Posts Tagged ‘crime and punishment’

Crime and punishment roundup

  • Fiasco of Cliven Bundy prosecution points up that even those who break the law are entitled to a fair trial. “In the Bundy case, Judge Navarro slammed the FBI for withholding key evidence. Unfortunately, this seems to be standard procedure for the FBI.” [James Bovard, USA Today; Mark Joseph Stern, Slate; earlier]
  • Don’t undermine structural protection Double Jeopardy Clause provides against prosecutorial overreach [Jay Schweikert on Cato amicus brief in Currier v. Virginia] Case gives SCOTUS chance to reconsider “dual sovereignty” exception to Double Jeopardy Clause [Ilya Shapiro on Cato certiorari brief in Gamble v. U.S.]
  • “The room he was in happened to fall within 572 feet of a park and 872 feet of a school,” within the 1000 feet set by Tennessee law, result misery [C.J. Ciaramella and Lauren Krisai, Reason (“Drug-free school zone laws are rarely if ever used to prosecute sales of drugs to minors. Such cases are largely a figment of our popular imagination.”)]
  • Missed last spring: this challenge to the “Standard Story” of mass incarceration [Adam Gopnik on John Pfaff’s “Locked In”]
  • Ignorance of the law is no excuse. But with law having proliferated beyond anyone’s grasp, perhaps it should be? [Stephen Carter, Bloomberg, earlier]
  • Another study finds decriminalizing prostitution reduces sexual abuse and rape [Alex Tabarrok]

Trump’s first clemency

Under the circumstances, eight years (as opposed to 27) was long enough for Sholom Rubashkin to serve behind bars for bank fraud and other financial misconduct, especially since by interfering in his bankruptcy proceedings the U.S. government had itself driven up the cost of his actions to creditors, thus pushing him into a higher sentencing range. There were other irregularities in his trial as well. But let’s hope that President Trump extends clemency to other equally deserving inmates who lack the money and influence to call forward a campaign on their behalf [Mark Joseph Stern, Slate] More: Des Moines Register, WLF, NBC.

Police roundup

  • Attitudes on law enforcement now function as culture war rallying point and vehicle of identity politics on both sides [Dara Lind] Good news on officer safety: “Line of duty deaths this year approached a 50-year low” [Ed Krayewski]
  • SWAT deployment and police militarization — in rural Western Massachusetts [Seth Kershner, Valley Advocate] Trump still wrong on this issue [Eric Boehm]
  • Would it be easier to address America’s high rate of fatal shootings by police if the focus were allowed to slip off race for a moment? [Conor Friedersdorf]
  • Neighborhood police checkpoints employed in West Baltimore for several days in November, yet in 2009 DC Circuit, via conservative Judge Sentelle, found them unconstitutional [Colin Campbell and Talia Richman, Baltimore Sun; Elizabeth Janney, Patch]
  • What should be done to address rising crime rates? Federalist Society convention panel video with Dr. John S. Baker, Jr., Heather Childs, Adam Gelb, Hon. Michael Mukasey, George J. Terwilliger III, moderated by Hon. David Stras;
  • In Collins v. Virginia, Supreme Court has opportunity to reaffirm that home is truly castle against police search [Cato Daily Podcast with Jay Schweikert and Caleb Brown]

Crime and punishment roundup

  • Drivers’ license should signify ability to drive motor vehicle safely. Denial for miscellaneous arm-twisting reasons – e.g. child support – is bad policy. [Beth Schwartzapfel, Marshall Project (“43 states suspend driver’s licenses for unpaid court debts, but only four require a hearing beforehand to determine whether the failure to pay is willful or simply a reflection of poverty.”); Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Stacy Cowley and Natalie Kitroeff, NYT (“Twenty states suspend people’s professional or driver’s licenses if they fall behind on [student] loan payments, according to records obtained by The New York Times.”)] Earlier here (tax delinquents in New York), here, here, here, etc.;
  • Under centuries of precedent, bail must be individualized as well as not excessive [Ilya Shapiro on Cato amicus in Walker v. City of Calhoun, Eleventh Circuit] And my piece on Maryland’s botched bail reform is now available ungated at Cato;
  • Harvey Silverglate recounts an old tale of prosecutorial entrapment — starring Robert Mueller, then acting U.S. Attorney in Boston [WGBH]
  • Criminal justice, mass incarceration, and the libertarian cause: Radley Balko’s speech on winning Bastiat Award [Reason]
  • “The Troubling Expansion Of The Criminal Offense Of Obstructing The IRS” [Kathryn Ward Booth, Vanderbilt Law]
  • Murder rap for drug supplier after overdose distorts both criminal law principle and incentives [Scott Greenfield, earlier here and here, see also here and here (prescribing doctors)]

When pizza incentives (allegedly) backfire

A class-action suit charges that the sheriff and public defender’s office in Cook County, Ill. have failed to protect female public defenders and law clerks from detainees who expose themselves and harass the women in other ways. According to the suit’s allegations, the authorities tried bribing serial offenders with free pizza if they refrained from misbehaving but the policy “backfired, allegedly, because some detainees who learned of it would then start acting out just so they could get pizza when they stopped.” [Kevin Underhill, Lowering the Bar] “A spokeswoman for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office said the pizza rewards program described in the lawsuit never took place.” [ABC News]

“Why the trial by ordeal was actually an effective test of guilt”

Regarding the old “Trial by…” methods: our ancestors were not fools and seemingly bizarre or destructive methods of trial would not have lasted through long periods unless they served some function or other. One possibility is that where accused wrongdoers rightly or wrongly believed in the efficacy of a truth-finding ordeal, they would signal their belief in their guilt (by confessing) or not and that was the real information yielded by the process, making it unnecessary to follow through with the menaced injury.

According to this article, for example, there is reason to believe the supposedly boiling water in the boiling-water ordeal had been allowed to cool substantially, turning it into more of a psychological than a physical challenge. [Peter Leeson, Aeon]

There is also a literature worth checking out on the similarities to the old trials by ordeal (or outright torture) of our own current plea bargain system.

November 8 roundup

“If the Law Is This Complicated, Why Shouldn’t Ignorance Be an Excuse?”

Sharing a Netflix password might be a violation of federal law; so might picking a feather up off the ground, or freeing a whale that has become caught in one’s fishing gear. “America’s judges still cling to the proposition that it’s perfectly fine to lock people up for doing something they had no idea was illegal. But it’s not fine, and the justifications for that palpably unfair rule have only grown more threadbare with time.” [Clark Neily, TownHall] More: Stephen Carter, Bloomberg View.