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Alabama Senator and Attorney General

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Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, as we all know, resigned his Senate seat to take the helm at the U.S. Deparment of Justice.  Gov. Robert Bentley promptly appointed Attorney General Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate seat.

Now AP reports:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Longtime district attorney Steve Marshall has been appointed as Alabama attorney general.

Gov. Robert Bentley announced the appointment Friday. It came a day after Bentley named former AG Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate seat that Jeff Sessions left to become U.S. attorney general.

Bentley in a statement said Marshall is a "well-respected district attorney with impeccable credentials and strong conservative values."

Marshall has been a Marshall County district attorney since 2001.

Spinning the Bad News on Crime

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Sentencing Law and Policy has this entry up today:  "New report details stability of California crime rates during period of huge sentencing reform."  

That must be good news, right?  Much more leniency and no crime increase?  Here's the key paragraph:

The statewide urban crime rate stabilized from 2010 to 2016, after decades of decline.

Urban crime rates in California declined precipitously through the 1990s and 2000s (See Appendix A).  Since 2010, crime in California has stabilized, hovering near historically low levels. Comparing the first six months of 2016 to the first six months of 2010, total crime rates experienced no net change, while property crime declined by 1 percent and violent crime increased by 3 percent.

For a more clear-eyed look at what's going on, here's the translation:

After dropping massively for twenty years due in large part to more and more aggressive policing and greater use of incarceration, crime rates are no longer falling.  Instead, in its period of "reform," in which those policies have been left behind, California has thrown away six years of progress against crime, and is now back to 2010 levels  --  with the momentum of change in exactly the wrong direction.

CJLF Website Maintenance

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CJLF's main website, www.cjlf.org, may be inaccessible at times this evening and weekend due to a system configuration change.  It should be fully accessible by Monday morning.

Sessions Advances to the Senate Floor

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The full Senate voted today to bring to the floor the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General. The recorded vote was 53-45.  Sessions himself did not vote. Sen. Carper (D-DE) was absent, but has been thought to be a possible vote for Sessions.  Two relatively moderate Democrats from states that voted heavily for Trump, Sens. Manchin from West Virginia and Donnelly from Indiana, also voted for Sessions.

So 53-45 looks to be very close to the final vote for the blessed relief of replacing Loretta Lynch with Jeff Sessions. If this happens in the next five minutes, it won't be too soon.

Spending on Prisons vs. Spending on Schools

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One of the most misleading narratives of pro-criminal advocacy is that America has gone on a prison spending binge while squeezing education.  Consider, we are told, what could happen if we took all that money we spend "putting human beings in cages" and instead sent them to Stanford?

What indeed.

Usually, I just dismiss this as so much apples-and-oranges sloganeering, but today I came across a graph (courtesy of the Cato Institute) that illuminates what would happen if we spent a lot more on schools.  The light came on for me when I realized that, as the graph shows, we have already spent a lot more on schools, and done so at roughly the same time we have considerably increased our spending on incarceration.

Behold the results.

The Bloody Scandal of Criminal Justice Reform

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Every day, I count my blessings that Jeff Sessions, the Senate's leading battler against "criminal justice reform," will be our next Attorney General.  But when I read today's Washington Post story, I counted them with extra vigor.

Let's say it out loud:  Criminal justice reform is a con job.  It's a scandal and a bloody scandal to boot.  We know because every one of its central ideas  -- enthusiasm for rehabilitation, avoidance of "punitive" attitudes, and the giving of second chances  -- is practiced right here in the nation's capital, and has been for years.  We don't have to guess what's going to happen.  We know.

The results show up in the hospital when they don't show up in the morgue.  That Congress should ever contemplate a similar criminal justice policy on a national scale is not merely curious; it's irrational.  And inexcusable. 

Murder Surge Continued in 2016

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The resurgence of violent crime in America after falling for more than 20 years was an important issue in the campaign.  Ms. Clinton pointed out that crime remains near historic lows; Donald Trump said crime was increasing at an alarming pace.

Both were right, but Clinton was living in the past, while Trump far more clearly saw the present realities.  Moreover, Clinton was being cynical as well as misleading; the policies that helped drive down crime were exactly the ones she opposed by her embrace of Black Lives Matter.

The Wall Street Journal has this story today.  It lays out the grim facts Ms. Clinton wanted to shove behind the curtain, but President-elect Trump will have to confront.

Speaking of Fake News....

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...here's a juicy item from today's Sentencing Law and Policy:

The title of this post is the title of this intriguing little paper authored by Emily Fetsch for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

One in three Americans has a criminal record.  Given the significant size of this population, the ability for these individuals to attain economic success after they leave prison has tremendous implications for our economy and economic mobility...
There is a paragraph and a half following that squib in the SL&P entry, but I stopped right there, because there is a limit on how many brain cells I'm willing to kill by reading pure tripe.
Sherri Papini went for a run on November 2nd, but never returned home.  She did not pick up her two young children from daycare that evening and her cell phone was found lying on the side of the road.  Three weeks later, she is found alive in the very early morning hours by a passing motorist on the side of a County Road approximately 150 miles from her home.  She is chained and severely injured.  Her nose is broken and her skin has been branded by her captors

I live in the County where she was found that morning.  A friend of mine was the CHP Officer first on the scene.  When I got the news that she had been found alive, my first reaction was of shock and disbelief.  Too often these types of missing persons cases end with a dead body.  The cynic in me assumed that Sherri Papini would be found at some point in a similar manner.  Thankfully for her children and family, her story did not end in a typical fashion.

Unfortunately, immediately upon her discovery, the media and public jumped to the conclusion that the whole thing was a hoax.  Really?  A hoax by whom?  The severely beaten, branded and chained up woman who'd been thrown from a moving car onto the side of a pitch dark road in the middle of the night in the freezing cold?  Why are people so quick to assume that she's lying, or her husband is lying?  Perhaps I'm too trusting or gullible to believe otherwise.  Or perhaps despicable people like Scott Peterson or Drew Peterson make it hard to believe the story being told.

The details will come out eventually and I hope whoever is responsible is caught.  Any punishment the perpetrators receive, however, will in no way compare to the cruel and unusual torture that Sherri Papini endured and will continue to endure emotionally for the remainder of her life.   

A Thanksgiving to Unite Us

Melanie Kirkpatrick has this story in the WSJ on President Lincoln's 1863 proclamation and the magazine "editress" who led the campaign for the Thanksgiving holiday in its modern form.

Election Day has come and gone, and after one of the most divisive campaigns in memory, "healing" seems to be the word of the hour. What better time to begin than Thanksgiving, which Benjamin Franklin called a day of "public Felicity" to give thanks for our "full enjoyment of Liberty, civil and religious." Thanksgiving, our nation's oldest tradition, is a moment to focus on our blessings as Americans, on what unites us, not on what divides us.

Such was the case in 1863, when Abraham Lincoln called for a national Thanksgiving celebration. He did so at the urging of a farsighted magazine editor who believed that a Thanksgiving celebration would have a "deep moral influence" on the American character, helping to bring together the country, which was divided over the issue of slavery. Lincoln's 1863 proclamation was the first in the unbroken string of annual Thanksgiving proclamations by every subsequent president. It is regarded as the beginning of our modern Thanksgiving holiday.
Those who seek a safer and more peaceful country have a huge amount to be thankful for this year.  Indeed, it's hard to recall a year where we have done better across the board.

The good news is wherever you look: Capital punishment, criminal justice reform, and respect for the police.

It's not that there's no bad news; there's plenty of that too, as the disastrous, pro-criminal policies and rhetoric of the Obama years come home to roost. It's that the good news predominates by so much.

FedSoc National Lawyers Convention

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The Federalist Society's National Lawyers Convention is underway in Washington.  The theme is "The Jurisprudence and Legacy of Justice Scalia."  Regrettably, I am not able to attend this year.  Duty calls.

Live streams of some of the panels and links to video of concluded panels are available at the FedSoc Blog.  The criminal law panel is at 3:30 EST today.  Not sure if it will be live streamed.  Justice Thomas is the dinner speaker at 7:00 EST.  Update:  They are live streaming the Separation of Powers panel instead.

Of course, there is much more to the convention than the presentations, interesting as they are.  Conversations in the hallways and at the events with people I only see "face-to-face" once a year are just as valuable.  I am sure that the question of who will be the next Attorney General is a hot topic, and the question of who will be nominated as the successor to Justice Scalia is even hotter.

Passing the Baton With Grace

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Jason Gay reports in the Wall Street Journal on passing the leadership baton painfully yet gracefully.

Veterans Day

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With all that is happening right now, it would be easy to forget, but we must not.  Let us all thank the veterans of our armed forces, without whom all our country's great documents of liberty would be nothing but empty promises. 

Justice for the littlest victims

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Cameron Morrison was only 19 months old, but had suffered more catastrophic injuries than any person should ever ensure in an entire lifetime.  Cameron's mother's boyfriend, Darnell Deangelo Dorsey, was babysitting Cameron and his half-brother while their mother was at the gym.  When she returned home and found Cameron unconscious, Dorsey claimed that Cameron had "possibly choked on some food" and he had "shook and slapped the boy in an attempt to revive him."  Cameron died after being taken off of life support a few days later as a result of a severe traumatic brain injury due to blunt force trauma.  At the time of his death, Cameron's brain was so swollen there was "virtually no space between the brain and the skull."  Scans also showed Cameron had 18 rib fractures in various stages of healing, a lacerated liver, subdural hematoma, retinal hemorrhages, lung contusions, and hemorrhaging to his adrenal glands.  All the experts agreed that Cameron did not choke on food.  But rather had suffered blunt force trauma to his head and body that was inflicted while he was in Dorsey's care.

Yesterday, after an 8-week trial, Dorsey, who had a prior violent "strike" offense, was convicted by a jury of killing Cameron.  Yolo County Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin said, "At great sacrifice, the jurors dedicated eight weeks to finding justice for Cameron. Overwhelming evidence was presented to the jury thanks to the thorough investigation of the medical professionals at UC Davis Medical Center and the Davis Police Department. The hard work and dedication of the jurors, the doctors and the police officers is deeply appreciated by Cameron's family."

Dorsey's sentencing hearing is scheduled for December 2nd where he faces the possibility of 50 years to life in state prison.  A press release from the Yolo County District Attorney's Office can be found here.


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