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"Embarrassing Reversal"--9/11 Trial Shifted to Military Panel

In what McClatchy Newspapers calls an "embarrassing reversal," Attorney General Eric Holder ordered that confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other alleged co-plotters stand trial before a military commission at Guantanamo rather than in a civilian court. Holder blamed the decision on Congress for prohibiting the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S., even for trial.

Holder said wanted to try the five in Manhattan or possibly the Otisville Federal Prison, 70 miles northwest of New York, near the Pennsylvania and New Jersey borders. The decision on the trial came one day before the House Judiciary Committee was to hold a hearing on military commissions where relatives of 9/11 victims were expected to hold up pictures of their dead loved ones to protest administration policy.


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TX Conservative Voters Favor Drug Treatment for Low Level Offenders

As Texas legislators consider measures promoting cost-effective alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders, the Right on Crime organization issued a survey showing that an "overwhelming majority of Texas voters, including conservatives, support using the budget challenge as an opportunity to downsize our $5 billion corrections system," says Right on Crime's Marc Levin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. 
The Grits for Breakfast blog quotes the survey of 802 registered voters as finding that 68 percent of 68 percent of conservative voters favored policymakers applying the same level of scrutiny to the size and cost of the Texas prison system as to other government programs, 77 percent of conservative voters favored requiring nonviolent, first-time felony offenders to work and pay restitution while on mandatory probation supervision to help close Texas' budget shortfall, and 76 percent of conservatives favor stronger court oversight and mandatory treatment instead of prison for low-level drug possession offenders with no prior felonies.

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Planning to Go on a Police-Ridealong? You May See a Shooting

Police officers say the best way for citizens to understand their job is to spend a shift on patrol, but it's dangerous work, as a Glendale, Az., woman found out last month, says the Arizona Republic. Patty Bird, 52, accompanied her daughter-in-law, police Sgt. April Arredondo, on the graveyard shift. She looked on as Arredondo fatally shot a man who got off his motorcycle and fired a weapon at the women. Bird said she had ridden with Arredondo in hopes of getting a better understanding of her job.

"There is an inherent risk to riding along because you never know what the next call is going to be," said Detective Frank Mendoza, a Chandler police spokesman. Most police departments require citizens to sign a liability waiver. Some have limited who can participate and what can happen on the ride-along. Phoenix prohibits officers from participating in pursuits with a civilian in the car. Residents on ride-alongs have witnessed police shootings in Jacksonville, Fl., and in Imperial Valley, Ca., in the past two years.


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GOP: Unprecedented U.S.-Mexico Border Security Isn't Enough

Along the U.S.-Mexico border, fortification has reached an all-time peak, says the San Diego Union-Tribune. The ranks of Border Patrol agents top 17,600. Nearly 650 miles of additional fencing is up. Four unmanned drones patrol. Twelve hundred National Guard soldiers are on the ground. Camera systems numbering 467 sweep the perimeter and 10,800 ground sensors lie in wait.

Given this unprecedented expansion in resources during the past decade, U.S. government officials said the southwest border is the tightest it has ever been. Skeptics and “border security first” supporters are convinced it is still not enough. Congressional Republicans are drafting legislation to further bolster border security — add more customs officers, anti-narcotics teams and surveillance equipment. “No one has described what a secure border looks like. We have no baseline and we have no target,” said David Shirk of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego. “It’s a great example of a moving standard and for the last 20 years, that standard has been moving up with no targets in sight.”

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Ohio Bucks The National Trend, Increases Executions

Already second in the nation in executions, Ohio bucked a national trend last year by sending seven people to Death Row - the most since 2003, reports the Columbus Dispatch. Nationally, the number of new death sentences has leveled off or declined in recent years.

Ohio has executed 43 killers, including two this year, since resuming capital punishment in 1999. Clarence Carter is scheduled to be lethally injected next Tuesday. Seven other executions are scheduled this year, and two more have been set for early 2012. Ohio was second in the nation in executions last year, with eight to Texas' 17. Ohio was the only state to increase its number of executions last year.

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California Innocence Project Finds More Prosecutorial Misconduct

California courts last year found that Los Angeles County prosecutors withheld evidence, intentionally misled jurors, or committed other types of misconduct in 31 criminal cases, says an Innocence Project report quoted by the Los Angeles Times. The decisions involved convictions dating back as far as 1984 and were among 102 California cases in which the group found that courts identified prosecutorial misconduct. In 26 of the cases, courts cited the misconduct in decisions to order a new trial, set aside a sentence,or bar evidence, said the Northern California Innocence Project, based at the Santa Clara University School of Law. The study is part of an effort by the Innocence Project to highlight the scope and effects of prosecutorial misconduct, which the group says has led to wrongful convictions and costly retrials.

The project has called for greater transparency in how government agencies respond to such cases and has urged the State Bar of California, which investigates claims of attorney wrongdoing, to examine all prosecutorial misconduct findings. Judges are not required to report cases to the bar if they decide the misconduct was harmless. "What we want is scrutiny," said Maurice Possley, a visiting fellow at the Innocence Project. "If they're not getting the cases or looking at the cases, that sends a message that this sort of behavior is tolerated or acceptable."


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Garrido to Admit Dugard Kidnapping, Avoid Trial

Phillip Garrido, the sex offender charged with kidnapping 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard from in 1991 and holding her captive for 18 years, will plead guilty Thursday and spend the rest of his life in prison, says the San Francisco Chronicle. Stephen Tapson, who represents Garrido's wife, Nancy, said that it appears likely she will stand trial.

Tapson said prosecutors and defense attorneysare arguing over the sentence for Phillip Garrido, 59, "whether it will be 500 or 600" years. Michael Cardoza, an ex-prosecutor, said a decision by Garrido to plead guilty would probably be motivated by a desire to keep the details of the case out of news headlines, and by the hope that his plea could help his wife's case. "When he goes off to state prison, he doesn't want all of the information about the case to be fresh in the minds of state prisoners - they, too, watch the news and read the newspapers [ ] and one thing about the hierarchy of the state prison system is real clear: Anything to do with children puts you at the lowest level."

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Indy Postpones Gun Turn-in After Prosecutor Questions Plans

The Indianapolis police department is postponing an event that would have allowed people to turn over their guns to police, no questions asked, says the Indianapolis Star. The postponement came after Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry called Indianapolis Public Safety Director Frank Straub to express concerns about the event.

Curry said his office didn't like that the police could be collecting -- and destroying -- guns that might have been used in crimes. An email message from a police official said the event was delayed to "address issues concerning forensics and how best to ensure that surrendered firearms were not used in crimes." Experts say these events usually don't appeal to criminals because criminals tend to get rid of guns on their own.

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California Prisons Must Downsize, But How Will It Happen?

As financially battered California enacts huge budget cuts, it has no choice but to downsize its sprawling system of 33 prisons, which consumes 10 percent of the state budget and swallows more taxpayer dollars than higher education — a fact that, if public opinion surveys are accurate, Californians abhor, reports Stateline.org. A single prison bed costs taxpayers $44,500 a year.

The U.S. Supreme Court is about to weigh in on the overcrowding problem by deciding whether to uphold, strike down, or modify a lower-court order that the inmate population must be cut by more than 40,000. Gov. Jerry Brown wants to shift many inmates to counties, but with funding for the plan uncertain, there is discussion of leaning more heavily on spending reductions to balance the budget — cuts that could speed prisoner releases and decimate what remains of inmate rehabilitation programs.

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TCR at a Glance

Prop 47: The Debate Continues

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The Missing Public Defender

March 19, 2015

More lawyers for poor defendants would reduce pretrial detention---and save money, says a new report.