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IA High Court Bans LWOP for Teen Killers:  In a 4-3 ruling Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court banned judges from sentencing juveniles convicted of first-degree murder to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  Ryan J. Foley of the AP reports that justices ruled in the case of Isaiah Sweet, who was age 17 in 2012 when he committed the premeditated murders of his grandparents, determining that juveniles should have the option to someday prove to the parole board they have been rehabilitated given that their brains are still developing.  The dissenting justice, Edward Mansfield, criticized the ruling, calling it wrong to strike down a sentencing option that state lawmakers overwhelmingly reauthorized last year.  However, the ruling doesn't guarantee parole for juveniles offenders but, rather, contends that parole officials and not sentencing judges should make the determination.  Iowa is the 19th state to ban life without parole sentences for juveniles either through legislation or courts, while the Iowa high court is the second state court to outlaw such sentences based on the state constitution.

Kate Steinle's Family files a Lawsuit over her Death:  The family of Kate Steinle, the woman fatally shot on a San Francisco pier last July by an illegal immigrant, filed a lawsuit Friday over her death.  Fox News reports that the lawsuit argues that the city's sanctuary city law that protects illegal immigrants from deportation was responsible for the release of repeat drug offender and habitual border crosser Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who was released from custody despite a request from federal immigration authorities that local officials keep him in custody for possible deportation.  Even in the face of national outrage, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors upheld the city's sanctuary city protections on Tuesday for illegal immigrants.  Ross Mirkarimi, the sheriff at the time of Steinle's killing, ICE and the Bureau of Land Management were named in the lawsuit.

CA Laws Give Young Offenders 2nd Chance, Concerns Victims:  New laws in California have qualified over 14,000 inmates convicted of serious crimes as juveniles and sentenced as adults for early parole hearing, troubling victims.  Nicole Comstock of Fox 40 reports that SB 261, which went into effect in January 2016, raised the age of eligibility for parole hearings, coming two years after a law implemented in 2014 allowing youth offenders who committed crimes prior to the age of 18 -- many of whom were sentenced to life -- to have a parole hearing after serving between just 15 and 25 years.  San Benito County District Attorney Candice Hooper, who recently fought to keep a convicted serial rapist and murderer behind bars after he was granted a parole hearing last month, criticizes the new laws for benefiting prisoners at the expense of their victims.  According to the CDCR, 347 youth offenders who became eligible for parole hearings as a result of the law have been granted parole. 

Memorial Day

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Eagle.jpgFor the thousands of men and women who have died in defense of the freedom that most Americans take for granted.

A Requiem for Sentencing Reform

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Mass sentencing reduction had a chance in Congress for only as long as our country's galloping murder and heroin spikes could be shoved behind the media curtain, and before evidence surfaced of how grisly the human toll of early release would be.

When Wendell Callahan was given early release courtesy of a less ambitious 2010 version of sentencing reform and then, four months ago. sliced up two little girls and their mother, the current legislation suffered what may have been its mortal blow. Sentencing reformers had no answer.  Mostly the response was to refuse to discuss it.  The best a flummoxed Senate staffer could squeak out was, hey, look, we can't catch everything.  No wonder he and his boss refused to be quoted for attribution.

In addition, the shocking acceleration in murder and heroin overdose deaths is now at the point where even the pro-criminal lobby cannot ignore it; the best they can do is profess head-scratching befuddlement at how it could have happened. (It never occurs to them  --  or, more likely, it's precisely because it does occur to them  -- that this is the outcropping of their police-are-Nazis campaign).

Thus today  --  and as usual refusing to admit what they're doing  --  the SRCA's backers admitted defeat.
Prof. Dan Markel was a popular teacher at Florida State Law School and an active legal blogger.  I met him only once that I remember, but we had a number of mutual friends.

He was assassinated at his home, in broad daylight, on July 18, 2014.  Until today, his murder was unsolved.  This morning, 34 year-old Sigfredo Garcia was arrested for the killing. As I suspected, it seems to have been a hit  --  i.e., a murder-for-hire.

What I was not suspecting was the killer's rap sheet, summarized as follows in Tallahassee Democrat (emphasis added):

Garcia has been arrested at least 22 times in Florida. His first arrest, for vehicle theft, happened in Miami on April 30, 1997, just three days after his 15th birthday.....

He was arrested several other times as a teenager, on charges including assault on a law enforcement officer, car burglary, making or attempting to make an explosive device, possession of marijuana and trafficking in amphetamines, according to FDLE documents.

As an adult, he was arrested on charges including aggravated assault with a weapon, criminal mischief, possession of cocaine and marijuana and strong arm robbery.

It wasn't immediately clear how many times he was convicted or how much time he's spent in county jail. He has no history of incarceration in Florida state prisons.

Translation:  Garcia had spent virtually his entire life proving that he was an unrepentant violent criminal and that he could not live peacefully in civil society. Yet he served not one day in state prison.

We are often lectured that America over-incarcerates.  What Dan Markel's murder shows, to the exact contrary, is that America gives too many morally oblivious second chances.  Prof. Markel will not be the last to pay the price.

News Scan

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CT High Court Upholds Death Penalty Repeal:  The Connecticut Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision, upheld its previous ruling Thursday that found the death penalty unconstitutional and abolished it.  Daniel Tepfer of the CT Post reports that the ruling was made in the appeal of convicted murderer Russell Peeler Jr., whose sentence was changed from death to life without the possibility of release.  In 2012, the General Assembly repealed capital punishment in the state, which was intended to be applied only to people convicted of a capital felony after April 25, 2012 and not the state's already-sentenced death row inmates; however, the state Supreme Court's ruling last year extended it to the 10 inmates on the Connecticut's death row, including Peeler.  In January 1999, Peeler, a drug kingpin, was sentenced to death for ordering the murders of an eight-year-old boy and his mother because the boy was scheduled to testify against him in another murder case.

Report Highlights Unintended Consequences of CA Policies:  Los Angeles County is experiencing an overwhelmingly large caseload in their mental health courts due to strained court resources, and AB 109 and Proposition 47 are believed to be contributing factors. Abbey Sewell of the LA Times reports that the mental health courts have seen an increase in their case referrals jumping from 944 in 2010 to 3,528 in 2015. Likewise, the number of misdemeanors also spiked from 225 to 2,178 in the respective years. In a preliminary report, the county's Office of Diversion and Reentry believes that the implementation of AB 109 and Prop. 47, the growing homeless population and the lack of beds for acute psychiatric care are responsible for the staggering statistics.

Death Penalty Sought Against GA Man who Killed Priest:  A man accused of murdering a priest last month has been indicted and will face the death penalty in a Georgia court.  Sandy Hodson of the Augusta Chronicle reports that Steven James Murray, 28, fatally shot Rev. Rene Robert, a Florida resident who was trying to counsel him, on April 18.  It is believed that Murray tricked Robert into accompanying him to visit his children and later forced Robert into the trunk of his own car before committing several burglaries and an arson.  At some point, Murray pulled the car over, took Robert out of the trunk and shot him to death.  Prosecutors cite four statutory aggravating circumstances in the notice of intention to seek the death penalty:   
A variety of people on both sides of the political aisle have been pushing for reform on the mental states required for a person to be guilty of a federal criminal offense.  In federal law, more than in most states, the traditional requirement that a crime be defined as a combination of a guilty mind with a guilty act has been watered down as the administrative state has expanded.  Former Attorney General Ed Meese, a longtime friend and advisor to CJLF, has testified on this subject before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Congressman John Conyers, senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, also supports mens rea reform.

But it is not enough to be in favor of "reform" in the abstract.  Reform must be drafted into legislation, and the devil is in the details.  Searching for papers and testimony of reform supporters, I have found a lot about reform in general and very little supporting the specific language of the proposals now before Congress.

The bills as drafted seem to me to be classic cases of overreach -- the proverbial "bridge too far" resulting in failure of the mission.  The opponents have valid criticisms, ammunition handed to them by the drafters' overreach.

Justice for Jacob

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A couple leaves their 1-year-old son, Jacob, with a family friend for a couple of hours while they go out on a date.  Upon their return, they find their family friend asleep on the couch and Jacob crying uncontrollably.  The next morning, the parents notice that Jacob has a black eye, scratches, bruises on his arm and back, plus a very large and visible hand-shaped bruise on the side of his face.  (How they didn't notice these injuries upon their return the night before is beyond me....)  Multiple doctors and a police detective tell the parents that the amount of force Jacob sustained could have killed him.  Several days later, the family "friend" admitted to grabbing and smacking Jacob across the face.

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Va. GOP File Lawsuit to Block Felons from Voting:  Virginia Republicans filed a lawsuit Monday in the state Supreme Court to block over 200,000 felons from voting in November, arguing that Gov. Terry McAuliffe abused his power when he restored the voting rights of convicts with completed sentences.  Alanna Durkin Richer of CNS News reports that the lawsuit, brought by House Speaker William Howell and Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment along with four other Virginia voters, argues McAuliffe's executive order violates the separations of powers by suspending the state's ban on voting by felons and ignores the decades-old practice of governors being able to restore voting rights only on a case-by-case basis. McAuliffe's announced the sweeping order last month, which allows an estimated 206,000 felons who have completed their sentences and any supervised release by April 22 to vote, run for public office, serve on a jury or become a notary public.

OK Considering New Execution Method:  The state of Oklahoma is seriously considering nitrogen hypoxia as its primary method of capital punishment in lieu of the current method of lethal injection, which has come under Grand Jury investigation in the state. Grant Hermes of News 9 reports that the method works by pumping pure nitrogen gas into a face mask or sealed hood of the individual being executed and cause death by lack of oxygen.  According to an unnamed doctor and unnamed professor who testified in front of the jury, nitrogen hypoxia would be "easy and inexpensive," "simple to administer" and "quick and seemingly painless."  The method was signed into law last spring as an alternate execution procedure.

More Gitmo Detainees Set to be Transferred: 
The Obama administration is preparing the transfers of up to 24 Guantanamo Bay detainees this summer.  Catherine Herridge and Lucas Tomlinson of Fox News reports that the announcement of more transfers comes as President Obama continues progression towards closing the camp, so far reducing the population from 242 detainees to 80.  An official could not state confidently whether the countries receiving the detainees would keep them locked up or track them.  Republican Sens. Mark Kirk, of Illinois, and James Lankford, of Oklahoma, have introduced an amendment to hold countries that accept transfers accountable.
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz is not someone we agree with often, but his comments on Megyn Kelly's show last night are notable.  The video is here.  The transcript is here and copied, with edits, after the break.

[Editors Note:  Unknown to either of us, Bill and I were posting on the same subject at the same time.  That's okay.  I will leave them both up.  There is overlap, but also some differences in the posts.]
In my post here, I went after the Freddie Gray prosecutor, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby. As usual, my remarks did not suffer from excess subtlety:

Freddie Gray died as a result of injuries sustained in police custody, and there remain more than a few questions to be answered about that.  But the way to answer them is not with a "cops-are-Nazis" festival, which  --  thanks to an immature, political and grandstanding State's Attorney  --  is what the Freddie Gray prosecutions have become. Not for nothing did she lose today's case, just as she fumbled away (in a mistrial) the one before.

I was struck to see how much my take on it resembles that of liberal but independent-minded Harvard Law Prof. Alan Dershowitz, who said in an interview on Fox News:

On Tuesday night's The Kelly File, Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz says Baltimore's state's attorney Marilyn Mosby, the Freddie Gray prosecutor, acted irresponsibly, politically.

"These are officers who, you know, may have made a mistake but they are not guilty of criminal conduct," Dershowitz said of Officer Edward Nero being found not guilty in Baltimore. "What she tried to do is stop the mob [of rioters and arsonists]. I understand that, but you don't use the criminal justice system to solve racial problems."

"She's a symptom of a larger problem," Dershowitz said of Mosby. "Black Lives Matter is endangering the fairness of our legal system. Because they're rooting for outcomes based on race."
Crime has a predictable history as a campaign issue.  For the past couple of elections, when crime was low and falling, it was barely mentioned.  But when crime is surging, as it was in 1968, 1972, and 1988, crime policy became a major battleground. Richard Nixon, though widely thought to be a shady character, rode it to two easy victories.

Will something similar happen this time, as Donald Trump talks tough while Hillary Clinton embraces the mantra of "over-incarceration"?  Sen. Jeff Sessions thinks it might.  As the Washington Examiner reports:

FBI Director James B. Comey had an odd plea to Washington reporters when he met them earlier this month. Please, he said, write about the surge of murders rocking the nation's cities.

"I raise it with you all because I hope it's being reported on at local levels, but in my view, it's not in the attention of the national level it deserves," he said. "I am in many ways more worried, because the numbers are not only going up, they're continuing to go up in most of those cities faster than they were going up last year. I worry very much. It's a problem that most of America can drive around."

The media dished out a few stories and moved on. But soon the issue will receive attention on the national political stage as the two likely presidential nominees prepare to address it.

"Crime is a factor that I think is going to play bigger in this election than people realize because crime is going up, drug addiction is surging -- 120 deaths a day from drug overdoses. It's just a stunning number," [said] Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and adviser to Donald Trump.

One must wonder whether Trump's recent big advance in the polls reflects the country's increased alarm about spiking drug abuse and murder.

I wrote earlier today about the surge in violent crime across America and its roots in the "Ferguson effect," i.e., the intimidation of proactive policing.  Paul Mirengoff follows up with observations from this morning's American Enterprise Institute forum 

The importance of proactive policing, which is what the Ferguson effect deters, is sufficiently obvious that even liberals understand it. Today at an AEI conference on sentencing reform, Steven Teles, a leading proponent of softer sentencing, expressed his concern that the sentencing reform movement, which has carried the day in some states, will be set back if the crime rate continues to rise and/or if those released pursuant to the reforms commit horrific crimes.

Teles therefore stressed the importance of coupling softer (he calls it "smarter") sentencing with measures to prevent crime, including proactive policing. In other words, sentencing reform, an important agenda item for the left (and for some conservatives), might not be sustainable without the kind of policing the left castigates -- and thereby deters.

But the same mindless accusations of racism that the softer sentencing movement relies on also undergird the virulent attacks on the police that produce the Ferguson effect. Thus, we're quite unlikely to get both a soft sentencing regime and policing that will help society cope with the consequences of having vastly more criminals on the street.


Just so.  The cultural rot and grievance narratives that have produced the push for dumbed down sentencing are certain also to produce continued shrunken policing. Our budding crime wave will stop only when the ideas that have spawned it are exposed and defeated.   

Easiest Decision of the Year

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The Justice Department has announced that it will seek the death penalty against Dylan Roof.  

About a year ago, Roof sat in a pew in the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, SC. After an hour in which several parishoners were holding a Bible discussion, he shot nine of them to death.  The victims were all black; Roof is white.  He did it out of racial hate, neither more nor less.  To my knowledge, no sane person has raised any question about who committed this massacre or why.

I worked for DOJ for years, and I cannot fathom why it would take eleven months to decide on the death penalty.  Being as charitable as I can, my guess is that the Department was careful to solicit the views of the victims' families, and that opinion was divided.  Some very religious people oppose capital punishment under all circumstances.

Roof, however, is a walking, and conclusive, case for the death penalty.  The idea that a prison sentence, regardless of its length, is proportionate to this crime is absurd.

I'm all for salvation, but salvation comes from God.  The best our law can do is justice. Now, justice will have its chance.

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'Blue Lives Matter' Bill to become La. Law:  A bill that would make attacks on police officers and other first responders a hate crime is expected to become law in Louisiana this week.  Greg Hilburn of the Daily Advertiser reports that state Rep. Lance Harris' bill, House Bill 953 or "Blue Lives Matter," will be the first law of its kind in the nation specific to law enforcement, amending an existing law which classifies hate crimes as those based on bias against race, age, gender, religion, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry.  The bill won unanimous support in the House and overwhelming support in the Senate, and is expected to be signed into law sometime this week by Gov. John Bel Edwards.  Update:  Gov. Edwards signed the bill into law Thursday.

AB 109 Probationer Arrested on Numerous Violations:  An AB 109 probationer was arrested in Murrieta, Calif., over the weekend along with two other people with active felony warrants.  Trevor Montgomery of Valley News reports that David Rutledge was arrested for driving under the influence of a controlled substance, driving with a suspended license, possession of methamphetamine and narcotics-related paraphernalia, and booked on one felony count of revocation. At the time of his arrest on Saturday, Rutledge was out on Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) for a weapons charge.

Border Crossings Spike Dramatically:  U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehended roughly 38,000 illegal immigrants in April, marking the highest surge in nearly two years. Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times reports that the immigrants crossing the border are not just families who are migrating to flee violence, as numbers now reflect a worrisome spike in other illegal immigrants, topping at 27,000.  Yuma County, Ariz., Sheriff Leon N. Wilmot says there are both push and pull factors contributing to the surge and "basically a lot of it has to do with the fact they're obtaining the assistance with regards to when they're released" once they arrive at the border and turn themselves in.

Prosecutors want Execution Date for OH Killer:  Prosecutors in a Youngstown, Ohio, case say it's due time for an execution date to be scheduled for a death row inmate who fatally shot a three-month-old over 13 years ago.  WFMJ reports that John Drummond, 38, has exhausted all of his state and federal court reviews of his convictions and death sentence, and prosecutors are requesting that an execution date be set.  In 2003, Drummond used an assault rifle during a drive-by shooting to fire 11 shots into a home, killing the intended target's infant son.  In all, he was convicted of eight charges.

One of the arguments for legalizing dope is that, given the fact that people are going to use one kind of intoxicant or another, we'll be better off, and safer (on the road, for example), if they're stoned rather than plastered.  Essentially, the theory is that, to some significant extent, we'll trade alcohol consumption for dope smoking, and that the dopers will be more laid back, and take it easier, than the drunks.

Prof. Doug Berman has made this argument numerous times.

It's an empirical proposition, of course.  We can test it by looking to the states in which recreational dope is legal (under state law), and thus more readily available.  (The additional advantage, we are told, is that legalized dope will be regulated, and thus less subject to adulteration and other perils of a black market product).

Q:  So how are things working out in the largest of the legalized pot states, Colorado?  Is  alcohol consumption lower than in states where dope remains illegal?

A:  See this Denver Post article, "Colorado Stands Out for Consuming Drugs, Alcohol  -- High levels of pot consumption expected, but Colorado stands out for other inebriants, too."

Oh well.
A:  More violent crime, which is surging across the United States.

As Heather McDonald writes in the WSJ:

[T]he evidence is not looking good for those who dismiss the Ferguson effect, from the president on down. That group once included Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, who was an early and influential critic. Mr. Rosenfeld has changed his mind after taking a closer look at the worsening crime statistics. "The only explanation that gets the timing right is a version of the Ferguson effect," he told the Guardian recently. "These aren't flukes or blips, this is a real increase." 

Oooooops.

A study of gun violence in Baltimore by crime analyst Jeff Asher showed an inverse correlation with proactive drug arrests: When Baltimore cops virtually stopped making drug arrests last year after the rioting that followed the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, shootings soared. In Chicago, where pedestrian stops have fallen nearly 90%, homicides this year are up 60% compared with the same period last year. Compared with the first four and half months of 2014, homicides in Chicago are up 95%, according to the police department. Even the liberal website Vox has grudgingly concluded that "the Ferguson effect theory is narrowly correct, at least in some cities."

Double oooooops.  And it gets worse.


Three explanations strike me as plausible.

First, he believes that every ex-con deserves to "participate in democracy" regardless of how grievous his crime or how thoroughly it demonstrated contempt for law.

Second, he wants to increase the number of Democratic voters in Virginia to help his pal Hillary in the forthcoming Presidential election.

Overall crime in Las Vegas spiked by 22 percent this year, with homicides up by over 60 percent, sexual assaults up by nine percent and robberies up by 21 percent.  And what does the sheriff think is the reason behind this?  CBS reports:

The sheriff of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department claimed a number of crimes that happened in Sin City have been traced back to Californian[s].

Sheriff Joe Lombardo blamed AB 109, which allows for early release of certain inmates, and Proposition 47, which reduces nonviolent crimes to misdemeanors.

"Individuals we're able to identify, and also the victims of those crimes - we're seeing a significant increase in individuals that have gang affiliation, gang association directly related to California," Lombardo said.

Los Angeles' city attorney expressed skepticism in how Lombardo made a connection between the Las Vegas crime spike and California's laws.  Still, it is telling, even if Lombardo's theory is falsely perceived, that because AB 109 and Prop. 47 are such bad policies, neighboring states believe they are reaping the negative consequences of them as well.

Whether or not there is anything to Sheriff Lombardo's reasoning remains to be seen.

The  full text transcript of Judge Barry Williams's ruling in the trial of Baltimore police officer Edward Nero is available here.

Infected Prosecutions Get Tanked

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I live near Washington, DC.  The big criminal law news here today consists of two cases. One is the SCOTUS reversal of the conviction of a black Georgia murderer on grounds that the government engaged in racially biased jury strikes.  Kent has his typically thoughtful and analytic description here.  While, as Kent notes, there are grounds to question the procedural setting of the case, the Chief Justice's opinion documents disturbing reasons to think the defendant's claims of racial bias were true.

The other news item is the acquittal on all counts of a white Baltimore policeman in the Freddie Gray case.  He had been charged, along with five other officers (two other whites and three blacks) with helping cause Gray's death in police custody. The case was brought by a radical black prosecutor who, after announcing the filing of charges, held an outdoor, campaign-style news conference to congratulate herself, then attended a rock concert (not a typo) ostensibly to laud some sort of "why-can't-we-all-get-along" theme, but actually designed, so it certainly seemed, to further inflame racial passions against the accused.  I discussed the prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, and her antics several times, e.g., here.

A number of thoughts come to mind from today's stories.

News Scan

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MA Officer Killed, Suspect Dead:  Jorge Zambrano killed Officer Ron Tarentino Jr. during a routine traffic stop in Massachusetts on Sunday and injured an 18-year state trooper veteran.  Fox News reports that after an 18-hour manhunt, Zambrano was killed in a shootout with Massachusetts police when he opened fire on state troopers in an Oxford duplex.  The state trooper sustained a gunshot wound in the left shoulder and is expected to make a full recovery.  Zambrano had numerous previous arrests and court appearances, including a hearing for motor vehicle charges just four days before fatally shooting Officer Tarentino, who is the second Massachusetts police officer to be killed in the line of duty this year.

Obama's Reintegration Plan Sparks Fear:  President Obama is pushing for administrative reforms to better integrate ex-offenders into society, sparking concern that such reforms could jeopardize public safety.  Andrea Noble of the Washington Times reports that some of the reforms include the removal of questions regarding criminal history on federal job applications and college applications, and making it a federal violation for landlords to disqualify a renter only due to their criminal history.  According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, at least one half of 25,000 federal offenders released will be rearrested and at least one quarter will be re-incarcerated within eight years of their release.

TX Family Killed by Drunk Driver with Previous DUI Conviction:  Three members of a Houston family were killed early Saturday morning when a drunk driver with a previous drunk driving conviction blasted through a red light and broadsided the driver's side door of the family's vehicle.  Bob Price of Breitbart reports that the suspect, Jeremy Valdez, 25, attempted to flee the scene of the crash but was chased down by a witness, who held him until deputies arrived.  Valdez, who was previously convicted of drunk driving in January 2011, has been charged with three counts of felony murder in the deaths of Emilio Avila, 33, Adla Nolasco, 41, and high school senior Mauricio Ramires, 18, who was scheduled to graduate on June 4.

Reversal in an Ugly Batson Case

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When cases with ugly facts reach the U.S. Supreme Court, they sometimes cause damage that lasts a very long time.  Foster v. Chatman, No. 14-8349, decided this morning, is a case with ugly facts.  How much damage it will do to states seeking to preserve their judgments in other cases where the defendant's collateral attack is much weaker remains to be seen.

At the root of this case is a horrible crime, with no real doubt that Foster committed it.  Not only did he confess, but the victim's possessions were recovered from his home and from the homes of his sisters, to whom he had doled out some of the loot.

Until 1986, there was no constitutional prohibition against the prosecution taking race into account in exercising its peremptory challenges in jury selection in individual cases, although a pattern of such use that had the effect of excluding black veniremen from jury service overall was actionable.  That changed when the Supreme Court decided Batson v. Kentucky.  The Foster case was tried only four months later.

All the News That's Fit to Slant

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The New York Times occasionally has excellent and insightful news articles.  Then there's stuff like this, "reporting" on Donald Trump's speech accepting his NRA endorsement:

Mr. Trump, whose record of sexist remarks, among other things, has left him at a potentially crippling disadvantage among female voters, polls show, appealed directly to women in his speech, imbuing his defense of gun rights with an undercurrent of fear.

"In trying to overturn the Second Amendment, Hillary Clinton is telling everyone -- and every woman living in a dangerous community -- that she doesn't have the right to defend herself," Mr. Trump said. "So you have a woman living in a community, a rough community, a bad community -- sorry, you can't defend yourself."

If Mr. Trump's comments seemed reminiscent of an era when crime rates were far higher -- the Willie Horton ads attacking Michael S. Dukakis, the Democratic nominee, in the 1988 presidential race came to mind -- they also appeared somewhat at odds with the broad bipartisan consensus on the need to reduce incarceration rates and prison populations: Mr. Trump sought to frighten voters about the idea of criminals being released from prison.


The idea that this is a news story, as opposed to an editorial hatchet job, is preposterous.  Let's take it one line at a time.





In Oklahoma, a grand jury has released its report on the problems with executions by lethal injection in that state and the substitution of potassium acetate for potassium chloride.  There are numerous procedural errors detailed in the report, and opponents of the death penalty are having a field day with them.  However, this should not obscure the "bottom line" finding on the execution of Charles Warner (emphasis added):

Warner's death was intentionally inflicted by correctional officers acting pursuant to a Death Warrant issued by the District Court in State of Oklahoma v. Charles Fredrick Warner, Oklahoma County Case No. CF-1997-5249.  The execution, which involved the administration of midazolam, rocuronium bromide, and potassium acetate, was completed in a manner consistent with the Death Warrant and statutory authority. The intravenous administration of the three-drug cocktail to Warner resulted in his humane death within eighteen minutes of the commencement of the sequential administration of these drugs. There is no evidence the manner of the execution caused Warner any needless pain. Nevertheless, his execution was not administered in compliance with the Department's Protocol or in a manner allowing Warner to challenge the procedure prior to his death.

Going forward, the grand jury recommended further research on the use of nitrogen, recently authorized by the legislature:

News Scan

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Signatures for Death Penalty Measure Submitted:  Californians for Death Penalty Reform and Savings submitted 593,000 signatures Thursday for a November ballot initiative to accelerate executions for death row inmates, which will appear alongside an opposing measure to repeal capital punishment in the state.  Elliot Spagat and Don Thompson of the AP reports that the measure would speed up the appeals process for death penalty cases by assigning attorneys to condemned inmates more quickly, limiting the number of appeals and forcing them to be filed sooner.  The whole process would have to be completed in five years, sharply contrasting the current system, in which inmates don't get a lawyer assigned until five years after their sentence.  Other provisions of the measure would allow death row inmates to be housed in prisons other than San Quentin and require them to work and pay victim restitution while they await execution.  California has the largest death row in the nation with nearly 750 convicted killers, but an execution hasn't been carried out for a decade and only 13 total have been executed since the capital punishment's reinstatement in 1978.

CA Parolee Added to FBI's Most Wanted List:  A convicted felon and parolee from Los Angeles has been added to the FBI's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list after fleeing last month following the murder of his pregnant girlfriend and her unborn child.  Willian Avila of NBC Los Angeles reports that Philip Patrick Policarpio, 39, a parolee, became angry with his pregnant girlfriend on April 12 and beat her in the face with his firsts before shooting her in the forehead with a handgun, killing her.  In 2000, Policarpio fired nine shots into another car over a dispute, after which he fled to the Philippines.  He was deported to the U.S. the following year, convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison.  He was released on parole in May 2014.

OH Jury Recommends Death for Serial Killer:  A jury recommended the death penalty Thursday for a Cleveland serial killer convicted of murdering three women.  The AP reports that Michael Madison, 38, was convicted of aggravated murder earlier this month in the deaths of three women whose bodies were found wrapped in garbage bags near his apartment in July 2013.  The judge will now consider the jury's recommendation and issue a final decision on May 26.
Press conferences were held at county registrars of voters around the state as we turned in the petitions.  Sean Emery of the Orange County Register has this story on the turn-in there.

Here are photos from the Sacramento event, by our own Marissa Cohen.  Click on the photo for a larger view.

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Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert introduces the measure and discusses its significance.

News Scan

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An Academic has Second Thoughts on Ferguson Effect:  A criminologist has parted ways with liberal deniers of the "Ferguson effect," which suggests that crime has gone up amid the barrage of anti-police rhetoric resulting in a decrease in proactive policing following the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, in August 2014.  In this piece in the Washington Examiner, Michael Barone quotes University of Missouri at St. Louis criminologist Richard Rosenfeld admitting that, after looking over 2015 data from 56 large cities and noting that homicides jumped 17% and as much as 33% in some cities from 2014, "[t]he only explanation that gets the timing right is a version of the Ferguson effect."  Going back to 1960, the only double-digit increases in the nation were 13% (in 1968), 11% (in 1966, 1967 and 1971) and 10% (in 1979).  James Wilson and George Kelling introduced broken windows theory in 1982, arguing that proactive policing and elimination of signs of disorder could sharply reduce crime.  When the theory was employed in New York City beginning in the 1990s, homicides decreased from 2,445 in 1990 to 328 in 2014.  The numbers "aren't flukes or blips" says Rosenfeld, which discount the mainstream media's mantra that a "rising epidemic of racist police" is what is driving up the crime rates.

Court Considers MO Lethal Injection Protocol:  The Missouri Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday that a judge incorrectly dismissed a lawsuit last year challenging the state's procedures for obtaining lethal injection drugs.  Margaret Stafford of the AP reports that the lawsuit, filed on behalf of two former state lawmakers and two Missouri residents, argues that the state is in violation of federal and state law because it uses an illegal prescription to obtain pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy for executions.  The lawsuit was dismissed in July 2015 after a circuit court judge ruled that taxpayers have no standing to challenge Department of Corrections' operations and the Missouri Supreme Court has jurisdiction in death penalty-related lawsuits.  At the time, the Missouri attorney general's office argued that the lawsuit was illegally attempting to enforce federal food a drug laws privately.  It is unclear when the appeals court will issue a ruling in the case.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to see Sen. Tom Cotton's remarks today at the Hudson Institute on what is called sentencing "reform," and on policing.  

I have seldom seen a member of Congress speak with such knowledge and specific data as Sen. Cotton.  

One of the many points he conveyed is that some of his colleagues have simply become complacent about the gains the country has made against crime, and accept as the state-of-nature the low crime we have now.

It is not the state of nature, and if we turn away from the work we did to get here, soon enough we'll find ourselves back in the time when New York City had six murders a day. In one major city after another, we're already headed in that direction.

Will we wake up?  Sen Cotton seems optimistic. His remarks are here.


Postpartum psychosis defense

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A 29 year-old mother researches on the internet how to poison her children.  She later mixes windshield de-icer fluid into some grape juice and serves the toxic mixture to her five-year-old son and 4-month-old daughter.  When the toxic fluid fails to kill them, she takes those two children into the bathroom and drowns them in the bathtub.  She writes a note to the father of those two children blaming him for her actions.  She had recently discovered that he fathered a child with another woman.  She then seals all of the windows in her apartment with plastic and tape and sends a text to her boyfriend (father of the children) that says, "I'm sorry the kids are gone.  I'm next." She turns on the gas from her stove, drinks the toxic grape juice, and cuts her wrists.  9-1-1 reports of a gas leak cause firefighters to discover the grave scene.  The kids are dead, but the mother survives.

Lisette Bamenga committed this horrific crime in New York four years ago.  Prosecutors charged her with two counts of murder and sought a 40-year prison sentence, claiming that she killed the children in a jealous rage after finding out about her boyfriend's infidelity.  Bamenga opted for a bench trial, and her defense attorneys argued that she suffered from postpartum psychosis and should not be held responsible for the killings.  The judge convicted Bamenga of manslaughter and sentenced her to 8 years in prison on each count to run concurrently.

Postpartum psychosis?  Would it be different if her kids were 2 years old and 5 years old instead?  At what point after the birth of a child does the postpartum psychosis defense cease to apply?  At what point does the psychotic period end, if ever?  What if the tables were turned and the father committed this crime instead?  This woman researched methods of poisoning her children on the internet.  She went to the store and bought windshield de-icer fluid.  She mixed it with juice and gave it to her unsuspecting, trusting little children.  When the poison did not kill them like she thought it would, she decided to drown them.  She took their little bodies and submerged them under water in their own bathtub until she was sure they were dead.  She was distraught over her boyfriend's affair and baby with another woman.
This case seems different from the Andrea Yates case.  In 2006, after a re-trial, Andrea Yates was found innocent by reason of insanity and sentenced to a mental hospital.  As far as I know, she remains in a mental hospital today. 
The sad fact is that two young, defenseless children are dead at the hands of the woman who gave them life.
In 2012, the friends of murderers came within four percent of repealing California's death penalty by popular vote, something that has not been done in any state in the United States.  Opposition to the death penalty (like other soft-on-crime efforts) is mostly an elitist cause, pushed by affluent people who can go home to their leafy neighborhoods while the bloody consequences of their feel-good "humanitarianism" fall on people of more modest means.  Thus, repeal bills have gotten through legislatures even when the people of the state are opposed to repeal.  We saw this in Connecticut, where repeal went through even as polls showed the people opposed by 2-1.

In California, the death penalty was enacted by initiative and can't be repealed by the Legislature.  However, the Legislature has failed to do the maintenance necessary to make the death penalty effective, and until now the forces of justice have not been able to raise the very large amounts of money needed to get a fix-it initiative on the ballot.

I can easily see why a lot of people who support the death penalty in principle voted for repeal in 2012.  The present system is not working.  If I genuinely believed it was not fixable, I might vote for repeal myself.

The well-funded friends of murderers have enough signatures to put repeal on the ballot again this year.  But this year is different.  Through a herculean fund-raising effort led by the district attorneys, there will also be a competing initiative to actually fix the system, making the reforms that our derelict Legislature has killed instead of passing so many times.

"Mend it, don't end it" was our slogan in opposition to repeal last time.  A good many people asked, "Yeah, but when are you going to mend it."  Finally, we have a good answer.  This time, the people of California have a direct choice between the two.  The status quo is toast.

I have no doubt the people will choose to mend it and not end it if they are fully and honestly informed of the choice before them.  The main concern now is the overwhelming funding advantage the opponents have.  They can and will spend big bucks to put misleading advertisements on the air, and our side will have only a shoestring grass-roots campaign.  This campaign may be a test of the extent to which money can buy an election.

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