Recently in Notorious Cases Category

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."
Phil Helsel reports for NBC:

A former death-row inmate has been charged with keeping a woman captive and sexually assaulting her for months in Colorado, officials said Thursday.

"She's been through hell and back," Mesa County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Henry Stoffel told NBC station KUSA.
Claude Lee Wilkerson, 61, was arrested in February and charged Monday with 10 counts in all, including first-degree kidnapping, false imprisonment, sexual assault and harboring a minor, according to court documents.
But Wilkerson was once sentenced to death for a prior murder.  He never should have hurt anyone again.  How did he get off?  His confession was thrown out, and his conviction was reversed, not because the confession was involuntary in violation of the real Fifth Amendment actually in the Constitution, but only because its taking did not comply with the Miranda rule invented by the Supreme Court out of whole cloth in 1966.

KUSA has this video report on the overturning of the prior conviction.

The rules of law that set criminals free despite solid evidence of guilt tend to be taught in abstract, antiseptic terms in law school.  Most law students go along with their pro-defendant professors and endorse these rules.  I have known students and lawyers to react in horror at the very idea that anyone would challenge Miranda v. Arizona and Mapp v. Ohio.  Many are completely incapable of grasping the distinction between these entirely court-created doctrines and the actual Bill of Rights.

Yet these rules have real, human costs.  They have costs when victims and their families see perpetrators walk.  They have even greater costs when those perpetrators commit new crimes.

A Risible Prosecution Gets Tossed

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Prosecutors must and do have wide discretion in deciding what charges to bring and against whom.  Most of the bellyaching against them is just PR work done by the defense bar.  Better to paint the prosecutor as Satan than come to terms with the fact that your client is a hood.

Occasionally, however, criminal defense lawyers are the heroes they claim to be, and prosecutors need to be stepped back by the judicial branch.  Thus I was happy to see the prosecution reproached by the highest criminal court in Texas for perhaps the most blatantly political, and absurd, prosecution I have ever seen:  A bunch of leftist prosecutors indicted then-Gov. Rick Perry for "threatening" to use his constitutional power to veto funding legislation.  Good grief.

The Duke rape hoax indictment, together with this case, show that the deference due prosecutors, while broad, cannot be unlimited.

The story is here.
I previously noted the Anthony Porter / Alstory Simon story here, here, and here

Now Showtime has a documentary on the case, titled A Murder in the Park.  I haven't seen it and probably won't, as I don't get Showtime.  But my friend Josh Marquis recommends it, and that's more than good enough to note it here.

The Black Lives That Didn't Matter

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The National Association of Assistant US Attorneys has produced a short video (a little over a minute) about the murders of three African Americans, a mother and her two daughters, by Wendell Callahan.  Callahan had a violent past, and had been sentenced to federal prison for trafficking in hard drugs (crack cocaine). Nonetheless, he was released early courtesy of Congress's 2010 version of "sentencing reform." But for his early release, his three victims would be alive today.

When one black man, Michael Brown of Ferguson, MO  --  a fellow who was 6'4" and weighed 292 pounds  --  was shot by a policeman in legal self-defense, the story was the subject of hundreds of outraged national headlines.  When the three defenseless black people in Columbus, OH got their throats slit by a man who earned his way to prison, but then was released early as a "low level, low-risk" prospect, not a single component of the national media has written a news story about it.

Lesson of the day:  Black lives matter plenty when they service the liberal criminal justice narrative that Amerika stinks. Otherwise...well, hey, look, chill out.

The video is here.

Jailbreak: A Love Story?

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The search is over.  Three California inmates who managed to escape a Santa Ana jail are back in custody.  The prison teacher arrested last Thursday for allegedly aiding in their escape, however, is being released due to insufficient evidence, for now at least.

Since the daring January 22 escape, word has circulated that the English-as-a-second-language teacher, Nooshafarin Ravaghi, and one of the escapees, Hossein Nayeri, had a relationship that was "close" and "personal," highly atypical for a prison teacher and an inmate, not to mention inappropriate and completely banned.  It is believed that Ravaghi provided Nayeri and two other inmates, Bac Duong and Jonathan Tieu, with a printed photograph from Google Earth to help them escape from the maximum-security facility.  Authorities believe she may have helped them on the outside as well.
Every now and again, a single case crystalizes an argument so powerfully that there's not much left to say.  Recently, I wrote about one such case, the triple murder (of a mother and her two daughters, aged 10 and 7) by a crack dealer with a violent history who was out on early release because of Congress's 2010 version of "sentencing reform."  Had he remained in jail for his original sentence, the mother and the two kids would be alive today.

We all know that errors in sentencing are inevitable, because errors in human judgment are inevitable.  Accordingly, we know that some inmates will be incarcerated too long, and others, not long enough.  

The only adult question, then, is this:  Who should bear the risks and costs of inevitable error  --  the criminal, who made his own choice and assumed his own risks, or the future victim, who never had a chance?

The question answers itself.

So does the question posed by Judge Jack Weinstein's most recent adventure in judicial defiance:  Does a felony-level child pornographer deserve a prison sentence of zero?

The Oregon Occupiers

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The WaPo has several articles on the Oregon wildlife refuge occupiers:  Sarah Larimer and Niraj Chokski on the eight in custody, Michael Miller on LaVoy Finicum, who was killed, and Sarah Kaplan, Adam Goldman, and Mark Berman on efforts to recover the refuge from the remaining occupiers.  In the WSJ, Jim Carlton and Devlin Barrett also cover the latter point.

Personally, I have little use for people who protest by occupying property that is not theirs and has nothing to do with the dispute.  That goes for the Occupy movement of a few years ago, the current protest, and all the way back to the Vietnam War when protesting students staged sit-ins at campus facilities that had nothing to do with the war.

The sit-ins at segregated lunch counters during the civil rights movement were different.  The lunch counter operators were perpetrators of the injustice at issue.

The main beef of the current occupiers is the violation of their constitutional right to graze cattle on land that does not belong to them without paying fees to the owner of the land, i.e., the federal government.  I don't recall reading that in the Constitution, but maybe it's part of the "living document."

The Defense Bar, At It Again

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To clear out the underbrush at the outset:  No, I do not think defendants should go without counsel.  Yes, I think counsel should be zealous.  But no, being zealous does not include disrespecting the considered wishes of the client, or misleading the court or jury about the client's mental state.  

On Wednesday, Robert Dear, who murdered three people including a police officer at an abortion clinic in Colorado, "blurted out," as the press likes to put these things, the truth:  ""I am guilty, [I want] no trial. I am a warrior for the babies!"

The Denver Post story goes on to recount that Dear is a "deeply religious man" and "conflicted."  I have no doubt of this, although I wish he had been "conflicted" enough to stand down from murder and try some different "remedy," such as, for example, explaining to abortion providers why he believes they are horribly wrong and should stop.

My focus, however, is not on Dear, but on his defense lawyers, including lead public defender Daniel King.  Public defenders, like all other defense counsel, are employed to advance the interests of the client as the client sees them, not as the lawyer sees them.  Apparently this does not apply in Colorado.

The San Bernardino Massacre

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I have held off commenting on the San Bernardino massacre until more was known.  Today's WSJ has a number of articles on the emerging picture and the policy dilemmas we faced as we decide what to do to reduce the risk of such horrors.
Former USAO appellate chief turned National Review analyst Andy McCarthy uses the curious Dennis Hastert case to pull back the curtain on what is really going on with "sentencing reform."  He notes:

Mandatory minimum sentences and strict sentencing guidelines for serious offenses were enacted precisely because judges, often in collusion with prosecutors [Ed. note: and virtually always at the urging of defense counsel], were systematically releasing serious offenders, allowing them to continue preying on society. While the "man-mins" and guidelines helped dramatically reduce crime, the left-leaning legal profession agitated against them. One result is "fact" pleading -- the sort of shenanigans that we see in the Hastert case: a willfully false rendition of the facts in order to sidestep sentencing enhancements required by law.

That is what sentencing "reform" has in store for us. The proposals may call for careful judicial fact finding before a felon is released. But the law already calls for careful judicial fact finding when the felon is sentenced. What we frequently get, instead, is careful judicial evasion -- often aided and abetted, it must be noted, by the Justice Department. It may be that careful fact finding would result in the release of some prisoners who should be released; but the breed of "fact" finding we are apt to get from sentencing "reform" will result in the mass release of incorrigible, violent criminals.

McCarthy's article is a goldmine about how the federal criminal justice system works on the inside, and well worth your read.  Sentencing reform is getting as far as it is only because the public has no idea about how many breaks for criminals are already built into the system, though hidden from view.
Tyrone Howard, arrested for the murder of NYPD officer Randolph Holder, is described as a "career criminal" in this report by the NY CBS affiliate and Associated Press.

Police said Howard's arrest record goes back to when he was 13. In sum, the allegations included assault, robbery and a total of nine for the criminal sale of a controlled substance. Howard also had a record of two arrests for the criminal possession of marijuana, and others for public lewdness, criminal trespass and conspiracy.

Last year, Howard was placed in a drug diversion program meant to spare jail time for drug offenders to ease jail overcrowding. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said that move was an incredibly bad idea.

"If ever there was a candidate for someone not to be diverted, it's this guy," Bratton said. "He's the poster boy for not being diverted."
Easy enough to say after the fact, but did he meet the criteria for these programs as they are actually administered?

Baltimore Protesters Demand Due Process

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There was a hearing today in Baltimore in the Freddie Gray homicide case.  The court refused defense requests to dismiss the charges or remove States Attorney Marilyn Mosby.  It did, however, grant separate trials to the defendants.

Outside the courthouse, protesters demanded due process for the accused, who are all police officers.  They carried signs with slogans, "No Case Should Be a Circus," "Honor the Presumption of Innocence," and "No Trial in the Streets."  

Members of the media interviewed a number of protesters, who were quoted as saying such things as, "We'll accept an acquittal peacefully if that's what happens," and, "All defendants should have a chance to make their case before people condemn them."

The article covering it states............ummmm............well................maybe I'm getting this wrong.  The reaction I described is only what we'd see from academia or the ACLU for an axe murderer or child rapist.  Or maybe Mumia Abu Jamal.  The actual protest today  --  which wasn't much compared to the arson and riots we saw earlier  --  was, well, different from my description, and was covered in this local CBS News story.

If there was even a slight mention of Due Process, I missed it.

A Stay for Virginia Ex-Governor

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Jess Bravin reports for the WSJ:

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

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

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

This post back in 2012 discusses the quirks of the jurisdiction of individual Justices and the full Court to issue stays.
Mixing politics and the power to prosecute is the fast road to tyranny.  That is one reason I have been unstinting in my criticism both of Eric Holder's politicization of DOJ and of the reckless grandstanding by Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby in the Freddie Gray case, see here, here, and here.

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

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

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

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

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

The whole appalling story is here.



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