The Gallup Poll has released results on its survey of American attitudes on the death penalty.  They are largely stable since 2011.  The better worded of the two questions is this:

In your opinion, is the death penalty imposed -- [ROTATED: too often, about the right amount, or not often enough]?
About 2/3 of respondents say about right or not enough, indicating support for capital punishment in its present use or greater.  This is a few percent lower than the 72% in 2001 when Gallup first asked the question, but still a very strong majority.


News Scan

| No Comments
Terror Suspects Lied to Achieve Refugee Status:  Two men with terrorism ties allegedly lied to U.S. immigration officials and continued their terror-related activities after being admitted as refugees, exposing a flawed screening process that is jeopardizing the safety of Americans.  Malia Zimmerman of Fox News reports that Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, 23, was admitted to the U.S. as a refugee in 2012 but returned to the Middle East twice to fight for a terrorist group, and was later recorded by the FBI talking about executing Syrian Army members and Russian allies.  He is currently being held in Chicago for attempting to support a terrorist group and is facing charges in California for lying about residing in Syria.  Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, 24, the nephew of a famed Al Qaeda bomb maker, moved to Houston in 2009 after living in Iraqi and Jordanian refugee camps, lying to U.S. Customs and Immigration Services to obtain asylum and was granted permanent residency two years later.  He is facing up to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty last week to plotting and training to bomb and open fire in two Houston malls, and for attempting to assist the Islamic State for the past two years.  These two cases "confirm that it is simply impossible for our screening system to detect all those who are a treat."  Over 100,000 Iraqis and 130,000 Syrians have been granted refugee status over the last seven years, with dozens of them convicted of terror-related crimes.

Driver Opens Fire on Officer and Ride Along Passenger:  Another violent attack on a California police officer and a civilian passenger over the weekend has sent shock waves throughout the police community, with law enforcement officials vowing to have the perpetrator arrested by week's end.  Vanessa Vasconcelos of ABC30 reports that Madera police officer Julian Garcia, 23, was making a routine traffic stop for a broken taillight Sunday morning when the driver opened fire, firing a total of 14 shots, three of which struck the police vehicle.  Garcia is a rookie officer who finished the academy in July and field training two weeks ago.  The passenger, whose identity has been withheld for her safety, is a woman in her 20s who was riding along as part of a 14-week program called the Volunteer Citizen's Academy.  She was not wearing a bulletproof vest.  Fortunately, neither Garcia nor the passenger were hit.  The brazen attack comes amid a string of brutal -- oftentimes targeted -- attacks on law enforcement officers across the nation.

Two Death Sentences Upheld Last Week:  The Louisiana Supreme Court last week upheld the conviction and death sentence of a man convicted of killing three relatives of his estranged wife eight years ago.  ArkLaTex reports that Robert McCoy was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder in 2011 for the 2008 deaths of his estranged wife's son, mother and stepfather, and sentenced to death in 2012.  McCoy appealed his case to the state high court, raising 16 claims of error, but the high court affirmed both the conviction and death sentence last Wednesday.  Also last week, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the conviction and death sentence of a man convicted of killing his pregnant wife in 2009.  WAAY reports that Jessie Phillips was convicted twice of killing his eight-weeks pregnant wife at a car wash, marking the first time a person in the state was tried under "Brody's Law," which permits unborn children to be counted as homicide victims.  The appeals court affirmed both Phillips' conviction and death sentence last Friday.

Ex-AG Sentenced to Jail:  Former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane was handcuffed inside a courtroom on Monday after being sentenced to a 10- to 23-month jail sentence and eight years of probation for a retaliation scheme.  The AP reports that Kane, 50, was convicted in August of two felony counts of perjury and seven misdemeanor charges after being accused of leaking secret investigative files to embarrass a rival prosecutor, Frank Fina.  Kane had someone pass confidential files to a reporter regarding a corruption case Fina had declined to charge prior to his departure from the office, then tried to frame someone else for the leak.  Kane, who resigned a day after her conviction, took office in 2013 and was the first woman and first Democrat elected as the state's top prosecutor.  Throughout her trial, aides described her as a paranoid person with an "off with your heads mentality" and a political "neophyte" hellbent on revenge.  She posted $75,000 cash bail on Monday and was freed, and can remain free while her conviction is appealed.

KABC on Cal. DP Propositions

| No Comments
CJLF's Legal Director Kent Scheidegger was on KABC-AM 790 on The Drive Home with Jillian Barberie and John Phillips yesterday (10/24) at 5:00.  Audio is available here.
Justin McCarthy reports for Gallup:

Three in four Americans (76%) say they have "a great deal" of respect for the police in their area, up 12 percentage points from last year.

In addition to the large majority of Americans expressing "a great deal" of respect for their local police, 17% say they have "some" respect while 7% say they have "hardly any."

Gallup has asked this question nine times since 1965. The percentage who say they respect the police is significantly higher now than in any measurement taken since the 1990s and is just one point below the high of 77% recorded in 1967. Solid majorities of Americans have said they respect their local law enforcement in all polls conducted since 1965.

News Scan

CA Father Sentenced to Thousands of Years for Raping Daughter:  A Fresno man was sentenced on Friday to 1,503 years in prison for the years-long rape of his daughter, marking the longest-known prison sentence in Fresno Superior Court history.  Pablo Lopez of the Fresno Bee reports that Rene Lopez, 41, raped his teenage daughter, now 23, two to three times a week over a four-year period, from May 2009 to May 2013.  He was arrested in November 2013 after his daughter reported the abuse to police, and found guilty last month of 186 felony counts of sexual assault, including dozens of counts of rape of a minor, and is required to register as a sex offender.  Lopez turned down two plea deals prior to his trial, the first that would have resulted in a 13-year prison sentence and the second a 22-year sentence.  Both plea deals required him to admit guilt, but he refused.  He contests that his daughter lied, but prosecutors say that the evidence against him was overwhelming.

Manhunt Underway for OK Gunman who Shot 2 Officers, 3 Others:  An intensive manhunt is underway on Monday for an Oklahoma man accused of shooting and wounding two police officers and stealing their patrol car, and killing two of his relatives.  Fox News reports that Michael Vance shot and injured the two officers with an AK-47 on Sunday after they responded to a report of shots fired, and then stole their police car along with an alleged accomplice, who was later arrested.  After Vance fled, the bodies of his aunt and uncle were discovered in the home where the incident occurred.  Vance then ditched the patrol car at a mobile home park and shot and injured another woman before taking her car.  The Oklahoma Highway Patrol announced Monday that Vance has HIV/AIDS and "may try to spread disease."  He was recently released from jail, where he was being held on child sexual assault allegations.

A Prop. 66 Landslide?

| 1 Comment
The Institute for Social Research at Sacramento State U. has this poll of 622 likely California voters surveyed October 7-13.

Proposition 66 would aim to speed up the death penalty court process in California. For example, it would require the superior court to review initial petitions, increase the number of available attorneys to accept those appeals, and allow condemned inmates to be housed at any state prison.

Do you plan to vote 'YES' to change these death penalty court procedures, or 'NO' to make no changes to existing procedures?

51%      Yes (1)
20         No (2)
29         Undecided/Don't Know (8)

News Scan

| 1 Comment
KS High Court Upholds Death Sentence:  The Kansas Supreme Court upheld the death sentence on Friday of a man who raped and murdered a college student two decades ago.  Amy Renee Leiker of the Wichita Eagle reports that Gary Kleypas, the state's first death row inmate, was tried twice for the 1996 rape, torture and murder of Carrie Williams, 20.  In 2001, his conviction and death sentence were overturned by the Supreme Court, but following a retrial in 2008, jurors handed down a second death sentence.  The ruling is the third death sentence over the past year to be upheld by the state high court, which also affirmed the death sentences of serial killer John Robinson Jr. and cop killer Scott Cheever.

AL Inmate Asks for Stay of Execution:  An Alabama death row inmate has requested a stay of execution by an appellate court until a ruling is issued on his challenge to the state's lethal injection process, just a few short weeks ahead of his scheduled execution.  Kim Chandler of the AP reports that Tommy Arthur, 74, asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday to stay his Nov. 3 execution, arguing that the state's lethal injection procedure is unconstitutional because it causes pain and suffering.  Arthur's challenge was initially dismissed by a federal judge in July after Arthur failed to name a viable execution alternative, required by the U.S. Supreme Court of inmates challenging death penalty procedures.  Lawyers representing the state argue that Alabama's execution method is essentially identical to Oklahoma's, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld.  Arthur faces execution for killing businessman Troy Wicker in a 1982 murder-for-hire scheme.

CA's Early Release Program Under Scrutiny:  California's early release program continues to raise questions and concerns when so-called "non-violent second-strikers" are released from prison and quickly reoffend.  Sarah Dowling of the Woodland Daily Democrat reports that a slew of measures were enacted in the state beginning in early 2015 with the objective of relieving prison overcrowding, including early parole consideration for inmates classified as "non-violent second-strikers."  To be eligible for release under the program, inmates must not be serving time for a crime deemed a "violent felony" and cannot be a registered sex offender.  Offenders that qualify become eligible for parole consideration once 50% of their sentence has been served, or they are within 12 months of having served 50% of their sentences.  In Yolo County alone, 26 inmates were released early under the program, even though District Attorney Jeff Reisig opposed it, and six of them have been rearrested for crimes such as domestic violence, drug possession and resisting arrest.  Statewide, over 2,900 convicted felons have been released early under the program.

Mac Donald v. Solomon

| No Comments
In a written debate regarding what the next presidential administration's policing and criminal justice policies should be, published on on Real Clear Policy, Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald and Danyelle Solomon from the Center for American Progress face off.  This is the third part of a series on major policy ideas, from left to right.  It is worth reading.

Here is Mac Donald's piece, here is Solomon's and here are their responses to each other.
A:  In a word, no.  Not close.

I want to follow up on Kent's post about the Gallup poll on sentencing, focusing specifically on drugs. My reason is that the sentencing reform proposals in Congress concentrate mainly on lowering drug sentences. This has also been the focus of the (liberal majority) Sentencing Commission in recent years. 

One of the things I often hear when I debate sentencing "reform" is that lowering sentences is the politically astute thing for Republicans to do.

That is simply false.
As noted in a CJLF press release last month, the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) reported a 3% increase in violent crime in 2015 over 2014.  Today, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that its National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) showed no statistically significant change.  The lesson here is in the limitations of statistics.
Justin McCarthy has this article for Gallup. 

Q:  In general, do you think the criminal justice system in this country is too tough, not tough enough or about right in its handling of crime?

A: 45% not tough enough, 35% about right, 14% too tough, 6% duh.

Gallup headlines the fact that "not tough enough" has dropped substantially over the years, but most of that drop has gone to the Goldilocks answer of "about right."  Despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth we have heard from academia and the press over the last decade or so, only 1 American in 7 thinks the system is too tough.

The other half of the split sample was asked specifically about drugs, with a quite different result:

News Scan

| No Comments
Deputy is 4th CA Officer Slain in 2 Weeks:  A California deputy was fatally shot Wednesday while responding to a disturbance call, marking the fourth time in two weeks that a law enforcement officer was killed in the line of duty in the state.  The AP reports that Modoc County sheriff's Deputy Jack Hopkins, 31, who joined the force last year, was shot and killed after he and other deputies responded to a call near the Oregon border.  A suspect was taken into custody but no other details have been released.  Hopkins's death comes just weeks after a Los Angeles County sheriff's sergeant was shot and killed in Lancaster while responding to a burglary call and two Palm Springs officers were gunned down while responding to a domestic disturbance. 

OH Father Sentenced to Death for Killing Daughter:  After deliberating for less than an hour on Monday, a jury recommended death for an Ohio man who starved and beat his two-year-old daughter to death.  CBS reports that Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Megan Shanahan affirmed the jury's recommendation, sentencing Glen Bates, 34, to death for aggravated murder in the death of his daughter, Glenara.  Glenara died in March 2015, the cause of death revealed to be blunt force trauma.  An autopsy found that she had belt and bite marks, bruises, missing teeth, broken ribs, head trauma and other injuries.  Prosecutors say she was slammed against the wall by Bates.  Additionally, Glenara weighed just 13 pounds when she died, though the average weight of a two-year-old is over 20 pounds.  Glenara's mother, Andrea Bradley, is also facing aggravated murder charges and has pleaded not guilty.  Bates plans to appeal his sentence.

"The morality of preserving the death penalty":  John Phillips has this piece in the OC Register arguing against Proposition 62, a California ballot initiative that would abolish the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole.  Phillips disagrees with death penalty abolitionists' argument that the practice is a waste of taxpayer money and immoral, believing that not only is capital punishment a good use of resources, but "the moral answer to society's most immoral people."  Two stats, he asserts, are significant to the his argument in favor of the death penalty:  The state has never executed an innocent person and the recidivism rate is zero among those executed.   CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger, an author for Proposition 66, an opposing measure that would save the death penalty and expedite executions, says, "If the death penalty is abolished on Tuesday, the drive to abolish life without parole begins Wednesday."

Georgia Executes Cop Killer

| 1 Comment
The State of Georgia executed Gregory Lawler last night for the murder of Atlanta police officer John Sowa in 1997.  Lawler wounded Officer Pat Cocciolone in the same incident.  Rhonda Cook has this story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the execution and this earlier one on the denial of executive clemency.  The U.S. Supreme Court's "green light for the green mile" order is here.

Cook notes that the basis of the clemency petition was "Lawler's recently diagnosed autism."  Seriously, now.  The man was 63.  If he had autism in the severity that would justify clemency, everyone who knew him in his entire life would have known it.  It would not be a recent discovery.

Georgia evidently still has pentobarbital.

Last night, when I heard Donald Trump decline to pledge to accept the result of the election, I understood him to mean that in the event we have an outcome like 2000 he reserved the right to file a challenge like Al Gore did in Florida.  Reading the papers this morning, one would think that he threatened a violent overthrow of the government.

Al Gore did not "accept" the "result" announced by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris.  He took the case to the Florida courts.  George Bush did not "accept" the "result" of the Florida Supreme Court decision.  He took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Two presidential elections in living memory have been close enough to be within what John Fund called the "margin of litigation":  1960 and 2000.  Richard Nixon chose not to litigate; Al Gore chose to.  I consider it extremely unlikely that 2016 will be anywhere near that close, but this year has provided multiple examples of the wisdom of Yogi Berra's admonition against predictions.

I have no reason to believe that Donald Trump reads my advice, and he certainly doesn't take it, but for the record I recommend that he come out promptly with a clarification that all that he reserves is an Al Gore type challenge.

A Supreme Court that Takes Sides? Part II

Paul Mirengoff of PowerLine saw the same zinger in Hillary Clinton's Supreme Court answer that I did.  With characteristic insight, Paul quotes the oath of office Supreme Court Justices are required to take, and notes that anyone appointed under the partisan, agenda-laden criteria Ms. Clinton set forth last night could not possibly be faithful to the oath, which is as follows (emphasis added):

I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _________ under the Constitution and laws of the United States. 

The question, which Paul then addresses, is whether Clinton appointees are likely to be, not merely misguided, but illegitimate in a deeper sense when seen through the lens of the neutrality Americans historically (and rightly) demand of judges.

A Supreme Court that Takes Sides?

I did not watch tonight's debate, but I have seen it reported in more than one source, e.g., here, that Hillary Clinton, when asked if she supported a Supreme Court that would adopt a strict reading of the Constitution, responded with no mention of that document, and said instead:

I feel strongly that the Supreme Court needs to stand on the side of the American people, not the powerful corporations and the wealthy.

I will put to one side Ms. Clinton's remarks (at $250,000 a  pop) to the powerful corporation known as Goldman Sachs, and her income last year, reportedly a bit over ten million dollars. The main takeaway from her comment is her breathtaking misunderstanding of both the Court and the Constitution.

As liberals used to know, an independent Court was created by the Constitution precisely to be anti-majoritarian, that is, to be a neutral, not a "side-taking," arbiter of the law. Giving effect to popular will is the job of the political branches, not the Supreme Court (or inferior courts).

Someone might also inform Ms. Clinton that corporate managers and the rich are also  -- ready now?  --  part of the American people, and deserve no more justice, and no less, than anyone else. 

KCRA Report on Cal. DP Propositions

| No Comments
Mike Luery of KCRA, the NBC affiliate in Sacramento, has this report on California's dueling death penalty propositions, including a brief appearance by your humble blogger.

News Scan

| 1 Comment
Chicago Surpasses 600 Homicides:  A Monday night homicide put Chicago's total homicides thus far in 2016 at over 600, affirming statements made by residents that the city has turned in a "war zone" in recent years.  CBS reports that the more than 600 people killed this year represents a 24% increase compared to the same time last year, and is approximately 100 more homicides than the combined totals in New York and Los Angeles.  It is also far above the Chicago's yearly 2015 total, with 486 people killed.  Nonfatal shootings have spiked as well:  As of last week, over 2,100 people were injured in shooting incidents, up from 1,400 people wounded in the same time period in 2015.  Of the homicide victims, 540 died of gunshot wounds, 28 were stabbed to death, 19 were beaten to death, nine died in arson-related homicides and two were run down by people driving cars.  Chicago police have determined that, of the over 600 murders recorded so far, 571 are first-degree murders.  They have made arrests in 115 homicide cases so far.

Record Number of Opioid Overdoses in 2014, says CDC:  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a report released earlier this year, said that more people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than any other year on record, fueling the nationwide concern over the deadly drug epidemic.  Penny Starr of CNS News reports that in 2014, nearly 19,000 people died from prescription opioid overdoses, "equivalent to about 52 deaths per day," while 28,000 people died from non-prescription opioid overdoses.  The report also found that opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999.  Officials say the surge in opioid overdoses is driven by heroin and illegally-made fentanyl.  Opioids include heroin, morphine, codine and methadone, among others, and can be natural, semi-synthetic or synthetic.

Asylum Seekers Spike Dramatically:  In less than a decade, the number of illegals who have sought asylum in order to gain easy access to the U.S. has spiked 900%, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner reports that in 2009, about 8,000 people sought asylum, but the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) estimates that number to reach at least 80,000 this year.  The CIS analysis also states that while 90% of asylum seekers have their requests granted, a House panel found only 30% to be fraud free.  Among those seeking asylum, 80% come from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, who have come to the border in droves after President Obama freed up restrictions of those requesting asylum, allowing them to stay in the U.S. while they pursue their request.  Once an illegal immigrant is granted asylum, they become entitled to federal programs including green cards, Social Security, school loans, welfare, Medicaid, cash and housing assistance.

SurveyUSA Poll on Prop. 62

| No Comments
SurveyUSA has released another California poll.  As with the two previous polls (noted here and here), they surveyed on Prop. 62, the death penalty repeal initiative, but not on Prop. 66, the "fix it" initiative.

Prop. 62 has slipped three points since the previous poll and now trails by 18%.  The pollsters still characterize it as "headed for defeat."

Crosstabs (the breakdown by various groups within the total) haven't changed too much, although there is an interesting indication that repeal has lost considerable support with black voters.  For the survey collected Sept. 8 - Sept. 11, black voters favored 62 by a slim majority, 51-36.  However, for the most recent survey, conducted Oct. 13 - Oct. 15, the slim majority goes the other way, 41-52.  That is a change from +15% to -11%, or a 26% swing.  Crosstabs have higher margins of error than the overall poll due to the smaller sample size of the subgroups, so this result should be treated with caution, but even so that is quite a shift.

News Scan

| 1 Comment
GA Death Row Inmate Seeks Clemency:  A Georgia cop killer awaiting execution is requesting to be pardoned based on a recent diagnosis of autism.  Tracy Connor of NBC News reports that Gregory Lawler, 63, is scheduled to die Wednesday by lethal injection for the 1997 fatal shooting of Officer John Sowa, who was escorting Lawler's drunk girlfriend home.  Sowa's partner was also critically injured, but survived.  A clemency petition revealed that Lawler was diagnosed with autism last month.  His attorneys argue that the disorder impaired his judgment and social interactions, causing him to become "freaked out" by his contact with police when he could not read the officers' facial expressions.  He will be the seventh inmate executed in the state of Georgia this year.  Update:  Lawler was executed by lethal injection Wednesday evening.  He is the 17th death row inmate put to death in the United States this year.

Illegal Immigration Rises Significantly Over Past Year:  Illegal immigration rose significantly in fiscal year 2016, and the increase in apprehensions means an increase in immigrants sneaking across the border unnoticed, say Homeland Security officials.  Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times reports that nearly 409,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended at the border in FY 2016, up from 331,000 the year prior.  The number of families nabbed traveling together reached a record high of 77,674, while unaccompanied minors increased to nearly 60,000 apprehensions.  Claims of asylum have spiked while deportations have dropped.  Officials assert that lax immigration enforcement has contributed to the surge, believing cartels and migrants have "learned to game a more relaxed system under President Obama."

CA Officers Spared after Gunman's Weapon Jams:  A California man wearing "police-style" body armor and armed with an assault rifle and handgun is in custody after he pointed the rifle at two police officers at a Vallejo Starbucks and attempted to shoot, only to have the weapon jam.  The AP reports that Adam Powell, 41, fled after his weapon malfunctioned, attempting to clean it as he ran, until he was shot three times by the officers about 100 feet away from Starbucks.  Six hours before the incident at a family home 20 miles away from Vallejo, police responded to a shooting and found Powell's two-year-old son critically wounded from accidentally shooting himself.  Powell's step-daughter believes that the incident with his son prompted Powell to attempt suicide by cop.  Police are unsure at this point if Powell expressed any anger toward police.  The attempted shooting comes just weeks after two separate shootings in California left three officers dead.

More on Elmore

| No Comments
In addition to the excerpts from the Attorney General's brief in the Clark Elmore case, noted here, readers may also wish to consider the following excerpts from the opinion of the Supreme Court of Washington:

No Blank Check for President Hillary

| No Comments
It is likely that Hillary Clinton will be elected President.  I don't have to like it,* but the polls say what they say.  The question is what can be done to cabin her decidedly unhealthy agenda (exemplified by, among other things, her embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement).

One thing that can be done is to keep the Senate in the hands of the opposition party. This will have, among other salutary effects, an influence on how far to the left she might go in making Supreme Court and court of appeals picks.  

Thus, I have contributed to the campaigns of a number of Republican Senate candidates, including Rubio, Ayotte, Toomey, Heck, Young and Burr.  Rubio is likely to win; the others are close races that could go either way.  

*  Not that I much like any probable outcome of the Presidential race, as it is presently constituted.  
The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to review the case of Washington State murderer Clark Elmore.  Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ginsburg, dissented in an opinion castigating the defense lawyer at trial.  If the lawyer was so bad, one might ask, why did the Washington Supreme Court deny relief?  That court has certainly had no difficulty ruling in favor of murderers in past capital cases.  It is one of the country's more criminal-friendly forums.  If the lawyer was so bad, why did six of the eight Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court decline to join Justice Sotomayor's vigorous dissent?

There is, of course, more to the story.  After the break, I have copied an extensive portion of the Brief in Opposition written by Senior Counsel John Samson for the Washington AG's office.  See also the excerpt from the Supreme Court of Washington in the follow-up post.

Time for a Noble, Selfless Act

    Does Donald Trump want to be remembered as the man who handed the White House to Hillary Clinton on a silver platter, with all the disastrous results that are sure to follow?  Or would he rather be remembered as the man who put his country above himself?

Stockton Record Gets It Right

| No Comments
Those of us who fight for justice in the worst murder cases have become accustomed to having the press almost entirely on the side of the murderers. I was pleasantly surprised this Sunday morning to read this in the Stockton Record:

Our editorial board was divided on these death penalty propositions. Our consensus is a no vote on Proposition 62 and yes on 66. We do not feel the death penalty should be abolished with so many on death row (whose sentences would be converted to life in prison). We do, however, concur that the process for legal challenges should not be so drawn out.
The Record also endorsed a "no" vote on Proposition 57, a trifecta of good sense in the criminal justice arena.

News Scan

| No Comments
La. Man Faces Death Penalty for Murdering Detective:  Prosecutors announced Thursday that they plan to seek the death penalty against a Louisiana man who fatally shot a JPSO detective four months ago.  Michelle Hunter of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that the announcement by the Jefferson Parish district attorney's office came after a grand jury handed down an indictment charging Jerman Neveaux Jr., 19, with first-degree murder in the death of Detective David Michel Jr., 50.  Neveaux also faces charges of aggravated assault with a firearm, illegal possession of a stolen firearm and two counts of resisting arrest by force or violence.  On June 22, Neveaux fatally shot Michel three times in the back after Michel stopped him while he was walking.  It is the first time since 2013 that the Jefferson Parish district attorney's office will pursue a death sentence.

FL High Court says Jurors Must be Unanimous on Death Sentences:  A ruling issued Friday by the Florida Supreme Court announced that a jury's death recommendation in capital punishment cases must be unanimous, answering a question left unanswered by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year.  Frank Fernandez of the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that the decision strikes down part of a state law that was passed earlier this year requiring a 10-2 jury recommendation for death before a judge could impose a death sentence.  Prior to that ruling, Florida only required a simple majority of seven votes, making it one of just three death penalty states that didn't require a unanimous jury recommendation.  Florida's death penalty system was subject to debate following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued in January -- Hurst v. Florida -- that found the state's system unconstitutional because it gave judges too much power and juries too little in applying capital punishment.  The justices, however, never addressed a requirement for unanimity of juror's recommendations in such cases.

MO May Keep Execution Drug Suppliers Secret:  A federal appellate court ruled Thursday that Missouri can keep its lethal injection drug supplier a secret, reversing its own ruling made last month.  Jim Suhr of the AP reports that this week's ruling by a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis overrules a Sept. 2 ruling made by the same judges, which stated that Missouri must disclose its pentobarbital supplier to two Mississippi death row inmates that have filed a lawsuit.  The judges made their initial ruling on the ground that the state's claim -- that revealing how it obtains the drugs could hamper its ability to get the chemicals for future executions -- was "inherently speculative."  During their rehearing Thursday, however, the drug supplier told the court it would cease doing business with Missouri or any other state if its identity were made public, and the 8th Circuit concluded that "the harm to MDOC (Missouri) clearly outweighs the need of the inmates, and disclosure would represent an undue burden" on the state's prison system.  The ruling comes one day after the Missouri Supreme Court scheduled an execution for January.
The Florida Supreme Court has decided the case of Timothy Hurst on remand from the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hurst v. Florida.  The majority wrongly interpreted the high court decision to require that the jury be unanimous in all of its decisions, not just the finding of the death-eligibility circumstance.

To insulate its error from a likely reversal by the high court, the Florida Supreme Court cynically added the state constitution as an additional ground for its holding, casually tossing out forty years of precedent from the restoration of capital punishment in the 1970s until the decision in Hurst.   Stare decisis?  We don't need no stinking stare decisis.

When Florida's Legislature was considering how to fix its statute in light of Hurst, the debate was all about whether to authorize a less-than-unanimous penalty verdict or go for the single-juror-veto law that lets one juror impose his will over the objection of the other 11.  I tried to tell them that the Arizona/California method of requiring the jury to be unanimous one way or the other was the way to go, and they blew me off.  Maybe now they will listen?
Gallup has a poll out today showing that, when asked to choose the higher priority between (1) strengthening law and order through more police and greater enforcement, or (2) reducing bias against minorities in the criminal justice system by reforming court and police practices,  49% choose the former and 43% the latter. The 6% difference is outside the margin of error.  The poll can be found here.

So how does this translate in terms of political advantage?  Specifically, is it smarter to run a national race prioritizing law and order, or prioritizing bias reduction?

Let me ask that question a different way:  Is 49% higher than 43%?

News Scan

| No Comments
MO High Court Sets Execution Date:  Missouri's Supreme Court set an execution date on Wednesday for a man convicted of killing a woman and her two children almost two decades ago.  The AP reports that Mark Christeson, 37, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Jan. 31.  The Missouri high court scheduled the execution as five legal groups are actively urging an appeals court to spare Christeson's life.  The groups -- three national criminal defense associations, a civil rights law firm and the American Bar Association -- argue that Christeson is unable to afford to bring in experts to testify that his mental impairment affected his ability to assert his rights when his lawyers did an inadequate job at his 1999 trial.  In 1998, Christeson, then 18, and his 17-year-old cousin, Jesse Carter, planned to run away from home, armed themselves with shotguns and went to the home of Susan Brouk so they could steal her car.  The cousins bound the hands of Brouk's two children, ages 12 and nine, before Christeson forced Brouk into a bedroom and raped her.  The suspects then drove the family to a pond, where they stabbed Brouk and one of the children and threw them into the water to drown.  The other child died of suffocation when Chrsiteson pressed on her throat while Carter held her.  Carter was sentenced to life in prison after testifying against Christeson.  Missouri's last execution was in May.  The state has executed 19 murderers since November 2013, more than any state in recent years except Texas.

Weak Sentencing Laws Benefited CA Cop Killers:  The criminal histories of the two ex-cons arrested in the killings of three California law enforcement officers last week are sparking outrage, as information continues to come out detailing the violent crimes and parole violations they committed.  Patrick Healy of NBC reports that Trenton Lovell was arrested in Lancaster last Wednesday for fatally shooting Steve Owen, 53, who was responding to a burglary call.  Lovell was sentenced to six years for a 2008 armed robbery but was paroled in just under five years after being entitled to credit for 15% of his sentence under Penal Code section 2933.  Last year, while out on parole, Lovell was convicted of misdemeanor DUI causing injury and placed on county probation simultaneously with parole.  On Saturday, John Felix shot and killed two Palm Springs officers, Jose Vega, 63, and Lesley Zerebny, 27, when they arrived at his home in response to a domestic violence call.  Felix had completed his parole for a 2010 conviction of assault with a deadly weapon, which was plea bargained down from attempted murder.  He was sentenced to four years in prison, but paroled after 19 months.  While on parole, Felix was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia and even absconded at one point.  Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell says there is a need to address a system that is permitting repeat offenders to cycle in and out of custody.

Two Boston Cops in Critical Condition After Shootings:  A man was shot and killed by police Wednesday evening after opening fire on several Boston law enforcement officers, leaving two of them in "extremely critical" condition.  Fox News reports that Kirk Figueroa, 33, armed with an assault rifle and wearing body armor, opened fire on the officers after they arrived at his home in response to a domestic dispute call.  The two critically wounded officers, one a 28-year veteran and the other a 12-year veteran, underwent surgery for their injuries.  Nine other officers sustained minor injures and were also treated for trauma and stress.

A Cop's Perspective on CopCams

| No Comments
Sean Van Leeuwen has this post in the blog of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS):

ALADS has long supported issuing BWC [Body Worn Cameras] to all patrol and jail deputies. We believe this equipment will serve to protect them from frivolous complaints and help prosecute criminals who gas or attack deputies while they work in the jail or on patrol.

Despite their usefulness, BWC have limitations.  Recordings are two-dimensional, potentially hindered by frame count, limited to a single perspective and other technical limitations.  They are a useful addendum to the observations and recollections of deputies and other witnesses and are not by themselves a complete documentation of an incident. The Sheriff's Department completed a two-year body camera pilot program last year and is still reviewing the data collected.  While the test was promising, it was only limited to a few deputies at a few stations. Before such a program is implemented department wide, there will have to be a commitment for proper training and funding in order to ensure the success of a future BWC program.

Monthly Archives