News Scan

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Governor Signs Execution Warrant: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has signed an execution warrant for convicted murderer Michael Parrish.  Alison Burdo of NBC 10 reports that 28-year-old Parish was found guilty and sentenced to death in May 2012 for the murder of his girlfriend and their 19-month-old child.  Parrish is scheduled to die by lethal injection on October 14, 2014, Pennsylvania hasn't executed a death row inmate since July 1999.

Convicted Cop Killers Denied Parole: The Ohio Parole Board has once again denied release for two men convicted of murdering a Cincinnati Police Officer in 1978.  Brad Evans of WLWT News reports that both men were originally sentenced to death for the crime, but that sentence was reduced to life behind bars by the state's Supreme Court.  Both men will be eligible for parole again in May 2019.

CA High Court Upholds Death Sentence: In a unanimous ruling, California's Supreme Court ruled in favor of upholding the death penalty verdict for convicted killer Gene McCurdy.  Lewis Griswold of the Fresno Bee reports that McCurdy was found guilty of kidnapping and murdering an 8-year-old girl nearly two decades ago.  McCurdy appealed his ruling based on the claim that statements given to detectives during the interview process should have been suppressed and that instructions given to the jury prior to sentencing were faulty.


Where Have All the Liberals Gone?

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People of my generation well remember the haunting anti-war song "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" written by Pete Seeger and popularized by Peter, Paul and Mary. It was running through my head this morning, and got me to thinking, as I mulled the media's coverage of the shooting in Ferguson, Mo.:  Where have all the liberals gone?

In days of yore, when there was a notorious homicide or some other infamous episode, what I used to hear was

--  "No rush to judgment!"

--  "In America, everyone is presumed innocent."

--   "We can't try this case in the press."

--  "No trial by mob."

I'm just not hearing that at all these days. 

Where have all the liberals gone?


Actual Innocence and Habeas Corpus

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Is a claim that a convicted prisoner is actually innocent of the crime, by itself without any claim that the trial was procedurally unfair, a ground for relief in habeas corpus?  That question remains unanswered.  Today in Jones v. Taylor, No. 13-36202, the Ninth Circuit reversed a district court's grant of relief to an Oregon prisoner convicted of intrafamily sexual abuse.  As sometimes happens in such cases, the witnesses (who are family of the defendant) recanted.  The opinion by Judge Tashima skips the question of whether a sufficient showing of actual innocence can be a ground for habeas relief and says that this showing doesn't make it.

This is a common outcome in such cases.  The Supreme Court seemed poised to decide the "actual innocence" question in Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390 (1993), but when it took a good, hard look at the evidence it saw that it fell "far short" of anything that might conceivably warrant overturning a conviction.  In the infamous Troy Davis case, the high court took the extraordinary step of sending an original habeas petition to a district court for fact-finding on innocence, where the district judge found that Davis's claim of innocence was "smoke and mirrors." 

The Other Side of the Story in Ferguson

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I take press reports with a grain of salt, not because I think reporters are biased (although some certainly are), but because I much prefer facts about alleged crimes to be proved by the rigors of presentation in court, in particular oath-taking and cross-examination.  This is one reason that, for example, I put no great stock in one-sided "reports" that, 22 years after the fact, Cameron Todd Willingham has been "proved" innocent by "more advanced" scientific testing conducted by his partisans without oversight, scrutiny, or adversarial process of any kind.

It is with this skepticism in mind that I bring you this report from the New York Post:  "A Dozen Witnesses Say Ferguson Teen Attacked Cop Before Shooting".  There is also a report out that the cop, Officer Darren Wilson, suffered a facial fracture as a result of being attacked by the teenager he shot.

If these reports are true, it's very difficult to see how a scrupulous prosecutor can indict Wilson.

Unfortunately, with the politically edgy Civil Rights Division on the case, the operative word here is "scrupulous." 

We shall see.

UPDATE:  The original source for this story, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter 
Christine Byers, has been on family and medical leave since March, and has tweeted that the story does not appear in the paper because "it did not meet standards for publication." This makes me happy that I started this entry by reiterating my skepticism about about media reports.  Of course the story may still be true; we should find out more in the days to come. 

Ryan v. Hurles Returns to SCOTUS

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Arizona's attempt to reinstate the death sentence of murderer Richard Hurles is back in the U.S. Supreme Court.  The prior petition was "relisted" an astonishing 22 times before the Ninth Circuit withdrew its opinion and issued a new one, causing the state to withdraw its petition.  The case was noted many times on this blog, including this post and this post, and it was a "regular" in John Elwood's "Relist Watch" at SCOTUSblog.

The new petition is number 14-191.

News Scan

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Minnesota Inmate Convicted of Murder: A Minnesota inmate has been sentenced to an additional 40 years behind bars after agreeing to plead guilty to killing a fellow inmate last December.  The Associated Press reports that 30-year-old Benjamin Beck plead guilty to second-degree intentional murder after telling prosecutors he had no choice but to kill the other inmate due to the fact that he was a convicted child rapist.  Beck had been incarcerated since 2007 after being convicted of aggravated robbery and first-degree burglary.

Convicted Killer Granted Stay of Execution: An Ohio man sentenced to death after being convicted of killing his two young children and former mother-in-law has been granted a stay of execution.  The Canton Rep reports that James Mammone was scheduled to be executed on March 8, 2017, the stay will remain in effect until he has exhausted all post-conviction court proceedings and appeals.  Mammone recently asked the court reconsider his murder convictions and death sentence, however, the court ruled by a vote of 6-1 to uphold both the verdict and sentence.

CA High Court Upholds Death Sentence: In a unanimous ruling, the California Supreme Court upheld the conviction and death sentence of a man who killed a young woman more than two decades ago.  Marjorie Hernandez of the Ventura County Star reports that Justin Merriman, a documented skinhead gang member, was sentenced to death in 2001 for the rape and murder of a Southern California college student.  Merriman challenged his conviction and sentence based on a claim of juror misconduct and evidence errors.

The Political Uses of Ferguson

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It was to be expected that the Usual Suspects would show up in Ferguson to push the Usual Causes, and would do so without finding out, or having any great interest in finding out, what actually happened.

Was this an NFL-sized gangbanger who had just committed a strong-arm robbery rushing a cop?  Was it a quick-trigger cop who got the drop on a teenager whose main "crime" was walking in the middle of the street?  Was it something else?

We don't know yet, but this fact makes no difference when the main point is to Fire Away.  Thus I bring you this Grievance-on-Steroids piece in the Atlantic.  I never thought I would say this, but it's enough to make Al Sharpton blush.

Nixon in 2016?

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Now here's an intriguing thought. Paul Kane and Robert Costa have this article in the WaPo on the possible impact of the Ferguson debacle on the possible 2016 ambitions of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.

What Is Known about the Ferguson Shooting

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We don't as yet know anything like all the facts necessary to reach a judgment about whether the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. acted justifiably or committed murder, or something in between.

But we have learned some facts, and I want to present them without comment.

--  The Washington Post and numerous other outlets report that Brown was shot six times, all from the front, and had marijuana in his system.  The claim that he was shot from behind appears to be false.

--  Minutes before he and the officer encountered one another, Brown and another male robbed a convenience store and, in doing so, forcibly shoved a clerk much smaller in stature. The video is here.

--  It is often the case that a single shot will not disable a person charging at a police officer (which is not to say that Brown was, in fact, charging the officer here, a question that remains unsettled).

--  Brown was 6'4" and weighed 292 pounds, which, I believe, is larger than the average size of an NFL player.

--  One report  in a local paper states that Brown had recently taken up "rap" lyrics, which included, as apparently is usual for such things, explicit references to drugs and violence.

I repeat that none of these facts, individually or together, provides even a rudimentary basis for judgment.  But facts they are.

A Defense, Sort of, of the Perry Indictment

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As I've noted, a chorus of honest liberals has exposed and denounced the Perry indictment for the legally hollow political stunt it is.  See, e.g.,  this article and this one.  But some on the Left are holding out.

Exhibit A is this piece in The New Republic.  The thesis is that Perry, being a Very Bad Man, more-or-less deserves the wrath of a criminal accusation whether or not he's, ya know, actually guilty.  The indictment is, if not exactly cricket, at least clarifying.

Well, look, that's cool.  Some might say that taking such a view of the role of criminal law is repulsive.  I beg to differ.  It is, as the author argues, clarifying  -- clarifying about what lies ahead when the poisonous (and Marxist) theory that politics is everything prevails.

SCOTUS Clerk's Office Restructuring

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Chris Vasil is retiring as Chief Deputy Clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court on September 1.  He will be missed.  The Court has announced a restructuring, described in this announcement and copied after the break.

Woodall Bearing Fruit

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In the U.S. Supreme Court's last term, CJLF accomplished one of its long-standing objectives regarding Congress's landmark 1996 reform of federal habeas corpus.  On questions of law, including "mixed questions" of law and fact, a lower federal court can effectively overturn a decision of a state court only if the state court decision is either (1) contrary to U.S. Supreme Court precedent, or (2) an "unreasonable application" of U.S. Supreme Court precedent.  That second phrase is supposed to refer to application of existing rules to the particular facts of the case, not making up new rules by plowing new legal ground.  We got the Supreme Court to clarify that, and put the brakes on lower federal courts, last April in White v. Woodall, discussed in this post.

Friday we saw the effect of Woodall in keeping a Nevada murderer in prison where he belongs.  The opinion comes from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, not friendly territory for law enforcement, written by Judge A. Wallace Tashima, not one of our best friends.

News Scan

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Realignment to Blame for Increase in Early Jail Releases: In an effort to relieve over-crowding caused by Governor Brown's Realignment plan, county jails across the state are being forced to release inmates at alarming rates-in Los Angeles County alone, male inmates are released after serving as little as 10% of their sentences while females are released after serving just 5%.  Paige St. John of the Los Angeles Times reports that on average, California county jails release more than 13,500 inmates early each month, leaving some to label the state's criminal justice system as a revolving door for criminals.  Just this week, authorities were forced to release a woman who snuck onto an airplane and flew to Los Angeles from Northern California after she served just three days out of her 117-day sentence.

Recently Released Rapist Charged in Home-Invasion: A New York man recently released from prison after serving 23 years behind bars for a rape conviction has been charged with breaking into a home and violently attacking a woman.   Denise A. Raymo of The Press-Republican reports that 40-year-old Timothy Jaworski has had a lengthy past with police in both New York and Massachusetts, and has served multiple prison sentences for home invasions, rape, and larceny.  Jaworski is currently being held on a $100,000 bond.

Convicted Murderer Loses Appeal for a New Trial: A Nevada man convicted of murdering a food deliveryman more than a decade ago will not get a new trial after the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court and reinstated his conviction.  Steve Timko of the Reno Gazette-Journal reports that 33-year-old Ryan Oshun Moore appealed his conviction based on the claim that the jury presiding over his case were not given the definitions of words such as 'willful', 'premeditated' and 'deliberate.'  Moore was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after twenty years.

Rosemary Lehmberg holds the office of District Attorney of Travis County, Texas because she was elected to it.  The question  --  given that she served time on a drunk driving conviction and acted like a belligerent teenager in the lockup after her arrest  --  is: How?  And the answer is an old standby, though often overlooked in the perplexity of the moment:  

She got elected because the alternative was even worse.

Now that might have you wondering, good grief, who was the alternative?

The alternative was an anti-death penalty crackpot, one-time Judge Charlie Baird. Baird's partisan and illegal antics in trying to posthumously exonerate multiple child killer Cameron Todd Willingham are epic, and have been chronicled by Kent here, herehere, and here.

So if you're in Travis County, who do you want "enforcing" the law, an ill-tempered drunk or a reckless, ideological zealot?

Answer:  Ummm, move.

Hard Legal Questions for the Perry Indictment

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Eugene Volokh of UCLA is a super smart, call-em'-as-you-see-'em professor of law. He's also the owner of the legal blog, the "Volokh Conspiracy."  I have disagreed with some of the "Conspirators" from time to time, as in our differing views on whether Eric Holder committed perjury when he testified before Congress that there was no "potential prosecution" of Fox News reporter James Rosen.  But the Volokh Conspiracy is widely read and, I think, almost universally respected.

As the blog of the Federalist Society reports today, Prof. Volokh has three tough questions about the indictment of Gov. Rick Perry, even taking the indictment on its own questionable terms:

1. To begin with, the law applies to a public servant's misusing property that is in his "custody or possession." What property was in the governor's custody or possession?

2. Beyond this, how does vetoing the appropriation qualify as "misuse," in the sense of "dealing with" the $7.5 million "contrary to an agreement under which defendant held such property or contrary to the oath of office he took as a public servant"?

3. Is the prosecution's theory that vetoes of appropriations are criminal if they are not seen as "faithful[] execut[ion of] the duties of the office of Governor" -- though deciding whether or not to "approv[e]" a bill is itself part of the duties of that office? Or is it that such vetoes are criminal if they do not "to the best of [the Governor's] ability preserve, protect, and defend the [federal and state] Constitution and law.  ###

Prof. Volokh's longer and more detailed analysis is here.



The Perry Indictment in One Picture

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Barack Obama's Dead Fly's photo.

Federalism and Other Head Fakes

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We've been hearing for years that if drugs are to criminalized at all, it should be left to the states, and that the federal government has no business in the field.

There are legitimate questions about the scope both of federal police power and the reach of its authority under the Commerce Clause.  In my view, such questions are more pressing now than ever in light of the ominous combination of the burgeoning regulatory state and the increased politicization of the Justice Department.  But the question whether the federal Controlled Substances Act is within Congress's power has been raised and settled long ago.  To my knowledge, after dozens if not hundreds of challenges, not a single court has held the CSA unconstitutional, and the most serious challenge to it was rejected almost ten years ago in Gonzales v. Raich.

One must wonder, though, about the authenticity of the complaints about federal overreach.  While many such arguments are rooted in a sincere if (in my view) mistaken view of federal power, others  --  most, I suspect  --  are just bellyaching by dopers who love getting blasted and want to belittle anything that stops the fun.

If these people were sincere in their federalism arguments, surely I would be hearing from them about the U.S. Justice Department's astonishing decision to "order" a second autopsy of the victim of the police shooting in Ferguson, Mo.  In my numerous years as a federal prosecutor, and more recently as a law professor, I never heard that the Justice Department had the authority to order any such thing. I'll be grateful to any reader  --  especially among those wanting criminal law to be left almost exclusively to the states  -- who can fill me in.

The World's Most Absurd Indictment, Cont'd

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The poisonous prosecutorial stunt masquerading as the Perry indictment is being exposed for what it is by honest liberals from coast to coast.

This, for example, is what Alan Dershowitz (whom I debated on CNN about capital punishment) is reported to have said:

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz calls himself a "liberal Democrat who would never vote for Rick Perry," but he's still "outraged" over the Texas governor's indictment Friday on charges of abuse of power and coercion.

The charges are politically motivated and an example of a "dangerous" trend of courts being used to affect the ballot box and politics, he told Newsmax on Saturday.

"Everybody, liberal or conservative, should stand against this indictment," Dershowitz said. "If you don't like how Rick Perry uses his office, don't vote for him....

Dershowitz also told Newsmax Perry was well within his rights when he vetoed the money for Lehmberg's office, as he "saw a drunk serving as DA" who "shouldn't be enforcing criminal law."

Dershowitz believes Perry will be acquitted, and the indictment will become an embarrassment to those involved.


I disagree with Prof. Dershowitz in one respect.  Perry will never be acquitted, because the indictment will never get to a jury.




Steve Hayward on Powerline writes:

[L]et's not move on before taking in the proximate cause of political dispute, the conduct of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who ironically runs the "public integrity section" of the DA's office while obviously having no public integrity whatsoever.  If you have 15 minutes of leisure and a strong threshold against disgust, take in these two videos of Ms. Lehmberg in action, first in her DUI stop (where her blood-alcohol level was .23), and then, even better, her appalling jailhouse behavior.

The videos are available here, in Steve's post.  They're quite a show.

There are some bad apples in the prosecutorial barrel, as in every other. Since Lehmberg is an elected prosecutor (having defeated the astonishing former "judge" Charlie Baird), the preferred way to remove her is through the exercise of political, not judicial, power. That of course is exactly what Gov. Perry was doing in vetoing a multi-million dollar appropriation for her office until it had cleansed itself of the stain that comes from having an out-of-control drunk and jailbird convict at its head.

If the Governor's veto is a criminal offense, I am Lynne Stewart.

I repeat my earlier prediction:  This indictment will never make it to a jury.


Politics & Prosecution, a Toxic Brew

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I was a federal prosecutor for 18 years under administrations of both parties (from William French Smith to Janet Reno).  Not once was I asked to participate in a case I had even slight reason to suspect was politically motivated. Apparently, times have changed.

Kent's most recent entry, and mine before it, discuss prosecutions in which the stench of politics is unmistakable.  The former is a federal case against a bond rating service, Standard & Poor's, which, much to the Administration's consternation, downgraded US sovereign debt when it became clear that the federal government was not going to take any serious steps to start to pay down, or even slightly curb the growth of, the largest national debt in the history of civilization. Runaway borrowing and debt has been a staple of Republican attacks on the Administration, which now apparently feels like S&P was giving aid and comfort to Obama's political opponents.

If there's a place in the US Attorneys Manual that authorizes prosecutions for that reason, I missed it.  Perhaps it's been added more recently.

The other case was brought by the same local Texas prosecutor's office that launched the "cutting edge" (to be charitable) campaign finance indictment against then-Congressman Tom DeLay.  Even liberals had some heartburn about that; it was well grounded heartburn, since the conviction, and the Rube Goldberg prosecution theory upon which it rested, did not survive even the first round in the state appellate courts.

We now see from that same district an indictment, this one against Gov. Rick Perry, for having the audacity to ask a convicted drunk-driving prosecutor to step aside and, when she did not, vetoing legislation that would have funded a part of her office.

I don't know whether the First Amendment or the separation-of-powers challenge to the indictment will be the primary basis for its dismissal, but I'll bet good money that this breathtakingly vindictive and concocted prosecution will never see a single juror impaneled.

I have been all over libertarians recently for their juvenile, unserious and sometimes dishonest arguments about the death penalty, plea bargaining and the rule of majoritarian law.  But cases like these show that libertarians have an important point: That the power to prosecute is a fearsome thing, and, when employed as political tool, is the quick road to tyranny.

Prosecution As Payback

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Among the worst abuses of prosecutorial authority is to base a decision to prosecute on an unrelated grudge against the defendant.  Standard and Poors claims the U.S. Department of Justice has done exactly that, according to this editorial in the WSJ.

It's not a smoking gun. But Standard & Poor's claims in a new court filing that it has documents showing that government lawyers who have targeted the firm over its flawed ratings on mortgage bonds also had "intense interest in and engagement regarding S&P's downgrade of the United States."
*                                             *                                          *
Justice says there was no connection between the downgrade and its decision to charge S&P. But in a Tuesday federal court filing in the Central District of California, S&P says it has obtained internal Justice documents showing "that the two topics were often linked."

The documents are under a protective order and thus not public. But it's safe to assume S&P would want to stick to the facts because federal Judge David Carter can see the documents too. If S&P is right, then Justice will have to explain why lawyers tasked with investigating pre-crisis mortgage bonds were so keenly interested in a downgrade of government debt that took place years after the mortgage bond ratings. Do prosecutors investigate every time someone expresses a skeptical view on Treasury bonds?

The World's Most Absurd Indictment

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I'll be the first to admit I know zilch about Texas law.  I'll also freely admit that I'm no fan of Gov. Rick Perry, one of the most obviously not-ready-for-prime-time Presidential candidates I've ever seen.  My opinion of him did not improve when he started touting his program to save money (or, more accurately, to shift costs onto future crime victims) by an early prison release program.

But the indictment brought against him today by a grand jury sitting in Texas's nutty left-wing capital, Austin, is probably the most exotic and preposterous felony charge I've ever seen, and I've seen lots.  It makes the political prosecution of former Texas Congressman Tom DeLay look serious by comparison.

In brief, Perry has been indicted for vetoing an appropriation for a prosecutor's office after the prosecutor, a Democrat, was convicted of drunk driving and sent to jail. And no, your eyes are not deceiving you:  A governor got indicted for vetoing a bill.  From the Wall Street Journal, here's the story.

News Scan

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Sex Offender Charged with Murder: A New Jersey man classified as a 'moderate' sex offender after kidnapping and sexually assaulting a girl nearly 20 years ago has been arrested and charged with the murders of his cousin and her 10-year-old daughter.  Nicquel Terry of the Asbury Park Press reports that 58-year-old Brian Farmer murdered his cousin after she caught him taking pornographic photos of her 10-year-old foster daughter. Farmer was convicted of aggravated sexual assault and arson in 1996 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison, however, he was released to parole in 2009.

CA Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence: California's Supreme Court has ruled in favor of upholding the death penalty for convicted double murderer Kelvyn Banks.  Metropolitan News-Enterprise reports that Banks was challenging his sentence based on the claim that he was deprived of his right to a fair trail when he was excluded from the courtroom during the penalty phase.  He was excluded after spitting on the judge and throwing a bag of excrement and urine.  Banks was convicted and sentenced for two separate murders committed in July 1996.

Ruling: Silence May be Used Against You: California's highest court has ruled that a suspect's silence may indicate guilt. Paul Elias of the Associated Press reports that at a vehicular manslaughter trial the prosecutor repeatedly informed the jury that the defendant failed to ask about the victims immediately after crashing into them, which was an indication of his guilt.  The high court agreed ruling that the defendant must explicitly invoke his right to remain silent' in order for his behavior in an interview to be inadmissible in court.

Dealing with the Police

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The recent police shooting of an unarmed 18 year-old African-American in Ferguson, Mo. has the press thundering about the crypto-fascist, and as-ever racist, outlook policemen supposedly wear as the universal chip on the shoulder.

I don't know all the facts of that case, and neither does anyone else, including those in the press, and in libertarian circles, who are calling for the police to be "demilitarized" (which is their word for "disarmed," although they're not about to admit it).

It could be that the teenager, who was huge, attacked the cop without provocation, in which case the cop's response is almost certainly not a crime or any other kind of misconduct.  It could also be that the cop was not in significant danger, knew it, and shot the teenager out of spite or because he was feeling a heavy badge, in which case this episode is murder, and the cop is deserving of stern and unflinching punishment.  Anyone who at this point claims to know it's one or the other is just blowin' smoke.

The case has raised many of the same shopworn issues about the relationship between the police and black teenage boys that we saw in the Trayvon Martin case (even though the shooter there was a would-be, and not an actual, policeman).

It seems to me that there are easy ways to avoid this sort of thing in the future, none of which involves the appearance of Al Sharpton or the eight millionth lecture from Eric Holder.  They involve entirely normal manners on both sides.

News Scan

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Bill Would Incarcerate Up More 'Low-Level' Felons: Ohio Attorney General candidate David Pepper has announced his support for a bill that would give judges more leeway when it comes to sentencing low-level felons.  Jeremy Pelzer of the Northeast Ohio Media Group reports that House Bill 251 would allow judges to send so-called 'low-level' felons to prison rather than probation for repeat offenses.  The bill is primarily aimed at drug dealers who carry slightly less than the amount of drugs the law requires to charge as possession for sale, in order to avoid prison and continue dealing while on probation.    

Convicted Killer Identified as Murder Suspect: Authorities in Colorado have announced that an inmate killed earlier this week was beaten to death by two other inmates, one of which is already serving a life sentence for murder.  Chris Vanderveen of KUSA reports that the other inmate involved in the killing is currently serving a 48 year sentence for an attempted murder conviction.  This is the sixth killing at this particular Colorado corrections facility since 2010.

New Hampshire Murderer Sentenced to Life: A New Hampshire judge has sentenced 31-year-old Seth Mazzaglia to life behind bars for his role in the rape and murder of a college student in 2012.  The Associated Press reports that Mazzaglia was convicted in June of first-degree murder and other serious felonies, and given the non-death penalty state's maximum sentence of LWOP.   Mazzaglia filed a motion earlier this week asking to skip his sentencing hearing in an effort to avoid listening to the victim's family impact statements, but the judge denied his request.   

Will Dahlgreen at YouGov has this article stating that according to that organization's survey, "50 years after the last execution in Britain, people still tend to support the reintroduction of the death penalty, by 45-39%."

However, as noted by in this post by Peyton M. Craighill and Scott Clement at The Fix, the WaPo's political blog (previously mentioned on this blog here) YouGov polls a self-selected sample, one of the worst ways to do polling.  Actual support is likely much higher, as has been indicated in recent years by legitimate polls.  See posts of 2010 and 2013.

News Scan

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Judge Calls 600 Potential Jurors in Death Penalty Case: A Denver, Colorado judge has announced plans to assemble a pool of 600 potential jurors for the upcoming death penalty trial against a man accused of stabbing five people to death in a bar nearly two years ago.  Jordan Steffen of The Denver Post reports that 24-year-old Dexter Lewis faces 16 counts, including robbery, arson, and first-degree murder, for the October 2012 attack that left five people dead.  This will be the first time since 2001 that Denver prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.  Attorneys will begin questioning potential jurors in January 2015.

NY Judges to Hear Child-Immigrant Cases: Beginning today, New York City immigration judges will start hearing requests for asylum made by thousands of children who have illegally entered the U.S.  Marisa Schultz of the New York Post reports that on average, New York City immigration judges are the most lenient in the country, granting 80% of requests made by asylum seekers—a number much higher than the national average of 50%.  Since October 2013, an estimated 63,000 children have entered the U.S. illegally, resulting in what many are calling an immigration crisis.

Police Make Arrest in 30-Year-Old Cold Case: Authorities have arrested a Minnesota man in connection with a murder that took place in Texas more than 30 years ago.  Tim Lammers of Bring Me The News reports that the 53-year-old suspect is believed to have stabbed San Antonio businessman Francisco Narvaez to death in a hotel room in September 1983.  Authorities re-opened the case in 2011 and enlisted the help of the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation.  The suspect is expected to be extradited to Oklahoma and faces charges for second-degree murder and being a fugitive.

Joseph Epstein has this article in the WSJ, titled What's Missing in Ferguson, Mo., subtitled More than ever, the absence of black leadership, and the contrast with the civil-rights era, is painfully clear.  An excerpt follows the break.

News Scan

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Texas Murderer Loses Appeal: A Salvadoran man convicted and sentenced to death for murdering two people in Texas has lost his most recent federal appeal. The Associated Press reports that 44-year-old Gilmar Guevara appealed his sentence claiming ineffective assistance of counsel and that a mental impairment disqualifies him for a death sentence. Guevara was convicted in 2001 for murdering two store clerks during an attempted robbery.

Serial Killer Sentenced to Four Life Terms: An Illinois man convicted of murder and sentenced to two life terms has been found guilty in four additional murders and has been ordered to spend four more life sentences behind bars.  The Associated Press reports that Nicholas Sheley killed a total of eight people during the summer of 2008 in Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri.  Illinois does not have a death sentence but Missouri does.  If Sheley is convicted of the two Missouri murders, he could receive a death sentence.

Hundreds of Criminal Immigrants Released: A recently obtained report from the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General reveals that more than 600 criminal aliens were released by the federal government in 2013 because of budget cuts.  Jana Winter and Judson Berger of Fox News report that in the early months of 2013, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released hundreds of "criminal aliens" from jails to comply with budget cuts and other fiscal restraints.  While the majority of the aliens were classified as "level 3"  lower level offenders, a fraction of the aliens had been convicted of more serious crimes ranging from burglary and money laundering to rape.


Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued one of its midsummer orders lists.  These are usually just routine administrative orders, but occasionally you get something interesting. 

In today's orders list, we find this gem from Ballard v. Pennsylvania, No. 13-9364:  "The letters of June 2, July 8, July 14, and July 16, 2014, received in this case, are referred to the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for any investigation or action it finds appropriate."  Hmmm.  What's that about?

This is a capital case.  Ballard is a so-called "volunteer," a death-sentenced inmate who doesn't want his sentenced reversed or even delayed.  Marc Bookman of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, claiming to be Ballard's lawyer, filed a certiorari petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirming the judgment.  Ballard himself had a thing or two to say about that.

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