Judge Sonia Sotomayor's experience on the front lines in a big city's fight against crime will bring a much-needed perspective to the Supreme Court, says Anthony Barkow, a former feereal prosecutor who now directs the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law at New York University School of Law. Writing on CNN.com, Barkow notes that only Justice Samuel Alito has any real background at all in criminal law. He was an assistant U.S. attorney and was later U.S. attorney in New Jersey. Sotomayor would bring a much-needed dose of reality when it comes to criminal law issues, Barkow says. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to approve her nomination next week.
"It is all too easy for someone who has not spent time working on these issues to caricature them," he writes. "For conservatives, the risk is assuming all crimes are a failure of personal responsibility that lead to serious breaches of public order and demand incarceration and a tough response. For liberals, the risk is seeing every defendant as a victim of poverty or society's failures. The reality, as Sotomayor knows well, is far more complicated. She has seen the human condition up close and personal. She knows the pain of victims and has looked into the eyes of defendants who have committed unspeakable acts with no remorse and are unredeemable. She has also seen defendants who need treatment and jobs, not prison. Many of these individuals may have committed petty crimes, such as shoplifting or drug possession, to feed an addiction."
State and federal laws to curb prescription drug abuse make it illegal for doctors to prescribe drugs in the name of anyone but the intended user. Physicians found using pseudonyms have lost their medical licenses and faced criminal charges, says the Los Angeles Times. The prohibition on fake names may become a key issue in the investigation into Michael Jackson's death.
Sources say the performer had been prescribed drugs in the name "Omar Arnold" shortly before his death June 25. The probe has focused on Jackson's use of drugs, and investigators are looking at the conduct of at least five doctors who wrote prescriptions for him. Dr. H. Westley Clark, director of the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, said fake names flout mechanisms put in place by states and pharmacy chains to flag people abusing drugs. "It makes it difficult to track behavior of patients who might be doctor-shopping or who may be receiving large doses of controlled substances that might cause some concern," said Clark, who is licensed as both a lawyer and doctor.
How do you stab and slash someone 61 times, not just killing but slaughtering him, then walk free? That's the question Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn asks after the acquittal of Joseph Biedermann , who admitted to inflicting fatal wounds on Terrance Hauser during an early-morning altercation in the complex where both men lived. The answer, in this case, is that you cast yourself as the victim of an attempted homosexual rape, then you throw in all-or-nothing with the jury.Biedermann, now 30, testified that he first met Hauser, 38, at a tavern shortly before the incident. After the bartender refused to serve Biedermann more alcohol, the two, both drunk, repaired to Hauser's apartment. Biedermann passed out, then awoke to find Hauser holding a sword to his neck, ordering him to disrobe and submit to a sexual act.
Biedermann said he gained control of a dagger and used it to stab Hauser repeatedly in an attempt to escape. Prosecutors say Biedermann was larger and less drunk than Hauser and couldn't possibly have had to stab him five dozen times in order to escape. In the bloody overkill of the stabbing frenzy some see the hallmark of "gay panic" cases -- ones in which defendants suggest, sometimes successfully, that homosexual overtures are themselves sufficient provocation for acts of extreme violence. Rick Garcia, political director of Equality Illinois, said he was "disgusted" by Biedermann's acquittal. "The gay panic defense is passé but, unfortunately, it still works in some places. It seems to me that this jury based its verdict not on the facts but on deep seated anti-gay sentiment."
Detroit's prosecutor and chief judge predicted anarchy in the streets and unpunished crimes if Wayne County makes proposed cuts to budgets for the prosecutor's office and court, the Detroit Free Press reports. Prosecutor Kym Worthy told county commissioners that if her budget is cut $6 million as proposed and she is forced to lay off 54 employees, she'll have to stop prosecuting some nonviolent crimes, such as breaking and entering.
"This is beyond ridiculous," she said. "We can't even cover our courtrooms anymore." Chief Circuit Judge Virgil Smith told commissioners that if his budget doesn't match his $58.9-million request for general fund dollars, he'll have to go back to court to sue the county for full funding. "We are one of the few mandated services that the county has to provide," Smith said. "And if we can't provide it, there will be anarchy in the streets." Worthy understands that times are tough, but she said prosecuting criminals isn't an optional service.
The bad economy is motivating more some people who are down on their luck to turn to arson, reports Charlotte's NewsChannel 36. "Nobody ever sets a fire thinking they are going to get caught," said Dickie Hayes of the Arson Task Force. "But what we're finding is people who are desperate, they put no thought into it and go out and do it." Local finance-related arsons are on the rise -- up to 30 percent for car arsons and 10-20 percent for house fires. "They're doing it for the insurance money," Hayes said.
Home arsons can be difficult to prove. Most of the physical evidence is burned, so investigators must seek circumstantial evidence. While many of the cases don't make it to court, suspects may be surprised to learn they may not get paid. Insurance companies do not have the same burden of proof as a court, so while a suspect may go free he won't have an insurance check to show for his trouble.
At a time of rising pressure on domestic violence shelters, advocacy groups for ending domestic violence are enthusiastic about Vice President Joe Biden's recent announcement of a White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, reports Women's eNews. Named to the position was Lynn Rosenthal, a former executive director at the New Mexico Coalition against Domestic Violence, who has a long resume of safety advocacy and ties to Biden.
Rita Smith of the Denver-based National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said, "I have been working in this field since 1981 and this is the first time an administration has made this level of commitment to ending violence against women, girls, men and boys."Sue Else of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, which Rosenthal directed from 2000 to 2006, said that, "By creating this position, the White House is demonstrating an unprecedented effort to end domestic and sexual violence." Seventy-five percent of U.S. domestic violence shelters reported an increase in women seeking aid between September 2008 and April 2009, says the Dallas-based Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation.
Fewer than half of an estimated 18,000 U.S. firearms used in Mexico's drug wars over the last three years have been traced back to licensed gun dealers — suggesting most are stolen or bought at gun shows where background checks are not required, the Houston Chronicle reports. The finding suggests that despite a crusade to track weapons smuggled into Mexico, the task will be daunting, making it extremely difficult to track and disrupt the illicit firearms trafficking at the heart of cartel violence.
Tracing firearms remains “an essential component” of curtailing firearms trafficking along the southwest border and identifying the first retail purchaser is key to investigating how the gun came to be used in a crime or how it landed in Mexico, Bill McMahon of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told a House committee. More than 6,600 federally licensed firearms dealers operate along the southwest border. But ATF remains unable to trace the ownership of weapons purchased at gun shows, McMahon conceded. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), chair of the subcommittee that oversees border issues, called for closure of the so-called gun show loophole that permits sales at gun shows without the paperwork and background checks required for firearms purchases at federally licensed gun dealers.
Forensic nursing programs are pairing nursing care with training in evidence collection so that nurses can try to preserve evidence of a crime as they provide medical treatment, USA Today reports. Forensic nursing dates back to the 1970s. It was recognized officially by the American Nurses Association as a specialty field in 1995. In most states, there are nurses who have been trained to document the medical conditions of victims of rape and sexual assault, says Carey Goryl of the International Association of Forensic Nurses.
In cities including Louisville, Colorado Springs, and Houston, nurses are being trained to expand their skills to help victims of crimes other than sexual assaults, including abuse, shootings, and traffic incidents. Bill Smock, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and a police surgeon, began a program at the university's hospital last year. Since 1991, the number of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner programs has grown from only 20 to more than 500 in the U.S. and Canada.
Suspects in the shooting deaths of a Florida couple who adopted disabled children have ties to illegal drug activity and a gang, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan told USA Today. Police have charged seven men with murder and one woman with aiding the men after the slayings. They have recovered a stolen safe and several guns, including one that police say was used to kill Melanie Billings, 43, and her husband, Byrd Billings, 66.
Prosecutor William Eddins said the case is a simple home invasion robbery that went bad. He said the case is ready to go before the grand jury, and he could seek the death penalty. Morgan compared the crime to the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders in Los Angeles, committed by a cult led by Charles Manson, because it is unusual to have such a large group of people commit a crime together.
Tulsa Police Chief Ron Palmer wants CompStat to become a tool that officers use daily to reduce crime, reports the Tulsa World. "From my point of view, it is time to turn up the heat a bit on this and to go down further than just the division commanders and captains here to make sure that CompStat is more than just an exercise we do every 28 days and get together and talk about," Palmer said. The police department has a goal of a 5 percent reduction in crime for the year; serious crimes are down 3.3 percent through May.
Maj. Julie Harris, commander of the Riverside Division, which covers south and southwest Tulsa, said her area had an overall 16 percent reduction in crime during the last reporting period. Officers there addressed burglaries by creating "target packets" identifying potential suspects, the times of day that burglaries usually happen, and where they happen. As a result, they caught repeat burglars, including a burglary gang, Harris said.