Monthly Archives: October 2006

Maryland corrections looks to Connecticut

Not all bad news for CT prisons and the prison system, as this story tells of how Maryland Corrections is looking to Connecticut to curb gang violence in its prisons.

Acting Division of Correction Commissioner John Rowley said he sent Maryland corrections officials to Connecticut because the
state’s corrections department created a gang management program in
1994, after prison officials found that gang members had become a
dangerous and difficult population inside the state’s prisons.

The Connecticut Department of Correction’s Security Risk Group
program collects and evaluates security-related gang intelligence to
prevent violence inside the state’s prisons.

In Maryland, officials have implemented a new measure aimed at
reducing prison gang violence at the medium-security Maryland
Correctional Training Center near Hagerstown. The facility started
confining inmates together "a few months ago," after they were
identified as members of the same gang, Rowley said.

New Federal Prison: Canada

Update: Canada doesn’t want our sex offenders. Who can blame them? We don’t either!

Ontario is not a “dumping ground” for American sex offenders, Premier
Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday as he urged Ottawa to fight a U.S. judge’s
decision to allow an American teacher who sexually abused a student to
serve his probation time in Canada.

McGuinty urged the federal government to step in after a New York
state court agreed to allow Malcolm Watson, convicted of sexually
abusing a 15-year-old student, to return to St. Catharines, Ont., where
he lives with his wife and three children.

“It’s obviously not the precedent that we want to allow the
Americans to establish, (and) it’s not the kind of thing that we’re
prepared to accept,” McGuinty said.

“We will certainly work with the federal government — and I
hope we’ll be of one mind in this regard — to ensure that we don’t
become some kind of dumping ground for convicted offenders (from) south
of the border.”

Watson is now back in Canada, said his lawyer, Oscar Smukler. Now isn’t that some name? Oscar Smukler. You have to love it! So now, this plea is in question. Will anyone step in?

Thanks to Prof. Berman, we learn of this alternative sentencing:

After a judge convicted him of sexually abusing a 15-year-old
student, teacher Malcolm Watson was offered two punishment options: an
American jail cell or exile to Canada.

Mr. Watson chose Canada.

The unusual sentence, which has immigration lawyers questioning its
legality, means that Mr. Watson, 35, must stay out of the United States
for the next three years. A U.S. citizen who taught at the elite
Buffalo Seminary girls’ school, he has a Canadian wife and family.

Mr. Watson’s Canadian exile, which begins today, has the legal community scratching its head.

While there will doubtless be much analysis of whether the banishment itself is illegal (and I’d be happy to discuss that), I want to know what will happen if Canada decides it doesn’t want this individual. Can Canada deport this man? If Canada does so, where does that leave Mr. Watson? Is he in violation of his sentence?

This clearly won’t be the end of this drama:

Erie County district attorney Frank Clark called the plea deal "a
little dicey" but said the family of the 15-year-old victim was happy.
So were some U.S. law-enforcement officials: "He’s Canada’s problem,
not ours," said one, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Mr. Watson’s odd sentence has attracted the attention of Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Monte Solberg.

"If non-citizens pose a threat to Canada, we will do everything in
our power to have that person removed as quickly as possible," he said.

Also, as some of the comments point out on Prof. Berman’s blog, what if the roles were reversed and Canada was banishing its "criminals" to the US?

Sure is interesting. Thoughts?

Justice on justice

Looks like I’m not the only one that dislikes Justice. Blondie weighs in.

Here’s one little gem I picked up from Justice:
If you have some incriminating evidence, don’t give it to your criminal
defense lawyer, because then they’re legally bound to turn it over to
the prosecution. Hmmm. Wow. So, all of my clients who I know are
guilty… I should be calling the prosecutor to turn them in? I’ll have
to get to work on that tomorrow morning. Thank you, Justice.

Prison overcrowding needs to be addressed

Important story in the Courant today about overcrowding in CT prisons.

Prison overcrowding so severe that 900 inmates must sleep on floors is
one of several issues Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the state correction
commissioner have ignored for months, leaders of the union representing
correctional staff said Tuesday.

Reminds me of an episode of "30 days" where Morgan Spurlock spent a month in a prison. Inmates everywhere, 4-5 to a room, sleeping in the central "foyer"… I didn’t realize it was so bad in CT!

Here’s an interesting quote from the story:

Gene Tewksbury, vice president of Connecticut Corrections Employees
AFSME Local 1565, said about 900 inmates throughout the prison system
must sleep on floors and speculated that the Department of Correction
was preparing to release 1,000 prisoners after the November election.

Obviously, the DOC is denying any such plan, but it still makes one wonder: "Where did he get this idea from?" Hmmm, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Given that Connecticut has just upwards of 19,100 inmates in prisons today, it is obvious that this situation needs to be rectified as soon as possible. I will stay tuned.

Heartwarming tales of prosecutorial misconduct

Update!: It seems that the prosecutor has been taken off the case. I’m going to move this up to today’s posts, so the update can be viewed.

I don’t know how I missed this. (Oh, wait, yeah I do.)

The defense in the retrial of convicted murderer Leotis Payne says a
prosecutor abused his power and showed "racial discrimination" when he
conducted a criminal background check of a potential juror who is black.

Senior
Assistant State’s Attorney Michael A. Pepper was harshly criticized by
the state Supreme Court in 2002 for "serious and deliberate" misconduct
during the initial prosecution nine years ago of Payne, who was
convicted of felony murder in the October 1994 slaying of Louis Hood,
20.

Now, Payne’s lawyer, Auden C. Grogins of Fairfield, says Pepper is at
it again and wants the veteran prosecutor thrown off the case.

This time, Pepper asked an investigator to conduct a background check on a potential juror. This juror had not filled out any information regarding his criminal history and Pepper accused him of lying about it in court.

Pepper’s sharp questioning of Edwards prompted the judge to ask Pepper
how he knew about Edwards’ rap sheet. Pepper admitted to asking
investigator Dennis Kelly to do the background check during a court
break.

According to the court transcripts of Oct. 13, Holzberg asked: "Are you doing records checks on all [potential jurors] …

Pepper: "I …"

Holzberg: "or African-Americans?"

"Yes,
because of the Batson challenges," Pepper replied.

Turns out this juror was the only juror he conducted a background check on in this case, but he has conducted background checks on over 50 potential jurors in his career.

some public defender love

It’s good to know that internet advice columns aren’t written only by people who disparage public defenders. [previous post here] Thanks to skelly (again), we pds can now have the pleasure of knowing that at least one person has our backs in the private vs. pd debate.

So pervasive is the distrust of public defenders that defendants
routinely max out their credit cards, take out second mortgages, and
empty their retirement funds just to hire a private criminal defense
attorney.

Any warm body with a law degree can hang out a shingle and call himself
a criminal defense attorney. In fact, many of those who can’t get a job
at the public defender do just that. Your private attorney could turn
out to be a bottom feeder, with poor academic credentials and little or
no criminal defense experience.

Public defenders are criminal defense specialists. They practice
criminal law every day, and gain experience quickly due to heavy
caseloads and a sink or swim mentality. They are surrounded by
colleagues and supervisors whom they can learn from and consult with.

Hear, hear!

A PD victory!

After the annoying stories yesterday and earlier today, comes this feel good story (via ex-Txpd) of a pd’s victory in a trial. Here’s a bite:

At the revelation that this young man would not be serving his whole
life in prison, the attorney collapsed, face down, onto the table.
Openly weeping. Her client wrapped his arms around her shoulders,
weeping himself. The judge continued with the rest of the counts,
answering each charge with, "not guilty". He had been acquitted of all
six charges! The attorney and her client were wrapped, weeping, in each
others arms. He kept saying, "Thank God, thank you, thank god, thank
you".

I live for this.