court cannot insert words into an initiative to achieve what the court presumes to be the voters' unexpressed intent; neither can CDCR," said the court.

A Misquote on BBC News

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Reporters often wrongly paraphrase what I say and sometimes quote out of context, but it's rare that the words inside the quote marks are wrong.  One of those rare misquotes appears on BBC News today, with essential words left out:

"Anyone who says the death penalty has no deterrent effect either doesn't know what they are talking about or are lying," says Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which has supported death penalty cases throughout the country.

"The debate over studies supporting its deterrent effect is whether they have sufficiently shown it."

What I actually said was "Anyone who says it has been definitively proved that the death penalty has no deterrent effect either doesn't know what they are talking about or are lying."

Big difference.  Many people believe the death penalty does not deter.  On the present state of the evidence, they are entitled to their opinion.  What they are not entitled to say on the present state of the evidence is that their opinion is a conclusively proved fact, but misinformed or dishonest people often say that.  I would never say that the evidence definitively proves that the death penalty does deter, but the Beeb quotes me as saying just that.

I have sent in a request for a correction.

Update:  The quote has been corrected.

Update 2:  The paragraph immediately before the quote says:

Both sides in the debate cite studies supporting respective claims about the death penalty achieving or not achieving deterrence - currently studies supporting the latter appear to have the upper hand.

The story provides no basis for the "upper hand" statement.

Mr. Nicey Has Goodies for You

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From the Drugs Are Wonderful Department, this news report:  "33 pounds of fentanyl - enough to wipe out Massachusetts - seized in Boston."

Boston authorities said they seized more than 33 pounds of fentanyl--enough to kill millions of people--in connection with one of Massachusetts' biggest drug busts ever.

In announcing the results of a six-month wiretap probe called "Operation High Hopes," prosecutors said the synthetic opioid was being sold on the street by a drug gang with links to Mexico's notorious Sinaloa Cartel, the drug organization once led by Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán.

"I want to be clear about the size and scope here," District Attorney Daniel Conley said at a news conference Thursday. "Massachusetts' fentanyl trafficking statute covers quantities greater than 10 grams. That threshold represents less than 1/1000 of the quantity we've taken off the street."...

The Boston Herald quoted a law enforcement source as saying that the 33-plus pounds of fentanyl is enough to kill more than 7 million people in its raw form. Massachusetts population is 6.8 million.

California Not Seceding After All

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Well, looks like Californians won't be donning gray uniforms and replacing the bear flag with the stars and bars.  Initiative 17-0005, filed by Cindy Sheehan et al., has failed to qualify.  The AG's summary of the initiative, minus the cost part, is:

Repeals provision in California Constitution stating California is an inseparable part of the United States. Directs Governor, in consultation with those members of Congress who represent California, to negotiate continually greater autonomy from federal government, up to and including agreement establishing California as a fully independent country, provided voters agree to revise the California Constitution. Creates new state commission to research and make recommendations on ways of increasing California's autonomy and independence.
I'm so relieved.

News Scan

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Huge Fentanyl Bust in Boston:  State and federal law enforcement authorities have seized 33 pounds of uncut fentanyl from traffickers in Boston.  Fox News reports that amount of the super-potent pain killer is enough to fatally overdose the entire population of Massachusetts.  Prosecutors said that the drug was being sold by a gang with links to Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel once led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.  District Attorney Daniel Conley told reporters "Individuals who buy and sell at this level aren't users...They're trafficking in addictive substances that claim more lives in Massachusetts than all homicides, all suicides and all car crashes, statewide, combined."   

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