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News Scan

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Oakland Gang Sweep:  Police in Oakland and surrounding cities arrested a total of 48 parole and probation violators yesterday in "Operation Gangbusters," reports the Oakland Tribune.  Police also picked up guns, machetes, and over $75,000 in marijuana plants.  The sweep was made easier, in part, due to California's new program requiring some parolees to wear GPS devices so that parole agents can monitor their whereabouts.  (See the San Francisco Chronicle's story about the new GPS monitoring here.) 

New Trial For TX Death Row Inmate:  The AP reports the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision ordering a new sentencing trial for Warren Darrell Rivers based on inadequate jury instructions.  In 1987, Rivers lured an 11-year-old boy to an abandoned house where he beat, sexually abused, and stabbed the boy to death.  Fortunately, the Fifth Circuit rejected Rivers's argument to overturn his conviction based on racially-charged peremptory strikes, although his attorneys might seek further review from SCOTUS. See also Kent's post on this case.

Suppressed Evidence in Canadian Serial Killer Trial:  The Vancouver Sun has this story about the trial of serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton, who is strongly suspected of killing and dismembering 26 women on his Canadian farm.  (Recommendation - if you chose to read this article, do so on an empty stomach.)  A slew of DNA evidence linking Pickton to the dead women was excluded from his trial for six of the murders, based on a plan to hold a second trial for the remaining 20.  However, after a ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada, those remaining charges have been stayed.  Based on the limited evidence that the court allowed at trial, the jury acquitted him of first-degree murder and instead convicted him of the lesser charge of second-degree murder.

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Re: the Pickton story, I am completely appalled by the trial judge's rulings that kept so much relevant evidence from the jury. What a travesty! For instance, suppressing the sex doll containing Pickton's DNA because the doll was weird-looking, and the fact of having sex with a weird-looking doll would unfairly prejudice Pickton in the eyes of the jury? Are you kidding me? Um, I'm pretty sure that the fact of killing and dismembering women and feeding them to the pigs would have already prejudiced the jury, thank you very much.

I have long ago concluded, based on this and numerous other cases, that justice is especially hard to come by when the victims of violent crime are prostitutes, drug addicts, or anyone else who is marginalized. The judge's rulings in this case only served to perpetuate that injustice. How he can sleep at night is completely beyond me.

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