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News Scan

California Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence: Howard Mintz of the San Jose Mercury News reports the California Supreme Court yesterday rejected Mark Christopher Crew's challenge to his death sentence. Crew was convicted of fatally shooting his wife in 1982 as part of a plot to steal her money.  Crew said he dismembered her body, placing her body in a cement-filled barrel that he buried in a friend's backyard and her head in a cement-filled bucket that he threw off the Dumbarton Bridge.  The victim's body was never found.  Crew argued that jurors at his trial should have been informed about his dysfunctional childhood, but the court said even though such evidence "might have elicited some jury sympathy for him at the penalty phase of his capital trial . . . [Crew] showed no causal connection between his family environment and his cold-blooded and calculated decision to brutally murder his wife."

Homelessness Not an Excuse: Dawson Bell of the Detroit Free Press reports the Michigan Supreme Court ruled yesterday that convicted sex offenders cannot use homelessness as an excuse for failing to report their location to police as required by Michigan's Sex Offender Registry Act. Randall Dowdy, who served 18 years in prison for kidnapping and rape, was charged in 2006 with failing to report his location and change of address after he was forced to leave a shelter. The charges against him were dropped by a county judge and the decision affirmed by the appeals court, but overruled Monday in a 4-3 decision by the state's high court. The court majority found that homelessness
"in no way prevents (an) offender from physically entering a law enforcement agency and truthfully reporting... information regarding the offender's residence."

Bay Area Counties Prepare for Influx of Inmates: Rachel Gordon of the San Francisco Chronicle reports local criminal justice officials are scrambling to meet the added demands on their jails and services as tens of thousands of convicted felons and parole violators in California will be diverted from state prison to county supervision, without the assurance of adequate funding. The state has set aside $5 billion to help counties handle the additional responsibilities but according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, "whether it's going to be enough is a matter of opinion." Local law enforcement authorities are anticipating an increase in crime with fewer criminals serving their sentences in state prisons, and worry about increased trouble behind bars in county lockups. The inmate populations in San Francisco and Marin County could increase by over 40 percent.

Pharmacist Gets Life with Possibility of Parole: The AP reports that Oklahoma pharmacist Jerome Ersland, 59, was sentenced yesterday to life with the possibility of parole. Jurors convicted Ersland in May of murdering a teenager who tried to rob the pharmacy where Ersland worked. Ersland claimed he was defending himself and two female co-workers. (See previous post here.) Ersland's son Jeff and others have been collecting signatures for a petition urging Governor Mary Fallin to "right this wrong." "We believe that armed robbers who enter our businesses and threaten our lives bear the responsibility for the outcome of an armed conflict that they initiate," said Jeff.

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