Posts Tagged ‘mens rea’

Police and prosecution roundup

  • Enviro activists unlawfully block coal ship, Massachusetts prosecutor expresses approval by dropping charges [James Taranto, Jacob Gershman/WSJ Law Blog, ABA Journal]
  • Unfortunately-named Mr. Threatt charged with “robbery that happened while he was in jail” [Baltimore Sun via @amyalkon]
  • “How conservative, tough-on-crime Utah reined in police militarization” [Evan McMorris-Santoro, BuzzFeed] More: What if we needed it someday? San Diego Unified School District defends acquisition of armored vehicle [] And Senate hearing [AP]
  • “Machine-based traffic-ticketing systems are running amok” [David Kravets, ArsTechnica]
  • Thanks, Fraternal Order of Police, for protecting jobs of rogue Philadelphia cops who could cost taxpayers millions [Ed Krayewski; related earlier]
  • Study: returning from 6- to 12-person juries could iron out many racial anomalies at trial [Anwar et al, Tabarrok]
  • Courts can help curb overcriminalization by revitalizing rule of lenity, mens rea requirement [Steven Smith]

Crime and punishment roundup

Police and prosecution roundup

  • Detroit police blasted for arresting Free Press photographer who filmed arrest with her iPhone [Poynter]
  • “The discomfort of principles” in criminal defense matters [Gideon’s Trumpet]
  • House Judiciary panel on overcriminalization and mens rea shows genuinely useful bipartisanship [Jonathan Blanks, Cato] One in four new bills these days to create criminal liability lacks mens rea [Paul Rosenzweig/Alex Adrianson, Heritage]
  • Auburn, Alabama: “Cop Fired for Speaking Out Against Ticket and Arrest Quotas” [Reason TV]
  • Film project on overturned Death Row convictions [One for Ten] “Forensics review reveals hair evidence was possibly exaggerated in 27 capital cases” [ABA Journal]
  • Critics of Stand Your Ground seem to be having trouble coming up with examples to back their case [Sullum]
  • Maine: “Hancock County prosecutor admits violating bar rules in sexual assault trial” [Bill Trotter, Bangor Daily News]

Prosecution and police roundup

  • “The Cash Machine: How the Philly D.A. seizes millions in alleged crime money — whether there’s been a crime or not.” [Isaiah Thompson, Philadelphia City Paper via Alkon] Jacob Sullum on the Motel Caswell forfeiture case [syndicated, earlier]
  • Online symposium on Brandon Garrett’s Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong [Co-Op]
  • Victims of Detroit police raid on art gallery nightclub get some justice [Ferndale 115]
  • John Baker on mens rea and “strict liability” crimes [Fed Soc, PDF]
  • Radley Balko has moved his Agitator blog to Huffington Post. And (via @normative) Cato’s Police Misconduct project is tweeting at @NPMRP.
  • Want to cross-examine someone on that traffic-camera ticket? Be prepared to pay travel costs for the camera company person [Scott Greenfield] “The mission creep of rape shield law” [same]
  • “Does the Criminalization of Tort Inhibit Safety Investigation?” [Beth Haas, Faculty Lounge]

Prosecution roundup

  • Six-year-old charged with sexual assault [, Wisconsin; Radley Balko]
  • “Beware: Cities Hunting You Down For Reagan-Era Parking Tickets” [David Kiley, AOL]
  • Waco, Texas: “McLennan DA fights DNA testing because exonerations override juries” [Grits for Breakfast] Robert Mosteller, “Failures of the Prosecutor’s Duty to ‘Do Justice’ in Extraordinary and Ordinary Miscarriages of Justice” [Legal Ethics Forum]
  • Controlled substances: “Could a US lawyer lawfully counsel clients about this proposed new law?” [John Steele, LEF]
  • Mens rea erosion a “deeply troublesome trend” [Kevin LaCroix on WSJ] “Trial penalty,” long sentence minimums give prosecutors muscle to extract plea deals [NYT, Sullum] “Settlements feed U.S. prosecutor overreach” [Reynolds Holding, Reuters BreakingViews] “Responsible corporate officer doctrine” worries pharma defense lawyers [WSJ Law Blog] “The continuing quest to criminalize business judgment” [Kirkendall]
  • “More than three-quarters of turn-of-the-century Chicago homicides led to no criminal punishment — not because the perpetrator could not be identified, but because no jury would convict.” [William Stuntz’s posthumous book via Cowen]
  • “Scalia criticizes narcotics laws” [for over-federalization] [WSJ]

January 15 roundup

  • Judge Posner’s patience snaps in a class action: the case “is an example of the typical pathology of class action litigation, which is riven with conflicts of interest… The lawyers for the class could not concede the utter worthlessness of their claim because they wanted an award of attorneys’ fees.” Complete with a quotation from Leo Rosten about chutzpah [Mirfasihi v. Fleet Mortgage Corporation; NMC @ Folo, Courthouse News and again]
  • Erosion of mens rea prerequisite in criminal law should alarm all of us across left-right lines [Doug Berman on John Hasnas WLF paper]
  • “Federal drain law forces pool closings” [Boston Globe]
  • Gambling habit was no excuse for Woodbridge, Va. lawyer to forge clients’ signature on lawsuit settlements which he pocketed; Stephen Conrad drew a 11-year sentence after doing $4 million damage to clients. Also in Virginia, former Christiansburg attorney Gerard Marks pleaded guilty Nov. 13 to forgery [Va. Lawyers Weekly; earlier here, and, on Marks, first links here]
  • Plaintiff family in Anaheim, Calif. police-shooting lawsuit have an unusual demand: that statue of deceased victim be put up on Disneyland’s Main Street [Orange County Register]
  • Connecticut state lawyer who assumed bogus identity to send anonymous letter that got her boss fired, then claimed whistleblower protection, is let off with reprimand and nine hours of ethics training [Schwartz, earlier]
  • “Patent troll sues Oprah, Sony over online book viewing” [The Register; Illinois Computer Research, Scott Harris, etc.]
  • JetBlue incident at JFK: “240,000 dollars awarded to man forced to cover Arab T-shirt” [AFP/Yahoo, Raed Jarrar]

Hospital infections, a real crime

How is Britain’s new Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, addressing public alarm about “superbug” infections in hospitals? In part by floating the idea of criminally prosecuting hospital personnel after infections break out. And of course prosecutors will never for a moment consider bringing such charges without strong evidence of culpable mens rea on the part of the hospital personnel. Right? (Andrew Sparrow, “Warning to hospitals over MRSA”, Daily Telegraph, May 16). Hat tip and thanks for the link: Michelle Malkin, May 16.

4,000 federal crimes

A new study for the Federalist Society finds that the U.S. Code now defines well over 4,000 crimes, and that the count has risen by more than a third since the early 1980s. A substantial share of the newer offenses, around a third, are environmental in nature, and the rate of enactment of federal criminal statutes spikes in election years, finds the author, Prof. John S. Baker, Jr. of Louisiana State University Law Center. Moreover, the trend is toward a chipping away of the traditional requirement for a mens rea — that is, a guilty or otherwise knowing state of mind — in favor of the criminalization of what may be inadvertent regulatory infractions. (“Measuring the Explosive Growth of Federal Crime Legislation”, study in PDF format/supplementary reading). More: William L. Anderson and Candice E. Jackson, “Washington’s Biggest Crime Problem”, Reason, Apr.

Not related to this website despite its name, is a new site from the Heritage Foundation “devoted to challenging and ultimately reversing the harmful trend by government to criminalize more and more ordinary activities.” Among the case histories presented: Palo Alto v. Leibrand, in which a 61-year-old homeowner was fingerprinted and booked (complete with mug shot) on charges of letting the street-side xylosma bushes near her bungalow grow more than two feet high (her site); and cases of alleged federal overzealousness in enforcing the False Claims Act (U.S. v. Krizek, alleged overbilling by psychotherapist); and environmental law (Hansen v. U.S., manager of bankrupt chemical plant sentenced to 46 months despite critics’ questions as to both mens rea and his practical capability to rectify the various violations). For a sampling of similar themes aired on this site, see Aug. 6 (drowsy driving), Jul. 22 (corporation’s vicarious criminal liability for acts of employees and agents), Jul. 14 (U.K. seaweed-picking); May 14 (sexual harassment); Aug. 3-5, 2001 (cloned human cells); Dec. 8-10, 2000 (gun sale); Oct. 20-22, 2000 (product liability); May 18-21, 2000 (public morality laws) and Dec. 20 and Aug. 2, 1999 (injury to animals). Plus: Tim Sandefur (Oct. 28) has more, including pointers to an earlier Heritage memo on the subject (Paul Rosenzweig, “The Over-Criminalization of Social and Economic Conduct”, Apr. 17) and commentaries by Tyler Cowen (Oct. 21) and himself (Oct. 16).