Lauren Krisai, John Pfaff, and Ken White discuss the power of prosecutors in the criminal justice system, how prosecutors have served as barriers to meaningful criminal justice reform, and whether an influx of forward-looking district attorneys could change the status quo.
“There is no evidence that an individual DA in his office is any more punitive today than he was in 1974,” explains John Pfaff, author of Locked in: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform. “We just have 30,000 of them instead of 17,000 even though the crime rate is roughly the same as it was in 1974. They’ve got to do something. They can’t just play minesweeper all day and keep their jobs.”
On May 25th, 2017, at Reason’s Washington, D.C. office, Reason hosted a panel discussion with Pfaff and Ken White, former assistant United States attorney and co-founder of the blog Popehat. Moderated by Lauren Krisai, director of Criminal Justice Reform at the Reason Foundation, the discussion touched on the power of prosecutors in the criminal justice system, how prosecutors have served as barriers to meaningful criminal justice reform, and whether an influx of forward-looking district attorneys could change the status quo. Read the rest of this entry »
SEOUL (AP) — South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Tuesday that she will resign — if parliament arranges the technical details — in her latest attempt to fend off impeachment efforts and massive street protests amid prosecution claims that a corrupt confidante wielded government power from the shadows.
“If the ruling and opposition parties discuss and come up with a plan to reduce the confusion in state affairs and ensure a safe transfer of governments, I will step down from the presidential position under that schedule and by processes stated in law.”
— South Korean President Park Geun-hye
Opponents immediately called Park’s conditional resignation offer a stalling tactic, and analysts said her steadfast denial that she has done anything wrong could embolden her enemies. The country’s largest opposition party, the Minjoo Party, said it would not let Park’s “ploy to avoid impeachment” interfere with a planned vote on impeachment on Friday.
“There is no possibility that the opposition parties will accept her offer; not when the public is this angry. She apparently wanted to buy more time, but in the end she might have hastened the end of her presidency.”
— Yul Shin, a politics professor at Seoul’s Myongji University
Park, who did not take questions from reporters after her live address to the nation, said she will “leave the matters about my fate, including the shortening of my presidential term, to be decided by the National Assembly,” referring to parliament.
“If the ruling and opposition parties discuss and come up with a plan to reduce the confusion in state affairs and ensure a safe transfer of governments, I will step down from the presidential position under that schedule and by processes stated in law,” she said.
How exactly this might play out is still unclear. But some saw Park’s speech as a clear effort to avoid leaving office, despite the resignation language. Read the rest of this entry »
A former Santa Fe High School teacher has been arrested and charged with three counts of
having an improper relationship with a student raping a student.
“Gutierrez went to the student’s residence and had sex in his bedroom, court records show.”
Kelsey Gutierrez was arrested Monday, Nov. 28 and is being held in the Galveston County Jail with no bond.
“Investigators said Gutierrez admitted to having a sexual relationship with the student, and that they found evidence on both of their phones about meeting times and the student’s sexual performance.”
Gutierrez was an English teacher at Santa Fe High School, but was terminated after an investigation that began with a tip to authorities, prosecutors said.
“Gutierrez met with the 18-year-old Santa Fe High student around midnight Nov. 12 in the parking lot of the student’s residence. The two began kissing in the front seat of her car, then climbed into the back seat to have sex.”
Four days later, Gutierrez went to the student’s residence and had sex in his bedroom, court records show.
Investigators said Gutierrez admitted to having a sexual relationship with the
student, and that they found evidence on both of their phones about meeting times and the student’s sexual performance.
“Court documents state that in 2015 Gutierrez had a sexual relationship with another teen, who was still enrolled as a student at Santa Fe High School at the time.”
In May 2015, Gutierrez picked up the second student in her car, and they drove to a gas station parking lot, where they kissed in her car, according to prosecutors.
A few weeks later, court documents said Gutierrez picked up the second student and parked on the side of the road, where they made out in her car.
“Gutierrez and the second student met up a few months later and hooked up for a fourth time, according to court documents.”
The two ‘hooked up’ again at the second student’s residence, investigators said…(read more)
“As soon as the district learned of the allegations, an internal investigation began including campus administrators and the district police department, and the teacher’s employment with the district ended,” Santa Fe ISD officials said. Read the rest of this entry »
The lawsuits allege false arrest, false imprisonment, defamation or false light, and other assertions. They were filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland in 2015 in late April and early May around the time the officers were arrested.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby is going from prosecutor to civil defendant in connection with the case of the death of Freddie Gray.
“Marilyn Mosby’s comments in her press conference today confirm that the charges brought against my clients, Sgt. Alicia White and Officer William Porter, as well as the other four officers, were politically motivated and not supported by evidence to establish probable cause.”
On Wednesday, Mosby announced that charges against three officers still facing trial were being dropped. Mosby gave only a statement, but had to leave without taking questions because five of the officers in the case have filed lawsuits against her.
Officers Garrett Miller, Edward Nero and William Porter as well as Sgt. Alicia White and Lt. Brian Rice are suing Mosby and Maj. Samuel Cogen of the Baltimore Sheriff’s Office. Cogen was the law enforcement officer who filed charging documents against the officers.
The lawsuits allege false arrest, false imprisonment, defamation or false light, and other assertions. They were filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland in 2015 in late April and early May around the time the officers were arrested.
Gray died in a hospital on April 19, 2015, a week after police stopped him on a Baltimore street. After his arrest, officers placed Gray in the back of a police van, which made several stops.
Rice and Nero had already been acquitted in separate bench trials. So had Officer Caesar Goodson, who apparently has not filed suit. Porter was the first to be tried but his case ended with the jury unable to reach a unanimous decision.
An attorney for two of the officers said Wednesday that there were ulterior motives in charging the officers.
“Marilyn Mosby’s comments in her press conference today confirm that the charges brought against my clients, Sgt. Alicia White and Officer William Porter, as well as the other four officers, were politically motivated and not supported by evidence to establish probable cause,” Michael E. Glass said.
He said his client suffered “extensive pain and suffering.” Porter and White had been suspended without pay until Wednesday. They are now on desk duty after more than a year on leave.
Rice, the highest-ranking officer charged in the case, paints himself as minimally involved, according to court documents. Read the rest of this entry »
Alan Dershowitz writes: FBI Director James Comey’s statement recommending against prosecuting Hillary Clinton was unusual in several respects. First, it is not generally regarded as the job of the FBI to make judgment calls about whether or not to prosecute. Those judgment calls are supposed to be made by prosecutors. The job of the FBI is to investigate the facts and lay them out as objectively and completely as possible so that prosecutors can exercise their discretion and judgment.
Although technically the attorney general in this case could exercise independent judgment, she is unlikely to do so, having already said she would defer to the FBI’s recommendation. So in this instance the FBI found the facts, applied the law and exercised prosecutorial discretion. A strange role for an investigative agency!
“The evidence in this case, as he described it, would not have justified a criminal prosecution. There is simply no precedent for indicting a former secretary of State for carelessness, even extreme carelessness.”
Second, it is unusual for an FBI director to express opinions such as the kind that Comey made in his statement. He said that Clinton had been “extremely careless” in her handling of sensitive material. That is not a legal concept, but to lay people it could sound very much like “gross negligence,” which is one of the statutory criteria for bringing a prosecution.
Normally when a prosecutor declines prosecution, all that is said is that there will be no indictment. It is rare, though not unprecedented, for a prosecutor to then go on to excoriate the object of the investigation. The question should be asked: Is that a proper role for the director of the FBI?
Third, Comey used an unusual verbal formulation in discussing classified information. This is what he said:
“Only a small number of the emails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information.”
He did not explain what he meant by the words “bore markings.” Does this mean that they were stamped “classified”? Or does it mean that there were indications within the text of the emails that would show that it was in fact classified? The confusion was exacerbated by Comey’s next sentence in which he said the following:
“But even if information is not marked ‘classified’ in an email, participants who know or should know that the subject is classified are obligated to protect it.”
Comey’s use of the words “marked classified” seems to suggest that there is a distinction between emails that were marked “classified” and emails that “bore markings indicating the presence of classified information.”
This use of different verbal formulations suggests that none of the emails were actually marked “classified.” I may be wrong in that surmise, but it is certainly suggested by how Comey used these different formulations. Read the rest of this entry »
The I.M.F. decision will help pave the way for broader use of the renminbi in trade and finance, securing China’s standing as a global economic power.
HONG KONG — Keith Brasher reports: The International Monetary Fund on Monday approved the Chinese renminbi as one of the world’s main central bank reserve currencies, a major acknowledgment of the country’s rising financial and economic heft.
The I.M.F. decision will help pave the way for broader use of the renminbi in trade and finance, securing China’s standing as a global economic power. But it also introduces new uncertainty into China’s economy and financial system, as the country was forced to relax many currency controls to meet the I.M.F. requirements.
The changes could inject volatility into the Chinese economy, since large flows of money surge into the country and recede based on its prospects. This could make it difficult for China to maintain its record of strong, steady growth, especially at a time when its economy is already slowing.
The I.M.F. will start including the renminbi in the fund’s unit of accounting, the so-called special drawing rights, at the end of September. The renminbi will take its place alongside the dollar, the euro, the yen and the pound.
Many central banks follow this benchmark in building their reserves, so countries could start holding more renminbi as a result. China will also gain more influence in international bailouts denominated in the fund’s accounting unit, like Greece’s debt deal. Read the rest of this entry »
Roof faces murder charges in state court. That trial is scheduled to start July 11, 2016
A prosecutor in Charleston, South Carolina, will seek the death penalty against Dylann Roof, accused of killing nine people during a prayer meeting at a historic African-American church, according to court documents filed Thursday. Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder.
“I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you.”
— Daughter of Ethel Lance
Roof, 21, is accused of shooting participants at a June 17 Bible study class at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston.
Nine people died, including the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who also was a state senator in South Carolina. Read the rest of this entry »
Mary Chastain reports: An explosion has killed Egyptian Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat and injured at least seven more people on Monday morning in Cairo.
Hossam Abdel Ghaffar, a spokesman for the health ministry, said Barakat passed away after surgeries. Ghaffar had previously stated he did not believe the prosecutor had suffered life-threatening injuries.
A witness spoke to Daily News Egypt:
A Heliopolis resident told Daily News Egypt they heard the explosion early Monday, and stepped onto their balcony to see a damaged motorcycle.
The witness also said there was an exploded vehicle, which according to the testimony, was Barakat’s security vehicle. The witness added that surrounding vehicles were in flames.
The damages on the attack scene included seven other injuries from Barakat’s staff and passengers, in addition to damages to 35 cars and nine houses in the area of the explosion.
No group has yet to take responsibility for the attack. A group called Giza Popular Resistance claimed it first, but someone removed it from their Facebook page and the Twitter account denounced the post. Read the rest of this entry »
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A federal autopsy in the Ferguson police shooting reached similar conclusions to those performed by local officials and a private examiner hired by 18-year-old Michael Brown’s family, documents show.
The Armed Forces Medical Examiner System’s autopsy on Brown, conducted at the request of the Department of Justice, was among grand jury documents that St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch released Monday with little explanation. Other documents include transcripts of eight federal interviews of possible witnesses to Brown’s shooting in early August; police radio traffic; and an alleged audio recording of the shots fired by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
Many of the documents contained information that was similar or identical to the materials that McCulloch released on Nov. 24 after a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson in Brown’s death. A transcript of testimony from an Air Force pathologist who performed the Justice Department autopsy was included in the November documents, but the autopsy report itself was not released until Monday.
The transcripts of the witness interviews that were released Monday were already included in previously released testimony heard by the grand jury.
The Justice Department autopsy found that Brown died from multiple gunshot wounds and had severe head and chest injuries, though it noted that the chest injury might have been an exit wound from a shot that entered Brown’s arm. The autopsy also found a minor gunshot wound to Brown’s right hand was evidence of close range discharge of a firearm. Read the rest of this entry »
A former Capitol Hill staffer who worked for Democrats has pleaded guilty to sexual abuse in a plea agreement that apparently won’t require him to spend any time in jail.
Donny Ray Williams, Jr., 37, reportedly pleaded guilty to four charges: third degree sexual abuse, two misdemeanor charges of sexual abuse, and one misdemeanor count of threatening to do bodily harm in connection with two incidents that allegedly occurred in the summer of 2010.
Prosecutors claim that Williams allegedly invited a female congressional co-worker back to his apartment, spiked her drink with Ambien, and raped her while she was asleep. A month later, he allegedly got another woman drunk and “had sexual contact with her” without her consent, The Washington Post reported. A third woman made similar claims against Williams, while a fourth alleged that Williams had threatened her.
The case was scheduled to go to a jury trial on January 5, 2015. The court trial was originally scheduled for March, 2013.
As the Inquisitor previously detailed, Williams was originally indicted in August, 2012 on 10 charges related to sexual abuse allegations.
The remaining charges are subject to dismissal as part of the plea deal entered into last week.
At the time of the 2012 indictment, Williams deemed the allegations “absolutely and completely false,” and insisted that he was not guilty. “I’ve never done anything to hurt anybody. I tried to live my life to help people,” he added.
Instead of jail, prosecutors plan to ask for a suspended prison sentence with five years of supervised probation. Williams will also have to register as a sex offender for 10 years. Read the rest of this entry »
— STLtoday (@stltoday) November 25, 2014
ABA Journal: Washington State Prosecutor Whose Bikini Photo was Reportedly Found in Inmate’s Cell Resigns $83,000-a-Year JobPosted: September 14, 2014
Martha Neil reports: A Washington state prosecutor whose bikini photograph wound up in the cell of a prison inmate has resigned from her $83,000-a-year job.
Marriya Wright also allegedly texted and called Matthew Baumrucker over 1,200 times during a period of a little over one month earlier this year. Authorities are now investigating whether Wright helped him avoid being taken into Spokane County custody on a warrant in a felony drug case at a time when he was otherwise lawfully at large, according to the Spokesman Review and KXLY. An earlier Spokesman Review article provides additional details.
At issue is a period in March when police were reportedly investigating an assault case and trying to serve the warrant in the drug case. A warrant says a witness told police that Baumrucker had spoken with a woman named Marriya in a car at a gas station.
“He came to her, asking for help, and she tried to bring him into the church to help him make better decisions in the future.”
The witness said she overheard Marriya tell Baumrucker that he “needed to get his warrant taken care of.”
“Unfortunately she was in a position in her own life where this got out of control.”
— Wright’s attorney Chris Bugbee
Police said they later obtained surveillance footage showing that Baumrucker had entered Wright’s vehicle at that gas station. She allegedly did not turn him in. Read the rest of this entry »
Trujillo briefly closed her eyes as the verdict was read, but showed little emotion. Her family, however, left the courtroom in tears.
The Houston trial gained international notoriety because of the weapon — a blue suede closed toe pump, size 9 with 5 inch heels.
Prosecutors alleged Trujillo, 45, fatally bludgeoned her boyfriend, Dr. Stefan Andersson, by hitting him in the head 25 times with the heel of her stiletto shoe.
Trujillo is a diminutive woman, her attorney Jack Carroll said in court, while her boyfriend was much bigger. When an argument allegedly broke out that night, and she tried to defend herself, she grabbed the closest weapon at hand — her high heel.
HOUSTON – A woman attacked her boyfriend in a fit of rage, sat on him after knocking him down and then stabbed him to death with the stiletto heel of her shoe, striking him at least 25 times in the face, a prosecutor told jurors Monday.
The lawyer for 45-year-old Ana Trujillo, however, said it was her client who was attacked, and she defended herself from 59-year-old Alf Stefan Andersson using the only weapon she had available.
Testimony began Monday in Trujillo’s murder trial. Prosecutors say she killed Andersson, who was a University of Houston professor and researcher, during an argument at his condominium in June. She is free on a $100,000 bond.
During opening statements, prosecutor Sarah Mickelson said Trujillo had a history of being angry and aggressive in her contentious on-again, off-again relationship with Andersson, a native of Sweden who became a U.S. citizen.
“The one thing we can be sure of in this case is that Ana Trujillo is not a victim. Ana Trujillo struck Stefan Andersson 25 times with the heel of her shoe while he lay on the floor and bled out.”
— Prosecutor Sarah Mickelson
Mickelson said that earlier in June, Andersson and Trujillo, 45, a native of Mexico, had reconciled.
The prosecutor described Andersson as mild-mannered and quiet, and Trujillo as hot-tempered.
Prosecutors too often abuse unrestrained powers
For USA Today, Glenn Harlan Reynolds writes: Here’s how it’s supposed to work: Upon evidence that a crime has been committed — Professor Plum, found dead in the conservatory with a lead pipe on the floor next to him, say — the police commence an investigation. When they have probable cause to believe that someone is guilty, the case is taken to a prosecutor, who (in the federal system, and many states) puts it before a grand jury. If the grand jury agrees that there’s probable cause, it indicts. The case goes to trial, where a jury of 12 ordinary citizens hears the evidence. If they judge the accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, they convict. If they think the accused not guilty — or even simply believe that a conviction would be unjust — they acquit.
[Glenn Harlan Reynolds is the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself, available at Amazon]
Here’s how things all-too-often work today: Law enforcement decides that a person is suspicious (or, possibly, just a political enemy). Upon investigation into every aspect of his/her life, they find possible violations of the law, often involving obscure, technical statutes that no one really knows. They then file a “kitchen-sink” indictment involving dozens, or even hundreds of charges, which the grand jury rubber stamps. The accused then must choose between a plea bargain, or the risk of a trial in which a jury might convict on one or two felony counts simply on a “where there’s smoke there must be fire” theory even if the evidence seems less than compelling.
This is why, in our current system, the vast majority of cases never go to trial, but end in plea bargains. And if being charged with a crime ultimately leads to a plea bargain, then it follows that the real action in the criminal justice system doesn’t happen at trial, as it does in most legal TV shows, but way before, at the time when prosecutors decide to bring charges. Because usually, once charges are brought, the defendant will wind up doing time for something.
(CNN) — Utah doctor Martin MacNeill was found guilty of his wife’s murder in a verdict read early Saturday morning.
MacNeill showed no emotion as he learned his fate, but a yell came from the section where his relatives sat.
He will be sentenced later.
MacNeill had said his wife’s death was an accident.
In the end, jurors believed prosecutors’ allegations that MacNeill drugged then drowned his wife, Michele MacNeill, in the bathtub of their home on April 11, 2007, to be with his mistress.
ABERDEEN, Wash. (AP) — One of three men convicted in the 1983 massacre of 13 people at a Seattle gambling club is being paroled.
The Washington Department of Corrections parole board has decided to release Wai Chiu “Tony” Ng after 30 years in prison. He was convicted of robbery and assault for his role in the shooting at the Wah Mee club. Read the rest of this entry »
A man who openly masturbated on a Stockholm beach has been acquitted of sexual assault in court after it was ruled he was not targeting a specific person, with the prosecutor saying it’s “okay” to play with yourself in public.
The incident occurred on June 6th at the Drevviken beach when the man removed his shorts and began masturbating close to the water. He was subsequently charged with sexual assault.
The Södertörn District Court has now acquitted the 65-year old in a judgement which stated that it “may be proven that the man exposed himself and masturbated on this occasion”.
However, the court added that no offence had been committed as the masturbating man was not pleasuring himself towards a specific person. Read the rest of this entry »