Only a few
November 2014 Archives
The word spread within minutes of Michael Brown's death -- a young black man with his hands raised in surrender had just been shot by a white cop.I disagree. Truth always matters, but especially when the goal is to cure or at least ameliorate a pathological condition, whether medical or social.
Soon, "Hands Up. Don't Shoot!" became a rallying cry for protesters in the streets of this St. Louis suburb and a symbol nationwide of racial inequality for those who believe that minorities are too often the targets of overzealous police.
Yet the witness accounts contained in thousands of pages of grand jury documents reviewed by The Associated Press show many variations about whether Brown's hands were actually raised -- and if so, how high.
To some, it doesn't matter whether Brown's hands literally were raised, because his death has come to symbolize a much bigger movement.
On Tuesday night, as police and soldiers took up positions in the parking lots of virtually every strip mall and big box store around it, the forecourt of the brightly lit [Ferguson Conoco] gas station was busy with customers.
One, a six feet, eight-inch tall man named Derrick Jordan - "Stretch," as friends call him - whisked an AR-15 assault rifle out from a pickup truck parked near the entrance.
Jordan, 37, was one of four black Ferguson residents who spent Tuesday night planted in front of the store, pistols tucked into their waistbands, waiting to ward off looters or catch shoplifters.
Jordan and the others guarding the gas station are all black. The station's owner is white.
Open carry laws and some heroic African American men make for a wonderful kickoff to Thanksgiving.
For those of us who prefer the "or not" option, including myself and Ms. Wilhelm, the answer is to do the opposite. Tomorrow, let us forget politics, crime and punishment, and other heated issues and enjoy the day with our families. Give thanks - with the "to whom" broad enough to accommodate everyone at your home - and have a joyous holiday.
Even in the best of times, survival rates for small businesses don't inspire loads of confidence. Fifty percent of them close after four years.
But Natalie DuBose of Ferguson, Mo., did not open her shop in the best of times. She opened Natalie's Cakes and More in downtown Ferguson in June. In August, police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown.
The city erupted.
DuBose's customer base evaporated. She went two weeks without a single person walking into her shop, she told local media. Then things turned around. After interviews with local radio and television stations, her community turned out to support her business.
"By the time I got back from [local radio station] KMOX, I had people outside the door," she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. What's more, they kept coming. The single mother of two, who raised the funds to open her shop by selling her cakes at a flea market, could breathe a little easier.
Then, this week, DuBose was faced with another crisis. After news broke that a grand jury would not charge Wilson, rioters broke the glass of her storefront Monday night. They damaged baking equipment.
[In the name of the welfare state narrative], Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin have to be victims, not aggressors.
Still, the truth is that they were victims. Not victims of a mythical white power structure-the concept is laughable as applied to either [the Walter Mitty-like] George Zimmerman or Darren Wilson. And certainly not victims of a racist judicial system. On the contrary, in both cases America's court system rendered the right verdict under tremendous pressure to bend the truth to political expedience.
Rather, Martin and Brown were victims of an African-American culture in which the family has been pretty much destroyed, government checks have largely replaced employment, education is disparaged, criminality is respected, and racial animosity is a sign of authenticity. That culture...has been an utter disaster for millions of young black men like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.
Instead of tearing down other human beings who are acting upon decades of pent-up anger at a system decidedly against them, a system that has told them they are less than human for years, we ought to be reaching out to help them regain the humanity they lost, not when a few set fire to the buildings in Ferguson, but when they were born the wrong color in the post-racial America.
Racial profiling and tensions between the police and poor black communities are real problems, but these are effects rather than causes, and they can't be addressed without also addressing the extraordinarily high rates of black criminal behavior--yet such discussion remains taboo. Blacks who bring it up are sell-outs. Whites who mention it are racists. (Mr. Dyson accused Mr. Giuliani of "white supremacy.") But so long as young black men are responsible for an outsize portion of violent crime, they will be viewed suspiciously by law enforcement and fellow citizens of all races.
Anger and despair swept through many parts of America after a Missouri grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer, for killing Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old.
What was behind the wave of emotion? Why do so many refuse to accept the grand jurors' choice not to charge the cop with a crime in the death of Brown, who was unarmed? Why is there such disregard for the new evidence released with the decision?* * *
Panetti's previous competency determination was in 2008. The delay after that point was in litigating Panetti's claim that his "rights" under Indiana v. Edwards had been violated, i.e., that the Texas courts failed to anticipate the Supreme Court's correction of its own error and instead followed the precedents binding on them at the time. (See comment to the previous post.) Of course, Edwards didn't create any rights. It only put a sensible limit on the right created out of whole cloth in Faretta.
So the trial court set an execution date on October 16, 2014, and counsel for Panetti filed their motion nearly a month later, less than 20 days before the execution. Texas has an anti-last-minute statute limiting jurisdiction in the last 20 days. No dice, say the majority.
These kinds of time limit laws can be harsh, but the unscrupulous tactics of the defense side has made them necessary. Filing claims at the last minute that could have been made earlier and then demanding a stay to give the courts time to adjudicate them has long been a key tool in the obstructionist's toolbox. See, e.g., Gomez v. U.S. District Court (Harris), 503 U.S. 653 (1992).
Michael, we love you enough to want, and demand, that you grow up straight. We know you stole your classmate's apple. It's wrong to steal. You need to learn this, immediately and permanently. You're grounded for a week, and you will have extra chores, which you will do without hesitation or complaint. We also know that when your teacher asked you about it, you smartmouthed and walked away. That is not acceptable. You are at all times to respect and obey proper authority. You are grounded for an additional two weeks. Any further episodes of stealing or disrespecting authority will result in more punishment until you wise up.
Arkansas to Address Prison Overcrowding: Lawmakers in Arkansas are looking at several different ways to address prison overcrowding including the use of private prison facilities and the implementation of alternative sentencing programs. Andrew DeMillo of the Associated Press reports that more than 2,000 inmates have been moved from prison to county jails, and plans to build a new facility are estimated at costing upward of $100 million. The legislature is also suggesting expanding the use of drug courts and using abandoned school buildings to house inmates.
Accused Killer has Lengthy Criminal Past: The Colorado man accused of kidnap and murder of a single mother in 2007 has a lengthy criminal past, including multiple arrests for abducting women. CBS News reports that 63-year-old Lester Jones was arrested in 1999 after authorities say he forced his wife into his car and threatened to kill her. Later that month, he was arrested again for abducting another woman and sexually assaulting her. Jones is facing charges of kidnapping, murder, and arson. He is being held in jail on $2 million bond.
So here is the link again. Of course I wouldn't be so crass as to ask you to ... sure I would! Vote for C&C!
Amy Howe has this "plain English" post on the case at SCOTUSblog. She noted it is unlikely that the Justices are much familiar with Facebook and wonders if that will affect the case. It shouldn't, in my opinion. The definition of a prohibited threat should not vary with the medium. The fact that people rant all the time on the internet does not warrant extending First Amendment protection when rant crosses the line to threats.
A couple of amicus briefs supporting Elonis take the position, in essence, that the routine debasement of speech in our society in media such as online posting and gangsta rap are a reason to take a more expansive view of First Amendment protection of threats. If this downward spiral of our society has any effect at all on the decision, it should be in the other direction, in my opinion. We have gone way too far in letting it all hang out and need to tuck some of it back in.
A good example of the ill effects of extreme disinhibition is SCOTUSblog itself. That blog used to have comments, and I enjoyed commenting there, exchanging views with thoughtful, intelligent, informed people, many of whom disagreed with me. But the comment section turned into a cesspool, as the comments of so many blogs do. They tried requiring people to use their real names, and that helped but not enough. Finally they axed the comments altogether because they dragged down the quality of the blog. The rudeness of a few ruined the medium for those of us who wanted to exchange views at a refined level.
First Troy Davis, then Trayvon Martin, now Michael Brown. Different cases, different underlying facts, but the same overall pattern.
No, Michael Brown was not shot in the back. The autopsy conclusively refutes that allegation. Yet the witnesses who claimed to have seen that still said it, and maybe they really believed it, as explained in this article in the WaPo.
These incidents have a deep, corrosive effect on our society. They add to polarization and alienation. What can be done? Well for starters, all of us, but especially those in the media, need to be a bit less prone to jumping on claims such as the ones made in these cases. Lets get the real facts first.
We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions. While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.
During his capital murder trial, at which he was inexplicably allowed to represent himself, Mr. Panetti dressed in a cowboy suit and attempted to subpoena, among others, John F. Kennedy and Jesus Christ. A standby lawyer said his behavior was "scary" and "trance-like," and called the trial "a judicial farce."The word "inexplicably" is just plain ignorant. There is no mystery at all as to why Panetti was allowed to represent himself or who was to blame. The blame lies squarely with the United States Supreme Court in the 1970s and its propensity at that time to make up rights that are not really in the Constitution.
In Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975), the Supreme Court said that criminal defendants have a constitutional right to reject counsel and conduct their own defense. Justice Blackmun noted in dissent, "If there is any truth to the old proverb that 'one who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client,' the Court by its opinion today now bestows a constitutional right on one to make a fool of himself." In Panetti's case, make that a crazy fool.
The Faretta rule was long understood to be absolute in most jurisdictions, including Texas and the Fifth Circuit. As long as the defendant was competent to stand trial, a very minimal standard, he had the constitutional right to represent himself, no matter how much of a farce he made of the trial. If the trial court denied him that dubious right, the judgment would be reversed on appeal or overturned on habeas corpus. The Texas trial judge was therefore correct, in the sense of following the precedents of both the state and federal courts, in allowing Panetti to represent himself. In Indiana v. Edwards, 554 U.S. 164 (2008), we finally got the Court to modify Faretta and recognize that some people are competent to stand trial and assist counsel but not to be their own counsel, see CJLF brief, but 33 years had elapsed and a lot of water had passed under the bridge.
The issue in the courts now, though, is not Panetti's representation at trial but rather whether he is presently too crazy to execute.
DHS Unveils New Immigration Guidlines: The Department of Homeland Security has released its new guidelines for immigration and border security officers outlining top deportation priorities, and shockingly, drug dealers and gun offenders aren't at the top of the list. Byron York of the Washington Examiner reports that convicted drunk drivers, sex abusers, and drug dealers are considered as second-level enforcement priorities. This level also includes illegal aliens who have been convicted of at least three misdemeanors. Priority One is considered to be the highest level of enforcement, and includes convicted felons and suspected terrorists.
Execution Date Set For Convicted Killer: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has signed an death warrant for rapper and convicted cop killer Christopher Roney, scheduling his execution for January 8, 2015. The Associated Press reports that Roney shot and killed the officer in 1996 after a botched bank robbery. The governor also authorized executions for two more convicted murderers. These executions will take place January 13 and 15.
From at least 1980, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided Ohio v. Roberts, until 2004, when it decided Crawford v. Washington, the Confrontation Clause was pretty much a constitutionalization of the hearsay rule. If the prosecution wanted A to testify as to what B said, the defendant had a right to confront and cross-examine B, subject to all the "firmly rooted hearsay exception[s]," and there are a lot of them. The main consideration was deciding whether the particular form of hearsay was reliable.
In Crawford, the Supreme Court tossed the Roberts rule and its reliability focus overboard and went with a historical analysis instead. The purpose of the Confrontation Clause is to prevent abuses of the kind that happened in the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh (the founder of Anglo-America) and other old English cases where testimony is introduced in the form of affidavits or examinations of a witness conducted ex parte, i.e., when the defendant is not present and can't cross-examine. In circumstances like these, the examinee is the "witness" and the statement is "testimonial." The Confrontation Clause forbids introduction, and there are no exceptions. In other cases of garden-variety hearsay, A is the "witness," and admissibility of B's statement is a matter for state hearsay rules, not the U.S. Constitution. In a state case, reliability of the hearsay is an issue for state rulemakers and courts to ponder, not the federal courts.
Okay, but what statements are sufficiently like the forbidden historical practices to make B's statement "testimonial" and make B and not A the "witness" for this purpose. The Crawford Court left that largely for future decisions, a recipe for chaos.
How about an injured preschooler's response to a teacher's question, "Who did this? What happened to you?" That is the question before the Supreme Court in Ohio v. Clark, No. 13-1352.
Georgia Sets Execution Date for Murderer: A Georgia man convicted of murdering a Sheriff's deputy nearly 20 years ago is scheduled to be executed on December 9, 2014. R. Loyd Price of WMAZ News reports that after Robert Holsey robbed a convenience store in December 1995, a sheriff's deputy spotted his car and pulled him over. Holsey shot the deputy was shot in the head as he approached the vehicle. He has appealed his conviction unsuccessfully several times over the last 16 years.
Violent Felons Legally Buying Guns in Washington State: An investigation conducted by Washington television station has found that a number of violent felons have been legally purchasing guns in several counties despite laws to prevent that from happening. Monique Ming Laven of KIRO News reports that under state law, felons are eligible to have their gun rights restored as long as they were not convicted or a serious crime or a sex offense, received a sentence of more than 20 years, and have not re-offended in five years. The investigation revealed that since 2010, at least 3,000 serious felons have had their gun rights restored.
The White House has said it is ready to wait until next year for Congress to consider its nominee to be the next attorney general, the top Senate Democrat said Tuesday."After the first of the year" means next Congress, assuming Senator Reid does not intend to hold a vote on Friday, January 2, which I very much doubt. Chuck Grassley will begin his stint as chairman with a very important hearing.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said the White House has told him the confirmation hearings of veteran prosecutor Loretta Lynch could be dealt with in the new Congress in January 2015.
"The White House through intermediaries with me have said 'don't be pushing that, we can do that after the first of the year,' " Mr. Reid said after senators' weekly caucus lunches.
The article says CJLF "advocates sealing the U.S.-Mexico border." Um, no. We are in favor of having a secure border so that criminals we deport can't just waltz back in. Questions of how much and what kind of legal immigration we should allow and what kind of trade restrictions we should have are not our field, and we take no position. We would certainly never advocate the complete cut-off implied by the word "sealing."
The full schedule with links to all the videos is here.
Accused Killer on Bail Charged With New Murder: A North Carolina man who was out on bond while awaiting his upcoming murder trial has been arrested for murdering a man that was scheduled to testify against him. WCTI News reports that 36-year-old Nashid Porter's murder trial for killing a man in 2012 was to start in January 2015. Porter was released to await trial on house arrest, and required to wear a GPS monitoring device-a device. Authorities say he cut the device off the night he allegedly killed his most recent victim. Porter is currently being held in jail without bond.
Utah Passes Death Penalty Bill: The Utah legislature has passed a bill that would allow the state to execute condemned murderers by firing squad. The United Press International reports that states with active death penalties began running out of lethal injection drugs after European drug manufacturers restricted their use for executions. Under the new law, Utah will still use lethal injection as its primary method of execution, however, if the drugs become unavailable a firing squad may be used.
The manufacturer of pentobarbital has cut off the usual supply chain for obtaining it. As discussed in this article by James Gibson and Corinna Lain forthcoming in Georgetown Law Journal, European governments are instigators of the shortage, interfering in a domestic policy choice of the United States that is quite simply none of their damn business.
The workaround is compounding pharmacies. However, those pharmacies have been subject to harassment that makes them unwilling to supply the needed drug. As noted in this post in September, the anti-death-penalty movement is responsible for the problematic executions carried out with other drugs when they made pentobarbital unavailable.
The Ohio Legislature is now moving forward, in HB 663, to extend confidentiality to suppliers of execution drugs. The bill also prohibits any disciplinary action against doctors who provide the state with consultation on how avoid pain during an execution, which has been a problem. The legislation declares contractual restraints on resale to be "void and unenforceable as against public policy."
Jeremy Pelzer had this article on the legislation last week on cleveland.com (site of the Plain Dealer). He also has a follow-up article today on claims the legislation is unconstitutional. Most of these claims are meritless, in my opinion. Our friend Doug Berman from SL&P "said he believes HB 663 is 'probably' constitutional, but he questioned whether it would be better for Ohio to instead look at other methods of execution besides lethal injection."
A legislative analysis of the bill notes, "To the extent that the bill's provision voiding contracts applies to contracts entered into before the bill's effective date, it might be found to violate the clauses of the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions that prohibit the General Assembly from passing laws that impair contractual obligations." True, but application to contracts made or renewed henceforth is worthwhile. What we really need is for Congress to enact a law like this. The Contract Clause only applies to states.
Another Parolee Accused of Murder: Police in New York say the person accused of fatally pushing a man in front of a moving subway train last week has a lengthy criminal history and was recently released on parole. Fox News reports that 34-year-old Kevin Darden has been arrested dozens of times for a variety of charges including assault and robbery, his most recent arrest came just 7 days prior to killing the man at the subway station. Darden is currently being held in county jail without bond.
Ohio Bill Seeks Death Penalty Reform: A new bill heading to the Ohio legislature would grant anonymity to drug makers who supply execution drugs to correctional facilities. Idea Stream reports that Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine halted executions out of concern for the safety of those who make and sell execution drugs. The bill would allow secrecy for both the pharmaceutical companies involved as well as what drugs were being used for lethal injections. The author of the bill, State Representative Jim Buchy, wants to address all of the Attorney General's concerns and is confident the bill will pass by the end of the year.
Sheriff Asks Obama to Address Crime by Illegals: In a video appeal released yesterday, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones told President Obama that America's failed immigration policy and lack of border security are allowing deported criminals to cross the U.S. border to commit more crimes. Noting that last month, an illegal with a long criminal record who had twice been deported shot and killed a Sacramento Deputy and a Placer County officer during a day-long crime spree, the Sheriff fixed responsibility for the failure or success of U.S. immigration policy with the President. He urged the President to take immediate steps to secure the border, and implement immigration reforms that allow law enforcement to tell the good guys from the bad guys.
Two facts about crime and sentencing dwarf everything else we have learned over the past 50 years: When we have more prison we have less crime, and when we have less prison, we have more crime.
Behind the scenes, he has consulted with the mayor and the president on matters of race and civil rights and even the occasional high-level appointment. He was among a small group at the White House when Mr. Obama announced his nomination of Loretta E. Lynch, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, to become the next attorney general.
Almost a million crimes a year are disappearing from official figures as chief constables attempt to meet targets, a study by the police watchdog has disclosed.
Its report exposed "indefensible" failures by forces to record crime accurately, and said that in some areas up to a third of crimes are being struck out of official records.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary said violent crimes and sex attacks were particularly vulnerable to being deleted under "inexcusably poor" systems.
Although the report stopped short of accusing police of widespread "fiddling" it said there was an "undercurrent of pressure not to record a crime across some forces" and "wrongful pressure" by managers.
It means violent criminals and even rapists are not investigated, potentially allowing offenders to strike again.
California law has long required registered sex offenders to report identifying information, such as their address and current photograph, to law enforcement. Cal. Penal Code §§ 290.012, 290.015. The Californians Against Sexual Exploitation ("CASE") Act sought to supplement and modernize these reporting obligations by requiring sex offenders to provide "[a] list of any and all Internet identifiers established or used by the person" and "[a] list of any and all Internet service providers used by the person." Id. § 290.015(a)(4)-(5). The Act also requires registered sex offenders to send written notice to law enforcement within 24 hours of adding or changing an Internet identifier or an account with an Internet service provider ("ISP"). Id. § 290.014(b). Appellees Doe, Roe, and the nonprofit organization California Reform Sex Offender Laws filed a complaint alleging that the CASE Act infringes their freedom of speech in violation of the First Amendment. Appellees filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, which the district court granted. Kamala Harris, the Attorney General of California, and Intervenors, the proponents of the CASE Act, appeal. We hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion by enjoining the CASE Act. Accordingly, we affirm.
Missouri Murderer to be Executed Wednesday: A Missouri man convicted of murdering a gas station attendant during a robbery attempt two decades ago is scheduled to be put to death at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. The Associated Press reports that attorneys for Leon Taylor have asked Governor Jay Nixon for a stay of execution based on claims of racial prejudice during his sentence, but the governor has shown no sign of halting the execution. If Taylor is executed, he will be the ninth person executed by the state of Missouri this year.
Convicted Double-Murderer Sentenced to LWOP: A California man has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after he was found guilty of killing two USC students from China. Marisa Gerber of the Los Angeles Times reports that 22-year-old Javier Bolden approached the two students as they sat in their car in hopes of stealing their money. After his arrest, Bolden was recorded bragging about shooting the two victims to his cellmate who happened to be an undercover police informant. Bolden's co-defendant pled guilty to two counts of first-degree murder for the killings and was also sentenced to life without parole.
Execution Date Set for Murderer: A South Dakota criminal convicted of murdering a corrections officer is scheduled to be executed during the first week of May 2015. KOTA News reports that Rodney Berget, who was already serving a life sentence for attempted rape and murder, killed the officer during a botched prison escape in February 2012. The two other inmates who attempted to escape with Berget were also charged with the officer's murder. One has already been executed for the crime and the other is serving a life sentence.
Accused Cop Killers Won't Face Death Penalty: The four men accused of murdering a Virginia police officer earlier this year will no longer face a possible death sentence after Attorney General Eric Holder took the death penalty off the table. CBS News reports that the four men, all known gang members with extensive criminal pasts, allegedly carjacked, kidnapped, and killed the officer and abandoned his body a few counties away. The men now face a maximum sentence of life without parole.
In Joshua Frost's trial for robbery, his lawyer wasn't that blatant, but he did want to argue that Frost was not an accomplice and alternatively qualified for the defense of duress. The trial judge would not let him argue that, based on a Washington Supreme Court opinion saying that a defendant must admit the elements before asserting a duress defense. The Washington Court of Appeals affirmed. The Washington Supreme Court clarified that its precedent was not that strict and the argument should have been allowed.* However, a majority of that court concluded that this type of error is subject to "harmless error" review, and based on its review of the evidence there was no effect on the outcome of the trial.
On federal habeas corpus, the magistrate judge, the district judge, and a majority of the initial 3-judge court of appeals panel agreed that this type of error is one of the great many subject to harmless error review, not one of the select few "structural" errors reversible without such consideration.
The Ninth Circuit granted rehearing en banc, and a bare majority (6-5) found that the state court's decision that this error is not structural was an unreasonable application of clearly established Federal law. Finding state court decisions "unreasonable" when the Ninth merely disagrees with them on debatable points is something that court has been reversed for by the Supreme Court time and time and time again. They never learn. Today we chalk up yet one more in Glebe v. Frost, No. 14-95 (per curiam). As in White v. Woodall, decided last term, the federal appeals court stretched existing Supreme Court precedent into new territory, and reasonable judges can disagree as to whether it should be extended there. There is no dissent.
Meanwhile, in CJLF's backyard in Sacramento County, incumbent Rep. Ami Bera has a 697 vote lead over challenger Doug Ose. So far. News 10 KXTV has this story.
Two Suspects Convicted in Cop Killing: Two of the four men accused of murdering a Chicago police officer in 2010 have been found guilty of first-degree murder. The Associated Press reports that the two men served as lookouts for their friends in an attempt to steal the officer's motorcycle. The officer confronted the group and a gun-fight ensued leaving the officer and one of the suspects dead. Both men face mandatory life sentences, the fourth suspect is still awaiting trial.
Update: Florida Executes Convicted Killer: A Florida man convicted of murdering his wife and stepdaughter 22 years ago has become the eighth person executed by the state of Florida this year. Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat reports that Florida uses a three-drug cocktail to execute prisoners. The execution began at 7:10 p.m. and the inmate was pronounced dead 17 minutes later. This was the 89th execution carried out by the state of Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in 1979.
CA Prison Uses Dog to Find Prohibited Cell Phones: A Northern California prison is using the help of a police dog to sniff out cellphones being smuggled into the facility illegally. William Bigelow of Breitbart reports that the dog has found more than 1,000 phones in his four years of work, most notably, he discovered a phone that had been hidden in one of three jars of peanut butter. Smuggling a phone into prison can result in a $5,000 fine and a possible six-month sentence in jail.
FL Set to Execute Convicted Killer: A Florida man convicted of murdering his wife and 10-year-old stepdaughter 22 years ago is scheduled to be executed for his crimes Thursday evening. The Associated Press reports that 43-year-old Chadwick Banks raped and killed the young girl just minutes after he shot her mother in the head, he was given a life sentence for his wife's murder and was sentenced to death for killing his stepdaughter. If the execution is carried out as scheduled, Banks will become the 20th person executed in the state of Florida since Governor Rick Scott took office in 2011.
(39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.This great-grandfather of the Due Process Clause was signed by King John -- at swordpoint -- almost 800 years ago, along with many other promises. Copies of the great charter were made and sent to the various counties of England, and one of those copies, from the Lincoln Cathedral, is presently on exhibit at the Library of Congress.
Update (11/13): Justice Scalia's opening address at the Federalist Society Convention was on Magna Carta and its importance in the development of constitutional law.
Update 2 (11/15): Justice Scalia's address is now available online.
(39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. - See more at: http://www.bl.uk/magna-carta/articles/magna-carta-english-translation#sthash.QZ07c2XJ.dpuf
Accused Killer Recently Placed on Probation: A Michigan man is facing murder charges just days after a judge sentenced him to probation for assault with a deadly weapon. Christopher Behnan of the Lansing State Journal reports that 32-year-old Rahsohn Perry is facing murder and gun charges after authorities say he shot and killed his brother during a heated confrontation late Friday evening. Perry was sentenced to two years of probation last week after pleading guilty to an assault with a deadly weapon charge from an incident earlier this year.
Detroit Leads the Nation in Murder, Violent Crime: The annual FBI Uniform Crime report has revealed that Detroit, MI leads the nation in both murder and violent crime rates. Christine MacDonald of The Detroit News reports that despite a decline in the murder rate by 18% from 2012, the city of Detroit remains the nation's most dangerous large city. Other cities leading the country in murders per capita include New Orleans, Newark, St. Louis, and Baltimore.
Habitual Felons Arrested in String of Violent Attacks: A trio of Florida men, all previously convicted felons, have been arrested in connection with several violent rapes in a South Florida neighborhood. Jason Molinet of the New York Daily News reports that the three men have been charged with sexual battery, armed robbery, and assault after DNA evidence and video surveillance linked them to at least four separate attacks. The three men are being held without bail.
Last month, we noted the good news that California crime was down, but we were interested in seeing the national figures for comparison to sort out national trends from possible effects of California's sentencing "realignment." Last year's post making that comparison is here.
We look at property crime as the primary indicator, as persons convicted of violent crimes, either for the present offense or as priors, are not eligible to be shunted off to county jail under realignment. Many property crime convicts are, and given that the jails are overcrowded in most counties they either get released early or they push out other inmates for early release, likely other property crime convicts.
California's overall property crime rate is down less than the national average, -3.8% versus -4.8%. Auto theft is the category tracked by the FBI that is most likely to be affected by realignment, because all auto thefts in 2013 (pre-Prop. 47) were realignment-eligible felonies, while other categories are mixed eligible/ineligible or felony/misdemeanor. Consistent with the realignment-effect hypothesis, California's improvement in auto theft lagged considerably behind the nation, -2.8% versus -4.0%.
Comparing 2010, the last full year before realignment, with 2013, property crime has dropped 7.2% in the nation while rising slightly, 0.8%, in California. Auto theft is down 7.3% nationally but up 5.3% in California.
The story was almost too good to be true for the anti-death-penalty movement. And now we know it likely was not true.
Some years ago, I attended a talk by the lawyer for Alstory Simon, the man who confessed and went to prison while Porter was freed. He said it wasn't the journalism students who got a confession from the "real" killer, it was a hired investigator. On top of that, he said, the investigator used tactics that would result in a conviction being thrown out if a police officer had used them, and possibly a civil rights prosecution to boot.
Years later, the lawyer's efforts have born fruit, and Alstory Simon is the one who is exonerated. Jim Stingl has this story in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
The early reporting on President Obama 's choice to be the next Attorney General is that few in Washington know much about her. That may be one of the reasons Mr. Obama picked Loretta Lynch after last week's election rout. Barring some future revelations, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York isn't likely to stir a partisan brawl with the new Republican Senate.Unsurprisingly for a business-oriented paper, the WSJ is also keenly interested in asset forfeiture and its abuses. The editorial concludes (and I agree):
This does not mean that she shouldn't receive a thorough vetting. She has been a member of Eric Holder's Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys, and as such should be questioned about his policies. These include his use of race as a political cudgel--especially in law enforcement. Mr. Holder has used "disparate impact" theory to coerce settlements from banks and other businesses based on statistics but no proof of discrimination. A federal judge recently threw out the Administration's disparate-impact rule in housing, and the Supreme Court is hearing a separate legal challenge.
On the other hand, Ms. Lynch doesn't appear to be the grandstander that many other U.S. Attorneys are, and perhaps she will show a political independent streak. She is certainly a better choice than Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who would have warranted a confirmation fight. Republicans have enough high priorities in the next Congress that the bar should be high for challenging non-judicial nominees who seem to be qualified and honest.Readers since Friday have surely noted that Bill Otis and I have different takes on the nomination. This may be an apt time for one of our periodic reminders. Opinions expressed by our "outside bloggers" are their own. We at CJLF do not review them in advance, and we might or might not agree with them. Only Michael Rushford and I speak for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, the sponsor of this blog.
What purpose is served by subjecting the most disempowered, abused and nonviolent women to the perpetually negative environment of prisons?
A research project at Harvard is causing a lot of controversy this morning. The school has acknowledged that it secretly photographed more than 2,000 students in 10 lecture halls as part of a study on classroom attendance. During a meeting Tuesday night, Peter K. Bol, Harvard's vice provost for advances in learning, said that researchers in the Initiative for Learning and Teaching, which Bol oversees, installed the cameras last spring as a way to track attendance. The cameras would snap pictures of students and a computer would scan the images. The names of students whose images were taken have not been released but the revelation has a lot of people talking.
Accused Killer may Face Death Penalty: Prosecutors have announced that they may seek the death penalty against a woman accused of murdering a Kansas couple last year. The Associated Press reports that 36-year-old Kisha Schaberg, along with three accomplices, allegedly killed the couple as they sat in their car outside of their home in November 2013. One of Schaberg's co-defendants has testified that the couple was killed in an attempt to gain their life insurance policy and out of personal resentment.
Judge Reverses Parole Board Decision: A Michigan judge has ordered that a convicted child molester remain behind bars after reversing a decision made by the state's Parole Board. Jameson Cook of the Macomb Daily Tribune reports that 30-year-old Jason Harrison pled no contest to two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in 2007, as of today, he has served just seven years out of a recommended two-fifteen year sentence. The judge presiding over his case ruled that Cook should remain in state custody because he has yet to show any remorse during his treatment program and has continued to blame his actions on others.
The U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., Loretta Lynch, is a leading candidate to be nominated as the next U.S. attorney general, according to people familiar with the discussions.
State lawmakers will revise Ohio's lethal injection procedure by the end of the year, Statehouse leaders said during a legislative preview event here on Thursday.House Speaker William Batchelder and Senate President Keith Faber, both Republicans, said concerns about Ohio's two-drug cocktail need to be addressed soon. The two leaders spoke briefly about what they want to accomplish before this legislature ends its work in late December and what might be among the first issues the next General Assembly will tackle in January.* * *
CA Reduces Penalties for 'Low Level' Offenders: California voters have approved a proposition that is expected to release thousands of state prisoners back into local communities. Matt Sledge of the Huffington Post reports that Proposition 47 will reduce felonies like shoplifting and drug possession, gun theft and possession of date rape drugs down to misdemeanors. As many as 10,000 people may now be eligible for early release from state custody, and courts are expected to try 40,000 fewer felonies each year.
Convicted Killer Denied Parole: A Mississippi man convicted of kidnapping and murdering a woman in 1981 has been denied parole by the state's court of appeals. The Associated Press reports that Milton Trotter, along with two accomplices, kidnapped a California woman and brought her back to Mississippi where they killed her and left her body in a hotel room. All three of the men pled guilty to the federal kidnapping charge and state murder charge in 1981, Trotter was paroled from his federal kidnapping sentence in 2011 and asked the state court that he be released from custody for the murder charge.
Suspect in SoCal Hit-and-Run Had Several Probation Violations: The Southern California man arrested for a hit-and-run Halloween night that left three young girls dead was driving on a suspended license and had violated his probation at least seven times. Emily Foxhall and Joseph Serna of the Los Angeles Times report that 31-year-old Jaquinn Bell was convicted of hit-and-run driving and DUI in August and was sentenced to just 10 days behind bars and three years probation. His driver's license was suspended just 17 days before last weekend's deadly Halloween crash. Bell faces three felony counts of vehicular manslaughter and several other felony charges. If found guilty on all counts, he faces a maximum of 17 years in prison.
Update: Jaquinn Bell would have been serving a 4 year prison term for his Hit and Run and drunk driving convictions last August if California's Realignment law were not in force and the three victims would be alive today.
Missouri Amendment Would Strengthen Sex Offender Laws: Voters in Missouri will vote on an amendment that would allow allegations of past criminal acts to be used against individuals facing sex-related charges involving a victim under 18-years-old. Amy Anderson of KCTV reports that under current state law, if a convicted child predator is facing new charges, the jury presiding over his/her most recent case can't be told of the prior act. Missouri is the only state that doesn't allow prior criminal acts involving children to be admitted as evidence in future court hearings.
Former state Sen. Rod Wright turned himself in to Los Angeles County jail authorities Friday night to begin a 90-day sentence for his perjury and fraud conviction, but was released before ever seeing the inside of a cell.
Wright, a Democrat, turned himself in around 9:30 p.m. and was released at 10:41 p.m. after being processed and booked, said Nicole Nishida, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
She said he did not get any special treatment for being a politician.
Will we have the answer early, late, or very late?
Jury Recommends Death for Killer: An Ohio jury has recommended a death sentence for the man accused of beating his ex-girlfriend's parents to death with a sledgehammer. The Associated Press reports that Shawn Ford Jr., along with a 14-year-old accomplice, killed the couple just 10 days after he stabbed and critically injured their daughter when she refused to have sex with him. The judge presiding over the case has the final say on the sentencing decision and is expected to make it over the next few weeks.
Prosecutors to Seek Death Penalty for Child Killer: A Kentucky prosecutor has announced his plan to seek the death penalty for a man accused of brutally killing a 13-month-old boy last month. Todd Kleffman of The Advocate Messenger reports that 25-year-old Joseph Adams allegedly sodomized and killed the boy after being trusted by the boy's mother to babysit him while she was at work. The sodomy charged added to the charge of murder is considered an 'aggravator' and makes the crime death penalty eligible.
Update: Okay, that yawn was a bit hasty. Here is one newsworthy item. The Court denied the petition of Georgia murderer Warren Lee Hill on the drug supplier confidentiality question. See prior posts here and here.
It must be noted that all this--the quarantine argument, the travel ban--is another expression of the deep, tearing distance between America's professional and political elites, who operate as if they are estranged from common sense, and normal people, who are becoming more estranged from the elites, their oblivious and politicized masters.Those that Ms. Noonan calls "normal people" I call "persons of sense." The other side is not just "elites." It started that way, but the dearth of sense among educators, media moguls, and the celebrities that too many people look up to have caused a spread of Common Sense Deficit Disorder throughout our society.
That distance has been growing all my adult life, but the Ebola argument has brought it into sharper relief. The elites should start twigging onto it. They are no longer immediately respected, their guidance is not reflexively taken. They seem more immersed in political thinking--what is the ideologically enlightened position to take, where's the boss on it?--than in protecting public health.
Or thinking commonsensically, like your great-aunt.
Which is too bad because great-aunts built America.
This is one of the greatest dangers to our society today. It looms in the background of the actual root causes of crime -- permissive parenting, standardless schools, and acceptance of excuses for wrongdoing.