Traffic Stops and Dog Sniffs

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The U.S. Supreme Court today decided Rodriguez v. United States, No. 13-9972:

In Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U. S. 405 (2005), this Court held that a dog sniff conducted during a lawful traffic stop does not violate the Fourth Amendment's proscription of unreasonable seizures. This case presents the question whether the Fourth Amendment tolerates a dog sniff conducted after completion of a traffic stop. We hold that a police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the Constitution's shield against unreasonable seizures. A seizure justified only by a police-observed traffic violation, therefore, "become[s] unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete th[e] mission" of issuing a ticket for the violation. Id., at 407.
Justice Ginsburg wrote the opinion.  Justice Thomas dissented, joined by Justices Kennedy and Alito.

The "only" in the last sentence is disputed in this case and remains open.  The government contends that the officer did have an individualized basis for suspicion that the car contained drugs.  Justices Thomas and Alito would affirm on that basis.  Justice Kennedy agrees with the majority that the point is not properly before the Supreme Court because the Court of Appeals did not decide it.

Although the issue discussed in that Part [of Justice Thomas's dissent] was argued here, the Court of Appeals has not addressed that aspect of the case in any detail. In my view the better course would be to allow that court to do so in the first instance.
Violent, repeat criminals should be put away for a long time, Congress quite reasonably decided in 1984.  But the devil is in the details, and the Armed Career Criminal Act has been an interpretive problem for a long time.  What exactly is a "violent felony or serious drug offense"?  Jess Bravin has this article in the WSJ on today's argument in Johnson v. United States, No. 13-7120.  The transcript is here.
"Sentencing reform" is the deliberately gauzy name given the movement for shorter sentences and earlier release.  Its advocates say it will be focused on "low level, non-violent" offenders, but quietly, and less prominently, acknowledge that it's intended to apply to "all offenders."  

This is one reason I want to add explicit language to one of the main "reform" measures, the Justice Safety Valve Act, before it gets a vote.  I want the public to know exactly what "all offenders" means.

It's also the reason I want to highlight an item from today's News Scan.  The Scan is sometimes easy to pass by quickly, because it contains a number of stories. But this one deserves our immediate attention:

Sex Predator Gets Second Chance, Reoffends:  Michael Shepard, released after serving a 15 year sentence for committing sex offenses against children, faces 14 new charges of raping or assaulting at least seven children after being out of prison 18 months.  Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Shepard initially lied to his neighbors about his crimes, claiming his sex offender status stemmed from a Romeo and Juliet affair with a preacher's daughter.  He was released from prison after two psychologists determined that he "did not qualify for commitment" to a treatment facility after his sentence.  Shepard claims that the children fabricated their stories.

News Scan

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Sex Predator Gets Second Chance, Reoffends:  Michael Shepard, released after serving a 15-year-sentence for committing sex offenses against children, faces 14 new charges of raping or assaulting at least 7 children after being out of prison 18 months.  Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Shepard initially lied to his neighbors about his crimes, claiming his sex offender status stemmed from a Romeo and Juliet affair with a preacher's daughter.  He was released from prison after two psychologists determined that he "did not qualify for commitment" to a treatment facility after his sentence.  Shepard claims that the children fabricated their stories.

Milwaukee's Spiraling Violence:  Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has suffered dozens of violent incidents this year, claiming the lives of at least 43 people.  Gina Barton and Ashley Luthern of the Journal Sentinel report that the mayor and police chief have cited the city's concealed carry law, but others blame the increase on police department cuts and a policy barring police from high speed chases unless there is probable cause that someone in the suspect vehicle is a dangerous felon.  The mayor plans to spend $2 million to improve the investigation and charging of gun crimes.

Death Penalty Rare for Child Killers:  Ohio prosecutor Joe Deters' effort to enact legislation permitting prosecutors to seek the death penalty in cases involving the killing of a child has paid off.  Paula Christian of WCPO reports that Deters was outraged when prosecuting child-killer Richard Joseph Klein 18 years ago.  Klein received a sentence of only 31 years for holding down his girlfriend's mentally disabled 12-year-old son in scalding hot water until he died.  Now that the new law has passed, Deters plans to seek the death penalty against a couple accused of torturing their 2-year-old daughter to death.

Texas Aids Arkansas With Prison Overcrowding:  A contract with Bowie County, Texas, allows Arkansas to place up to 288 of its male inmates in a Texas facility.  John Lyon of the Arkansas News Bureau reports that the contract expires on December 31.  "More innovative approaches" yielding long-term impact are being considered.  State prison officials hoped to begin construction of a new 1,000-bed prison last year, but Governor Asa Hutchinson has a different plan to add bed space without building a new prison.  Another alternative, as outlined in Act 1206 of 2015, would allow counties to house state prisoners in regional correctional facilities subject to the governor's approval.

Of Drug Legalization and Flying Saucers

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I have occasionally said here that support for the legalization of hard drugs is so low that it's never even been polled.

I was wrong.

I just found out that it was polled by the Huffington Post last year.

Also polled, by a different organization, was the belief that Earth has been visited by flying saucers.

Although a small majority now believes that pot should be legalized, flying saucers beat hard drugs by a fat margin.

20 Years Ago and Today

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 OKfireman1995.jpg

It was 20 years ago today that a domestic terrorist murdered 168 people in Oklahoma City, setting off a vehicle bomb in front of the federal building.  In this famous photograph by Charles Porter IV, fireman Chris Fields cradles infant Baylee Almon, who did not survive.

Timothy McVeigh was sentenced to death for this crime on August 14, 1997.  He was executed June 11, 2001, less than four years later.  Why so quickly?  What lesson is there for those seeking justice in the present day?
CJLF takes no position on pot legalization.  Kent has said he regards it as inevitable. My view is that pot became de facto legal long ago, and that the whole debate is therefore mostly academic.  But. yes, if you light up on the steps of the US Attorney's Office, you'll probably get a summons, anyway.  Then, in all likelihood, some AUSA will get in your face  --  before he dismisses the case or settles for a $50 fine.

One of the items I frequently see from legalizers is the assertion that pot never killed anyone.  Of course that's not the point; shoplifitng never killed anyone either, but, if it's not habitual, it's a minor crime deserving minor punishment.  Same deal with pot.

As to the "never-killed-anyone" argument itself......well......apparently not.

Intelligence Squared Debate Video

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The permanent link to the Intelligence Squared debate is:

http://intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/past-debates/item/1254-abolish-the-death-penalty


The full video is now available on the site. 

News Scan

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Only Minor Changes In Vermont's Sex Offender Laws:  A high-risk sex offender was released from a Vermont after maxing out his sentence, despite his refusal to seek treatment while incarcerated, sparking public demand for stricter sex offender laws.  Alex Keefe and Lynne McCrea of VPR report that lawmakers are considering two weak reforms.  The first would be a clarification to an existing that that states sex offenders must report their plans and activities to the registry before their release from jail.  The second would improve the sex offender registry's accuracy.  Also, several additional requirements have been considered for sex offenders labeled as high-risk.

New System Screens Out Registered Sex Offenders:  A high-tech system that produces instant background checks is being used at schools in Southern Indiana to protect students from sex offenders and other threats.  Stephan Johnson of WDRB reports that the Raptor System performs an immediate background check at the school's entrance, and then prints out a label with the person's name and photo ID if the system approves their entry.  The police department in Clarksville, Indiana purchased the system for the local elementary school.

Uniform Trafficking Law Heads To ND Governor:  North Dakota lawmakers are proposing a uniform law on human trafficking in an effort to move towards helping the victims.  Katherine Lymn of the Dickinson Press reports that Senate Bill 2107 would grant immunity to minors who committed prostitution offenses and other nonviolent crimes related to being trafficked, a law also known as Safe Harbor.  Adult victims would have their prostitution convictions and other related offenses expunged if the court determines the crime resulted from trafficking.  The bill is now headed to the governor for final approval.

Arkansas Parole Officers Overloaded:  In the state of Arkansas, 402 parole officers are responsible for the supervision of 52,292 parolees, equating to an average of 130 parolees per officer, or twice the national caseload average.  Josh Dooley of the Baxter Bulletin reports that with such large caseloads, officers say it is impossible to provide adequate supervision and they "just have to hope nothing bad happens."  Arkansas governor has approved funds to hire 45 additional parole officers over the next two years and add 500 beds in reentry programs across the state.

Bring Up, and Vote Down, an Amended JSVA

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The Justice Safety Valve Act, which would effectively nullify mandatory minimum sentencing in federal law, was so radical that its co-sponsor, Sen. Pat Leahy, would not bring it up last year in his own Committee.  In this, Sen. Leahy showed his typical canny feel for the lay of the land.  Committee chairmen tend not to bring up bills they know are so ideologically lopsided they'll go down in flames. 

Still, Sen. Leahy and Sen. Rand "no vaccinations" Paul have co-sponsored the same bill this year.  If Sen. Leahy were still the Chairman, I have no reason to believe he'd be any more willing to advance it than he was in the past.

Still, there could be value in having a vote on the bill in the SJC  --  having a vote, that is, if the bill were amended to give the public a more transparent look at what it's actually designed to do.

News Scan

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Crime Rise Puts LAPD In Difficult Position:  Los Angeles Chief of Police wants to send more than 200 officers from the highly trained, "elite" Metro Division to combat the city's first major crime increase in over ten years.  Kate Mather, Richard Winton and Cindy Chang of the LA Times report that the new data-driven, predictive policing strategy will transition from utilizing beat cops focused on building community relations to Metro officers employing their specialized tactical and weapons training.  Law enforcement officials have admitted that although the change is not ideal, something must be done to reverse the 26% increase in violent crime and 11% increase in property crime.

NE Bill Removing Mandatory Minimums Clears Senate:  Nebraska's proposed sentencing reform measure, which would limit the use of mandatory minimum sentences to reduce prison overcrowding, passed the state senate yesterday with a 28-9 vote.  Grant Schulte of the AP reports that the bill would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for certain felonies such a robbery and assault on a police officer, and would limit use of the "habitual criminal" enhancement.  Nebraska's Attorney General and some conservative senators criticize the bill for removing tools essential for prosecutors to do their jobs.  Supporters claim the law would not affect a judge's ability to impose long sentences for heinous crimes.

Tulane Body Camera Footage Will Not Be Public Record:  The footage obtained from body cameras of the Tulane University Police Department in Louisiana will not be made available to the public, according to the Office of General Counsel.  Brandi Doyal of the Hullabaloo reports that it is not a requirement for TUPD to release footage because "it is not a public body under the provisions of the Louisiana Public Records Act."  General Counsel states that the decision protects the rights of victims and perpetrators, but opponents of the policy feel that the public has the right to view the tapes.

Half The States Consider Right-To-Die Legislation:  Half of US states are considering medically assisted suicide legislation this year, which would "allow mentally fit, terminally ill patients age 18 and over, whose doctors say they have six months to live, to request lethal drugs."  Malak Monir of USA Today reports that Oregon, in 1997, was the first state to have "right-to-die" legislation written into law, and its practice has led to benefits in improving the quality of life for terminally ill patients in the state.  Opponents argue that the potential for mistakes and abuse offset any benefits.

Parolee Speeding To Make Curfew Kills Passenger:  A felon on parole was hurrying home on his motorcycle to comply with his curfew requirements when he crashed on Highway 99, killing his female passenger.  Bill Lindelof of the Sacramento Bee reports that witnesses told CHP officers that the driver was traveling at a high rate of speed and weaving through traffic.  He  was later found to be under the influence of alcohol and arrested for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving without a license, and violating parole.  The victim was 21-year-old.

While the defense is brainstorming to come up with psychobabble excuses for child shredder Dzhokahr Tsarnaev (or seeing what some social worker will agree to say), other grisly news continues apace.  This story caught my eye:

[A] Philadelphia woman accused of abandoning her quadriplegic son with cerebral palsy and leaving him alone in the woods for over five days with nothing but a blanket and a Bible will be charged with attempted murder once she is released from the hospital.

Isn't it a nice touch that she's the one in the hospital?

Still, we wouldn't want to get too tough here.  She left him a Bible, after all.

Nyia Parler, 41, is accused of leaving her 21-year-old son in a wooded area ...around 11 a.m. Monday before traveling to Montgomery County, Maryland to visit her boyfriend.

At least the trip was for something urgent.

"A lot of things could've happened out there," [Officer] Walker said. "Obviously he's in the middle of a wooded area. You have wild animals out there. You never know what's going to happen...."

Officials describe the victim as "non-verbal" and completely dependent on others for his care.

In my view, a jury should be able to consider the death penalty for behavior involving life-threatening harm, gross cruelty, and conduct outside the bounds of civilized life. In other words, it should be able to consider it here.







Should the Senate Vote on the JSVA?

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The question has been raised whether it would not improve the accountability and transparency of the legislative process for the Senate, or at least the Senate Judiciary Committee, to bring the Justice Safety Valve Act (JSVA) to a vote.

It's a fair enough question.


The JSVA's substantive provisions are, in full, as follows:

Authority to impose a sentence below a statutory minimum.

Section 3553 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

"(g) Authority To impose a sentence below a statutory minimum To prevent an unjust sentence.--

"(1) GENERAL RULE.--Notwithstanding any provision of law other than this subsection, the court may impose a sentence below a statutory minimum if the court finds that it is necessary to do so in order to avoid violating the requirements of subsection (a).

"(2) COURT TO GIVE PARTIES NOTICE.--Before imposing a sentence under paragraph (1), the court shall give the parties reasonable notice of the court's intent to do so and an opportunity to respond.

"(3) STATEMENT IN WRITING OF FACTORS.--The court shall state, in the written statement of reasons, the factors under subsection (a) that require imposition of a sentence below the statutory minimum.

"(4) APPEAL RIGHTS NOT LIMITED.--This subsection does not limit any right to appeal that would otherwise exist in its absence.".


I think the idea of having a vote, to increase accountability and transparency, is not without merit.  Indeed, I think what we need here is much more transparency. 


Last night I participated in a debate on the death penalty hosted by Intelligence Squared in New York.  See Bill's post yesterday.  We will post a link to the podcast when it is available.

I have participated in many debates on this subject over many years, but this one was exceptionally well done by the hosts.  It was very well produced, fairly structured, and well moderated.

IQ2 scores debates by having the live audience vote on the motion before the debate begins and again after it concludes.  The winner is the side with the greatest net votes changed in favor of its position.

The motion was that the death penalty be abolished, so a "yes" vote is a vote against the death penalty, and a "no" vote is a vote to keep the death penalty.  There is a potentially confusing double negative there, but the moderator explained the vote carefully enough that I doubt anyone was confused.  Our side was, of course, the "no" side.

And the result:

News Scan

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Measure to Reduce Recidivism Passes OK Senate:  House Bill 2179, a measure that seeks to reduce criminal recidivism by giving nonviolent offenders greater access to the workforce, has passed the Oklahoma Senate.  Edmond Sun reports that the bill would allow nonviolent offenders on probation to obtain commercial driver's licenses, rather than just a provisional license, which would make them more employable.  Offenders not on probation or those with suspended or revoked licenses resulting from a DUI would not be eligible to receive a CDL.

CA Bill On Date Rape Drugs Clears First Committee:  Assembly Bill 46, which would restore the ability to charge possession of date rape drugs as a felony, cleared the Assembly Public Safety Committee on a bipartisan vote yesterday.  Last November, California voters passed Proposition 47, which converted the possession of drugs, including date rape drugs, from a felony to a misdemeanor.  The Santa Clarita Valley Signal reports that the bill would create a new felony; possession of date rape drugs with intent to commit sexual assault, rather than directly converting possession to a felony.  This avoids the requirement that amendments to an initiative go before the voters.  

Over Half Million SSNs Issued To Illegal Immigrants:  More than a half-million new social security numbers have been issued by the Obama Administration to illegal immigrants granted amnesty under the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program.  Caroline May of Breitbart reports that DHS has approved more than 787,068 DACA applications as of December 31.  The issuance of these social security numbers means that thousands of illegal immigrants will be eligible for tax benefits and refunds.

Colorado Lawmakers Extend DNA Collection Serious Misdemeanors:  A new Colorado bill, HB 1312, would expand the state's ability to collect DNA, requiring that a sample be collected from adults convicted of one of the eight misdemeanors deemed serious.  Lance Hernandez of the Denver Channel reports that the measure will be a major help to law enforcement because DNA collection is cost effective, solves cold cases, and gets criminals off the streets.  However, right on cue, the ACLU voiced their opposition to the bill, citing it as an "erosion of our civil liberties."

Missouri Executes Third Murderer This Year:  The state of Missouri executed condemned murderer Andre Cole Tuesday for the 1998 stabbing murder of a friend of his ex-wife, who he also attempted to kill.   An Associated Press story reports that when Cole was behind on his child support payments he told co-workers that "before I give her another dime, I'll kill her."  When overdue support payments were deducted from his paycheck, Cole went to her home to carry out his promise.  The execution, which utilized pentobarbital,  was uneventful and took nine minutes. 


Let me remind readers that  Intelligence Squared is hosting a debate on abolition of the death penalty this evening in NYC.  Details are at this site.

Arguing for abolition are Diann Rust-Tierney of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project.

Arguing against are C&C's No. 1 blogger Kent Scheidegger, and Prof. Robert Blecker of New York Law School.

Tickets are $40 (students $12).  If you can't make it, the debate will be streamed live here at 6:45 EDT / 3:45 PDT.
There are reasons to vote for, and reasons to vote against, the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General.  Kent and I have discussed the question in several places.  

Kent has noted that Ms. Lynch, while not an ideal candidate from the perspective of those favoring resolute enforcement of criminal law, is about the best we can expect from this Administration.  I have expressed more than a little concern about Ms. Lynch's complicity is what she could not help knowing was perverse, and  -- much more troubling  --  unethical behavior by Judge John Gleeson.  On the other hand, I am favorably impressed with her refusal to adopt the liberal line on pot.

The vote on her nomination has not yet been taken in the Senate.  For whatever one might make of the procedural maneuvers involved, today we saw the announcement of an unusual but some might say compelling reason to delay the vote for weeks. Maybe months.

The Congress-following paper The Hill has the story.
Two years ago today, the ever-so-cute Dzhokhar Tsarneav planted a nail-filled pressure cooker bomb at the feet of an eight year-old boy, Martin Richard, he did not know and who had done him no harm.  It had the intended result:

The child lost so much blood, there was almost none left in his body. The Boston jihadi Tsarnaev "believed what he had done was good, that he is a Muslim soldier in a holy war against America and had taken a step to reaching paradise." 

And what was the take away?  "Beware Islamophobia!"  As NPR reports:

A moment of silence, a call for kindness and the pealing of the city's church bells will be the hallmarks of Boston's events noting the two-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon on Wednesday.

The moment of silence will be observed at 2:49 ET, the time when the first of two devastating bombs went off in the crowds gathered to watch the marathon in 2013.

Mayor Marty Walsh has declared April 15 One Boston Day, beginning a tradition that organizers say is about "resiliency, generosity, and strength of the people that make Boston the great city it is."


A somber and subdued attitude is, of course, fitting for this day.  A tribute to resiliency has its place.  Still, it's more telling than unfortunate that Mayor Walsh could find no room in his remarks for the most important word:


Justice.




Defendants' War on Black Children

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CNN (and numerous other outlets) covered today's sentencing of a number of Atlanta school teachers and administrators convicted in a huge cheating scandal that stretched back at least a decade.

The real victims of the cheating were not the taxpayers of Atlanta (although they got cheated, too).  They were thousands of children, overwhelmingly African-American, who were deprived of a fighting chance to get a decent education.

On display today was the kind of "it's-everybody-else's-fault" arrogance I saw again and again from defendants, belligerently abetted by their lawyers.

For those who say they care about children, about decent schools, about giving "the vulnerable" a chance, today was an object lesson.  Whose side was the prosecution on?  Whose side was the defense on?

See for yourself.
Sentencing "reform" advocates are endlessly frustrated that they make so little headway in Congress.  Unwilling to consider the possibility that their problem is that going softer on heroin and meth dealers just isn't an idea the majority of lawmakers (or the public) supports, a Boogeyman  --  a single, obdurate roadblock  -- must be found.

Today's Boogeyman (and a popular choice for the title) is Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Hence this from a leading sentencing "reform" site:

[E]ven if the vast majority of Senators strongly support significant reforms to federal mandatory minimum sentencing provisions or to federal marijuana provisions, Senator Grassley can ensure-- at least until 2017, and perhaps after that if the GOP retains control of the Senate -- that federal reform bills do not even get a committee hearing, let alone a committee vote.   Indeed, even if the vast majority of 300 million Americans, and even if the vast majority of the 718,215 Iowans who voted for Senator Grassley in 2010, would strongly favor a reform bill, the bill is likely DOA if Senator Grassley himself is not keen on the bill's particulars. Frustratingly, that is how our democracy now functions.

Ah, yes, the frustration of democracy.  Only there's this little catch........

News Scan

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Feds Releasing Hundreds Of Violent Illegal Immigrants:  Arrests and deportations of criminal aliens dropped 30% in the first six months of fiscal year 2015, despite President Obama's professed intention for agents to "focus on felons not families."  Stephen Diana of the Washington Times reports that 30,558 criminal aliens were "knowingly released back into the community" by ICE in 2014.  Together these aliens accumulated almost 80,000 convictions including violent crimes.  ICE Director Sarah Saldana defends the actions of the agency, stating that the laws passed under Congress require her to grant due process to everyone and make judgments about whom to keep detained.

Alien Children Allowed To Sue For Legal Representation:  A US District Court Judge in Washington state rejected a motion to dismiss a lawsuit that would grant legal representation to undocumented children facing deportation, ruling that their request for counsel "constituted an argument for due process."  Thomas Barrabi of the International Business Times reports that the ACLU filed the suit on behalf of Salvadorian sibling who immigrated illegally in 2013 to escape gang violence.  The ACLU has protested that mandatory detention of immigrants awaiting legal proceedings "violates the right to due process."

Tenn. Court Calls Off Scheduled Executions:  Four executions scheduled over the next year have been called off by the Tennessee Supreme Court to allow a trial court to review condemned murderer's challenges to the state's lethal injection protocol.  Mark Berman of the Washington Post reports that Tennessee is the latest state to halt executions while the courts consider challenges from Ohio, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Oklahoma.  The state plans to use the electric chair as its execution method of lethal injection is ruled unconstitutional or if the necessary drugs are no longer available.

Six Jacksonville Shootings In Three Days:  Jacksonville, Florida is reeling in the aftermath of six shootings in three days, leaving residents and law enforcement questioning whether the violence is gang-related.  Larry Spruill of Action News JAX reports that residents believe gang activity is the only explanation for the violence, because gangs have a large presence in the city.  Gang counselor Ivan Brown is certain that at least one of the shootings, the drive-by, was carried out by gang members.

News Scan

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Texas House Passes Border Prosecution Bill:  The Texas House of Representatives passed HB 12, a bill that formalizes the organizational structure of the Border Prosecution Unit.  Your Valley Voice reports that the BPU will operate as an independent unit, supporting attorneys that prosecute felony border crimes.  The unit will also act as a "clearinghouse" for information regarding the investigation and prosecution of border crimes, help to develop the best practices, and training programs for attorneys and law enforcement.

Law Would Stop Violent Felons From Owning Dogs:  A bill proposed by Wisconsin legislators would prevent felons convicted of "crimes against life and bodily security" from owning dogs.  Brenda McIntire of the Badger Herald reports that according to the senior humane animal control officer for the Green Bay Police Department, dogs can be trained to be dangerous, and can even be more threatening than a weapon because they act independently.  The bill is not breed-specific and outlines the behavior a dog would need to exhibit to be considered dangerous.

Bill To Limit Internet Access For Sex Offenders:  Texas lawmakers have introduced HB 372, a new bill that would require certain paroled sex offenders to have their internet access limited and monitored by the state.  Ashly Custer of Valley Central reports that there has been an increase in predators utilizing social media to prey on underage victims, according to the city of McAllen's police chief.  The bill will receive its third reading today.

Ohio's Death Penalty Law Faces Revision:  Two bipartisan Ohio senators are introducing a series of proposals to revise the state's capital punishment law, to improve fairness to defendants and strengthen public confidence.  Ann Sanner of the AP reports that the bill would require judges to be specific in their findings.  Court clerks would have to retain original trial file copies from death penalty cases, and attorneys would not be given a page limit on post-conviction petitions.  Some prosecutors on the task force created to analyze Ohio's 1981 law issued a dissenting report, claiming that many of the recommendations were rooted in anti-death penalty arguments.  Additional legislation should be introduced before July.

No Place to Execute Nevada Murderers:  With over 80 men on death row and no place to execute them, Nevada lawmakers are being asked to fund a new execution chamber.  Sean Whaley of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Department of Corrections Director Greg Cox is seeking approximately $829,000 to build a new execution chamber at Ely State Prison, but expects that architectural firms will avoid participating in the design.  The Public Works Board estimated that the project would take two years to complete.  

Eric Holder Gets One Right

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I have frequently been critical of Attorney General Holder, but I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and it is due here.

On the other hand, that he feels like he has to issue such instructions is a sorry comment on where DOJ is after more than six years of his "leadership."

Jack Weinstein, Move Over

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Judge Jack Weinstein of the Eastern District of New York made a name for himself with his 400-page memorandum purporting to justify an illegal 30 month sentence for a distributor of child pornography.  The Second Circuit was not buying it and unanimously reversed.  Not one to take correction by the higher court lying down, Weinstein issued a Holier-Than-Thou memorandum the next day setting the appellate judges straight (while grudgingly setting the case for re-sentencing).  I discussed the case here, here and here.

The case got so much attention from me because it illustrates why we have, and need, stern mandatory minimum sentencing.  Judges spent at least the 20 years after 1960 showing why they cannot be trusted with unlimited discretion.

The lesson was expensive (to crime victims) but simple:  They'll use it to benefit criminals; criminals will take the goodies; and crime will skyrocket, as it did before we came to our senses in the 1980's.

Today, a Weinstein wannabe in Southern California made the news with an even more graphic lesson.  This time, however, the victim could at least speak for herself. At least I think she could.  I mean, a person has learned to talk by the time she's three, right?


News Scan

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Man Arrested in AZ Has Been Deported 20 Times:  An Arizona man arrested following a high-speed chase is an illegal immigrant from Mexico who has been deported 20 times.  The AP reports that Genaro Cisneros-Delgado led a sheriff's deputy on a 30-mile car chase at dangerously high speeds before crashing through a locked gate and fleeing on foot with three other passengers.  The other passengers were also illegal immigrants from Mexico being smuggled by Cisneros-Delgado.  All four men were apprehended by law enforcement.

Man Avoids Death Penalty in 1997, Returns to Prison for Murder:  Targeted for the death penalty two decades ago for a 1994 robbery-murder, George Jones was sentenced to 30 years in prison.  He was released on parole in 2012, and is now back behind bars for another murder.  Bill Wichert of NJ reports that Jones pleaded guilty to reckless manslaughter in the 2013 murder.  His attorneys contend that he is mentally incompetent.  His sentencing is scheduled for May 5.

Study Says Sex Offenders May Have Linked Genes:  A 37-yearlong study of 20,000 men convicted of sex crimes in Sweden has revealed that genetics may play a role in the propensity toward sexual offending.  Don Melvin of CNN reports that the results of the study conclude that the biological sons of sex offenders were five times more likely than the norm to commit sex offenses.  One of the experts conducting the research believes using this information will be helpful to social workers who are working with families combating these issues.

Georgia to Allow Hormones for Transgender Inmates:  Georgia has ended its refusal to allow new hormone therapy to transgender inmates and is willing to provide treatment that is "constitutionally appropriate."  Deborah Sontag of the NY Times reports that Ashley Diamond, a transgender woman incarcerated at a men's facility, brought a lawsuit against the state claiming that her hormone treatment was illegally cut off.  The Justice Department sided with her, stating that the denial of her treatment violated prison officials' "obligation to assess and treat gender dysmorphia" as it would any other disease or mental condition.  Diamond is also suing the state for their failure to protect her from sexual violence.

New York City May Give Non-Citizens the Right to Vote:  The majority of the New York City council are in support of a bill that would give more than one million non-citizens full rights to vote in local elections, possibly solidifying "far-left dominance of New York City's government."  John Fund of the National Review reports that supporters of the bill feel that the interests of citizens and legal residents are synonymous, while opponents contest that voting is a right that must be earned through citizenship.  Mayor Bill de Blasio issued municipal ID cards to 500,000 undocumented immigrants last year, so it is unlikely that he will veto the bill.

Wednesday I appeared on the Diane Rehm radio show on WAMU, as noted and linked here. I got a considerable amount of feedback, most of it complementary.  I did receive one sharply critical email, though, regarding Debra Milke, and I do need to make a correction.  More broadly, the incident says something important about how folks on the anti side get their "facts."

First, a note about debates.  When I participate in one of these, I have no idea which cases the other side is going to bring up.  I have to discuss the facts of them from a memory that may not have been refreshed for a long time, if indeed I am familiar with the case at all.

I said that James Styers took Debra Milke's little boy out into the Arizona desert and put five bullets in the back of his head.  (I had a Skype link with the studio.  Ms. Rehm visibly winced at this point.)  My critical correspondent points out that it was only three bullets.  I stand corrected.  To anyone who thinks this is material, I apologize.  I don't think it is.

On the material facts, I stand by my description of the case, and therein lies the point of this post.

Jihad Wins on Campus

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Most readers will remember the liberal reaction to 9-11:  If the country goes overboard with restrictions on liberty, the Jihadists will have won.  Yes, we need to act, we need to protect ourselves, but we also need to remember that what they hate most about us is our freedom.  They cannot defeat us with weapons.  But if we start to whittle away our own liberties, if we close our minds, that is their victory.

Remember that?

Freedom of thought and speech was once thought to be most treasured, and most fiercely protected, on campus.  If there were any place where the chill of the post 9-11 world could be fought off, it would be there.

Well, not exactly.  The American campus has become the stronghold of intolerance  --  intolerance, but with a twist.
On the last day of March (thus shrewdly avoiding April Fools Day), President Obama granted 22 clemencies, the great majority to cases involving hard drugs.  I blogged about it here.  

I did not put forth a comprehensive theory of the standards for executive clemency, and it's probably imprudent to attempt such an ambitious enterprise on a blog. Nonetheless, and with all the modesty due from someone who involved himself more in putting criminals in prison rather than taking them out, I'll attempt at least a brief sketch.

The South Carolina Shooting

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On this blog we often choose not to comment on crime-related news stories when essential facts have yet to be established.  The news media are notorious for adopting a narrative that will propel what may be an unfortunate yet unremarkable local incident into an emotionally-charged national story.  This is particularly true with officer-involved shootings where the officer is white and the suspect is black.  In most such cases the media and a fraternity of recognized race-baiters have been proven totally wrong about what happened.  Sometimes, before the truth is known, there are riots, killings, and occasionally murders in retaliation for injustices later found to have not occurred.  There is no need to delay commenting on the April 4th shooting in North Charleston.

News Scan

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Chief Pitches Crime-Free Housing Program:  A new program combining education, permitting and enforcing initiatives for landlords is being proposed by the chief of police in Newton, Iowa.  Jamee A. Pierson of the Newton Daily News reports that the mandatory training will be required for all landlords, who will learn about crime prevention, resident selection, self-defense, background checks, and how to handle illegal activities and develop partnerships with law enforcement.  The goal of the program is to create safer, crime-free communities for landlords and tenants.

FL Senate Considers Statewide Body Cam Legislation:  Florida lawmakers are introducing a two part bill that would create a consistence policy for the use of body cameras in law enforcement.  WJHG reports that currently, thirteen agencies in the state are already using body cams, but there are no statewide guidelines on "who, how, or when they can be worn."  Civil rights advocates are concerned about issues of privacy trumping the "public's right to know," but law enforcement fully supports the legislation.

Convicted Dallas Area Cop Killer Set to Die:  With a newly purchased supply of pentobarbital, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice says that they have enough of the drug to carry out the executions of convicted cop killer Kent Sprouse and three other death row inmates scheduled to be executed this month.  Michael Graczyk of the AP reports that Sprouse confessed "almost immediately" to having fatally shot a police officer and another man outside of a convenience store in 2002.  His execution is scheduled for this evening.  He will be the fifth inmate executed in the state this year.  Update:  Sprouse was pronounced dead at 6:23 PM CST. 

Bill Proposes Post-Convicted Preservation of DNA:  House Bill 1069, which would require DNA samples collected in any felony case involving violence or sex offenses to be preserved through the length of the offender's sentence, was approved by the Washington Senate and is heading back to the House.  The AP reports that Washington doesn't automatically preserve DNA samples for serious felonies, instead requiring defendants to file motions demanding that the sample be preserved.  The Senate determined that samples are to be preserved for 99 years or the length of the statute of limitation, whichever one is shorter.

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