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Judge, Lawyers In MO Municipal Courts Play Many Roles--Is It Fair?

Lawyers who help run and profit from the St. Louis area’s 81 municipal courts often work as traffic attorneys whose success lies in their ability to get a charge amended to a nonmoving violation, a leniency that many courts will afford only to lawyers, as long as the offender is willing to pay a higher fine, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. They also work as city attorneys, paid to represent municipalities in lawsuits and to craft ordinances that feed the municipal revenue stream. Sometimes they do both. These dual, or in some cases triple and quadruple roles--judge in one place; prosecutor or city attorney in another; and private lawyer representing defendants in still another--mean the lawyers regularly appear before each other, switching places in court. On a recent day in Berkeley, 20 defense attorneys scheduled to appear before Judge Jennifer Fisher were fellow municipal prosecutors and judges.

It’s a practice that wouldn’t fly at the state court level. Critics say it raises questions about how justice is served in these small communities. “If you’re in front of a judge or you’re talking to the prosecutor and you know two days later you’re going to be the judge and that person is going to be in front of you as a defense attorney, that knowledge impacts the negotiations,” said St. Louis University Law Prof. Brendan Roediger, who is part of a legal team behind lawsuits alleging constitutional abuses in municipal courts. The main players in this system insist they treat everyone equally. Lawyers who know the inner workings describe the ultimate good old boys club. Favors are traded behind the scenes between lawyers who frequently appear before one another. The same lawyers are simultaneously charging clients to get the same types of deals.

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Milwaukee Called Slow In Fixing Police Handling Of The Mentally Ill

In the 11 months since the death of a man named Dontre Hamilton at police hands, Milwaukee police have intensified efforts to improve dealings with people with mental illness. Mental health advocates tell the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Milwaukee County officials have a long way to go to catch up with best practices from other cities. Milwaukee will train every officer in crisis intervention skills by the end of 2017. In the meantime, advocates say police and mental health administrators have not been aggressive enough despite early success in pairing police officers with mental health professionals.

There are just two teams that match an officer and mental health worker to respond to the most intense cases. The teams are not available on weekends, early mornings or after midnight, times when incidents with troubled people often occur. County officials have called this collaboration "hugely successful," but Sister Rose Stietz, a member of the Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope, says Milwaukee can do much better. She and others have been advocating for police to add more teams. "They could be doing so much more," Stietz said. "But there is no urgency."

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Will AL Judge Order Execution For Grandmother Who Ran Girl To Death?

on Friday found that Joyce Hardin Garrard murdered her granddaughter, Savannah Hardin, 9, by running the girl death in the backyard in 2012, says the Christian Science Monitor. While the jury declined to send Garrard to death row, Judge Billy Ogletree  has the option to order an execution. Alabama, Delaware, Florida allow judicial override of jury sentences to impose the death penalty. The option is rarely used in Florida and Delaware has abolished the death penalty, making Alabama, where judges are elected, the only state to use the option regularly.

Savannah collapsed and died in her grandmother’s yard after being forced to run for hours as a punishment for lying about taking some candy and eating it. Five out of 12 jurors voted for the death penalty, while seven voted for life in prison without parole. Judge Ogletree may face pressure to change the sentence. Many Alabamians support execution for Garrard. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, Alabama jury verdicts have been overridden 111 times, with 101 of those cases ending in the judge upgrading the verdict to death.

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A Look At What It's Like To Work As An Undercover Agent

"Danger, subterfuge, adrenaline." As more law-enforcement agencies use undercover operatives,  NPR takes a look at what it's like to take on a false identity professionally. A new report says the FBI has made major improvements since Sept. 11, but still needs to boost its ability to collect intelligence. The New York Times has reported that some 40 federal agencies use undercover agents in some capacity.

This kind of work is glamorized in TV and movies. Behind many success stories are agents who have risked their lives living as someone they aren't. NPR asks what kind of people are drawn to undercover work, what effect the work can have on your psyche, and whether men and women approach this work in the same way?"

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Feds Charge AL Officer Who Threw Indian Citizen To Ground

The U.S. Department of Justice charged Eric Parker, the Madison, Al., police officer who threw an Indian citizen to the ground on Feb. 6, with a civil rights violation, reports the Huntsville Times. Parker, 26, also faces trial in Limestone County for misdemeanor assault. Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey has recommended that Parker be fired. He is on administrative leave . Gov. Robert Bentley has written a letter apologizing to Patel and to India. 

Parker attorney, Robert Tuten. said he was "a little bit surprised" that Parker was being charged by the U.S. Department of Justice while also facing a state charge of third degree assault. "He feels like he's being whaled on from all sides," said Tuten. The victim, Sureshbhai Patel, who does not speak English, was approached by police after being reported as a suspicious person. He had arrived in the U.S. about a week earlier. His son, Chirag Patel, is an engineer. Chirag Patel said his father had come from the Indian town of Pij to help care for his 17-month-old grandson. He said his father liked to take a walk in the morning.

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Boston Police Officer Shot In Face; Assailant Killed By Police

Boston Police Officer John Moynihan was in surgery Sunday to remove a bullet lodged below his right ear after being shot in the face Friday night, said Police Commissioner William Evans. The Boston Globe said Moynihan, 34, a member of the gang unit, was responding to reports of gunfire in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood and was allegedly shot by a convicted felon who was later shot dead by police.

Moynihan, a former Army ranger and Iraq war veteran, is credited with helping to save Transit Police Officer Dic Donahue, who was injured in 2013 in a Watertown shootout after the Boston Marathon bombings.

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Dallas DA Hawk Fires Deputy, Admits Rehab For RX Drug Abuse

Susan Hawk made history this year as Dallas County’s first female district attorney and the first Republican elected to countywide office since 2004. Perhaps more important to voters: She wasn’t incumbent Craig Watkins, says the Dallas Morning News. The anybody-new-will-do attitude sustained her during her initial weeks. Many in Dallas’ legal community optimistically observed Hawk’s inclusive community-centric approach and ability to appear above the political sagas that cost Watkins the election in November.

That image unraveled in just a few days last week. Hawk fired her second-in-command and longtime friend Bill Wirskye. She acknowledged she had sought help for prescription drug use, after the Morning News reported she had been to rehab in October 2013 during her campaign. Hawk faced accusations of paranoid and erratic behavior, including a strange claim that she accused Wirskye of breaking into her home. Hawk explained the dismissal of Wirskye and another high-ranking staffer as necessary steps to carry out her vision. She pictures a progressive DA’s office that, unlike past administrations, makes its mark through crime prevention. “With great change,” she said, “comes many critics.”

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ADX: Where Inmates In Solitary May Bang On Doors For Hours

The New York Times profiles the highest-security federal prison: the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Co., known as the ADX. It was designed as scape-proof, the Alcatraz of the Rockies, a place to incarcerate the worst, most unredeemable class of criminal — “a very small subset of the inmate population who show,” said former federal prison director Norman Carlson, “absolutely no concern for human life.” Among its residents: Ted Kaczynski, Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph, 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind Ramzi Yousef, Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols, and underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Along with such notorious inmates, prisoners deemed serious behavioral or flight risks can also end up at the ADX , like Rodney Jones, who in 2003, after three assault charges in less than a year (all fights with other inmates) at a medium-security facility in Louisiana, found himself transferred to the same ADX cellblock as Kaczynski. ADX inmates spend 23 hours of each day in solitary confinement. Jones had never been so isolated before. Other prisoners on his cellblock screamed and banged on their doors for hours. Jones said the staff psychiatrist stopped his prescription for Seroquel, a drug taken for bipolar disorder, telling him, “We don’t give out feel-good drugs here.”

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TCR at a Glance

Prop 47: The Debate Continues

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The Missing Public Defender

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