January 2014 Archives
Bill de Blasio won the mayoralty of New York by running a demagogic campaign against the New York Police Department. He has now compounded the injury by dropping the city's appeal of an equally deceitful court opinion that found that the department's stop, question, and frisk practices deliberately violated the rights of blacks and Hispanics. De Blasio may thus have paved the way for a return to the days of sky-high crime rates.
The First Circuit only has six "active" judges. Three of them were on the panel and split 2-1. (Opinion here.) To get a majority, the DoC will have to pick up all three of the others. I'm not terribly optimistic.
If rehearing en banc is denied, DoC can file a certiorari petition with the Supreme Court, which may be the main plan.
For Liz Norden, it's one small step forward.
Her sons, JP and Paul, each lost a leg in the bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 250 at the April 15 race.
"I just am relieved that it's going forward in the right direction, one step forward in the recovery process, just that the option is out there on the table for the jurors, if that's the way it goes," she told CNN's The Situation Room.* * *
Italian Court Finds Amanda Knox Guilty of Murder for Second Time: An Italian appeals court has overturned Amanda Knox's not guilty verdict, sentencing her to 28 ½ years in prison for the murder of her former roommate, Meredith Kercher. The Associated Press reports that Knox, who was originally found guilty for the murder in 2009, had her conviction overturned in 2011 and was able to return to the U.S. Italy's supreme court later vacated that decision and sent the case back for a third trial. Knox, who has no plans to return to Italy, will appeal her conviction.
Convicted Cop Killer Arrested for Attempted Murder: A Tennessee man who pled guilty to killing a Memphis police officer, and was later freed after a retrial, is back behind bars after being accused of trying to kill again. Nick Kenney of WMC TV reports that 39-year-old Timothy McKinney, who was originally sentenced to death for the murder of a police officer, had his conviction overturned and pled guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for his release after both of his retrials resulted in hung juries. Six months after his release McKinney is back behind bars after police say he entered a convenience store last week and fired several shots, injuring two store employees and leaving an innocent teenager in critical condition. He is facing several charges including attempted first degree murder.
Griffin has been in prison since 1970 and was validated as an Aryan Brotherhood member in 1979. Gang members can and do commit crimes while in prison, sometimes within the prison and sometimes by arranging them on the outside. Griffin was therefore confined to the secure housing unit, known as the SHU. He petitioned for release, claiming he had sworn off the gang and was a changed man.
"Procedurally, this case is a mess" (p. 17). I'm sure judges say that a lot in chambers, but it's quite another thing to read it in the opinion.
Justice Dept. to Seek Death Penalty for Boston Bomber: The Justice Department has finally announced they will seek the death penalty against accused Boston Marathon bombing suspect, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev. Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times reports that Tsarnaev, who is accused of killing four people and injuring more than 260 others, has pled not guilty but has admitted to having some involvement with the attack. Since the federal government reinstated the death penalty in 1988, it has only executed three people, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
NY Will Settle Stop-And-Frisk Lawsuit: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has revealed that an agreement has been reached between the city and civil rights lawyers over issues surrounding the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policies. Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times reports that the policy will be reformed and a federal monitor will oversee the stop-and-frisk practices after a federal judge ruled that police officers were using the stops as a form of racial profiling. The federal monitor will be in charge of overseeing policy changes and developing training materials to better train officers on the issue of racial profiling.
Obama to Commute More Drug Sentences: The Justice Department has announced a plan to expand upon President Obama's efforts to commute the sentences of low-level drug offenders in order to release them from prison. Maya Rhodan of Time Magazine reports that the Obama administration has been working the last few years on sentencing guidelines and the handling of so-called low-level drug offenders, focusing primarily on the sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine. In order for an inmate to be eligible for early release, they must be a non-violent offender with no connections to large scale drug organizations.
Maybe not. National Review Franklin Center Fellow Jillian Kay Melchior appears in this video interview with some disturbing findings.
Attorney General Eric Holder today released the following statement regarding the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev:
"After consideration of the relevant facts, the applicable regulations and the submissions made by the defendant's counsel, I have determined that the United States will seek the death penalty in this matter. The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision."
Update: Jon Kamp and Devlin Barrett have this article in the WSJ on the decision.
"Flying from Nassau, Bahamas 2 NY. TSA 'random selects' my 5 month old daughter 4 a pat down. I am not kidding. #travelinginUSisadisgrace."The TSA is, of course, a part of the United States Department of Homeland Security. The TSA does not do the airport screenings in the Bahamas for the obvious (to persons of sense) reason that the Bahamas are not part of the United States. The esteemed (by many, though I can't fathom why) Mr. Baldwin was apparently unaware that he was in a foreign country being screened by an agency of a foreign government. So his hashtag says traveling in the United States is a disgrace because of an incident that occurred outside the United States completely out of the control of the U.S. government.
Upon this being pointed out, his "correction" says, "I guess what I'm saying is: Traveling in the US is a pain in the ... ass." Ms. Saad notes, "Still not the U.S., though, Alec."
A Wisconsin father convicted of abuse for starving his teenage daughter down to 68 pounds was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison.
Before being sentenced by Dane County Circuit Judge Julie Genovese, the 42-year-old man read a statement insisting his daughter suffered from severe emotional and behavioral problems that he couldn't handle, that his job as a trucker kept him away from home and that he didn't notice how thin she had become.
Hard to disagree with that. Kids who get starved can indeed develop "emotional and behavioral problems." And how could a man be expected to notice that a 68 pound teenager was thin? Gads, our society is sooo judgmental.
But it was this part that caught my eye:
The man's attorney, Jessa Nicholson, countered he deserved probation. He already has lost his family and his job, his wife is in prison and his reputation has been destroyed, she said.
"Apparently we are still a society that favors punishment," she told reporters after the hearing.
It's all true. When a father starves his daughter nearly to death, "we are still a society that favors punishment."
Honestly, is there something these people won't say?
Also, the stay order is unusual in that Justice Alito issued it alone. Congress long ago vested the stay authority in individual justices, but in capital cases the assigned circuit justice routinely refers the applications to the full court. It could be that given the last-minute nature of the application, Justice Alito took an informal poll of his colleagues and then acted according to the view of the majority, or it could be that there just wasn't time to even do that.
The Attorney General of Missouri has issued this news release:
Jefferson City, Mo. - At approximately 9:30 p.m., the United States Supreme Court issued a temporary stay of the execution of Herbert Smulls. The Court is expected to rule tomorrow on two petitions pending before it, and could then lift the stay for the execution to proceed. The Attorney General's office will update the media as appropriate throughout the coming day.Update: The Supreme Court has entered this order:
The application for stay of execution of sentence of death presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied. The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied. The order heretofore entered by Justice Alito is vacated.Update 2: See Bill's later post.
S.F. Plans to Distribute Free Crack Pipes: Activists are planning to hand out free crack pipes to San Francisco drug users despite heavy opposition from city government officials, including Mayor Ed Lee. Holly Quan of CBS San Francisco reports that the group plans to hand out 25-50 clean pipes at an exchange event in March, a move that violates both state and federal drug paraphernalia laws. The city of San Francisco already hands out over 2 million clean needles every year to Heroin users in an effort to reduce the amount of users contracting HIV from dirty needles.
Louisiana to Switch Lethal Injection Drugs for Upcoming Execution: The Louisiana Department of Corrections has made the decision to switch to the same two-drug lethal injection combination used earlier this month in Ohio for the execution of Dennis McGuire. Ed Payne and Dave Alsup of CNN report that the Department of Corrections announced the switch after efforts to obtain pentobarbital were unsuccessful. The new combination to be used is midazolam; a sedative, and hydromorphone; a painkiller. Louisiana death row inmate Christopher Sepulvado, who was sentenced to death in 1992 for the murder of his 6-year-old stepson, is scheduled to be executed February 5.
The allegation is that McGuire told prison guards about this, but then said he would not do it.
State prison records released Monday say McGuire told guards that Lowe counseled him to make a show of his death that would, perhaps, lead to abolition of the death penalty. But three accounts from prison officials indicate McGuire refused to put on a display.
"He wants me to put on this big show in front of my kids, all right when I'm dying!" McGuire is reported as having told one guard. "I ain't gonna do this. It's about me and my kids, not him and his cause!"
I don't believe there was any actual faking. In addition to McGuire's statement, there is a more basic reason. He couldn't fake for the same reason he couldn't feel pain. The procedure began with a massive dose of sedative.
The Office of the Public Defender lifted the attorney's suspension after "an internal review failed to substantiate the allegation." I don't think the public should settle for that. Public defender's offices in many places have developed a fanatical anti-death-penalty culture. We should not trust an internal review.
Claim: Inmate Faked Suffocation During Execution: The attorney for Dennis McGuire, an Ohio man executed nearly two weeks ago, has been temporarily suspended after it was revealed the McGuire told prison guards that his attorney told him to exaggerate the pain felt during his execution. The Associated Press reports that McGuire, who was sentenced to death for raping and killing a pregnant woman in 1989, told guards that his attorney wanted him to feign suffocation during his execution in the hope that it would lead to the abolishment of the death penalty. The execution, which used a new combination of drugs never tried before in the U.S., sparked controversy after members of McGuire's family sued the state claiming he suffered undue cruelty.
Criminal Free Under Realignment Suspected in Attempted Murder: Officers with the Solano County Sheriff's Department have arrested 32-year-old Nicholas Cornwell, who is currently on Post Release Community Supervision, after he was identified as the individual wanted in a brutal altercation that left another man with a critical stab wound to the neck. Ryan McCarthy of the Daily Republic reports that Cornwell, who already had a warrant out for his arrest for violating his PRCS, was arrested after officers saw him walking around wearing a bullet-proof vest. Cornwell was booked into county jail on charges of attempted murder, being a felon in possession of body armor, and violating terms of his release.
Mr. Barnes wins the Superfluous Adjective Award of the day, and is the front-runner for the year, for writing, "She's the only female member of Congress to give birth to three children while in office."
Pharmacy Boards Reject Execution Drug Complaint: Pharmacy boards in Oklahoma and Missouri have announced that they will not take action against an Oklahoma compounding pharmacy that has been producing lethal injection drugs for Missouri. Jeremy Kohler of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that attorneys for a Missouri death row inmate, Herbert L. Smulls, were seeking a 60-day stay based on the claim that the pharmacy is licensed in Oklahoma, not in Missouri where his execution is set to take place. The Board noted that they do not have jurisdiction over entities that obtain prescription medication, but only over those that dispense or distribute prescriptions in the state.
Man Found Unfit to Stand Trial For Brutal Murders: 26-year-old Mingdong Chen, a Chinese transient who came to the U.S. illegally in 2004, has been found unfit to stand trial for the murders of his cousin's wife and four children. Oren Yaniv of the New York Daily News reports that Chen, who is not a U.S. citizen, confessed to police that he murdered the woman and her four children with a large "restaurant style kitchen knife" because he believed the family was using him to get a green card. He is currently being medicated and will be reevaluated until he is fit to stand trial, if convicted, Chen faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Glass and the witnesses who supported his application stress his talent in the law and his commitment to the profession, and they argue that he has already paid a high enough price for his misdeeds to warrant admission to the bar. They emphasize his personal redemption, but we must recall that what is at stake is not compassion for Glass, who wishes to advance from being a supervised law clerk to enjoying a license to engage in the practice of law on an independent basis. Given our duty to protect the public and maintain the integrity and high standards of the profession (see Gossage, supra, 23 Cal.4th at p. 1105), our focus is on the applicant‟s moral fitness to practice law. On this record, the applicant failed to carry his heavy burden of establishing his rehabilitation and current fitness.
Held: At least where use of the drug distributed by the defendant is not an independently sufficient cause of the victim's death or serious bodily injury, a defendant cannot be liable for penalty enhancement under [21 U.S.C.] §841(b)(1)(C) unless such use is a but-for cause of the death or injury.Opinion by Justice Scalia. No dissent. Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor note separately that they will not apply a rule of lenity to civil discrimination cases.
No new cases taken up in the orders list.
The head of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration is now openly criticizing Barack Obama for his recent comments over the question of marijuana legalization, according to multiple reports.
The Boston Herald reports it has sources who heard DEA chief Michele Leonhart "slam" Obama at last week's National Sheriffs' Association winter meeting in Washington. The Herald reports the sheriffs in Bristol County, Massachusetts, and Kern County, California, both reported that Leonhart was critical of the president's claim that marijuana's affects are no different than alcohol's.
I have known Michele for years. I met her during the Bush Administration, when I was Counselor to the DEA Administrator and she was Deputy Administrator.
I came to have great admiration for her incredible work ethic, knowledge and integrity. I am prouder than ever to be her friend.
Texas' execution of Edgar Tamayo for the murder of a U.S. police officer was heavily criticized by Mexican officials, who say their country rightly banned capital punishment years ago.
But if many people in Mexico had their way, the death penalty would be an option to deal with murderers such as Tamayo, surveys and criminal experts say.
Surveys by polling firms and media outlets in Mexico over the past seven years show that support for the death penalty has increased to a point where a majority would like to see it reinstated. Recent polls found 70%-80% would like to see the death penalty imposed for crimes such as murder and kidnapping, a rate above the majority support for the death penalty in the USA.
OK Executes Convicted Murderer: An Oklahoma man convicted of stabbing a woman to death more than 25 years ago was executed by lethal injection Thursday evening. The Associated Press reports that 52-year-old Kenneth Hogan, who claims to have acted in self defense, stabbed the woman more than 25 times in the back, neck, and chest before knocking over several items in her apartment in an effort to make police believe she was killed in a robbery attempt. Hogan, who is the second person to be executed by the state of Oklahoma so far this year, was granted a retrial in 2003. The second jury ultimately found him guilty and sentenced him to death for a second time.
CA Man Found Guilty of Murder at Retrial: A Northern California man who managed to escape the death penalty on appeal, has been convicted of murder again after acting as his own defense attorney in a bizarre retrial. Jennie Rodriguez-Moore of the Record Net reports that 58-year-old Blufford Hayes Jr., who was found guilty of first-degree murder in 1982, was noticeably absent throughout the duration of his retrial, only showing up to court for jury selection and the reading of his verdict. Hayes missed days of testimony where he was supposed to be acting as his own attorney. Prosecutors in the case worry that even though Hayes elected to be absent for most of his own trial, he may be able to win an appeal based on his absence and the fact that he didn't have an attorney. The District Attorney's office did not ask for a death penalty during the retrial, and sought a life without parole sentence. Sentencing for Hayes is set for March 3.
"If you don't use it in this kind of case, where someone puts down bombs down in crowds, then in what kind of case do you use it?" asked Aitan Goelman, a former Justice Department lawyer who helped prosecute Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
* * *Michael Sullivan, a former U.S. Attorney in Boston, agrees. "A jury should have the opportunity to consider death. This is a horrific terrorist act that occurred on our soil."
Florida Killer's Sentence may be Reduced: 25-year-old Ashley Toye, serving a life without parole (LWOP) sentence for a murder committed at the age of 17, may be released from prison early after a judge ruled she qualified for re sentencing. Laura Roberts of NBC 2 reports that Toye, one of 10 people charged in the brutal murder of two brothers in 2006, was sentenced to LWOP after being found guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, torture, and other felony charges. Toye's attorney appealed her sentenced after a 2012 Supreme Court ruling in Miller v. Alabama announced that state laws which require LWOP for juveniles are unconstitutional. Toye will still have to serve the mandatory 25 year sentence for the kidnapping which was not effected by the Miller ruling.
Smith & Wesson to End Sales in CA: Gun maker Smith & Wesson has announced it will no longer sell semi-automatic handguns in California due to new microstamping requirements that went into effect in 2013. Awr Hawkins of Breitbart reports that microstamping requires gun manufacturers to equip each firearm with a costly special firing pin that leaves a unique fingerprint on every bullet fired, a process that would be expensive to both the manufacturer and the consumer. Microstamping, which is virtually another form of gun registry, is still a relatively new concept and has yet to be proven to be a reliable form of identification.
Virginia House Votes to Revive Electric Chair: Virginia lawmakers, facing a shortage of available lethal injection drugs, are one step closer to making the electric chair the default method of execution. Fox News reports that since 1995, when the state began allowing inmates to choose their method of execution, only six of the 85 prisoners put to death chose electrocution over lethal injection. Virginia is one of only six states that still authorizes use of the electric chair, and in each of the six states, it is only used if requested by an inmate.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied petitions for certiorari and stays of execution in two orders, here and here. No dissent is noted for the first. Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor would have granted the stay in the second. That is the last-minute Atkins claim of supposed mental retardation. The Fifth Circuit held, correctly IMHO, that the District Court did not need to put up with this strategy of holding a claim until election eve.
Finally, we agree with the district court that Tamayo's claim was not brought within a reasonable time." See, e.g., In re Osborne, 379 F.3d 277, 283 (5th Cir. 2004). The [Supreme] Court's opinion in McQuiggin was issued on May 28, 2013, nearly 8 months ago. Tamayo waited until January 20, 2014, two days before his scheduled execution, to file this motion. The district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that this was not a "reasonable time" and in denying the motion. [Footnotes omitted.]
As of this time, a certiorari petition is before the Supreme Court as case No. 13-8358, and a stay application has been filed as No. 13A762. The Supreme Court denied relief in similar circumstances in 2011 in the Leal case, and nothing has changed since. See this post at that time.
The problem is considerably more complex than is commonly perceived. In a nutshell, I believe the United States should comply with the decision of the ICJ in the cases actually before it in Avena, which includes Tamayo, and not otherwise.
Secretary of State Asks to Delay Texas Execution: In a rare move, Secretary of State John Kerry has asked the state of Texas to delay the execution of a Mexican national convicted of murdering a police officer almost 20 years ago. The BBC reports that while Kerry believes that 46-year-old Edgar Tamayo was tried and prosecuted fairly, he has asked the Texas Department of Corrections to delay the execution out of concern for how the case could affect relations between the U.S. and Mexico and the negative impact it may have on the way Americans are treated overseas. Texas Governor Rick Perry is reportedly planning on allowing the execution to take place as scheduled later today.
Judge Sentences Mass Murder to Six Life Terms: A Tennessee judge has sentenced a man convicted of murdering six people in 2012 to spend six consecutive life sentences in prison. Nicole Emmett of AL.com reports that 32-year-old Zakkawanda Moss was found guilty of murdering six people, including an unborn child, after police say he robbed his former crime partner, and in an effort to hide the crime, proceeded to kill all of the witnesses. Moss' co-defendant, 36-year-old Henry Burrell, has also been charged with six counts of capital murder and is scheduled to begin trial early next month.
"Middle-class kids don't get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do," Mr. Obama added. Actually, almost nobody gets locked up for pot. Americans collectively smoke for three billion days a year and use has increased 38% since 2007, according to a Rand Corp. analysis of federal health survey data, yet there were merely about 750,000 marijuana-related "arrests" in the U.S. in 2012. In the official FBI statistics that can mean anything from a ticket or summons to a full booking.
Very few people are incarcerated for simple possession, which makes up about 88% of arrests. There are currently about 40,000 state and federal prisoners serving time for marijuana-related convictions, and most have violent criminal histories. Most judges must be persuaded that someone is a true danger to society to sentence prison for mere drug use.
I thought the best observation was this:
If the President believes that marijuana prohibition is an injustice, he has an obligation to propose his own legislative reforms, instead of unilaterally suspending the enforcement of federal drug laws that don't fit his political agenda. Why not start with the State of the Union address? Whatever Mr. Obama's personal views on marijuana, his picking and choosing from the U.S. code is far more corrosive to the rule of law and trust in government.
White House Drug Experts Contradict Obama's Pot Claims: President Obama's recent claim that marijuana is no worse than cigarettes or alcohol is directly contradicting research posted by the Office of National Drug Control, which is part of the White House. Ernest Istook of the Washington Times reports that the anti-drug website run by the White House has several pages devoted to explaining the serious dangers of marijuana, and even states that marijuana smoke contains "50-70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than does tobacco smoke." The Drug-Free America Foundation has labeled the statements made by the President as irresponsible, and anti-drug leaders are concerned that these types of statements may have negative repercussions with youth.
Supreme Court Rejects Death Row Inmate's Appeal: The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal filed by convicted murderer, Charles Rhines. The Argus Leader reports that Rhines, who challenged his conviction amid claims that South Dakota's execution protocol was inhumane, was convicted of murdering a 22-year-old donut shop employee during a botched burglary in 1992. Rhines also has a federal habeas corpus claim pending in federal district court.
More Crime in San Diego County Due to Realignment: County Supervisor Dianne Jacob warned the La Mesa County Chamber of Commerce to be prepared to see an increase in thefts, burglaries, and other offenses due to the effects of Realignment. The La Mesa Courier reports that in 2012, which was the first full year Realignment was in effect, the crime rate in La Mesa rose 11 percent and the property crime rate increased by 12 percent. Prison Realignment shifted more than 3,000 former state prison inmates to San Diego county, and three out of four of these offenders were labeled as being 'high risk' for reoffending.
Overcrowded Jail a Hot Issue in Political Race: The race for San Joaquin County Sheriff will be centered around the issue of jail overcrowding, a problem that has become a problem after passage of AB109, also known as Prison Realignment. Jennie Rodriguez-Moore of Record Net reports that the two frontrunners have different opinions on how to reduce overcrowding, with the incumbent seeking to build a $33.3 million long-term facility and the challenger suggesting more flexible modular buildings that can be moved around as inmate population fluctuates. The issue of overcrowding has forced the county to release inmates hours after they've been booked, which has caused increased crime throughout the region.
AL Bill Seeks to Expedite Executions: A bill introduced to the Alabama Legislature is seeking to speed up the death penalty process by shortening the amount of time between sentencing and execution. Kim Chandler of AL.com reports that the legislation, known as "The Fair Justice Act", would streamline the appeals process by requiring the filing of the direct appeal and state collateral review simultaneously. The bill is scheduled to be voted on as soon as Wednesday.
Family Outraged After Man Acquitted in Brutal Cold-Case: The parents of a teenage girl murdered 23 years ago are outraged after the man accused of brutally killing their 19-year-old daughter was acquitted and allowed to walk free. Lia Eustachewich and Laura Italiano of the New York Post report that while jurors in the case believed 54-year-old Edwin Alcaide was guilty of murder, they didn't believe that the evidence, which included a DNA match linking Alcaide to the victim's body, was enough for a conviction. Alcaide, who is a registered sex offender with a long criminal history, was linked to the murder when the case was re-opened in 2010 after a DNA sample collected from the victim's fingernails linked him to the case.
Mexican Vigilantes in Standoff with Military Forces: Federal forces in Mexico are trying to put an end to a group of armed vigilantes who have taken the law into their own hands in an effort to stop violent drug cartels. Catherine E. Shoichet of CNN reports that the vigilante groups have taken over small communities and told members of drug cartels and the federal government to stay out in order to avoid a violent confrontation. In an effort stop this, the Mexican government has sent in small groups of armed soldiers in an attempt at regaining control of the region.
When a Michigan middle-school teacher was denied $10,000 in severance pay last month, the local teachers union filed a grievance against the school board on his behalf. Given the union's mission to defend the rights of educators, this would appear to be routine. Not so fast: The teacher is a convicted sex offender.
Neal Erickson was sentenced in July to a 15- to 30-year jail term after acknowledging that he had sexual relations with a male student beginning when the boy was 14 years old. The school board denied him severance once he was charged. But the local chapter of the National Education Association thinks this criminal deserves his severance, which says a lot about the mindset of teachers unions, which are also trying to weaken a bipartisan bill in Washington that would help keep sexual predators out of schools.
The opponents regularly whine about "untested" methods of lethal injection without acknowledging that it is the opponents who have created the situation. The single-drug method with pentobarbital works just fine, and if it were not for the supply problem created by the opponents, there wouldn't be a problem here.
A simple solution is to declare it to be an illegal restraint of trade for any seller of pharmaceuticals to restrict resale for the purpose of lethal injection. Congress should get on that.
Virginia to Reconsider Electric Chair for Future Executions: After experiencing a shortage of lethal injection drugs, a group of Virginia lawmakers have proposed reinstating the electric chair as a method of execution. Louis Hansen of the Virginian-Pilot reports that Virginia's death row inmates are given a choice of execution methods-lethal injection or electric chair. One of the proposals introduced would allow the Department of Corrections to override the inmate's choice of lethal injection if the drugs were unavailable, allowing the state to implement the electric chair instead. Virginia has electrocuted three prisoners since 2009, and currently has eight men on death row.
Retrial For Florida Murderer: Daytona Beach prosecutors are hoping to send a convicted murderer and rapist back to death row after the Florida Supreme Court overturned his conviction last November. Frank Fernandez of the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that prosecutors are hoping to link 67-year-old Roy Swafford to an additional murder at his re-trial after police matched his DNA to an unsolved murder case in order to further support their hopes of another conviction. Swafford came within hours of being executed in 1990, but a last minute decision from the federal court of appeals stopped the execution.
The other side will surely try to make hay out of the breathing issues, but given that he was under a sedative at the time, there is little realistic doubt that this execution was well within the broad bounds permitted by the Eighth Amendment. I've been known to make "loud snorting or snoring sounds" myself, or so I've been told.
An Ohio inmate condemned to die appeared to gasp several times during his prolonged execution Thursday with the first use of a lethal injection process never before tried in the U.S.
Death row inmate Dennis McGuire made several loud snorting or snoring sounds during the more than 15 minutes it appeared to take him to die. It was one of the longest executions since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999.
Ohio officials used intravenous doses of two drugs, the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone, to put McGuire to death. The method has been part of Ohio's execution process since 2009, though was never used.
And lest we forget what this is all about ...
Realignment Bill Passes First Committee Test: A bill introduced by Assemblyman Chris Holden, D. Los Angeles, has passed out of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, after failing to pass last year. The measure is designed to give counties more time to prepare for the dumping of severely mentally ill inmates into communities as required by Realignment. Melanie C. Johnson of Monrovia Patch reports that AB 1065 would give county probation departments 30 days to establish appropriate supervision and treatment for seriously mentally ill offenders prior to their release from state custody. Prior to this bill, counties were given 5 days or less to prepare for the arrival of these serious offenders. The next step for the bill is the Assembly Appropriations Committee for financial consideration.
Judge Vacates Death Sentence for Convicted Cop Killer: The family of a slain police officer is outraged after a Philadelphia judge vacated the death sentence for Edward Bracey, the man convicted of killing the officer more than 20 years ago. Dave Schratwieser of Fox Philadelphia reports that the judge vacated Bracey's death sentence and ordered him to serve life without parole after finding that Bracey was "mentally retarded" and ineligible for execution after the 2002 SCOTUS holding in Atkins v. Virginia. The city's district attorney has 30 days to review the case and decide whether or not to appeal the judge's ruling.
On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston rejected a novel attempt to expand the exclusion of evidence instead of retract it. The home of "tax protestor" Charles Adams was searched by IRS agents with a search warrant. Under U.S. v. Leon, a warrant itself is generally sufficient to defeat any claim of exclusion, except in highly unusual circumstances, but Adams made the creative claim that because the agents were armed and were not authorized to be armed, the evidence must be suppressed.
"Huh?" you might ask. That's pretty much what the court said, but of course more judicially.
No Agreement Expected in CA Prison Overcrowding: A panel of federal judges has revealed that ongoing discussions aimed at settling the overcrowding in California prisons is at a standstill, prompting the judges to issue their own ruling within the next 30 days. Sam Stanton and Denny Walsh of the Sacramento Bee report that lawyers for the state and California inmates have failed to reach an agreement on how to properly reduce the state's prison population to meet the judges' order, and only have until January 23 to make their recommendations to the court. The panel of judges plans to announce whether or not they will approve the state's request for a time extension to comply with the release order.
Appellate Court Denies Challenge From 'Underwear Bomber': The federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has decided to uphold a life prison sentence for Umar Abdulmutallab, also known as the 'underwear bomber.' United Press International reports that Abdulmutallab was sentenced to life after authorities say he attempted to detonate an explosive device hidden in his underwear on a flight from Amsterdam to Michigan on Christmas Day, 2009. Abdulmutallab was challenging his sentence based on his claim that life in prison is cruel and unusual punishment.
Supreme Court Rejects Oklahoma Death Row Appeals: The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the final appeals of two Oklahoma men that have been on the state's death row for more than 10 years. Chris Casteel of News OK reports that one of the men, Charles Frederick Warren, was found guilty and sentenced to death in more than a decade ago for the 1997 rape and murder of an 11-month-old child. The court has yet to schedule execution dates for the two men.
Prosecutor Wants Death Penalty Option for some Convicted Human Traffickers: An Arizona prosecutor is proposing an addition to the state's death penalty law that would make human smugglers who are also found guilty of murder eligible for a death sentence. Jackie Kent of Tucson News Now reports that Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles has proposed adding human smuggling to a list of 14 other aggravating circumstances, that along with a first-degree murder conviction, can make an individual eligible for the death penalty. Arizona law states that a person can only receive the death penalty if they are found guilty of first-degree murder and at least one aggravating circumstance.
The Court will not deny McGuire consideration of his merits arguments today, but the parties and counsel in this litigation long ago all but exhausted the patience of this Court. Other plaintiffs seeking a stay in the future should note this point and make informed litigation choices accordingly.An important point here is that the constitution does not guarantee a murderer a painless death or freedom from any risk of pain. We don't intentionally inflict physical pain as punishment any more, although the same Congress that proposed the Eighth Amendment did prescribe whipping. All of the changes we have made to methods of execution since then have been for the purpose of reducing pain and risk of pain, but the murderer is still not entitled to a guarantee.
Career criminals are avoiding jail despite committing more than 300 offences.The author of the study, Peter Cuthbertson of the Centre for Crime Prevention, said:
Eight crooks with the shock crime record escaped prison in 2012, figures released under freedom of information have revealed.
Dozens more hardened offenders avoided time behind bars - despite racking up more than 250 offences.
Critics said the revelations exposed Britain's soft-touch justice system for repeat offenders.
"The most prolific offenders are responsible for a growing percentage of all crime, and locking them up would have a massive impact on the crime rate.We learned that lesson the hard way in the United States, but apparently we have now forgotten it and are rushing headlong to repeat the mistakes of the past. See, e.g., this post.
"New Zealand recently fought rising crime by letting criminals know that it is 'three strikes and you're out'. In Britain, we don't even have 300 strikes and you're out."
The majority of the country's most prolific criminals avoided prison despite their previous offences often numbering in the triple figures, according to the study.
If the usual pattern holds, the long list issued Monday will have no grants for full briefing and argument, although some cases may be summarily decided, possibly including the much-relisted Ryan v. Hurles.
A co-worker of a man beaten to death nearly two decades ago at the Tulsa convenience store where the two worked was executed by lethal injection Thursday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.
Michael Lee Wilson, 38, orchestrated the brief but brutal assault on Richard Yost, whose dream was to one day manage the store. Wilson, who was convicted of first-degree murder, was the third person executed for the Feb. 25, 1995, crime; the fourth defendant is serving a life term.
The men loitered nearly an hour while waiting for customers to leave, then struck Yost with an aluminum baseball bat 54 times in 131 seconds. They jostled a safe while removing it, but Wilson posed as Yost when a security company called to check an alarm.
And to dampen suspicions among middle-of-the-night customers, Wilson put on Yost's uniform and worked the cash register as Yost lay dying in a pool of blood, beer and milk behind the cooler doors.
Prison spokesman Jerry Massie said Wilson's time of death was 6:06 p.m. Thursday.
Death Sentence Upheld for Cop Killer: The Arkansas Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence Jerry Lard who murdered a police officer during a 2011 traffic stop. Jill Bleed of the Associated Press reports that the court denied Lard's request for a new trial because, among other things, Lard claims it was unfair for the prosecutor to show dash-cam footage of the murder. The footage shows Lard sitting in the back seat of the stopped car and when the door was opened he shoots officer Jonathan Schmidt in the face, then exits the car and continues to shoot the officer as he pleads for his life.
DNA Solves Arizona Cold Case: An Arizona prison inmate serving time for a drug offense has been indicted in Maricopa County for first degree murder based upon a match of his DNA with evidence found at the scene. The Associated Press reports that Jose Manuel Muros Nevares is facing charges for beating 75-year-old Patricia Staggs to death at her home during a 2006 burglary. If convicted of felony-murder Nevares could be sentenced to death.
It's hard to find a lawyer who could do more damage to the Justice Department's civil-rights division than former chief Tom Perez--who wielded race as a political weapon, interfered with the Supreme Court's docket to protect his discrimination agenda from legal review, and snubbed a House subpoena before taking the job as Labor Secretary--until you consider the record of the man the president nominated to replace him, Debo Adegbile.It is one thing to represent a murderer. That function needs to be done, and people who do it ethically ought not be disqualified from appointments. It is quite another to run around making "unfounded and unproven allegations of racism." For prosecutors, it is universally considered unethical to accuse a person without probable cause. That restriction ought to apply to all lawyers. No one should accuse anyone of a crime, a tort, or a breach of ethical duty without probable cause to believe the allegation is true. Those who do should certainly not be considered for high office.* * *In a letter sent to President Obama Monday, the National Fraternal Order of Police recounted how Mr. Adegbile volunteered to get cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal off death row with "unfounded and unproven allegations of racism." The group's more than 330,000 members expressed "extreme disappointment, displeasure and vehement opposition" to his nomination, calling it "a thumb in the eye of our nation's law enforcement officers"--unusually strong language from the Order.
Bank Teller Can't Read Holdup Note: A scene from Woody Allen's hilarious 1969 movie, Take The Money And Run, played out in an Antioch, CA bank yesterday. Jon David Kahn of Breitbart.com reports that would-be bank robber Jamal Garrett handed a Wells Fargo Bank teller a note, which the teller could not decipher. Just like in the movie, the teller contacted her manager for assistance. While they were figuring out what the note said, Garrett, who was on parole at the time, fled and was later arrested.
"This is where my dad took his last breath," said the slain guard's daughter, 47-year-old Carolyn Burke Thompson. She was among several family members who witnessed the execution and could be seen crying in the front row as it was carried out.One of the reasons that the case took so long is that the Supreme Court in 1976 approved Florida's sentencing system with its specified list of mitigating circumstances and then later simply changed its mind and mandated that the defendant be allowed to introduce everything including the kitchen sink. Applying that rule retroactively, the federal court of appeals in 1987 overturned a judgment that had been rendered correctly under the law in effect at the time of the trial and the direct appeal. Today, the rules of Teague v. Lane and 28 U.S.C. §2254(d) would forbid that.
"The system finally has worked. I am at peace knowing I don't have to wait any longer. I miss my dad a lot," she said.
The defense lawyers filed five petitions with the U.S. Supreme Court, denied here, here, here, here, and here. The only dissent is in the fourth, where Justice Breyer asserts once again that he would grant review to decide the so-called Lackey claim -- whether, if a murderer can gum up the process long enough, he is entitled to escape his just punishment for good.
100 Charged in NY For Disability Fraud: Aaron Katersky of ABC News reports that over 100 mostly New York police officers have been indicted today for disability fraud following a two year investigation. The Social Security Administration has been under pressure from Congress to tighten up its disability process in the wake of major increases in claims. According to a story in today's Wall Street Journal the fraudulent claims scam began in 1988, but most of the current defendants claimed that they were disabled due to the terrorist attack on New York on September 11, 2001. Several hundreds of millions of tax dollars were paid to the defendants who submitted false claims.
Record Gun Sales Reported in 2013: David Sherfinski of the Washington Times reports that firearm sales in the United States were the highest in history during 2013, marking the 11th straight year of increases. More than 21 million applications were submitted for criminal background checks required for gun purchases, with increases in virtually every state from New Hampshire to Hawaii. Second Amendment advocates cite the interest by the President, members of Congress and several states to adopt further restrictions on gun sales.
Vets Help Track Down Child Predators: The Associated Press reports that military veterans, wounded during their service, are now participating as interns in a program that has them working with ICE to track down and prosecute criminals who prey upon children for sex trafficking and pornography. The veterans receive 11 weeks of training before being assigned to ICE field offices to scour computers and flash drives seized by agents during searches of suspected predators. While the veterans are unpaid for their work, most receive disability for their injuries. As one vet put it, "I feel that I'm still serving my country and protecting my family at the same time."
Ohio Police to Get Criminal's Mental Health Info: The Ohio Supreme Court has cleared the way for enforcement of a new law that provides police with the mental health evaluations of violent offenders who receive a conditional release from a treatment facility. The Associated Press reports that the law was adopted after the 2011 murder of Deputy Suzanne Hopper by a habitual felon who had been released form a mental health institution. Deputy Hopper was unaware that recently-released criminal Michael Ferryman had been found not guilty by reason of insanity for an earlier shooting, when she approached him in response to a "shots fired" call at a trailer park.
Pot Prices Double in Colorado: Alison Vekshin of Bloomberg News reports that recreational marijuana is selling for twice the price for medical marijuana during the first week since pot became legally available on the retail market. An ounce of weed goes for $400 at Medicine Man, a pot retailer in Denver, while an ounce runs $200 for customers who have a prescription. Shop owners say that the higher prices are in response to the high demand. "It is very comparable to what black market prices are," said one retailer.
On balance, society will not be better off with another legal mind-altering substance. In particular, our kids will not be better off with another legal mind-altering substance.
As the American Medical Association concluded in recommending against legalization in November, "Cannabis is a dangerous drug and as such is a public health concern." It added: "It is the most common illicit drug involved in drugged driving, particularly in drivers under the age of 21. Early cannabis use is related to later substance use disorders."
And this point, for me, is the most convincing: "Heavy cannabis use in adolescence causes persistent impairments in neurocognitive performance and IQ, and use is associated with increased rates of anxiety, mood, and psychotic thought disorders."
Next time you hear that pot should be treated as a medical issue, not a legal one, remember what the AMA has to say about its wonderful medical effects.
Man Charged in CA Murder Released From Jail Hours Before Attack: Authorities have announced that the man suspected of murdering a beloved Northern California priest on New Years Day had been in police custody for public intoxication just hours before the attack. CNN reports that 43-year-old Gary Lee Bullock had been released from Humboldt County Jail a few hours before breaking into a Eureka, CA church and bludgeoning the priest to death, leaving his body in the church rectory. Court records indicate that Bullock didn't have a violent criminal history, but had been arrested in April 2013 and charged with two misdemeanors for cocaine possession.
Judge Allows Border Searches of Electronics: A federal judge has upheld the government's right to search electronics at border crossings, dismissing a lawsuit filed by civil rights attorneys claiming the practice was unconstitutional. The Associated Press reports that U.S. border patrol agents will have the authority to search laptops carried by members of the media and other travelers without reasonable suspicion. The decision puts an end to claims by the plaintiffs stating that the searches could jeopardize confidential news sources or potentially reveal sensitive professional or personal information.
While arrest rates are slightly lower, conviction rates are slightly higher, and the felony arrest rate is 6% higher. Fewer arrests for misdemeanors and supervision violations are what drove the total arrest rate down. This makes perfect sense, because after Realignment, criminals can commit drug and property felonies without worrying about going to prison. Why steal a six pack of beer when you can steal the whole beer truck and the worst you can get is time in county jail? Under Realignment, most criminals released from prison receive light supervision on county probation rather than the intense supervision on state parole. It is no surprise that fewer relatively unsupervised ex-cons are being arrested for supervision violations. The report also points out that no prison inmates are being released early under Realignment. True enough, but now that many county jails are filled beyond capacity with thousands of former prison inmates convicted of new felonies which no longer carry a prison sentence, thieves, drug dealers, and wife beaters are being released on probation after serving a few weeks because there is no room to hold them. Realignment has created conditions that force the early release of criminals who are no longer eligible for prison.
Convicted Killer set to be Released Early: A gang member convicted of murdering a young California woman ten years ago is set to be released from a juvenile justice facility after serving only eight years of his suggested 10-year sentence. Larry Altman of the Daily Breeze reports that 22-year-old Doheen Pratt, who was just 13-years-old at the time of the murder, was convicted and sentenced in 2006 to spend nearly 10 years in juvenile hall, the maximum sentence a 13-year-old can receive in the state of California. Had Pratt been a year older at the time of the murder, prosecutors could have tried him as an adult and pursued a possible life sentence.
Ohio to Use Two-Drug Method in Upcoming Execution: The Ohio Department of Corrections will use a two-drug combination in an upcoming execution for a man convicted of raping and murdering a pregnant woman more than 20 years ago. The Associated Press reports that the state has elected to use a combination of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller, making Ohio the first state in the U.S. to use this particular method of lethal injection. This is Ohio's second attempt at using the two-drug method, the first attempt was halted after the inmate's request to donate organs to his family resulted in a last-minute reprieve from the governor.