July 2013 Archives

A Killer with an MBA

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Douglas Feldman, a double murderer who was a financial analyst with an MBA from SMU, was executed by the State of Texas today.  Those who like to say that capital punishment falls only on people from the lower socioeconomic strata of society, please take note.  Death sentences for people from middle and upper "SES" are less common for the simple and correct reason that especially heinous murders committed by such people are less common.

But they do happen.  Feldman killed trucker Robert Everett in an incident of "road rage."  Then he killed another trucker, Nicholas Valesquez, whom he had no beef with at all, but who was simply filling up a gas station's tank from his tanker truck.  Then he shot and wounded Antonio Vega, who was simply standing outside a burger joint.

Bill for New Federal Judgeships

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Senators Leahy and Coons have introduced a bill to add a bunch of new judgeships.  These two eastern Senators seem to be particularly interested in adding new judges in the West.  Of the 65 new permanent district court judgeships, 21 of them are in California.  Of the five new, permanent Court of Appeals judgeships, four are in the Ninth Circuit.

The workload may well warrant expansion, but it is pretty scary to consider the prospect of Barack Obama nominating this many judges to courts that are already listing so far to the left as to take on water.  There was a big expansion during the Carter Administration, and the cohort of Carter nominees are largely the ones responsible for the well-earned nickname "the Ninth Circus."  Carter's truly dismal appointments haunt us to this day.

In the late 1970s, Republicans were so weak in Congress that they were unable to stop this disaster.  Today, they have a majority in the House of Representatives.  If this bill passes the Senate, it should be DOA in the House.  We should not forget history or condemn the next generation to a repeat.

So what to do about overloaded federal courts?  Let's have fewer federal questions to be litigated. 

Update:  Todd Ruger at NLJ (subscription required) has this article headlined "Hail Mary Pass for Judgeships."  "It's been years since Congress created more federal judge positions, and the latest proposal seeking to make up for lost time appears as quixotic as it is ambitious."

Ed Carnes to be CJ of USCA11

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U.S. Circuit Judge Ed Carnes will be the next Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (Georgia, Alabama, and Florida).  Brian Lyman has this story for the Montgomery Advertiser.

News Scan

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Delaware Study Reveals Alarming Recidivism Rates: A study conducted by the Delaware Criminal Justice Council conducted in 2012 found that almost 8 out of 10 inmates that had been sentenced to more than a year in prison were re-arrested within three years of release for a serious offense.  Delaware Online reports that the report, Recidivism in Delaware, revealed that 71 percent of prisoners are convicted of a serious crime, and that 68 percent return to prison for at least one day.  The study defines serious crimes as any felony, along with some misdemeanors including marijuana possession and prostitution.

Man Sentenced to Prison After Bringing Guns to Obama Appearance
: A Kentucky man has been sentenced to spend four years in prison after trying to drive his car loaded with guns through a security barricade during Barack Obama's visit last September.  Jim Hannah of NKY Cincinnati reports that Kerry Prater was sentenced by a federal judge after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm by a person committed to a mental institution.  Prater was previously committed to a mental hospital in 2001 and again in 2005 based on the level of danger he posed to himself and others.  

Mom Throws Her Baby in a Car to Avoid Arrest: An Illinois woman is under arrest after allegedly shoplifting over $300 worth of merchandise from a clothing store and then tossing her baby into her car in an effort to outrun police.  Fox St. Louis reports that Mykayla Bator was caught shoplifting by store employees and proceeded to toss her baby into her vehicle through an open window as she fled the property.  Bator has been charged with child endangerment, shoplifting, and illegal possession of a prescription narcotic.   

A Zealous Defense

We often hear of the need for a zealous defense.  (Zealous prosecutions are less in vogue  --  I guess prosecutors should go out and have a cup of coffee).  

I have no problem with a zealous defense that puts the truth before the jury.  Indeed, that kind of defense is rightly called heroic, a word that, unfortunately, seems to be applied to defense lawyering whether or not it's the truth that gets put on display. Examples of heroic defense lawyering include the efforts put forth in behalf of the falsely accused Duke lacrosse players and, more recently, in behalf of the very politically incorrect but self-defending George Zimmerman.

What both those cases have in common is (a) the defendants actually were not guilty of the crimes alleged, and (b) their exonerations were massively unpopular in academia, which ordinarily unabashedly roots for the worst kind of guilty defendants, including, for example, Philadelphia cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.   

But I digress.  Although this is seldom acknowledged loudly in that self-same academia, a zealous defense should have limits.  In the great majority of cases, it does  --  or at least its shake-and-jive qualities are accepted by current professional "standards."  But sometimes  --  more than is commonly believed  --  the defense, even by loose standards, is a bit too zealous.


California Crime Update

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California's Criminal Justice Statistics Center has released its annual Crime in California Report for 2012.  The good news is that the news isn't quite as bad as the preliminary indication we got from the FBI's preliminary version of Crime in the United States.  See our report from last month.  The bad news is it's still bad.

After years of decline, murder and rape are up in 2012 over 2011, but the CJSC's statewide figures are not up as much as the FBI's numbers from the cities over 100,000 population.  Homicides are +4.6% statewide compared to +10.5% in the cities.  The nationwide figure is +1.5%  Rape is +2.1% statewide compared to +6.4% in the cities and -0.3% nationwide.  Robbery is +3.9% statewide, about the same as the +3.5% city figure, compared to 0.5% nationally.  Aggravated assault is +3.9% statewide, +2.0% in the cities, and +1.7% nationwide.

So violent crime is up in California, more so than in the nation as a whole, but not as much as in the city data reported previously.

PropCrimeNatlCal2012.GIFFor property crimes, the picture is not much different from that reported previously from the FBI preliminary city data.  (Click on the graph for a better view.)  California property crimes are up while the national figures are essentially flat.

Auto theft is the crime category most likely to be affected by realignment.  It is always a felony, unlike theft, but always categorized as "nonserious" for realignment, unlike burglary. 

Auto theft is up a staggering 14.6% statewide, essentially the same as the 15% figure previously reported from the FBI preliminary city data.  Before realignment, auto theft was in decline.

Does this prove realignment is the cause?  No, proof either way is not possible at this point.  But it's probable cause, at the very least.  Common sense tells us that releasing large numbers of criminals is likely to cause increased crime.  The pattern of increases in the various crimes fits the pattern we would expect if realignment were the cause of the increase.  No alternative explanation for an increase in 2012 is apparent.

News Scan

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Former Soldier Acquitted of Aiding the Enemy:  Bradley Manning, the former U.S. Army soldier accused of participating in the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history, has been found not guilty by a military court on charges of aiding the enemy-a charge that could have resulted in a life sentence.  Despite being acquitted on the most serious charge, Fox News reports that Manning was indicted on 20 other charges and was found guilty on multiple counts of espionage, theft, and other military infractions.  Manning will be sentenced for those crimes tomorrow. 

Neglected California Prison Bond Haunts Governor Brown:  Most of a $7.4 billion bond measure adopted in 2007 to  alleviate prison overcrowding remains unspent as violent crime rates continue to rise in cities across California.  Michael Marois of Bloomberg News reports that only a fifth of the money approved by legislature has been spent after Governor Brown cancelled $4.1 billion that was intended for prison building projects that would have allowed the state to house more inmates instead of releasing them into communities under Realignment.  A panel of federal judges has ordered Brown to reduce the prison population by another 9,600 inmates by the end of the year.     

Police Dog' Results in Overturned Murder Conviction: A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel has overturned a 2006 murder conviction after the police dog used in finding the bulk of the evidence was deemed unreliable.  Melanie Johnston of the Diamond Bar-Walnut Patch reports that the prosecution's case hinged on evidence found after the dog initially indicated to officers that the defendant's scent was on a stolen car tied to the murder.  The appeals court found that the prosecution failed to reveal the dog's questionable history and has ordered a Los Angeles judge to either release defendant Gilbert Aguilar or grant him a new trial.        

Oops, I Didn't Know That

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Campbell Robertson reports for the NYT,  "A Louisiana sheriff has apologized for the arrests of as many as a dozen or more men in recent years on charges that they violated an anti-sodomy statute that has been ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court."  That was Lawrence v. Texas (2003).

But ignorance of Supreme Court precedents is not limited to small-city sheriffs.  U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken of Oakland, California, said while ruling on a Batson motion, "I don't know that, number one, Batson applies in civil."  Yes, it does.  See Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete (1991), a precedent twice as old as Lawrence.  Judge Wilken said she also did not know if Batson applied to sexual orientation, which is indeed an open question. Adam Liptak has this story in the NYT.

News Scan

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FBI Arrests 150 Pimps in Sex-Trafficking Raid: The FBI conducted a nationwide sting in 76 U.S. cities over the weekend targeting pimps who prey on children, resulting in 150 arrests and 105 teenagers being rescued.  Fox News reports that the youngest victim rescued was only nine years old, and that child sex trafficking is one of the most prevalent and violent crimes in our country today.  The sting was conducted under the FBI's "Innocence Lost" initiative; a campaign developed in 2003 which is aimed at rescuing children from sex-trafficking rings.

Man Robbed After Being told "This is for Trayvon Martin": A white man was robbed of his phone and wallet in Washington D.C. over the weekend, and police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.  Alan Duke of CNN reports that three black men approached the victim and told him "this is for Trayvon Martin" before robbing him early Saturday morning.  The alleged robbery is one of many revenge-type incidents surrounding the acquittal of George Zimmerman two weeks ago. 

Federal Murder Witness Killed Prior to Testifying: Gregory Sawyers, a Kentucky man named as a witness in a federal murder trial, was murdered over the weekend after surviving two prior attempts on his life.  WLWT reports that Sawyers was set to testify against Ricky Kelly, a man facing murder for hire and racketeering charges in an effort to protect a large drug trafficking organization.  Court documents indicate that Sawyers was shot multiple times in 2005 and was beaten in a county jail in 2010 while he was being held as a protected federal witness.

What Repentance Actually Looks Like

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Sentencing in criminal cases often devolves into a wailing confession by the defendant about how sorry he is.  Some of our readers have seen this year after year.  My own experience is that the defendant is plenty sorry he got caught and that he and his lawyer couldn't bamboozle their way out of getting convicted, but that's about the extent of it.  If defendants had any actual misgivings about their behavior, they wouldn't have undertaken it to begin with.  (This is borne out by the sky-high recidivism rate  --  about two-thirds, if I'm not mistaken  --  showing that they're not sorry enough to refrain from going right back to doing it).

Maj. Nadal Hasan, the Ft. Hood terrorist and mass killer about whom I have written frequently, has a refreshingly different attitude.  He hasn't been convicted yet since, among other things, he persuaded the United States military to turn itself into a pretzel with three years of litigation about whether he had to shave his beard.  Hasan eventually bullied the government into allowing the beard.

The trial is now set to begin on August 6, assuming no more facial hair problems.  It seems likely that Hasan will be convicted, and (obviously) then sentenced, since there are oodles of evidence showing his guilt.  When sentencing rolls around, it seems likely that, for once, we're going to see an honest rendition of how "sorry" the defendant actually is.  This story notes that Hasan has given an interview in which, among many other delicious things, he starts off by apologizing for ever having signed up to be a member of the Great Satan's army:

"My complicity was on behalf of a government that openly acknowledges that it would hate for the law of Almighty Allah to be the supreme law of the land," the 42-year-old Army psychiatrist said. Hasan then apparently asked if this was a war on Islam. "You bet it is," he said. "I participated in it."

Ladies and gentlemen, in many ways this trial will be tragic and awful, but in some ways it's going to be a hoot.

News Scan

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Ohio Kidnapper Accepts Plea Deal to Avoid Death Penalty: Ariel Castro, the man accused of holding three women captive in his home for almost 10 years, accepted a plea deal today that will allow him to avoid the death penalty.  Ashley Fantz of CNN reports that Castro will now be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole plus an additional 1,000 years in prison.  Castro was originally charged with 977 counts, but under the plea deal he agreed to plead guilty to 937 of the charges.

Convicted Murderer Executed in Alabama: Andrew Lackey, an Alabama man convicted of  beating and shooting an elderly man to death in 2005, became the first inmate executed in Alabama since 2011.  The Associated Press reports that Lackey dropped all of his sentencing appeals, and was executed after writing to the Alabama Supreme Court requesting that his death sentence be carried out.  

Convicted Sex Offender Arrested After Faking his own Death
: A convicted sex offender who failed to show up to his July 8 sentencing hearing in Ohio was found in Florida after authorities believed him to be dead.  WFTV reports that William Wigfield, who was convicted of raping a 14-year-old boy, skipped his sentencing hearing, cut off his GPS ankle monitoring device and fled the state.  Police believe Wigfield dumped the GPS monitor into a river in order to fake a suicide and impede their investigation.  

Missing Girl Found After Being kept in a Metal Box: According to a federal complaint filed earlier this week, a teenage girl reported missing from Los Angeles was sexually assaulted, kept inside of a metal box, and forced to take care of marijuana plants under the direction of two Sacramento men.  Joseph Serna of the LA Times reports that the girl was allegedly kept in the box for three days, and was only able to drink water occasionally from a hose.  If convicted, the two men face a sentence of 10 years to life in prison, but they have yet to be charged in the alleged abuse of the girl. 

News Scan

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Convicted Cop Killer Sentenced to Death for the Second Time: A New York federal jury sentenced Ronell Wilson, a man convicted of murdering two undercover police officers in 2003, to death for the second time after his original sentence was reversed on appeal in 2010.  Joseph Ax and Jessica Dye of WHTC News report that Wilson was sentenced to death for the murders in 2007, but the sentence was thrown out due to prosecutorial errors, although his murder conviction was upheld.  Wilson will be the first federal execution of a defendant from New York since 1954.

South Carolina Couple Charged with Murdering Sex Offender: A South Carolina couple has been charged with murder after police discovered they targeted a sex offender and killed him and his wife at their home.  The Associated Press reports that Jeremy Moody told authorities after he was arrested that they caught him just in time, because he planned on killing other people listed on the sex offender registry list that same day.  Authorities believe that the woman killed wasn't specifically targeted, but she was murdered simply because she was inside the home.

California Jails Overcrowded due to Prison Realignment:  California's prison realignment program aimed at reducing prison overcrowding has overwhelmed county jails and forced the early release of dozens of inmates every day.  Brad Branon of the Sacramento Bee reports that during the first nine months of 2012, county jails released inmates 120,000 times due to capacity limits.  Sheriffs in central valley counties have reported that releasing inmates early has created safety risks in their communities, and that the effects of AB 109 are contributing to the state's escalating crime rate. 
When it comes to crime issues, the California Legislature fails dismally in its function of representing the people of the state.  The Democrats have full control of the Legislature -- based on issues other than crime -- and the Democratic Party is in the full control of the moonbat lefties.  Among the people of the state, the combination of moderate Democrats with sense about crime plus conservatives and sensible independents equals a solid majority.  Even in the Legislature, there are some sensible Democrats.  They are mostly back-benchers, though.  The leadership keeps the Public Safety Committees of both houses stacked with pro-criminal majorities and chairs, so tough crime bills do not make it to the floor.

Tuesday, there was a special election in the 16th Senate District to replace a senator who bailed to take a better job.  The Republican candidate made crime one of the key issues of his campaign.  This flyer, for example, features in large print an endorsement from the county sheriff:  "Andy Vidak will fight to keep violent criminals in prison and not dumped into our communities."  The district has a staggering 19% Democratic registration advantage in its present configuration, yet the Republican candidate appears to have won by about 7%.

Part of the reason for the result, to be sure, is that this is a special election with a low turnout.  Law-and-order messages resonate with people who place a high value on personal responsibility, and such people tend to vote whether an election is exciting or not.  People who care less about responsibility make up a larger share of actual voters in general elections, especially those with a presidential election expected to be close.

Even so, this election should be wake-up call to the California Democratic Party.  If they can't win with a 19% registration advantage, there is some deep dissatisfaction with the way they have been running the state.

And dumping criminals who should be in prison on communities is a big part of it.

News Scan

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Suspect in Young Girl's Death Captured After Shootout: Three weeks after a 6-year-old girl's body was found wrapped in a tarp in the middle of a northern Texas street, police finally identified the suspect as being her 17-year-old neighbor and arrested him after engaging in a shootout at his home.  Fox News reports that an officer was being treated for a gunshot wound to the leg and the suspect, Tyler Holder, is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head after authorities were forced to return fire.  Authorities believe that Holder sexually assaulted and suffocated the young girl before leaving her body in the middle of the road near her home.

Federal Court Rules States may Keep Lethal Injection Drug: A federal court ruled in the favor of several states and decided that they won't need to surrender their  lethal-injection drug supply despite the fact that the drugs were imported illegally.  Kevin O'Hanlon of the Lincoln Star Journal reports that states were forced to buy the lethal-injection drug, sodium thiopental, oversees after U.S. manufacturers quit producing it due to death-penalty opposition coming from their over-seas customers.  The court also decided that the FDA will no longer be allowed to accept shipments of the drug to the U.S. in the future.  Our Foundation filed a brief in this case encouraging Tuesday's holding.

NY Child Pornography Charges to be Dropped After Search Warrant Error: A New York man facing child pornography charges after more than 100 videos were seized off of his home computer may walk free because the search warrant executed by police listed the wrong address.  Fox News reports that Yuri Bershchansky was being pursued by Department of Homeland Security agents who "accidentally switched" the number of his apartment when writing out the details of the search warrant.  Prosecutors are reviewing their options, and may appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Woman Found to be Posing as a Pro-Zimmerman Rally Supporter: A Texas woman who generated a lot of controversy after holding a sign that said "We're racist & proud" at a pro-Zimmerman rally appears to have been planted there to draw negative attention.  Jim Hoft of The Gateway Pundit reports that the protestor, Renee Vaughan, has worked for a "far left environmental group" and was attempting to smear the pro-Zimmerman campaign by saying things like "we're better because we're white."  When asked if she was a racist by a reporter Vaughn replied  "there are people here who are racist and apparently think that's OK. I'm not one of them. I'm being sarcastic."     

What Defense Lawyers Really Think

Pop quizzes keep the blood moving, so here's another:  What prominent lawyer said the following about the Trayvon Martin trial?

I am disappointed by the jury's verdict and hoped that despite the lousy job the DA's office did during the trial, they'd find something to hang a conviction on. This certainly wouldn't be the first time that someone is found guilty with something less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and I admit that such a result would not have bothered me.

You might be thinking that this must be the improbable return of Mike Nifong.  You remember, the corrupt  Democratic DA from Durham, NC, who indicted three white members of the Duke lacrosse team for a rape that never occurred?  Mr. Nifong hoped that the jury would "find something to hang a conviction on,"  even if the something turned out to be evidence he manufactured.  The reason he harbored such a hope is that he needed to whip up support among angry blacks  --  a big constituency for Durham Democrats  --  for his primary election race to retain his office. 

But alas, this time it's not Mike.
At City Journal, Heather MacDonald has this essay on President Obama's speech on the Martin/Zimmerman case and on race.  Her take is a bit different from the gushing reviews in most newspapers:

The only question about President Obama's surprise Trayvon Martin expostulation on Friday is whether it was the worst speech he's ever given or simply the worst race-related speech. Obama has now put the presidential imprimatur on the crudest kind of racial victimology, in the process diminishing his office and undermining his own record of occasionally speaking the truth about inner-city dysfunction.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today decided Cook v. FDA, the lethal injection drug importation case. CJLF filed an amicus brief in this case.  The point we briefed related to the portion of the order directing the FDA to recover the sodium thiopental previously imported and presently in the possession of the States.  Agreeing with our brief, the court held that the District Court had no authority to issue this part of the order.  By doing so, it adjudicated the interests of parties not before the court, the States, in violation of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19.

In the remainder of the opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the holding that the FDA was required by law to stop the importations at the border.  This part will likely have no immediate practical effect, because no States are presently importing lethal injection drugs as far as we know.  Even so, Congress should amend the statute.  The baseline requirement for FDA approval of drugs is that they be "safe" and "effective," and for lethal injection those requirements are mutually exclusive.

News Scan

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Murder Suspect Kills Cellmate in County Jail: A Florida man awaiting trial for a second-degree murder charge in the death of his girlfriend will now face an additional first-degree murder charge after allegedly murdering his cellmate three hours after he was placed in his cell.  Brittany Davis of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Scott Greenberg told fellow inmates that he would rather be executed on death row rather than spend his life in prison.  Both inmates were placed in protective custody based on their aggressive behavior while in jail.

Registered Sex Offender Arrested to Face Multiple Murder Charges: Michael Madison, a registered sex offender in Cleveland, will be charged today in connection with the death of three women after their bodies were found over the weekend.  NBC News reports that Madison has confessed to at least one of the murders, and indicated to detectives that he was possibly influenced by Ohio death row inmate Anthony Sowell.  Sowell, also a registered sex offender, was convicted of murdering 11 women in 2009.     

Convicted Felon Suspected in Murder Case: Washington police are looking for a convicted felon they believe is responsible for the murder of a four-year-old boy.  M. Alex Johnson for NBC News reports that the suspect, Trevor Braymiller, shot and killed his girlfriend's son on Sunday, and hasn't been seen since.  Braymiller has an extensive criminal record dating back to 2006 that includes several drug and weapons charges.

A Midsummer Morning's Orders List

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The U.S. Supreme Court issued this orders list this morning. Four stay applications in civil cases made to individual justices and referred to the Court are denied.  Brown v. Plata is not among them.
In an earlier entry, I discussed the single biggest lie being peddled from the Trayvon Martin story: That white bigotry gives rise to white violence against, and specifically white murder of, blacks. This is point-blank false.  The incidence of black-on-white murder is, proportionately, more than ten times that of white-on-black murder.  If one must think about it in this way, it's blacks doing the predation and whites being the prey, not the other way around.

This is part of another unpleasant truth no one seems eager to say out loud (this in spite of  --  or is it because of?  --  Eric Holder's insistence on an honest discussion of race).  The truth is that, proportionately, blacks commit vastly more crime than whites.

Occasionally this truth get spoken, or at least hinted at in a roundabout way.  But it almost always comes out, not as a call to take responsibility, but as the prologue to an excuse.  You could hear echoes of this in President Obama's recent remarks about the case.  The odd, ironic, and very revealing thing about the Big Excuse is how much it resembles the excuse Southerners made for more than a hundred years after the Civil War for the South's appalling if not sadistic treatment of black people.

Protesting the Trayvon Martin Verdict

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Pop quiz.  Who said the following:

The acquittal of the murderer of the teenage African American once again clearly demonstrated the unwritten, but systematic racial discrimination against racial, religious, and ethnic minorities in the US society...The court ruling has also seriously put under question the fairness of the judicial process in the United States.

a)  Jeremiah Wright, the President's longtime minister.
b)  Eric Holder, the President's Attorney General.
c)  Van Jones, former Special Adviser to the President on Environmental Quality.
d)  Al Sharpton, frequent White House guest of the President.
e)  Joe Biden, the President's second-in-command, with yet another blooper.

The Single Biggest Lie

As has become typical from our increasingly dishonest media, there are a large number of lies given currency in reporting any major story, and the Trayvon Martin story was certainly no exception. NBC got the ball rolling with its scandalous doctoring of the conversation between Zimmerman and the 911 dispatcher that made it seem that Zimmerman might be racist in his reaction to Martin (a claim no one made during the trial because there is no known basis for it).  The press then continued to reproduce smiling, handsome pictures of a 13 year-old Martin and a fat, thuggish Zimmerman long after more neutral pictures became available.

The danger is that we will miss the forest for such flagrant trees.  The forest  --  the 900-pound gorilla of a lie behind the reporting of this case  --  is the proposition that white-against-black malevolence, and white-against-black violence in particular, is the ugly, racist truth about America.

That proposition is designed to stoke white guilt, which, in a majority white country, is ultimately designed to undermine the moral confidence essential to enforcing our law.  

The problem is that the proposition is a bald-faced lie.
And now, for something completely different.

In the Plata case, the prisoners have filed their opposition to California Governor Brown's request to stay the order of the three-judge court directing yet further reductions in California's prison population.  Lyle Denniston has this post at SCOTUSblog and gives us a link to the opposition.

Remarkably, the prisoners contend that no stay is necessary because Brown can comply by sending excess prisoners to privately run (out of state) facilities, thereby not impacting public safety.

Normally, use of such facilities sends prisoner rights advocates into a conniption fit.  Here they are suggesting it.  It just gets curiouser and curiouser.

As for the amicus briefs (including one by yours truly for the four former governors), the prisoners try to brush them off in a footnote, saying the rules don't allow for them.  But, as noted in our motion, the Court has allowed such amicus briefs before.  We will see how that turns out.
Roll Call reports the Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is planning to hold hearings on state "stand your ground" laws in light of the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin.  The report begins:

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin on Friday announced he would hold a hearing on "Stand Your Ground" laws like the one that's generated so much controversy in Florida following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

The subsequent trial of George Zimmerman for second-degree murder in the case generated national attention and became a fixation of cable news. A Florida jury acquitted Zimmerman last weekend of all charges, but that has far from stopped the attention on state laws regarding self-defense.

This is just sheer politics; as Kent and others have pointed out repeatedly, Florida's stand your ground law had nothing to do with the Zimmerman-Martin case and was not mentioned at the trial by either side.   Such laws concern the extent of a person's duty to retreat when retreat is available.  But it wasn't in that case.  Uncontested evidence showed that Martin, a physically fit 17 year-old male, was on top of Zimmerman, beating him up.  Zimmerman "stood his ground" only in the preposterous sense that he was pinned on the sidewalk.

Still, Dick Durbin has a political point to make, so the hearing is on.

News Scan

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Captured Mexican Drug Lord Files for Court Protection: Trevino Morales, the leader of a notorious drug cartel in Mexico, was arrested in Mexico on Monday and is facing multiple charges including homicide, torture, and drug trafficking.  The Daily Mail reports that Morales, who has been linked to over 250 homicides, was notorious for torturing his victims and has asked for legal protection out of fear that he may be tortured while awaiting trial.  According to the indictment, Morales coordinated the shipment of hundreds of pounds of cocaine and marijuana to the U.S. each week, and is wanted in the United States on drug trafficking charges as well.

Chicago Lawmakers Increase Assault Weapons Ban: Chicago city council members voted unanimously to step up the city's assault weapons ban by prohibiting more weapons and adding stricter penalties.  The Associated Press reports that the council approved measures that include a list of 150 specific weapons that are prohibited and creating stricter penalties for gun crimes committed in "student safety areas", which are defined as being 1,000 feet from school grounds between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. when school is in session.  The changes come after Illinois' new concealed carrying law when into effect last week.

Gang Member's Tattoo Leads to Murder Conviction: Los Angeles gang member, Anthony Garcia, was convicted Wednesday on a first-degree murder charge after prosecutors used a chest tattoo that depicted a murder scene as evidence against him.  Jessica Hopper of ABC Bakersfield reports that Garcia was charged after a detective saw a photo of Garcia's chest tattoo that looked extremely similar to an unsolved murder he had worked on in 2004.  The prosecutor in the case identified Garcia's tattoo as a "non-verbal confession" to the crime, he could face life in prison when he is sentenced next month. 

News Scan

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Texas Executes Convicted Murderer: John Quintanilla, a Texas man convicted of murdering a retired sheriff's deputy in 2002, was put to death by lethal injection last night in a Huntsville prison.  Reuters reports that Quintanilla was sentenced to death in 2004 after instructing his attorney not to present mitigating evidence during the punishment phase of his trial.  He became the 9th inmate executed in Texas so far this year, another inmate is scheduled to be executed on Thursday. 

Boston Bomber Defense Requests Death Penalty Specialist: Lawyers for  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the man accused of being responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing, has made their second attempt to add a death penalty expert to their defense team.  The Associated Press reports that a motion to add death penalty expert David Bruck to their team back in April was denied, but that was when Tsarnaev only faced two charges that carried the death penalty, today he faces 17 potential death penalty charges.  Prosecutors have not said whether or not they are going to seek the death penalty in the case

Oregon Parole Board Denies Killer's Release: Convicted murderer Kevin Roper will stay in prison for at least another 2 ½ years after the state parole board denied his release based on the threat level that he poses to society.  Simina Mistreanu of The Oregonian reports that Roper was one of 30 killers affected by a 2011 Oregon Supreme Court ruling that the Parole Board waited too long to consider parole for some murderers.  Roper pleaded guilty in 1987 to aggravated murder in exchange for a life sentence.   

Liberals Discover Victims

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There is a whole bunch to say about the Zimmerman-Martin case, but one of the most notable, if least commented upon, is the new appreciation liberals seem (suddenly) to have developed for homicide victims.

Up to now, it has been hard to squeeze in a word edgewise about victims; liberals seem to just walk past them as inconvenient artifacts in murder cases.  The corpse gets hidden in the legal fog, while months or years of tax-payer financed investigation goes into plumbing every last detail about the psyche, childhood, schooling, brain lesions, Twinkie consumption, etc., etc., of the killer.

Not now.  Trayvon Martin has become all but a folk hero, while no one seems even a little interested in George Zimmerman's travails in elementary school.  My goodness!

This is not to disrespect Martin.  It is, to the contrary, to hope that liberals will remember, in the thousands of more conventional and no less tragic homicide cases to come, that a real, live human being has been wiped out, and that he deserves a place in our thoughts and in our law no less than the guy who did it.

News Scan

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Hispanic man Beaten in Alleged Zimmerman Revenge: Police in Baltimore are investigating claims that a Hispanic man was chased and beaten with a handgun by a group of black youths shouting, "This is for Trayvon."  Justin George of the Baltimore Sun reports that one of the youths beat the victim with a handgun while the others stomped and kicked him repeatedly.  Protests over the verdict have been held across the country, including one in Los Angeles last night that ended when 14 people were arrested after their actions became violent and destructive.

Ohio Parole Board Rejects Rare Clemency Plea: An Ohio man sentenced to die for stabbing his neighbor to death was denied clemency despite a rare plea from the prosecution.  The Associated Press reports that the newly elected county prosecutor made a plea for mercy, and had promised voters to reduce the number of death penalty charges when he ran for the position.  The governor has the final say concerning the execution, which is set for August 7. 

Grandfather Killed by Convicted Murderer on Day Release: A grandfather attempting to come the rescue of his neighbor during an attempted robbery was killed by a convicted murderer out on day release from a prison in England.  Victoria Ward and Tom Whitehead of The Telegraph UK report that the alleged killer, Ian McLoughlin, has served 22 years of his 25 year sentence and had been placed on a day release program prior to his parole date.  McLoughlin was released after his first murder in 1990, only to be convicted of murdering another man 18 months after being paroled. 

Here are two very different perspectives on the Martin/Zimmerman case from two black columnists:  Jonathan Capehart in the WaPo and Jason Riley in the WSJ.

Criminal Law at the Federal Level

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Audio and video from the Federalist Society's First Annual Executive Branch Review Conference are available here.  The criminal law panel, with the above title, features George Terwilliger, John Malcolm, and Mary Beth Buchanan.  Adam Liptak of the NYT moderates.

News Scan

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FBI Documents Indicate no Racial Bias in Zimmerman Case: Pursuing a civil rights violation charge against George Zimmerman may be difficult for the Justice Department due to a lack of evidence as cited by previously filed documents from the FBI.  Fox News reports that civil rights charges have been issued in the past with cases such as the Rodney King beating, but filing them in the Zimmerman case will be difficult due to the lack of evidence to support that he killed Trayvon Martin based on racial bias.  The FBI has already interviewed dozens of people in the case, and has found no evidence to indicate the killing of Martin was racially motivated.

Death Row Inmate Waives Clemency Hearing: An Oklahoma death row inmate scheduled to be executed in September has waived his right to a clemency hearing with the state's Parole and Pardon Board.  Tim Talley of the Associated Press reports that Anthony Banks was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death 34 years ago, and is also serving a life sentence for an unrelated killing he committed the year prior.  Banks is set to die by lethal injection September 10th, 2013.

Sex Offender Sneaks into Jail and Assaults Inmate: Former New York City inmate, Matthew Mantagrano, has been accused of sneaking back into jail and assaulting an inmate after spending more than a week inside of the facility.  James Daniel of Daily Mail reports that Mantagrano used a fake gold badge and impersonated a Corrections investigator to gain access to both the Manhattan Detention Center and Riker's Island jail.  Mantagrano allegedly assaulted and strip-searched an inmate, handed out cigarettes, and stole $5,000 worth of equipment from security officers.

Former California Governors Seek Inmate Release Delay: Four of California's former governors have joined Governor Brown in asking the U.S. Supreme for a stay in order to delay the release of almost 10,000 inmates.  Sam Stanton of the Sacramento Bee reports that the "friend of the court" brief was filed this morning by CJLF in response to an earlier decision made by a three-panel judge ordering the state to release 9,600 inmates by the end of the year.  The panel has ordered the release of thousands of inmates in order to address the issue of prison overcrowding.
In the wake of the Zimmerman acquittal, there is predictable talk about invoking the "dual sovereignty" loophole in the double jeopardy rule and prosecuting him for a federal civil rights violation.  (Update: Arian Campo-Flores, Lynn Waddell, and Ashby Jones have this story in the WSJ.  "The Justice Department said Sunday it would weigh whether to file federal criminal charges against George Zimmerman....")

A commenter to Bill's post on the verdict asks how that is possible in the absence of state action.  Good question.

The FBI has this page with plain-English explanations of the principal federal criminal civil rights laws.  (Well, plainer English, compared to the actual statutes.)

Because the federal government, unlike state governments, is one of enumerated powers, any law Congress passes has to have an identifiable authorization in the Constitution.  In United States v. Lopez (1995), the Supreme Court reversed a prosecution under the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 for lack of such a power.  Taking a gun to school did not have enough connection with interstate commerce to support a Commerce Clause argument for federal authority.  In United States v. Morrison (2000), the Court struck down a federal civil remedy for rape under the Violence Against Women Act.

Federal civil rights prosecutions against state actors (e.g., police officers) usually come under 18 U.S.C. §242, which the FBI summary describes thusly (emphasis added): "This statute makes it a crime for any person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom to willfully deprive or cause to be deprived from any person those rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the U.S."  The "color of law" element limits the act to people acting under authority of the State, bringing the statute within Congress's power under §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to enforce the prohibition on deprivation of rights by States.  "Color of law" is sometimes a stretch, but it is extremely doubtful it could be stretched far enough to cover Zimmerman.  So what's left?

Zimmerman Acquitted on All Charges

The WSJ has the story.  I expected this, as I said here.  I was far from the only one, of course.  There was no way the jury could find beyond a  reasonable doubt that Zimmerman had no objectively reasonable belief that he was  in imminent danger of grave bodily harm or death.  By themselves, the photographs of his swollen and bloody face, and the bloody marks on the back of his head, made it very, very difficult for the jury not to doubt the prosecution's version that Zimmerman was the officious aggressor throughout, and shot the physically superior Martin simply out of racial bigotry or spite.

It will be interesting to see how the usual defense mouthpieces react to this.  When Casey Anthony got a scandalous acquittal for murdering her two year-old, the liberal line was, hey, that's how the system works.  Better that 100 guilty defendants go free, etcetera.  We'll soon see if they have the same accepting attitude in this case, where the evidence of legal innocence was far stronger than in the Casey Anthony fiasco.

News Scan

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CA Governor asks Supreme Court to halt Release of 9,600 Inmates: Governor Jerry Brown asked Justice Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court to stay federal judicial panel's order requiring the release of 9,600 inmates back into California communities.  Patrick McGreevy and Paige St. John of the LA Times report that the federal order requires Brown to either begin preparing the release of thousands of inmates immediately, or come up with a different plan to solve the prison overcrowding issue.  The state argues that it needs more time to comply with the orders and believes that the release of thousands of inmates, including those who have been convicted of violent and serious offenses, is a dangerous solution.

California Counties Begin Holding Parole Hearings: Merced County Superior Court became the first local-level court in California to hold a parole hearing, a change required under the state's realignment law.  Ramona Giwargis of the Merced Sun-Star reports that Merced County held 8 parole-revocation arraignments yesterday, and some county officials are worried about the additional workload they will be presented with.  AB 109, California's prison realignment law, shifts the responsibility from the state to the county level for parole revocation hearings.

Convicted Murderers Released from Prison on a Technicality: More than a dozen convicted murderers in Maryland have been released from prison after the state overturned their convictions due to improper jury instructions in their cases.  Monique Griego of CBS Baltimore reports that the ruling applies to individuals convicted of crimes prior to 1980, and could entitle hundreds of inmates to new trials.  Prosecutors have the option of either retrying the case or setting the inmates free and placing them on probation.  So far, 13 inmates have been released, and the state plans to release seven more next month.

Zimmerman Jury Instructions

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The Florida courts have posted the jury instructions in the Zimmerman case. The instruction on justifiable use of deadly force is on page 12 of the PDF file.  See prior post.

Note the absence of any definition of "great bodily harm" in the instruction.

What Rehab Actually Looks Like

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Rehab is mostly a con, to the extent it's not a joke.  This is nowhere better illustrated than in the never-ending saga of Ms. Rehab herself, Lindsay Lohan.  I've put up so many posts about Ms. Rehab that I'm not going to try to link them, in part because today's post is about something very different.

The reason rehab is mostly a con is that it takes root in a fundamentally flawed premise  --  that, with the right prison counseling, government programs, employment opportunities, and generally a sufficient degree of Officially Mandated Compassion, wrongdoers will change.  

That is incorrect for the same reason much liberal thinking about crime is incorrect, to wit, it misconceives human nature.  Human beings can change, and they can be redeemed.  But it doesn't happen because of what the government does, no matter how elaborate, expensive or well-intended.  It happens, when it does, because some few people have the courage and honesty to face up to what they've done wrong, and the conscience and inner strength to do better.

That does not mean renting a sleaze-ball shrink to write a long report about how the miscreant has seen the light.  It does not mean taking a brief timeout from your shenanigans before holding a news conference to announce your latest bid to return to prominence, a' la Anthony Wiener, Elliot Spitzer and Mark Sanford.   What rehabilitation actually means is illustrated in today's piece in the Wall Street Journal.

News Scan

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Judge Decides Zimmerman Jury can Consider Manslaughter: The jury in George Zimmerman's second-degree murder case will now be able to convict him on the lesser charge of manslaughter when they begin their deliberations.  AP writers Mike Schneider and Kyle Hightower report that defense attorney Don West fought hard against the manslaughter charge being added so late in the trial, and believes that the jury should only be given two options; guilty of second-degree murder, or acquittal.  The prosecution had also asked for a third-degree murder charge to be an option as well based on the premise that Zimmerman committed child abuse when he killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, but the judge refused to allow it. 

California to Switch to One-Drug Executions
: California has ended legal efforts to enforce a three-drug method for lethal injections, and will now focus on a single-drug execution proposal.  Maura Dolan of the Los Angeles Times interviewed CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger for this story and reports that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will no longer challenge a previous appeals court ruling that blocked the three-drug method.  The last execution carried out in California was in 2006.

Saudi Princess Arrested in California on Human Trafficking Charge: Southern California police charged Meshael Alayban, a Saudi princess, with felony human trafficking for allegedly holding a woman against her will and forcing her to work at Alayban's home.  The Associated Press reports that the woman was hired in Kenya and brought to California by Alayban, along with four other women from the Philippines.  California voters passed a ballot measure last November aimed at increasing penalties in human trafficking cases, if convicted, Alayban faces up to 12 years in prison. 

New DOJ Function: Whipping Up Hate

The News Scan relays a report that the Department of Justice spent your tax dollars to whip up hate against a state defendant.  Of course it's not just any defendant.  It's George Zimmerman, the white/Hispanic fellow now on trial in Florida for killing a black teenager, Trayvon Martin.

I was in DOJ and in the US Attorney's Office for along time, both in career and political positions.  I find this story astounding, and grounds for demanding the Attorney General's resignation.  That the Department of Justice would support street demonstrations whose sole purpose was to incite prejudgment of a criminal defendant is beyond reprehensible.  Those running the Department who, in their prior (and future) lives as high-priced defense lawyers, bellowed at the "perp walk" and other government behavior they said was aimed to prejudice the defendant, should be hanging their heads in shame today.  Anyone care to bet whether they are?

Let's  be clear about what DOJ was doing.  It was not, contrary to its brazenly false claims, seeking to "calm racial divisions."  It was seeking to inflame them, which is why one of the demonstrations it backed was led by long-time fraudster and race huckster Al Sharpton.  And it was seeking to inflame them for a purpose, to wit, to curry favor with the most loyal part of the Administration's political base by trying a white man via the new "due process," race pandering street marches.

Zimmerman is probably going to be acquitted, but I don't blame the state prosecutors for putting him on trial.  There was a reasonable basis (although not by much) to suspect that he acted criminally when he shot to death the unarmed teen.  But DOJ's behavior is beyond excuse.  It's not lynching, but it grew up on the same street and has the same body odor.

News Scan

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Convicted Serial Rapist Set to Be Released: A California judge has ruled that convicted serial rapist Christopher Hubbert will be released in November from a state prison hospital in Los Angeles County.  CBS San Francisco reports that Hubbert has been convicted of raping 40 women throughout California and was institutionalized after state officials determined he had a severe mental disorder.  Hubbert has been paroled twice since his first conviction in 1972 and was rearrested and convicted both times after committing additional rapes.  

Ft. Hood Defendant Won't Question Potential Jurors: Army psychiatrist and accused murderer Maj. Nidal Hasan declined to question potential jurors as the jury selection process got underway.  The Columbus Dispatch reports that Hasan, who is acting as his own defense attorney, didn't take any notes or speak with his former defense attorneys during the first day of jury selection.  Hasan has been indicted on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.  He faces the death penalty or life without parole if found guilty.

Anti-Zimmerman Protests Facilitated by DOJ: The Community Relations Services (CRS), a unit within the Department of Justice, was sent to Florida in 2012 in order to provide assistance for anti-George Zimmerman protests.  Patrick Howley of The Daily Caller reports that the CRS spent thousands of dollars after providing security at several marches, demonstrations, and rallies related to the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.  The CRS was established by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and was designed to be a 'peacemaker' during community conflicts.

News Scan

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30,000 California Inmates Refuse Meals: Inmates in two-thirds of California's prisons began refusing meals yesterday, in what could be the largest prison protest in state history.  Paige St. John of the Los Angeles Times reports that along with refusing meals, over 2,000 inmates refused to attend their prison classes or go to work.  The protest originated in Pelican Bay, and is centered around state policies that allow inmates to be placed in isolation indefinitely if they are found to be affiliated with prison gangs.

Death Penalty May Be Difficult in Boston Bombing Case: Seeking the death penalty for accused Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may be a very difficult task in a state that abolished the death penalty almost 30 years ago.  Pete Yost of the Associated Press reports that even though Tsarnaev is being charged in federal court, the jury pool will still come from Massachusetts, a state that has repeatedly rejected efforts to reinstate the death penalty.  Tsarnaev has been indicted on 30 charges, 17 of which carry the death penalty or life in prison.

Oklahoma Man Arrested After Hiding in a Septic Tank: Police in Tulsa arrested a man hiding in the septic tank of a park restroom.  The Indy Channel News reports that Kenneth Enlow was arrested on peeping tom charges after a woman and her daughter went to use the restroom and saw him staring up at them from the septic tank underneath the toilet.  Enlow told police his girlfriend hit him in the head with a tire iron and dumped him in the toilet.

Connecticut Death Penalty Case Postponed: A judge delayed any further action in the new penalty phase for Eduardo Santiago, a man sentenced to death for murder in 2000.  David Owens of The Hartford Courant reports that Santiago's death sentence was overturned last year by the Connecticut Supreme Court after it was found that the original trial judge kept potentially mitigating information from jurors.  Connecticut abolished the death penalty in 2012 for all future cases, but required inmates on death row prior to the repeal to serve out their death sentence.  Santiago has challenged the law and believes being put to death after the 2012 repeal constitutes as cruel and unusual punishment.  CJLF has filed an amicus brief in the case.

News Scan

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Iowa Family Pushes for New One-Strike Law: The father of an Iowa girl found murdered last month has partnered with the Chelsea's Light Foundation, a California non-profit that fought for stricter sentencing laws for sex offenders, in an effort to introduce a new "one-strike" law in the Iowa legislature.  Emily Schettler of the Des Moines Register reports that 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard was kidnapped and murdered by a registered sex offender, who previously served 20 years in prison for kidnapping and assault.  The new "one-strike" law would mirror a law passed in California and would allow judges to sentence sex offenders who commit violent crimes against children to life in prison without parole.

Condoms for Inmates Bill Clears CA Assembly: A bill that would require California prisons to make condoms available to inmates has passed the state Assembly and is awaiting consideration by the state Senate.  Oakland Democrat Rob Bonta, the bill's author, believes that the free condoms will help reduce STDs among inmates.  Don Thompson of the Associated Press reports that if AB999 passes, it would go into effect in 2015 making California the second state to provide prison inmates with free condoms.  Presently, it is a felony offense for inmates to have sex while incarcerated, and condoms are considered to be contraband in California prisons.

New Indiana Law May Benefit Convicted Felons: As of July 1, juveniles convicted of felonies in Indiana may receive a dual sentence:  one to be served while they are a juvenile, and the other to be served when they turn 18.  Michael Clouse of WTHI-TV reports that juveniles convicted of felonies will have a re-evaluation hearing prior to turning 18 in order for a judge to consider their mental state and maturity before requiring them to serve out their adult sentence.  Based on the re-evaluation hearing, judges could suspend the adult sentence or enforce an alternative sentence.

Justice Ginsburg Not Retiring

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Joan Biskupic reports for Reuters:

At age 80, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, leader of the Supreme Court's liberal wing, says she is in excellent health, even lifting weights despite having cracked a pair of ribs again, and plans to stay several more years on the bench.

In a Reuters interview late on Tuesday, she vowed to resist any pressure to retire that might come from liberals who want to ensure that Democratic President Barack Obama can pick her successor before the November 2016 presidential election.
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Brushing off political calculations, she said, "It really has to be, 'Am I equipped to do the job?' ... I was so pleased that this year I couldn't see that I was slipping in any respect." She said she remains energized by her work as the senior liberal, a position she has held since 2010 when Justice John Paul Stevens retired, and calls being a justice "the best job in the world for a lawyer."

She has previously said she wanted her tenure to at least match the nearly 23 years of Justice Louis Brandeis, which would get her to April 2016, and said she had a new "model" in Justice Stevens, who retired at age 90 after nearly 35 years on the bench.

Reinforcing the message that she might not leave before her health requires it, she mused of another former colleague, "I wonder if Sandra regrets stepping down when she did?"

The Comment Nails It

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Blogger Neuroskeptic has another great entry on pseudoscience parading as real science.  An apt comment sums it up:


was designed to stimulate connections between the major brain areas (bringing together touch, sound, visual, and proprioceptive stimuli)...through combined progressive perceptual, cognitive, and motor exercises that coordinate sensory and cognitive systems, ultimately targeting the connections that affect a child's ability to attend, recognize, recall, and react.


Yeah, that's called growing up.

Need Money to Fund More Prison Space?

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We can start getting some here.

This is not to mention IRS instructors for the "Cupid Shuffle."

When I was at DOJ, we were uneasy about spending $25 for ginger ale, pretzels and dip for someone's retirement party.  I guess that was then.
To the surprise of no one, the three-judge panel in the Plata case denied a stay of their order for California to release another 10,000 prisoners.  Sam Stanton and David Siders have this story for the SacBee.  The panel is comprised of three of the most pro-criminal, anti-law-enforcement judges in the entire federal judiciary.

The releases that followed the passage of the "realignment" program, beginning in October 2011, have been followed by substantial increases in crime in California at a time when crime rates nationally are nearly flat.  See this post and this report.

Gov. Brown intends to seek a stay from the Supreme Court.  The request goes to Justice Kennedy, as the designated circuit justice for the Ninth Circuit, which includes California and eight other western states. 

In a case of this magnitude, he might refer the request to the full court for decision.  That is routinely done in capital cases, and this case is a matter of life and death to a great many people.  We don't know the names of the additional people who will be murdered if the order is enforced, but they are real nonetheless.

News Scan

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Cleveland Kidnapping Suspect Found Competent for Trial: Ariel Castro, the man charged with kidnapping three women and holding them captive for almost 10 years, has been found to be mentally competent to stand trial.  The Associated Press reports that prosecutors have planned a meeting for next week to discuss the possibility of seeking the death penalty.  Castro has pleaded not guilty to more than 320 charges and is set to go on trial August 5.

Man Commits Suicide in Courtroom After Guilty Verdict: A man took his own life in a Missouri courtroom after the jury found him guilty on sexual assault charges against a 14-year-old girl.  Macradee Aegerter of Fox KC News reports that Steve Parsons was facing a maximum sentence of 7 years in prison, but took his own life by ingesting a deadly amount of cyanide before the judge could sentence him.  Parsons had 100 grams of cyanide shipped overnight to his house last week prior to the trial.
At first, the Zimmerman/Martin case was all about race.  But now it's not, says this article in the WaPo.

Next, it was going to be about Florida's "stand your ground" law.  But it's not.  The prosecution's best witness says Martin had Zimmerman pinned on the ground and was beating him in a mixed martial arts "ground and pound" maneuver.  See ABC story.  Retreat wasn't an option.

It appears that in the end this much-ballyhooed case will be a regular self-defense case.  Florida's self-defense statute (§776.013(3)) says:

A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
Aside from the "no duty to retreat" language, inapplicable to this case, this is standard self-defense law, the same as most states.

However disagreeable Zimmerman's acts of following Martin and confronting him may have been, they were not criminal.  If Martin is the one who crossed the line from verbal confrontation to physical assault, as appears to be the case, then what is left to argue about?  It looks like the key issue is "great bodily harm."  How much injury do you have to be in danger of before you can shoot the assailant?

Salinas Podcast

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The Federalist Society has a podcast, by CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger, on the Supreme Court's decision in Salinas v. Texas on June 17.

New Clerk at SCOTUS

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The US Supreme Court issued this press release yesterday:

Scott S. Harris, Legal Counsel at the Supreme Court of the United States, has been named the Court's new Clerk, effective September 1, 2013.   Harris will be the 20th Clerk of the Court.  He will replace William K. Suter, who will retire on August 31, 2013, after serving 22 years in that position.
Tony Mauro has this post at BLT.

The affable Harris has been counsel to the court for 11 years, a low-profile but important position at the court. As the high court's in-house counsel, he has been involved in a range of legal issues, including routine litigation and disputes over protests on court property. The legal counsel also provides support on "a variety of case-related issues," the news release stated.
For the nonlawyers among our readers, the clerk of the court is much higher-level position than the term "clerk" normally implies.  At SCOTUS, the clerk runs pretty much everything except the decision of the cases.

News Scan

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Texas Parole Officers Charged in Bribing Scheme: Four parole officers from Houston, Texas have been indicted after accepting bribes from parolees that they were supposed to be supervising.  Alexander Supgul of Fox Houston reports that the officers accepted bribes of $1,000-$3,000 from parolees in order to allow them to continue their criminal behavior without fear of being arrested.  If convicted, the officers face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Traffic Stop Leads to Murder Arrest: A registered sex offender pulled over for a routine traffic violation was arrested in Missouri on murder charges linking him to a Las Vegas cold case.  Rochel Goldblatt and Colton Lochhead of the Las Vegas Review-Journal report that Jasper Goddard was arrested after a warrant was issued naming him as the suspect in a 1986 sexual assault and murder of a 7-year-old girl.  An arrest warrant was issued after DNA from the crime scene was entered into a national database, linking Goddard to the crime.  A Missouri law requires all convicted sex offenders to give a DNA sample.

Reefers and Madness

We can yuck it up all we like laughing at that ridiculous old propaganda film, but the inconvenient scientific truth is that there really is a connection between reefers and madness.  Dr. Samuel T. Wilkinson of the Yale School of Medicine has this article in the WSJ.

Though they receive little attention in the legalization debate, the scientific studies showing an association between marijuana use and schizophrenia and other disorders are alarming. A 2004 article in the highly respected British Journal of Psychiatry reviewed four large studies, all of which showed a significant and consistent association between consumption of marijuana (mostly during teenage years or early 20s) and the later development of schizophrenia. The review concluded that marijuana is a "causal component," among others, in the development of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

A 2007 study in the Lancet, a British medical journal, concludes that using marijuana increases the risk of young people developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia. This risk is greatest--up to a 200% increase--among those who use marijuana heavily and who start using at a younger age.

On This Day In History

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In 1776, the Continental Congress resolved that the United States of America would be an independent republic, free of British imperialism.  They took two more days to hash out the accompanying Declaration.

Exactly two centuries later, the United States Supreme Court partially freed republican government from its own act of judicial imperialism.  In Gregg v. Georgia and two of its companion cases, the Court held that revised, guided-discretion capital sentencing statutes fixed the constitutional problem the Court had fabricated discovered four years and a few days earlier in Furman v. Georgia.

Some people actually think that Gregg was wrong in rejecting the argument that the death penalty is unconstitutional in all cases, despite the unambiguous words of the Constitution.  It says, "nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law...."  It does not say "nor be deprived of liberty or property without due process of law or life under any circumstances."  If it meant that, it would say that.

Anyhow, Tony Mauro reports at BLT on an annual four-day protest from the June 29 anniversary of Furman to the July 2 anniversary of Gregg.  Some of the protestors "dramatize their opposition to the death penalty" by fasting.  Except they aren't really fasting; they are on a liquid-only diet.  How "dramatic" is that?  It's half-baked.  It's misrepresentation, saying they are fasting when they are not.  Kind of like most of their arguments.  Kind of like the "innocence list" that one does not have to be innocent to get on.

If they are going to have this annual protest, though, I commend them on their timing.  The Supreme Court's terms don't run as late in the year as they did in the 70s, so the justices have mostly departed for more favorable climates and don't see the protest.

News Scan

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Jail Violence Increases Under Realignment: Jails in Riverside County are gradually becoming more dangerous as "non-violent" inmates are being released from state prisons and sent to finish out their sentences in county jails.  Richard K. De Atley of the Press-Enterprise reports that Riverside County jails are not only dangerous for staff but for inmates as well, citing a 100% increase in inmate attacks on one another and a 50% increase on inmate attacks against jail staff since 2011. Realignment inmates make up almost 25% of the inmate population in Riverside County jails. 

Parole Revocation Requested Prior to Arkansas Murder
: An Arkansas parolee has been charged in the murder of 18-year-old Forrest Abrams.  The Associated Press reports that a parole officer recommended a parole revocation hearing just 8 days prior to the murder, but the suspect was allowed to remain free in the community.  The parolee, Darrell Dennis, had been arrested 14 times and charged with 10 felonies since being released from prison in 2008.

Connecticut Cannibalism Trial to Begin: A Florida man charged with killing and then eating parts of a homeless Connecticut man is expected to use an insanity defense during his trial.  The Associated Press reports that Tyree Lincoln Smith killed the man and then consumed part of the victim's brain and one of his eyes in a nearby cemetery.  Smith's attorneys plan to file an insanity claim; if convicted, he faces up to 60 years in prison.

Gettysburg Sesquicentennial

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This week is the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg, one of the pivotal events of American history.  George Will has this column at the WaPo.  Historian Allen Guelzo has this article at the WSJ.

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