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News Scan

VA Inmate Who Previously Asked For Death Penalty Kills Again:  The AP reports that Robert Gleason Jr., an inmate currently serving a life sentence for murder, has been linked to his second prison killing.  In 2009, Gleason beat and strangled his 63-year-old cellmate, afterward admitting, "I murdered that man cold-bloodedly.  I planned it, and I'm gonna do it again... The only way to stop me is to put me on death row."  Gleason was recently involved in another murder - this time, of a 26-year-old inmate who was found strangled in the recreation yard.  Gleason is set to be sentenced on August 31 for the 2009 murder, and prosecutors are waiting until after the sentencing to determine whether to charge him for his most recent killing.

Like Father, Like Son:  Natasha Singer of the NY Times reports that LA police's recent capture suspect Lonnie David Franklin Jr. in the "Grim Sleeper" serial killer case through the use of  "familial searching" is bringing exposure to the new - and controversial - genetic analysis procedure.  The procedure runs a crime-scene DNA sample against a search of nonsuspect DNA profiles whose profiles are at least partial matches.  If the profiles are similar enough, the nonsuspect might be related to the source of the crime-scene DNA sample.  The technique has been used in Britain for years, but in only a few U.S. states.  In Franklin's case, investigator's identified him from a partial match of a crime scene sample to a sample of Frankin's son, who was recently convicted of a felony weapons charge.

Tribal Law and Order Acts Gives Native American Police More Bite:  Last week, President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act, which provides tribal law enforcement more power to fight crime on reservations reports the AP.  The Act grants tribal police the authority to enforce federal law, permits tribal courts to impose longer sentences for convicted offenders (tribal courts have up until now been limited to one-year sentences), and requires increased cooperation between tribal criminal justice systems the federal government.  Currently, the violent crime rates on reservations is between twice and twenty times the national average, and 34% of Native American women will be raped during their lifetime.  A summary of the Act can be viewed here.

Child Molester Could Go Free:  The Baltimore Sun reports that a federal judge's ruling could give convicted child molester John Joseph Merzbacher his ticket to freedom.   In 1994, Merzbacher was charged with 100 counts of sexual assault that occurred while he was a middle school teacher in Baltimore in the 70's.  The state ultimately dropped most of the cases after he was convicted of six counts of rape and sexual abuse of a preteen girl, whom he raped while holding a gun to her head and assaulting her with a pipe.  The federal court has ordered the case back to the Maryland courts so Merzbacher can be offered a 10-year plea bargain, which he claims he was offered before his original trial but never properly advised about by his trial attorneys.


I find the so called controversy regarding "familial searching" pretty lame. The police should be able to knock on anyone's door and ask questions. If the party doesn't want to speak to them, so be it.

What I find controversial is this committee the police have to go through in California to get access to the information. While they're scheduling committee meetings and taking votes, people are getting killed.

Regarding Merzbacher: I find it odd that after a trial, a prosecutor wouldn't have learned additional evidence that would justify removing a plea bargain off the table.

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