April 2016 Archives

Laurence Steinberg isn't someone I agree with often, but he, Thomas Grisso, Elizabeth Scott, and Richard Bonnie have this op-ed in the NYT opposing the crackpot notion of raising the juvenile court jurisdiction age to 21.

The proposal to expand the jurisdiction of the juvenile system to age 21, in addition to being based on ambiguous science, would also create two potentially serious policy problems. First, just as the adult correctional system is ill equipped to respond to the needs of adolescents, the juvenile justice system is poorly positioned to handle young adults. It is hard to imagine a juvenile facility that could appropriately house 20-year-olds and 14-year-olds, or a juvenile justice staff whose training would allow it to work effectively with young adults. And because a disproportionate number of serious violent crimes are committed by individuals between 17 and 21, the juvenile system would be overwhelmed by the number of young adults it would need to process, and its rehabilitative purpose could be seriously undermined.

Second, the juvenile justice system interacts with several other health and child welfare systems. Those agencies have created relatively separate systems for serving children and adults, in part because of important differences between these two ages. For example, some mental illnesses arise only in young adulthood, and professionals have long specialized in providing services either to children and adolescents or to adults. Creating a juvenile justice system that works well for both adolescents and young adults would require significant (and costly) restructuring of many other agencies.

5 Reasons Marijuana Is Not Medicine

Bertha Madras, professor of psychobiology at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, has this article in the WaPo with the above title.

Data from 2015 indicate that 30 percent of current cannabis users harbor a use disorder -- more Americans are dependent on cannabis than on any other illicit drug. Yet marijuana advocates have relentlessly pressured the federal government to shift marijuana from Schedule I -- the most restrictive category of drug -- to another schedule or to de-schedule it completely. Their rationale? "States have already approved medical marijuana"; "rescheduling will open the floodgates for research"; and "many people claim that marijuana alone alleviates their symptoms."

Yet unlike drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration, "dispensary marijuana" has no quality control, no standardized composition or dosage for specific medical conditions. It has no prescribing information or no high-quality studies of effectiveness or long-term safety. While the FDA is not averse to approving cannabinoids as medicines and has approved two cannabinoid medications, the decision to keep marijuana in Schedule I was reaffirmed in a 2015 federal court ruling. That ruling was correct.

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Under-the-Radar Routes for Refugees:  It appears the Obama administration is pursuing under-the-radar "alternative" ways to admit more Syrian and other refugees as soon as this year, causing further fear of the crisis becoming a "terrorist Trojan horse."  Adam Shaw of Fox News reports that during a "high-level meeting" on March 30 in Geneva between the administration and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, commissioner Filippo Grandi called for pursuing "alternative avenues" for refugees, such as more flexible mechanisms for family reunification, including extended family members.  He also suggested labor mobility schemes, student visas and scholarships, and visas for medical reasons.  Some have expressed concern that the Obama administration isn't "going to let anyone know about it" and that if refugees are coming in through several different visa programs, properly vetting them will be difficult. The administration's goal is to admit 10,000 Syrians in FY 2016 and increase the total number of refugees from around the world to 100,000 by the end of FY 2017.

Sens. Renew CJ Legislation Overhauling Mandatory Minimums:  A bipartisan group of senators revamped the push for criminal justice reform Thursday, focusing on legislation that would overhaul mandatory minimums.  Andrea Noble of the Washington Times reports that the bill, which has 37 co-sponsors, would ban retroactive applicability to offenders with any serious violent crimes on their records and avoid inclusion of provisions that would increase criminal intent requirements for prosecutors.  It also adds new mandatory minimums for offenses involving fentanyl, a deadly opioid.  Some senators are not on board with the bill, however, criticizing it for not focusing on "real consensus reforms that promote rehabilitation and reduce recidivism."

Consistent Surge of People Crossing Border Illegally:  The Border Patrol chief says that the number of people crossing the border illegally is inconsistent with the surge two years ago but that agents are better prepared to handle it this year.  KRGV reports that over 80,000 people have illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border since October, with the numbers of Central Americans staying consistent and the number of Mexicans dipping.  Analysts say that Mexico's improving economy may be discouraging many citizens from making the dangerous journey.  However, Central Americans will keep coming and exploiting loopholes in the system "until we start enforcing the laws," says Border Patrol Union President Chris Cabrera.  The coming surge will be felt by more than 3,000 agents who serve in the Rio Grande Valley.  Cabrera says at least 1,500 additional agents are needed in the area to effectively combat the coming wave of migrants, despite Chief Patrol Agent and Commander of the South Texas Corridor Manuel Padilla Jr.'s insistence that agents are prepared.

Preventable Deaths

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Timothy Jones, 34, is currently on trial in South Carolina for murdering his five children in 2014.  The year prior, in 2013, he was awarded primary custody following divorce proceedings with his now ex-wife, Amber Jones, 31, who has filed a lawsuit against the South Carolina Department of Social Services.  Brandy Zadrozny of the Daily Beast reports the suit's allegations:

[The DSS] failed to fully investigate multiple allegations of abuse, from teachers, school officials, neighbors, babysitters, and Amber Jones herself, according to the complaint. When investigations uncovered abuse, the DSS made a half-dozen ineffectual "safety plans," instead of reporting evidence of child abuse to the authorities and removing the children from Mr. Jones's care.

Mr. Jones had a history of substance abuse and served time in prison for drug possession, forgery, burglary and car theft, crimes that are now deemed "nonserious" and would classify him as a "nonviolent" offender in the state of California and in the proposed federal sentencing reform.  It is disheartening to realize that this rap sheet, even if regarded by the state and the DSS as consisting of "nonserious" and "nonviolent" offenses, could be discounted when considering the primary custody of five children.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Mr. Jones for these horrific -- and preventable -- murders.  If ever there was a crime for which death is the suitable penalty, this is it.  Anything less for a man who brutally kills his five small children would be unjust.

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Nearly 20,000 Criminal Aliens Freed in 2015:  Nearly 20,000 illegal immigrants convicted of crimes were released from custody and into American communities last year, including hundreds charged with sexual assault, kidnapping and homicide.  Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times reports that together, the illegal immigrants tallied a total of 64,000 crimes, including 12,307 drunken driving convictions, 1,728 cases of assault, 216 kidnapping and over 200 homicide or manslaughter convictions.  The precise breakdown can be read here.  Approximately half were released by immigration judges, another 2,000 were freed in order to comply with a 2001 Supreme Court decision that put a six-month cap on the length of detention for immigrants "absent extenuating circumstances," the Obama administration was unable to arrange travel documents to send someone back home in time in 89 other cases.  In 7,000 cases, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released criminal aliens at its own discretion.

GA Executes Man for Triple Slaying:  After the State Board of Pardons and Paroles declined Tuesday to spare the life of a death row inmate, Georgia executed him Wednesday evening.  The AP reports that 37-year-old Daniel Anthony Lucas was put to death by lethal injection for the 1998 killings of a man and his two children, who interrupted Lucas while he was burglarizing their home.  Lucas is the fifth person to be executed in Georgia this year, tying a record set in 1987 and 2015 for the most executions carried out by the state in a calendar year since capital punishment's reinstatement in 1976.  He was the 42nd person executed in the state by lethal injection.

Border Agents Seek More Fencing, High-Tech Gear:  Federal agents in charge of patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border have requested 23 additional miles of fences, better radios and more aerial drones to tighten border security.  Julia Harte of Reuters reports that the extra fences sought by California and Texas agents, if installed, would be the first major fencing along the 1,954-mile border in five years and cost about $92 million.  It would cover three sections of the border and consist primarily of metal or concrete bollards clustered closely together.  There is currently 653 miles of fencing along the border --  a mix of wall-like fences and more basic vehicle barriers.  More high-tech gear such as radios and aerials drones are also being sought by agents, as the Border Patrol agents' union has been openly critical of the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection for neglecting their stocks in basic equipment.

Presidential Humor

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Dan Zak at the WaPo has collected, in his view, "The single best joke told by every president, from Obama to Washington."  Well, except Grover Cleveland.  He alone gets to be the butt of a joke.  A couple of samples:

Ronald Reagan, to protesters at UCLA
"'Make love not war'? By the looks of you, you don't look like you could do much of either."

Abraham Lincoln
"If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?"

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San Bernardino sees Uptick in Homicides:  San Bernardino, Calif., has had seven homicides in nine days, a pattern police Chief Jarrod Burguan says is "more than numbers."  Doug Saunders of the San Bernardino County Sun reports that the city has logged 24 homicides so far this year, all of which have either been drug- or gang-related.  Last year, there was only a total of 44 homicides for the entire year, including the 14 who were killed in the terrorist shooting at the Inland Regional Center on Dec. 2.  San Bernardino police officials believe the "underlying causes trace to the passage" of AB 109 and Proposition 47.  AB 109 was implemented in 2011 by Gov. Jerry Brown in an effort to reduce prison overcrowding by diverting several inmates from state prisons to county jails, resulting in early releases.  Prop. 47, passed by voters in 2014, lessened the sentences of several felony property and drug offenses.

Obama admin Fails to Screen Social Media of Refugees:  Despite promises made following last year's terrorist attack in San Bernardino, the Obama administration is not effectively screening the social media profiles of all Syrian refugees.  Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times reports that the government is 8,370 refugees short of its goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees, with just over five months left in the fiscal year, sparking concern that the administration will reduce screening even more to accelerate the process.  In order to meet the president's intended target, 75 applications would have to be approved every workday for the remainder of the fiscal year -- nearly seven times the average so far.  Last year, one of the San Bernardino attackers was found to be an immigrant who had posted her desire to wage jihad on media.  Though her post was not public, the president acknowledged that social media messages should be screened.  While Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez insisted months ago that it was increasing its monitoring, another USCIS official confirmed Tuesday that "the agency has not reached that point."

Prop. 47 Shows More Failure than Success:  Local governments in California are searching for solutions to Proposition 47, described by most law enforcement officers as "the biggest public safety disaster in the last several decades."  Lauren King of the Woodland Daily Democrat reports that state voters passed the measure in 2014 reducing "nonserious and nonviolent property and drug crimes" from felonies to misdemeanors and allowing previous convicts of such crimes to apply for reduced sentences.  In the first half of 2015, compared to 2014, California had the greatest increase in property crime, according to a report released by the Public Policy Institute of California, compiled from the FBI's crime statistics.  Specifically, San Francisco property crime jumped 66% while Sacramento became number one in the nation for violent crime.  Overall, the state claimed six of the nations top 10 cities with the biggest increases in crime after Prop. 47's passage.  Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig says one of the measure's greatest flaws is its failure to mandate drug rehabilitation.  He acknowledges that there may be "a few success stories" to come out of the measure, but far more people have become victims because of it.

A Suboptimum Escape Route

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Peter Hermann reports in the WaPo:

A man whom authorities said jumped a fence securing the White House grounds on Tuesday was trying to escape after he robbed or sexually assaulted four people in the heart of downtown Washington, according to a D.C. police report.

Instead of escaping, the man was quickly caught as he crawled along a fence-line ditch, called a "moat," at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House, one of the most secure buildings in the world.

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OH Man Gets Death for Killing Mother:  An Ohio man was sentenced to death Monday for the 2013 beating death of his mother.  Chanda Neely of Cleveland reports that 28-year-old James Tench beat 55-year-old Mary Tench to death after she confronted him about his use of her credit cards.  Her skull was fractured in the beating.  Last month, a jury found Tench guilty of three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and tampering with evidence.  In addition to a death sentence, Tench received 49 years.  He is currently serving a five-year sentence for a 2014 robbery.  He maintains his innocence in the murder of his mother.

Central American Countries Airlifting Cuban Immigrants to U.S. Border:  The Obama administration has not demanded that Central American countries stop airlifting Cuban immigrants to the southern U.S. border, a State Department official admitted Tuesday.  Joel Gehrke of the Washington Examiner reports that at a hearing under question from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Francisco Palmieri, a senior official in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere, testified that Central American countries have not been told to refrain from airlifting Cuban immigrants to the U.S. border, insisting instead that these countries enforce their own immigration laws.  Costa Rica and Panama have flown approximately 8,000 Cuban migrants to northern Mexico.  Over a five-month period, 18,500 Cubans have arrived at the Texas-Laredo Border field office as part of a significant surge.
Have tough sentencing laws harmed black Americans?  Well, without them, an estimated 129,000 blacks would be dead today, says Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute.  Speaking last week on 'The O'Reilly Factor,' Mac Donald discussed violent crime and incarceration, where she answered the charge of the media and the liberal left that sentencing laws are racist when, in fact, tough sentencing laws have resulted in historically low crime rates that have primarily benefited law-abiding blacks in inner cities.  Watch the segment here.
David Lat of Above the Law explains in the WaPo why his blog has dropped comments.  The subhead is "I used to rely on Above the Law commenters for tips. Now they just spew bile."

Over the years, however, our comments changed. They had always been edgy, but the ratio of offensive to substantive shifted in favor of the offensive. Inside information about law firms and schools gave way to inside jokes among the "commentariat," relevant knowledge got supplanted by non sequiturs, and basic civility (with a touch of political incorrectness) succumbed to abuse and insult.
Lat notes that comments became increasingly racist and sexist insults.  Equally offensive, I should note here, is the comment that accuses someone else of racism, etc., with no rational basis for doing so.  ("You support Policy X, and Policy X has a disparate impact.  Therefore you are a racist," and drivel such as that.)  He also notes that the administrative burden of actively policing the comments is just not worth it.  Comment degeneration not only diminishes the blog and the post to which the comment is made, but gutter comments drive away commenters who actually do want to discuss ideas in a civil manner, creating a downward spiral.

We have no plans to drop comments here at C&C.  Our commenters on the whole remain multiple levels above the degeneracy seen elsewhere.  The comments section adds valuable perspective and spices up the blog.

So let's keep it clean, folks, and keep the focus on facts and ideas, not name-calling.  Our policies on comments are noted in this post as updated in this post.

A Second Chance to Do What?

Sentencing "reform" advocates insist that we should go lighter on sentencing in the name of the distinctly American virtue of "giving people a second chance."

The phrase itself reveals the confusion posing as thought that lies behind this movement.  A person has a "second chance" whether his sentence is 78 months or 96 months.  He has a "second chance" whether it's 16 years or 18 years.  The question in either case is not whether he'll get a "second chance" under sentencing reform he would otherwise miss; the question is what he does with it, reform or not.

This story gives part of the answer.  When I read it, I asked the same question I frequently do:  When early release goes wrong, as it so often does, who pays the price?  The sentencing reform crowd at their posh, self-congratulatory, "we-are-so-humane" parties in Manhattan and Hollywood, or the next unsuspecting victim they helped set up?

A convicted murderer in Michigan, who was paroled early for good behavior after serving 19 years in jail, reportedly killed again less than one year after his release.

Malcolm B. Benson, 50, was serving a 20- to 40-year prison sentence as part of a plea deal he made in 1995, MLive reports. He was initially charged with first-degree murder but the plea deal reduced the charge to second-degree murder. He was also found guilty of felony use of a firearm, which added an additional two years to his sentence.

Benson was paroled on Jan. 13, 2015, after spending just over 19 years of his minimum 22-year sentence in prison.

Like Wendell Callahan's victims, Benson's victim would be alive today if he had been required to serve even the minimum of his term.

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Street Behavior in SF Worsens, Stirs Debate:  San Francisco is feeling the ramifications of its liberal ethos that has turned the city into a "consequence-free zone," with crime increasing sharply and city officials divided as to how to address it.  Thomas Fuller of the NY Times reports that since 2010, property crime in the city is up more than 60% and recent data shows it has the highest per-capita property crime of the nation's top 50 cities.  Nearly half of the cases are smash-and-grabs from vehicles.  Violent crime has also spiked 18% since 2010.  The city "is now divided over whether to respond with more muscular law enforcement or stick to its forgiving attitudes."  While the Chamber of Commerce and city tourist board call for harsher measures to improve the "condition of the streets" -- homelessness, public intravenous drug use, aggressive panhandling and the large population of mentally ill on the streets -- others criticize such solutions as a "punitive approach that is ineffective and inconsistent with the values of San Francisco."  However, despite the traditional "values of San Francisco," a recent Chamber of Commerce poll shows that the primary concern of the city's residents is the spike in "street behavior."

Lawyers Seek Clemency For GA Murderer:  Attorneys for a Georgia death row inmate set to die this week have filed a clemency petition asking the state parole board to spare his life.  The AP reports that Georgia's State Board of Parole and Pardons, the only entity authorized to commute a death sentence, will hold a clemency hearing Tuesday for 37-year-old Daniel Anthony Lucas, a convicted murderer scheduled to be executed on Wednesday.  Lucas was sentenced to death for the 1998 murders of a 37-year-old man and his two children, aged 11 and 15, who interrupted him and another man, Brandon Rhode, while they burglarized their home.  Lucas, then 19, received the death penalty for the slayings, as did Rhode, who was executed in September 2010.  Lucas' lawyers argue that his childhood was troubled and plagued by drugs and abuse, and his status as a model inmate should exempt him from the death penalty.  If his execution is carried out this Wednesday as scheduled, it will be the fifth in the state this year.

Steady Increase of Illegals an Omen of the Surge to Come:  Apprehensions of illegal immigrants at the southern border increased last month after a winter lull, and authorities are expecting the numbers to steadily rise during the summer.  Molly Hennessy-Fiske of the LA Times reports that the Border Patrol saw a 28% increase in illegal border crossers from February to March of this year, with a total of 33,335 people caught in March compared to 26,076 in February.  Of those apprehended, 4,452 were families traveling together, 46% more than the month before, and 4,240 were unaccompanied minors, 37% more than the month prior.  The figures reported are higher than in 2014, when a surge of Central American migrants prompted crisis-level emergency measures.  Last month, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson touted a month-to-month decrease in migration during the winter, attributing the decline to stepped-up enforcement, but the recent influx indicates it was likely seasonal.  This article authored by Breitbart's Brandon Darby and Bob Price delves deeper into the dangers of illegal immigration and the consequences of an open border.

Anti-Suicide Pact

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Ted Cruz and John Kasich have entered an agreement to prevent the Republican Party from committing the mass suicide of nominating a candidate disliked by 2/3 of the American people.  James Taranto has this column at the WSJ.

Deflategate Ruling

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Off-topic, but for those who are interested the 2-1 decision of the Second Circuit reversing the District Court and reinstating the NFL ruling is here.  Jacob Gershman has this post at WSJ Law Blog.
The U.S. Supreme Court took up once again the issue of the mental element of crime, known in legal Latin as mens reaShaw v. United States, No. 15-5991, is a case from the Ninth Circuit.  The summary of the Ninth's opinion is:

The panel affirmed a conviction for a scheme to defraud a financial institution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1344(1), in a case in which the defendant used PayPal to convince banks that he was a particular bank customer and thus had authority to transfer money out of that customer's bank accounts and into a PayPal account in the defendant's control.

The panel held that for a violation of § 1344(1), the government need not prove that the defendant intended the bank to be the principal financial victim of the fraud, and that the district court therefore correctly refused jury instructions that included such a requirement.
The Question Presented, as phrased by counsel for Shaw, is:

Whether subsection (1)'s "scheme to defraud a financial institution" requires proof of a specific intent not only to deceive, but also to cheat, a bank, as nine circuits have held, and as petitioner Lawrence Shaw argued here.
The sentencing appeal case is Manrique v. United States, No. 15-7250.  The unpublished opinion of the Eleventh Circuit begins:
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe today issued an order removing the disqualification from voting for felons who have completed their time, both in custody and on parole or probation.

Can he do that, constitutionally?  Of course.  Virginia Constitution Article V §12, the clemency power, is quite explicit on that point.

Why did he do it?  The primary reason, in my opinion, is that he expects that the criminal vote will go overwhelmingly to the Democratic Party versus the Republicans, and I believe he is correct on that.

The primary division in America today is not between rich and poor, labor and management, white and black, or any of the old divisions that have been prominent in the past.  The primary division is between people who believe in personal responsibility, obedience to the law, and work ethic, on one side, and those who do not along with their apologists, on the other.

Gov. McAuliffe believes that those who do not are more likely to vote for his party, and that should send a strong message to those who do.

Why Is the SRCA Sinking in the Ooze?

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The Senate's bill for mass reduction of federal felony sentences (called sentencing "reform" to keep it opaque) passed out of the Judiciary Committee months ago by a lopsided 15-5 vote.  But it's been downhill ever since.

Why?  Several reasons, I think.

1.  Two of the most fearsome crimes, murder and heroin trafficking, are going through the roof from coast to coast.
2.  The Sentencing Commission disclosed that nearly half of federal offenders recidivate, most in their first or second years out.
3. The Wendell Callahan sentencing reduction/child murder scandal has displayed the potentially grotesque costs of early release.
4.  It has finally dawned on lawmakers that those who'll pay the price of more crime are minorities and the poor.
5.  The proposal for retroactive reductions, meaning a boatload of additional costly litigation, is unpopular in the House.

And there is one more reason, highlighted by today's story in the Washington Examiner:  Democrats are refusing to go along with the one element of true criminal justice reform upon which the huge majority of sensible people would agree  --  that no one should be held criminally liable unless he knew or had some fair reason to know that what he was doing was wrong.

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ISIS Suspect Planned Route Through Mexico:  A document filed Wednesday by prosecutors in a case against an American man accused to trying to join the Islamic State terrorist group described the man's plan to open up routes from Syria to the U.S. through Mexico.  Fox News Latino reports that 21-year-old Gules Ali Omar and a group of his friends in Minnesota's Somali community plotted to join the Islamic State, communicating with the foreign terror group's members about the route so it could be used to send fighters to America to carry out terrorist attacks.  Omar and four others have pleaded not guilty to multiple charges, including conspiracy to commit murder outside the U.S.  Their trial begins May 9.  Five other men have pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to support a foreign terrorist organization and another is at large, believed to be in Syria.  According to the FBI, approximately 12 people have left Minnesota in recent years to join militant groups fighting in Syria and, since 2007, over 22 have joined al-Shabab in Somalia.

Chicago Tallies 1000th Shooting:  As of Wednesday, 1,000 people have been shot in Chicago, rising to levels last seen in the 1990s and far outpacing shooting incidents in the much larger cities of New York and Los Angeles.  Kelly Cohen of the Washington Examiner reports that according to Chicago Police Department data, there were about 600 shooting victims at the same point last year and just 483 the year before.  Additionally, as of Sunday, the homicide total was 64% higher than last year's, jumping from 98 to 161.

Va. Gov. Grants Voting Rights to Thousands of Felons:  Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a sweeping executive order Friday that would restore the voting rights of over 200,000 convicted felons.  The AP reports that the action, which would impact an estimated 206,000 felons, means that every felon in the state who has completed their sentence and finished any supervised release, parole or probation requirements as of April 22 is eligible to vote, run for public office, serve on a jury and become a notary republic.  Most of the convicts that will be affected by the order are African American and Latino, two groups that vote overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates.  John Whitbeck, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, said McAuliffe's "decision to issue a blanket restoration, without regard to the nature of the crimes committed doesn't speak of mercy.  Rather, it speaks of political opportunism."

Recidivism, with a Twist

When I discuss America's sky-high recidivism rate (49% for federal offenders and 77% for state offenders), I sometimes encounter the objection that not all criminals return to the crime for which they went to prison.  This is true.  Not infrequently, they branch out.  Hence today's story:

A Grand Rapids man released from prison last summer for a November 1998 murder pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal cocaine trafficking charge following his arrest in Southeast Grand Rapids with more than a pound of cocaine.

Keith Vonta Hopskin appeared in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids where he admitted to having at least a pound of cocaine he planned to distribute....

Hopskin told police he had been receiving several ounces of cocaine about two times a month since July, court records show. He was released from prison July 5 on a second-degree murder conviction.

The 38-year-old, who has a prior federal drug conviction, told investigators he paid $10,500 for the cocaine and was able to sell three ounces before police stepped in.

Now just to head off the coming furrowed brows, this is not an argument that we should send people to prison forever; the first principle of sentencing remains just punishment.  It is, however, an argument against the delusion that, when we release criminals, we can expect them to become productive members of society.  It is not impossible that that will happen, but the decided likelihood is, instead, that the Hopskin story happens.  We need to bear this in mind when we told how much society will "benefit" from shorter sentences.

Was Prince Killed By Illegal Drugs?

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The iconic and eclectic musician Prince (his given first name was indeed "Prince") died yesterday.  There are already strong indications he was killed by heroin or some illegally obtained opioid.  The NY Daily News reports:

Prince received drug overdose treatment six days before his death during his plane's emergency landing in rural Illinois, according to a report.

Medical examiners are investigating the cause of the 57-year-old legendary musician's Thursday death at his Minnesota estate. But doctors in Moline, Ill., only 48 minutes from his home, gave Prince a so-called "save shot" during the emergency stop last Friday, TMZ reported.


The "save shots" usually help combat opiates, such as heroin and narcotic painkillers, in the bloodstream. Doctors and paramedics have used the injectable medication, called naloxone, for years, according to WebMD.

As this tragic incident certainly seems to illustrate, "save" shots are not the answer as long as the next patch of drugs is available.  We cannot play just defense against heroin and similar drugs; it just doesn't work.  We have to play offense.

Question:  Do we go on offense against illegal drugs by enacting softer sentences for their dealers, as the SRCA would allow?  Answer:  You don't need an answer.  It answers itself.  

Which Black Lives Matter?

The Chicago Tribune has released video of the unprovoked assault on a popular young black bartender by another black man on a crowded street corner.  William Lee of the Tribune has the story of the February 7 assault on 32 year-old Marques Gaines in front of a busy 7-Eleven store on the Near North Side of Chicago at about 4:20 AM.  The video shows what appears to be two men confronting Gaines as he steps out of the store with a bag of chips.  After a few moments Gains tries to step away and the larger of the two men cold cocks him in the head, knocking him unconscious.  Seconds after Gaines falls in the street, two people run up and begin rummaging through his pockets. 

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High Court Hears Oral Arguments about DUI Laws:  The Supreme Court expressed doubt Wednesday during oral arguments in three cases challenging North Dakota and Minnesota laws, that make it a crime to refuse to test for alcohol in a driver's blood, breath or urine even in the absence of a search warrant.  The AP reports that drivers prosecuted under the laws, which were upheld by state supreme courts in both North Dakota and Minnesota, argue that they violate the Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.  Justices "seemed to be searching for a middle ground"; Justice Kennedy took issue with the states' "extraordinary exception" to make it a crime for people to assert their constitutional rights, while Justice Kagan said a breath test is "about as uninvasive as a search can be.  Deputy Solicitor General Ian Gershengorn implored the justices not to assume warrants are available 24/7.  CJLF filed an amicus brief in one of the North Dakota cases, Beylund v. Levi.

Half-Mile Tunnel Found on Border:  U.S. authorities announced Wednesday that a sophisticated cross-border tunnel was discovered, running a half-mile from a Tijuana house to a large lot in San Diego and equipped with an elevator, a rail system, lighting and ventilation.  Elliot Spagat of the AP reports that investigators are unsure when the tunnel was completed but that the tenants operating the San Diego wooden pallet business, where the tunnel ended on the U.S. side, arrived about a year ago.  Investigators began monitoring the area last fall after noticing suspiciously heavy traffic in the lot.  Six people were arrested last Friday in connection to the tunnel.  Over a ton of cocaine and seven tons of marijuana were seized.  The tunnel in the 13th sophisticated secret passage found along California's border with Mexico since 2006.

Kansas v. Carr Podcast

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Justice Antonin Scalia's last opinion for the U. S. Supreme Court was Kansas v. Carr, decided 8-1 on January 20.  The Federalist Society has this podcast on the decision, by yours truly.

Another Hidden Cost of Crime

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Unfortunately, some people on the conservative side of the political aisle have jumped on the "let-em-out" bandwagon because they see that as a way to reduce government budgets.  Looking at costs to government alone, however, is not the correct way to measure costs of alternative courses of action to society as a whole.  When government fails in its fundamental obligation to protect people from crime, it imposes costs on the victims, a kind of "crime tax" that falls heavily, partly at random, but disproportionately on people of modest means.  Quantifying the cost of crime to victims is a tricky business in many ways, and one of the ways is that much of the cost is hidden.  Science Daily has this article on a hidden cost that has been overlooked to this point:

In a recent paper published in the Journal of Development Economics, researchers Professor Marco Manacorda (Queen Mary University of London) and Dr Martin Foureaux Koppensteiner (University of Leicester) focused on evidence from the exposure of day-to-day violence in Brazil by analysing the birth outcomes of children whose mothers were exposed to local violence, as measured by homicide rates in small Brazilian municipalities and the neighbourhoods of the city of Fortaleza.

The team estimated the effect of violence on birth outcomes by comparing mothers who were exposed to a homicide during pregnancy to otherwise similar mothers residing in the same area, who happened not to be exposed to homicides.

The study found that birthweight falls significantly among newborns exposed to a homicide during pregnancy and the number of children classified as being low birthweight increases -- and that the effects are concentrated on the first trimester of pregnancy, which is consistent with claims that stress-induced events matter most when occurring early in pregnancy.

Back to Bedlam

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Heather MacDonald has this article in the City Journal:

Will the anti-cop Left please figure out what it wants? For more than a decade, activists have demanded the end of proactive policing, claiming that it was racist. Pedestrian stops--otherwise known as stop, question, and frisk--were attacked as a bigoted oppression of minority communities. In March 2015, for example, the ACLU of Illinois accused the Chicago Police Department of "targeting" minorities because stops are "disproportionately concentrated in the black community."
And what happens when they win that battle?

And the Left is once again denouncing the police--this time for not doing enough policing. [Black Lives Matter activist Shaun] King now accuses police in Chicago of not "doing their job," as a result of which "people are dying." Stops in Chicago are down nearly 90 percent this year through the end of March, compared with the same period in 2015; shootings were up 78 percent and homicides up 62 percent through April 10.

Prop 47 is "broken at every level"

The City Attorney for Los Angeles is Mike Feuer.  The office he holds is non-partisan, but Feuer himself is an active, liberal Democrat, and a leader, with Cyrus Vance of Manhattan, of a group of prosecutors opposing what they call "gun violence."

The LA Downtown News reports on what Mr. Feuer has to say about Prop 47 eighteen months after it became effective:

When California voters approved Proposition 47 in November 2014, it marked a new era of crime and punishment in the state.

It also led to a system that, so far, has utterly failed, City Attorney Mike Feuer told a Downtown Los Angeles audience yesterday.

In the effort to reduce the state prison population, Prop. 47 downgraded a half dozen non-violent felonies, such as certain kinds of drug possession and petty theft, to misdemeanors, meaning offenders receive shorter sentences.


"Almost no one has gotten anything close to meaningful drug rehabilitation, and we've prosecuted thousands of these cases," Feuer said Monday at a luncheon at the Downtown Palm hosted by the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum. "The system is broken at every level."

The academics who pushed Prop 47 with a boatload of deceit about what it would do are still in denial, making it all the more refreshing to hear one official, and a quite liberal one, tell the truth.

Ben Mathis-Lilley reports for Slate:

Unrepentant mass killer Anders Breivik's isolated confinement in a three-room prison suite furnished with a treadmill, a refrigerator, a DVD player, a Sony PlayStation, a desk, a television, and a radio constitutes "inhuman or degrading treatment" under the European Convention on Human Rights, an Oslo court has ruled. The court instructed Norwegian authorities in nonspecific terms to relax the restrictions imposed on Breivik and ordered the government to pay his legal fees, which total about $50,000.
Some people argue that we should emulate Europe in our treatment of criminals.  In my view, Europe is a contrarian indicator.  If Europe does X, that makes X somewhat more likely to be a bad idea.

Thanks for the tip to our frequent commenter "notablogger," who notes, "I wish this were a story in the Onion.  Alas, it is not."
The U.S. Supreme Court issued two criminal law decisions this week, neither of which is surprising or particularly controversial.

Monday, the Court decided Welch v. United States, No. 15-6418:

Last Term, this Court decided Johnson v. United States, 576 U. S. ___ (2015). Johnson considered the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984, 18 U. S. C. §924(e)(2)(B)(ii). The Court held that provision void for vagueness. The present case asks whether Johnson is a substantive decision that is retroactive in cases on collateral review.
Answer: Yes.

Today, the Court decided Molina-Martinez v. United States, No. 14-8913, regarding what to do on appeal when the trial court messes up on the often complex Federal Sentencing Guidelines and nobody notices until the appeal.  The Court disapproved the Fifth Circuit's requirement that the defendant "must identify 'additional evidence' to show that the use of the incorrect Guidelines range did in fact affect his sentence."

News Scan

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VA to Keep Execution Drug Suppliers Secret:  Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring signed off late Tuesday on the legality of Gov. Terry McAuliffe's plan to keep the identities of pharmacies that supply the state with execution drugs secret.  Laura Vozzella of the Washington Post reports that Herring's legal opinion came just over a week after McAuliffe amended a bill that would have made the electric chair the state's default execution method in the event that lethal injection drugs are unavailable.  His amendment scraps that approach, instead allowing the state to specially order the drugs from compounding pharmacies, "whose identities would be kept secret to shield them from political pressure."  Herring, a democrat, only passed judgment on the plan's legality and did not weigh in on its merits.  The General Assembly is scheduled to take up the proposal during its annual veto session on Wednesday.

OH High Court Upholds Death Sentence:  The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the death sentence Wednesday of a man who fatally shot a convenience store clerk during a robbery nearly eight years ago.  Jim Provance of the Toledo Blade reports that 30-year-old Anthony Belton argued that he should have been allowed to have a jury determine his sentence, claiming a violation of his Sixth Amendment rights.  The high court rejected the argument with a 6-1 vote because Belton pleaded no contest to the charges against him and "Ohio law does not permit a jury to sentence a capital defendant if the defendant has elected to enter a plea of guilty or no contest to capital charges."  Belton was convicted of one count of aggravated murder and two counts of aggravated robbery in the fatal shooting of 34-year-old Matthew Dugan during an August 2008 gas station holdup.  He still has several federal appeals he may pursue.  Ohio has not carried out an execution since Jan. 2014 due to court and gubernatorial moratoriums, though the current moratorium will expire at the end of this year.

Border Patrol Agents Assaulted with Rocks:  U.S. Border Patrol agents patrolling the Arizona desert Tuesday were assaulted by a group of marijuana smugglers who threw rocks at them when they began closing in.  Bob Price of Breitbart reports that agents had been tracking the smugglers through the desert and were assaulted with the rocks as they approached the group, prompting the agents to fire their weapons, though no injuries were reported.  The assailant and one other suspect were taken into custody and multiple bundles of marijuana were seized.  There have been extensive reports about the use of rocks to seriously injure Border Patrol agents, which are often baseball-sized or larger.

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Immigration Subcommittee to Hold Hearing on Criminal Alien Threat:  A hearing will be held in the nation's capitol on Tuesday by the Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee to examine the public safety threat posed by criminal aliens stemming from the Obama administration's weak immigration policies and failure to secure the border, according to a press release from earlier this month.  Under Obama's weak enforcement of immigration laws, between October 2011 and December 2014, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released criminal aliens with violent backgrounds from detention over 105,000 times.  "It should not take the tragic death of another innocent life for this administration to begin enforcing out laws," said Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).  A Maryland sheriff, a bishop and two mothers of victims murdered by illegal immigrants will be present as witnesses at the hearing.  One of those mothers testified that the illegal immigrant who murdered her daughter had his bail set at "less than the amount it cost to bury my baby."

CA Border Patrol Finds 3rd Tunnel in One Year: 
Border Patrol agents in southern California discovered the third cross-border tunnel from Mexico to the U.S. in just one year, officials announced Monday.  Anna Giaritelli of the Washington Examiner reports that the 142-foot-long man-made tunnel, uncovered Sunday, originated 60 feed south of the border.  All three tunnels were found in the Calexico region, a U.S. town of 40,000 residents.  Immigration officials did not confirm or deny whether an arrest had been made in connection to the tunnel. The announcement of the discovery comes as immigration experts warn that California could see a new surge in unaccompanied alien children from Central America this year.

Chicago Toddler Survives Being Shot in the Head:  A one-year-old Chicago girl was released from the hospital Monday after being shot in the head last week.  Alexis Myers of the Chicago Tribune reports that Khlo'e Chatman-Teague was struck by a stray bullet last Friday when someone from another vehicle opened fire on her aunt's vehicle that she was in.  A single bullet pierced the trunk of the car and flattened before lodging at the base of the little girl's skull.  Khlo'e is one of four children under the age of 10 shot in Chicago so far this year.  Shootings and homicides have increased by more than 50% through mid-April over the same period in 2015.  "It's safe nowhere in Chicago," said Kelly Chatman, Khlo'e's mother.

I Am Not Making This Up, Either

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In my entry here, I insisted that I was not making up the story that, while President Obama labors to reduce the sentences of heroin dealers in the midst of a heroin epidemic, he was meeting with rappers  --  yes, rappers  -- to plumb the depths of criminal justice issues.

Hey, look, people, this is one serious administration when it comes to dealing with crime.

The ankle bracelet is a condition of [Ross's] release after his 2015 kidnapping charge.

The U.S. Marshals Service picked Ross up in Georgia last June and collared him for kidnapping, aggravated assault and aggravated battery after a dispute between the rapper and a man working on one of his homes.

Ross and a bodyguard allegedly forced the worker into a guesthouse bedroom and pistol-whipped him with a .9-mm Glock, according to police.

Though he was initially held without bail, in July TMZ reported that a judge allowed him to be released on $2 million bail with a GPS ankle monitor.

The reason you know I am not making this up is that no one could make it up.

News Scan

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Supreme Court Begins Hearing Amnesty Case:  Supreme Court justices will begin hearing their biggest case of the term Monday morning to consider whether President Obama overstepped his constitutional powers when he granted a tentative  amnesty to five million illegal immigrants.  Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times reports that Obama first announced his deportation policy in November, the objective of which is to grant nearly half of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. a proactive stay of deportation, allowing them access to work permits, driver's licenses, Social Security numbers and some taxpayer benefits.  The policy prompted 26 states to sue, arguing that the amnesty caused economic harm.  The states, led by Texas, also argue that President Obama broke administrative law and immigration law, and violated the Constitution, when he strayed too far from the Take Care Clause, writing law rather than simply carrying it out.  The amnesty has been halted by lower courts on statutory grounds until justices decide.  The justices are expected to make a ruling by the end of June.

Another Record-Breaking Year Expected in Alien Children Surge:  Unaccompanied alien children apprehended on the U.S. border has surged more than 1,200% since 2011 with no end in sight as the flow increased significantly in the first five months of FY 2016.  Adam Kredo of the Free Beacon reports that a Congressional Research Service report shows that in the first five months of 2016, nearly 20,000 illegal immigrants children -- mostly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala -- were apprehended at the border, "setting the state for another potentially record-breaking year."  Experts warn that illegal immigrant children will continue to surge into the country so long as the United States' immigration policy is viewed as advantageous to illegal immigrants.

Urgency in CA to Find Roadside Test for Drugged Drivers:  As California moves closer toward legalization of adult recreational marijuana use, there is a new urgency in the state to find a "practical and reliable" field test to determine when a driver is under the influence of marijuana.  Brooke Edwards Staggs of the LA Daily News reports that California Sen. Bob Huff has proposed Senate Bill 1492, which would authorize use of saliva swab tests to help police officers detect for the presence of marijuana and other drugs.  Critics argue that the proposed device is still "too experimental and unreliable to be put into wider use" and isn't even effective at testing the two types of drugs most frequently encountered, marijuana and prescription medicines.  The state is partnering with UC San Diego's Center for Medical Cannabis Research Center to conduct research, beginning the fall, to study how marijuana impacts motor skills.

America's Under-Incarceration Problem

The pro-criminal narrative being pushed by such luminaries as Al Sharpton, George Soros and Sen. Mike Lee lectures us that America has too many people in prison for too long.

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline begs to differ:  In more than a few cases, we don't have them in for long enough.

I've argued that America has an under-incarceration problem. Criminals whose records clearly show they should be in jail have, instead, been released and are on the streets committing violent crimes, including some very bloody, high-profile ones.

Here's another example. Samuel Harviley, paroled from prison less than three months ago, is being held without bond for shooting an off-duty Chicago police officer outside his home earlier this week. In withholding bond, the local judge said that Harviley "poses an extreme danger to the rest of us out in public."

Indeed, he does. And he did three months ago when he was released early from jail.

Harviley was paroled from state prison on New Year's Eve after serving four years of a nine-year sentence for a 2011 carjacking, an inherently dangerous crime. A nine year sentence is meaningless if it can be completed in four. Harviley's early release always posed a danger to the community. Now, it has resulted in the shooting of a police officer.

But hey, look, as the anonymous Republican Senate aide said, we can't get everything right.  Boys will be boys!  If police officers get shot, there's really nothing to see, folks.  Move along.

Emancipation Day

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On April 16, 1862 (154 years ago tomorrow) President Abraham Lincoln signed a law that Congressman Abraham Lincoln had proposed 13 years earlier.
Gary Fields has this strange article in the WSJ:

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, embroiled in a contentious New York primary, have been calling for changes to a criminal-justice system they say unfairly targets minorities. But both supported the landmark 1994 law that critics say helped foster the system they now attack.
Until relatively recently, there was general agreement that getting tough did contribute to the crime drop, and the debate was over how much.   A book edited by Alfred Blumstein, pretty much the guru of the other side, concluded that tough sentencing accounted for "only" a quarter of the drop.  One quarter because of a single factor is huge, and considering the source I think we can take that as a lower bound of the range of possibilities.

More recently, though, the propagandists of the other side have succeeded in shifting the conversation so much that many people blithely assume that tough sentencing did not work.  This article does briefly cite Newt Gingrich making a mild defense of the law, but overall it reflects the attitude that the get-tough approach was a terrible mistake.  It was not.  The online comments are largely from the perspective that the article is short on.  I hope the reporter reads them.

As for the candidates, they should stand up and proudly say that they did the right thing supporting tough-on-crime policies in the 90s and that we must not forget and repeat the mistakes of the preceding decades.  I won't hold my breath, though.

A Second "Birther" Decision

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This decision was issued Tuesday by a judge in the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law:

I Am Not Making This Up

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This is the headline in today's The Hill:  "Obama, Rappers Meet on Criminal Justice Reform."

The story starts:

President Obama is meeting with a group of music stars on Friday to discuss his push for criminal justice reform and his initiaitve dedicated to helping young men and boys of color.

Rappers Busta Rhymes, Common, J. Cole, Wale, Ludacris and Chance the Rapper are all attending the meeting, according to a senior administration official. 

"Many of these artists have lent their voices and platforms to promoting these issues," the official said. "Through their own nonprofit work or artistic commitment, many of these artists have found ways to engage on the issues of criminal justice reform and empowering disadvantaged young people across the country."

The President's meeting with "Ludacris" says nearly all I am capable of writing about this, within the bounds of the polite discussion we like to maintain on C&C.

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Illegal Immigrant Charged with Deaths of TX Firefighter, 2 Children:  A previously deported illegal immigrant who killed a volunteer firefighter and his two children earlier this month in a car crash now faces both state and federal charges.  Bob Price of Breitbart reports that Margarito Quintero was drunk and driving without a license when he slammed head-on into Nevada Volunteer Fire Department Captain Peter Hacking's vehicle, killing him and his two young children.  He faces charges of criminally negligent homicide as well as a federal charge of illegally reentering the U.S. after being deported in 2008.  Quintero's case is just one of many examples of criminal aliens reentering the U.S. after deportation due to such a porous southern border.

OH Man Accused of Killing 4 will Face Death Penalty:  An Ohio man indicted on 46 charges in connection with a 2014 quintuple murder will face the death penalty.  John Harper of Cleveland reports that 20-year-old James Sparks-Henderson is accused of shooting four people, ranging in ages of 17 to 60, to death at a Cleveland home in November 2014.  One of the victims was pregnant, and her unborn child also died after being delivered following the shootings.  Before the decision to seek the death penalty in the case came to light, there were initial reports that Sparks-Henderson would strike a plea deal.  Prosecutors would not comment on whether that option is still being pursued. 

Senate Blocks Sessions' Immigration Amendment:  Senate Democrats held up a vote Thursday on an immigration amendment introduced by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., intended to boost enforcement of immigration laws.  Joel Gehrke of the Washington Examiner reports that Sessions pushed for an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill that would give airports two years to develop systems for implementing a biometric exit system in order to track people who overstay their visas.  During a Senate hearing in January, the Department of Homeland Security admitted that they don't track individuals who overstay their visas.  Even with Democratic leader-in-waiting New York Sen. Chuck Schumer's statement that the lack of such a system is a national security threat, the Senate failed to agree to include the measure.

Why We Have the Death Penalty

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Today marks the third anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.  The bombers killed three people and injured and maimed 264 others, some grotesquely and many for life.  They also killed an MIT policeman in the aftermath.

The bombers were Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother. The brother was killed in a confrontation with the police. Dzhokhar was captured.

He was and is a Jihadist.  The reason for the bombing was hate for America, neither more nor less.

Over the screeching of abolitionists, and attempts politically to intimidate the government from seeking capital punishment, Dzhokhar was convicted by a federal jury in Boston, one of the most liberal cities in the country, and sentenced to death.

Of course he has not been executed, while taxpayers get dunned for hundreds of thousands of dollars in the service of manufacturing excuses for his gruesome behavior.  In the meantime, in nearby Harvard Law School, the main reaction is shrugging, except for those still protesting in little Dzhokhar's behalf.  

There is a ream I could write about this horrid case, but I'll refrain except to say two things.  First, the case impeaches to the point of farce the notion that we should never, ever permit a jury to consider imposing a death sentence.  Second, for the many in academia and other sanctuaries of self-satisfied righteousness who think, with Dzhokhar, that Amerika stinks, some consideration might be given to what actually stinks, to wit, the continued, everyday suffering of the victims.  

Is Sentencing Reform Working in the States?

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We often hear that Congress should enact sentencing "reform" because it has been shown to work in the states. The example most frequently given is Texas, which is said to be enjoying lower crime even as it thins out its prison population.

I am not sufficiently familiar with the Lone Star State to say whether crime is in fact decreasing; I will assume for purposes of this post that it has been, at least in the years for which statistics are presently available.  The problem is that this would hardly prove that sentencing reform helps bring down crime.

As I've often noted, numerous factors have helped suppress crime  -- for example, more police and more pro-active policing.  Increased use of incarceration accounts for roughly a quarter of the crime decrease over the past generation.  Thus, as long as a state persists with its other crime-suppressing measures, crime is likely to continue to decrease, but at a slower rate as sentencing "reformed" inmates hit the streets earlier.  That is what has been happening in Texas.

But if the pro-criminal effects of massively reduced sentences become too strong, it's possible that, at some point, they will overwhelm the other three-quarters of the factors helping to bring down crime.

Those urging complacency on account of the Texas experience thus might want to pay particular attention to this alarming story from the state's largest city.
It's no news to readers of this blog that sentencing reform will create costs its backers prefer to conceal.  The most prominent recent example is the Wendell Callahan case.  Callahan, a crack cocaine dealer, was given retroactive benefit of a sentencing reductions bill Congress passed in 2010.  He went on to commit triple murder. This is notwithstanding that we were loudly promised then  --  as we are now  --  that the release of such inmates would be limited to "low level, non-violent" offenders.

This is simply false.  Some of the leading thinkers in the "reform" movement have openly acknowledged that, to achieve any significant reduction in the prison population, sentence reduction cannot be limited to merely the non-violent offender. Thus their actual commitment to today's limiting promise is suspect from the getgo; their ideology all but requires them to bend the rules on the definition of "non-violent."

Even on the tenuous assumption that "reformers" are sincere in their promise, however, they can't and won't deliver on it.  They know  --  indeed, in closely related contexts, they insist  --  that the system is rife with error.  As they quite correctly maintain, error is inevitable in every human enterprise.  Mistakes are going to be made. Callahan was not the first example and he won't be the last.  When asked specifically how many similar grotesque mistakes we can expect (or should tolerate), however, "reformers" simply refuse to answer.

In other words, they expect us to buy their package without ever telling us either exactly what's inside or what it's going to cost. 

Does that sound like a good deal to you?

It doesn't to the New York Times, which has twisted itself into a pretzel to keep the Callahan case covered up.

News Scan

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Houston Deputy Shot in Ambush Attack:  A Houston deputy constable was shot several times in a "completely unprovoked" attack Wednesday evening but is expected to survive.  Fox News reports that Alden Clopton, an 11-year veteran of the force, suffered abdomen wounds and had a bullet lodged near his heart after a gunman approached him from behind and fired six shots, striking Clopton four times.  The authorities are questioning a man they believe to be the shooter.  Clopton is the second Harris County officer to be ambushed from behind in the past year, and the second to be shot in Texas in less than 12 hours.

Former Manson Family Member Seeks Parole:  A woman who followed Charles Manson and participated in one of the nation's most notorious murders is scheduled for her 21st parole hearing Thursday.  Amy Taxin of the AP reports that 66-year-old Leslie Van Houten was 19 in 1969 when she and other "Manson family" members murdered Leno La Bianca and his wife Rosemary in their Los Angeles home, just one day after actress Sharon Tate and four other were viciously murdered.  After spending over four decades in prison, Van Houten's attorney argues that she no longer presents a danger to the public.  However, Sharon Tate's sister has initiated an online petition opposing parole for the convicted murderer, saying she failed to show remorse for the crime and is untrustworthy.  Charles Manson, now 81, and his other followers involved in the killings remain behind bars.  Update:  The California state parole board granted parole to Van Houten.  Its recommendation will now be sent to Gov. Brown.

The New SRCA, Even Worse Than the Old One

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A friend of mine familiar with the changes proposed for the original draft of the SRCA (changes that will be rolled out today) tells me that, not only does the new version fail to address the Wendell Callahan problem (now known as the "Wullie Horton" problem), it creates an even bigger one, called the "Scarface" problem.

Wonderful!  No wonder this patchwork disaster is sliding into the ooze.

My friend notes:

International maritime drug smugglers are now evidently also a species of "low-level, non-violent drug offender;" Query: if you are smuggling gigantic amounts of drugs in a boat, in what sense are you "low-level"? - a fact that has thus far gone totally unnoticed (or willfully ignored) by everyone talking about the "new and improved bill." 

A more detailed analysis follows the break.

News Scan

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Crimes Going Unpunished Under Prop. 47:  A California mother was "livid" when she learned that the suspected thief who stole her disabled son's specially-made bike was a repeat offender released early under Proposition 47.  CBS reports that Prop. 47 was passed by California voters in 2014, reducing several felonies to misdemeanors and limiting jail time.  The measure has resulted in repeat offenders being able to commit crimes with "virtual impunity."  Last year in Los Angeles County, bookings dropped 31% for property crime and 68% for drug offenses and, all the while, property crime spiked 145% and violent crime jumped 54% in 2015, according to a study by the Public Policy Institute of California.  The study touted the $130 million the measure is helping the state save, but opponents argue that is has "already cost the citizens of LA County nearly $250 million in property loss."

Three Illegals Charged in Gang Rape of Young Girls:  Three illegal immigrants from El Salvador are facing charges for gang raping three young Indiana girls earlier this month in a case that further emphasizes the importance of securing the southern border and eliminating lax immigration policies.  Bob Price of Breitbart reports that Yontan Ramirez-Diaz, 20, Edwin Marquina-Valesquez, 26, and Melvin Ramirez-Morales picked up three young girls, all under the age of 14, and drove them to a motel where they repeatedly raped and assaulted them for several hours.  The men have each been charged with crimes ranging from rape to criminal confinement, and ICE officials have placed a detainer on all of them.  However, even if the men are eventually deported back to their native country, they could easily return to the U.S. through the porous border and commit more crimes, as many other who are frequently deported have.  Just this week, two previously deported child sex offenders were captured trying to sneak back into the U.S.

Sister of Leonard Lake Victim Continues Advocacy:  This week marks National Crime Victims' Rights week, and the sister of one of the victims of California serial killer Leonard Lake and his partner Charles Ng continues her decades-long mission fighting for victims' rights.  Craig McDonald of the Newark Advocate reports that Sharon Sellitto, sister of Ohio native Paul Steven Costner, feels that more should be done for crime victims "than just stringing up a banner in a gazebo," lamenting the fact that in criminal cases, "it's all about the perpetrator and their rights, all the way through."  Costner moved from Ohio to California in the 1980s and established a car dealership before disappearing in 1984 after Lake and Ng came to his home to discuss buying a vehicle they had test driven days earlier.  Lake admitted in writing that he and Ng killed Costner for his vehicle and pre-dug a hole to bury him in, though his remains have never been found.  Lake and Ng are believed to have killed between 11 and 25 people, many of whom were raped and killed on videotape.  Lake committed suicide after his capture in 1985 and Ng is on death row.  Sellitto is still in touch with experts, officials and family members of other victims also fighting for victims' rights.  Together, they have "changed a lot of laws in California."  She hopes to witness Ng's execution.

Evidence Mounts on Crime Spikes

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Many people   -- including law enforcement officials, bloggers here, and Heather MacDonald at the Manhattan Institute -- have been raising alarms that increasing numbers of innocent people are being needlessly victimized due to ill-considered policy changes (e.g., California's "realignment" and Prop. 47) and the "Ferguson Effect" of police holding back as they come under hyper-scrutiny.  Soft-on-crime apologists have responded that the data are too tentative and too anecdotal to draw such conclusions.  That answer did have some validity initially, but it wears increasingly thin as data accumulate.

In Chicago, the local variant of the Ferguson Effect might be called the McDonald Effect.  The number crunchers at FiveThirtyEight (who definitely do not lean conservative) have concluded that the numbers have reached the threshold that they can't be brushed off like that any more.  Rob Arthur and Jeff Asher have this post.

The Blase' Racism of Sentencing Reform

An unnamed Republican Senate aide is quoted as follows in responding to the Wendell Callahan sentencing reform scandal, in which two little African American girls and their mother were knifed to death by a federal inmate given early release under a 2010 sentencing reform law:

You're never going to eliminate the Willie Horton type of situation, the political ads aside, of somebody coming out [of prison] and committing a crime. It's the nature of the human being. You're never going to have 100 percent certainty, that's never going to happen. But it would be a shame to just not ever do any sentencing reform, any criminal justice reform, because of that.

It is difficult to tell which is worse in that remark  --  its dismissive racism or its blunderbuss stupidity.
The Georgia Supreme Court summarized the crimes of Kenneth Fults as follows:

The evidence adduced at Fults' sentencing trial showed that he carried out a week-long crime spree which was centered, at least in part, upon his desire to murder a man who was engaged in a relationship with his former girlfriend. Fults first committed two burglaries, obtaining several handguns. After a failed attempt at murdering his former girlfriend's new boyfriend with one of the stolen handguns, Fults then burglarized the home of his next-door neighbors. After the male neighbor left for work, Fults forced his way through the front door wearing gloves and a hat pulled down over his face. Fults confronted the female occupant of the home, Cathy Bounds, brandishing a .22 caliber handgun he had stolen during one of the burglaries. Ms. Bounds begged for her life and offered Fults the rings on her fingers.  Fults turned Ms. Bounds around toward the bedroom, either taped or forced her to tape her eyes closed by wrapping over six feet of electrical tape around her head, forced her into the bedroom, placed her face-down on her bed, placed a pillow over her head, and shot her five times in the back of the head.

News Scan

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ACLU Sues to Make Bail Cheaper for Illegals:  The ACLU Foundation of Southern California and the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project filed a class lawsuit this month claiming that the federal government sets unacceptably high bond amounts for illegal immigrants in deportation proceedings, failing to consider their ability to pay.  Caroline May of Breitbart reports that two plaintiffs named in the suit are a Honduran national fighting deportation by seeking asylum and an illegal immigrant from Mexico convicted of shoplifting, whose bail amounts are $3,000 and $60,000, respectively.  The ACLU argues that the illegal immigrants' bail amounts unfairly affect them because they are poor and that detaining them deprives them of their liberty.  Dan Cadman, a Center for Immigration Studies fellow, counters that there are nearly a million illegals on the streets of America who have absconded from court proceedings and that detention and bail amounts, regardless of the cost, are to "ensure that the alien shows up for court."

Woman Assaulted by Man Posing as Uber Driver:  A Los Angeles woman was attacked and sexually assaulted last week by a man posing as an Uber driver, amid ongoing scrutiny of the ride-hailing service.  Dakota Smith of the LA Daily News reports that 39-year-old Dartanyum Smith lured a woman who was standing on the street into his SUV by asking if she had called for an Uber and suggested that he was the driver.  The woman reluctantly got into the vehicle, where she was repeatedly choked and sexually assaulted in the back seat.  Neighbors heard screams and called the police, and when they converged on Smith's vehicle, he let the woman go and fled.  He was arrested earlier this week and discovered to have an extensive criminal record, including prison time for robbery.  Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and other city council members are urging that drivers for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft undergo fingerprint and background checks similar to Los Angeles taxi drivers.

News Scan

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Border Patrol Ordered to Release Soaking Wet Illegals:  The chief of the Border Patrol labor union said in testimony to Congress last week that agents have been ordered to release dripping-wet illegal immigrants at the Rio Grande unless they "physically saw them cross the river."  Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times reports that National Border Patrol Council president Brandon Judd told the House Judiciary Committee that the policy "de facto creates an open border with Mexico for any illegal alien who wants to claim they were here before 2014."  The Jan. 1, 2014 cutoff, and the verbal orders to let illegals go unless seen climbing out of the river, came as part of President Obama's enforcement priorities he set up in November of that year, which ended up shielding most illegal immigrants from deportation.  Judd says that illegal immigrants have now learned to game the system by claiming to have arrived prior to 2014, and agents have been to told to take their word for it.

OH Officer Critically Injured After Shooting:  An Ohio police officer is in critical condition Monday after being shot while serving a warrant to an accused arsonist early Sunday.  Fox News reports that 44-year-old gunman Lincoln Rutledge, wanted in connection with a Saturday home fire, opened fire on SWAT officers who were serving a felony arrest warrant, striking the unarmed officer.  A four-hour standoff ensued but ended with the gunman's arrest.  No other officers were injured.  Rutledge is now facing attempted murder charges for the shooting of a police officer.  The Columbus Police Officer is described as a well-liked and respected veteran, though no other details have been released.

Va. Gov. Amends Death Penalty Bill:  Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced an amendment to a bill Monday that would allow the Department of Corrections to secretly make lethal injection drugs through a pharmacy, rather than resort to use of the electric chair for executions.  Gary A. Harki and Patrick Wilson of the Virginian-Pilot report that the amended bill would permit the drugs used in executions to be made by compounding pharmacies, a process that "shall be confidential, shall be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act ... and shall not be subject to discovery or introduction as evidence in any civil proceeding unless good cause is shown."  McAuliffe, a death penalty supporter, objects to the use of the electric chair for executions but also opposes a moratorium on the death penalty in the state.  He is urging Republicans who control the General Assembly to accept the amendment or else he will veto the bill, which will halt capital punishment in the state.  Lawmakers will decide April 20 whether to accept the amendment.
With each passing day, Chicago is solidifying its position as the nation's poster city for violence.  There have been over 800 shootings this year, a 91% increase.  Murder, so far, totals 133 compared to just 77 during the same period in 2015.  Police officials, researchers and elected leaders all point the blame at the same issue:  Light sentencing and misguided reforms that allow repeat offenders to be released early from prison, "only to wreak havoc on the city."

Illinois is following in the footsteps of California and a several other states, moving toward reforms that reduce or eliminate mandatory minimum sentences in an effort to lower prison populations.  If you frequent this blog, you are likely aware of how AB 109 is working out in California (not so well).

If the main concern is about the country's large prison population, then ask how did it get so large.  "Prisons today mostly house violent criminals," says Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute.  "Populations have increased because violent crimes increased."

Jennifer G. Hickey of Fox News goes more in depth on this issue here.

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GA Prepares for one Execution, Schedules Another:  The state of Georgia is preparing for an execution next week and signed a warrant Thursday for another, which will be the state's fifth execution this year.  Rhonda Cook of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Kenneth Fults is scheduled to die by lethal injection on April 12 for murdering his 19-year-old neighbor in 1996, whom he shot five times after breaking into her home.  He had been engaged in a week-long crime spree at the time, breaking into houses to steal guns with the intent of using them to kill his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend.  The other death row inmate, Daniel Anthony Lucas, is scheduled for execution April 27 for killing a man and his two children, aged 11 and 15, one by one as they came home separately while Lucas and a co-defendant burglarized it.  Lucas' co-defendant, Brandon Rhode, was put to death on Sept. 27, 2010.  Last year and 1987 were the only other times Georgia executed as many as five people in one year.

Minneapolis Sees Significant Rise in Shootings, Violence:  Several shooting incidents and subsequent arrests in Minneapolis, Minn., have occurred amid a surge in gun violence that has increased in the city and others across the Midwest such as Cleveland and Chicago.  Libor Jany of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that as of April 4, 65 people have been shot around the city, a 9% increase over the same period last year.  In north Minneapolis, a total of 48 people were injured in shootings compared to just 17 last year.  Other violent crimes have also spiked, with an overall increase of 7%.  In the downtown area, aggravated assaults and rapes have increased 17% and police have seen a sharp rise in robberies as well. 

Landlords Who Don't Rent to Criminals Face Bias Charges:  A new guidance issued this week by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development warns landlords that they could face discrimination charges for turning down prospective tenants with criminal records, which is being criticized as "yet another move by the Obama administration to support convicted criminals."  Penny Starr of CNS News reports that the 10-page guidance states that the U.S. has the largest prison population in the world with a disproportionate number of blacks and Hispanics incarcerated, and policies that restrict "access to housing on the basis of criminal history has a disparate impact on individuals of a particular race" under the Fair Housing Act.  The guidance specifies conviction for drug manufacturing and distribution as a justified reason to deny housing, but won't say which other past criminal activities are considered acceptable and which are not.  If landlords are challenged, they will have to prove they did not turn away people "based on generalizations or stereotypes."
The President, the Attorney General, and a great deal of the political establishment in Washington vocally back legislation to provide mass, and retroactive, sentencing reduction for federal felons.  Drug traffickers lead the list of intended beneficiaries. The establishment politicians call their proposed reductions sentencing "reform," in a somewhat half-hearted attempt to disguise what they're actually up to.  

It's simply beyond sensible argument that such "reform" would mean more crime faster, the federal recidivism rate being at about 50%.  "Reformers" like to fuzz over this fact, but the numbers don't lie.  "Reformers" think that paying the price in increased crime (which they either deny, minimize or garble) is worth it because America has just gone overboard with incarceration, or should adopt a medical model of crime, or is a racist pigsty, or some mix of the three.  Some also believe, or say they believe, that prison costs too much, although none has yet taken my bet the the DOJ budget will increase whether this legislation passes or not.  At some level, they know that "reform" will not save the taxpayers a single dime; the money will just get spent on different DOJ projects.

Career Assistant US Attorneys  --  the non-political, line prosecutors who have to deal with reality rather than indulge Al Sharpton's ideological fantasies  --  are sounding the alarm.  It take guts to do so.  No one wants to be on the outs with the boss, particularly when the boss is the Attorney General.

No AUSA has been more outspoken, or more courageous, than the head of the National Association of Assistant US Attorneys, Steve Cook.  Although I have never met Steve, I am proud to have corresponded with him and to have benefited often from his knowledge.

Congressional Quarterly (link regrettably unavailable) has taken grudging note of Steve's courage and impact.  I reproduce its April 4 article about him after the break.

Bill Clinton Gets It on Black Lives Matter

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Bill Clinton was the last President in this country widely viewed as successful.  I have my doubts, stemming largely from his failure to counteract the growth of the terrorist threat, but I understand the reasons for his popularity. For one thing, crime started its long, astonishing descent under some of the sentencing laws he supported and signed (and his wife now denounces).

Today, Mr. Clinton told his hecklers in the BLM movement what they need to hear but are certain to ignore:  "You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter."  He could have added that BLM is attacking the best friends preserving black lives ever had  --  more police, more aggressive policing, and more incarceration of the thugs and drug pushers who prey disproportionately on blacks.

The Weekly Standard has the story and the tape of Mr. Clinton's remarks.  Heather MacDonald's take on them is here.

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Va Inmate's Execution Stayed:  A federal appeals court issued a temporary stay of execution for a Virginia death row inmate convicted of hiring a man to kill his ex-girlfriend in 2006.  Alanna Durkin Richer of the AP reports that 37-year-old Ukrainian native Ivan Teleguz plans to take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court after his April 13th execution was halted by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  Teleguz's attorney argues that there is no physical evidence tying his client to the crime, but following a 2012 hearing on his innocence claim after two prosecution witnesses said they lied during their trial testimony, a U.S. district judge said Teleguz failed to prove his innocence and subsequently refused to overturn his conviction.  Teleguz was sentenced to death a decade ago for hiring a man to kill his former girlfriend in order to get out of paying child support for their infant son.

102 Illegals Apprehended Crossing Rio Grande in One Day:  Border Patrol agents working in the Rio Grande Valley along the southern border Tuesday apprehended 102 illegal immigrants attempting to cross into the United States.  Susan Jones of CNS News reports that the group of 102 people included 73 men, 12 women and 17 juveniles, though their nationalities are unknown at this time.  The border sector in the Rio Grande Valley is a common route taken by people fleeing Central America, and agents assigned to the sector make more apprehensions than any of the other seven sectors.  U.S. Customs and Border Protection detains as many as 924 people attempting to cross the border illegally on a typical day, a number which includes both the southern and northern border.

Central CA City sees Spike in Robberies, Car Theft:  Yet another California city saw a sharp increase in crime in 2015, with this city seeing a rise in robberies and stolen vehicles, and local police believe AB 109 and Proposition 47 are to blame.  Mike Eiman of the Hanford Sentinel reports that 2015 statistics for major crimes recently released by the Hanford Police Department show an 84% increase in robberies and a 52% increase in stolen vehicles, as well as smaller spikes in petty thefts and firearm thefts.  However, a recent trend the department has observed is petty thefts escalating into robberies, a possible reason why they haven't seen a larger spike in petty thefts.  Hanford police Chief Parker Sever believes the increases are due to AB 109 and Prop. 47.  AB 109 was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011 and allowed "nonviolent" offenders to serve their sentences in county jails rather than state prisons, resulting in early releases; Prop. 47 was approved by California voters in 2014 and reclassified felony drug charges and property crimes to misdemeanors, resulting in shorter jail sentences.  Sever said many people have told him that they decided not to report property crimes because of the belief that the criminal wouldn't face serious consequences under Prop. 47.

A Tale of Two Philadelphia Universities

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As recounted here, CIA Director John Brennan was shouted down last Friday as he attempted to speak at a University of Pennsylvania forum about national security. This is becoming a typical tactic of liberal fascism, taken straight from the Sixties mold.  You will not be surprised to learn that the SDS and BLM were at the heart of it.

Meanwhile, yesterday, a different school in the Philadelphia area, Villanova Law School, hosted a Federalist Society debate between Prof. Steve Chanenson and yours truly.  The topic was sentencing reform.

Even though that's a hot topic, often said to have racial overtones, there were no interruptions. Instead, there was a large, attentive and polite audience full of questions.  Prof. Chanenson gave a wonderfully thoughtful and informative presentation.  Undoubtedly Pennsylvania's leading expert on sentencing, he explained the contours of the difference between those favoring more discretion and those (like me) favoring the present, more rule-oriented system.

Penn, my father's alma mater, is a top-notch school.  I can only hope its Law School Dean, Theodore Ruger, will mete out serious discipline to those who want to end free speech on campus and impose lockstep obedience to the Left's one-size-fits-all anti-American agenda.  In the meantime, I'm grateful to Prof. Chanenson and the Villanova Federalist Society for moving forward in the best traditions of academic freedom and the marketplace of ideas.
Alyssa Davis has this report for Gallup with the above title.

Story Highlights
    53% worry "a great deal" about crime, compared with 39% in 2014
    44% are concerned about drug use, also up significantly since 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' level of concern about crime and violence is at its highest point in 15 years. Fifty-three percent of U.S. adults say they personally worry "a great deal" about crime and violence, an increase of 14 percentage points since 2014. This figure is the highest Gallup has measured since March 2001.

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Previously Deported Illegal May Face Criminal Charges in 3 Deaths:  An illegal immigrant who was previously deported in 2008 may face charges of criminally negligent homicide for striking a Texas firefighter head-on in his vehicle, killing him and his two young children.  Lana Shadwick of Breitbart reports that Margarito Quintero did not have a driver's license when he slammed head-on into the vehicle of 36-year-old North Texas volunteer firefighter Captain Peter Hacking, who was driving his four-year-old stepdaughter and 22-month-old son.  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say they had no contact with Quintero until Tuesday's accident.  He will face felony charges in the deaths of Hacking and his children if he recovers from his critical injuries.

MO High Court Upholds Man's Death Sentence:  The Missouri Supreme Court upheld the death sentence Tuesday of a man who killed two women a decade ago after sexually torturing them on videotape.  Jim Suhr of the AP reports that the high court unanimously rejected 51-year-old Richard Davis' claim that he received ineffective counsel during his murder trial, specifically that his defense team failed to assert his mental incompetency.  In 2006, Davis and his then-girlfriend Dena Riley, violently sexually assaulted two women on videotape and then killed them to fulfill Davis' violent sexual fantasies.  Prior to the murders, Davis had spent nearly 18 years in prison for a 1987 rape.  Riley is serving multiple life sentences for her role in the crimes.

Supervised Heroin Use Proposed by CA Lawmaker:  A California Assemblywoman introduced legislation Tuesday that would result in the nation's first legal drug-injection site, allowing people to use heroin, crack, opioids and other drugs at supervised facilities.  The AP and Dave Marquis of KXTV report that Susan Talamantes Eggman, a Democrat, proposed the legislation in response to the growing number of overdoses in the state and across the country, which would legalize the use of controlled substances in clinics that could offer medical intervention.  Last week, there were 40 overdoses, eight resulting in death, in Sacramento alone.  A committee vote on the bill has been postponed.
Lance Rogers of BNA Criminal Law Reporter has this article on the U.S. Supreme Court's March 30 decision in Luis v. United States regarding pretrial freezing of assets of the defendant not directly related to the crime but forfeitable in substitution for tainted but expended assets.  The court held that such assets cannot be frozen when the defendant needs them to pay her lawyer.  See also my previous post.
A mostly off-topic note on yesterday's apportionment decision, Evenwel v. Abbott.

A Crisis in Overdose Deaths

While Congress plays footsie with reducing prison terms for drug dealers (as proposed in the SRCA), the people who manufacture and sell this poison are busier than ever.  Hence, this story from CBS News:  Opioid Overdoses Kill 10 People in 12 Days in Sacramento area.

[Jerome Butler's] death was one of 10 in the Sacramento area in just 12 days that doctors have traced to heavy fentanyl-laced narcotics being sold as generic opioids on the streets.

"This is not bathroom biochemistry. It's going to be very sophisticated." Sophisticated and deadly, said Dr. Timothy Albertson, a toxicologist at UC Davis Medical Center.

"It is probably 100 times more potent that than morphine."

DEA special agent John Martin says the illegal fentanyl has made a long journey to get here.

"We believe it is manufactured in China, it is being distributed to Mexico, it is brought up through the normal drug smuggling routes of the southwest border."

In other words, this is not the legitimate pharmaceutical industry, nor is it over-prescribing pain doctors.  It's the drug cartels and their street pushers  --  exactly the people backers of the SRCA blandly (and deceitfully) describe as "low-level, non-violent offenders."

Perhaps the comments section will tell us why people who distribute this stuff on Sacramento's streets should have softer sentencing at the very moment their quite lucrative business is making life busy in the morgue.

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TX Man Set to Die for 1998 Murder:  A south Texas man is scheduled to be executed Wednesday for the brutal murder of a 12-year-old boy nearly two decades ago.  Michael Graczyk of the AP reports that 38-year-old Pablo Lucio Vasquez murdered David Cardenas in April 1998 in what police speculated at the time to be an attempted satanic cult crime.  Vasquez, who was 20 at the time, hit Cardenas in the head from behind with a pipe, cut his throat and lifted him, still conscious, so blood would drip on his face.  He claimed that he heard voices telling him to kill the seventh-grader, drink his blood and mutilate his body.  Vasquez's cousin pleaded guilty for his role in the crime, which was assisting in an unsuccessful attempt to decapitate the boy, and was sentenced to 35 years.  Three other relatives of the cousins received probation and fines for helping cover up the murder.  Vasquez's argument that he is mentally ill and should be exempt from the death penalty was rejected by the courts last month.  He will be the sixth person to be executed in Texas this year and the 11th nationally.  Update:  Vasquez was executed by lethal injection Wednesday evening.

Vehicular Homicide not Enough to Detain Illegals, says DHS: 
In a letter released Monday by Congress, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that a vehicular homicide conviction is not enough to detain an illegal immigrant because it doesn't constitute a "crime of violence" under immigration laws.  Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times reports that ICE Director Sarah Saldana said both the Obama administration's 2014 policy and federal law did not require her agency to detain Edwin Mejia, an illegal immigrant who was street racing on an Omaha, Nebraska, road in January while drunk and struck the vehicle of 21-year-old Sarah Root, killing her.  Mejia, who arrived at the U.S. border in 2013 as part of the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America, was able to post bond and "disappear into the shadows" when ICE officers did not come to pick him up for detention.  President Obama and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced a policy in 2014 of deporting "only those with the most serious criminal records," effectively shielding over 9 million of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants from deportation.

Bill would Ban Gitmo Releases to 'Unstable' Countries:  Legislation by six Republican senators would permanently bar the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to "unstable" countries was announced Monday, the same day the Obama administration transferred two prisoners to Senegal.  Pete Kazperowicz of the Washington Examiner reports that the bill, which would add Iran and Sudan to the list of prohibited countries, "is aimed at preventing detainees from being released to countries that are likely to be less effective at preventing the prisoners from returning to terrorism."  The senators say the bill is needed in light of the Department of Defense's admission that approximately 30% of prisoners released from the facility return to fight against Americans.  President Obama is intent on shutting down the prison, located on a naval base in Cuba, and following Monday's releases has only 89 more detainees left.  The law already bans detainees from being moved to Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria. 

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Obama Commuted Dozens of Firearm Offenders:  In an appalling display of irony, President Obama commuted the sentences of 33 criminals convicted of firearm-related offenses while also pushing for gun control.  Barbara Hollingsworth of CNS News reports that Obama recently commuted the sentences of 61 federal inmates, bringing the total of commutations to 248, more than the last six presidents combined.  Among the criminals whose sentences were commuted, nine had convictions of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and four were convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm.  The recent commutations come just months after Obama proposed executive actions restricting firearms.

Executions Dates Set for Two Cop Killers:  Murderers from Texas and Alabama have received execution dates for killing police officers in the 1980s.  Brian Rodgers of the Houston Chronicle reports that 58-year-old Robert Mitchell Jennings will be executed on Sept. 14 for the 1988 murder of Houston vice officer Elston Howard at an adult bookstore.  Jennings went into the bookstore with the intent of robbing it, and shot Howard dead when he saw him there arresting the owner.  Kent Fault of AL reports that Alabama death row inmate Vernon Madison is set to die on May 12 for killing Officer Julius Schulte in 1985 when he responded to a domestic disturbance call.  Madison was on parole at the time.  Two other death row inmates in the state, Robert Bryant Melson and Ronald Bert Smith, have pending execution motions.

Thousands of Criminals Released from Detention Centers:  People with criminal convictions are routinely released from immigration detention centers in Georgia and across the country because their home countries refuse to take them back.  Jeremy Redmon of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that between Oct. 2011 and Dec. 2014, federal immigration authorities released 105,632 illegal immigrants with criminal convictions.  Many had convictions for driving under the influence, while others served time for violent offenses such as assault, rape and homicide.  A list provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows 23 countries that have been uncooperative in repatriating its citizens, including Afghanistan, China, Cuba, India, Iran, Iraq, Libya and South Sudan.
Some of the best information we have in social sciences comes from longitudinal studies, where people are followed and data gathered over a long period of time.  Such studies are more likely to give us definitive answers than "snapshot" correlational studies that look at a sample at one time and merely tell us that certain factors tend to go together in members of the sample.

The problem with longitudinal studies, of course, is that they necessarily take a very long time to do.  Some of the best work has come out of New Zealand.  Magdalena Cerda, Terrie Moffitt, et al. have this article in Clinical Psychological Science on results from the Dunedin Longitudinal Study on the long-term effects of persistent marijuana use.  Here is the abstract:

With the increasing legalization of cannabis, understanding the consequences of cannabis use is particularly timely.  We examined the association between cannabis use and dependence, prospectively assessed between ages 18 and 38, and economic and social problems at age 38. We studied participants in the Dunedin Longitudinal Study, a cohort (N = 1,037) followed from birth to age 38. Study members with regular cannabis use and persistent dependence experienced downward socioeconomic mobility, more financial difficulties, workplace problems, and relationship conflict in early midlife. Cannabis dependence was not linked to traffic-related convictions.  Associations were not explained by socioeconomic adversity, childhood psychopathology, achievement orientation, or family structure; cannabis-related criminal convictions; early onset of cannabis dependence; or comorbid substance dependence. Cannabis dependence was associated with more financial difficulties than was alcohol dependence; no difference was found in risks for other economic or social problems.  Cannabis dependence is not associated with fewer harmful economic and social problems than alcohol dependence.

USCA6 Summarily Reversed Yet Again

The "massive resistance" of some federal judges (particularly in circuits divisible by 3) continues, and today the U.S. Supreme Court found it necessary once again to summarily reverse a decision of Sixth Circuit for brazenly exceeding the limits Congress has placed on its authority.

In 1996, Congress decided that the opinion of the lower federal courts on disputed questions of federal law was really not more reliable than the opinions of the state courts.  Too many correct judgments were being wrongly overturned, and the Supreme Court could not correct all the errors.  Yet Congress was not willing to let go of the safety valve of federal habeas corpus review of state convictions altogether.  The compromise was that federal courts could overturn a state conviction based on a claim rejected on the merits by the state courts if the state court decision was clearly wrong, beyond the bounds of reasonable disagreement.  If the issue is arguable, the state court decision stands.

Many federal judges are unwilling to let go of their prerogative to substitute their opinions for those of state judges on close questions, and they regularly violate the law governing the limits of their authority in order to "correct" what they see as violations of other rules of law.  The highest-profile incidents tend to be in capital cases, but it occurs in noncapital cases as well, and that brings us to today's Supreme Court decision in Woods v. Etherton, No. 15-723.
After Justice Scalia's death, I wrote this post on his successor and the Great Question.  Today Juan Williams has an op-ed in the WSJ on the same theme:  The Never-Ending Battle Over How to Read the Constitution: Whether Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland is a 'centrist' distracts from a much bigger issue.

The article concludes:

In today's debate regarding Merrick Garland's nomination to the court, much of the discussion concerns whether or not he is a "centrist." But the real question, for both sides, is how he regards the Constitution. On that point it is clear from his record that Judge Garland is firmly in the "living document" camp. The push-pull over the Constitution and the Supreme Court is a battle without end, and in the current phase with the eight-person bench likely to divide 4-4 on important cases, the contrast between the court with Scalia on it and the court with Judge Garland or any other Democratic nominee couldn't be greater.
Of course, there is no chance whatever that President Obama will nominate anyone on the correct side of the Great Question, and if Hillary Clinton is elected in November there is no chance whatever that she will.  A week ago, Stanford Law Professor and former Circuit Judge Michael McConnell suggested a course of action in this op-ed, also in the WSJ.

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Death Recommended for KS Man:  A death sentence was recommended by a jury Thursday for a man who fatally shot three adults and an 18-month-old girl on a Kansas farm in 2013.  The AP reports that 30-year-old Kyle Flack was convicted of capital murder on March 23 in the shooting deaths of two adult males, an adult female and her young daughter.  Flack attempted to conceal the bodies of the three adults in the eastern Kansas farmhouse and stuffed the girl's body in a suitcase that was later recovered from a creek.  Prosecutors say the motive for the shootings is unclear.  Deputy Attorney General Victor Braden said during the sentencing phase that the death penalty was justified by three aggravated circumstances, including a conviction for attempted second-degree murder in 2005, the killing of multiple people in the 2013 shootings, and the fact that the murder of the young mother and daughter were done in an "especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner."  There are 10 people on Kansas' death row and the state has not executed anyone since 1994.

Obama Commuting More Sentences:  An announcement made by the White House Wednesday that President Barack Obama is commuting the sentences of an additional 61 criminals means that he has now commuted the sentences of more prisoners than all of the last six presidents combined.  Barbara Hollingsworth of CNS News reports that, to date, Obama has commuted the sentences of 248 criminals, including 92 inmates who were serving life sentences.  The White House statement emphasized that the President "considers commutations just the first step in a major overhaul of the criminal justice system, including mandatory sentencing guidelines."  Commutations, while lessening the already-imposed sentence, do not affect the person's legal guilt, says a George Mason professor.

VA Trooper's Killer Hated Cops: 
The Virginia state trooper fatally shot Thursday during a training exercise at a Greyhound bus station was gunned down by an ex-con who reportedly hated law enforcement and "always praised those people who got into shootouts with police."  Fox News reports that 37-year-old Trooper Chad Dermyer, a decorated Marine vet and married father of two, was shot and killed by 34-year-old James Brown III during an interdiction exercise involving a dozen other Virginia State Police troopers.  Brown, who was also shot and killed, had previous charges in crimes ranging from domestic battery to murder and, according to his aunt, "pretty much thought he wanted to be infamous...in terms of having a showdown."  Dermyer's death adds to the increasing concern among state and national law enforcement advocates of a growing anti-police climate that is putting targets on the backs on officers.  The Officer Down Memorial Page shows that while overall deaths of police officers is down slightly year-to-date, the number killed by gunfire so far this year -- 15 -- is up 150%.  Over the course of one week in February, five police officers were fatally shot.
One of my least favorite U.S. Supreme Court precedents is Mapp v. Ohio (1961).  That is the case that imposed on the states the rule previously followed by federal courts that evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment (with "violation" determined long after the fact and frequently unknowable to the police at the time of the search or seizure) must be excluded from a criminal trial.

In my view, the criminal trial should be all about a reliable determination of whether the defendant did it.  All reliable evidence should be considered.  If you want to put the police on trial for what they did, that should be a separate case.

One of the objections to eliminating the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule and relying on civil remedies is that the doctrine of qualified immunity prevents the resolution of previously undetermined questions.  That is, if the searchee sues the police officer, the officer is entitled to immunity as long as what he did was not clearly illegal at the time of the search.  So how can you ever get to a judicial determination to make the law clear for future cases?

One answer is that if the action in question is a regular practice of the police department, you sue the city, not the cop, and there is no immunity.  Today's decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Lowry v. City of San Diego, No. 13-56141, illustrates the point.

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