Crime and punishment roundup

  • Prosecutors too often dodge mens rea (knowing wrongfulness) as precondition for crime. SCOTUS can help by better defining “willfully” [Ilya Shapiro and Reilly Stephens on Cato certiorari brief in Ellison v. U.S.]
  • False abuse accusations, a dozen years later: “The Girl Who Told The Truth” [Michael Hall, Texas Monthly]
  • Retired federal judge Kevin Sharp: mandatory minimum sentences forced me to do injustice [Cato Policy Report]
  • Kansas is unique in extent to which it adds large classes of drug offenders to sex offender list, new bill would change course [Maurice Chammah, Marshall Project]
  • Like a contingency fee: “Tennessee state forensic scientists have a financial incentive to secure DUI convictions, says a Tennessee appeals court, as the $250 fee imposed on guilty motorists pays their salaries (and some of their positions were nearly cut in a recent budget crunch). Which violates due process.” [John K. Ross, “Short Circuit”, on Tennessee v. Decosimo]
  • Amicus brief from Cato Institute and other groups in Ross Ulbricht/Silk Road case argues that Internet deserves robust Fourth Amendment protection [Ilya Shapiro and Aaron Barnes]


  • Florida has contingency fees for the crime labs as well. For DUI, see 938.07, F.S. and for other crimes, see 938.055. I’m pretty sure Pennsylvania has something similar, and no doubt there are several states as well.

    • Why would the legislature set something up like that?

      • “Gosh, all this crime lab stuff sounds really expensive. Hey, nobody likes criminals; let’s make them pay for it.”

        Same logic that brings us courthouse construction assessments and all the other fees that can more than double the normal fines for offenses, all backed by the power to throw people in jail for non-payment, usually without much regard for ability to pay.

        Or maybe the legislature just watched the movie Brazil the night before.

  • That false abuse story is horrifying. It amazes me that people get convicted on such shaky evidence, or on crimes that just couldn’t possibly have happened logistically.

    While the sex-abuse-panic seems to have subsided, we still see it in modern times in different forms, like the “Pizzagate” stories believed by many on the right and the “50,000 girls are sex-trafficked for the Super Bowl” believed by many on the Left.

    • ““50,000 girls are sex-trafficked for the Super Bowl” believed by many on the Left.”

      That one has a bipartisan following. There are plenty of anti-prostitution activists on the right who believe that.