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4 Monday Must Reads & 1 Must Watch

May 7th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

with Taylor Walker




SUPREME COURT COULD OPEN THE DOOR FOR HUGE NUMBERS OF DEPORTED IMMIGRANTS TO HAVE THEIR CRIMINAL CASES RECONSIDERED.

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in a case called Padilla vs. Kentucky, that a an immigrant who is a permanent legal resident but who, after being charged with a felony, agreed to a guilty plea on the bad advice from a defense attorney without being told that his or her plea will result in automatic deportation, can have that guilty conviction vacated.

Now the court is set to decide this year whether or not Padilla should be made retroactive.

Michael Strickland from UPI has more of the details. Here’s a clip:

Is the U.S. Supreme Court about to open the appeal floodgates for legal aliens who committed crimes in the United States, pleaded guilty but weren’t told they would face deportation under federal law?

Maybe. Argument on the issue will be heard next term, which begins on the first Monday of October.

The genesis of the dispute arose in 2010, when the Supreme Court ruled in Padilla vs. Kentucky that non-citizens who pleaded guilty to felonies, but weren’t advised by their lawyers they automatically would be deported, were unconstitutionally deprived of their Sixth and 14th Amendment rights to effective counsel.

The vote was 7-2.

Now the Supreme Court has agreed to review whether the Padilla ruling should be made retroactive. In other words, should it be applied to any non-resident who pleaded guilty to a felony without effective counsel from 1996, when the deportation law was passed, to 2010, when the decision was handed down.

How big a universe would be affected is up for speculation….

One thing: although Strickland implies otherwise, a guilty plea does not always mean the person pleading actually committed the crime. Most times it does, of course. But far from always. These days 90 percent of all criminal cases are settled by plea bargain and people take pleas for all kinds of reasons, a common one being someone who has already spent a year or two in jail waiting to go to trial when his attorney tells him if he just pleas out, he will be released for time (already) served. So he takes the plea—whether he committed the crime or not.. And, if he’s a perfectly legal resident, but not a US citizen, he (or she) will be immediately deported for the rest of his or her life.

In any event, this will be an interesting matter to watch.


HORRIBLY ABUSED WOMAN WHO SHOULD HAVE BEEN RELEASED AFTER 12 YEARS FOR MANSLAUGHTER, FINALLY GETS OUT AFTER 27

SF woman Wanda Brown was released after serving fifteen years longer than the maximum she should have spent behind bars. Her release was based upon a new retroactive law that allows domestic abuse testimony to be considered in old cases. Getting out also required the work of a young but determined pro bono attorney.

San Jose Mercury News columnist, Scott Herhold has the story:

Here’s how it opens:

Wanda Brown killed Willie Kelley. There was never any question. In a frenzy in 1984, the 22-year-old woman stabbed the San Francisco shopkeeper 64 times with a pocket knife. As lawyers say, it looked like bad facts. She pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. A judge gave her 16 years to life.

With no evidence of premeditation, her lawyer, a San Francisco public defender, told her she’d likely be out in eight and a half years. That was the standard back in the mid-’80s.

Then California politics lurched toward an unforgiving stance on crime. More than 27 years later, Wanda Brown was still at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, rejected three times for parole.

On this one, you really do need to read the rest.


SHOULD PROSECUTORS BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE WHEN THEIR MISCONDUCT CAUSES INNOCENT PEOPLE TO LOSE YEARS OF THEIR LIVES?

With more and more innocence cases turning up evidence of prosecutorial misconduct, the fact that prosecutors are legally protected from accountability in most of such cases is becoming an increasingly pressing matter.

The Innocence Project’s Barry Scheck has an essay on the issue in Sunday’s Austin Statesman.

Here’s a clip:

In February, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson affirmed the finding of state District Judge Sid Harle that there was probable cause to believe former Williamson County prosecutor Ken Anderson had violated the criminal laws of Texas by disobeying a court order to disclose evidence pointing to the innocence of Michael Morton, who in 1987 was wrongly convicted of murdering his wife. A court of inquiry will now try Anderson on these charges.

The case against Anderson (who is now a state district judge and denies wrongdoing in the Morton case) made national headlines because, as a recent article in the Yale Online Law Review thoroughly documents, our system rarely disciplines, much less brings criminal charges against, prosecutors who have engaged in acts of intentional misconduct. Far too often, prosecutors, who wield enormous power over our lives, aren’t investigated at all, even for intentional misconduct that has led to a wrongful conviction, much less “harmless” intentional misconduct in cases in which the defendant was guilty.


TWO SMALL TOWN NEWSPAPER REPORTERS BRING DOWN A CORRUPT SHERIFF—AND GET DEATH THREATS

Be sure to watch this 60 Minutes story about how a small town newspaper did what even the feds couldn’t manage. (Video link here.)

And here’s a clip from the written version:

Prescription drug abuse has become an epidemic in America. Few places have been hit harder than Kentucky, a state that has also been ravaged by addiction to crystal meth. In Whitley County, Kentucky – in the heart of Appalachia — matters were made worse when the man suspected of being at the center of the drug trade was the county’s top law enforcement officer, Sheriff Lawrence Hodge.

There had long been suspicions that Sheriff Hodge was dirty, but nobody – not even federal agents – could prove it.

That’s when two local journalists — both in their 20s — launched their own investigation. And they soon discovered poking into the affairs of a powerful county sheriff can be risky business.

Adam Sulfridge: You know you’re 20 years old, and you’re taking a shower one day and getting ready for class and you get a call from a federal agent because there’s a credible threat against your life. Everything about it is just so surreal. You know. You don’t– you don’t think a whole lot about it. Then later that night you start thinking, you’re like, “Geez, somebody wants to kill me. That’s a little odd.”

And it’s the sheriff. The sheriff wants to kill you.

Read and or watch the rest.


CAN CANDY SALES TRANSFORM LIVES? CRITICS AREN’T SO SURE

Ex gang-leader-turned-pastor Jesse Sanchez’s Coachella Valley group home requires hours of candy sales by parolees and recovering addicts without providing any rehabilitative programs for the residents.

The Desert Sun’s Rebecca Walsh has the story. Here’s a clip:

At Victory Life, treatment for as many as two dozen men seems to consist of days of chocolate-selling punctuated by church services Sunday morning and Tuesday evening. There is no counseling, no job or life skills training. Residents simply beg, day in and day out, for their upkeep.

“That would never happen in any of our programs,” says Bill Sessa, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “Where a parolee goes to find comfort with a church is their business. But that is very different from what we consider rehabilitation.”

Read on. It’s an interesting tale.


Posted in crime and punishment, criminal justice, immigration, Innocence, media, Must Reads, Supreme Court | No Comments »

Juvenile Justice Cuts, Death Penalty Deterrence, The Controversial LA Times Photos….& More

April 19th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


by Taylor Walker



IS DEATH PENALTY A DETERRENT?

More than three decades after the moratorium against capital punishment was lifted, the prestigious National Research Council released a report that, after reviewing dozens of studies, failed to find reliable evidence that the death penalty is actually a homicide deterrent. In fact, the Committee of Deterrence and the Death Penalty said that any past research on the subject should be disregarded in death penalty debates as incomplete and unsupportable.

The LA Times has the story.

Here’s a clip:

The Committee of Deterrence and the Death Penalty concluded that studies on the death penalty and its potential effect on homicide rates — both pro and con — contain fundamental flaws that essentially make them moot.

For example, the studies do not include the effects of other forms of punishment – such as life in prison without possibility of parole, and whether it too acts as a deterrent. The studies, study authors wrote, don’t “consider how the capital and noncapital components of a regime combine in affecting the behavior of potential murderers.”

In other words, previous studies don’t determine whether potential killers think about the possibility of spending their lives in prison or ending up on death row before they commit their crimes.

The lack of comprehensive information makes the research inconclusive, the study authors said. “We recognize this conclusion will be controversial to some, but nobody is well served by unfounded claims about the death penalty,” committee Chairman Daniel Nagin said in a telephone news conference.

“Nothing is known about how potential murderers actually perceive their risk of punishment,” he said.


SLASHING NATIONAL JUVENILE JUSTICE FUNDS

Funding for juvenile justice programs is likely about to get slashed—again.

The Crime Report’s Ted Gest has the story.

Here’s how it opens:

Federal funding for state and local juvenile justice programs seems likely to take another big hit as Congress continues to slash federal “discretionary” spending.

The Republican-controlled House committee that appropriates money for the Justice Department today issued its proposal for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. It would cut juvenile justice funding to $209 million–a figure that stood at $424 million in fiscal year 2010.

Federal aid for juvenile justice already had fallen more than 50 percent to its lowest level in more than a decade, says the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, which represents state advisory committees in Washington, D.C. The coalition is asking Congress for $80 million for “formula grants” that helps states comply with mandates in a key 1974 juvenile crime law, such as separating juvenile and adult defendants in jail and keeping minor offenders out of custody.

House appropriators, rather than adding funds for those purposes, would cut them to $33 million.

The Obama administration’s funding request of $140M for three important juvenile justice programs would be slashed to just $53M under the House committee’s proposal.


FIRST RACIAL PROFILING HEARINGS SINCE 9/11

A Senate committee hearing for the End Racial Profiling Act featured testimony from 225 different organizations on Wednesday. If passed, the legislature would forbid officers from using race as a component in standard law enforcement decisions.

Salon’s Jefferson Morley has the story.

Here’s a clip:

….as profiling has become entrenched in drug enforcement, counterterrorism and immigration control, said criminologist David Harris, research shows it is an ineffective law enforcement tool. “In many contexts, in many types of police agencies, the results all fall in the same direction: when racial or ethnic profiling is used, police are less likely, not more likely, to catch bad guys,” Harris said.

Ron Davis, police chief in East Palo Alto, Calif., said his experience as a cop on the streets confirmed that finding. Admitting that he himself had engaged in profiling, he called profiling “an ineffective tactic that wastes scarce law enforcement resources and it harms our relations with communities whose cooperation we need.”

Davis said passage of S. 1670 would help police nationwide.

“Without the legislation and updated Department of Justice guidance
we will continue business as usual and only respond to this issue when it surfaces through high-profile tragedies such as Oscar Grant case in Oakland, Calif., and the Trayvon Martin case in Sanford, Fla.,” he said.

The Obama Administration has yet to have joined the bill’s supporters.



EDITOR’S NOTE: SHOULD THE LA TIMES HAVE PUBLISHED THOSE PHOTOS?

There has been, and continues to be, a lot of controversy around whether or not the LA Times should have posted the two graphic photos of American soldiers posing with dismembered Afghan corpses. The Pentagon asked the Times not to publish the photos, contending that the publication would incite violence.

It is a thorny question. I happen to think the Times did the right thing.

Yet, I’m grateful that I wasn’t one of those who had to make the decision.

On To the Point, Warren Olney interviewed David Zucchino, the award-winning LA Times reporter who wrote the story accompanying the photos.

The New York Times has a report on the Pentagon’s objections—and how the Times’ came to be in possession of the photos in the first place.

And here the Poynter Institute weighs in, with two stories.

As of this writing, there are more than 2000 comments on the LA Times website regarding the issue.


Photo by Phil Sandlin for the AP

Posted in Death Penalty, juvenile justice, Los Angeles Times, media, Must Reads, race, racial justice | 1 Comment »

Disasterously Faulty Forensics, Shuttered Courts and Bad Sentencing

April 18th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


by Taylor Walker


DID A DECADE OF FAULTY FBI FORENSICS RESULT IN HUNDREDS OF WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS?

Defendants across the U.S. were left in the dark about the DOJ’s knowledge of nine years worth of faulty FBI forensics. Justice officials defended their actions saying that they were only legally obligated to inform the prosecutors, not the numerous defendants affected.

The Washington Post’s Spencer Hsu has the story.

Here’s how it opens:

Justice Department officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people, but prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled.

Officials started reviewing the cases in the 1990s after reports that sloppy work by examiners at the FBI lab was producing unreliable forensic evidence in court trials. Instead of releasing those findings, they made them available only to the prosecutors in the affected cases, according to documents and interviews with dozens of officials.

In addition, the Justice Department reviewed only a limited number of cases and focused on the work of one scientist at the FBI lab, despite warnings that problems were far more widespread and could affect potentially thousands of cases in federal, state and local courts.

As a result, hundreds of defendants nationwide remain in prison or on parole for crimes that might merit exoneration, a retrial or a retesting of evidence using DNA because FBI hair and fiber experts may have misidentified them as suspects.


LA BUDGET CUTS WILL EVEN CLOSE JUDGE ITO’S COURT

At least 56 Los Angeles courtrooms (including 24 criminal courtrooms) and some departments will be shut down next month as part of California’s impending $650M budget cut.

The AP’s Linda Deutsch has the story.

Here’s how it opens:

The vast Los Angeles County court system, known worldwide for its many high-profile cases, is about to see a huge budget cut that will close dozens of courtrooms, including one used by Judge Lance Ito, its most famous jurist.

After 56 courtrooms go dark by June 30, Ito, who presided over the O.J. Simpson murder trial in 1995, will be reassigned to handle cases for which no other judge is available.

Presiding Judge Lee Edmon and Assistant Presiding Judge David Wesley announced the slashing of $30 million from the nation’s largest court system that includes laying off 100 non-courtroom employees and eliminating court reporters for civil cases.


IF YOU GET RID OF A RACIST LAW, SHOULD THE CHANGE BE RETROACTIVE?

An update to Monday’s post on Dorsey & Hill vs. US:

SCOTUS is still divided after hearing arguments Tuesday on whether Congress implied retroactivity in the Fair Sentencing Act, and even, whether Congress considered the law it superseded to be intentionally racist.

SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston has the recap.

Here’s a clip of interaction between Washington attny. Miguel Estrada and Justice Sotomayor:

…Justice Sonia Sotomayor told [Estrada] that, when Congress has found that a law was racially discriminatory, “we should do as speedy a remedy as we could, because it is one of the most fundamental tenets of our Constitution…that our laws should be enforced in a race-neutral way.” Why, she then asked, “shouldn’t our presumption be that the fix is immediate rather than delayed? The question, of course, had not only the effect of switching the argument’s emphasis to the racial question, but also the effect of suggesting that the Court might want to avoid those constitutional implications by finding retroactivity implicit in the 2010 law.

Estrada conceded that there had been concern about the racial impact by some in Congress, but he would not concede that Congress regarded this disparity as being the product of intentional discrimination — the kind that would itself violate the Constitution. Sotomayor, though, sought to press her point, noting that, in her 20 years as a judge, she had seen no law that created as much controversy or as much discussion of its racial impact as had the crack vs. powder disparity.

Estrada conceded that point, but argued that Congress had not rushed into changing the disparity, doing nothing for 20 years in the face of repeated requests to confront the question.

NOTE: A New York Times editorial urges the Supremes to play fair and allow the law to apply to all those sentenced after the FSA’s passage.

Also, the LA Times’ David Savage describes some of the drama of Tuesday’s arguments. Here’s a clip:

A Justice Department lawyer warned the Supreme Court on Tuesday there may be thousands of crack cocaine defendants sentenced to long prison terms under a law that Congress repealed two years ago as racially biased and unfair.

Deputy Solicitor Gen. Michael Dreeben urged the court to tell sentencing judges to use the new law, not the discredited old one, when setting prison terms for those convicted of crack offenses but not yet sentenced when the law was passed.

But by the end of an hourlong argument, it was not clear the Supreme Court would heed the request. Some of the justices said they were not inclined to apply a new law retroactively to crimes that predated it.

Posted in City Budget, Courts, crime and punishment, criminal justice, Must Reads, Supreme Court | No Comments »

Monday Must Reads: The LAPD Makes an Enlightened Move, SCOTUS Deals With Cocaine…& More

April 16th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


by Celeste Fremon and Taylor Walker


LAPD SAYS IT WILL HAVE SEPARATE AREA FOR TRANSGENDERED INMATES IN POLICE LOCK-UP

Last Thursday night, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced a newly crafted, and hearteningly enlightened policy toward transgender people—including a separate LAPD lock-up, the first in the nation. The new policy takes a hugely significant step in healing the problem-laced relationship between the transgender community and the criminal justice system in general.

(According to a study by UC Irvine commissioned by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, nearly 60 percent of transgender inmates in California lock-ups reported being sexually assaulted by other inmates, a rate 13 times higher than for a random sample of the general inmate
population.)

The LA Times’ Sam Quinones has the story. Here’s how it opens.

Responding to incidents of violence against transgender arrestees, the Los Angeles Police Department plans to open a segregated lockup for biologically male and female suspects who identify themselves as members of the opposite sex, officials said.

By early May, a 24-bed transgender module will open at the LAPD women’s jail downtown, the first such police lockup in the nation, according to Capt. Dave Lindsay, the jail division commander.

“This is a major change,” Lindsay said. It will allow for “an environment that’s safe and secure, as there’s been a history of violence against transgender people.”

City jails are for holding people only until they are arraigned in court on the charges on which they were arrested, typically a maximum of three days; then they are transferred to the Los Angeles County Jail, run by the Sheriff’s Department. The county jail will not be affected by the changes.

Go, Chief Charlie. This is a very good thing.

HOWEVER, AFTER YOU READ THE TRANSGENDER STORY, READ THIS BY THE LAT’S JOEL RUBIN ABOUT HOW THE POLICE COMMISSION IS CRUCIALLY AT ODDS WITH PART OF BECK’S DISCIPLINE POLICY



SCOTUS WILL HEAR ARGUMENTS THAT THE FAIR SENTENCING ACT—REGARDING THE CRACK AND POWDER DISCREPANCY—SHOULD BE RETROACTIVE, AT LEAST IN PART

ON Tuesday the US Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding whether or not the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 should be, in any way, retroactive If you’ll remember, the FSA is the law that (mostly) rectified the horrific 1-100 sentencing discrepancy between the prison terms handed down for powder cocaine sales convictions and sentences for convictions for crack sales. (The FSA changed the ratio to 1-20-ish.) The problem is that the new law implied —but did not implicitly say— that it would retroactively apply to crimes committed before the act was passed—but sentenced after the act was passed.

The twinned cases of Dorsey v. the United States, and Hill v. the United States are about that retroactivity issue.

Lyle Denniston over at SCOTUSBLOG has a very complete rundown of the finer points of the cases and the law. While he may be a little on the wordy side for non-wonks, his post is quite fascinating and informative if you take the time.

Here are some clips:

Blacks more often got punished for buying or selling the “crack” or “rock” variety of cocaine, which can be easily processed into a smoked version; conviction carried a much heavier prison sentence. Whites more often got punished for dealing in the “powder” or “blow” version, which can be snorted; conviction carried a far more lenient sentence.

[Snip]

For cocaine, that [1986 Anti-Drug Abuse] Act required judges to punish an individual convicted of a crack crime 100 times more severely than one convicted of trafficking in the powder form. In other words, every gram of crack was treated as the same, for punishment purposes, as 100 grams of powder.

[The Fair Sentencing Act] adopted a ratio that works out to about 18 to 1, crack to powder. A crime involving 28 grams of crack would draw a five-year minimum sentence, as would a crime with 500 grams of powder. A crack crime with 280 grams would be sentenced to ten years, as would a powder crime with 5000 grams. The Justice Department has explained the choice of 28 grams as the bottom amount of crack for sentencing on the premise that wholesale distribution of crack usually involves one-ounce quantities — that is, close to 28 grams.

Although only one lawyer will appear Tuesday for the two Illinoisians, the lawyers for each have filed their own merits brief. The brief for Corey Hill (whose lawyer will be arguing) put its main emphasis upon congressional intent in 2010: “Once Congress completed its historic overhaul of crack sentencing policy,” the brief said, Congress “wanted those amendments to apply immediately….The clear implication….was that the new mandatory minimums should take effect rapidly so that the Guidelines would have a model against which to ‘conform’ and be consistent.”

[Snip]

The Dorsey-Hill cases almost certainly will revive within the Court the long-running dispute over how to read federal statutes — to stay focused only on their language, or to look at legislative history, too. If the Court were to use the former approach, it would seem that the Court-appointed amicus has the better of the argument. The 1871 law is quite specific in requiring Congress, if it wants a new criminal law to have retroactive effect, to say so explicitly; Congress did not do that in 2010. But if the Court were to take the latter approach, there is much that went on during the process of passing the 2010 law that suggests that Congress did want retroactivity to the extent being advanced by the government and counsel for the two Illinois men — not least, the removal of the anti-retroactivity provision from the bill.


BALTIMORE POLICE ABOUT TO JOIN OTHER DEPARTMENTS WHO VIDEOTAPE INTERROGATIONS

The Baltimore PD, which is the 8th largest department in the nation, plans to begin videotaping interrogations in serious cases like shootings and murders. Criminal justice advocates across the country have been pushing for the move due to the now recognized prevalence of false confessions in innocence cases. Baltimore PD’s dithering—and their determination to make the change—is emblematic of similar policy shifts taking place in agencies all over the U.S.

Justin Fenton of the Baltimore Sun has the story. Here’s a clip:

The department, the eighth-largest in the country, recently began using video as part of a series of reforms of its sex-offense unit. Now officials are exploring equipment options and the policy impact of videotaping homicide and shooting interrogations. Detectives are being trained on subtleties such as where to stand and how their demeanor will play to a jury.

I’m committed to doing this, and I have a bunch of really smart guys working on getting this done,” said police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who has studied videotaping since he was chief of detectives. “But it’s not as simple as going to Radio Shack and bolting a camera into the wall.”

[SNIP]

Hundreds of jurisdictions across the country now videotape interrogations, and it is required by law in several states and the District of Columbia. The shift has been spurred by increasing affordability, as well as by questions of coercion and false confessions as DNA testing has led to the release of scores of inmates.

In Harford County, the sheriff’s department says it has long recorded interviews in major cases and recently got funding to add interrogation rooms to neighborhood precincts.

“It’s pretty much a standard for progressive law-enforcement agencies,” Sheriff L. Jesse Bane said. “People are finding out that the things Hollywood portrays really don’t take place.”


STRANGE, IMPRACTICAL MARRIAGE FOR LAPD? OR CONVENIENT HOOK-UP?

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is expected to propose a merger between the LAPD and the General Services’ Office of Public Safety cops in his budget, to be presented Friday. The rather curious melding of the officers who guard libraries and courthouses with the LAPD may be a cost-efficient way for Villaraigosa to uphold his promise to add 1,000 officers to the LAPD ranks by the end of his mayoral term—or not.

Here’s a clip from the Daily News’ Dakota Smith’s report:

As part of his budget being released Friday, Villaraigosa is proposing to shift the Department of General Services’ Office of Public Safety into the Los Angeles Police Department, according to City Council members familiar with the proposal.

Under the proposal, some or all of the city’s 250 security officers and sworn officers who guard the city’s parks, zoo, and City Hall would move under the command of the LAPD.

City budget chief Miguel Santana is expected to release a report on the costs, advantages, and risks of moving the department to the LAPD next week.

Additionally, the LAPD is doing its own feasibility study on absorbing the department.

“There’s a lot of homework to do before this can occur,” said City Councilman Dennis Zine, adding he has questions about the plan.

For instance, Zine said the OPS and LAPD officers have different salaries and pension plans.

In any case, at this point, it’s far from a done deal.

The L.A. Times also reported on the issue.


CAN AN UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT WOULD-BE LAWYER GET ADMITTED TO THE FLORIDA BAR?

Rafael A. Olmeda of the Sun-Sentinel has the intriguing story. Here’s a clip:

Can an immigrant without a green card get a Florida Bar card?

Aspiring lawyer Jose Godinez-Samperio, 25, a Tampa-area resident, is hoping the answer is yes.

A native of Mexico who entered the United States legally with his parents 16 years ago on a tourist visa, Godinez-Samperio is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Law, the valedictorian of the Armwood High School class of 2004, an Eagle Scout — and an undocumented immigrant.

The Florida Board of Bar Examiners, which grants membership to the Bar, has asked the state Supreme Court to determine whether it can accept someone who is not in the country legally. The Supreme Court flagged the case as “high profile” last week.

Similar cases are pending in NY and California.


Original illustration by Scott McPherson

Posted in Antonio Villaraigosa, Antonio Villaraigosa, Charlie Beck, City Budget, Courts, crime and punishment, immigration, Innocence, LA County Jail, LAPD, LASD, law enforcement, LGBT, Must Reads, Sentencing, Supreme Court | 5 Comments »

Must Reads: Cop Mini-Cams, LWOP by Another Name & More

April 13th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

by Taylor Walker & Celeste Fremon



WILL SAN JOSE COPS WEAR MINI-CAMS FOR WATCH-DOGGING PURPOSES?

San Jose’s Independent Police Auditor wants her city’s cops to wear small cameras in order to keep the San Jose PD officers accountable for such things as “curb sitting” minorities over minor traffic stops and for unnecessary uses of force. Joe Rodriguez reports for the San Jose Mercury News.

Here’s a clip:

San Jose police officers may be forcing blacks, Latinos and other minorities to sit on street curbs more than others after minor traffic and pedestrian stops, according to the city’s independent police auditor.

LaDoris Cordell said Thursday she wants cops to document the ethnicity or race of everyone ordered to “curb sit” and to record the specific reason for the stop. She also wants officers to wear small cameras on their uniforms to record everything that happens.

“It would be a huge step in building trust between the San Jose Police Department and the community,” she said a few minutes before posting her annual report to the City Council on the Internet.

By the way, the camera in the photo is by the Taser people (who make, you know, tasers). Interestingly, among their their first law enforcement customer for the gadgets are the 150 patrol officers for the Bary Area Rapid Transit (BART).


FLORIDA APPEALS COURT SAYS THAT, JUST BECAUSE AN 80 YEAR SENTENCE FOR A NON-MURDERING KID ISN’T LWOP—IT’S STILL A LIFE SENTENCE.

Thursday a Florida appeals court voted to overturn a juvenile offender’s 80-year sentence for armed robbery with….a pellet gun. The panel of judges ruled that the result of the sentence would be essentially the same as that of a life in prison without parole–which runs counter to the US Supreme Court 2010 decision in Graham v. Florida, which says that a kid can’t serve life without the possibility of parole where no murder was involved.

The AP’s Bill Kaczor has the story.

Here’s a clip:

A Florida appeals court panel said Thursday that 80 years is too long to keep a juvenile locked up for a non-homicide crime.

However, the three-judge panel of the state’s 1st District Court of Appeal also said uncertainty will continue over compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court opinion that rejected absolute life sentences for juveniles who haven’t killed anyone until a higher court or the Florida Legislature addresses the issue.

The judges struck down an 80-year sentence for an inmate who committed armed robberies when he was 17.

A term that long is the functional equivalent of life without parole, the appellate judges wrote as they sent the case back to a Pensacola trial court for resentencing. They also urged lawmakers to follow the high court’s guidance and explore how to comply with its opinion.

[SNIP]

The Supreme Court decision doesn’t limit sentence length but says juveniles must get a meaningful opportunity to seek release based on maturity and rehabilitation if they have been convicted of non-homicide crimes. It also doesn’t preclude the possibility a juvenile will spend his or her life behind bars but does “forbid states from making the judgment at the outset that those offenders never will be fit to reenter society.”

Good for Florida’s 2nd Circuit. It would be nice if California prosecutors would stop asking for those same insane sentences for juveniles, with the pretense that they aren’t LWOP, therefor not subject to Graham.


ACCESS TO JUSTICE IS CLOSED DUE TO BUDGET CUTS?

This coming Monday, at 1:30 pm a special American Bar Association task force will hold a press conference in Sacramento to talk about “…the Crisis in State Court Underfunding..”

The task force includes such legal superstars David Boies and Theodore Olson (You know, the guys who’re the lead attorneys on the Prop. 8 challenge, and lead attorneys opposing each other in Bush v. Gore) plus California Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and other luminary types.

Here’s a clip from the ABA press release:

….Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye says California has “closed” signs on courtrooms and clerks’ offices in 24 counties around the state after four successive years of budget cuts totaling $653 million. Despite these cuts, and increasing caseloads, the California judicial budget is on the brink of facing an additional $100 million in cuts if Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s current budget is approved as proposed.

These budget cuts have resulted in reduced availability or elimination of court self-help services, and other cost cutting measures that directly impact the ability of the courts to adequately serve the public. California is not alone, however; 42 states cut funding for their judiciaries in 2011, reducing access to justice for thousands of Americans, according to the National Center for State Courts.

You can read more about the details of the event here.


EDITORS NOTE:

WE ARE HEARTBROKEN TO HEAR ABOUT THE DEATH OF STANISLAUS DEPUTY SHERIFF ROBERT PARIS ON THURSDAY

It’s been a week of tragedies. First the two USC grad students, then the perplexing case of the young Woodland Hills man who, led LAPD officers on an erratic high speed chase before exiting his car and managing to end his life in a storm of police bullets.

And now 53-year old Deputy Robert Paris gets gunned down in the course of duty, serving an ordinary eviction notice.

Rosalio Ahumada of the Modesto Bee has more about Deputy Paris and about the shooting, which also ended the life of a civilian, whose name was not released as of this writing.

Posted in California budget, Courts, juvenile justice, law enforcement, Must Reads | 1 Comment »

Thursday Must Reads: CA Juvie Facilites, an ICE Dention Dependant Town …& More

April 12th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

by Taylor Walker



TO CLOSE OR NOT TO CLOSE CA’S COSTLY JUVENILE PROGRAMS?

SF Chronicle’s Marisa Lagos reports on the advantages (and disadvantages) of the state’s controversial juvenile justice programs that the governor proposes to close and the effect that closure could have on the programs’ resident youth.

Here’s a clip:

This is California’s solution to dealing with its juvenile offenders with the most serious criminal backgrounds, who need intensive treatment that county juvenile halls could not provide. The program is expensive, costing state taxpayers $179,400 a year per offender.

Now, the state is contemplating pulling the plug on O.H. Close and three other state-run facilities that serve this population, which represents less than 1 percent of the more than 225,000 youths arrested in California each year. Earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed closing the institutions and sending these offenders back to county juvenile halls. [Editors' note: Actually it would be County probation camps. But no matter.]

The move would fall in line with Brown’s broad goal of shifting state services to the county level, in part to cut back on state spending. But staff members at O.H. Close say the closures would be devastating, and some youths here agree, saying they have received far more effective treatment than they ever got in county juvenile halls.

[SNIP]

Staff and wards at both O.H. Close and N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility next door say closing the state facilities – which would save the state more than $100 million a year – would set California back, and experts warn it could result in far more juveniles being charged as adults and sentenced to state prison.


HOW REHABILITATION ALL BUT VANISHED FROM CALIFORNIA’S PRISONS

California’s prison system has drastically cut its inmate rehabilitation programs and inmates have few incentives to participate in those that remain. As a consequence, most are paroled with no new skills or education, and those with drug or mental health problems don’t have them addressed. The East Bay Express’ Joaquin Palomino examines how all of the above contributes to the states’ disastrously high recidivism rate.

Here’s a clip:

….Under the Determinate Sentencing Law that [Jerry] Brown signed [in 1977], most inmates receive a fixed sentence, and are released from prison after a specified time period. As a result, most inmates no longer need to prove to a parole board — like Bolar did — that they are ready to reenter society, and so they don’t have to work for their freedom. Because of this, participation in reform-oriented prison programs has dropped substantially. “The general prison population doesn’t do shit no more,” Bolar noted. “No jobs, no classes, no therapeutics, no nothing … and when it’s time to go home they go home.”

In addition, funding for prison rehabilitation has been systemically cut from the California Department of Corrections’ budget. In the 1990s, the legislature went so far as to officially change the penal code to say that the purpose of prison was punishment — period. “They took rehabilitation out of it entirely,” noted UC Berkeley law professor Barry Krisberg. “So for the past three decades the system has been guided entirely by retribution. The main problem with the punitive approach is that the vast majority of prisoners are released.”

And today, released inmates are much less prepared for free society. They usually commit new crimes and end up back in prison. According to the most recent state statistics, an astounding 65 percent of released inmates now return to prison. In the past 25 years, that number has fluctuated between 60 and 80 percent.

At the same time, California voters and state political leaders have made it much more difficult for lifers to win their release. During the past three decades, California governors have routinely overturned parole-board decisions, forcing prisoners to spend even more time behind bars, thereby further diminishing the role of rehabilitation.


WHEN A GEORGIA TOWN UNWISELY GAMBLED ITS FUTURE ON AN ICE PRISON

A privately run detention center in a remote Georgia town attempted to revive it’s prison population (and in turn, boost the town’s economy) with immigrant detainees, courtesy of ICE. Now that the prison is again on the brink of closure, Irwin County’s immigrant prisoners endure disturbingly inhumane conditions.

The Nation’s Hannah Rappleye and Lisa Riordan Seville have the story.

Here’s how it opens:

About a mile from the center of Ocilla, Georgia, a two-stoplight town nearly 200 miles south of Atlanta, sits a bleak boxy building surrounded by barbed-wire fencing. A hand-painted sign reads “Irwin County Detention Center.” With 1,200 beds, this private prison is the largest employer in Irwin, a county of 10,000 people. For years it did good business, bringing much-needed jobs to this impoverished part of south Georgia.

But by the middle of 2009 the prison sat nearly half empty. It needed more inmates to keep the business afloat. The facility’s private management company, and the county, began to court today’s most lucrative detention market: Immigration and Customs Enforcement, otherwise known as ICE.

ICE runs the world’s largest immigration detention system, relying heavily on local jails and private facilities in far-flung communities like Irwin County. Rather than operating them itself, the agency leases beds from local jails or contracts with private corporations, such as Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, billion-dollar companies that spend millions on federal lobbying to ensure that the market stays strong. Private companies also inspect and monitor prospective and contracted prisons on ICE’s behalf. These entities are responsible for the health and welfare of more than 33,000 immigrant detainees each day. Immigrants who are detained before deportation can spend anywhere from a few hours to years in custody….


EDITOR’S UPDATES:

*ANNENBERG’S NEON TOMMY IS THE BEST PLACE TO GO for rounded coverage of the tragic shooting death of two USC grad students.

*NBC HAS A VIDEO OF WEDNESDAY NIGHT’S HIGH SPEED PURSUIT AND OIS SHOOT OUT DEATH OF A 19 YEAR OLD on the 101 Freeway near Canoga Avenue in Woodland Hills.

Dennis Romero of the LA Weekly also reports.

The video is harrowing to watch as the kid, after reportedly speaking to his mother and to police on the cell phone, suddenly throws a skidding U-turn with patrol cars on his tail, then gets out of his car and sprints out onto the freeway. As he runs, really, to nowhere across lanes, he turns around and twice points something at police, a move that could only have one logical ending.

The video also makes clear how important air support is for officers on the ground in highly volatile instances like this one.

UPDATE: Dennis Romero at the LA Weekly is keeping up to date on this story, which is playing out more and more tragically with additional information.

Posted in CDCR, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), immigration, Must Reads, State government | No Comments »

Tuesday Must Reads: Same Sex Divorce, Loving or Hating LAUSD’s Deasy…& More

April 10th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

by Taylor Walker



CAN MARRIED GAYS DIVORCE IN NON-GAY MARRIAGE STATES?

Washington Post’s Ellen McCarthy reported Monday

on a same-sex couple seeking divorce in Maryland, where gay marriage itself has not been legalized.

Here’s a clip:

The electronic board outside the courtroom identified the case as “No. 69, Jessica Port v. Virginia Anne Cowan.” That title is misleading. Port and Cowan are on the same side of this case: They both want to get divorced. But a Prince George’s County judge said they could not, reasoning that because same-sex marriage is not legal in the state, neither is same-sex divorce.

Now the highest court in Maryland will decide whether he was right, and whether the women will be required to maintain a bond they’ve tried for almost two years to sever. The case represents just one of the many blind spots in the legal infrastructure of same-sex marriage in America. Couples often have different rights when they cross jurisdictional lines and may not have the same status in the eyes of the federal government as they do in their home states. The laws are constantly evolving and election-year politics promise to heighten the already divisive passion surrounding the issue.


VISIONARY LEADER OR AUTOCRATIC BULLY? WHY DO THOSE WHO WORK WITH LAUSD’S SUPT. JOHN DEASY SEEM TO EITHER LOVE OR LOATH HIM?

The LA Times’ Teresa Watanabe and Howard Blume took a look at LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy’s aggressive methods for cleaning up the K-12 school system and the wildly divergent opinions of his efforts thus far.

Here’s a clip:

Deasy is pushing to change the culture of a behemoth school system with 660,000 students on 743 campuses across 710 square miles of urban sprawl. Some see Deasy as a dynamic leader driven by a moral urgency to give all students a quality education. But others view him as a relentless taskmaster intolerant of dissent.

“Either you do what he wants or you’re gone,” said one senior administrator who, like most senior aides and top administrators contacted, asked for anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Antonia Hernandez, president of the California Community Foundation, is one of many civic leaders who believes Deasy should press harder to improve a district where just over half the students graduate on time and half are not proficient in reading and math.

“We all know what LAUSD has been doing in the past hasn’t worked,” she said. “He needs to be even more aggressive. People are hungry for leadership.”

Deasy admits he can be impatient and undiplomatic but otherwise makes no apologies for his style. He says he wants to find common ground with teachers and administrators; consensus is his preference rather than his priority.


THE NY TIMES ASKS WHY IN SOME STATES KIDS ARE STILL HOUSED WITH ADULTS IN ADULT PRISONS A NY Times Sunday Op Ed called on the DOJ to reform the juvenile justice system nationwide and eliminate the unethical placement of youth in adult facilities. An estimated 10,000 youths under 18 can be found in adult jails or prisons on any given day, according to federal statistics. As [32 members of Congress] pointed out, data from a 2005 study showed that youths made up only 1 percent of the inmates in jails and prisons, but 21 percent of the victims of sexual violence.

Numerous studies show that placing children in adult prisons leads to more suicide, victimization and recidivism, which is costly in both human and economic terms.


EDITOR’S NOTE; A RALLY FOR KENDRIC MCDADE WILL BE HELD TUES. 6 PM ON THE STEPS OF PASADENA CITY HALL

According the the email from the Youth Justice Coalition, the NAACP of Pasadena will be attending, so will the Pasadena Foothill ACLU, the League of Women Voters, the Pasadena Community Coalition, various religious leaders and a list of others.

Posted in juvenile justice, LAUSD, LGBT, Must Reads | 1 Comment »

Monday’s Must Reads: Death Penalty Conversions, the Problem With “Defiance” & More

April 9th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

by Taylor Walker


CHANGING THEIR MINDS ON THE DEATH PENALTY

Two champions of California’s original 1978 capital punishment initiative are now campaigning for a new initiative—this one to revoke the death penalty, substituting life without parole. It is expected to be on the state’s ballot this November. The NY Times’ Adam Nagourney has the story.

Here’s a clip:

…The campaign [for California's 1978 death penalty initiative] was run by Ron Briggs, today a farmer and Republican member of the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors. It was championed by his father, John V. Briggs, a state senator. And it was written by Donald J. Heller, a former prosecutor in the New York district attorney’s office who had moved to Sacramento.

Thirty-four years later, another initiative is going on the California ballot, this time to repeal the death penalty and replace it with mandatory life without parole. And two of its biggest advocates are Ron Briggs and Mr. Heller, who are trying to reverse what they have come to view as one of the biggest mistakes of their lives.

Partly, they changed their minds for moral reasons. But they also have a political argument to make.

Read the rest.


WHEN MENTALLY ILL PEOPLE REFUSE CARE…WHAT THEN?

Lee Romney of the LA Times tells of a new report from a state task force that calls for significant changes in California’s mental health laws, some of which are bound to be very controversial. Here’s a clip:

Tens of thousands of mentally ill people wind up each year in California jails and prisons, cycle in and out of overburdened hospital emergency rooms or die on the streets.

California’s pioneering Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, passed in 1967, gave legal rights to those who previously could have been locked up indefinitely and treated against their will. But the task force — made up of family members, mental health professionals, judges and public defenders — contends that the law has failed those unable or unwilling to seek help.

They are calling for sweeping changes that would allow the involuntary commitment of those deemed incapable of making treatment decisions, expand the use of conservatorships, lengthen involuntary hospital stays and standardize the checkerboard way the law has been applied from county to county.

[SNIP]

Furthermore, they note, jails, prisons and repeated brief hospital confinements end up delivering involuntary care regardless — at great cost.

“I’d go so far as to say that involuntary treatment has increased since implementation” of the act,said Randall Hagar, a task force member and director of government affairs for the California Psychiatric Assn.

Nearly 200,000 people in California get their outpatient services every year in a jail setting,” he said. “Something is really wrong with this picture.”


THE DAMAGE DONE BY THE DESIGNATION OF “DEFIANCE”

Reporting for the Huffington Post Christina Hoag looks at the excessive use of suspensions for the all-purpose term of “defiance” and what that means for minority students.

Here’s how it opens:

School suspensions were once reserved for serious offenses including fighting and bringing weapons or drugs on campus. But these days they’re just as likely for talking back to a teacher, cursing, walking into class late or even student eye rolling.

More than 40 percent of suspensions in California are for “willful defiance,” or any behavior that disrupts class, and critics say it’s a catchall that needs to be eliminated because it’s overused for trivial offenses, disproportionately used against black and Latino boys and alienates the students who need most to stay in school.

“It’s so broad it’s not useful,” said Marqueece Harris-Dawson, president and chief executive of the nonprofit South Los Angeles Community Coalition. “You can’t quite define what it means, what it doesn’t mean.”

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) earlier this year introduced a bill to remove willful defiance as a reason for suspension and expulsion. His bill, AB 2242, would replace that category with specific behaviors such as harassment, threats, intimidation, creating substantial disorder or a hostile environment.

Read the rest.

Posted in Death Penalty, health care, Must Reads, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | No Comments »

Friday Must Reads: Birth Control, Secret Spy Centers and…um… Geese

March 16th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


This “Must Read” list strays a little afield from our usual criminal justice and related realms.
(It’s that kind of Friday.)

Not to worry. We’ll be back to our regular programming Monday.

(And, for those of you who have been inquiring, see the end of the post for an update on the next installment of Dangerous Jails.)


THE NEW YORKER’S MARGARET TALBOT LOOKS AT THE BIRTH CONTROL IDIOCY

New Yorker staff writer Margaret Talbot is a consistently intelligent and insightful journalist, thus it was nice to see her name on the magazine’s opening essay about the perplexing outbreak of birth control madness, the creepily anti-female diatribes of Rush Limbaugh, and what it all means to the rest of us.

Here’s a clip:

…..As long as the debate stirred up by the Blunt Amendment—which would have allowed employers to refuse coverage for health services they felt compromised their religious beliefs—stayed focused on freedom of religion, it was possible to forget that putting birth control back in political play meant ignoring reality. You could, after all, make a coherent argument about Catholic employers and the calls of conscience, without insisting on the moral turpitude of people who use birth control or talk about it in public. You could also argue that the Catholic hierarchy was basically asking the federal government to do what its own teachings apparently could not: to remind Catholic women of the evils of contraceptives in such a way that they would actually stop using them. But at least we were still in the realm of a legitimate policy debate.

Then Rush Limbaugh opened his mouth and showed us more than we wanted to know about the dank interior of his mind. Though repellent, it wasn’t exactly surprising. A few months ago, after Sharon Bialek charged that Herman Cain had sexually harassed her, Limbaugh pronounced her name “Buy-a-lick,” and called her thirteen-year-old son a Nazi “brownshirt,” for having encouraged her to come forth. That’s not really so different from calling Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown Law School student who testified before Congress about insurance coverage of contraception, “a slut” and “a prostitute.”

What was more revealing was the mild response from leading Republicans….

Yeah. No kidding. Mighty revealing.

Anyway, read the rest.


THE NSA BUILDS THE WORLD’S LARGEST SPY CENTER (HOW COMFORTING.)

Wired Magazine’s Threat Level section (which is fast becoming a must read all on its own) has the details. Here’s a clip to draw you in.

For the NSA, overflowing with tens of billions of dollars in post-9/11 budget awards, the cryptanalysis breakthrough came at a time of explosive growth, in size as well as in power. Established as an arm of the Department of Defense following Pearl Harbor, with the primary purpose of preventing another surprise assault, the NSA suffered a series of humiliations in the post-Cold War years. Caught offguard by an escalating series of terrorist attacks—the first World Trade Center bombing, the blowing up of US embassies in East Africa, the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, and finally the devastation of 9/11—some began questioning the agency’s very reason for being. In response, the NSA has quietly been reborn. And while there is little indication that its actual effectiveness has improved—after all, despite numerous pieces of evidence and intelligence-gathering opportunities, it missed the near-disastrous attempted attacks by the underwear bomber on a flight to Detroit in 2009 and by the car bomber in Times Square in 2010—there is no doubt that it has transformed itself into the largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever created.

In the process—and for the first time since Watergate and the other scandals of the Nixon administration—the NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens. It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net. And, of course, it’s all being done in secret. To those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever.

Cheering, no?



THE NOW INFAMOUS GOLDMAN-SACHS FAREWELL LETTER (IT TURNS OUT THAT GOLDMAN IS A GIANT VAMPIRE SQUID)

Just on the off chance you didn’t see the resignation letter to Goldman Sachs in NY Times Op Ed form that ran Wednesday in the paper, and caused Goldman’s market value to take a $2.2 million dive, here it is. (In reading it we learn, among other things, that Goldman’s managing directors refer to their clients as muppets.)


THE LA WEEKLY FINDS THE…UM…GOOSE WHISPERER OF HOLLENBECK PARK (MAYBE)

This LA Weekly story does not require explanation. Here’s how it opens. (And, yes, goose whisperers are a social justice issue. I’m sure of it.)

This week, the Internet got wind of a man who allegedly bench-pressed a goose for 10 minutes at an L.A. park. Even more adorably, according to the actor who photographed the event, the goose was totally loving it.

We obviously had to get to the bottom of this.

Who is the man (and goose) behind the urban legend?

Lowell Tweeted that after bench-pressing the goose, the man “cradled it, tickled its tummy and then it walked away.” And over email, he gave us some more heartwarming details about this miraculously cooperative animal and the man whom he calls “the Goose Whisperer.”

Turns out the guy and the goose are well known. Read the rest of Simone Wilson’s column for the backstory.


EDITOR’S NOTE: UPDATE ON NEXT DANGEROUS JAILS INSTALLMENTS

A number of you have either written us privately or inquired in the comments section about when we’d have the next chapter in the Dangerous Jails series.

Here’s the deal: We’re working on Chapters 5 and 6. Chapter 5 will be out in the next two weeks. Chapter 6 will be out in April—presumably early April.

The wait will be worth it. I promise.

Posted in Must Reads | 6 Comments »

Thursday Short Takes: SCOTUS & Searches, SHUs, Teacher Misconduct & More

February 23rd, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


SUPREME COURT TOSSES OUT CASE AGAINST LOS ANGELES SHERIFF’S DEPUTIES

The AP has the story. Here’s a clip:

The Supreme Court said Wednesday that California police officers cannot be sued because they used a warrant that may have been defective to search a woman’s house.

The high court threw out the lawsuit against Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Detective Curt Messerschmidt and other police officials, who were being sued personally by Augusta Millender for the search on her house and confiscation of her shotgun.

Police were looking for her foster son, Jerry Ray Bowen, who had recently shot at his ex-girlfriend Shelly Kelly with a black sawed-off shotgun. Kelly told police that he might be at his foster mother’s house, so Messerschmidt got a warrant to look for any weapons on the property and gang-related material, since Bowen was supposed to be a member of the Mona Park Crips and the Dodge Park Crips. The detective had his supervisors approve the warrant before submitting to the district attorney and a judge, who also approved the warrant.

Bowen and his shotgun were not found at Millender’s house, but police confiscated the 73-year-old Millender’s shotgun.

Millender, who is now deceased, sued saying the warrant was over broad and that the deputies had acted improperly. The 9th Circuit agreed, citing the fourth amendment. The Supremes did not—pointing out that the case did not, in fact, concern the validity of the warrant, but was about was whether a lawsuit against the officers was permitted. The court concluded that it was not, and that the officers acted reasonably, as they had every reason to think the warrant valid.

Read the rest. It’s interesting.

Plus, as David Savage of the LA Times points out the suit made for some unusual allies: The ACLU and the National Rifle Assn. backed plaintiff Millender, and the Obama administration joined in support of the deputies.


ILLINOIS GOVERNOR SUGGESTS CLOSING CONTROVERSIAL SUPERMAX PRISON AND GETS APPLAUSE AND CRITICISM

IF Governor Pat Quinn orders the closure of the Tamms supermax prison at in southern Illinois, it will be for fiscal reasons, but many experts across the country are applauding the possibility. As with California’s Pelican Bay and the Administrative Maximum (ADX) facility in Florence, Colorado, Tamms utilizes the kind of extreme isolation that many believe constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. What is more, for those who are eventually released from prison, research suggests that supermax isolation causes psychological damage, which makes an individual’s behavior worse, not better. Thus human rights organizations would like to see Tamms and places like it close their doors, sooner rather than later..

Yet shutting down the facility is anything but simple. Prisons have become central to the economy of certain rural areas of the country, so the closure can wreak local havoc.

As the Chicago Tribune puts it:

From the moment it opened in 1998, the super-max Tamms prison has been controversial for its high costs and the harsh treatment of its inmates.

Gov.Pat Quinn’s plan to close Tamms to save millions of dollars did not end the controversy.

Critics say it is long past time to shutter a prison known for conditions that were often compared with those at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Opponents of Quinn’s proposal say closing Tamms would be devastating to the community in far southern Illinois where it is located, a place where jobs are hard to come by.

Other states may soon face similar dilemmas as a dropping crime rate meets tight budgets,

In California, however, the prisons are still so overcrowded, and our recidivism rate still so high, that despite a diving crime rate, closures are not close on the horizon.


LAUSD SUP DEASY SAYS THAT HE HAS ORDERED THE REFILING OF EVERY CASE OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT FROM THE LAST THREE YEARS WITH THE STATE CREDENTIALING COMMISSION

He’s doing all this refiling just to be on the safe side, Deasy told David Lazarus on the Patt Morrison Show on KPCC Wednesday.

Interestingly, Deasy also told Lazarus that more than 850 certificated employees had been “separated” from Los Angeles Unified in the 10 months since he took over as superintendent – not only for criminal activity but for failing to meet “standards of conduct.”

“We’re going to work very hard to keep good teachers. But we’re not going to tolerate the other,” Deasy said.

A good thing since, for a while there, the allegations of sexual misconduct seemed to keep on coming. After the arrest of Mark Berndt, the former Miramonte Elementary School teacher charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct with children, two more LAUSD teachers have been removed from schools due to charges of sexual misconduct.

Deasy told the LA Times:

“I’m horrified,” said Deasy, regarding recent revelations about the handling of past abuse allegations. “And the rest of my comments can’t be printed in the language that the L.A. Times uses. I don’t think I’m overreacting.”


Posted in Education, LASD, Must Reads, prison, prison policy, Supreme Court | No Comments »

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