Daily Archives: December 29, 2009

If you’re black and you smoke pot, get arrested

I'm not as think as you stoned I am

(Title sung to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it…” What? It’s 11:00pm. Buzz off.)

While much of the news media and indeed the blawgosphere has been preoccupied with the news that NYC isn’t really a big, bad and dangerous place, curious little attention has been paid to another story out of New York: that under Mayor Bloomberg, drugs arrests have spiked and that blacks are 7 times more likely to be arrested for drug offenses than whites.

Thanks to Matt at Change.org (a blog you should be following if you aren’t already), we learn that a new study (and a related NYT article) has been published analyzing the incidence of drug related arrests in the Big Joint:

Is a battle on sex offender registration brewing?

Silly sex offender registration laws have long been a bone that I’ve been itching to pick. If you asked me to list the ten worst decisions by SCOTUS in the last decade, Smith v. Doe and Dept’ of Public Safety v. Doe would make the top 5 of that list.

But I’ve always had the nagging feeling that both those decisions didn’t preclude future challenges to sex offender registration laws and their retroactive applications as violations of the Ex Post Facto clause. Now, we may just find out, because Maine’s Supreme Court has held that its sex offender registration law (SORNA) does violate the EPF.

The Maine decision is State v. Letalien, in which the defendant challenged the change in registration requirements from 15 years to lifetime and from change in address notifications to proactive 90 day reporting requirements. Interestingly, the ME court finds that the Federal and Maine Constitutions provide the same EPF protections and so the EPF violation is of the Federal Constitution.

Just like SCOTUS in Smith, the Letalien court concludes that SORNA is civil in nature and then engages in a discussion of the seven Mendoza-Martinez factors to determine if a statute that is intended to be civil will be found to be an ex post facto law. It will be so only if the “party challenging the statute provides ‘the clearest proof’ that ‘the statutory scheme [is] so punitive either in purpose or effect as to negate [the State’s] intention’ to deem it ‘civil.'” Kansas v. Hendricks. The factors are:

Preempting peremptories

As I’ve noted before, there are times when I’m staring at a story, thinking about writing a post, when a few days later I come across something else that ties in nicely with the first. I have now concluded this is because of my unusually high midi-chlorian count and the Force is speaking to me.

Nevertheless, a few days ago, I noticed this news article from Mass that reported that the Mass Bar Ass’n is forming a task force (yeah, one of those) to examine the use and efficacy of peremptory challenges:

Chairing the task force is Richard P. Campbell, a bar association vice president and the founder and chairman of Campbell, Campbell, Edwards & Conroy in Boston.

Campbell, [...], said some members of the Trial and Appeals courts and even academics, such as law professors, are questioning the usefulness and relevance of the peremptory challenges.

Right on cue, I stumble across this new academic paper titled “Modeling the Effects of Peremptory Challenges on Jury Selection and Jury Verdicts”, which argues essentially that peremptory challenges are useless and states should eliminate them. From the summary: