Washington, D.C., police have been told not to arrest people for carrying handguns on the street after a judge’s ruling that overturned the city’s principal gun-control law, the Washington Post. reports. The D.C. attorney general’s office said it would seek a stay of the ruling while the city decides whether to appeal. In an order approved by Police Chief Cathy Lanier, police were told that District residents are permitted to carry pistols if the weapons are registered. Those who had not registered their handguns could be charged on that ground.
The number of registered pistols is thought to be low. Lanier’s instructions to police also said that residents of other jurisdictions without felony records would not be charged under the ban on carrying pistols. Judge Frederick Scullin, a senior U.S. District Court judge who normally sits in the Northern District of New York, wrote that he was stopping enforcement of the law “unless and until” the city adopted a constitutionally valid licensing mechanism.
A Florida law restricting what doctors can tell patients about gun ownership was ruled constitutional Friday by a federal appeals court, which said it legitimately regulates professional conduct and doesn't violate the doctors' First Amendment free speech rights, the Associated Press reports. The ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned a decision that declared the law unconstitutional. An injunction blocking enforcement of the law is still in effect. The 2011 law, popularly known as "Docs vs. Glocks," was challenged by organizations representing 11,000 state health providers.
Doctors who break the law could potentially be fined and lose their licenses. Ruling 2-1, an appeals panel upheld the law as a protection of patient privacy rights and said that the limits imposed by it were "incidental." "The act simply codifies that good medical care does not require inquiry or record-keeping regarding firearms when unnecessary to a patient's care," said Judge Gerald Tjoflat. Dissenting, Judge Charles Wilson said the law "prohibits or significantly chills doctors from expressing their views and providing information to patients about one topic, and one topic only, firearms."
The leadership of the Drug Enforcement Administration is under fire in a report from the Justice Department Inspector General on the near-death of a San Diego college student left in a holding cell for five days in 2012, the Huffington Post reports. The review found that DEA leadership "violated Department of Justice and DEA policy" and delayed a proper investigation into the incident by not reporting it to the inspector general's office immediately. The report indicates that DEA Deputy Administrator Thomas Harrigan was to discuss the case with Administrator Michele Leonhart in the days after the incident. DEA leadership decided to have a review conducted by a district attorney instead of immediately reporting the incident to the Justice Department inspector general's office as it should have.
"DEA management's decision to conduct a management review instead of ensuring that the matter was promptly referred to the OIG was troubling," the report said. "The decision was made based on an apparent assumption, without any independent factual gathering or assessment, that the conduct which resulted in [student Daniel] Chong's detention did not amount to misconduct and was not criminal. We believe it should have been readily apparent to the DEA management immediately following Chong's discovery that jailing an individual without justification for parts of 5 days with no food or water, and that resulted in the individual's hospitalization, may have been the result of misconduct, at a minimum."
In his new reform plan "Expanding Opportunity in America," U.S. House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) focuses a chapter on criminal justice reforms, says the Sentencing Law and Policy blog. Ryan says that sentencing reform on the federal level could encourage state and local governments to follow the example. The punishment should fit the crime, but in many cases the punishment of incarceration extends beyond prison time, Ryan says.
Among reforms Ryan backs: Granting judges more flexibility within mandatory-minimum guidelines when sentencing non-violent drug offenders; implementing a risk- and needs-assessment system in federal prisons while expanding enrollment in rehabilitative programming to reduce recidivism; allowing non-violent and low-risk inmates to use enrollment to earn time off their prison stay towards prerelease custody. Reforms, Ryan says, "would give judges the discretion they need to prevent nonviolent offenders from serving unreasonably long sentences; they would align inmates’ incentives to help reduce recidivism; and they would partner with states and community groups to expand their life-affirming work."
As violent crime has receded across New York City, arrests are near historic highs, driven by a controversial imperative...
The federal prison system has spent more than $36.5 million on psychotropic drugs to treat thousands of offenders in four years, reports USA Today. Nearly 10 percent of the 216,000 inmates are receiving medications designed to treat an array of illnesses, from depression and bipolar disorder to acute schizophrenia. Government officials have raised questions about the costs of confining such large populations. Advocates for the mentally ill argue that prisons and jails have become the new repository for people with mental illness. The annual drug costs have been declining because of the increasing availability of generic medications, but the number of inmates being treated has remained steady.
Nearly 20,000 federal inmates are on psychotropic medications. About 25 percent of the Justice Department budget supports the BOP's operation. In an attempt to ease overcrowding, the U.S. Sentencing Commission last week approved a measure that would make nearly 50,000 inmates eligible for sentence reductions. Eric Young, national president of the federal prison employees union known as the Council of Prison Locals, said the number of inmates on medication likely represents only a fraction of those with a mental illness or behavioral disorders who have not been diagnosed or have elected not to take medication.
The drawn-out execution of an Arizona man has set off more public debate over the death penalty and will lead to new court battles over states' efforts to keep details about their lethal-injection practices secret, the Wall Street Journal reports. The execution of Joseph R. Wood III on Wednesday in Florence, Az., took nearly two hours and was marked by lengthy, repeated bouts of labored breathing on the part of Wood. The 55-year-old was convicted of shooting to death his estranged girlfriend and her father in 1989.
It was at least the third lethal injection in the U.S. this year to raise significant questions about executions. Critics said the execution underscored systemic problems. "It's more evidence that the death penalty has become an embarrassing spectacle," said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center. Others see such concerns as vastly overblown. "This was not a cruel execution," said Kent Scheidegger of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which supports the death penalty. "The execution carried out the judgment handed down by the legal system, and the inmate was sedated the whole time." (Arizona Corrections Director denied that the execution was botched, saying, "there is no medical or forensic evidence to date that supports that conclusion. In fact, the evidence gathered thus far supports the opposite," The Arizona Republic reports.)
Albuquerque and federal officials say there is an “urgency” to their negotiations to correct problems within the city's police department to help ease community tensions over police use of deadly force, the Albuquerque Journal reports. U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez and Mayor Richard Berry acknowledged as much yesterday in announcing that the Department of Justice and the city have formally agreed that an independent monitor will oversee implementation of any agreement reached on revamping the police.
The agreement will be filed and approved by a federal judge who will be able to enforce it if the police department fails to meet the requirements laid out in the document. “There certainly is an urgency here,” Berry said. “We are making great progress.” The final agreement filed in court and overseen by an independent monitor will address use of force policies, interactions with individuals with mental illness and other disabiliies, tactical units, training, internal investigations and civilian complaints, and other issues. Department of Justice investigators reviewed 20 fatal shootings by Albuquerque police between 2009 and 2013 and found that in the majority of cases the level of force used was not justified because the person killed by police did not present a threat to police officers or the public.
Massachusetts prison commissioner Luis Spencer was forced to resign because he delayed an internal investigation into an incident at Bridgewater State Hospital, a prison already under fire for its response to a patient’s death at the hands of prison guards, the Boston Globe reports. Public Safety Secretary Andrea Cabral said the decision to ask for Spencer’s resignation was made in part because he “slowed down” the internal affairs inquiry, deepening earlier concerns about his “critical thinking and judgment” throughout his three-year tenure.
A source said the incident involved a correction officer who physically abused a mental health patient in late May. The patient survived the abuse. Cabral said, “This is not only about an incident. It has much more to do with the level of critical thinking and the approach we have to have from any commissioner.” Gov. Deval Patrick had reprimanded the state prison chief this year for failing to act on an internal report that cited three Bridgewater guards for misconduct in the 2009 death of patient Joshua Messier. Spencer will be replaced temporarily by Thomas Dickhaut, the acting deputy commissioner for prisons.
Doctors are known for saving lives, but rarely do they do it with a gun. That's exactly what happened yesterday near Philadelphia when a psychiatrist returned fire on a patient who had shot him in the head and had fatally shot a caseworker in Yeadon, Pa., reports the Philadelphia Daily News. "Without a doubt, I believe the doctor saved lives," Yeadon Police Chief Donald Molineux said. "If he [the doctor] wasn't armed . . . this guy could have went out in the hallway and just walked down the offices until he ran out of ammunition."
The patient, Richard Plotts, 49, was brought to the center yesterday afternoon by his caseworker, Theresa Hunt, 53. Plotts, Hunt and the psychiatrist, Dr. Lee Silverman, met about 2 p.m. A worker in a nearby office heard them arguing, opened the door and saw Plotts pointing a gun at Silverman's head. That staffer quickly and quietly shut the door and called police. Moments later, shots rang out. A caseworker and a psychiatrist forced their way into the office and wrestled Plotts to the floor in the hallway, initially unaware that he was still armed. They disarmed Plotts and secured his weapon.