Posts Tagged ‘child abuse’

Crime and punishment roundup

  • “Authorities noted in the complaint he lived ‘9 houses’ away from the site of a residence where drug transactions were occurring…” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt on $626,000 Missouri civil asset forfeiture seizure]
  • As Loyola lawprof Dane Ciolino points out, Louisiana “victims’ rights” bill seems meant to hobble public defenders’ witness investigations without holding law enforcement and D.A.s to same standards [Kira Lerner, The Appeal, earlier here, here, here, and here]
  • A “truly disgraceful chapter in the history of British policing” culminates in conviction of fantasist who made up child abuse charges against prominent figures [Dan Rivers, ITV]
  • The May 19 story on Dallas’s nonprosecution policy for lower-level offenses (“shoplifters’ holiday”) resulted in a discussion in comments of the similar policy of Suffolk County, Mass. (Boston) district attorney Rachael Rollins. Rollins’s policy has since come in for considerable controversy: “A Globe review of Rollins’s record reveals that, not only is the Suffolk DA dropping more cases than before, but some of the cases don’t seem “low-level” at all, involving serious bodily injury, major thefts, and career criminals.” [Andrea Estes and Shelley Murphy, Boston Globe, July 6]. [h/t reader Hugo C., who writes: “Two cases stood out to me: (a) an assailant who put an attorney in the hospital with long-term brain damage got no prison time, and (b) a criminal caught breaking into a warehouse with a crowbar (and found to be in possession of 39 stolen credit cars) was turned loose.”]
  • Electronic ankle monitors that not only report location, but also capture and report back audio of the wearer’s surroundings, raise difficult privacy issues [Kira Lerner, The Appeal via Chaz Arnett]
  • Alexandra Natapoff discusses her recent book Punishment without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal [Cato event video with Jonathan Blanks; related Cato podcast]

A shaken baby syndrome researcher reconsiders

British neuropathologist Waney Squier spent many years as an expert witness in court assisting in the prosecution of defendants accused of causing Shaken Baby Syndrome. Then a closer engagement with the evidence caused her to change her mind — and the story that follows, which she tells in this TEDx Wandsworth talk, must be heard to be believed. Sue Luttner has more for the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. More on the story: Jon Robins, The Justice Gap; Theodore Dalrymple, Spectator.

More: “Judge orders release of woman who served 11 years behind bars in grandson’s death” [Marisa Gerber, L.A. Times; earlier on shaken baby syndrome] More about Deborah Tuerkheimer’s 2014 book Flawed Convictions, which I haven’t seen, is here.

Forensics roundup

The man who exposed the shoddy forensics of Shaken Baby Syndrome — and got prosecuted

John Plunkett, who just died at age 70, was a Minnesota medical examiner who grew skeptical of the forensic theory behind Shaken Baby Syndrome.

He started investigating cases in which children had died in a manner similar to the way accused caregivers had described the deaths of the children they were watching — by short-distance falls. What he found alarmed him. In 2001, Plunkett published a study detailing how he had found symptoms similar to those in the SBS diagnosis in children who had fallen off playground equipment. It was a landmark study. If a short-distance fall could produce symptoms similar to those in SBS cases, the SBS diagnosis that said symptoms could only come from shaking was wrong. By that point, hundreds of people had been convicted based on SBS testimony from medical experts. Some of them were undoubtedly guilty. But if Plunkett was right, some of them almost certainly weren’t.

After he gave expert testimony that led to an acquittal in Oregon and thus became “a threat to SBS cases all over the country,” the county district attorney indicted Plunkett over supposed inconsistencies in his testimony. Those proceedings eventuated in the dropping of some charges and Plunkett’s acquittal on the rest; in the mean time, however, they chilled the willingness of defense attorneys elsewhere to rely on his testimony. [Radley Balko]

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]

August 30 roundup

Crime and punishment roundup

Police and prosecution roundup

  • “Policing in America: Understanding Public Attitudes Toward the Police. Results from a National Survey” [Emily Ekins, Cato]
  • “In ‘blistering’ ruling, court upholds recusal of entire Orange County DA’s office from murder case” [ABA Journal] Orange County scandals played role: “Prosecutorial Misconduct is Now a Felony in California” [Reason]
  • “Mistrial for Cop Who Shot Walter Scott in the Back” [Cato podcast with Matthew Feeney and Caleb Brown]
  • House Moves To Stop IRS Forfeiture Abuse [Jared Meyer] “California Enacts Asset Forfeiture Reform, Mostly Closing Lucrative Fed Loophole” [C.J. Ciaramella, Reason] “Iowa Will Pay Poker Players Robbed by Forfeiture-Hungry State Cops” [Jacob Sullum]
  • Time for the great U.K. child abuse witch hunt to close up shop [Charles Moore, Telegraph]
  • “Reining in Prosecutorial Overreach with Meaningful Mens Rea Requirements” [Trevor Burrus on Cato amicus in 11th Circuit case of U.S. v. Clay]

Police and prosecution roundup

  • Amid multiple scandals, why won’t office of Orange County, Calif. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas confirm name of county investigator alleged to have beaten defense attorney in courtroom hallway? [R. Scott Moxley/OC Weekly via Radley Balko, Voice of OC]
  • And from February: “former Los Angeles sheriff Lee Baca announced that he would plead guilty to criminal charges related to systemic misconduct in his department, specifically to a charge of lying to investigators in an effort to cover up that wrongdoing.” [Kevin Williamson]
  • Post-Ferguson investigation: problems with small-town municipal courts go way beyond North St. Louis County into outstate Missouri [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
  • Judge throws out mountain of tickets from Chicago traffic and speed cameras [TimeOut, Timothy Geigner/TechDirt, earlier]
  • Britain: following collapse of lengthy Operation Midland law enforcement inquiry into a fantasist’s wild tales of abuse (did senior Tories murder rentboys for fun?) vindicated officials and their families wonder where to turn to get their reputations back [Dan Hodges/Telegraph (citing Metropolitan Police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe’s favorable reference to a second official’s statement that “The presumption that a victim should always be believed should be institutionalized”); Matthew Scott/Barrister Blogger, Richard Bartholomew]
  • Supreme Court nominee: “In Criminal Rulings, [Chief Judge Merrick] Garland Has Usually Sided With Law Enforcement” [New York Times; more on Garland’s D.C. Circuit rulings]