August 2015 Archives

A Stay for Virginia Ex-Governor

| No Comments
Jess Bravin reports for the WSJ:

WASHINGTON--The Supreme Court Monday granted former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's plea to avoid prison while he pursues a last-ditch appeal of his convictions on federal corruption charges.

Mr. McDonnell was sentenced to two years' imprisonment following his January conviction on what federal prosecutors characterized as a "quid pro quo bribery scheme" with a Virginia businessman seeking to promote a dietary supplement product.

In an unsigned order, the justices said Mr. McDonnell need not report to prison while he prepares his Supreme Court appeal, which the justices will then consider whether to hear.
Chief Justice Roberts issued a stay pending consideration of the government's response last Monday.  He then referred the stay application to the full court, which granted it today.

This post back in 2012 discusses the quirks of the jurisdiction of individual Justices and the full Court to issue stays.

News Scan

| No Comments

CA's Death Penalty Delay Put on Trial:  In a case that may head to the U.S. Supreme Court, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard argument this morning in its review of a Los Angeles federal judge's 2014 ruling declaring California's death penalty unconstitutional due to "systemic delays" that render the practice, in the judge's determination, arbitrary and unconstitutional.  Howard Mintz of the San Jose Mercury News reports that U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney concluded in the case of Jones v. Davis, involving a convicted murderer who has been on death row for two decades, that California's death penalty has transformed into "life in prison, with the remote possibility of death."  Attorney General Kamala Harris has urged the appeals court to reverse the decision despite her opposition to the death penalty, pointing out that any delays in reviewing a death row inmate's appeals "are meant to ensure legal protections to avoid mistakes."  Attorneys for death row inmates argue that the problem is not fixable; though CJLF legal director Kent Scheidegger emphasizes the state of Virginia's success in fixing their system and the execution of the D.C. sniper in less than six years.  Another factor for delays in executions is the ongoing legal challenges to the state's lethal injection method that, when resolved, will allow 17 death row inmates who have exhausted all legal appeals to receive immediate execution dates.

Houston Cop Ambushed at a Gas Station:  A Houston deputy was ambushed and killed Friday while refueling his car a gas station when a gunman unloaded the entire clip of his .40 caliber pistol at close range, unleashing a total of 15 shots into the officer.  Fox News reports that 47-year-old Deputy Darren Goforth, a 10-year veteran, was shot in the back of the head by 30-year-old Shannon J. Miles, who then stood over the officer's body and unloaded his remaining ammo.  Miles, who has a lengthy rap sheet, was identified through surveillance footage, and a .40 caliber pistol found in the garage of his home was determined through ballistics to be the murder weapon.  His mother claims her son's innocence, insisting that the two were shopping together at the time of the shooting.  An attorney for Miles says that Miles indicated to officers that he was not involved and is expected to plead not guilty.  The motive for the crime is still unclear.

Kate Steinle's Murder Prompts Some Cooperation:  The July 1 death of a young woman at the hands of an illegal immigrant with a criminal record has prompted four Bay Area counties - Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Marin - to agree to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when inmates flagged by the agency for possible deportation are about to be released.  Tracey Kaplan of the San Jose Mercury News reports that Alameda County has already notified ICE of almost 100 inmates over the past seven weeks, 20 of whom federal agents have taken into custody, while Contra Costa County is notifying federal authorities of only those inmates who have committed serious or violent crimes.  Immigrant-rights advocates argue that notifying ICE of pending releases undermines immigrants' trust in police, and the sheriff of San Francisco, the sanctuary city this heated political issue spawned from, "has no plans to cooperate with ICE."  Two months ago, 32-year-old Kate Steinle was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant with a long criminal history, including five deportations, as she walked along a pier in San Francisco.  The immigrant, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, had been released by San Francisco authorities without notifying ICE.

The End of Seriousness

| No Comments
I was initially going to introduce this post as off-topic, but on second thought, it is regrettably relevant to C&C's subject matter.  We deal here with crime and punishment.  These are serious topics, and discussing them presupposes a level of seriousness in the conversation.

There is now evidence that the level of seriousness needed for intelligent debate has vanished  --  or, more correctly, has been forfeited.  You will not be surprised to learn that the origin of this step back to ignorance is academia.

The University of Tennessee  --  hardly a fly-by-night operation  --  is now urging its students to pretend that they cannot tell the difference between boys and girls, and, if they must pretend they know it anyway, that their speech elide the distinction.

Here's the start of the story:

In the boldest endorsement of a growing national trend, the University of Tennessee is urging incoming students and teachers to junk references to "he," "she," and "them," in favor of gender-neutral "ze" and "xe."

The University has helpfully published a chart for those who have trouble getting their Minds Right.
Adam Liptak has this article in the NYT.  The first two paragraphs read:

Justice Clarence Thomas has not asked a question from the Supreme Court bench since 2006. His majority opinions tend to be brisk, efficient and dutiful.

Now, studies using linguistic software have discovered another Thomas trait: Those opinions contain language from briefs submitted to the court at unusually high rates.
From that opening, the headline of the article, and the prominent picture of Justice Thomas, readers would likely get the impression he is very different from any of his colleagues on this measure.  Here are the actual numbers from further down the article:

Over the years, the average rate of nearly identical language between a party's brief and the majority opinion was 9.6 percent. Justice Thomas's rate was 11.3 percent. Justice Sonia Sotomayor's was 11 percent, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's 10.5 percent.
In other words, Justice Thomas is barely different at all from Justice Sotomayor and not much different from Justice Ginsburg, a result very different from the initial impression formed by the top of the article.  Liptak's characterization of Justice Thomas's rate as "unusually high" is particularly questionable.  On any measure, one of the nine has to be highest, and the fact that Justice Thomas's number happens to be a smidge higher than the next highest does not come close to justifying that characterization.

News Scan

| 1 Comment

Parole Recommended for Charles Manson Follower:  Parole officials announced Thursday that, after 43 years in prison and 30 parole hearings, they have decided that it is safe to free one of Charles Manson's followers.  Don Thompson of the AP reports that 72-year-old Bruce Davis, serving a life sentence for two counts of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder and robbery in the slayings of musician Gary Hinman and stuntman Donald "Shorty" Shea in 1969, has had similar parole recommendations blocked three times, once by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and twice by Gov. Jerry Brown.  Brown has stated that Davis is still a danger to the public despite his age.  Though Davis was not a participant in the highly-publicized murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others, "the lesser-known slayings are plenty to keep him behind bars," says Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney John Morris.  Gov. Brown will decide on Thursday's recommendation in approximately five months.

Tourist Robbery Points to Rise in SF Property Crime:  San Francisco is experiencing a dramatic rise in property crime this year, exemplified by the Tuesday robbery and shooting of a tourist from Thailand over his camera.  KTVU reports that "smash and grabs" and muggings have become increasingly popular among criminals, who are attracted to small but valuable items such as cameras, cell phones and iPads as a quick way to make money and spend little or no time behind bars.  Many in law enforcement are pointing fingers at Prop. 47, the ballot measure passed by voters last November which reduces shoplifting and grand theft to misdemeanors, so long as the value of the stolen item is less than $950.  Since San Francisco is known to be lenient toward such crimes, career criminals are "gaming the system," says San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr.  With property crime up 20 percent in the city compared to the same time last year, Suhr urges amendments be made to current laws to ensure criminals do the time for their crimes.

Previously Deported Illegal Immigrant Accused of Sexual Assault:  Pearland, Texas police are in the process of tracking down a previously deported illegal immigrant sex offender who allegedly sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl with Down syndrome at her home on Monday.  Jerome Hudson of Breitbart reports that 25-year-old Jesus Atrian, a family friend of the victim, was previously deported to his native Mexico for a prior conviction of indecency with a child in August 2014, for which he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight years of probation and required to register as a sex offender.  He was then released to ICE officials who reportedly deported him to Mexico.  Police are concerned that he has absconded to Mexico and are asking the public for help locating him.

The U.S. Supreme Court has released the last of its scheduled summer orders lists.  The orders in these lists are generally routine, and this one is no exception.

Among the most routine of orders are the denials of rehearing petitions.  There have been some cases where "rehearing" was granted to a case that was never literally heard in the first place.  That is, some cases turned away at the threshold (certiorari denied) have been taken back up after another case changed the relevant law.

But when was the last time the U.S. Supreme Court decided a case after full briefing and argument and then granted rehearing to reconsider its decision?  I can't remember a single case, and I've been doing this a long time. Yet lawyers keep filing the petitions.

Today's list denied rehearing in Glossip v. Gross.  The August 10 list denied rehearing in Davis v. Ayala.

Rehab Flops

We are often told that alternatives to prison will do as well to protect us, will cost less, and will mark a step forward in our humanity.  Leading the list of alternatives is more "investment" in rehabilitation.

Only one thing.

An expert with the Heritage Foundation (which disagrees with me on sentencing reform), spills the beans.

Not So Strong After All

| No Comments
Today's New York Times reports on a new study questioning the results of many headline-grabbing psychological studies. The authors report that more than half of the studies they examined could not be replicated to the same effect as the original studies.  As the article mentions:

The new analysis, called the Reproducibility Project and posted Thursday by Science, found no evidence of fraud or that any original study was definitively false. Rather, it concluded that the evidence for most published findings was not nearly as strong as originally claimed.

"Less than half -- even lower than I thought," said Dr. John Ioannidis, a director of Stanford University's Meta-Research Innovation Center, who once estimated that about half of published results across medicine were inflated or wrong. Dr. Ioannidis said the problem was hardly confined to psychology and could be worse in other fields, including cell biology, economics, neuroscience, clinical medicine, and animal research.

This is hardly surprising news to anyone in the field who's been paying attention but it's good news that it's getting some widespread attention.  There is an epidemic of Overclaim Syndrome in many parts of psychology that desperately needs the antidote of modesty.  

News Scan

| No Comments

Albuquerque School Hired Fugitive Pedophile:  A man being considered to become second-in-command at Albuquerque Public Schools in New Mexico was revealed Wednesday as a fugitive on the run from police in two states, facing multiple outstanding child sex abuse charges in Colorado.  Joseph J. Kolb of Fox News reports that 50-year-old Timothy Martinez was hired in June as the district's deputy superintendent using the alias Jason Martinez, but quit abruptly in August after dodging multiple fingerprint and background checks.  He faces charges of sexual contact with a boy under the age of 15 and 16, which prompted his resignation at Denver Public Schools in Colorado.  He was released on bond before relocating to New Mexico, though he was barred from leaving Colorado.  Martinez was personally appointed by the district's current superintendent, Luis Valentino, without submitting a resume, though Valentino denies knowledge of the allegations.  Martinez was arrested Wednesday when he returned to Denver.

Court Rules Illegal Immigrants Have 2nd Amendment Rights:  In the case of United States v. Meza-Rodriguez, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit determined that illegal immigrants have Second Amendment rights.  Awr Hawkins of Breitbart reports that in August 2013, Mexican national Mariano Meza-Rodriguez was arrested, found to be in possession of a .22 caliber cartridge but lacking documentation, and was subsequently indicted.  He challenged the indictment, claiming it "impermissibly infringed on his rights under the Second Amendment of the Constitution."  Judge Diane Wood ruled, relying on the language in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), "that all people, including non-U.S. citizens, whether or not they are authorized to be in this country, enjoy at least some rights under the Second Amendment."

LA Police Officer, Victim Dead After Shooting, Stabbing:  A Louisiana police officer was shot and killed Wednesday when he responded to a triple stabbing that killed one woman and injured two others, after which the suspect crashed his car into a convenience store and barricaded himself in an office demanding a fight.  Fox News reports that the suspect, 35-year-old Harrison Riley Jr., is the cousin of the slain officer, 51-year-old Henry Nelson, and shot the officer with his own handgun.  The violence began when 40-year-old Shameka Johnson, among the deceased, and 34-year-old Shurlay Johnson, her sister, intervened in an argument that Riley was having with his wife.  When Officer Nelson arrived, a fight between them ensued.  Nelson is the second Louisiana police officer killed in four days and the fifth in four months.  Riley was arrested after a two-hour standoff and faces charges of first-degree murder, first-degree murder of a police officer, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, criminal damage to property and resisting arrest.

BLM, the New Fascism

| No Comments
It's not like we've never seen shouting down opposing speakers.  We saw plenty of it, circa 1930's Germany.

We saw more today, courtesy of Black Lives Matter.  The person they shouted down was the black, female, liberal Democrat who is the Mayor of the District of Columbia, Muriel Bowser (not that it was any better when they did it to two white men, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley).

The Washington Post has the story:

Dozens of protestors shouting "black lives matter" interrupted D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser's address late Thursday morning on how to stem the rising number of homicides in the city.

Bowser (D) planned to announce a wide-ranging, $15 million plan to boost both community programs and police presence in response to a 36 percent spike in killings this year. But protesters linked to a nationwide movement that has mobilized over allegations of police misconduct erupted at her first mention of putting more officers on the streets. 

Let's do a quick-hitter of what we've learned so far about the top reasons to reject the mass sentencing reduction parading as "sentencing reform," and about why, instead, we should preserve the  system of honest and sober sentencing that has helped reduce crime by half over the last generation. 

It's depressing that we should even have to make an argument to safeguard a huge benefit all our citizens have enjoyed, particularly those most at-risk  --  and those who will disproportionately suffer if we lose focus and slide back to the failed, crime-ridden policies of the past.

But you do what you gotta do.  Here goes.
The death penalty battle today has largely become one of grass-roots supporters versus elitist opponents.  The anti side has the big bucks donors, near unanimity in academia, and a press that often regurgitates uncritically all the propaganda the Soros-funded "Information Center" can pump out.

Our side has the common sense of regular folks.

In Nebraska, the organized and well-funded opposition flooded the unicameral legislature with its message and got a repeal bill passed over the governor's veto.  A sparsely funded effort to gather signatures for a referendum promptly began.  Grant Schulte has this report for AP on today's announcement that they got enough signatures.  Bill quotes part of it in his post, which was posted nearly simultaneously with the original version of this one.  More after the break.
The Associated Press reports that Nebraska voters have given enough signatures to put the legislature's death penalty repeal bill on the ballot next year.  Indeed, the petition drive gathered tens of thousands more signatures than were necessary to prevent the bill from taking effect at all.

An organization campaigning to reinstate Nebraska's death penalty after lawmakers repealed it in May said Wednesday it has collected more than enough signatures to suspend the law before it goes into effect and place it before voters in 2016.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, which was heavily financed by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts and his family, said it had gathered 166,692 signatures from all 93 of the state's counties. Nebraska's unicameral Legislature had voted to repeal capital punishment over the objection of Ricketts, becoming the first traditionally conservative state to do so in 42 years.

The pro-death penalty group needed roughly 57,000 valid signatures from registered voters to force a statewide referendum, and double that number to immediately halt the death penalty repeal going into effect. They appear to have exceeded the 10 percent of registered voters hurdle needed to block repeal pending a November 2016 ballot measure on the issue.

I contributed to the petition drive, and I look forward to contributing next year to defeat the high-handed legislators, of whichever party, who wanted to trade justice for puff pieces the newspaper.

William Sousa has an article in the City Journal with the above title, subtitled, A response to Broken Windows critic Bernard Harcourt.  Sousa is the co-author, with George Kelling, of an NYPD research report on the efficacy of Broken Windows policing.

For the better part of two decades, Columbia University law professor Bernard Harcourt has been on a personal crusade against Broken Windows policing, criticizing both its theoretical underpinnings and its policy applications. A close look at Harcourt's work, however, reveals not only the weaknesses of his arguments but also his lack of attention to other research findings that conflict with his own. His portrayal of Broken Windows policing, it turns out, is fundamentally inaccurate and incomplete. In effect, Harcourt creates and then fights a paper tiger.

By way of background, Broken Windows is a policing tactic that emphasizes the police management of minor offenses. The authors of the Broken Windows hypothesis--George L. Kelling and the late James Q. Wilson--always maintained that Broken Windows policing should encourage proper discretion on the part of officers. Kelling in particular has discussed the importance of discretion when it comes to maintaining order, as in a recent article in Politico, where he indicates that arrest should be the last option when managing minor offenses.
The misrepresentation of Broken Windows policing as "zero tolerance" policing, encouraging arrests for minor offenses, is an important element of the campaign against it.  When you can't win with the truth, you have to make stuff up.

News Scan

| No Comments

News Journalists Killed on Live TV:  Two Virginia TV news journalists for WDBJ7, a reporter and a cameraman, were shot and killed on live television Wednesday morning, allegedly by a disgruntled employee.  Fox News reports that following the shooting of 24-year-old Alison Parker, 27-year-old Adam Ward, and an interviewee, who survived a gunshot wound to her back, Virginia State Police homed in on 41-year-old Vester Lee Flanagan, a former employee of WDBJ7 who went by the name Bryce Williams, while he was driving on the freeway.  The suspect refused to stop, ran his vehicle off the road and crashed, and then fatally shot himself.  Flanagan, who was fired from the station several years ago, made several posts on social media following the attack, including a first-person video he took during the murder and remarks about Parker's "racist comments" and his anger over Ward reporting him to the HR department.  He was reportedly angered by the Charleston rampage that occurred at a church in June, in which a white man gunned down nine black churchgoers. 

Father Loses Efforts to Remove Daughters from Sex Offender's Home:  The Nebraska Court of Appeals rejected a man's attempt to gain custody of his two teenage daughters after his ex-wife married a registered sex offender, who served four years in prison for the attempted sexual assault of his 15-year-old stepdaughter from a previous marriage.  Joe Duggan of the World-Herald Bureau reports that the girls' mother, who won primary custody of them after the 2004 divorce, moved in with the sex offender in 2011, marking her second relationship with a sex offender.  Her first occurred shortly after the end of her first marriage, and the man was later convicted of sexually assaulted her 5-year-old daughter, who is not party to the current custody dispute.  Nebraska law does not require automatic removal of children from homes shared by sex offenders so long as the count finds that there is "no significant risk of harm," which was supported by the girls' mental health therapist, testifying that there "appeared to be good boundaries" in the home.  No testimony was offered from a mental health specialist who interviewed the sex offender to determine risk of recidivism.

Lawsuit Settlement Allows Deportees to Return to U.S.:  Six of the nine illegal immigrants who filed a class-action lawsuit accusing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Border Patrol in Southern California of using coercive tactics to pressure them into voluntarily leaving the U.S. were allowed to return to the U.S. Tuesday.  Tatiana Sanchez of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the lawsuit was filed by the ACLU in 2013, stating that the illegal immigrants, all of whom are Mexican nationals with U.S.-citizen family members, were deprived of their right to be heard by an immigration judge before they signed documents authorizing their deportation.  ICE officials say that voluntary returns to home countries "remain an important option" for illegal immigrants and coercion is not tolerated in the agency.  The president of the union that represents San Diego Border Patrol agents also denies any coercion, trickery or force involved in their interactions with the immigrants.  The immigrants who were returned will be allowed to stay with family members while their cases are handled by immigration court, "a process that can take several years."

Separation of Church and State, Then and Now

| No Comments
There was a point in our history when it was accepted that there is, and ought to be, a pretty clearly defined separation between church and state.  The Framers thought one Church of England was enough.  Almost all of them were Christian, but did not want religion, theirs or anyone else's, thrust upon others.

Liberals were avid fans of this view of things  --  until they found out that the opposite view could advance their agenda.

My, how times do change.

News Scan

| No Comments

Dallas Police Face Unfair Discipline, Stress:  Officers in the Dallas Police Department have been taking longer to respond to 911 calls, partly due to officers being "mentally beaten down," according to the head of the Dallas Police Association.  J.D. Miles of CBS DFW reports that the association's president, Ron Pinkston, says that many of the 3,000 officers he represents "are moving slower because of concerns over safety and fears about violating department policies."  Dallas Police Chief David Brown attributes new training requirements to the slower responses to priority one calls, which at eight minutes and 13 seconds is the highest it has been in three years.  Ultimately, there is a lack of motivation within the force due to the fear of doing the right thing coupled with the fear that "nobody's going to support them."

Illegal Immigrant Carjacks Woman Minutes After Release:  An illegal immigrant, who had previously been deported, violently carjacked a woman 30 minutes after his release from jail.  Josh Fatzick of the Daily Caller reports that 24-year-old Guaynar Cabrera-Hernandez was released last Monday from the Montgomery County Detention Center in Washington, D.C., and approached a woman in a parking lot while wielding a knife and a brick, put the knife to her throat, forced her out of the car and hurled the brick at her before speeding off in her vehicle.  He struck again two days later, throwing a bottle at the head of a 68-year-old woman and taking her vehicle, crashing through a security gate with police in pursuit and apprehended when he attempted to flee on foot.  Cabrera-Hernandez was arrested in 2007 for being in the country illegally, and then again in 2011 for which he was subsequently deported.  According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Cabrera-Hernandez's past crimes did not meet the agency's "civil immigration enforcement priorities."  Currently, he is wanted in Maryland for an outstanding armed carjacking warrant and is in custody.

Prop. 47: 'A Well-Intentioned Blunder':  In this column on the San Diego Source, Thomas D. Elias acknowledges that Proposition 47, a ballot measure passed by a 60-40 margin last November that downgrades several felonies to misdemeanors, is a bad policy that endangers Californians.  With crime statistics for the first half of the year pouring out from around the state showing, to name but a few, a 47 percent increase in car burglaries in San Francisco and a 12.7 percent increase in overall crime in Los Angeles, "this measure looks worse and worse."  The consequences of Prop. 47, as Elias points out, are plentiful.  Criminals are adjusting their practices by stealing less than $950 worth of goods to avoid a felony charge. Enrollment in drug treatment programs have dropped now that addicts are relieved of the pressure to kick their habits, knowing they'll never do serious time.  Persons with prior convictions of crimes such as carjacking, armed robbery, child abuse and assault with a deadly weapon are not facing jail time because those crimes qualify for misdemeanor status for new non-violent offenses.  "Now it's time for legislators to fix this flawed measure," says Elias.

Along with Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore, Md. has become an epicenter of the Black Lives Matter Movement.  It took root in Maryland in the Freddie Gray case, in which a black drug dealer died in police custody after having been transported  --  under still not clearly known but possibly negligent, or worse, conditions  --  in a police van.  Both black and white police officers have been charged in the death by States Attorney Marilyn Mosby. This was back in April.

Rioting immediately ensued.  The Mayor declared that there needed to be "space to destroy."  Baltimore's rate of violent crime took off.

Six days ago, in mid-August, the Baltimore Sun announced:  "Baltimore records 211th homicide, equalling total for 2014."

It's  not telling tales out of school to observe that the huge majority of Baltimore murder victims are black (it's possible that nearly all of them are, I don't know).  In the wake of the galvanizing of the BLM Movement, and the ensuing fusillade of criticism of the police, there are now dozens more black murder victims in that unhappy city than in decades. 

Is there a lesson here?

Homeless, Therefore Start Shooting

| No Comments
While decent people are outraged by prosecutorial lying, no one even bats an eyelash when defense counsel spin their yarns.  It's what they do.  The basics are easy:  The client is almost always guilty; telling the truth is thus the fast road to jail; therefore make something up.  That's how it works.  Whether it should work that way is another matter, but that is for a different entry.

This is by way of introducing today's AP story about the Jihadist who attempted, but was foiled at, mass murder on a French train. Kent wrote about it here and here.  The would-be killer, Ayoub El-Khazzani, has now lawyered up.  Counsel's name is Sophie David, and this is what she has to say:

"He is dumbfounded that his action is being characterized as terrorism," said [Ms.] David, a lawyer in Arras, where the train was rerouted to arrest El-Khazzani -- now being questioned outside Paris by anti-terrorism police.
He described himself as homeless and David said she had "no doubt" this was true, saying he was "very, very thin" as if suffering from malnutrition and "with a very wild look in his eyes."

For sure.  When you're homeless, the thing to do is grab an assault rifle and go to town.  Why would anyone think otherwise?

But wait, there's more.

News Scan

| No Comments

LA Trooper Shot and Killed:  A Louisiana state trooper responding to reports of a possible intoxicated individual driving erratically, stopped Sunday afternoon to assist a man whose pickup truck had run into a ditch and was shot in the head when the man emerged from the truck with a sawed-off shotgun.  The trooper died of his injuries Monday morning.  Fox News reports that 43-year-old Senior Trooper Steven Vincent, a 13-year veteran of the state police, was shot by 54-year-old Kevin Daigle, a man whose record includes multiple DWIs and other arrests he refused to discuss.  The incident, caught on dash cam video, came to an end when two or three drivers stopped immediately, wrestled the gun out of Daigle's hands and handcuffed him with the officer's pair.  Daigle faces several charges, including first-degree murder of a police officer.  He is also being probed in the death of his roommate, found deceased on Monday, to determine whether he may have a connection to the homicide.

Last Month the Bloodiest in NY Jails:  New York City's jails surged with gang violence in the month of July, making it the bloodiest month behind bars in 15 years.  Reuven Blau of NY Daily News reports that records show a total of 21 slashings and one stabbing occurred last month in the facilities, with 16 of those incidents involving members of the Bloods, Crips or Latin Kings.  These figures have increased from last year, which only saw an average to seven slashings and stabbings in a month.  Prison officials believe that continued gang disputes on the streets are spilling over into the jails, and have also been openly critical of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte's reform to reduce the number of inmates placed in solitary confinement, which is thought to be contributing to the increased mayhem.

No Clear Answer for Crimes Spikes in U.S. Cities:  "There really is no particular reason," said LAPD's central division Captain Mike Oreb regarding Los Angeles' 12 percent spike in overall crime, with violent offenses rising more than 20 percent, a pattern that is resonating with major cities nationwide.  Haya El Nasser of Al Jazeera America reports that Los Angeles prosecutors and law enforcement officers are pointing fingers at a change in the crime reporting system and, most especially, to Prop. 47, a voter-approved initiative passed in November that downgrades certain felonies, including drug possession and theft, to misdemeanors.  However, Los Angeles does not stand alone in this trend, as Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Houston, Milwaukee, Dallas, St. Louis, San Antonio, New Orleans and Washington, D.C., are all reporting double-digit surges in murders in the first half of this year.  When asked if the numbers signify a reversal of decreasing crime trends the country has been experiencing for decades, president of the Police Foundation, Jim Bueermann, says "I don't think we really know."

Sex Offenders, Convicted Murderers Among CA Uber Drivers:  Uber, a ridesharing company that has given taxi drivers stiff competition, is accused of hiring drivers with criminal histories, including sex offenders and a convicted murderer, detailed in a consumer-protection lawsuit filed by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon.  Mario Sevilla of KRON 4 reports that the complaint says that among the drivers that passed Uber's self-described "industry leading" background check were several registered sex offenders, a kidnapper, identity thieves, burglars and a convicted murderer who was hired less than seven years after being paroled, going on to provide 1,168 rides.  Gascon says that the company cannot "unfairly claim it is rigorously checking the background of its drivers" unless those drivers are put through the same fingerprinting process required of taxi drivers in California.  An Uber spokeswoman voiced her disagreement with Gascon's complaint, claiming that the process used by taxi companies is not "an inherently better system for screening drivers than our background checks."

Mixing politics and the power to prosecute is the fast road to tyranny.  That is one reason I have been unstinting in my criticism both of Eric Holder's politicization of DOJ and of the reckless grandstanding by Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby in the Freddie Gray case, see here, here, and here.

Even Ms. Mosby, however, looks good by comparison to the federal prosecutors whose jaw-dropping unethical behavior resulted in well deserved judicial rebukes from both the federal district court and, now, the Fifth Circuit (opinion here).

It's impossible to summarize in a single sentence the extent or the sleaze of the prosecutors' stunts, but let me start by saying that they essentially tried a prominent federal case against seven New Orleans police officers  --  four of them black or Hispanic  --  by tweet, then repeatedly lied about it.

Sal Perricone, a high-ranking prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office, using a fake name, posted commentary on, the website of the Times-Picayune, that (in the words of the Court of Appeals) "castigated the defendants and their lawyers and repeatedly chastised the New Orleans Police Department as a fish 'rotten from the head down.'"

Perricone was joined in this outrageous misconduct by Jan Mann, the first assistant to the U.S. attorney.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, Karla Dobinski, a veteran of Holder's Civil Rights Division, also posted inflammatory commentary under at least one assumed name. Ironically -- appallingly -- Dobinsky was part of the DOJ "taint team" in this case. As such, she was assigned to protect the civil rights of the indicted defendants. 

The whole appalling story is here.

On the evening of June 17 of this year, white supremacist Dylann Roof, after sitting in a black church for about an hour, pulled out a Glock .41 handgun with hollow-point bullets and murdered nine black people who had been in a prayer and Bible study group. No sane person doubts either that he did it, that he knew what he was doing, that he thought about his actions, or that the motive was anything other than racial hate. It was a 21st Century mass lynching, there is no other honest name for it.

South Carolina, like the great majority of states, has the death penalty.  Even if it should be abolished in the future because of the risk of executing the innocent, or because it is (or is said to be) employed  discriminatorily against African Americans, or because it takes a long time and costs a lot, will any abolitionists come off their "facts-never-matter" stance to support its use in this utterly clear and grotesque case?

They've done it before.  In the Oklahoma City bombing, a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll found that a majority of those typically against capital punishment on principle supported it for Timothy McVeigh.  The crime was just too much of an assault on the basics of civilized life.

Isn't that also true here?  Have we not reached the point in America where we are going to say no to lynching  --  to say no and mean it? To understand that the country has passed a turning point toward ensuring dignity regardless of race? To understand that even if in the case of the "ordinary" mass murder we should accept a prison term, we have come too far and paid too much to do that here?

As a general matter, tolerance, understood as a generous turn of mind, is a good thing. But it depends on what we are being asked to tolerate.  There should be no tolerance for Dylann Roof's attempt to drag America back to a hideous past.  I will be looking for abolitionists to do some of the critical, reflective thinking they say they value and, in this case, support the death penalty.

Update On French Train Story

| No Comments
As often happens, the initial report on the attack on the French train was incorrect in a few particulars.  It looks like four people heroically stopped this apparently terrorist attack:  two American servicemen, one American civilian, and one Frenchman. Sam Schechner and Julian E. Barnes report for the WSJ:

Authorities praised two U.S. military members and their friend who tackled and subdued a man armed with guns and a box cutter on a Paris-bound train Friday as it sped through Belgium, breaking up what could have been a deadly terrorist attack.

The three Americans were seated on the train when they heard a gunshot and breaking glass, according to accounts from one of the men and a U.S. official briefed on the attack.

Crouching behind their seats, the Americans, who are childhood friends, decided they had to act. Airman First Class Spencer Stone, 23 years old, ran toward the gunman and tackled him.

"I told him to go, and he went," Alek Skarlatos, 22, a member of the Oregon National Guard who had been deployed in Afghanistan, said Saturday.

Darren Boyle has this story, with the above headline, in the Daily Mail of London.

Two unarmed US Marines on board a high-speed train between Amsterdam and Paris foiled a terrorist attack after a gunman opened fire with an assault rifle, wounding three people.

The 26-year-old Moroccan national, who was known to security services, came out of the toilet brandishing the gun and opened fire. Fortunately, two US Marines were nearby and overpowered him before he could massacre passengers.

The suspected terrorist had at least nine full magazines of ammunition holding almost 300 rounds. He was also carrying a knife.

Unfortunately, one of the Marines was shot and is believed to be in a critical condition. It is feared that he was shot in the neck by the gunman.
Two unarmed Marines took down a guy with a Kalashnikov, saving God knows how many lives.  Now there is a profile in courage.  Let us pray for the wounded hero.

Update:   The headline now reads, "Unarmed US Marines foil suspected terrorist attack onboard high-speed train between Amsterdam and Paris after they take down Kalashnikov-wielding Moroccan gunman known to intelligence services"

Update 2:  Turns out they aren't Marines, but the essential parts of the story are correct.  See next post.

The Lies at the Base of "Black Lives Matter"

The "Black Lives Matter" Movement took root a little more than a year ago in Ferguson, Mo.  A white policeman, Darren Wilson, shot a blameless and unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, as Brown had his hands up, trying to surrender (hence the Movement's first slogan, "Hands Up, Don't Shoot").  Thereafter, Wilson walked up to Brown, now prone, and, as noted in stories briefly recounted in this New Yorker article, shot him in the back.

Or so is the fable.  It's a pack of lies, and was from the day it started. The point of BLM was never to tell the truth, so when the truth came out  --  as it did in two grand jury investigations, including one by Eric Holder's Justice Department  --  it was dismissed. The point was always something different:  To intimidate the police and thus benefit criminals.

There's evidence that it's worked.  Police work has become more fraught.  Some cops say they're pulling back.  When the State's Attorney indicts the police and the city's mayor says rioters must be given "space to destroy," what were we expecting?  We should have been expecting, e.g., Baltimore, and a spike in murders coast-to-coast, which is what we got and are getting.

The wretched irony in this is, of course, that black lives do matter, and that blacks, who disproportionately bear the brunt of poverty, depend more than better-off whites for the basic protection policing provides.  In part for that reason, I repeat the following entry on PowerLine, a bitterly humorous tribute to the insidious deceit and tragic carnage of "Black Lives Matter."

News Scan

| No Comments

Teen Girls to be tried as Adults in Stabbing:  Two 13-year-old Wisconsin girls are to be tried as adults in the 2014 stabbing of their friend, whom they were attempting to murder as a sacrifice to a fictitious horror character.  Greg Moore of the AP reports that the two girls, both 12 at the time of the crime, plotted in advance to lure their friend, Payton Leutner, into the woods during a sleepover, where they repeatedly stabbed her.  They did to win the favor of Slender Man, an imaginary character that has proliferated online in recent years.  The two girls told police that they believed they would be invited to live in Slender Man's mansion in exchange for killing Leutner, who miraculously survived the attack despite being stabbed 19 times.  Both girls pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges of attempted first-degree intentional homicide and face 65 years in prison if convicted as adults.  An appeals court could move the cases to juvenile court, where the two, if convicted, would be released with no supervision or mental health treatment at the age of 18.

No Protests for Murder of 9-year-old in Ferguson:  A nine-year-old girl was shot and killed while doing homework on her mother's bed in Ferguson, Mo. Tuesday evening, yet a Wednesday night protest was concerned only with the officer-involved shooting of an armed suspect who pointed a gun at police.  Fox News reports that whoever fired a gun through the home of Jamyla Bolden has not been identified, though the girl's relatives believe police are focusing on a person of interest who likely targeted the wrong house in the fatal drive-by shooting.  Bolden's mother suffered a non-fatal gunshot wound to the leg and was released from the hospital Wednesday.  

Crime Up in Riverside County:  The total number of violent and property crimes reported to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department increased in the first six months of 2015 compared to the first six months of 2014.  Brian Rokos and Ali Tadayon of the Press Enterprise report that the latest statistics reveal a 6.3 percent increase in violent crimes and a 2.2 percent increase in property crimes.  In just the unincorporated areas of the county, violent crimes have risen more than 15 percent while property crimes have jumped 7.7 percent.  A possible reason for the uptick, says LA area law professor Steven Lurie, is the "twin influences of Prop. 47 and realignment."  Prop. 47, approved by voters last November, downgrades certain felonies to misdemeanors and realignment, or AB 109,  transferred thousands of so called  "non-violent, non-serious, non-sexual" offenders from state prison to county jails, forcing Riverside County to release thousands of inmates early to accommodate criminals no longer eligible for prison.  Prop. 47 has been in effect for less than one year, and the sheriff's department will wait to assess a full year's worth of crime data before weighing in on specific impacts of Prop. 47 alone.

Community-based Chaos

| No Comments
James Panero has this article in the City Journal with the above title.  It is subtitled "The de Blasio administration has all the wrong answers on the homeless mentally ill."

For New Yorkers who remember the bad old days, the recent reminders of an era when urban pathologies ruled the streets can be jarring. Back when times were tough, residents of my neighborhood on the Upper West Side passed by abandoned graffiti-covered lots, crunched red-capped crack vials under their feet, and worried about when Larry Hogue, the "Wild Man of 96th Street," would make his next appearance. Now some of this sense of foreboding seems to be coming back.


In a comment to Bill's post on marijuana, Oscar asks why CJLF does not take a position on marijuana legalization.  I've explained this before on the blog, but readers come and go, so it won't hurt to explain it again.

On the Wonderfulness of Pot...

CJLF takes no position on marijuana legalization.  At present, it is illegal everywhere in the United States.  States that purport to legalize it can pass whatever laws they care to, but under the Supremacy Clause, federal law prevails over contrary state law.  In the struggle for civil rights, this was considered a good thing, but that was then.

Not that it matters a whole lot.  Simply smoking a joint has been de facto legal for decades.  Yes, if you do it on the police station steps, that might be a problem, but short of that....

Still, we have the never-ending and much-fabled "national conversation" about pot.  We are advised that we should base our views on facts, not emotion or prejudice.

Sounds good to me.  Here's today's fact, from the Associated Press, reporting out of Seattle:  "Fatal crashes involving marijuana double in Washington."

I guarantee you that this fact will make no difference.  The push to legalize, and thus increase the use of, pot has zip to do with public health, although it is often and aggressively put in those terms.  It's about ideology, pure and simple.

Wiping a Server

| No Comments
Following up on Bill's post, it really is too bad that C&C doesn't have its own server, because I would very much like to use one of these.  We don't do ads on this blog, but I will tell you where to get this one.

The statute Bill referred to is the one involved in the Supreme Court's "fish overboard" case of last term, Yates v. United States.  See this post.

Yates limited the reach of the statute regarding "tangible objects" to those which "record or preserve information," not including fish, but that won't help Mrs. Clinton.  Emails and the servers that hold them are squarely within the statute as interpreted by Yates.

Playing dumb about what it means to wipe a server is about as convincing as the immigrant who speaks fluent English until the questioning gets tough and then suddenly can't understand a word.

Spoilation of Evidence and Secretary Clinton

| No Comments
CJLF is not a partisan organization, although it's obvious it more frequently sides with Republicans than Democrats, particularly on matters of judicial selection.  I, as a guest contributor, have not been shy about strongly taking on such Republican stalwarts as Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and occasionally my brilliant friend from years ago  --  and a courageous man in my view  --  Sen. Ted Cruz. I have had very little to say about some prominent Democrats, in particular leading presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

This is, however, a criminal law blog, and one of the most important factors in preserving the legitimacy and public repute of criminal law is that it be applied as equitably as possible toward both the strong and the weak.  Thus, when powerful but corrupt Republicans like George Ryan, Duke Cunningham and Bernie Kerick got sentenced to prison, my reaction was:  Fine.  They want to behave that way, they can live with the consequences.  

Same deal with the Democrats.  Today, I could not help but take note of this story, "Clinton Lawyer Says Her Server Was Wiped Clean."  

News Scan

| No Comments

Nine Protesters Arrested After Shooting in St. Louis:  Nine people were arrested in St. Louis after an armed black man evading arrest was shot and killed by white police officers when he pointed a gun at them.  Fox News reports that officers were dispatched to the home of 18-year-old Mansur Ball-Bey to serve a warrant, and fatally shot him as he pointed his firearm at them while attempting to flee.  Afterwards, a group of protesters blocked an intersection, hurled bricks and glass bottles at officers and refused orders to clear the roadway.  St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson believes the crimes and actions of the protesters stem from "people seeking notoriety in a neighborhood plagued by violence." Protests over police brutality have been a common in the crime plagued neighborhood since the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown last year.

Mexican Cartels Controlling the AZ Desert:  An Arizona sheriff says that U.S. sovereignty is gone for hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of square miles throughout the American southwest, and that "nobody" has operational control of the region.  Matthew Boyle of Breitbart reports that Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, while on a helicopter tour with GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, pointed out scores of scout sites for cartel operatives, located as far as 70 miles north of the border, that serve as lookouts for smugglers bringing drugs, people and other contraband into the U.S.  The Mexican cartels and illegal immigrants "shouldn't be 70 miles inside the border.  We should stop them at the border," says Dr. Carson. 

Proposed Law on Race, Police Draws Debate:  A fierce debate erupted during a public hearing inside packed City Council Chambers in Binghampton, New York Wednesday night over a proposed law that supporters say ensures to equal treatment of all residents by police and improves the department's relationship with the community.  Megan Brockett of Press Connects reports that the Police Modernization Law, calls for broader data collection and analysis of stops by police, mandatory cultural competency and anti-racism training for all officers and a new plan for adding greater diversity to the force.  The law's inclusion of the phrase "probable cause" in the definition of racial profiling, would bar officers from using "reasonable suspicion" while dealing with suspects.  

Euthanasia in Europe

| No Comments
Charles Lane has this opinion article in the WaPo, headlined, "Europe's sinister expansion of euthanasia."  CJLF takes no position on the issue, and I won't volunteer my personal opinion, at least not today, but I thought I would note this paragraph:

Frank van den Bleeken, imprisoned for 30 years for rape and murder, sought euthanasia from Distelmans, citing his incurable violent impulses and the misery of life behind bars. Belgian officials and Distelmans initially agreed; a lethal injection the murderer might have gotten as punishment in the United States would be supplied as therapy in anti-death penalty Europe.
And what do Belgian doctors prescribe for a painless death?  Sodium thiopental, the drug we are blocked from importing by the D.C. Circuit's dubious decision in Cook v. FDA.
I hope it has not become controversial that the law should punish intentional behavior that knowingly produces great harm simply for the quick profit of the miscreant.

It has been accepted for years that trafficking heroin, a deadly drug that will ruin your life before taking it, deserves severe punishment.  But that's now all up for grabs, as sentencing "reformers" plan  to dumb down sentencing for heroin (and everything else), and to do so in the midst of a heroin epidemic. It is for this reason that I have suggested that any "reform" legislation be voted on senator-by-senator and drug-by-drug.  Let our legislators say out loud that now is the time to let the sentencing system go easier on smack pushers  --  go easier just as overdose deaths are spiking across the country.

I haven't  heard a peep about attacking the heroin epidemic from such well-known "reformers" as Dick Durbin  (D-IL) or Mike Lee (R-UT).  I am happy to report, however, that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is planning action  --  and, to be fair, is planning it in coordination with Obama Drug Czar Michael Botticelli.

Thus, Politico reports:
Anti-death penalty zealot Linda Greenhouse has a piece up in the NYT gushing over the Connecticut Supreme Court's 4-3 decision retrospectively abolishing the death penalty, even though the state legislature  --  a very liberal legislature  --  abolished it only prospectively, and even though that distinction was crucial to getting an abolition bill passed at all, as Kent has noted. The gist of Ms. Greenhouse's article is that the death penalty is on the way out the door, and sooner or later, the fabled "national conversation" about its defects will take us to the Higher Ground that Ms. Greenhouse and her Manhattan pals occupy.

There is much to say about the Greenhouse work, but for now I want to mention only two things to point out how slanted, if not simply dishonest, it is.

First, the big opportunity for a major strike against the death penalty came, not in Connecticut, but, less than eight weeks ago, in the United States Supreme Court's Glossip case.  Abolitionists were giddy with anticipation.  Liberal blogs were all over themselves anticipating a "big decision."

Didn't happen.  The opposite happened.  A SCOTUS majority, with Justice Kennedy on board with every word, declared that "it is settled that capital punishment is constitutional."

But that Glossip was ever decided cannot be found in the Greenhouse piece until nicely down the page, in its tenth paragraph, and the word "Glossip" does not appear until after that.  This is in an article about the future of the American death penalty, mind you.
Much has been made of the fact that blustering tycoon Donald Trump leads the field of Republican presidential candidates. There have been a number of reasons suggested for this.  Among them is that he (supposedly) says what a large number of Republicans, and I daresay many others, really think:  That Washington is just an insider's game, with a lot of backroom deals and mutual back-scratching among well-funded interest groups that care little or nothing for the public interest.

This got me to thinking about sentencing "reform," the euphemism pasted on proposed mass sentencing reduction.  Such "reform" is all the rage in the press, academia (when not faking "scholarly" papers), much of the legal profession, and Big Money folks from the Koch brothers to George Soros.

In other words, mass sentencing reduction is popular with the inside-the-Beltway interest group culture that Trump has had a field day torching .  The question is whether it is popular with ordinary citizens.

I have never seen evidence that it is.  For months, I have looked for a poll that would ask, "Which comes closer to your view of the problem with our criminal justice system  --  that we have too many people in prison for too long, or that we don't do enough to keep criminals off the street?"

With all the money behind sentencing "reform," that question could have been polled long ago.  Why hasn't it?

I  strongly suspect the "reform" groups don't poll it because they know what the answer is. As do we all.  Our citizens prefer to keep criminals off the street, a strategy that has helped produce huge public benefits for a generation.

Republicans who allow themselves to be bull-rushed into signing onto sentencing "reform" are being hoodwinked.  It's not just that it's a bad idea on the merits, although that should be enough.  It's that it has no political benefit.  It is, to the contrary, exactly the sort of cozy, flush, special-interest, wine-and-cheese  project that has a blowhard like Trump feeling his oats.
...remember this, from yesterday's Washington Post:  "Major publisher retracts 64 scientific papers in fake peer review outbreak."

Pro-criminal academics and their allies ceaselessly congratulate themselves on how dedicated they are to reason and research, while looking down their noses at those of us on the Archie Bunker side.  Salon recently made an explicit point of this, as I discussed here.

The only thing that's hard to figure is whether the arrogance of these people overmatches their dishonesty.

News Scan

| No Comments

AZ Sheriff Blasts Feds for Releasing Violent Immigrants:  An Arizona sheriff expressed his outrage Tuesday over a U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy that set free three violent criminal aliens in the last week, and called the agency's new Law Enforcement Notification System "too little, too late."  Perry Chiaramonte of Fox News reports that Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu spoke of his frustration at a news conference alongside family members of crime victims, spotlighting three criminals released into his jurisdiction.  They included a Russian national who set a police informant on fire, an Iraqi who killed his two-year-old daughter and an illegal from Sudan who committed multiple assaults in two states.  ICE claims that under current law, they were unable to legally hold the three, two of whom were released because their travel documents could not be located, called a "bureaucratic excuse" by Babeu.  Though ICE defends their efforts to promote public safety by notifying local agencies of releases of criminal aliens, "by simply notifying sheriffs of the release of dangerous criminals doesn't address the core problem that these dangerous criminals remain in America," said Babeu.

Subway Pitchman Pleads Guilty to Porn:  Jared Fogle, the former Subway Pitchman and well-known face of the sandwich chain, reached a plea deal Wednesday, stating that he intends to plead guilty to child pornography charges and crossing state lines to pay for sex with minors.  Mariano Castillo of CNN reports that the plea agreement, which recommends that Fogle serve between five and 12 ½ years in prison, will have to be approved by the court.  He will also be required to pay restitution to 14 victims in the amount of $100,000 each.  The charges stem from Fogle's relationship with Russell C. Taylor, the executive director of the Jared Foundation charity, who was arrested over two months ago on federal child porn charges and whose home was equipped with hidden cameras that captured the images and videos in Fogle's possession.  Subway severed ties with Fogle earlier this year following an FBI raid of his home.

Arrests on the Rise in Baltimore:  Arrests are increasing in Baltimore, a positive turn following the summer's "domino effect" of crime, says Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.  Yvonne Wenger of the Baltimore Sun reports that the mayor says that beginning three and half weeks ago, drug arrests and gun seizures have been rising, though she didn't provide specific figures.  With assistance from federal agencies such as the FBI, DEA, ATFE and U.S. Marshals Service, the city, which saw crime spiral out of control after the death of Freddie Gray in April, "has been able to build more cases against repeat offenders."

Death-penalty Deception

| 1 Comment
Don Pesci has this op-ed in the Waterbury Republican American:

In 2012, the Democratic majority in the legislature abolished Connecticut's death penalty while leaving the penalty operative for the 11 convicted murderers on death row, thus demolishing all their moral arguments against capital punishment. If the death penalty is cruel, unusual and morally indefensible, would it not be doubly inappropriate for death-row inmates?

Only those who were committed to a scheme of deception supposed the partial-abolition bill would remain law after the Connecticut's Supreme Court reviewed a case challenging the justice of the throwaway legislation that would permit the state to execute 11 men in the absence of a law prescribing a penalty that had been abolished.

Everyone pretended otherwise -- and this pretense was entirely political. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the Democratic legislators favoring abolition knew the bill could not pass if the 11 death-row inmates had not been exempted. Two mass murderers, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, only recently had been convicted and sentenced to death for having committed a particularly heinous murder in Cheshire. The two recent parolees had invaded a home in Cheshire, pummeled homeowner Dr. William A. Petit Jr. with a baseball bat, tied two of his young daughters to their beds, forced his wife to draw money from a bank, raped the wife and one of the daughters, and then set fire to the house, murdering all inside but the doctor, who managed to escape and alert police. Theirs was just the sort of crime that merited a death penalty.

News Scan

| No Comments

CA Lawmen Protest Parole of Cop Killer:  Unions representing Los Angeles police and California prosecutors have joined   the widow of a slain LAPD detective in an attempt to block the parole a man who indirectly helped murder him 30 years ago.  Dana Bartholomew of the LA Daily News reports that on August 4, two members of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) recommended the parole of 52-year-old Voltaire Williams, who is serving a sentence of 25 years to life for conspiracy to commit murder in the death of 42-year-old LAPD Detective Thomas C. Williams (no relation) in 1985. Williams, 26-years-old in 1985, was hired by a man named Daniel S. Jenkins to kill the policeman for $2,000, but didn't go through with it.  Jenkins ended up doing the deed himself, gunning down the officer in front of his six-year-old son.  Critics of Williams' parole believe that the state is trying to "empty out overcrowded penitentiaries by releasing inmates such as Williams on good behavior," noting that 900 such lifers were granted parole this past year.  

Surging Immigration Backlog Overwhelms Judges:  Working conditions for the country's 247 immigration judges are growing progressively worse each year, and 130 of them will be eligible to retire this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.  Molly Hennessy-Fiske of the LA Times reports that according to the Immigration Policy Center, immigration judges typically handle more than 1,400, and some even handle over 3,000 cases at a time, totaling to a massive backlog of more than 450,000 cases, exacerbated by the increasing number of Central American youths seeking asylum.  Judges across the country are outraged at the unmanageable working conditions, and say that the courts need to hire an additional 100 judges "immediately."  An immigration court spokeswoman insists that officials in the U.S. attorney general's office have begun "an aggressive hiring process."

Boston Bomber Wants New Trial, Changed Venue:  In a court filing Monday, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's defense attorneys said that their client deserves a new trial in a different location "where jurors will be impartial."  The AP reports that their argument states that the widespread outrage and emotional media coverage following the 2013 attack that left three people dead and several others injured prevented Boston jurors from looking at the case or the defendant objectively before finding him guilty and sentencing him to death.  The attorneys request that Tsarnaev's sentence be overturned and the court order a new trial.  The filing also includes arguments, citing a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that "throws many of [Tsarnaev's] convictions into question," believing that he should be acquitted of 15 convictions that were for crimes of violence because the trial court failed to explain which part of the definition they met.

We often hear that lack of opportunity for legal employment is a "root cause" of crime.  That is likely less of a factor than many would have us believe, but it would be equally fallacious to believe it is not a factor at all.

We need to be concerned, then, that the ladder of opportunity always be there and that those who want to climb it be able to do so.  Unfortunately, people pretending to have the best interests of low-wage workers at heart are busily sawing off the bottom rungs.

News Scan


California's New Crime Wave:  Proposition 47, the voter-approved initiative that downgrades certain felonies to misdemeanors, "isn't living up to its promise" since it was passed in November, according to Debra J. Saunders of SF Gate, highlighted in this piece.  Since Prop. 47's passage, Saunders says that San Francisco's crime rates are up, including a 47 percent increase in thefts from cars, a 17 percent increase in auto thefts, a 23 percent increase in robberies and a 2 percent increase in aggravated assaults.  Los Angeles is faring no better, with a 12.7 percent increase in overall crime in 2015.  Saunders points out the ease of avoiding mandated drug treatment programs under the measure, and how habitual offenders have adapted their criminal habits to successfully skirt jail time.  "The most commonly committed felonies no longer carry a prison sentence," says Michael Rushford of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, emphasizing that this is a factor that has contributed significantly to California's new crime wave.

Welcome to Post-Ferguson Policing:  In this piece on the National Review, Heather MacDonald discusses how, in a post-Ferguson world, "virtually every tool in an officer's tool chest is vilified as racist."  MacDonald's criticism comes in response to last Friday's brutal assault on a Birmingham, Ala., police officer by a black suspect during a traffic stop, in which the officer was pistol whipped unconscious with his own gun after approaching the situation over-cautiously due to the career-ending scrutiny that police officers currently face in the media.  Witnesses then photographed the bloody and unconscious officer and posted them on social media, where it was widely celebrated rather than condemned.  The "Ferguson effect" has permeated agencies and departments nationwide, as shown by a 19 percent increase in homicides in 35 large U.S. cities, with 62 percent of those cites also reporting increases in non-fatal shootings.  From Baltimore to New York City to Los Angeles, "There are signs that law and order, and moral support for such order, are slowly breaking down," says MacDonald.

Unaccompanied Minors, Family Units Surge at Border:  The latest data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reveals that approximately 135 unaccompanied alien minors were caught illegally crossing the border every day in July, a monthly record in FY 2015.  Brittany M. Hughes of CNS News reports that so far in FY 2015, which began on October 1, 2014, 30,862 unaccompanied alien minors were apprehended at the border, with 4,177 caught during the month of July alone.  Additionally, 4,506 family units were apprehended last month, totaling at 29,407 families apprehended in FY 2015.  Despite this increase in July, border apprehensions "remain at near historic lows" for both unaccompanied minors and family units.

Here is some very sad news.  Michael S. Rosenwald and John Woodrow Cox report in the WaPo:

The Route 29 Batman, whose roadside encounter with Montgomery County police three years ago made him a viral sensation around the world, has died.

Lenny B. Robinson, the 51-year-old Maryland man who drove a custom-made Batmobile and dressed as the Caped Crusader to visit sick children in hospitals, was struck by a car on Interstate 70 on Sunday night near Hagerstown, Md., after the Batmobile broke down. He was coming home from a car show in West Virginia.
Prior posts on Mr. Robinson are here and here.

The Alternate Universe of Washington, DC

| No Comments
In a couple of weeks or so, the Senate will return and unveil a bill for sentencing "reform," the liberal and libertarian code for "mass sentencing reduction."  As has recently become clear, "reformers" by no means intend to stop with their fabled "low-level, non-violent" offender, although he is their poster child.  As they have now made plain  --  taking a pre-victory victory lap  --  they seek the mass release of violent criminals.  As so often in Washington, DC, this flies in the face of the ugly, everyday reality "reformers" would see at their doorstep if they cared to look.

Thus today's Washington Post story, aptly if shockingly titled, "Straight up execution: Crime surges across the District."

This is the gist of it.  Violent crime, and violent criminals, are getting back in business in a way we have not seen in years.  This includes, but is scarcely limited to, murder.  At the moment this is happening, many of the people we send to Washington are proposing the first (and understandably half-concealed) step toward restoring leniency to these proven criminals. As we know from decades of statistics, not to mention more recent news, when released, they're going to take up where they left off.

Ordinary citizens often wonder what the heck is going on in Congress's thinking. They have good reason to wonder.

The title of this post is taken directly from an article in the Crime Report  --  a publication of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, hardly a bastion of right wing thinking.  It states:

More than 10 percent of Washington, D.C.'s spiking number of homicides this year have involved previously known violent offenders who have recently been released from prison, says Police Chief Cathy Lanier said yesterday, the Washington Post reports. Lanier said that of 91 homicides this year, ten offenders "have previous homicide charges and are recently back in the community," He added: "Ten. That's significant and it's different from anything we've seen before," she said. Fifty-five of the homicides still are open cases.

Lanier, who addressed reporters with Mayor Muriel Bowser, said that she still did not know what was driving the city's rising homicide count, up 28 percent from this time last year. City officials are under pressure to show that they are undertaking a meaningful strategy to stem the tide. District police have responded by fanning out in some neighborhoods and by altering their patrols and visibility in other neighborhoods, Lanier said. But the slayings have continued, sometimes in the course of petty arguments. "In some of the violence we've seen recently, it has just been dispute resolution with a gun. It's that simple," said Lanier. Bowser said police were reviewing deployment strategies and considering "preventive measures" such as better lighting and cameras in public housing and high crime areas.

Those who want a mass reduction in sentences often tell us that America is, or at least it should be, the Land of Second Chances.  The question they routinely omit is, second chances to do what?

Does Congress want to start down the path to a renewal of the violent crime wave that killed and injured so many thousands of Americans in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties? One would hope not.  But if a sentencing reform bill advertised as principally helpful to "low-level, non-violent" drug offenders gets traction, that is exactly where we're headed. This conclusion is obvious, though (wisely) muffled, in a recent New York Times piece by Erik Eckholm.  Toward the end of the piece, Mr. Eckholm says:

But in many...states, including Michigan, New Jersey and New York, drug sentences are already reduced. There is no avoiding the politically poisonous question of releasing violent offenders or reducing their long sentences. "We need to start what's going to be a long and difficult conversation about violent crime," [Ryan] King [a sentencing reform expert] said.

I was startled by these calculations for New Jersey, for example: Cutting in half the number of people sent to prison for drug crimes would reduce the prison population at the end of 2021 by only 3 percent. By contrast, cutting the effective sentences, or time actually served, for violent offenders by just 15 percent would reduce the number of inmates in 2021 by 7 percent -- more than twice as much, but still hardly the revolution many reformers seek.

New Jersey could reduce its prison population by 25 percent by 2021. But to do it, it would have to take the politically fraught step of cutting in half the effective sentences for violent offenders.

In other words, the real debate over how to deal with criminals has hardly begun. And that debate will inevitably have to be argued state by state on terms that may well cause the bipartisan agreement on the need for change, focused on nonviolent offenders, to break down.

Actually, the real debate has begun, just in disguised terms.  Any bill introduced as designed for non-violent offenders will be subject to floor amendments to take changes in incarceration where the reformers actually want them to go:  To a return of violent crime.

This is what happens when we become obsessed with incarceration per se and oblivious to the reasons criminals get incarcerated to begin with.

News Scan

| No Comments

Illegal Immigrant Charged in Triple Homicide:  An illegal immigrant has been charged in the deaths of his aunt, pregnant cousin, and the cousin's boyfriend in an "extremely violent" triple homicide in Florida.  NBC2 reports that 37-year-old Dorla Pitts, 17-year-old Starlette Pitts, who was six months pregnant, and 19-year-old Michael Kelly Jr. were hit several times with a sharp object by 19-year-old Brian Omar Hyde, though specific details regarding the murder weapon have not been released.  Starlette Pitts' and Kelly's 18-month-old daughter was also found at the scene, but unharmed.  Hyde entered the U.S. illegally in January from Belize, where he is connected to several crimes and allegedly comes from a "known criminal family."  Hyde faces three counts of second-degree murder as well as a charge in the death of Starlette Pitts' unborn child.

Detective Hesitated to Shoot Attacker Due to Headlines:  A police detective in Birmingham, Alabama who was pistol-whipped unconscious said he was hesitant to use force "because he didn't want to be accused of needlessly killing an unarmed man."  Nick Valencia of CNN reports that the incident unraveled last Friday when the six-year police veteran, who remains anonymous, pulled over a vehicle that was driving erratically and the driver refused to stay in the car while the officer called for backup.  The officer says that last thing he remembers is "getting sucker-punched in a parking lot.  The next thing, he's waking up in a hospital with staples in his head."  The suspect, 34-year-old Janard Cunningham, is accused of pistol whipping the officer with the officer's service weapon and has been charged with attempted murder.  The officer is recovering at home and says "I hesitated [to use force] because I didn't want to be in the media like I am now."

Sheriffs Blast ICE over Immigration Policy:  Sheriffs and police officers in California and Arizona are blasting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over detainer policies they say free violent illegal immigrants.  Malia Zimmerman of Fox News reports that while ICE may ask local departments to hold prisoners until they can take custody of them for deportation, local departments fear that they open themselves up to lawsuits; the law does not grant them authority to place an ICE hold on illegal immigrants unless there is a warrant.  Meanwhile, a two-year-old girl California girl continues to fight for her life after her mother's live-in boyfriend, illegal immigrant Francisco Javier Chavez, brutally beat her late July, leaving her with two broken arms, a broken femur, a compressed spine, a urinary tract infection and a 107 degree fever.  Chavez - whose criminal history includes assault and drug convictions and arrests for kidnapping, carjacking and cruelty to a child - is currently out on bail for the attack.  Local law enforcement agencies in California are united, demanding that the law be fixed.

Breathtaking Hypocrisy

| 1 Comment
Hypocrisy is common in politics and especially in the highly contentious issues we deal with.  Yet once in a while there comes along an instance that takes the breath away from even the most jaded.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has opened up a wide lead in the race for Hypocrite of the Year for 2015.  An AP story on today's decision concludes with these paragraphs:

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy issued a statement Thursday saying those who have been on death row will spend the rest of their lives in state prisons with no possibility of freedom.

"Today is a somber day where our focus should not be on the 11 men sitting on death row, but with their victims and those surviving family members," he said. "My thoughts and prayers are with them during what must be a difficult day."

If your focus had been on the victims and surviving family members, Gov. Malloy, you would have vetoed the damned bill, as Gov. Rell did before you.  You are solidly on the side of the murderers against the victims and you very well know it.

Malloy did what he did and, unlike some other governors, told the people he would as he was running for the office.  But to invoke the victims on this day and say we should focus on them when he is the one who sabotaged their hopes for justice, that is just gratuitously rubbing salt in the wounds.  This statement is beyond despicable.

News Scan

| No Comments
Early Releases Common Under Prop 47:  Proposition 47, California's voter-approved initiative passed in November that downgrades certain felonies to misdemeanors, is concerning law enforcement and other county officials in San Diego County, which saw prison sentences automatically lowered for 5,000 convicted felons after its passage.  Salvador Rivera of Fox 5 San Diego reports that San Diego County Chief Deputy District Attorney David Greenberg emphasizes that not only is the policy failing to help communities and keep crime down, it also falls short of helping deter defendants from future criminal behavior, since they no longer face felony probation and, thus, have no incentive to participate in programs.  Greenberg offered an example of one man in the county who robbed a business four hours after being released from jail, which was the first of five total times since his release.  However, he avoided prison time because, as per Prop. 47, the stolen merchandise was valued at less than $950.

CA Probation Chief wants to Arm Officers:  Plumas County acting probation chief wants to arm his officers due to the implications of prison realignment, or AB 109, which has created a larger and more dangerous population of probationers, many of which require more intensive supervision.  Dan McDonald of Plumas County News reports that acting probation chief Clint Armitage says the probationers coming out of prison "are more sophisticated that just local people" and believes that the situation would be best approached proactively since probationer officers are now required to do field work in many of these cases.  Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood said  "Having armed probationer officers will hold people accountable in meaningful ways - especially in the world we live in now with criminal justice realignment."  Armitage has requested $300,000 from the county's $515,000 AB 109 allotment through the Community Corrections Partnership to pay for it.  The decision to provide probation officers with firearms is ultimately up to the Board of Supervisors.

Infamous 'San Quentin 6' Inmate Murdered:  A member of the infamous 'San Quentin 6,' an inmate who was involved in a bloody 1971 escape attempt that left six people dead, has been killed by another inmate.  The AP reports that 71-year-old Hugo Pinell's murder sparked a riot on the exercise yard of a California's Folsom Prison east of Sacramento Wednesday, which involved approximately 70 inmates, 11 of whom had to be treated for stab wounds at outside hospitals.  Over four decades ago, Pinell slit the throats of San Quentin prison guards while attempting to escape, leading to the deaths of three guards, two inmate trustees and the escape ringleader.  Initially sentenced to life in prison for a 1965 rape charge, Pinell received a second life sentence for killing a correctional officer at a prison in Soledad and yet another life sentence for the assault of the two officers in the San Quentin escape.  CDCR spokeswoman Dana Simas says that Pinell "was definitely the target."

5 Killed, 7 Injured in One Violent Boston Night:  A spurt of violence Wednesday night and early Thursday morning around the Boston area left five people dead and several others injured.  Jan Ransom and Laura Crimaldi of the Boston Globe report that all of the victims were shot and detectives believe that the shootings were not random, though the motive is still being investigated.  The suspect or suspects are still at large, and officials plan to distribute fliers in the area in an effort to obtain information from any witness.

A Broken Promise In Connecticut

| 1 Comment
When the death penalty repeal bill was being considered in the Connecticut Legislature in 2012, the proponents swore up and down that the nonretroactivity clause meant that the murderers currently on the state's death row -- especially the notorious Chesire murderers -- could still be executed.  They managed to convince enough swing votes with that argument to squeak the bill through despite the 2-1 opposition of the people of the state.

To the surprise of no one who has been involved in this battle for any length of time, the anti side then turned on a dime and began fighting in the state courts to set aside the existing death sentences.  The Connecticut Supreme Court fairly quickly took up the question of whether the statute had that effect, and then they sat on the case for over two years after argument.

Today, that court decided in State v. Santiago:

Texas Executes "Volunteer"

| No Comments
Michael Graczyk reports for AP:

Texas inmate Daniel Lee Lopez got his wish Wednesday when he was executed for striking and killing a police lieutenant with an SUV during a chase more than six years ago.

The lethal injection was carried out after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals from his attorneys who disregarded both his desire to die and lower court rulings that Lopez was competent to make that decision.

In April, the Fifth Circuit noted, while dismissing the appeal:

Lopez is as resolute that Texas should carry out his capital sentence as he is that no counsel deprive him of that choice. The district court, after ascertaining competency, nonetheless granted Lopez's "motion to dismiss counsel, effective on the conclusion of any appeal." (Emphasis added). This court does not address, because the State did not raise, the appropriateness of our considering this appeal by counsel who were appointed for petitioner by the district court against his will, and who have filed this appeal despite his wishes and despite the court's resolution of the Rees v. Payton, 384 U.S. 312 (1966) issue. Cf. Sanchez-Velasco v. Sec. of the Dept. of Corrections, 287 F.3d 1015 (11th Cir. 2002).

The general rule is that the client sets the goals of representation and the lawyer makes the tactical decisions on how to achieve them.  Can a lawyer ethically decide on his own that the client is mentally incompetent and take it upon himself to set the goals of representation?  I don't think so, but it's an issue that needs to be settled.

I also do not think that the court can pass on the issue merely because the state did not raise it.  Does a court have jurisdiction to overturn, or even stay, a judgment that neither party to the original case wants disturbed?  No one else has standing, the Supreme Court has said, and standing is a jurisdictional requirement. 

It seems to me that unless and until a court has determined that the inmate is mentally incapable of making the decisions that belong to the client in the attorney-client relationship, and appointed someone to make them on his behalf, nobody including the lawyer can legally take it upon himself to make those decisions.

CJLF has blogged from time to time about the mass clemencies the President is planning (now that he will not have to face the voters again).  In order to facilitate the clemencies, and the spike in crime we know is sure to follow, the Clemency Project is busy as a bee. Indeed, they're so busy that, according to this National Journal article, they're making up their own rules and setting the deadlines under which judges must act in authorizing the release of case information.

N.B. The article names two lawyers in particular.  I have deleted their names because I have not independently fact-checked the piece and, even more important, this blog is about issues  --  like mass clemency to by-pass judicial outcomes deemed not favorable enough to the criminal  --  and not about personalities. 

News Scan

| No Comments
Cop Killer Opposes Execution Stay:   A Texas criminal who ran down a police officer in 2009, is scheduled for execution tonight.  The Associated Press reports that attorneys representing Daniel Lee Lopez have asked SCOTUS to stay his execution until additional review of claims that he is mentally incompetent and that he did not commit capital murder could be considered.  Lopez opposes these efforts, telling reporters "I've accepted my fate."  The registered sex offender, with priors for assault and child molestation, ran down and killed a Corpus Christi Police Lt. after fighting with another officer during a traffic stop.  A later search of his car uncovered a dozen packets of cocaine and a scale.    

Repeat Sex Offender Charged with Rape:  A habitual sex offender with priors for sexual battery and child molestation had been charged with the brutal rape of an Indiana woman.  WNDU of South Bend reports that habitual sex offender Jerry Wayne Young forced his way into a female acquaintance's home on October 16, 2012 at 3:00 AM, raping her twice and forcing her to perform oral sex.  Three years later Young was arrested and a DNA test matched genetic material taken from the victim.  Young had been charged with rape in 2000 but a jury failed to convict him.   
During my time as a science officer in the Air Force, I regularly dealt with classified information.  I and everyone else who worked at my lab had drilled into us the great importance of taking great care to safeguard this information and the dire consequences -- both to us personally and to national security -- if we did not.  We had a system of inspections and cross-checks to insure this was done.

In the years since leaving the Air Force, I have been appalled and horrified at the casual attitude of many high government officials in their handling of classified information, and also at the lack of serious consequences for major breaches of security.
One of the reasons that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is so often reversed by the Supreme Court (and often summarily, unanimously, with a harsh rebuke, or all of the above) is that the full court chronically fails to correct the errors of rogue panels when they favor a state prisoner, especially in capital cases.

Last December I noted that a 2-1 majority of a 3-judge panel (Thomas and Reinhardt, Kozinski dissenting) had overturned yet another death sentence, after four previous reviews of the case by other courts had found no reason to disturb the judgment.

Today, wonder of wonders, the Ninth agreed to rehear the case pseudo-en-banc, i.e., before an eleven-judge panel comprised of the chief judge and ten randomly selected judges.  Unfortunately, the automatically selected chief judge is the author of the erroneous opinion, so Arizona will need to draw six persons of sense out of ten.  That is less than even money in the Ninth, but not out of the question.  We do know that a majority of the pool voted to rehear the case.

News Scan


More Arrests Amid Ferguson Chaos:  As of Monday night in Ferguson, Missouri, the fourth consecutive night of demonstrations marking the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown's death, at least 23 people were arrested after peaceful protests spiraled into chaos following Sunday evening gunfire.  Fox News reports that by Monday evening, after St. Louis County Executive Steven Stenger declared a state of emergency, hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the sight of last year's protests, marching, chanting, beating drums and carrying signs.  Water bottles and other debris were thrown at officers by some demonstrators, and at least nine were accused of resisting or interfering with an arrest.  About 144 protesters were arrested around the St. Louis area as of Monday, however, there were no injuries or property damage.

Obama Admin. Launches Campaign to Deter Immigration:  Last month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, backed by the Obama administration, kicked off its "Know the Facts" awareness campaign in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in an effort to discourage people from immigrating to the U.S. illegally.  Carolina May of Breitbart reports that last year, more than 68,400 family units and more than 68,541 unaccompanied minors surged at the U.S. southern border, under the impression that lax immigration laws would prevent deportations, and that "permisos," or free passes, were plentiful.  Although this year's numbers show a drop in immigrants from Central American, a late July ruling calling for an end to detention of illegal immigrant family units could hinder the campaign, by "incentivizing adults to bring children with them on their dangerous journey as a means to avoid detention and gain access to the interior of the U.S."

"Yes means Yes" Policy Under Fire:  Judges in California, Tennessee and Virginia are saying "no" to the "yes means yes" standard of affirmative consent for date rape, on the grounds that it violates the due process rights of the accused.  Cody Derespina of Fox News reports that under the standard - which has been adopted by several college campuses nationwide - the accused has to prove he obtained consent, even if neither party remembers, forcing him to prove his own innocence, rather than be proven guilty.  The standard came in response to lawsuits brought against colleges by individuals found guilty of sexual misconduct who were not provided with adequate due process.  In one case, the accused was unable to cross-examine his accuser and other witnesses.  A student at another school was found guilty because he couldn't prove he obtained verbal consent.  John Banzhaf, a professor at George Washington University Law School, says that while not every element of protection for the accused must be provided in every case, a "minimal amount of procedural protection," such as the right to cross-examine witnesses, is required in all cases.

Spike in Violence, Officer-Involved Shootings in San Jose:  A murderer free on parole and suspected in a violent stabbing was shot by police, and a suicidal man took his own life during a confrontation with another officer, marking San Jose, California's second and third officer-involved shootings in just over a week.  Robert Salonga and Mark Gomez of the San Jose Mercury News reports that the city's police department recently increased its presence amid a spike in violence, with the city experiencing 10 homicides in the past six weeks compared to a total of eight in the first six months of 2014.  So far this year, there have been six officer-involved shootings versus five such shootings in all of 2014.  Although the San Jose Police Department is not particularly surprised with the uptick in violence, Assistant Chief Eddie Garcia says "What strikes us is suspects increasingly confronting our officers.  That's alarming."

News Scan

| No Comments

Charges Filed in Death of CA Woman:  Murder, torture and rape charges have been filed in the death of a woman from Santa Maria, California, who died after being brutally attacked in her home by two men, one of whom was in the country illegally.  Keith Carls of KEYT reports that 64-year-old Marilyn Pharis was sleeping in her home on July 24 when 29-year-old Victor Aureliano Martinez Ramirez and 20-year-old Jose Villagomez broke into her home and sexually assaulted, strangled and repeatedly struck her in the head with a hammer.  Santa Maria Police Chief Ralph Martinez expressed frustration over the arrest of Martinez Ramirez for possession of methamphetamine two weeks before the murder, in which officers had to simply cite him due to state policies such as AB 109 and Prop. 47.  "From Washington DC to Sacramento there's a blood trail leading to the bedroom of Marilyn Pharis," he added.  

CA Agrees to Pay for Transgender Inmate's Sex Reassignment:  California has agreed to pay for a transgender inmate's sex reassignment operation after reaching a settlement in a federal lawsuit, making it the first state in the nation to agree to do so.  Paige St. John of the LA Times reports that the state decided that inmate Shiloh Quine, who entered the prison system in 1980 as Rodney, "suffers severe gender dysmorphia that can be treated only by physically conforming her body to her psychological gender" and medical doctors and mental health experts that reviewed her case "determined that this surgery in medically necessary" for the convicted murderer.  Kent Scheidegger, Legal Director for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, says that although a court settlement does not set a legal precedent, "those requests are bound to eventually force another legal challenge."  The cost of Quine's operation ranges from $15,000 to $25,000.  There are nearly 400 transgender inmates receiving hormonal treatment in the state.

Former NE Prosecutor Was Told Not to Pursue Executions:  The former top death penalty prosecutor for Nebraska, who handled the state's death penalty cases for over three decades and retired one year ago, said he was told four years ago not to pursue steps to alter the state's lethal injections protocol, which would have allowed the state to have a legal means to carry out executions.  Paul Hammel of the World-Herald Bureau reports that J. Kirk Brown, considered credible by many criminal justice officials, says that in the last three to four years that the was in the Attorney General's office, "there was a decision that we aren't going to push the death penalty anymore."  Brown believes that the order originated with the Governor's Officer under former Gov. Dave Heineman.  In a December 2014 interview with then-Attorney General Jon Bruning, who told Nebraska Educational Television that he wished the state had made an effort to change their lethal injection protocol or adopt alternatives.  Current Gov. Pete Ricketts and Attorney General Doug Peterson, both vocal death penalty proponents, are supporting the petition which would allow the state's voters to decide the fate of capital punishment.

Peaceful Vigil in Ferguson Escalates to Violence:  Peaceful vigils scheduled to take place in Ferguson, Missouri yesterday to mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown escalated into a scene that mirrored last year's violence in the St. Louis suburb, resulting in looting, bricks thrown at police officers, two officers pepper sprayed and gunfire, with a total of three people shot.  Debbie M. Lord of AL reports that protests began in the days leading up to the anniversary of Brown's death, though they remained peaceful and resulted in no arrests until Sunday.  One of the three men shot on Sunday night was a man said to be in his 20s who "unleashed a remarkable amount of gunfire against officers and others."  Residents, business owners and event organizers have said that Monday will be a day of civil disobedience.

Illegal Alien Crime Accounts for 30% of Murders in Many States:  Between 2008 and 2014, illegal immigrants accounted for 38 percent of all murder convictions in California, Texas, Arizona, Florida and New York despite accounting for just 5.6 percent of the total population in those states, according to a report compiled by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  Tom Tancredo of Breibart reports that the 38 percent figure represents 7,085 murders out of the total of 18,643.  In Texas alone, 35 percent of all murder convictions were for illegal immigrants, which equates to approximately 472 murders each year from 2004 to 2008.  Tancredo argues that a lack of transparency in the media, which oftentimes refuses to even use the term "illegal immigrant," has contributed to a collective ignorance and naivety in the U.S. regarding illegal immigration.

Drug Dealers, Prey or Predator?

| No Comments
Heather Mac Donald exposes the myth that drug enforcement creates criminals out of otherwise productive, peaceable young men who never had a chance.  In her article in The City Journal, she aptly sums up the reigning academic wisdom painting The System as a monstrosity and the drug dealer as the would-be Jean Val Jean: 

[Leftist author Alice] Goffman contends that it is the legal system itself that is creating crime and dysfunction in poor black communities. Young men get saddled with a host of allegedly petty warrants for having missed court dates, violated their parole and probation conditions, and ducked the administrative fees levied on their criminal cases. Fearful of being rounded up under these senseless procedural warrants, they adopt a lifestyle of subterfuge and evasion, constantly in flight from an increasingly efficient and technology-enhanced police force. "Once a man fears that he will be taken by the police, it is precisely a stable and public daily routine of work and family life . . . that allows the police to locate him," Goffman writes. "A man in legal jeopardy finds that his efforts to stay out of prison are aligned not with upstanding, respectable action but with being a shady and distrustful character."

But that's not the reality of it:

Goffman's own material demolishes this thesis. On the Run documents a world of predation and law-of-the-jungle mores, riven with violence and betrayal. Far from being the hapless victims of random "legal entanglements"--Goffman's euphemism for the foreseeable consequences of lawless behavior--her subjects create their own predicaments through deliberate involvement in crime. 

You need to read the whole piece in order to understand how utterly fictitious is the tale of Mr.-Nicey-driven-to-crime by a callous (and of course racist) system. Clue:  He wasn't Mr. Nicey to start with.
A recent Washington Post article discussed the upcoming Ninth Circuit hearing on a federal district court decision that invalidated California's death penalty scheme.  The gist of the district court's decision was that delay had grown to the point that, by the time the prisoner was executed   --  if he ever was  --  the execution has lost most or all of its penological value, was thus arbitrary and, for any practical purpose, pointless.

So what accounts for so much of the years of delay?  Careful inquiry into the facts of the case to insure we've got the right guy?  Review to insure that fair procedures were followed?

Not exactly.  According to the story, here are the sources of the lion's share of the delay (emphasis added):

Delays come for many reasons. Death penalties in California and elsewhere trigger a mandatory appeal to a state's top court, and then, if not reversed, through the federal system. These are part of the safeguards mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1976 Gregg decision ushering in the "modern" death penalty. Carney [the district judge who ruled against the California death penalty] noted that in California, appeals attorneys are not appointed for three to five years. They take four years to learn the case and file their appeal. Attorneys for habeas appeal (through the federal courts) are not appointed, on average, until eight to 10 years after the death sentence.

Got that?  At the minimum, there are 15 years of delay just for the appointment of attorneys, and a maximum of 19.  Two things jump out at you.
Sadie Gurman reports for AP:

Colorado theater shooter James Holmes will be sentenced to life in prison without parole after a jury failed to agree Friday on whether he should get the death penalty for his murderous attack on a packed movie premiere.

The nine women and three men said they could not reach a unanimous verdict on each of the murder counts. That automatically eliminates the death penalty for the failed neuroscientist, who blamed his calculated murders of 12 people on mental illness.

A rule of law that says the opinion of one juror can trump the opinion of the other eleven borders on insane.  We would never consent to such a rule for the guilt verdict.  In no state of the union does a jury hung 11-1 for conviction produce an acquittal.  Why does any state have such a rule for the penalty phase?

States that have this crazy rule need to get rid of it.  A hung jury on penalty should trigger a retrial with a new jury, as it does in California and Arizona.

Yesterday, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB 774 to defeat some of the tactics used by the anti-death-penalty crowd to hinder lethal injection.

The bill provides that the monitoring of the lethal injection may be done by a health professional other than a physician.  Physician participation was included as a safeguard for the inmate and then exploited by opponents, saying it was unethical for physicians to participate.  Let no good deed go unpunished.

The bill exempts execution procedures from the Administrative Procedure Act.  There is no legitimate need to so encumber the procedures, as they are subject to intense judicial scrutiny anyway.

The bill removes the excessive legislative detail regarding the drugs to be used, giving the state authorities the flexibility needed to deal with improving methods and drug shortages.

Finally, the bill provides for confidentiality for suppliers of the drugs so that supply will not be blocked by a "heckler's veto."  This post by Craig Jarvis at the website of the Raleigh News & Observer originally misreported that the bill kept the drugs themselves secret, but it has now been corrected.

News Scan

| No Comments

New Surge of Illegal Families Across Border:  The number of illegal immigrant families captured at the border increased in July, contrary to expectations that the surge would subside as the late summer heat intensifies.  Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times reports that the trend has been exasperated by Judge Dolly M. Gee's July 24 ruling prohibiting the detention of illegal immigrant families which has enticed Central American parents to bring their children on the treacherous journey as "shields to get them released" once they arrive.  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials told Judge Gee that they need to detain families for at least a few days "in order to make their determinations and conduct necessary health screenings."  The Justice Department has asked for a hearing later this month of present more evidence in an effort to sway the judge to reconsider the order.  

Gunman who Killed Shreveport Officer Arrested:  The gunman accused of killing an on-duty police officer in Shreveport, Louisiana on Wednesday evening was arrested without incident Thursday afternoon as he sat in a garage.  Fox News reports that 27-year-old Grover Deandre Cannon, already wanted for a murder that occurred on July 15, shot 24-year-old (reported as 29-years-old in a previous article) honor graduate Thomas LaValley multiple times when the officer confronted him in response to a report of a suspicious person.  The last fatal shooting of a Shreveport police officer was in 2010.

Texas Sheriffs Oppose Federal Immigration Policies:  Texas Sheriffs have voiced their opposition to the federal government's creation of a sanctuary state for criminal aliens through its Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), which has "gutted the immigration system" by promoting dangerous catch-and-release practices.  Lana Shadwick of Breitbart reports that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) used to be able to place a 48-hour hold on illegal immigrants when they were wanted on immigration-related issued, however, that is no longer possible since the PEP program replaced the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Secure Commissions plan, allowing criminal aliens free rein.  Under the PEP program, a criminal alien cannot be held until after a final conviction, so "these criminals bond out and disappear into the country."  Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick promises that the senate will pass legislation to handle the problems of sanctuary cities in the next legislative session.

Officer's Attorneys Say Baltimore Prosecutors Hid Evidence:  Defense attorneys representing the six Baltimore police officers charged in Freddie Gray's death say prosecutors steered investigators away from allegations regarding Gray's behavior in past interactions with law enforcement.  The AP reports that defense attorneys filed a motion on Thursday alleging that investigators on the case had information on Gray's history of participating in "crash-for-cash" schemes in which people hurt themselves to collect insurance settlements, and that he once injured himself so severely while in jail that he required medical attention.  However, when they sought to probe the evidence further, they were told by prosecutors "not to do the defense attorneys' job for them."  Other allegations include the state's attorney's failure to provide the Chief Medical Examiner with a copy of a statement made by the man who was inside the van when Gray suffered his injuries.  Gray died on April 19, one week after suffering a spinal injury in the back of a police van, leading to the arrest and charging of six Baltimore police officers in his death.

Who Wants A Larger Police Presence?

| 1 Comment
From Gallup today:

Which would you prefer to see in your local area -- [ROTATED: a larger police presence than currently exists, no change, (or) a smaller police presence than currently exists]?

The report notes:

In general, though, majorities of these major groups profess wanting "no change" in the police presence in their local community. However, blacks are the least likely to say this at 51%, compared with Hispanics at 59% and whites at 74%. Only small percentages of any group say they want a smaller police presence than currently exists.
I suspect that the difference is not race as such but rather the likelihood of living in a high crime area.  If Gallup, or any poll, asks this question again, it would be interesting to record precisely where each respondent lives and then cross-tab that with actual local crime rate.

News Scan


Illegal Held in Rape/Murder was on Probation:  One of the two men charged in last month's home invasion, rape and fatal bludgeoning of a 64-year-old California woman was an illegal immigrant out on probation.  Paul Gonzalez of the Santa Barbara News-Press reports that 29-year-old Victor Aureliano Martinez Ramirez, charged along with his 20-year-old accomplice Jose Fernando Villagomez, attacked Marilyn Pharis on the morning of July 24 in her Santa Maria home, beating her with a hammer and sexually assaulting her.  Ramirez was out on probation for committing battery in 2014 while in possession of methamphetamine.  Both offense are considered "low level" crimes under Realighment.  This year, he was charged twice for violating probation, once for possessing a concealed knife, and the other for drugs, but under Realignment he was allowed to enter a substance abuse program in lieu of jail.  Villagomez also has a history of battery, drug possession and probation violations, and was similarly diverted to a substance abuse program.  They are due in court on August 13.

Nashville Theater Attacker Had Mental Issues:  The suspect who entered a movie theater in Nashville on Wednesday with pepper spray, an airsoft pellet gun, an ax and a fake bomb in his backpack was a homeless man with a history of psychological issues.  The AP reports that 29-year-old Vincente David Montano, who was killed by police when they mistook his gun for a real weapon, had been committed for psychiatric treatment at least four times, twice in 2004 and twice in 2007, and was arrested in 2004 for assault and resisting arrest.  Montano entered a near-empty theater on midday Wednesday where only seven others were present and began spraying them with pepper spray.  He was fatally shot by police officers, who arrived quickly, when he fired his pellet gun, which looked and sounded like an authentic firearm.  One man received a superficial cut on his shoulder from the ax, but no one else was seriously injured or killed.

Shreveport Police Officer Shot and Killed:  A police officer in Shreveport, Louisiana was shot multiple times while responding to a call of a suspicious person in a neighborhood around 9:15 p.m. on Wednesday.  The killer is still at large.  Melissa Chan and Jason Silverstein of the NY Daily News report that 27-year-old Grover Cannon is wanted in connection for the murder of 29-year-old Officer Thomas LaValley, a four-year veteran of the Shreveport Police Department who graduated at the top of his class.  Cannon is also a suspect in a shooting that took place last month.  LaValley was dispatched to the neighborhood after receiving a call from a person reporting that an armed man was threatening a family member inside a home, and was met with a barrage of bullets when he arrived.  LaValley is the first Shreveport officer to be fatally shot since 2010, and Police Chief Willie Shaw vows to "scour the earth" until Cannon is found.

Extra Million Alien Work Permits Issued Annually:  More than 7.4 million work permits have been issued to foreign nationals from 2009 to 2014 by the Obama administration, which exceeds the approximately one million lawful permanent residents and 700,000 foreign guest workers admitted to the U.S. each year.  Caroline May of Breitbart reports that work authorizations are being issued to some categories of immigrants that Congress never intended to work in the U.S., such as immigrants granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Temporary Protective Status (TPS), spouses of guest workers, various types of foreign students, immigrants granted voluntary departures, as well as parolees, asylees and refugees.  Additionally, over 113,800 individuals with final orders of deportation were also granted work permits in the six-year period.  Jessica Vaughn of the Center for Immigration Studies says that "the Obama administration has been abusing what should be considered a very limited authority to issue work permits."

Edward Blum notes at the WSJ, "Fifty years ago, on Aug. 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, legislation he would later identify as the most important of his political career."

Civilized Life, and What Lies Beyond

In my address to a national gathering of capital case prosecutors last week, I ended with a reminder of why, in the end, we have the death penalty:  There are some crimes so grotesque that they lie beyond the boundary of civilized life.  When a human being knowingly commits such a crime, he has already crossed that boundary.  All the death penalty does is close the door behind him.

The case I used as an illustration was the beating death of a little boy, Elias Johnson. That story is here.  Another case, which I discussed here recently, was Susan Smith. 

I wish I could say these cases are rare.  They aren't.  I just came across another one, this one from nearby Maryland.

News Scan

| No Comments

Thousands of CA Convicts to Regain Voting Rights:  On Tuesday, tens of thousands of criminals whose supervision was changed from parole to a new variant, called post release community supervision or PRCS, under California's Realignment had their voting rights restored, as the result of their new status. The AP reports that the settlement stemmed from a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who sued the state on behalf of 6,000 convicts that former Secretary of State Debra Bowen determined remained ineligible after the 2011 adoption of Realignment (AB 109).  A memo by the chief counsel noted that it did not matter that the post-release supervision "is labeled something other than 'parole'."  Bowen's policy was later overturned by a judge, who ruled that PRCS and parole are different.  Bowen appealed, but her successor, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, allowed the ruling to stand.

Immigration Agency Claims Path to Citizenship Improves Safety:  The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USICS), a top immigration agency in the country, told the Senate National Interest Subcommittee of its efforts "to blunt homegrown terrorism by marketing U.S. citizenship to immigrants."  Rachel Stoltzfoos of the Daily Caller reports that the agency stated that they are "committed to fostering integration and community cohesion" in "furtherance of DHS's mission to safeguard the Homeland."  The subcommittee questioned whether they could guarantee that American communities would be safe after the resettlement of thousands of Syrian war refugees, highlighting the arrests of six Somali refugees earlier this year on terror-related charges in Minnesota.  The U.S. is expected to admit between one thousand and two thousand Syrian refugees in Fiscal Year 2015.

Congressman Seeks Registration of Immigrant Sex Offenders:  U.S. Representative William Keating filed legislation last week requiring U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to assist in registering sex offenders with state and local authorities before releasing them onto American soil.  The action responded to a June 2015 report by the Boston Globe revealing that ICE released hundreds of sex offenders without consistently notifying law enforcement.  Maria Sacchetti of the Boston Globe reports that the Prevent Repeat Offenders Act of 2015 would also mandate that ICE notify law enforcement when sex offenders are taken into custody, released, or deported by the agency.  The Globe report came out a little over a month ago, and disclosed that between 2008 and 2012, ICE released 424 immigrants convicted of sex-related crimes, including a diagnosed pedophile.  Keating said that the goal of the measure is to prevent new crimes.

LAPD Responds to Rash of Violence in South LA:  Following 23 shootings in a single week in South Los Angeles, the LAPD and the community are taking action to restore public safety.  Miriam Hernandez of ABC 7 reports that the deadly week ended with one man dead and 12 others wounded in a series of primarily gang-related shootings.  The LAPD has amplified its resources, including more patrols and the mobilization of gang units from adjoining divisions, which have proven highly effective after just one week.  On Tuesday, LAPD vowed to continue their efforts to diffuse gang rivalries, redirect youth and be more involved in the community, their "most critical ally."

Military Families Intimidated by Middle Eastern Men:  All law enforcement agencies in Colorado and Wyoming have been issued an alert by the FBI regarding U.S. military families and "concerns about who may be watching them."  CBS 4 reports that the alert states that Middle Eastern men are confronting families of U.S. military members in front of their homes, asking them intimidating questions in an attempt to gain personal information about them.  Incidents have been reported to the FBI throughout June 2015, but the agency is unclear whether the reported incidents involve the same men.

News Scan

| No Comments

Suspect in Killing of Memphis Officer Charged with Murder:  The man accused of fatally shooting a Memphis police officer over the weekend turned himself in on Monday, and has been charged with murder and is being held under $9 million bail.  Fox News reports that 29-year-old Tremaine Wilbourn shot 33-year-old Officer Sean Bolton on Saturday evening after the officer interrupted a drug deal and the confrontation turned physical.  Wilbourn was free on supervised release after a robbery conviction, for which he received a sentence of over 10 years, but was released on probation last summer.  After using marijuana in December 2014, he was ordered to undergo mental health treatment on July 7, less than a month before the murder.

Massive Search for CA Murderer:  Kern County Sheriff's deputies, police officers and rangers are scouring the desolate area of Weldon, California in pursuit of a suspect who wounded two deputies late Saturday night and is also believed to have fatally shot a retired Tehachapi dentist the day before.  Lauren Foreman of the Bakersfield Californian reports that the shootout occurred when deputies from the Sheriff's SWAT team followed the suspect's tracks to a ranch, where he used a large-caliber handgun to fire at officers.  In all, 60 personnel from at least eight different agencies are involved in the manhunt, which covers five to eight square miles of "rugged terrain."  The suspect, who has not been identified, is considered armed and dangerous, and may also be connected to an east Kern County kidnapping.

Dash-Cam Video Debunks Racial Profiling Claims:  Audiotape of a traffic stop has proven that a college professor who accused a Connecticut state trooper of racial profiling was lying.  Fox News reports that according to 32-year-old Minato Roychoudhuri's story, she was pulled over on May 9 and was asked by the policemen if she could speak English and if she knew why he had stopped her, further emphasizing that he did not give her a reason as to why he pulled her over.  She concluded that the officer's "asking if I could speak English shows that he had racially profiled me and was not able to give me a concrete reason for stopping me."   In the recording taken from dashboard camera of the police cruiser, the officer can be heard asking Roychoudhuri if she knows why she had been stopped, and proceeds to explain that she failed to drive in the established lane.  At no point did he ask her if she spoke English.  Roychoudhuri has been arrested for giving a false statement.

Alleged Child Molester Kept DACA Amnesty:  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has confirmed that a California camp counselor charged with child molestation and distribution of child pornography maintained his status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as well as his job prior to his arrest, despite being considered a high risk to public safety.  Caroline May of Breitbart reports that Edgar Covarrubias-Padilla received DACA status on May 22, 2013, and he began being investigated for child molestation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on November 17, 2014.  USCIS says that they were unaware of the investigation until March 31, 2015, despite their impression that ICE "typically apprise[s] USCIS when a recipient of DACA or an immigration benefit is an investigation target."  The revocation of Covarrubias-Padilla's DACA status occurred several days after his arrest even with the knowledge of both ICE and USCIS.

A Debate Disappointment

This blog is about crime and not politics, but the next presidential election will have a huge effect on the direction of the Supreme Court and therefore on criminal law, so we have to pay attention to it.

When the Defense Is Correct

This last July saw a "Blue Moon," i.e., two full moons in a month.

This happens as often as my agreement with the defense in a criminal case.  So I guess it's fitting that I agree with it in this one, as reported by the NYT.

It's a Brady case.  An amicus brief taking the view that the Supreme Court should grant cert was signed by, among others, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Peter Keisler.  Mr. Mukasey was my debate partner last year on sentencing reform, and Peter is a friend of mine of many years, having been both Acting Attorney General in the Bush Administration and, along with my wife, a co-founder of the Federalist Society. 

And I have a confession.  I have not read either the petition or the Third Circuit's opinion, which sided with the government (as have other circuits on the question presented).  If Mr. Mukasey and Peter Keisler say so, that's good enough for me. The amicus brief was also signed by Seth Waxman, the Solicitor General toward the end of Blll Clinton's term, and a learned man of many bad ideas but widely and correctly respected integrity.

One Step Closer to Justice

| No Comments
A Colorado jury decided today that the facts surrounding Colorado mass killer James Holmes did not show that mitigating factors outweighed aggravating ones.  The jury will thus move on to decide whether to impose a death sentence.

The ABC News story notes that it took the jury just three hours to reach this decision, despite a barrage of defense testimony from a psychiatrist, Holmes' relatives, teachers, church leaders, soccer buddies and camp counselor friends.

If I were defense counsel, I would be more than a little concerned at the speed of the jury's decision.  Still, as long as there is a one-juror veto in capital cases, nothing is for sure.  It is nonetheless encouraging to me that the jury did not fall for the mental-state defense.  

It's not that I don't think Holmes is crazy.  He may well be crazy.  But the legal, and moral, question is whether he could understand the wrongfulness of his actions and control them.  As to that, the reported evidence seems amply to support today's decision.

News Scan

| No Comments

Suspect Identified in Fatal Shooting of Memphis Police Officer:  A man under supervised release stemming from a bank robbery conviction, for which he simply paid a fine and was diverted to mental health treatment on July 7, is now wanted for first-degree murder less than a month later in the fatal shooting of a police officer during a traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee.  Fox News reports that 33-year-old Officer Sean Bolton, a former Marine who served in Iraq, approached in illegally parked ed a car on the street Saturday night and interrupted an illegal drug transaction.  A passenger, 29-year-old Tremaine Wilbourn, confronted the officer and shot him multiple times.  The driver of the vehicle turned himself in to the authorities on Sunday and was released without charges.  Bolton is the third Memphis officer to be fatally shot in a little over four years, "just another reminder of how dangerous the job is."  

NYPD Commissioner:  We Can't Repeat the 1970s:  NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton says that new trends in growing violence in the city "must be put in check before it's too late."  Lisa Evers of Fox 5 reports that murders in New York City have risen 10 percent, and Bratton believes it's due to a toxic marriage of criminal empowerment and a hesitant police force that feels like they are under public attack.  Over the weekend, nine people were shot and wounded at a barbecue in East New York, and a 20-year-old girl was shot and killed when a gunman opened fire in a children's playground.  "We need to get this right, we can't repeat the 1970s again," urged Bratton.

Gov. Brown Allows Parole for 2nd Chowchilla Kidnapper:  One of the three men who kidnapped 26 schoolchildren and their bus driver at gunpoint in Chowchilla, California in 1976, holding them for ransom in an underground quarry for 16 hours, will  paroled in a few days.  Henry K. Lee of SF Gate reports that 63-year-old James Shoenfeld was found eligible for parole in April after a panel of the state Board of Parole Hearings reviewed his case.  Several victims testified before the board, nine of whom argued against Shoenfeld's release. Governor Jerry Brown had the option to block parole but chose not to do so.  Of the other two kidnappers, Richard Shoenfeld, James' younger brother, was paroled in 2012 and the third, Fred Woods, has his next hearing scheduled in the fall.

Fatal Shooting Outside MS Courthouse:  A defendant waiting in a courtyard outside a criminal courthouse in Canton, Mississippi was fatally shot Monday morning, and the suspect is currently in custody.  The AP reports that the victim, Kendrick Armond Brown, was shot once in the chest as he sat with his attorney awaiting his expected court appearance on drug charges.  Prosecutors expected Brown to reject a plea offer in his case and opt for a trial.  Law enforcement officials are searching for a motive for the shooting, as Brown was not a witness or a suspect in other current criminal cases.

Church Bombings in New Mexico

| No Comments
Walter Rubel reports for the Las Cruces Sun-News:

Explosions about a half hour apart shattered the serenity of morning services at two Las Cruces churches Sunday, but caused no injuries and only minor damage, police said.

The explosions happened at Calvary Baptist Church, 1800 S. Locust, shortly after 8 a.m. and Holy Cross Catholic Church, 1327 N. Miranda, about a half hour later. The explosion at Holy Cross took place in a trash can just outside the entrance of the church as services for the 8 a.m. Mass were taking place.

*                                              *                                           *

At a press conference Sunday night, Gov. Susana Martinez said that only a "coward" would place an explosive device in a church. She vowed that the person responsible would be caught, and urged people to continue to attend church services.

"Whoever did this will feel the full pressure of the law," she said. "If your intention was to bring fear to those who worship, you have failed."
In my most recent entry, I noted that last week's Salon piece accused opponents of mass sentencing reduction of enlisting emotion to trump research and reason (which, so the piece quite directly implied, were the sole province of sentencing "reformers"). Thus, it opined:

Ultimately, the reform movement will have to touch on people's emotions, too. But instead of Otis's reliance on fear, disgust and anger, reformers will need to inspire feelings of empathy, forgiveness, and understanding. They'll need to create a culture where a person like Otis would never speak of a "thug" menacing your "daughter," because he knows that such demagoguery will earn him more opponents than friends.

The proposition that proponents of the present, successful sentencing system  --  the one that has contributed to historic crime reduction  --  rely on emotion is one I see all over the place.

It's false.  In fact, we rely on facts, most of them undisputed or barely disputed:  That crime has fallen dramatically, to the great benefit of our citizens; that increased incarceration has contributed to this achievement; that sky-high recidivism rates all but insure that, if we go down the path of mass sentencing reduction, we'll get more crime; and that the crime increase will disproportionately harm minorities, as ever.

But that's not the end of the story.
Miguel Bustillo reports for the WSJ that Texas AG Ken Paxton has been indicted by a county grand jury.  However, the fact that this case was instigated by the same group that brought the preposterous charge that former Governor Rick Perry committed a crime by vetoing a bill makes the whole matter suspect.  See prior post on that case.

The allegation is violation of disclosure and registration requirements for people selling securities, prior to Mr. Paxton becoming Attorney General.

The group calls itself Texans for Public Justice.  First the case went to District Attorney of Travis County, who said she had no jurisdiction and referred the case to Collin County.  The DA there, a friend of Mr. Paxton's, recused himself.  Two defense lawyers were appointed as special prosecutors.

The Texas Legislature may want to look at the state's special prosecutor system.  People who have not been elected and who are not responsible to any elected executive officer should not be exercising the executive authority of the state.  There needs to be a better way to deal with recusals.

Salon Follows Up on Slate, Blows It

Kent noted that Slate author Mark Obbie published a piece profiling me and my efforts to oppose the plans for mass sentencing reduction, said plans going under the euphemistic label "sentencing reform."  While I do not agree with the bulk of Mr. Obbie's views of the subject, I was impressed that he took considerable time to talk with me and, as his article makes clear, to read a great deal of what I have written.  I appreciate his diligence, an increasingly scarce commodity in journalism.

On Thursday, Salon followed up on the Slate piece with an article by Elias Isquith.  I have not met or spoken with Mr. Isquith, and to my knowledge he made no effort to contact me.

The gist of his article, which I urge readers to judge for themselves, is that my efforts have traded on emotion rather than facts or reason, and that my opponents' failure to understand and counteract my tactics underlies their difficulties in passing sentencing "reform."  I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the Salon article assumes that any fair-minded person, not sidetracked by emotion, would sign onto "reform" and reject my trailer park blandishments.

I respectfully dissent.

Monthly Archives