Daily Archives: May 2, 2007

Geographical sentencing disparities

Prof. Berman points to a news story that highlights the differences in sentences handed out in rural areas and urban areas. The post itself is innocuous, but the comments are very interesting, albeit contentious. The gist of the reporting is that sentences in rural areas are higher than those in urban areas. You might not be surprised. Ask yourself why. The offenses are the same, regardless of where they are committed; the sentencing ranges are the same throughout the state. So why is it not surprising that this happens? Do we assume that those living in rural areas have a different moral outlook on life than those living in urban areas?

Should this have any bearing on the lengths of sentences handed out? This is the problem that I highlighted earlier when talking about increased victim involvement in the criminal justice system. There are a multitude of factors that play a role in deciding the lengths of sentences. This is another.

How is this different from sentencing disparities based on race? Granted, demography is not a “protected class”, but still, the principle seems to be the same. Does anyone see an equal protection argument here?

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Attorneys behaving badly, CT edition

Two bad attorney stories today. First, a former public defender was arrested for stealing money that his clients had paid toward restitution and then forging their signatures. If my memory serves me right, this is similar to what a prosecutor was charged with doing a few months ago in CT.

Second, high profile attorney Mickey Sherman (most recently in the news for representing Michael Skakel and then getting roasted over an open fire during the hearing for a new trial) will admit to violating two rules of professional conduct. He is going to do this to settle a complaint over attorneys fees.

A state grievance panel plans to issue a ruling within 60 days on the alleged violations of professional conduct. Sherman would be reprimanded for not having a written fee agreement and not providing enough details to disciplinary authorities.

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Insanity now, serenity later? DNA testing at time of arrest

One of the many criminal justice bills proposed this term is SB 838. While I mentioned it in the list, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to comment on it. So this Law Tribune article provides the perfect opportunity. Pursuant to this bill, any person arrested for any Class A or Class B felony must give a DNA sample. Currently, the law provides that if you are convicted of any felony you have to provide a DNA sample. The proposed bill does provide for a mechanism to destroy the DNA sample, if found not guilty or if the charges are nolled or dismissed. However, the request must be made by the acquittee and is not automatic.

The bigger problem with this bill, ofcourse, is that the offense of arrest may have no need for a DNA sample. For example, why must someone accused of Robbery be required to give a DNA sample? Or even Assault, if there is no involvement of bodily fluids?

Here’s a list of B felonies for which this is unnecessary (in my opinion):

  • Promoting Prostitution
  • Kidnapping
  • Burglary
  • Arson
  • Identity Theft
  • Robbery
  • Trafficking in persons
  • Promoting a minor in an obscene performance
  • Importing child p—-graphy
  • Possessing child p….
  • Computer crime in the first degree
  • Money laundering
  • Vendor fraud

Well, you get the point. The bill, while a good idea, needs to be more specific. Then there’s the whole privacy argument. DNA is very personal and unless absolutely necessary, there’s no reason for samples to be given to law enforcement. One step closer to “Minority Report”?