Daily Archives: November 17, 2010

Wednesday is still link dump day

because it's been just too damn long

Too many browser tabs, not enough motivation to turn them into posts. My excess, your bounty. Or something:

  • What has to be the story of the week and case-in-point in re my tirades against the press and its coverage of the #hayes trial: mother of the victim of a murder sees murderer plead to 30 years in jail, then goes outside courthouse where gaggle of #hayes reporters twiddle their thumbs, bangs on 3 news vans and not one is interested in this woman’s loss. Shame. Shame on us all. To top it off, this happened a month ago and we’re just hearing about it. You tell me the press’ coverage of #hayes wasn’t about race or socio-economic status. Just try.
  • If it’s Wednesday, it must be time to get a-round-tuit.
  • Does routinely sampling DNA from people who are merely arrested violate the 4th Amendment?
  • Prosecutor says listening to call between defendant and his attorney was a “good faith mistake”.
  • A CA judge ruled that laws restricting where sex offenders can live are unconstitutional.
  • Co-defendants, Bruton, Crawford, hearsay… oh, my! A primer.
  • Georgia keeps having to dismiss murder cases because they don’t got no money.
  • The Texas Tornado on TSA, public fondling and specific intent. Gamso on why the Government always lies.
  • Housing, jobs key to re-entry.
  • Apparently, some people think that pro-se defendants shouldn’t have the right to cross-examine the complaining witness [this may actually be worth an entire post. Have at it, blawgers].

And finally, in the “Rivalry That No One Cares About And Also Proves That Ivy Leaguers Are Just Not Funny” category, this immensely stupid video that some Haahvard types made about Yalies. I turned it off at the 00:57 mark with the “Yale student murdered and stuffed in a wall” joke. See if you fare better.

Guilt by convenience

[I was going to go with the far more catchy title "If you're innocent and you know it and you really want to show it, plead guilty" sung to the tune of - you know what? Stop that. Don't judge. You try writing funny and interesting blog posts every day. Sheesh. Nowadays everyone's a damn critic.]

So let’s start first with this statement a month and a half ago, from the Mayor of New Haven and the New Haven Police Chief:

“This is America.  Anyone can film anytime they want, including you, me and the PD while on duty,” Mayor DeStefano stated.

“Assume you’re being videotaped all the time when you’re out there,” [Chief] Limon said he has been telling his officers.

Limon said he has upcoming in-service training sessions for his rank and file will include an “update about legal procedures on interfering and videotaping issues.” He’s also looking into putting together a “policy to let officers know what are the exceptions” to when citizens can take video.

He was too slow with that training. Because this happened:

In the midst of swirling controversy about cops and cameras, Luis Luna was put under arrest for filming police in action—not by a rogue patrolman misunderstanding official department policy, but by none other than the assistant chief of police.

Luis Luna (pictured) [not here], a 26-year-old from Wallingford, was arrested on College Street early in the morning of Sept. 25 while he was using his iPhone to videotape police.

According to a police report, his arrest was ordered by Assistant Chief Ariel Melendez, who had told him not to film police breaking up a fight. Read the report here.

Luna said police took his iPhone from him and erased the video he had made. He was charged with interfering with police and spent the night in jail.

Oops. Now, I’m not going to get into the whole “police vs. cameras” angle on this story, because others have covered longer and more effectively. What I want to talk about is what happened on October 8:

IL committee proposes serious reforms to the death penalty

The Illinois Capital Punishment Reform Study Committee has published its 6th and final report on changes to the death penalty – both in substance and procedure – in Illinois. The Committee, established in 2003 was charged with studying reforms to the death penalty in IL over 5 years. In 2008, its tenure was extended a year. Every year, the committee has issued a report, this being the final one. From the NYT:

The report found that taxpayers spend huge sums on prosecution of an inordinate number of death-penalty cases, though we’ve seen 18 death sentences since 2003; that prosecutors seek the penalty as a bargaining ploy in pursuit of a lesser guilty plea and sentence, and that $64 million has been spent on civil damage awards to men whose death row convictions were reversed.

One of the recommendations of the committee is to conduct a comprehensive cost study. One of the committee members, however, has done some digging of her own. Leigh B. Bienen, a senior lecturer at Northwestern University School of Law, has a forthcoming law review article in which she details the high cost and financial incentives of retaining the death penalty:

Since 2000, she learned, $100 million in taxpayer money has been spent via the Capital Litigation Trust Fund. That honey pot was meant to ensure defense counsel in capital cases, especially in places where public defender offices aren’t staffed adequately and must enlist private lawyers. But prosecutors made sure that the fund would also pay for their often-ample nonsalary expenses, including those for investigators, not just for private defense counsel and the nonsalary expenses of public defenders.

St. Clair County has a per-capita murder rate of 13.36 per 100,000 citizens, and it prosecuted 17 capital cases from 2000 to 2008. By comparison, DuPage County, with a per-capita murder rate of 0.93, prosecuted 21. Madison County, with a rate of 4.24, prosecuted 18, while Sangamon County, with a rate of 4.59, prosecuted 3. How about this: Jefferson County got $2.5 million to prosecute 2 capital cases — neither wound up in a death sentence — while Macon County got $943,858 to prosecute 14. Cook County is the state’s homicide champion, accounting for 75 percent of murders, and consistently charges murders as death penalty cases, triggering the state payments to both sides. But the county brings few capital cases to trial, often procuring a plea to a lesser charge.

So we don’t get retribution, deterrence or rehabilitation but, instead, inducements to pursue capital cases. Counties get a virtually bankrupt state to pick up a fat tab and “to maintain a very expensive and dysfunctional system of capital punishment,” Mrs. Bienen wrote.

According to this editorial:

Illinois spends $20 million a year to prosecute and administer capital cases, according to the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. The Capital Litigation Trust Fund, which pays for legal appeals in death penalty cases, has cost $100 million since 2003.

One final point on cost: in Connecticut there are no reliable numbers on the cost of the death penalty. This isn’t because we’ve forgotten how to count (although the Gov’s race fiasco might suggest that), rather because the state’s attorneys and the judicial branch do not keep track of how much they spend on capital cases. The only agency that does is the public defender’s office. If that doesn’t tell you something, read this excellent piece in the Hartford Courant by business columnist Dan Haar, who crunches the numbers and concludes that the death penalty is a damn waste of money.