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.

Reefer Madness, Literally

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Advocates of increased use of pot through legalization often mock the 1930's film, "Reefer Madness."  The idea seems to be that only Puritanical, moralistic, anti-science zealots could think the pot might adversely affect brain development.

Today comes news from that citadel of Puritanical, moralistic, anti-science zealotry, Northwestern University:

Casual marijuana use may come with some not-so-casual side effects.

For the first time, researchers at Northwestern University have analyzed the relationship between casual use of marijuana and brain changes - and found that young adults who used cannabis just once or twice a week showed significant abnormalities in two important brain structures.

The study's findings, to be published Wednesday in the Journal of Neuroscience, are similar to those of past research linking chronic, long-term marijuana use with mental illness and changes in brain development.


My post yesterday describing White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler's remarks about Presidential clemency did not go nearly far enough.  Now that I take a closer look at the AP report, I have to wonder whether something very, very broad is afoot. Specifically, I wonder whether the President is planning to implement the heart of the Smarter Sentencing Act on his own.  It would scarcely be the first time this President by-passed Congress.

Here is what Ms. Ruemmler is reported to have said:

"The president believes that one important purpose [of executive clemency] can be to help correct the effects of outdated and overly harsh sentences that Congress and the American people have since recognized are no longer in the best interests of justice," Ruemmler said in remarks prepared for delivery Tuesday at New York University's law school. "This effort also reflects the reality that our overburdened federal prison population includes many low-level, nonviolent offenders without significant criminal histories."  ***

[She also] said the Justice Department plans in the coming weeks to encourage worthy inmates to request commutations, with bar associations offering to help with applications. She said Obama's new budget proposal calls for seven more staffers to be added to the Office of Pardon Attorney to handle applications, saying that the two years the office has taken to resolve petitions in recent years has been "unacceptably long." She said Obama met with U.S. attorneys last month and asked them to personally review petitions to consider "whether granting clemency would be consistent with the values of justice and fairness that are the hallmark of the best traditions of the Department of Justice."

To me, this sounds like a mass commutation is in the works, and I gather I'm not the only one who senses this.

Here are a few notes on legislation on the death penalty in several states.

In Delaware, a bill to repeal the death penalty came up a vote short to get out of committee.  Representative John Atkins has this letter in the Cape Gazette.

In New Hampshire, a repeal bill squeaked out of committee on a 3-2 vote and heads to the floor of the Senate.  Supporters of the bill claim that it will apply prospectively only and not effect the death sentence of cop-killer Michael Addison, the state's lone death-sentenced inmate.  If the bill does pass, I would bet every penny I have that the death penalty opponents will then join Addison's efforts to claim that the bill does require his sentence to be set aside.  We already saw this in Connecticut.

Some years ago, the North Carolina legislature passed a stealth repeal by playing the race card and enacting legislation that enabled death row inmates to have their sentences overturned by producing statistics on race and the death penalty that don't actually prove anything.  The Death Penalty Quota Act (misnamed the Racial Justice Act) was repealed when persons of sense regained control of the legislature, but cases decided in a lower court before repeal were argued yesterday in the North Carolina Supreme Court. Martha Waggoner has this story for AP.
It's by now no surprise to readers that I have been doing what I can to oppose the so-called Smarter Sentencing Act.  I made probably my most comprehensive case against it here.

I'm delighted to see that, since I published that post, another reason why the SSA is unwise and unnecessary has become evident.  

Just this morning, as Sentencing Law and Policy notes, White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler announced at a conference at NYU Law School that the power of executive clemency "can serve as a 'fail-safe' for correcting errors that cannot be corrected by other means."  She did this in the course of explaining yet another commutation the President has issued.

Just so.  Ms. Ruemmler's remark, taken together with the unprecedented initiative of Deputy Attorney General James Cole to increase the exercise of this Presidential power, underscores my point that the putative horror stories of low-level defendants' being given long mandatory minimums do not constitute a valid reason to adopt a blunderbuss, across-the-board lowering of such sentences. 

As we now plainly see, the President stands ready to act where the judicial system has gone overboard.  Where the deserving already have a remedy, there is no cause, and considerable danger, in opening the floodgates for the undeserving.

News Scan

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Habitual Offender Accused of Murder: A Georgia man with a lengthy criminal past has been named as the prime suspect in a recent shooting death.  Alexis Stevens of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that 30-year-old Kendrick Cheeves, who was on parole at the time of the killing, has spent the majority of his adult life in prison after being convicted of crimes including child molestation, statutory rape, and several drug charges.  Cheeves has been charged with felony murder and aggravated assault, and if found guilty, faces a possible death sentence.

Teen up for Release After Serving Four Months of Eight-Year Sentence: A Texas woman is outraged after the teenager who robbed her home will be eligible for release after spending only four months behind bars out of a possible eight-year sentence.  Jason Whitely of KHOU Houston reports that 19-year-old Brandon Jordan, who was already on probation for theft at the time of his most recent arrest, will be eligible for release under 'shock probation', which allows for a judge to summon a convicted felon back to court up to six months after being sentenced.  This type of probation is rarely used since very few convicts qualify, and was intended as a rehabilitation tool for young offenders. 

Convicted Triple-Murderer Set to Die: A Texas man convicted of the stabbing murders of his ex-girlfriend, her three-year-old son and her mother is scheduled to be executed Wednesday evening after spending nearly 12 years on death row.  Michael Graczyk of the Associated Press reports that attorneys for Jose Villegas are seeking a last minute stay of execution from SCOTUS based on the claim that they have new evidence indicating that their client is mentally impaired.  On Monday the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied that request.  At the time of the killings, Villegas was out on bond for a sexual assault charge.

Justice Not Mush

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Much of what we hear about the Boston Marathon murders is  --  excuse me  -- unadulterated mush.  Have we had enough yet of teddy bears, plastic flowers and yellow ribbons? Have we had enough of the vapid talk that seems inevitably to follow them?  Take this, for example, from yesterday's Washington Post article commemorating the bombing:

Boston and its surroundings braced for an emotional week that begins Tuesday...It will be a chance to mourn the dead and remember the bloodshed, but marvel at the way events have brought this community together.

"We're going to turn it into a moment of unity and perseverance and [strength] as a city," said Alison Beliveau, 25, of South Boston, who finished a run Monday morning outside Marathon Sports, where the first bomb went off one year ago. "We made it through. We're going to make it."

Did anyone ever doubt that they were "going to make it?"  I know this will be attacked as unfeeling, but it's time to say it out loud:  Is there anything here but trendy, empty sentiment? All these commemorative talks, especially by politicians, are just so much hot air.  That by itself wouldn't be too awful  --  hot air is what politicians do  --  but I think there's something more subversive going on:  It distracts us from the central reality, and from what we need to do.
"Incarceration nation" is the slogan of the hour.  In the pages of every liberal paper, you can't go more than a few days without some earnest editorial, or some quasi-editorial masquerading as a "news story," telling us that we have too many people in jail.  All this jailing is expensive, inhumane, and counterproductive.  For these reasons and more, we should curb the use of imprisonment.

Almost always, the people writing this stuff are careful to add something to the effect that, "Of course, there are  some really dangerous people who need to be incarcerated." The reassurance of sanity is pasted in to persuade us that our opponents want the much-heralded "balanced approach."

But one must wonder.  The emotive engine of the anti-incarceration movement is more deeply rooted than its ostensible arguments.  It's the belief that the United States is a Bad Country  --  driven by racism, inequality, privilege, greed and inhuman callousness.  If you don't believe me, go to any Ivy League school and look at what's posted on the bulletin boards as you walk down the hall.  Then look at some of the more "innovative" course offerings in the catalog.  

So is a mere curbing of imprisonment what they actually want?  Hey, look, every now and again, the mask slips.
One of the principal arguments for the Smarter Sentencing Act is that its reduced use of incarceration will help curb the federal debt.

Is that true?

Today, tax day, is a good day to see for yourself.  Take a look at where your tax money actually goes.

Why We Have the Death Penalty

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Today is the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.  Dozens of people received life-long, disfiguring injuries.  Three died: Krystle Campbell, 29; Chinese national Lu Lingzi, 23; and  Martin Richard, 8.  The latter was  to have started his first season in Little League in a few weeks.

The bombing was undertaken by two Jihadist brothers.  The older one was  killed after a shootout with police four days later.  The younger, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was captured and is awaiting trial in November.

No serious person is claiming there is doubt of his guilt, or that he's mentally or emotionally disabled, or that he acted other than intentionally, knowing full well what he was doing.  The defense, if you want to call it that, is that he was following his brother.

The New York Daily News has this retrospective.  The pictures are graphic, as they should be. The picture of Dzhokhar's sworn enemy, the scourge of the earth, the Great Satan, follows the break.

Still Guilty

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One of the staples of abolitionist lore is that we execute innocent people. Abolitionists squabble among themselves as to what the number is, although they largely coalesced around the Roger Keith Coleman innocence hoax as the star attraction.

Until it fell apart, that is.

Anyway, the current candidate is Cameron Todd Willingham, notwithstanding that his own lawyer attests to his guilt.

The latest attempt to bully Texas into reversing the jury's findings failed, proving to the Innocence Project "that the clemency system is completely broken in Texas."

More likely, it proves that after-the-fact "scientific evidence" adduced by those with an ideologically driven point of view still doesn't count as much as evidence produced in open court and tested by the adversarial process.

Some Crime Victims Count...

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...and some don't.

President Obama met at the White House with the families of the victims of the Newtown, Conn. school massacre.  Nothing wrong with that; it was a shocking national tragedy.  I have some misgivings that the meeting was enlisted in a political cause, but that's how it goes with this Administration.

The President has refused to meet, however, with the families of the victims of  another mass shooting, even though (unlike the case with Newtown), he was  the Commander-in-Chief of the people ambushed, and even though they were killed, not by a lunatic, but by a "soldier" of the same Jihad that has attacked America before.

What difference does it make, really, whether the federal government has some paltry financial interest in pretending, absurdly, that the Ft. Hood massacre five years ago was just "workplace violence" instead of a terrorist attack?  For my money, what compels the President to meet with Major Hasan's victims does not depend on how they are categorized.  What compels it is basic decency. 

Manning's Sentence Upheld

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AP reports that the 35-year court-martial sentence of mass leaker Pvt. Bradley Manning, who now calls himself Chelsea, has been confirmed by the commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Jeffery S. Buchanan.  The sentence can be further appealed to the Army Court of Criminal Appeal.

Manning's appellate lawyers, Nancy Hollander and Vincent Ward, told supporters Sunday in Washington that they expect to argue that the sentence unreasonable. It is the longest prison term ever given by a U.S. court for leaking government secrets to the media. They said they also expect to argue that Manning's speedy trial rights were violated, that the Espionage Act was misused and that high-ranking commanders improperly influenced [the] case.

News Scan

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CA Murder Suspects had Lengthy Criminal Past: Police in Southern California have arrested two registered sex offenders as the prime suspects in the murders of four women.  The Associated Press reports that both men were being supervised by police after being arrested in 2012 for removing their court-ordered GPS devices and fleeing to Nevada.  Police believe both men targeted their victims because of their ties to prostitution and escort services, and are determining if there are more victims in California and other parts of the U.S.

Felons Able to Buy Guns Amid Background Check Backlog: More than 360 guns were sold in Maryland last year to people prohibited from owning them due to an overwhelming backlog in conducting gun ownership background checks.  Erin Cox of The Baltimore Sun reports that all but four of the guns sold to those prohibited from owning them were recovered by undercover troopers, and police believe there was only one incident to date involving a gun being used by a prohibited buyer.  Just last week, the Maryland State Police were able to clear the backlog of background checks that at one point, stood at 60,000 requests.

White Supremacist Arrested in Triple Homicide: A Missouri man with a history of racist and anti-Semitic activity has been arrested as the person responsible for three murders this weekend, two of which occurred at a Jewish community center and the other at a Jewish assisted living facility.  Fox News reports that 73-year-old Frazier Glenn Miller has been involved with white supremacist groups for the majority of his life, and was the subject of a nationwide manhunt in 1987 after police say he violated the terms of his bond while appealing a conviction for operating a paramilitary camp.  The Justice Department has announced plans to file hate crime charges against Miller, he is scheduled to be arraigned this week.

The Feds Go Stark Raving Mad

A couple of days ago, I said that race mongering had gone stark raving mad, by comparing Martin Luther King unfavorably to sneering cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Tonight I have to say that the federal government, my former employer, has likewise gone stark raving mad.  I refer specifically to its siege of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.

I don't know all the merits of the dispute.  I'll assume arguendo that the Bureau of Land Management is 100% correct in claiming that Bundy is poaching on federal land, by grazing his cattle there without paying.  

But this justifies a para-military siege?  Use of dogs on Bundy's unarmed son?  The stationing of snipers?

As John Hinderaker of Powerline writes, the use of that degree of force in a dispute of this character is essentially madness.  Do the people at BLM not remember the disaster at Waco, where the stakes (possibly children subject to on-going abuse) were incomparably higher? 

At the same time this Administration is falling all over itself to go easier on drug trafficking, with the rampant violence inevitably associated with it, it sends in a quasi-army to deal with a cattle rancher who won't pay up.

When Is a Repeal Not a Repeal?

When it is nothing more than a ratification of the long-existing status quo.

I bring this up because death penalty abolitionists are licking their chops over a vote this week in a committee of the New Hampshire Senate to abolish that state's death penalty. As the Washington Post reports, the vote was 3-2, and the state House of Representatives has already given overwhelming approval to the bill.

It the bill passes the full Senate (which, as the Post notes, is up in the air), abolitionists are certain to start up again with more op-eds about how "the death penalty is dying."

Well, not really.  As I have previously noted, among the states that have repealed the death penalty in recent years, it barely existed anyway.

This is especially so in New Hampshire.  The fact the Post fails to report is that the Granite State has not executed anyone since 1939.

News Scan

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Inmate Arranges Kidnapping While Behind Bars: Federal authorities say a North Carolina inmate was able to use a smuggled cell phone to help orchestrate the recent abduction of  the father of the prosecutor's who sent him to prison.   Michael Biesecker and Allen G. Breed of the Associated Press report that 49-year-old gang member Kelvin Melton used the smuggled phone to send over 123 calls and text messages to a group of five people who assaulted 63-year-old Frank Janssen over the weekend.  Janssen was taken from North Carolina to Georgia by the kidnappers who sent several threatening text messages to Janssen's wife threatening to behead her husband if she notified the authorities.  FBI agents were able to rescue Mr. Janssen Thursday morning. 

Border Patrol Overwhelmed by Migrants Seeking Asylum: Border Patrol agents working in the Rio Grande area of southern Texas have been overwhelmed with the recent increase in migrants illegally crossing the border seeking asylum and a permanent home in the U.S.  Todd Heisler of the New York Times reports that thousands of migrants from Central America are flooding the borders day and night seeking asylum from their native countries, putting a strain on resources and causing a huge backlog in immigration courts.  In the last six months alone, Border Patrol agents made more than 90,000 apprehensions, a 69 percent increase from last year. 

Teen Charged as Adult in Brazen Killing:  A 16-year-old Indiana criminal, whose record includes 29 violent crimes, will be charged as an adult after authorities say he shot and killed a 24-year-old newlywed and father-to-be during a morning walk.  Alex Greig of the Daily Mail reports that Simeon Adams, who laughed and smiled during his murder arraignment, shot and killed the man during a robbery attempt last Tuesday. Police also believe Adams is responsible for a shooting that occurred just two days prior.  Adams has been charged with felony murder and attempted robbery, his trial is scheduled to begin June 2.

Damnation by Loud Praise

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I have written often to try to expose what's really going on with Eric Holder's support for so-called smarter sentencing initiatives.  I could not possibly do more to expose it, however, than Holder himself did two days ago by praising these initiatives at none other than race-huckster Al Sharpton's National Action Network Convention.

I'll say one thing for Mr. Holder:  He didn't try to hide it or put lipstick on it.  His gushing praise for Big Al, in the same speech and in the same venue as his praise for watered-down sentencing for drug dealers, is front and center on the Department of Justice website.  Among other things, Mr. Holder says:

Thank you, Reverend [Al] Sharpton - and thank you all for such a warm welcome.  It's a pleasure to be back home in New York City.  And it's a tremendous honor to join the National Action Network - once again - in helping to open your important Annual Convention....

[W]e have modified the Department's charging policies so that defendants accused of certain nonviolent, low-level federal drug crimes will face sentences appropriate to their individual conduct, rather than stringent mandatory minimums, which will now be reserved for the most serious criminals.  We are increasing our emphasis on innovative diversion programs like community service initiatives that can serve as alternatives to incarceration. 

Translation:  Since incarceration actually works, we're going to cut back on it.

Perspective:  Holder knows that slashing sentences for drug pushers will go over big with the President's political base. 

Eric Holder, His Own Law

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As noted in the last entry, the Sentencing Commission voted today for an across-the-board lowering of drug sentences, given that drugs are no longer a problem the Commission has become partial to the defense bar.

The problem is that Eric Holder jumped the gun, so eager is he to give a break to drug dealers.  He had already ordered federal prosecutors not to object to defense requests for the anticipated reduction.  This is not to mention that the reduction, now adopted, will, if allowed by Congress, not become effective for more than six months.

Holder's over-eagerness did not sit well with Commissioner and Eleventh Circuit Judge Bill Pryor, even though Pryor voted for the reduction.  As reported by NRO:

"I regret that, before we voted on the amendment, the Attorney General instructed Assistant United States Attorneys across the Nation not to object to defense requests to apply the proposed amendment in sentencing proceedings going forward," Judge William Pryor, Jr. said at a public hearing in Washington. "That unprecedented instruction disrespected our statutory role, 'as an independent commission in the judicial branch,' to establish sentencing policies and practices under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984."

Judge Pryor was not the only one to notice Holder's overreach. 

A Tale of Two Days

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Day One, April 9, 2014  --  Sheriffs warn of violence from Mexican cartels deep into interior of U.S.:

Outmanned and outgunned, local law enforcement officers are alarmed by the drug and human trafficking, prostitution, kidnapping and money laundering that Mexican drug cartels are conducting in the U.S. far from the border.

The United States Sentencing Commission voted today at a public meeting to reduce the sentencing guideline levels applicable to most federal drug trafficking offenders...The Commission voted unanimously to amend the guidelines to lower the base offense levels in the Drug Quantity Table across drug types.

Somebody, please, wake me up.  My nightmares didn't used to be this weird.

News Scan

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TX Executes Convicted Killer: A Mexican national convicted of murdering a former Baylor University history professor was executed Wednesday evening after spending nearly 15 years on death row.  Michael Graczyk of the Associated Press reports that 44-year-old Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas entered the U.S. illegally after escaping from a Mexican prison where he was serving a 25-year sentence for a murder he committed in 1989.  He had also been linked to the rape of a 15-year-old girl and had been accused of slashing another inmate in the face while awaiting trial.  Hernandez-Llanas was the sixth Texas murderer executed this year.

Murderer May Avoid Death Sentence due to Poor Health: A Missouri man convicted of one murder and suspected in two others may avoid a possible death sentence after a series of delays and his deteriorating health has stalled the case.  Jim Salter of the Associated Press reports that 62-year-old Gregory Bowman was convicted of killing a teenager in 1977.  In a separate case, he was convicted of murdering another teen and a 21-year-old woman the following year.  On appeal, Bowman's convictions in the 1978 killings were overturned, but the Missouri Supreme Court upheld his conviction in the 1977 murder and ordered him to be re-sentenced.  Delays has pushed his sentencing hearing back to April 2015.  Bowman may not be able to attend after the judge was informed that he is suffering from a potentially fatal kidney ailment. 

Race Mongering Goes Stark Raving Mad

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What's the difference between an unrepentant cop killer and Martin Luther King?

Not that much, according to a lesson plan used by the Oakland schools and financed by  -- are you ready for this?  --  the U.S. Department of Education.

And this wasn't just any cop killer; it was Mumia Abu-Jamal, the darling of Anti-American Left, including would-be Assistant Attorney General Debo Adegbile

Now there was one important difference between the nation's foremost advocate of non-violent change and the gun-toting Mumia:

Mark Lewis Taylor, a professor of theology and culture at the Princeton Theological Seminary, identified [a major difference] between Abu-Jamal and King, saying the former radio journalist has worked more obviously than the assassinated civil rights leader within an "international framework of justice struggle."

That's it, ladies and gentlemen.  Cop-killer Mumia was better than King, because he lined up more aggressively with Soviet front organizations.

You have to read the article to believe it.

How to Win a Case in One Line

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This is not a criminal case, but it's an example like few I have seen of how to write an appellate opinion.  The author here is Judge Ray Kethledge of the Sixth Circuit.  I've known Judge  Kethledge for years, and starting in August, one of my students from two years ago will be clerking for him.  The opinion, handed down today, is in this employment discrimination case.  Judge Kethledge's first line is:

"In this case the EEOC sued the defendants for using the same type of background check that the EEOC itself uses."

For the EEOC, it was downhill from there.

But Never Mention Conscience

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When Adam Lanza murdered twenty children and six adults in the Newtown school shooting in December 2012, the President wasted no time politicizing the gruesome tragedy as another episode of  "gun violence" for which more federal gun control legislation is needed. The White House statement is here.

One wonders what its statement will be today.

There are of course times when episodes like this are linked to mental illness  --  although the art of faking mental illness has been well refined in criminal defense.  And the deadliness of the weapon used can hardly be overlooked, either.

But something always seems to be missing from the press coverage of these episodes.  We hear a lot about schizophrenia.  We hear a lot about guns, particularly from those eager to disarm perfectly law-abiding people.  What we never hear about is the one thing whose degradation matters most  --  conscience.

News Scan

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DNA Links Illinois Man to Cold Case Murder: Authorities have made an arrest in the 1997 killing of a 14-year-old girl after DNA collected from the scene several years ago linked 36-year-old James Eaton to the crime.  The Associated Press reports that investigators linked Eaton to the crime after positive matches came from both fingerprints at the scene and DNA evidence collected from a cigarette butt he recently discarded.  14-year-old Amber Creek's body was found in a marsh two weeks after she was reported missing in January 1997.  She had been beaten, sexually assaulted and suffocated with a plastic bag.  Eaton has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse, he is currently being held on $1 million bail.

Drug Cartel 'Enforcer' Confesses to Dozens of Murders: Jose Manuel Martinez, a self-proclaimed drug cartel enforcer, is facing nine murder charges in California after authorities say he confessed to at least 30 killings in several states across the country.  Russell Goldman of ABC News reports that Martinez, who is currently in custody in Alabama on a murder charge from 2013, has confessed to a string of crimes he committed dating back to the 1980's including several murders for hire.  Aside from the murder charges, Martinez is also facing allegations of lying in wait and kidnapping, making him eligible for a possible death sentence.

More Mush from DOJ, cont'd.

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Yesterday, I noted that, contrary to what Eric Holder told Congress, the so-called Smarter Sentencing Act does  not "restore discretion" to judges.  The main thing it does is cut the minimum sentences applicable to dealers in heroin and other extremely dangerous drugs. But the sentences would still be mandatory.

It occurs to me that I omitted to mention another whooper Mr. Holder told  almost in the same breath.  He testified that the SSA "will ensure that the toughest penalties are reserved for the most dangerous or violent drug traffickers."

One has only to read the text of the proposed Act (Sec. 4 in particular) to see that this stands the truth on its head.  The Act gives the biggest breaks to the most dangerous (and repeat) offenders. Thus, for the relative small fry, the reduction is 3 years, from a mandatory minimum of 5 to a mandatory minimum of 2.  But for the really bad actors, the reduction is 10 years, from 20 to 10, or more than three times as much.

With math like that, perhaps Mr. Holder's next job will be in the Indiana Legislature.

Sometimes, You Forget How Bad They Can Be

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But Ed Whelan of NRO's  Bench Memos reminds us:

2005--A split Ninth Circuit panel, in an opinion by notorious activist judge Stephen Reinhardt, rules in a habeas case (Musladin v. Lamarque) that under clearly established Supreme Court law a defendant on trial for murder was deprived of his right to a fair trial by an impartial jury when the trial judge permitted family members of the victim (or, as Reinhardt insists on referring to him in quotes, the "victim") to wear buttons bearing the deceased's photograph. (The panel will later substitute in a slightly different version of its opinion.)

In 2006, a mere two months after oral argument, the Supreme Court (in Carey v. Musladin) will unanimously reverse the Ninth Circuit.

How far some judges will go to re-invent the Constitution as a cudgel of callousness toward the families of murder victims is mind-bending. 

News Scan

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Convicted Killer Arrested Shortly After Release: A Missouri man convicted of murder and sentenced to spend thirty years behind bars was arrested and charged with burglary shortly after he was released from prison.  KMOV St. Louis reports that Daniel Blount was sentenced to 30 years in prison for a murder he committed in 1991 and was supposed to serve at least 85 percent of that sentence, bit was release two years early.  Shortly after his release, Blount broke into a home that he was hired to work on and stole several high-dollar tools, he was arrested and charged with burglary and likely faces more prison time.

Buenos Aires Overwhelmed by Increasing Crime: The governor of Buenos Aires, Argentina's largest and most populated province, has declared a 12-month state of emergency in order to address an overwhelming crime rate.  Merco Press reports that Governor Daniel Scioli introduced a series of anti-crime measures including a multi-million dollar investment in security equipment and an 'immediate call' to retired police agents to rejoin preventative action aiming at a 5,000 member force. Magistrates are also being accused of being too lenient toward criminals, and are arguing for legislation providing tougher sentencing.

Supreme Court Denies Execution Drug Claim.  The U.S. Supreme Court has denied review of a murderer's claim that he is entitled to a hearing to determine what type of drug will be used in his upcoming execution and where it was acquired. In a surprisingly biased news article Richard Wolf and Gregg Zoroya of USA Today report that Christopher Sepulvado, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1993, appealed to the Supreme Court after the state of Louisiana reported that either pentobarbital or a combination of midazolam and hydromorphone would used for his execution.  Sepulvado's attorneys argued that their client has the right to know which drug will be used.  The high court has denied similar requests twice this year. 

More Mush from DOJ, Plus a Little Fib

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Cutting and pasting from his last 3000 speeches,  Attorney General Holder testified today before the House Judiciary Committee.  He repeated his standard lines in favor of cutting by half the minimum required sentences for drug dealers  --  which, of course, he never actually identifies as "cutting by half the minimum required sentences for drug dealers." Instead, he talks in roundabout language designed to obscure what's actually going on. Thus, he uses the always-a-good-tipoff set of phrases like "evidence-based," "commonsense change," and "tough and smart."

For right now, I want to highlight one thing Holder said that's simply not so.  He stated (prudently tucked into his eighth paragraph) that the Smarter Sentencing Act "would give judges more discretion in determining appropriate sentences for people convicted of certain federal drug crimes."

Well, not really.  The SSA says not one word about judicial discretion, and, as John Malcolm of Heritage has pointed out, actually adds three mandatory minimums to existing law.  To that extent, the SSA reduces such discretion.

It's the Justice Safety Valve Act, sponsored by the even more extreme Pat Leahy and Rand Paul, that would let judges run wild again, as in the bad old days of the crime-ballooning Sixties and Seventies.  The Smarter Sentencing Act "merely" cuts mandatory minimum sentences, but they remain mandatory, and not subject to the the whim ideology temperament frolic discretion of  judges.

Why the Use of Informants is Risky

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Because one of them might turn out to be Al Sharpton.

In what has to be one of the oddest criminal law stories I've seen for a while, Al Sharpton, who yesterday denied that he had been an FBI informant in the 1980's, today admits it and says it's old news.  

I was a federal prosecutor for many years, and I can tell you that informants are necessary, particularly in mob and big drug conspiracy cases.  But they're a boatload of trouble. For one thing, anyone in a position to have lots of information about extortion rackets or drug dealing is unlikely to have the character of the Pope.  The defense lawyer in cross examination is going to go to town.  

For another, such people are likely to have been life-long fabulists, and Big Al is no exception. Indeed, Rev. Sharpton is the prototype liar, having concocted one of the most remarkable hoaxes of recent times in the Tawana Brawley rape hoax.  

None of this, of course, keeps Big Al from being a frequent, honored guest of Barack Obama.  Records show that Sharpton had more visits with the President last year than Harry Reid.  Gads, I hope he wasn't wearing a wire!

UPDATE:  One acid commenter on Powerline notes, "Considering that Al ratted on the mob, he should be as nervous as a virtuous intern at the Clinton Foundation."

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