Ann Rule

| No Comments
Levi Pulkkinen reports for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Northwest true crime author Ann Rule has died.

Rule, 83, had been in declining health in recent years. She appears to have died Sunday night at a Seattle-area hospital.

Andrea Vitalich, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in King County, Washington noted her passing.

Ann Rule was an asset to true-crime writing: she did not sugar-coat the horrible things her subjects did to other human beings, she did not glamorize her subjects, she was a meticulous researcher, and she always paid respectful tribute to the victims.  She was well-liked and well-respected by everyone in law enforcement who knew her.  She was also a very nice person.

News Scan

| No Comments

CA Teen Arrested After Body of Missing Girl Found:  A 15-year-old male neighbor was arrested after authorities discovered the remains of who they believe to be an 8-year-old Santa Cruz girl that disappeared on Sunday.  Fox News reports that Madyson Middleton was last seen on Sunday riding her scooter around the Tannery Arts Center, an artist community and housing center where she lived with her mother.  The suspected teen, who lives at the complex with his family, is described by neighbors as "polite and well-liked," and his relationship with Madyson is not yet clear.  The housing center is located in a busy area populated by businesses, and a major construction project is going on nearby.

Prison Worker Pleads Guilty to Aiding Escapees:  The former prison employee accused of helping two convicted murderers escape from a maximum security prison in upstate New York last month plead guilty to the charges on Tuesday.  Emily Shapiro of ABC News reports that 51-year-old Joyce Mitchell allegedly provided tools to two inmates serving life sentences, Richard Matt and David Sweat, by concealing them in hamburger meat.  A three-week manhunt, which began on June 6, ended with Matt fatally shot and Sweat shot and apprehended with non-fatal injuries.  Mitchell pleaded guilty to first-degree promoting criminal contraband and fourth-degree criminal facilitation, facing a sentence of 2 ½ to seven years.  She will be sentenced on September 28.  David Sweat's case for first-degree escape will go to a grand jury early next month.

Attacks by Homeless Increase in NYC:  Two recent violent attacks perpetrated by homeless persons in New York City have prompted City Hall and NYPD to urgently address homelessness in the city.  Arthur Chi'en of Fox 5 reports that one of the attacks involved a 72-year-old architect, who was stabbed in the neck with a pair of scissors by a homeless woman while waiting on a street corner; the other victim was a tourist leaving his hotel, who was clubbed in the face by a homeless man.  The NYPD plans to put one-third of its officers through intensive training over the next year to deal with the homeless problem, but Police Commissioner Bratton says that handling this generally non-criminal crisis will be difficult because "we can't arrest out way out of this problem."

Man Killed by WV Escort Possible Serial Killer:  A man who was shot and killed by a West Virginia escort after he attacked and attempted to strangle her is being eyed as a possible serial murderer in three states.  Cristina Corbin of Fox News reports that 45-year-old Neal Falls knocked on the door of a Charleston, West Virginia prostitute on July 18, asked her "live or die?" when she answered, and attempted to assault her.  She shot and killed him with his handgun that he put down during the altercation.  Upon inspection of his vehicle after the crime, authorities say they discovered an arsenal of items that aroused suspicion that he could be responsible for the killings of sex workers in Nevada, Illinois and Ohio.  Falls has no known criminal history.  The FBI is assisting in the multi-state probe.

U.S. Spent Nearly 2 Billion Jailing Criminal Aliens:  A new study of state and federal data reveals that in fiscal year 2014, American taxpayers paid approximately $1.87 billion to incarcerate illegal immigrants, almost all of which was shouldered by the states.  Joel Gehrke of the National Review reports that 92 percent, or $1.71 billion, came from the states, while the other eight percent was paid for by federal-government reimbursements administered through the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP).  However, SCAAP's funds have declined in recent years, leading many state and local jurisdictions to opt out of the program, which causes the cost of holding inmates to rise.  This financial burden is also "exacerbated by policies designed to defy federal immigration status."

Killers and Rapists, Rejoice!

| 8 Comments
One thing my father taught me was to thank God for your opponents.  As usual, he was right.

My opponents in the sentencing reform battle  --  those favoring mass sentencing reduction and the additional crime that is certain to come with it  --  have been shrewd up to now in being relatively quiet about the fact they they favor releasing killers, rapists and muggers of all sorts along with the fabled "low-level, non-violent" offender.

But, giddy (and careless) with new momentum as more and more Republicans allow themselves to be bull-rushed into sentencing "reform," the other side has prematurely tipped its hand.

It was never about just "low-level, non-violent" offenders; that was the head fake. It was about creating a new violent crime wave in America (something that is already happening as serious policing has come under attack and, in California, Prop 47's dumbing down of the criminal code has started to do its work).

Hat tip to Doug Berman for putting up two op-eds that spell it out.
California's capital punishment opponents have a problem.  Despite about a thousand capital judgments in the post-Gregg era (beginning with the passage of the Deukmejian bill in 1977), they don't have a single substantiated case of an actually innocent person receiving that sentence.  So they have to make some up.

SF Chrontrarian Debra Saunders has this column on the CNN series Death Row Stories and its episode on Kevin Cooper.  First, she notes a prior episode of the series.

Last year, CNN's "Death Row Stories" ran an episode about a California woman convicted of first-degree murder, then freed when a federal judge overturned the verdict because prosecutors withheld evidence. I had a few issues with the episode, in part because Gloria Killian was not tried for capital murder and never spent a minute on Death Row. I wrote at the time, CNN should rename the series, narrated by capital-punishment opponent Susan Sarandon, "Death Row Propaganda."
On to Cooper:

When the tests finally were done, DNA nailed Cooper to the crime scene, where he claimed never to have been. In 2004, [defense investigator Paul] Ingels told me, "It proves, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that Kevin Cooper was involved in the murders."

When Cooper's lawyers devised this elaborate story about officials framing Cooper by manipulating DNA, forensics expert Dr. Edward T. Blake objected because he relies on those tests to exonerate innocent convicts. When I asked Blake if Cooper is guilty, Blake answered, "Yeah, he's guilty, as determined by the trial and the failure of a very extensive post-conviction investigation to prove otherwise." Blake also had worked for Cooper's defense team.

I've covered a lot of crime stories. I've never had two people who worked for the defense tell me an inmate is guilty.
Saunders has more on the case in a blog post.

Rory Little has this summary at SCOTUSblog of the criminal and related cases for the coming Supreme Court term.  What I found most interesting, though, is what is not there.  Not a single case of a state prisoner challenging his conviction or sentence in federal court has been scheduled for oral argument next term.

The full list of cases taken up for the next term so far is here.  Not a single "CFH" on the list.  There are two "CSH" cases, where the Supreme Court has taken a habeas corpus (or equivalent) case directly from the state courts.  There are four "CSY" cases, straight criminal appeals from state courts.  (Two of these arise from the same case, and a third presents a common question with the two.  CJLF has filed a single brief in all three.)  There are three "CFY" cases, federal criminal appeals.

Federal habeas for state prisoners lies at the crossroads of federalism, criminal law, and protection of individual rights, and that intersection has been the site of many collisions.  It has occupied a disproportionate amount of the Supreme Court's docket for many years.  Maybe not this year.

There are, of course, many more cases to be added.  Daniels v. Webster, discussed in this post by Ian Sonego, is a federal-prisoner habeas case that is highly likely to be added to the docket.

In addition to argued cases, there are summary dispositions, and chastising federal courts that just can't stand the fact that Congress took them down a peg in 1996 will doubtless be among those.  Even so, this could be the lightest term for state-prisoner federal habeas in some time.

As Rory notes, the reason for the Supreme Court to take criminal and habeas cases directly from the state courts is to get straight to the underlying issue without dealing with the limitations placed on the federal habeas remedy by Congress or the Supreme Court itself.  Perhaps the Court believes that the major questions of habeas procedure and limitations have largely been addressed and wishes to devote more attention to the underlying criminal law and procedure questions.

News Scan

| No Comments

Court: Prop 47 Applies Equally to Minors:  A three-judge panel of the California State District Court of Appeal ruled Thursday that Proposition 47, the November 2014 voter-approved initiative that reduced some low-level felonies to misdemeanors, applies equally to juvenile offenders as well as adults.  Kristina Davis of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the ruling, in the case of one San Diego County teen convicted of commercial burglary in 2013, sets a new precedent for more than 100 other minors in the county, who can now petition to have their previous qualifying convictions reclassified as misdemeanors.  The teen in this case has also requested to have his DNA expunged from the state database since DNA collection does not apply to misdemeanors.  The District Attorney's office has yet to announce if it will appeal the ruling.  

Another Bloody Weekend in Baltimore:  Baltimore saw 15 shootings, three of them fatal, and at least one stabbing between Friday evening and Monday morning, culminating in yet another violent weekend in the struggling city.  Colin Campbell and Sean Welsh of the Baltimore Sun report that seven of the shootings occurred between 10 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday.  Police are still seeking information related to all of this weekend's incidences.

Youngest Juveniles Ever Charged As Adults for 1st-Degree Murder to be Released:  The youngest Americans ever to face adult charges for first-degree murder are set to be released from prison in two weeks, sixteen years after their crime.  Fox News reports that Curtis and Catherine Jones, Florida siblings who were 12 and 13 when they killed their father's girlfriend, claiming that she did nothing to protect them from sexual abuse by a male relative.  They had initially planned to kill the male relative as well as their father.  They pleaded to second-degree murder in 1999 and received 18-year sentences.  They will both be on probation for the rest of their lives.

Body Count on the Rise in St. Louis:  The homicide rate in St. Louis, Missouri is on track to reach its highest level in 20 years, putting increased pressure on Mayor Francis Slay, who won control of the police department two years ago in order to hold it more accountable, to take action.  Nicholas J.C. Pistor of St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that murders have already surpassed 100 this year, 60 percent higher than the same time last year, thrusting Slay into "unfamiliar territory."  However, most of the pressure to fix the homicide problem will fall on Police Chief Sam Dotson, who unveiled a crime-fighting partnership Monday, involving 50 police officers from St. Louis and St. Louis County that will work with federal agents to reduce the bloodshed, focusing on violent offenders and drug traffickers.

Gang Crime Down in Dallas:  Police officials in Dallas, Texas say that gang-related crime is down in the city despite recent, high-profile violence, but gang experts are not convinced that the trend is permanent.  Tristan Hallman of the Dallas News reports that gang expert Greg Knox of the National Gang Crime Research Center says that federal authorities have managed to weaken the centralized hierarchy of gangs, making them more of a neighborhood clique rather than a regional or national power, but cautions that "their networks still exist."  Another expert, Pastor Omar Jahwar, a former gang member who now participates in gang intervention, says that gangs of today lack leadership and understanding of gangs' histories and "rules of the game," leading to reckless, reactive violence.  

Chicago Bloodshed Continues:  Reeling in violence along with several other major cities across the nation, Chicago ended its weekend with seven dead and 35 wounded from shooting incidents.  Peter Nickeas and Megan Crepeau of the Chicago Tribune report that the weekend's close has brought this year's total homicides in the city to 263 and total gunshot victims to 1,532.  Both homicides and non-fatal shootings have increased over the previous years in the city.

A Wall That Does WHAT Back?

| 2 Comments
When I saw this in my paper this morning, I thought at first that it was an Onion story mistakenly picked up as real.
Last Wednesday was the 20th anniversary of the murders of two toddlers, Michael and Alex Smith, by their mother, Susan Smith.  Ms. Smith was having an affair and hoped to run off with a man who didn't want to be burdened with kids  --  who can, after all, be quite a load at that age.  She dealt with this by strapping them in seat belts in her car, which she then rolled into a lake.  

In one of the more spectacular miscarriages of justice I can remember, the jury rejected a death sentence and gave her life.

She is taking full advantage.  This story, from ABC news, is chock full of lessons for those of us interested in criminal law, and capital cases in particular. 
Is it a crime for a governor to threaten to veto a funding bill because he does not believe the head of the office being funded can be trusted to use the money appropriately?  Of course not.  We elect governors and other officials to make such judgments.

Yesterday, the Texas Third Court of Appeals threw out one of the charges brought against former Governor Rick Perry.  This WSJ editorial summarizes the case:

A special prosecutor in notorious Travis County essentially charged Mr. Perry for exercising his constitutional right to oppose and veto an act of the legislature. Mr. Perry threatened to veto a funding bill for the Travis County District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit unless D.A. Rosemary Lehmberg resigned. She had been arrested and pleaded guilty to drunk driving, but she refused to resign and Mr. Perry followed through with the veto. The charges boil down to criminalizing routine political debate and controversies.
The procedural mechanism invoked by Perry is a pretrial writ of habeas corpus.  Under Texas case law, this procedure can only be used for facial challenges to statutes, not "as applied" challenges.  The Court of Appeal held that the Coercion of Public Servant statute was unconstitutional on its face.  It regulates speech, and its prohibition of threats is not limited to "true threats" within the meaning of the U.S. Supreme Court cases on that point.

Perry's challenge to the charge of Abuse of Official Capacity is not cognizable in this proceeding, so that one will have to be thrown out at some point down the line.

French Surveillance Law Upheld

| No Comments
Sam Schechner and Matthew Dalton report in the WSJ:

PARIS--France's top constitutional court mostly upheld a new French surveillance law that would give intelligence services broad new powers to spy in France and abroad.

The court-backed provisions of the law allow a wide range of new surveillance techniques meant for the Internet age, including the collection of "metadata" about online traffic and the use of software that can monitor every keystroke on a computer. The court said intelligence services can use these tools without approval of a judge, though the government must still seek permission from an independent body created to oversee surveillance activities.

The court, known as the Constitutional Council, did strike down a provision of the law that would allow emergency surveillance without the approval of the prime minister or another minister in the government.

Pollard Release Imminent?

| 2 Comments
Devlin Barrett reports for the WSJ:

The Obama administration is preparing to release convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard from prison, according to U.S. officials, some of whom hope the move will smooth relations with Israel in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal.

Such a decision would end a decadeslong fight over Mr. Pollard, who was arrested on charges of spying for Israel in 1985 and later sentenced to life in prison. The case has long been a source of tension between the U.S. and Israel, which has argued that a life sentence for spying on behalf of a close U.S. partner is too harsh. Israel has for years sought Mr. Pollard's early release, only to be rejected by the U.S.

Now, some U.S. officials are pushing for Mr. Pollard's release in a matter of weeks. Others expect it could take months, possibly until his parole consideration date in November.
Such a deal for Israel.  First we sign the most toothless agreement since Neville Chamberlain came back from Munich in 1938 waving a document and claiming "peace in our time," an agreement that practically guarantees that a country determined to wipe Israel off the map will acquire nuclear weapons.  But not to worry, we will make it up by releasing one spy.

Ann Coulter has this article on her website titled Trump Opponents Take Nuanced View of Child Rape, discussing incidences of child rape committed by illegal immigrants.  Whether or not you agree with the knife-twisting way in which Ms. Coulter presents her argument (remember, this helps her sell books!), you have to commend her for always doing her research.  She may brutalize her honesty more than most, but her facts are there to back it up.

A:  So awful  --  because so radically pro-criminal  --  that even the Obama administration can't bite down on it.

I didn't think I would ever type that sentence, but there is no other conclusion to be drawn from today's BuzzFeed article, which begins:

The Obama administration objects to key provisions in a bipartisan criminal justice bill in the House that has picked up support from both the tough-on-crime end of the Republican Party and advocates of overhauling federal prison sentencing guidelines, BuzzFeed News has learned.

The bill's sponsors say the Safe, Accountable, Fair, Effective Justice Reinvestment Act of 2015 -- or SAFE Act -- takes the best ideas from state criminal justice efforts in recent years and applies them to the federal system, but Obama administration officials have told supporters of the bill they don't like several of its provisions, including a key one that would essentially create a federal version of the drug court programs an increasing number of states use to divert low-level, first-time drug offenders away from prison and into probation.

Ah yes, the proverbial "low-level, first-time" drug offender.  Not that sentencing "reform" aims to stop there, or anywhere near there, and not that the "low-level, first time" drug offender is the harmless choir boy so often presented to us, as Kent pointed out in his comment just today.



News Scan

| No Comments

Three Killed, Including Gunman, at a Louisiana Movie Theater:  A lone gunman opened fire inside of a packed Lafayette, Louisiana movie theater Thursday evening, killing two and injuring several others before turning the gun on himself.  Tom Winter, Tracy Connor and Erik Ortiz of NBC News report that 59-year-old John Russell Houser was described as a drifter, and his former wife told authorities that she had all guns from their home removed due to his history of "extreme erratic behavior" and mental problems.  Police are still investigating a possible motive for why Houser gunned down moviegoers during the 7:10 p.m. screening of the comedy "Trainwreck."  Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft says that, due to the recovery of disguises and license plates in Houser's motel room, they believe that the event was planned and he intended to leave alive.

Sanctuary Cities Become Havens to Avoid Lawsuits:  Some sanctuary cities become havens for illegal immigrants and refuse to enforce federal immigration policies "not because of any moral obligation to immigrants," but rather, for fear of lawsuits.  The AP reports that sanctuary cities across the nation are under fire since July 1, when Kathryn Steinle was shot and killed while walking on a San Francisco pier by an illegal immigrant with seven felonies and five prior deportations.  He was released into the community even though U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement sought to deport for a sixth time.  House Republicans passed a bill Thursday to push cities that refuse to share information with federal immigration authorities, and plan to introduce legislation that specifically addresses the release of immigrants sought by federal authorities for deportation.   

Prop 47 Plays 'Significant' Role in LA County Crime Rise:  Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell says that Proposition 47, the voter-approved initiative that downgrades certain felonies to misdemeanors, plays "a significant role" in the rising crime rate throughout Los Angeles County, and has eliminated incentive for drug addicts to seek treatment.  Tami Abdollah of the AP reports that so far this year, violent crime has increased 3.39 percent and property crime has gone up 6.9 percent, while county treatment rolls for drug addicts are down 60 percent.  Los Angeles County was experiencing a 10-year trend of crime reduction and was at 50-year lows in many areas, up until the passage of Prop 47 last November.  "It would be naïve to say that 47 didn't play a major role in that," McDonnell adds.

87% of Illegal Immigrants to Remain in the U.S.:  A new report by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) concludes that President Obama's executive action on immigration enforcement will provide "a degree of protection" to an estimated 87 percent of illegal immigrants in the U.S., who in turn, will not face threat of deportation.  Caroline May of Breitbart reports that the Obama administration's plan to replace the Secure Communities program with the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) will have a significant impact on immigration enforcement, with an estimated reduction of 25,000 interior deportations from the U.S. annually.  MPI also estimates that only 13 percent of illegal immigrants would be considered enforcement priorities under the new policy guidelines, compared to 27 percent under the 2010-11 guidelines.

Those who think it's time to roll back sentencing for drugs might want to take in next Tuesday's House Judiciary Committee hearing about the on-the-ground realities with one of America's most notorious drugs, heroin.

But please remember what a person puts into his own body is no one else's business.  If the person happens to be an addict, on on his or her way to addiction, or is a teenager prostituting herself to get money for the next fix, or is one hit away from an overdose death, hey, look, that's the way the cookie crumbles.  

Here is the notice of the hearing.
This story from Roll Call says a good deal about who will win and who will lose if mandatory minimum sentencing is dumbed down or eliminated  --  not that any of this was hard to understand before.

The headline of the story is "Convicted Republicans call for mandatory minimums changes".  It's about three formerly high-level Republicans, Kevin Ring, Bernie Kerik, and Pat Nolan, all of whom discussed with Congressional staffers the supposed evils of mandatory minimum sentencing (although, oddly, none of their sentences resulted from mandatory minimums).

What the three have in common is that they are convicted felons, and the offenses for which they served time involved corruption, influence peddling and/or dishonesty. It's telling that this sort of resume' is what the sentencing reform side views as making you an "expert" on questions of public policy. Some of us might say that the more apt term for this outlook would be "conflict of interest" or "unreconstructed self-justification."

What might be even more telling is that Washington is now so completely engulfed by interest group culture that ex-cons are considered, in the Beltway's lobbyist lingo, "stakeholders" in "the system."

Will Committee staffers bring in Blago next?  How about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? They've got even bigger "stakes" to "hold."
The Supreme Court established the basic framework of capital sentencing in the mid-1970s and then tinkered with it for some years thereafter.  Under this framework, a state cannot make all murderers eligible to even be considered for the death penalty.  There must be some additional factor beyond the basic requirements of murder.  It has to be a reasonably objective one.  "Especially heinous, atrocious, and cruel" won't do.

The methods vary by state.  Texas defined a higher degree of murder called "capital murder."  Most states have a designated list of "aggravating circumstances."  California calls its list "special circumstances" because we just have to be different.

In some states the plus factors are found concurrently with guilt.  In others they are decided along with the decision on penalty.  Colorado apparently "trifurcates" its capital trials, sandwiching an "aggravating factor" phase between the guilt and penalty phases.  (California does that with the prior murder circumstance only.  All the rest are decided concurrently with guilt.)

Are the following factors true in the case of the Aurora shooting?

• Intentionally killing a child under the age of 12.

• Killing more than two people during the same criminal act

• Creating a grave risk of death to people other than the 12 victims.

• Committing the murders in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner.

• Ambushing the victims.

The jury did not find the first one, apparently not satisfied on the specific intent requirement.  What's that fourth one?  Hopefully the jury got a "narrowing" instruction to define that more precisely.

Jordan Steffen and John Ingold have this story in the Denver Post.  Maria LaGanga has this story in the LA Times.

Trafficking in Human Organs

| No Comments
In answer to a question received from a correspondent, which others may be asking as well, the federal law prohibiting trafficking in human organs is 42 U.S.C. § 274e.
WaPo editorial writer Charles Lane has this article on sanctuary cities:

In reality, there is no free lunch. In the alternate reality known as the American political debate, however, that's the only kind on the menu.

Conservatives say tax cuts boost economic growth, which yields higher revenue. No need to worry about bigger budget deficits.

Meanwhile, over on the left, we have laws and policies in more than 200 jurisdictions, including some of the largest cities and counties in the country, that are meant to protect immigrant communities by preventing local authorities from cooperating with federal deportations of undocumented immigrants who have run-ins with the law.

Advocates claim that "sanctuary," as they call it, achieves a moral goal -- peace of mind for people who, whatever their immigration status, are often longtime residents, leading productive lives -- at little or no practical risk or cost to anyone.
*                                       *                                   *
Guest post by Ian Sonego:

The en banc Seventh Circuit has ruled 6-5 that a federal prisoner under a death sentence may circumvent the prohibition upon successive collateral attacks in 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h), which is similar to 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(2)[limiting successive habeas petitions filed by state prisoners in federal courts], by filing a habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 in the district where he is incarcerated instead of the district where he was convicted and sentenced. Webster v. Daniels, 784 F.3d 1123 (7th Cir. May 1, 2015)(en banc)(No. 14-1049).

Federal prisoners under death sentences are incarcerated in the federal prison in the State of Indiana, which is within the Seventh Circuit.

News Scan

| No Comments

Two Teen Relatives Held in Fatal Stabbing Deaths of Family:  A silent 911 call led police to a suburban Tulsa home, where the bodies of five people were discovered with fatal stab wounds, and apprehended two teenage male relatives of the victims who attempted to flee in nearby woods.  The AP reports that the deceased include adults and juveniles, though a girl survived but is in critical condition with stab wounds, and another child was left unharmed.  According to neighbors in the upper-middle class neighborhood of Broken Arrow, where violent crime is rare, the children in the family were home-schooled and "kept on a tight leash."  Broken Arrow police have sought the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation for assistance.

Man with Gang Ties Arrested in CA Police Officer's Shooting Death:  A police sergeant in Hayward, California was shot and killed Wednesday during an early morning traffic stop by a man with alleged gang ties.  Fox News reports that 21-year-old Mark Estrada fatally shot 48-year-old Sgt. Scott Lunger, a 15-year veteran of the force, without warning after he was pulled over for swerving and driving erratically.  Estrada received non-fatal gunshot wounds that Lunger's partner, who was unharmed, fired.  Lunger is the second San Francisco Bay Area officer killed in the line of duty this year.  Estrada has been arrested for the shooting and is currently under police watch in a hospital while he recovers from his injuries.

Illegal Alien Crime Wave in Texas:  An internal report by the Texas Department of Public Safety reveals that illegal immigrants are responsible for thousands of crimes in the state, many of them violent.  J. Christian Adams of PJ Media reports that according to the report's analysis, illegal immigrants committed 611,234 unique crimes, 2,993 of which were homicides, in Texas alone.  Between October 2008 and April 2014, 177,588 criminal alien defendants were booked into Texas county jails, according to the Secure Communities initiative, an information-sharing program between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.  However, the actual number is likely much higher, as the Secure Communities initiative is only able to tag and identify criminal aliens that have already been fingerprinted.

First Responder

| No Comments
AssistingKlanProtester.jpg
The KKK held a rally in South Carolina to protest removal of the Confederate flag.  One of the protesters, wearing a swastika T-shirt, became ill from heat exhaustion.  Leroy Smith, Director of the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, rendered assistance.

Seanna Adcox has this story for AP.
Judge Alex Kozinski has a preface to the current issue of Georgetown Law Review that has been the subject of much discussion.  Eugene Volokh has reproduced it, minus the footnotes, in a series of posts at the Volokh Conspiracy.  The first one is here.  Volokh describes Kozinski as a "conservative" in the title of the initial post and a "libertarianish conservative" in the text, but lately he has been more libertarian than conservative, at least in criminal law.

Reading the brief segment on habeas corpus, and specifically on the "deference" standard of 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (in this post on VC), I thought of our old friend the elephant in the living room.  That is the huge problem that everyone knows about and no one wants to talk about, so they talk about other things.

Here is the Volokh version (sans footnotes) in the indented block quotes with interlaced comments by your humble blogger.  AEDPA refers to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

Prior to AEDPA taking effect in 1996, the federal courts provided a final safeguard for the relatively rare but compelling cases where the state courts had allowed a miscarriage of justice to occur.
Cases where the federal courts prevented a miscarriage of justice were rare.  But what about the cases where the federal courts caused a miscarriage of justice?  That is the elephant in the living room.  Are you going to address that?  Are you even going to mention it?

News Scan

| No Comments

Thousands of Violent Felons to be Released in November:  As a result of the U.S. Sentencing Commission's decision to lower federal sentencing for all drug trafficking and distribution crimes, thousands of dangerous felons will be released from federal prison this November.  Kerry Picket of the Daily Caller reports that among the potential released are inmates with violent backgrounds that committed crimes ranging from assault to murder.  In early 2014, the Sentencing Commission made a two-level reduction in the base offense levels for all drug trafficking and distribution offenses that could impose mandatory minimum sentences.  The result "will be to reward drug traffickers and distributors who possessed a firearm, committed a crime of violence or had prior convictions," says House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley.

Charleston Shooter to Face Hate Crime Charge:  The man accused of gunning down nine black church members at a historic African American church in Charleston, South Carolina is to be indicted Wednesday on a federal hate crime charge.  The AP reports that 21-year-old Dylann Roof is already facing state charges including nine counts of murder for the June 17 shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a bible study.  It has not been said whether state prosecutors will seek the death penalty.

U.S. Attempts to Revoke Citizenship of Imam:  Justice Department officials are hoping to win denaturalization of a Somali-born man because he attempted to conceal past associations with Islamic groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Bryan Denson of Oregon Live reports that Mohamed Sheikh Abdiraham Kariye, the imam of Portland, Oregon's largest mosque, failed to tell immigration officials that he raised money, recruited fighters, and provided training for insurgents battling the Soviet military during the 1980s war in Afghanistan, and possibly had direct dealings with Osama bin Laden at a time.  The revelation of Kariye's deception came out of a joint investigation conducted by the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Killing Prompts Wyoming Tribe to Seek Hate Crime Prosecution:  The Northern Arapaho Tribe is imploring federal authorities to file hate crime charges against a Wyoming man after he fatally shot one tribe member and wounded another at a detox center on Saturday.  Ben Neary of the AP reports that 32-year-old city parks worker Roy Clyde told investigators that he shot the victims as they lay in bed at the Center of Hope detox center in Riverton, Wyoming because he was "incensed by homeless people drinking and relieving themselves in local parks."  Chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council Dean Goggles says that violence against Indian people is a growing trend in the city of 11,000 residents, and tribal leaders intend to travel to Washington, D.C., next week to address the matter with federal officials.  Clyde has been charged with murder and attempted murder.

Investigators Ponder Niagara Falls Serial Killer:  Two slayings in Niagara Falls occurring nearly three years apart but showing strikingly similar circumstances, has New York investigators wondering whether a serial killer is in the community.  Kevin Conlon of CNN reports that the dismembered remains of 30-year-old Loretta Gates were found in various areas of the city in September 2012, and last month, the headless, limbless torso of Terri Lynn Bill, who "was like an aunt to Gates," was discovered.  Niagara Falls Police Capt. Kelly Rizzo says that nearly 100 investigators canvassed targeted areas around the city on Tuesday and are "definitely closer to figuring out who did it based on the information we got."

Jason Riley has this piece in the WSJ  with the above title:

Why the fate of criminals should matter more than the fate of crime victims is a question that went largely unasked, let alone answered, during last week's bipartisan celebration of President Obama's decision to release dozens of individuals from prison and push for looser sentencing guidelines.
*                                      *                                      *
Higher black incarceration rates reflect higher black crime rates, but like many liberal critics of "mass incarceration" the president would rather focus on the behavior of police and prosecutors, not the behavior of the young black men responsible for so much lawbreaking. Not surprisingly, the poor and working-class blacks who are the primary victims of black criminality tend to have different priorities.
*                                      *                                      *
Occasionally, an honest liberal, like the one who taught Mr. Obama at Harvard Law School, will state the obvious. "The most lethal danger facing African Americans in their daily lives," wrote Prof. Randall Kennedy in these pages 21 years ago, "is not white, racist officials of the state, but private, violent criminals, typically black, who attack those most vulnerable to them without regard for racial identity."

Partial Reversal for Blagojevich

| 1 Comment
Rod Blagojevich, former governor of the state where about as many former governors are felons as not, won a partial reversal from the Seventh Circuit today.  From United States v. Blagojevich, USCA 7, No. 11-3853:

Blagojevich now asks us to hold that the evidence is insufficient to convict him on any count. The argument is frivolous. The evidence, much of it from Blagojevich's own mouth, is overwhelming. To the extent there are factual disputes, the jury was entitled to credit the prosecution's evidence and to find that Blagojevich acted with the knowledge required for conviction.

But a problem in the way the instructions told the jury to consider the evidence requires us to vacate the convictions on counts that concern Blagojevich's proposal to appoint Valerie Jarrett to the Senate in exchange for an appointment to the Cabinet. A jury could have found that Blagojevich asked the President‑elect for a private‑sector job, or for funds that he could control, but the instructions permitted the jury to convict even if it found that his only request of Sen. Obama was for a position in the Cabinet. The instructions treated all proposals alike. We conclude, however, that they are legally different: a proposal to trade one public act for another, a form of logrolling, is fundamentally unlike the swap of an official act for a private payment.

Because the instructions do not enable us to be sure that the jury found that Blagojevich offered to trade the appointment for a private salary after leaving the Governorship, these convictions cannot stand. Compare Yates v. United States, 354 U.S. 298 (1957), and United States v. Rivera Borrero, 771 F.3d 973 (7th Cir. 2014), with Griffin v. United States, 502 U.S. 46 (1991). (Perhaps because the jury deadlocked at the first trial, the United States does not seriously contend that any error was harmless; a one‑line statement in the brief differs from an argument. Cf. Hedgpeth v. Pulido, 555 U.S. 57, 60-62 (2008) (an error of this kind is not "structural").)

News Scan

| No Comments

Suspect in 5 Homicides Believed to Have Killed Toddler:  Police in Northern California say that a suspect in the murders of five people whose bodies were found in a Modesto home over the weekend is also believed to be responsible for the death of a two-year-old left in his care last year.  The AP reports that Martin "Marty" Martinez had been under investigation for the toddler's death since October 2014, and was being sought by law enforcement for arrest this weekend when the bodies of Martinez's mother and daughter, an unidentified five-year-old girl and the mother of the toddler he killed last year were discovered in his home.  Martinez was taken into custody early Sunday morning, and authorities are preparing to formally charge him with five homicides.

New Bill Would Withhold Federal Funds from Sanctuary Cities:  New legislation to be voted on this week by the House would punish sanctuary cities by withholding federal funds, in an effort to incentivize them to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.  Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times reports that according to the Migration Policy Institute, more than 350 jurisdictions across the U.S. have some sort of sanctuary policy limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities.  The issue has heated up quickly since the July 1 shooting death of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco by a five-time deported criminal alien, who admittedly chose San Francisco due to their sanctuary status and lenient policies that allowed him to remain in the country without fear of deportation.  Steinle's father testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday in support of the bill.  See this post earlier today.

Teenager Latest Unintended Victim of Tulsa's Gang Violence:  A 16-year-old girl was shot and killed in the passenger seat of her boyfriend's vehicle by gang members who were attempting to aim at her boyfriend but killed her instead, making the teen the third unintended victim of gang violence in recent weeks around Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Lori Fullbright of News on 6 reports that Deouijanae Terry was inadvertently thrust into the middle of a gang rivalry, as Tulsa's largest gang, the Hoover Crips, continue to fight with three smaller gangs that have teamed up against them.  Terry's killer is still at large, and very likely may remain that way, since witnesses have a tendency to withhold valuable information regarding gang crimes, "which leads to more shootings, and the cycle continues."

The Revolving Door of Deportation:  Hillary Chabot of the Boston Herald highlights the latest deportation order failure and its revolving door effect in this piece, regarding two illegal immigrants who are currently under investigation in the shooting death of a Massachusetts grandmother on July 4.  Wilton Lara-Calmona and Jose M. Lara-Mejia, both Dominican Republic nationals, shot and killed 41-year-old nurse Mirta Rivera while she slept in her bed, after a bullet fired through the ceiling from the upstairs apartment where the men lived.  Both of the men were previously ordered deported, but remained in the country illegally.  Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies with the Center for Immigration Studies, says that considering the lax immigration enforcement on part of the Obama administration, "Basically, we're hanging a 'welcome back' sign" for illegal immigrants.  Lara-Calmona and Lara-Mejia have been charged with trafficking heroin and cocaine, and are the prime suspects in the death of Rivera, which authorities are still investigating.

Convicted CA Murderer Eligible for Parole:  A California man convicted murdering a Stanislaus County couple over three decades ago is now eligible for parole.  Rina Nakano of Fox 40 reports that in 1979, Jeffrey Allen Maria, just shy of his 18th birthday, and three accomplices knocked on the door of Phil and Kathy Ronzo's home and lied about their car being out of gas, then murdered Phil with a baseball bat and axe, and raped and killed Kathy.  Maria's parole eligibility resulted from Senate Bill 260, in effect since January of 2014, which gives relief to juvenile offenders charged with adult sentences.  The Parole Board has 120 days to review Maria's case, after which Gov. Jerry Brown will have up to 30 days to decide whether to uphold, deny or take no action.HaveH

The academic debate on whether increased ownership of guns by law-abiding citizens reduces crime continues.  John Lott has been the leading advocate for the "yes" side of that debate.  He has a new paper on SSRN, with John Whitley and Rebehak Riley, titled Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States.  The abstract follows the break.
The father of Katherine Steinle testified a few minutes ago before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  His prepared statement follows the break. The Committee's hearing page is here.

Fingerprint Match Admissibility

| No Comments
The California Court of Appeal, Third District, today rejected an attack on the reliability and admissibility of fingerprint match evidence in People v. Rivas, C027621.

Monthly Archives