The More You Know About Pot...

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...the less you like it.

Last week it was the damage pot causes to brain development.  Today we learn of hazards to the heart as well:

In the United States, when young and otherwise healthy patients show up in emergency departments with symptoms of heart attack, stroke, cardiomyopathy and cardiac arrhythmia, physicians have frequently noted in case reports that these unusual patients are regular marijuana users.

Such reporting is hardly the basis for declaring marijuana use an outright cause of cardiovascular disease. But on Wednesday, cardiologists writing in the Journal of the American Heart Assn. warned that "clinical evidence ... suggests the potential for serious cardiovascular risks associated with marijuana use." And with a growing movement to decriminalize marijuana use, they called for data-collection efforts capable of detecting and measuring marijuana's cardiovascular impact among American users of cannibis setiva.

"There is now compelling evidence on the growing risk of marijuana-associated adverse cardiovascular effects, especially in young people," said Emilie Jouanjus, lead author of the French study...


For years, pot legalizers loudly insisted that we should ignore all those Puritans and listen to scientists.  I'm having more and more trouble hearing that insistence today.




The Death Penalty, Not So Dead

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The United States has had 19 executions so far this year, which is close to one-third over. Extrapolated over the entire year  --  which seems fair to do with this much of the year completed  --  that would mean 57 executions in 2014.  That would be the highest number in the last eight years, and the tenth highest in more than half a century.

The resurgence of the death penalty has taken place notwithstanding the latest fad in obstructionism, to wit, demands that states disclose the pharmacies from which they're obtaining the drugs used for lethal injections.  Earlier in the year, it appeared that this might be a fertile field for additional delay, but it hasn't worked out that way. The Supreme Court has turned away the last three requests for last-minute stays arguing the point, and just yesterday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously rejected a similar challenge (after temporarily giving itself two days to consider the merits).  [Editor's Note: Opinion text is here. - KS]

With the death penalty moving forward overseas as well, it would seem that reports of its demise were, as they say, greatly exaggerated.  But, while the death penalty is nowhere near the morgue, I heard a rumor that abolitionism just checked into the ER. 

News Scan

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CO Fourth Graders Sell Pot at School: School officials in Colorado are urging parents to keep their newly-legalized marijuana locked up and in a safe place after two fourth graders were caught selling the drug at their elementary school.  Clayton Sandell of ABC News reports that the two boys involved took the marijuana from the grandparent's home and began selling and trading it to other students.  One of the young boys took in $11 and an edible marijuana treat.  The students involved are expected to be suspended for a lengthy period of time. Officials have not said if any criminal charges will be filed.  

FL Executes Convicted Double-Murderer: A Florida man convicted in the double murder of his cousin and his cousin's wife was executed Wednesday evening after spending more than 20 years on the state's death row.  Susan Jacobson of the Orlando Sentinel reports that 47-year-old Robert Hendrix brutally murdered the young couple in an effort to prevent his cousin from testifying against him at burglary trial.  Hendrix became the fourth person executed by the state of Florida so far this year.

PRCS Offender Arrested in Major Drug Bust: A California man free on Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) under the Governor's Realignment law was arrested Wednesday afternoon in what Citrus Heights police are calling the city's largest drug bust.  Kim Minugh of the Sacramento Bee reports that 31-year-old Jeremy Zahn was arrested and charged with several felonies after officers searched a "stash house" and found multiple firearms, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, and 858 pounds of marijuana-which authorities say has an estimated street value of nearly $2.5 million.  Officers believe this trafficking operation began in September, around the time Zahn was released on PRCS.

The Racial Politics of Clemency

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The Obama Administration's Department of Justice is going all-out in its drive for clemency for a large segment of federal inmates convicted of drug offenses. It's also making a big display of it, with a prominent rollout this week.

Why?  And why now?

This is the depressing answer:  Politics, and specifically the politics of the mid-term elections, in which control of the Senate is widely thought to be at stake.

That answer probably seems counter-intuitive. The conventional wisdom is that Presidential clemency is a political loser.  It got a bad name with Clinton's midnight pardons on the way out the door, and hasn't really recovered. Polling confirms what common sense and experience tell us:  The public overwhelmingly thinks that the problem in the criminal justice system is not that we have too many prisoners serving sentences that are too long, but that too many criminals are released too early. This is why Presidential pardons have so often been given at Christmastime, which provides the cover of compassion in addition to being conveniently the month after the election.

So what's the difference this time?

Reasonable Applications

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If a criminal defendant argues a debatable question in his appeal in the state courts, those courts rule against him, and the U.S. Supreme Court declines to take up the case (as it does 99% of the time), should the defendant get another bite and the apple in the lower federal courts?  Should a single federal district judge or a three-judge panel of the federal court of appeals be able to effectively overturn the considered judgment of the state supreme court?

For a long time, that was the way it worked.  Perhaps there was a policy justification for it at the time, but beginning in the mid-1970s, the Supreme Court and Congress have been pushing the law in the other direction.  Most debatable constitutional questions in criminal cases today are far removed from the real Constitution and rarely have much to do with our confidence we have the right guy.  On top of that, the asymmetric nature of habeas corpus make it a "heads I win, tails we take it over" form of review tilting in the defendant's favor, a tilt that is unnecessary and unjust when we are not talking about questions of actual innocence.

A big leap forward was made in 1996, when Congress enacted that a claim decided on the merits by the state court could not be the basis for a federal writ of habeas corpus unless the state decision "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States" or was "based on an unreasonable determination of the facts."

Defendant-leaning federal judges hate this law and have been evading it ever since.  The Supreme Court smacks them down, sometimes harshly, but as one of the worst is rumored to have said, "they can't reverse them all."

Another smackdown came today.  In addition to strong words, though, the Supreme Court closed a loophole, making an important advance for justice.

News Scan

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Convicted Double-Murderer Put to Death: The state of Missouri executed 57-year-old William Rousan early Wednesday morning for his role in the 1993 murders of an elderly farming couple.  Carey Gillam of Reuters reports that Rousan, along with his son and brother, orchestrated the killings in an effort to steal the couple's cattle.  Missouri has executed one death row inmate each month since November, the next scheduled execution is set to take place May 21.

Man Wants 'Murder' Tattoo Removed Before Trial
: A Kansas man awaiting trial for first-degree murder is asking to have a tattoo with the word 'Murder' removed from his neck, fearing that the tattoo may negatively affect his case.  Jessica Chasmar of the Washington Times reports that Jeffrey Chapman's defense attorney has filed a motion asking that a tattoo artist be allowed to either remove or cover up the tattoo across his client's neck before the trial begins on Monday.  Prosecutors aren't opposed to Chapman removing the tattoo, but county police have said they will not transport the man to a tattoo parlor for removal.  State law only permits tattoo artists to work in a licensed facility- eliminating the option removing Chapman's tatoo in jail.  Prosecutors have instead suggested that Chapman cover up his neck with a bandage or some type of clothing instead. 

Georgia Law Expands Gun Rights: Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has signed what many are calling an 'unprecedented' bill expanding gun rights for licensed owners.  Fox News reports that the bill increases the list public places where licensed gun owners are allowed to carry guns, including bars, churches, and some government buildings.  The bill also allows for school districts to decide whether or not employees will be allowed to carry firearms under certain conditions, and eliminates the fingerprinting requirement for those renewing weapons carry licenses.

What to Do About Over-Zealous Prosecutors

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First, we have to define what an over-zealous prosecutor is. That's the easy part:  An over-zealous prosecutor is one who's awake during business hours.

Second, we have to devise a plan of action.  You might think that endless accusations of Brady violations (whether grounded or not) would do the job.  But that's getting to be old hat.  So we might want to move on to assassinating his witnesses.  On the other hand, that didn't seem to work out too well.

So on to today's story:

As the kidnappers pulled into a quiet, upscale golf course community, they thought they were about to abduct an assistant district attorney who sent a high-ranking gang member to prison for life, authorities said.

But they had the wrong address and when the prosecutor's father answered the door, they took him instead.

For five days, authorities said the kidnappers held 63-year-old Frank Janssen captive in an Atlanta apartment, tormenting his family by sending text messages threatening to cut him into pieces if police were called or their demands weren't met. They even sent a photo of him tied up in a chair.


Unlike many of my colleagues in academia, I don't think for a minute that this episode is the result of a "climate of hate" against DA's.  It's the result of good old fashioned criminality.  Still, one would hope that those endlessly spinning hateful tales about prosecutors might give it a moment's thought.



A very quick note:  I will be on public radio station KCRW in Los Angeles in a few minutes to talk about DOJ's clemency initiative announced this morning.

Thank God for Your Enemies

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In my first year at the Justice Department, one of the senior lawyers  --  seeing that I was frustrated by all the amicus briefs that had been filed opposing the government's position -- told me, "Thank God for your enemies."

It was a tremendous insight.  From that day forward, I spent a lot of time hoping and praying that any organization aligned with, say, Al Sharpton, would line up against me.  The more furiously it denounced the argument I was making, the surer I was that I was right.

I got that same feeling this morning when I found out that President Bartlett, a/k/a the left wing actor Martin Sheen from "The West Wing," has endorsed the Smarter Sentencing Act. Mother Jones, appropriately enough, has the story.

With any luck, by the end of the week, Hell's Angels  --  an organization with not a few drug traffickers in it  --  will hold a press conference with a similar endorsement, which ought to be enough to sink this awful thing once and for all.

Win in White v. Woodall

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The U.S. Supreme Court has reversed the Sixth Circuit in White v. Woodall, reinstating the death sentence of Robert Woodall for the murder of 16-year-old Sarah Hansen in Kentucky.  The vote was 6-3, opinion by Justice Scalia.  We will have more later.

The Court also decided the child porn restitution case, Paroline v. United States, admitting its "approach is not without difficulties."  Yep.
Chicago, Illinois has among the most restrictive gun laws in the county, and no death penalty.  Capital punishment was abolished in Illinois three years ago.

With more enlightened punishment certain to increase public respect for the fairness of the law (as we are ceaselessly told), and with stringent regulation of guns making the streets safer, Chicago must be on the way to setting an example for the nation.

And, in truth and in fact, it is setting an example --  exactly the example you'd expect when thugs see that the rest of us are losing our nerve.

News Scan

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Murder Suspect Accused of Shooting Witness While on Bail: An Alabama man free on bail for a murder charge has been arrested and his bail revoked after authorities say he robbed and shot a witness that was set to testify against him.  Scott Johnson of the Montgomery Advertiser reports that 24-year-old Satarus Smith was charged with murder in December 2013, but was released after posting a $75,000 bond, police say he shot a witness to the December killing in the face earlier this month, leaving that man with a broken jaw.  Smith now faces additional charges of assault, robbery, and intimidating a witness.

OK Court Puts Two Executions on Hold: In a 5-4 decision, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in favor of two death row inmates seeking to delay their upcoming executions.  Tim Talley of the Associated Press reports that the two inmates, both convicted murderers, were granted a stay of execution after challenging Oklahoma's secrecy protocol concerning the source of  its lethal injection drugs.  One of the inmates, Clayton Lockett, convicted of murdering a 19-year-old woman, was scheduled to be executed Tuesday evening.  Charles Warner, convicted of killing an 11-month-old child, was set for execution on April 29.

Thousands of Crack Cocaine Offenders Expected to Apply for Clemency: Thousands of federal prisoners serving sentences for crack cocaine offenses are expected to apply for release when the Justice Department announces new clemency rules later this week.  Bill Mears of CNN reports that the new criteria is aimed at addressing disparities between powder and crack cocaine sentences.  Attorney General Eric Holder is anticipating a dramatic increase in the number of individuals eligible for early release.  In addition to the changes regarding clemency, Holder has been encouraged prosecutors to be more flexible when charging  certain non-violent offenders, urging rehabilitation rather than incarceration for those offenders.

BJS Study Tracks Recividism

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The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released a study tracking the rearrest rate of 405,000 felons released from prison in 30 states.  The BJS press release is here.  The study examines ex-convicts released in 2005 who were rearrested for a new crimes over the next five years.  More than 57% of those released were rearrested in the first year.   By the third year 68% had been rearrested.  After five years 77% had been rearrested at least one time, with many rearrested more than once.  In total, ex-convicts released from prison in 2005 were rearrested 1.2 million times for new crimes.   Property criminals, including burglars, car thieves, and identity thieves were rearrested at the highest rate of 82%.  77% of drug offenders, typically drug dealers, were rearrested over the five year period.  Recividism was highest among blacks, followed by Hispanics and whites.  Age and sex were also major factors with 84% of those 24 or younger rearrested.  The rearrest rate dropped to 69% for those 40 or older.  78% of males were rearrested compared to 68% of females. 

There will be two varieties of spin put on this study.  The first and most publicized will come from "Smart on Crime" advocates, which includes the ACLU, the Urban Institute, the Sentencing Project and much of academia.  They will point to these findings as proof that fixed and progressively severe consequences for criminals, such as mandatory minimums and habitual criminal sentencing have failed to rehabilitate criminals.  We will be told that the current transition to alternative sentencing featuring "evidence based practices" and treatment programs will help to reform the current racially biased system, lower the recividism rate, improve  public safety, and remove the stigma on America as the "incarceration nation."  

     

"Racist" Drug Enforcement

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One reason offered for legalizing drugs (or for legalization lite, a/k/a the Smarter Sentencing Act) is that drug enforcement is racist.  Sometimes the argument is that enforcement is explicitly racist, thus mirroring arguments in the stop-and-frisk debate in New York City. Other times, it's that the racism is implicit, because the police focus resources in areas that are certain to produce a disproportionate number of minority (mostly black) arrests.

My own experience is that drug enforcement agents go where reasonable suspicion leads them, which is exactly what any rational person would want.  That would certainly appear to be the case today, arising from the area (Main Line Philadelphia) where I grew up.


911 and Traffic Stops

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If a motorist calls 911 and reports having been run off the road, is that sufficient cause for police to stop a vehicle fitting the caller's description?  I would think so.  The Supreme Court decided it was this morning, in a surprisingly close 5-4 decision, Navarette v. California.

For those who like to keep track of ideological designations, the split indicates once again that a one-dimensional liberal-conservative model doesn't hack it.  Libertarianism is an different (though not necessarily orthogonal) dimension.  Justice Breyer was in the majority favoring the government; Justice Scalia wrote the dissent.

Sticking to Procedure

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After the defendant, Siale Angilau, an alleged gang member on trial in federal court in Utah for racketeering conspiracy, became so disruptive today that the proceedings had to be ended, the judge sua sponte declared a mistrial, saying, "The court finds that this occurrence in the courtroom would so prejudice Mr. Angilau as to deprive him of a fair trial."

Well, yes, that's one way to put it. The "occurrence in the courtroom" was that Angilau charged the witness stand so suddenly and aggressively that a courtroom deputy had to shoot him. He died in the hospital shortly afterward.  CNN has the story.

And, yes, I suppose the thing to do is to declare a mistrial, since the jury might indeed draw some conclusions about Mr. Nicey.  On the other hand, I think the court can now withdraw the mistrial order as moot.

P.S.  Maybe the Innocence Project can add this one to their "exoneration" list, since the trial ended without a resolution favorable to the prosecution, and the government is unable to pursue a second trial.

How Legalized Pot Is "Carefully Regulated"

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The title of this post is, of course, a joke.  Legalized pot was never intended to be carefully regulated, and the promises made to voters in the legalization campaigns were just blowin' smoke, as it were.

On Easter Sunday, the Capital of Legalization, Denver, hosted a huge throng of potheads who made the point.  As this CBS News story recounts (emphasis added):  

Tens of thousands gathered for a weekend of Colorado cannabis-themed festivals and entertainment, from a marijuana industry expo called the Cannabis Cup, to 4/20-themed concerts - acts include Snoop Dogg - to a massive festival in the shadow of the state capitol.

Although it is still against the law to publicly smoke marijuana in Colorado, police only reported 63 citations or arrests on Sunday, 47 for marijuana consumption. They said they had issued 21 citations on Saturday. All were for public consumption of marijuana. One person was arrested Saturday on suspicion of attempting to distribute the drug.

The pot holiday started as a defiant gathering of marijuana activists, but this year the event had an official city permit, was organized by an events management company and featured booths selling food, hemp lollipops and glass pipes.


There is zero chance the officials who granted the permit did not know this was going to turn into a very big and very public pot party.  They lied when they were going on and on to the voters about "careful regulation."  But they knew that  --  guess what  --  no one would hold them to account.  When you're a druggie, there's no problem checking the "truth optional" box.

News Scan

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Chicago Police Accused of Altering Crime Statistics: An impressive decrease in Chicago's crime rate has the city's Police Superintendent celebrating while members of the community are questioning the validity of the numbers and accusing the police of 'cooking the stats'.  Warner Huston of Breitbart reports that an investigation conducted by Chicago Magazine revealed that the city's Mayor and Police Superintendent misrepresented some murders and other violent crimes for example, listing a homicide as a "non-criminal death" after the coroner couldn't determine exactly how a victim was killed.  Investigators also discovered that serious felonies such as robberies and assault were sometimes misclassified, downgraded, or removed from the crime stats all together.

Serial Rapists Remain Free due to Rape Kit Backlog: A report published by the Detroit Free Press has revealed that a backlog in testing more than 10,000 rape kits has allowed serial rapists to remain free on the streets and in some cases commit more attacks.  The Associated Press reports that 11,000 untested rape kits were found in a Detroit police storage facility in 2009, since then, only 2,000 of them have been tested. The Michigan state Legislature recently approved a $4 million measure that will send the remaining  kits to private labs to be tested by the end of the year.  The backlog has been blamed on the 2008 closure of the Detroit's crime lab.

Nebraska Impacted by Colorado Pot Legalization: Nebraska law enforcement officers are growing frustrated with the money and time being spent on the arrest and prosecution people buying legal pot in Colorado.  David Hendee of the Omaha World-Herald reports that law enforcement agencies in western Nebraska have become exponentially busier dealing with cases that involve marijuana that was purchased legally in Colorado, but still remains illegal in the state of Nebraska.  State Attorney General Jon Bruning has said he hasn't ruled out the possibility of taking Colorado to court over increasing Nebraska's law enforcement costs.


 
In a word, no.

The charge of racism is explosive, since little would be less acceptable in, or more corrosive if found to be influencing, federal prosecutorial decision-making.  It's thus unfortunate that the defense bar and its allies make this charge thoughtlessly and routinely.

Perhaps studying would be better than bellowing.  The National Institute of Justice took a look at the question. Here are some of its important findings:

[T]here is little systematic evidence of age, race and gender disparities in U.S. Attorney decisions regarding which cases are accepted and which are declined for prosecution.  The most common reason for case declinations reported by U.S. Attorneys was weak or insufficient evidence.  Second, there is some evidence of disparities in charge reductions, but they operate in opposite directions for gender and race.  Male defendants were less likely than female defendants to receive charge reductions but black and Hispanic defendants were slightly more likely than white defendants to receive them. 

The entire report, which is not short, is here.

Hold the Phone on the SSA

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The primary argument for the Smarter Sentencing Act  --  the proposal that would slash by half mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealers  --  is that MM's, though often only a half to a third of what the guidelines range would be for a given offender, are still unnecessarily harsh, and are driving the federal prison budget through the roof.  To save money if for no other reason, we need for these offenders to be spending less time behind bars.

It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that we don't need a statutory change to do that. The President has always had unilateral power to reduce what he views as excessive sentences. Still, many have argued, up to now, that citing his clemency power is like citing the Abominable Snowman, because it never really seems to show up where anyone can see it.

That's where today's long and seemingly well-informed Yahoo news article comes in. It reports that the President is making ready to issue "hundreds if not thousands" of sentencing commutations to exactly the people the SSA is designed for.  And this is not the first time we've heard about this.

With the President apparently making ready to fix the "problem" at which the SSA is aimed (assuming one views it as a "problem"),  and simultaneously demonstrating that he's more than ready to fix such "problems" should they arise in the future, Congress should, at the minimum, defer action on the SSA to see what the lay of the incarceration land is after what is shaping up as the President's sweeping action.
This morning the United States Supreme Court agreed to review a case in which police officers made a traffic stop for what they believed in good faith was a violation.  The case is Heien v. North Carolina, No. 13-604.  SCOTUSblog's case page has links to the cert-stage pleadings and the state supreme court opinion.

Can the police stop a car if one of its brake lights is out?  I always thought so.  I would consider it a favor to be told that and let off with a warning, if I were unaware of the failure.  In this case, the officer was suspicious of the vehicle for other reasons and looking for a reason to stop the car and request consent to search.  The Supreme Court held some years back that it will not look beyond the objective legality of the stop to ulterior motives.

Turns out that in North Carolina no published decision had ever held whether a car must have all brake lights working or just one, and the intermediate appellate court held in this case that one will do.  This is a clear case of a police officer obeying the law as he understands it at the time of the search, but the defendant seeks suppression based on a new interpretation of the law ex post facto.

Is this a proper case for application of the drastic remedy of exclusion of valid, probative evidence?  Not in my book.  The question the trial court needed to decide in this case was whether Heien was trafficking cocaine.  The evidence proves he was, beyond a reasonable doubt, and that evidence is not challenged on any ground relating to its reliability.  That should be the end of the criminal case.

The Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule should be abolished altogether.  The Fourth Amendment should be enforced in civil cases where its purported violation is the central issue.  Until that day comes, the exclusionary rule should be limited to bad-faith violations.

The high court also took up Johnson v. United States, No. 13-7120, asking whether a prior conviction of possession of a short-barreled shotgun is a "violent felony" for purposes of the federal Armed Career Criminal Act.

NSA Surveillance

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There are numerous questions about NSA surveillance:  How much is going on, what information does it actually collect, are government officials telling us the truth, has it helped us capture or kill terrorists, and is the erosion of privacy worth the candle?

The Federalist Society had a superb panel on these questions at its National Student Convention in Florida last month.  Two of the speakers really went at it, Prof. Randy Barnett of Georgetown and Stewart Baker, a former Bush Administration official.  A recording of the panel is here, and is very much worth your time if you're interested in this issue.  Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey also had some telling remarks.

My own views are, to be honest, insufficiently informed for me to say anything and be confident I'm right.  On the one hand, the present Administration has shown itself to be less than either competent or honest in dealing with this powerful tool.  On the other, we have seen what terrorists can do, and the need to prevent their success is prepossessing.

For however that may be, I ran across a take on the subject that's just too rich to pass up.

Pot Tourism

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As expected, Colorado's legalization of marijuana is producing an influx of tourists.  College student Levy Pongi, 19, traveled with friends from Wyoming to Denver to try it.  He jumped to his death from a hotel balcony.  AP reports:

DENVER (AP) -- A college student eats more than the recommended dose of a marijuana-laced cookie and jumps to his death from a hotel balcony.

A husband with no history of violence is accused of shooting his wife in the head, possibly after eating pot-infused candy.

The two recent deaths have stoked concerns about Colorado's recreational marijuana industry and the effects of the drug, especially since cookies, candy and other pot edibles can be exponentially more potent than smoking a joint.

"We're seeing hallucinations, they become sick to their stomachs, they throw up, they become dizzy and very anxious," said Al Bronstein, medical director of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center.

Incidents such as this do not, of course, establish that prohibition enforced by criminal law is necessarily the best policy.  What they do establish is that the pro-pot crowd is engaging in a propaganda campaign.  I call it "reverse reefer madness."  Just as in the past proponents of prohibition ridiculously exaggerated the harmful effect of marijuana, proponents of legalization today falsely minimize or even deny the harmful effects.  Distortion of the truth is wrong whichever way it goes.  We need to move forward in this debate with our eyes wide open.

And why would anyone drive all that way for legal marijuana?  Surely illegal marijuana is readily available in Wyoming.

Legal status does make a difference to some people, clearly.  Legalization will increase consumption.  Pretending it won't is yet another distortion.

Abolitionism, Meet Reality

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Pro-criminal interest groups and academics are constantly admonishing us that we should use "evidence-based sentencing."  The problem is that they don't want consideration of anything a normal person would consider "evidence."  Instead, the "evidence" upon which we are told we should rest our gaze inevitably turns out to be  --  guess what  --  some slanted "study" or "report" done by these self-same groups.

Actual evidence is not hard to come by, however.  You can find it just by opening your local paper, as I did over lunch.  Here's the headline I saw:

Maryland jury finds Darrell Bellard guilty in drug-related quadruple slaying.

The story is as depressing as it is instructive.
Did Dzhokhar Tsarnaev know what he was doing, and intend to do it, when he planted the bomb that killed three people and grievously injured dozens more?

Well, read his own words

When asked to comment, one of his numerous defense lawyers refused, but was willing to say, "If the government's indictment is true, this [case] is about a family...a story of this family and the relationships between the people in [it]."

Well, not really.  It's a story about a Jihadist whose response to the generous welcome this country gave him was to hate it and kill its people with a home made, shrapnel-packed bomb.
Is it that we've locked up to many criminals, or that we have too much crime?

Congressional backers of slashing mandatory minimum sentences plainly believe the former.  Their main slogan is "incarceration nation," and they claim there's a "bi-partisan consensus" to cut the prison population.

One thing I learned in my days as a litigator is to listen for what you're not hearing. What I never seem to hear, amidst all these claims of consensus, is any polling results among ordinary people.  This makes a suspicious man like me wonder whether backers of so-called "reform" know enough to prefer not to take a poll; with all the George Soros money they've got, they could certainly commission one if they wanted.

I just stumbled across a poll, although it's a year old and asks a slightly different question. It's from Rasmussen, and I'll quote the (very short) story in full (emphasis added):

Americans feel even more strongly that the biggest problem with the criminal justice system is that too many criminals are set free. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 68% of U.S. adults believe that the bigger problem with law enforcement and the legal system is that too many criminals are released, not that too many innocent people are arrested. Eighteen percent (18%) hold the opposite view and think the bigger problem is that too many innocent people are arrested. Fifteen percent (15%) are undecided.

What backers of the Smarter Sentencing Act mean when they say there's a "consensus" in favor of the bill is now clear:  There's a consensus among cozy interest groups and academic leftists.  Talk to the man on the street, and it's a different story. 


News Scan

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Tennessee May Revive Electric Chair: The Tennessee House has adopted a bill that will allow use of the electric chair as an alternative execution method if lethal injection drugs are unavailable.  Erik Schelzig of the Associated Press reports that the bill would keep lethal injection as the preferred method of execution, but will allow the electric chair if execution drugs are not available or executions are delayed by legal challenges to the protocol.  Last week the state Senate passed similar bill.  Tennessee is currently holding 76 condemned murderers on death row.  The state has not carried out an execution since 2009.

NE Murderer May Receive Death Penalty: A Nebraska man who went on a 10-day murder spree days after being released from prison has been convicted of four murders may receive a death sentence.  Katie Knapp Schubert of Reuters reports that 27-year-old Nikko Jenkins began the killing spree less than two weeks after he was released from prison after serving a 10-year sentence for robbery.  A three judge panel will determine if Jenkins is eligible for the death sentence.  Nebraska has put just three people to death since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld capital punishment in 1976.  The last execution was in 1997.

Heroin Use Increasing Across the U.S.: Law enforcement officials from around the country are beginning to voice concerns about the growing problem of heroin use which in many parts of the county is killing more people than violent crime and car crashes.  Kevin Johnson of USA Today reports that a surge in the availability and purity of heroin has dramatically increased  overdoses. In 2012, roughly half of New York City's 730 drug overdose fatalities were from heroin and other opiates.  That was twice the number of NYC murder victims that year.  A yet-to-be released National Drug Threat Assessment rated heroin as the second highest drug risk behind methamphetamine.  "This kind of sneaked up on us,'' said Attorney General Eric Holder, who supports reduced sentences for drug dealers.   

On Brodway. Or is it Broadwey?

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Off topic but funny, Ellen Huet has this post at SFGate on typos literally set in concrete in the City by the Bay.
Lynne Tuohy reports for AP:

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire's Senate has voted to leave intact the state's centuries-old death penalty.

Lawmakers voted 12-12 Thursday on a death penalty repeal measure. The tie means capital punishment will stay on the books.

Last month, the House voted in favor of repeal, and Gov. Maggie Hassan (HASS'-ehn) had said she would sign the measure into law.

My understanding was that the governor had said she would sign it only if she were confident it would not prevent the execution of cop-killer Michael Addison.  Given the immediate attack on existing sentences in Connecticut, despite a very clear prospective-only clause in the bill, nobody can honestly guarantee that.

Hopefully the voters of New Hampshire, and other states, will elect more persons of sense in the coming election, the repeal threats will recede, and we can get back to the business of reforming the review process to make the penalty effective.

News Scan

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PA Mayor to Limit Police Cooperation with Immigration Officers: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is expected to sign an executive order to limit collaboration efforts between his city's police department and federal immigration authorities.  Julie Shaw of Philly News reports that the order would prevent police from honoring detainer requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement unless the case involves a person convicted of a first or second-degree felony.  Prior to this order, ICE officials were able to request that a person suspected of being a non-citizen be held by city police up to 48 hours until immigration officers could take custody of them.

CO Police Suspect Accused Murderer was Hallucinating from Marijuana: Denver police are investigating to determine if a man accused of fatally shooting his wife Monday was hallucinating from edible marijuana.  Paresh Dave of the Los Angeles Times reports that the man's wife called 911 Monday night and told the dispatcher that her husband was "talking about the end of the world" and hallucinating, and mentioned that he may have eaten some marijuana. During the 911 call, 47-year-old Richard Kirk retrieved a gun from a locked safe and shot his wife in the head while the couple's three children hid in a bedroom.  Kirk was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder, but has not yet been officially charged.

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