A Prop. 66 Landslide?

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The Institute for Social Research at Sacramento State U. has this poll of 622 likely California voters surveyed October 7-13.

Proposition 66 would aim to speed up the death penalty court process in California. For example, it would require the superior court to review initial petitions, increase the number of available attorneys to accept those appeals, and allow condemned inmates to be housed at any state prison.

Do you plan to vote 'YES' to change these death penalty court procedures, or 'NO' to make no changes to existing procedures?

51%      Yes (1)
20         No (2)
29         Undecided/Don't Know (8)

News Scan

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KS High Court Upholds Death Sentence:  The Kansas Supreme Court upheld the death sentence on Friday of a man who raped and murdered a college student two decades ago.  Amy Renee Leiker of the Wichita Eagle reports that Gary Kleypas, the state's first death row inmate, was tried twice for the 1996 rape, torture and murder of Carrie Williams, 20.  In 2001, his conviction and death sentence were overturned by the Supreme Court, but following a retrial in 2008, jurors handed down a second death sentence.  The ruling is the third death sentence over the past year to be upheld by the state high court, which also affirmed the death sentences of serial killer John Robinson Jr. and cop killer Scott Cheever.

AL Inmate Asks for Stay of Execution:  An Alabama death row inmate has requested a stay of execution by an appellate court until a ruling is issued on his challenge to the state's lethal injection process, just a few short weeks ahead of his scheduled execution.  Kim Chandler of the AP reports that Tommy Arthur, 74, asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday to stay his Nov. 3 execution, arguing that the state's lethal injection procedure is unconstitutional because it causes pain and suffering.  Arthur's challenge was initially dismissed by a federal judge in July after Arthur failed to name a viable execution alternative, required by the U.S. Supreme Court of inmates challenging death penalty procedures.  Lawyers representing the state argue that Alabama's execution method is essentially identical to Oklahoma's, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld.  Arthur faces execution for killing businessman Troy Wicker in a 1982 murder-for-hire scheme.

CA's Early Release Program Under Scrutiny:  California's early release program continues to raise questions and concerns when so-called "non-violent second-strikers" are released from prison and quickly reoffend.  Sarah Dowling of the Woodland Daily Democrat reports that a slew of measures were enacted in the state beginning in early 2015 with the objective of relieving prison overcrowding, including early parole consideration for inmates classified as "non-violent second-strikers."  To be eligible for release under the program, inmates must not be serving time for a crime deemed a "violent felony" and cannot be a registered sex offender.  Offenders that qualify become eligible for parole consideration once 50% of their sentence has been served, or they are within 12 months of having served 50% of their sentences.  In Yolo County alone, 26 inmates were released early under the program, even though District Attorney Jeff Reisig opposed it, and six of them have been rearrested for crimes such as domestic violence, drug possession and resisting arrest.  Statewide, over 2,900 convicted felons have been released early under the program.

Mac Donald v. Solomon

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In a written debate regarding what the next presidential administration's policing and criminal justice policies should be, published on on Real Clear Policy, Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald and Danyelle Solomon from the Center for American Progress face off.  This is the third part of a series on major policy ideas, from left to right.  It is worth reading.

Here is Mac Donald's piece, here is Solomon's and here are their responses to each other.
A:  In a word, no.  Not close.

I want to follow up on Kent's post about the Gallup poll on sentencing, focusing specifically on drugs. My reason is that the sentencing reform proposals in Congress concentrate mainly on lowering drug sentences. This has also been the focus of the (liberal majority) Sentencing Commission in recent years. 

One of the things I often hear when I debate sentencing "reform" is that lowering sentences is the politically astute thing for Republicans to do.

That is simply false.
As noted in a CJLF press release last month, the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) reported a 3% increase in violent crime in 2015 over 2014.  Today, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that its National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) showed no statistically significant change.  The lesson here is in the limitations of statistics.
Justin McCarthy has this article for Gallup. 

Q:  In general, do you think the criminal justice system in this country is too tough, not tough enough or about right in its handling of crime?

A: 45% not tough enough, 35% about right, 14% too tough, 6% duh.

Gallup headlines the fact that "not tough enough" has dropped substantially over the years, but most of that drop has gone to the Goldilocks answer of "about right."  Despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth we have heard from academia and the press over the last decade or so, only 1 American in 7 thinks the system is too tough.

The other half of the split sample was asked specifically about drugs, with a quite different result:

News Scan

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Deputy is 4th CA Officer Slain in 2 Weeks:  A California deputy was fatally shot Wednesday while responding to a disturbance call, marking the fourth time in two weeks that a law enforcement officer was killed in the line of duty in the state.  The AP reports that Modoc County sheriff's Deputy Jack Hopkins, 31, who joined the force last year, was shot and killed after he and other deputies responded to a call near the Oregon border.  A suspect was taken into custody but no other details have been released.  Hopkins's death comes just weeks after a Los Angeles County sheriff's sergeant was shot and killed in Lancaster while responding to a burglary call and two Palm Springs officers were gunned down while responding to a domestic disturbance. 

OH Father Sentenced to Death for Killing Daughter:  After deliberating for less than an hour on Monday, a jury recommended death for an Ohio man who starved and beat his two-year-old daughter to death.  CBS reports that Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Megan Shanahan affirmed the jury's recommendation, sentencing Glen Bates, 34, to death for aggravated murder in the death of his daughter, Glenara.  Glenara died in March 2015, the cause of death revealed to be blunt force trauma.  An autopsy found that she had belt and bite marks, bruises, missing teeth, broken ribs, head trauma and other injuries.  Prosecutors say she was slammed against the wall by Bates.  Additionally, Glenara weighed just 13 pounds when she died, though the average weight of a two-year-old is over 20 pounds.  Glenara's mother, Andrea Bradley, is also facing aggravated murder charges and has pleaded not guilty.  Bates plans to appeal his sentence.

"The morality of preserving the death penalty":  John Phillips has this piece in the OC Register arguing against Proposition 62, a California ballot initiative that would abolish the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole.  Phillips disagrees with death penalty abolitionists' argument that the practice is a waste of taxpayer money and immoral, believing that not only is capital punishment a good use of resources, but "the moral answer to society's most immoral people."  Two stats, he asserts, are significant to the his argument in favor of the death penalty:  The state has never executed an innocent person and the recidivism rate is zero among those executed.   CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger, an author for Proposition 66, an opposing measure that would save the death penalty and expedite executions, says, "If the death penalty is abolished on Tuesday, the drive to abolish life without parole begins Wednesday."

Georgia Executes Cop Killer

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The State of Georgia executed Gregory Lawler last night for the murder of Atlanta police officer John Sowa in 1997.  Lawler wounded Officer Pat Cocciolone in the same incident.  Rhonda Cook has this story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the execution and this earlier one on the denial of executive clemency.  The U.S. Supreme Court's "green light for the green mile" order is here.

Cook notes that the basis of the clemency petition was "Lawler's recently diagnosed autism."  Seriously, now.  The man was 63.  If he had autism in the severity that would justify clemency, everyone who knew him in his entire life would have known it.  It would not be a recent discovery.

Georgia evidently still has pentobarbital.

Last night, when I heard Donald Trump decline to pledge to accept the result of the election, I understood him to mean that in the event we have an outcome like 2000 he reserved the right to file a challenge like Al Gore did in Florida.  Reading the papers this morning, one would think that he threatened a violent overthrow of the government.

Al Gore did not "accept" the "result" announced by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris.  He took the case to the Florida courts.  George Bush did not "accept" the "result" of the Florida Supreme Court decision.  He took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Two presidential elections in living memory have been close enough to be within what John Fund called the "margin of litigation":  1960 and 2000.  Richard Nixon chose not to litigate; Al Gore chose to.  I consider it extremely unlikely that 2016 will be anywhere near that close, but this year has provided multiple examples of the wisdom of Yogi Berra's admonition against predictions.

I have no reason to believe that Donald Trump reads my advice, and he certainly doesn't take it, but for the record I recommend that he come out promptly with a clarification that all that he reserves is an Al Gore type challenge.

A Supreme Court that Takes Sides? Part II

Paul Mirengoff of PowerLine saw the same zinger in Hillary Clinton's Supreme Court answer that I did.  With characteristic insight, Paul quotes the oath of office Supreme Court Justices are required to take, and notes that anyone appointed under the partisan, agenda-laden criteria Ms. Clinton set forth last night could not possibly be faithful to the oath, which is as follows (emphasis added):

I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _________ under the Constitution and laws of the United States. 

The question, which Paul then addresses, is whether Clinton appointees are likely to be, not merely misguided, but illegitimate in a deeper sense when seen through the lens of the neutrality Americans historically (and rightly) demand of judges.

A Supreme Court that Takes Sides?

I did not watch tonight's debate, but I have seen it reported in more than one source, e.g., here, that Hillary Clinton, when asked if she supported a Supreme Court that would adopt a strict reading of the Constitution, responded with no mention of that document, and said instead:

I feel strongly that the Supreme Court needs to stand on the side of the American people, not the powerful corporations and the wealthy.

I will put to one side Ms. Clinton's remarks (at $250,000 a  pop) to the powerful corporation known as Goldman Sachs, and her income last year, reportedly a bit over ten million dollars. The main takeaway from her comment is her breathtaking misunderstanding of both the Court and the Constitution.

As liberals used to know, an independent Court was created by the Constitution precisely to be anti-majoritarian, that is, to be a neutral, not a "side-taking," arbiter of the law. Giving effect to popular will is the job of the political branches, not the Supreme Court (or inferior courts).

Someone might also inform Ms. Clinton that corporate managers and the rich are also  -- ready now?  --  part of the American people, and deserve no more justice, and no less, than anyone else. 

KCRA Report on Cal. DP Propositions

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Mike Luery of KCRA, the NBC affiliate in Sacramento, has this report on California's dueling death penalty propositions, including a brief appearance by your humble blogger.

News Scan

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Chicago Surpasses 600 Homicides:  A Monday night homicide put Chicago's total homicides thus far in 2016 at over 600, affirming statements made by residents that the city has turned in a "war zone" in recent years.  CBS reports that the more than 600 people killed this year represents a 24% increase compared to the same time last year, and is approximately 100 more homicides than the combined totals in New York and Los Angeles.  It is also far above the Chicago's yearly 2015 total, with 486 people killed.  Nonfatal shootings have spiked as well:  As of last week, over 2,100 people were injured in shooting incidents, up from 1,400 people wounded in the same time period in 2015.  Of the homicide victims, 540 died of gunshot wounds, 28 were stabbed to death, 19 were beaten to death, nine died in arson-related homicides and two were run down by people driving cars.  Chicago police have determined that, of the over 600 murders recorded so far, 571 are first-degree murders.  They have made arrests in 115 homicide cases so far.

Record Number of Opioid Overdoses in 2014, says CDC:  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a report released earlier this year, said that more people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than any other year on record, fueling the nationwide concern over the deadly drug epidemic.  Penny Starr of CNS News reports that in 2014, nearly 19,000 people died from prescription opioid overdoses, "equivalent to about 52 deaths per day," while 28,000 people died from non-prescription opioid overdoses.  The report also found that opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999.  Officials say the surge in opioid overdoses is driven by heroin and illegally-made fentanyl.  Opioids include heroin, morphine, codine and methadone, among others, and can be natural, semi-synthetic or synthetic.

Asylum Seekers Spike Dramatically:  In less than a decade, the number of illegals who have sought asylum in order to gain easy access to the U.S. has spiked 900%, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner reports that in 2009, about 8,000 people sought asylum, but the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) estimates that number to reach at least 80,000 this year.  The CIS analysis also states that while 90% of asylum seekers have their requests granted, a House panel found only 30% to be fraud free.  Among those seeking asylum, 80% come from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, who have come to the border in droves after President Obama freed up restrictions of those requesting asylum, allowing them to stay in the U.S. while they pursue their request.  Once an illegal immigrant is granted asylum, they become entitled to federal programs including green cards, Social Security, school loans, welfare, Medicaid, cash and housing assistance.

SurveyUSA Poll on Prop. 62

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SurveyUSA has released another California poll.  As with the two previous polls (noted here and here), they surveyed on Prop. 62, the death penalty repeal initiative, but not on Prop. 66, the "fix it" initiative.

Prop. 62 has slipped three points since the previous poll and now trails by 18%.  The pollsters still characterize it as "headed for defeat."

Crosstabs (the breakdown by various groups within the total) haven't changed too much, although there is an interesting indication that repeal has lost considerable support with black voters.  For the survey collected Sept. 8 - Sept. 11, black voters favored 62 by a slim majority, 51-36.  However, for the most recent survey, conducted Oct. 13 - Oct. 15, the slim majority goes the other way, 41-52.  That is a change from +15% to -11%, or a 26% swing.  Crosstabs have higher margins of error than the overall poll due to the smaller sample size of the subgroups, so this result should be treated with caution, but even so that is quite a shift.

News Scan

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GA Death Row Inmate Seeks Clemency:  A Georgia cop killer awaiting execution is requesting to be pardoned based on a recent diagnosis of autism.  Tracy Connor of NBC News reports that Gregory Lawler, 63, is scheduled to die Wednesday by lethal injection for the 1997 fatal shooting of Officer John Sowa, who was escorting Lawler's drunk girlfriend home.  Sowa's partner was also critically injured, but survived.  A clemency petition revealed that Lawler was diagnosed with autism last month.  His attorneys argue that the disorder impaired his judgment and social interactions, causing him to become "freaked out" by his contact with police when he could not read the officers' facial expressions.  He will be the seventh inmate executed in the state of Georgia this year.  Update:  Lawler was executed by lethal injection Wednesday evening.  He is the 17th death row inmate put to death in the United States this year.

Illegal Immigration Rises Significantly Over Past Year:  Illegal immigration rose significantly in fiscal year 2016, and the increase in apprehensions means an increase in immigrants sneaking across the border unnoticed, say Homeland Security officials.  Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times reports that nearly 409,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended at the border in FY 2016, up from 331,000 the year prior.  The number of families nabbed traveling together reached a record high of 77,674, while unaccompanied minors increased to nearly 60,000 apprehensions.  Claims of asylum have spiked while deportations have dropped.  Officials assert that lax immigration enforcement has contributed to the surge, believing cartels and migrants have "learned to game a more relaxed system under President Obama."

CA Officers Spared after Gunman's Weapon Jams:  A California man wearing "police-style" body armor and armed with an assault rifle and handgun is in custody after he pointed the rifle at two police officers at a Vallejo Starbucks and attempted to shoot, only to have the weapon jam.  The AP reports that Adam Powell, 41, fled after his weapon malfunctioned, attempting to clean it as he ran, until he was shot three times by the officers about 100 feet away from Starbucks.  Six hours before the incident at a family home 20 miles away from Vallejo, police responded to a shooting and found Powell's two-year-old son critically wounded from accidentally shooting himself.  Powell's step-daughter believes that the incident with his son prompted Powell to attempt suicide by cop.  Police are unsure at this point if Powell expressed any anger toward police.  The attempted shooting comes just weeks after two separate shootings in California left three officers dead.

More on Elmore

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In addition to the excerpts from the Attorney General's brief in the Clark Elmore case, noted here, readers may also wish to consider the following excerpts from the opinion of the Supreme Court of Washington:

No Blank Check for President Hillary

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It is likely that Hillary Clinton will be elected President.  I don't have to like it,* but the polls say what they say.  The question is what can be done to cabin her decidedly unhealthy agenda (exemplified by, among other things, her embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement).

One thing that can be done is to keep the Senate in the hands of the opposition party. This will have, among other salutary effects, an influence on how far to the left she might go in making Supreme Court and court of appeals picks.  

Thus, I have contributed to the campaigns of a number of Republican Senate candidates, including Rubio, Ayotte, Toomey, Heck, Young and Burr.  Rubio is likely to win; the others are close races that could go either way.  

*  Not that I much like any probable outcome of the Presidential race, as it is presently constituted.  
The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to review the case of Washington State murderer Clark Elmore.  Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ginsburg, dissented in an opinion castigating the defense lawyer at trial.  If the lawyer was so bad, one might ask, why did the Washington Supreme Court deny relief?  That court has certainly had no difficulty ruling in favor of murderers in past capital cases.  It is one of the country's more criminal-friendly forums.  If the lawyer was so bad, why did six of the eight Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court decline to join Justice Sotomayor's vigorous dissent?

There is, of course, more to the story.  After the break, I have copied an extensive portion of the Brief in Opposition written by Senior Counsel John Samson for the Washington AG's office.  See also the excerpt from the Supreme Court of Washington in the follow-up post.

Time for a Noble, Selfless Act

    Does Donald Trump want to be remembered as the man who handed the White House to Hillary Clinton on a silver platter, with all the disastrous results that are sure to follow?  Or would he rather be remembered as the man who put his country above himself?

Stockton Record Gets It Right

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Those of us who fight for justice in the worst murder cases have become accustomed to having the press almost entirely on the side of the murderers. I was pleasantly surprised this Sunday morning to read this in the Stockton Record:

Our editorial board was divided on these death penalty propositions. Our consensus is a no vote on Proposition 62 and yes on 66. We do not feel the death penalty should be abolished with so many on death row (whose sentences would be converted to life in prison). We do, however, concur that the process for legal challenges should not be so drawn out.
The Record also endorsed a "no" vote on Proposition 57, a trifecta of good sense in the criminal justice arena.

News Scan

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La. Man Faces Death Penalty for Murdering Detective:  Prosecutors announced Thursday that they plan to seek the death penalty against a Louisiana man who fatally shot a JPSO detective four months ago.  Michelle Hunter of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that the announcement by the Jefferson Parish district attorney's office came after a grand jury handed down an indictment charging Jerman Neveaux Jr., 19, with first-degree murder in the death of Detective David Michel Jr., 50.  Neveaux also faces charges of aggravated assault with a firearm, illegal possession of a stolen firearm and two counts of resisting arrest by force or violence.  On June 22, Neveaux fatally shot Michel three times in the back after Michel stopped him while he was walking.  It is the first time since 2013 that the Jefferson Parish district attorney's office will pursue a death sentence.

FL High Court says Jurors Must be Unanimous on Death Sentences:  A ruling issued Friday by the Florida Supreme Court announced that a jury's death recommendation in capital punishment cases must be unanimous, answering a question left unanswered by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year.  Frank Fernandez of the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that the decision strikes down part of a state law that was passed earlier this year requiring a 10-2 jury recommendation for death before a judge could impose a death sentence.  Prior to that ruling, Florida only required a simple majority of seven votes, making it one of just three death penalty states that didn't require a unanimous jury recommendation.  Florida's death penalty system was subject to debate following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued in January -- Hurst v. Florida -- that found the state's system unconstitutional because it gave judges too much power and juries too little in applying capital punishment.  The justices, however, never addressed a requirement for unanimity of juror's recommendations in such cases.

MO May Keep Execution Drug Suppliers Secret:  A federal appellate court ruled Thursday that Missouri can keep its lethal injection drug supplier a secret, reversing its own ruling made last month.  Jim Suhr of the AP reports that this week's ruling by a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis overrules a Sept. 2 ruling made by the same judges, which stated that Missouri must disclose its pentobarbital supplier to two Mississippi death row inmates that have filed a lawsuit.  The judges made their initial ruling on the ground that the state's claim -- that revealing how it obtains the drugs could hamper its ability to get the chemicals for future executions -- was "inherently speculative."  During their rehearing Thursday, however, the drug supplier told the court it would cease doing business with Missouri or any other state if its identity were made public, and the 8th Circuit concluded that "the harm to MDOC (Missouri) clearly outweighs the need of the inmates, and disclosure would represent an undue burden" on the state's prison system.  The ruling comes one day after the Missouri Supreme Court scheduled an execution for January.
The Florida Supreme Court has decided the case of Timothy Hurst on remand from the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hurst v. Florida.  The majority wrongly interpreted the high court decision to require that the jury be unanimous in all of its decisions, not just the finding of the death-eligibility circumstance.

To insulate its error from a likely reversal by the high court, the Florida Supreme Court cynically added the state constitution as an additional ground for its holding, casually tossing out forty years of precedent from the restoration of capital punishment in the 1970s until the decision in Hurst.   Stare decisis?  We don't need no stinking stare decisis.

When Florida's Legislature was considering how to fix its statute in light of Hurst, the debate was all about whether to authorize a less-than-unanimous penalty verdict or go for the single-juror-veto law that lets one juror impose his will over the objection of the other 11.  I tried to tell them that the Arizona/California method of requiring the jury to be unanimous one way or the other was the way to go, and they blew me off.  Maybe now they will listen?
Gallup has a poll out today showing that, when asked to choose the higher priority between (1) strengthening law and order through more police and greater enforcement, or (2) reducing bias against minorities in the criminal justice system by reforming court and police practices,  49% choose the former and 43% the latter. The 6% difference is outside the margin of error.  The poll can be found here.

So how does this translate in terms of political advantage?  Specifically, is it smarter to run a national race prioritizing law and order, or prioritizing bias reduction?

Let me ask that question a different way:  Is 49% higher than 43%?

News Scan

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MO High Court Sets Execution Date:  Missouri's Supreme Court set an execution date on Wednesday for a man convicted of killing a woman and her two children almost two decades ago.  The AP reports that Mark Christeson, 37, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Jan. 31.  The Missouri high court scheduled the execution as five legal groups are actively urging an appeals court to spare Christeson's life.  The groups -- three national criminal defense associations, a civil rights law firm and the American Bar Association -- argue that Christeson is unable to afford to bring in experts to testify that his mental impairment affected his ability to assert his rights when his lawyers did an inadequate job at his 1999 trial.  In 1998, Christeson, then 18, and his 17-year-old cousin, Jesse Carter, planned to run away from home, armed themselves with shotguns and went to the home of Susan Brouk so they could steal her car.  The cousins bound the hands of Brouk's two children, ages 12 and nine, before Christeson forced Brouk into a bedroom and raped her.  The suspects then drove the family to a pond, where they stabbed Brouk and one of the children and threw them into the water to drown.  The other child died of suffocation when Chrsiteson pressed on her throat while Carter held her.  Carter was sentenced to life in prison after testifying against Christeson.  Missouri's last execution was in May.  The state has executed 19 murderers since November 2013, more than any state in recent years except Texas.

Weak Sentencing Laws Benefited CA Cop Killers:  The criminal histories of the two ex-cons arrested in the killings of three California law enforcement officers last week are sparking outrage, as information continues to come out detailing the violent crimes and parole violations they committed.  Patrick Healy of NBC reports that Trenton Lovell was arrested in Lancaster last Wednesday for fatally shooting Steve Owen, 53, who was responding to a burglary call.  Lovell was sentenced to six years for a 2008 armed robbery but was paroled in just under five years after being entitled to credit for 15% of his sentence under Penal Code section 2933.  Last year, while out on parole, Lovell was convicted of misdemeanor DUI causing injury and placed on county probation simultaneously with parole.  On Saturday, John Felix shot and killed two Palm Springs officers, Jose Vega, 63, and Lesley Zerebny, 27, when they arrived at his home in response to a domestic violence call.  Felix had completed his parole for a 2010 conviction of assault with a deadly weapon, which was plea bargained down from attempted murder.  He was sentenced to four years in prison, but paroled after 19 months.  While on parole, Felix was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia and even absconded at one point.  Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell says there is a need to address a system that is permitting repeat offenders to cycle in and out of custody.

Two Boston Cops in Critical Condition After Shootings:  A man was shot and killed by police Wednesday evening after opening fire on several Boston law enforcement officers, leaving two of them in "extremely critical" condition.  Fox News reports that Kirk Figueroa, 33, armed with an assault rifle and wearing body armor, opened fire on the officers after they arrived at his home in response to a domestic dispute call.  The two critically wounded officers, one a 28-year veteran and the other a 12-year veteran, underwent surgery for their injuries.  Nine other officers sustained minor injures and were also treated for trauma and stress.

A Cop's Perspective on CopCams

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Sean Van Leeuwen has this post in the blog of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS):

ALADS has long supported issuing BWC [Body Worn Cameras] to all patrol and jail deputies. We believe this equipment will serve to protect them from frivolous complaints and help prosecute criminals who gas or attack deputies while they work in the jail or on patrol.

Despite their usefulness, BWC have limitations.  Recordings are two-dimensional, potentially hindered by frame count, limited to a single perspective and other technical limitations.  They are a useful addendum to the observations and recollections of deputies and other witnesses and are not by themselves a complete documentation of an incident. The Sheriff's Department completed a two-year body camera pilot program last year and is still reviewing the data collected.  While the test was promising, it was only limited to a few deputies at a few stations. Before such a program is implemented department wide, there will have to be a commitment for proper training and funding in order to ensure the success of a future BWC program.

News Scan

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Police Ramp up Presence in Central Park:  A crime wave in New York City's Central Park has prompted police to ramp up patrols in and around the sprawling area.  Lisa Evers of WNYN reports that this past month, there were five incidents of violent armed robberies committed by groups of people and one attempted rape.  Over the weekend, a man was beaten and stomped by eight to nine teens who stole his cellphone and tablet, and another man was knocked off his bike, beaten and robbed of his phone.  On Monday, a woman jogging in the park was knocked to the ground by a man who tried to rape her, but fought him off and escaped.  The NYPD say they are going to beef up police presence both inside the park and around its perimeter in an effort to stop the violence before it gets worse and "change the disturbing pattern" they have observed.

OH Man's Death Sentence Overturned:  An Ohio man sentenced to death three decades ago had his death sentence overturned on Wednesday by a federal appeals court.  Eric Heisig of Cleveland reports that in a 2-1 decision, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the sentence of Percy "June" Hutton, 62, after ruling that the presiding judge at Hutton's trial failed to properly instruct the jury on how to weigh aggravating circumstances.  Hutton was convicted in 1986 of fatally shooting a man and attempting to kill another man in a dispute over a sewing machine, and sentenced to die in 1987.  The Ohio Attorney General's Office has yet to decide whether to challenge the court's ruling.

CA Death Row Inmate Slashes Officer:  An inmate on San Quentin's death row in California slashed a correctional officer with a homemade weapon last week, a decade after carrying out a similar attack on another correctional officer.  Jenna Lyons of the SF Chronicle reports that Richard Penunuri, 38, attacked the officer on Oct. 3 as he was being secured in the shower stall.  He grabbed the officer's right arm and his handcuffs were being removed, slashing it with a makeshift weapon.  Penunuri committed a similar attack in 2006, slashing an officer on the arm as he was being locked in his cell.  The officer's injury almost reached the bone and required 30 stitches.  Penunuri was sentenced to death in 2001 for the 1997 gang-related murders of two teens who were "unintended targets" not associated with gangs.  He was also convicted of an additional count of first-degree murder for ordering a hit on a witness to prevent him from testifying at the trial.  Penunuri will receive a rules violation for the attack, and the Marin County district attorney's office will decide whether to press charges once an investigation is complete.  The officer who was attacked is expected to fully recover.

A Tragic and Ominous Story

We are often told, by law professors among others, that community release with close monitoring is more humane than incarceration, less expensive, and equally effective.

It's simply false.  The question is not whether it can be counted upon to work.   The question is who pays the price when it doesn't.

This story gives us a glimpse of a thoroughly unfunny answer.  

Preventable violent crime against women, or against anyone, is a blight.  Q:  Where is the outrage over this, and who is going to take responsibility?  A:  Nowhere and no one.  And we all know it.

For a generation, we have known how to cut back on violent crime.  If we forget now, those least able to fight back will be the first to pay the price  --  although sooner or later, we all will.

Hillary's Defense of a Child Molester

Hillary Clinton, as a young lawyer, accepted a court appointment to represent a man accused of raping a 12 year-old girl.  He was eventually convicted, I believe, of a lesser charge of sexual battery on a person less than 14 years of age.

The question has arisen whether our view of Hillary should be better or worse because she took this case and how she behaved when she had it.  Some (easily the majority of the reactions I've seen) think we should think better.  The argument is that it is the best of our legal tradition that even the most despised defendant is entitled to a faithful and energetic ally as he  faces the power of the state.  The most frequently given example is John Adams' defense of British soldiers accused of brutality in the Boston Massacre.

The minority point of view is that Hillary's defense of the child molester was at best a display of callousness; a moral holiday from the consequences to the victim; a choice she did not need to make; and, in the course of the actual defense, a demonstration of the truth-optional attitude for which Hillary (and in my view, a big segment of criminal defense generally) has become known.

There are two among many articles, here and here, that discuss this episode in a way favorable to Hillary.  Without for the moment going into my view of it (less favorable), I'm seeking readers' views.  There are a number of questions here.  A very, very non-exhaustive list is:  Does or should the underlying truth about the client's behavior affect the lawyer's decision about how, and whether, to represent? Does or should a defense lawyer  --  as an attorney, a citizen, or a human being  -- have any moral obligation to the child victim?  To potential (probable?) future victims if the client wins an erroneous acquittal and is thus emboldened?  Should the lawyer undertake intentionally deceitful (even if not directly unethical) tactics in order to bring about such an acquittal?  Or any acquittal?  Is it a good or a bad thing to allow lawyers to have a "conscientious objection" exemption from a court appointment that makes them morally queasy?  Or is conscientious objection limited to military duty?
Why don't you just call the cops?  That's what sociologists Matthew Desmond and Andrew V. Papachristos wonder aloud in this NY Times piece in which they attempt to debunk the "Ferguson effect."  Desmond and Papachristos contend that the national crime wave is a result of a drop-off in crime reporting rather than a drop-off in proactive policing.  They suggest that people are simply not calling the cops due to loss of faith following several controversial police shootings, and faith lost makes citizens "more apt to take the law into their own hands."

Not quite.  While the authors offer a interesting theory, Heather Mac Donald offers the facts.  Ultimately, "the data supporting the Ferguson effect are stronger than the evidence offered by Mr. Desmond and Mr. Papachristos to discredit it."  Read her rebuttal letter here.

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High Court Vacates OK Man's Death Sentence:  The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday to throw out an Oklahoma triple murderer's death sentence because the victim's family members were asked by the state to recommend a sentence to the jury at his trial.  Lydia Wheeler of the Hill reports that Shaun Michael Bosse was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder for killing his girlfriend and her two children in 2010.  At his trial, three of the victims' relatives recommended the death penalty to the jury after which the jury sentenced Bosse to death.  The sentence was vacated by Supreme Court justices, who ruled that court precedent barred the state from introducing family member's opinions about the crime.  The state argues that while it was not proper in its victim impact ruling, the decision had no effect on the jury's sentencing determination.

Mexican Officials Helping Haitian Illegals Reach U.S.: 
Recently released internal Homeland Security documents reveal that Mexican officials are assisting thousands of Haitians reach the U.S. illegally.  Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times reports that the documents, obtained by Rep, Duncan Hunter, a California republican, detail the routes migrants take, how much money human smugglers are paid and the complicit role of neighboring countries' governments.  According to the documents, over the past year, more than 6,000 Haitians arrived at the border in San Diego, an 18-fold increase over FY 2015.  And as of last week, about 2,600 were waiting in northern Mexico, with some 3,500 not far behind in Panama.  Migrants are paying at least $2,350 to be smuggled to the U.S., a 71,000-mile, four-month long journey that starts in Brazil and ends at the U.S. border, where they demand asylum in the hopes of taking advantage of Obama's lax immigration policies.  Immigration experts say that the numbers emphasize the significant control that smuggling operations have over illegal immigration.  Moreover, the high percentage of Haitians arriving in San Diego indicates an arrangement between migrants and Mexico, possibly even the Sinaloa cartel.

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