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Jury Selection Could Take Months In Rare Trial Of Mass Shooter In Colorado

One of the nation's deadliest mass shootings will be replayed in a Colorado courtroom after a jury pool of 9,000 is winnowed to a handful to decide whether James Holmes was insane when he opened fire in a suburban movie theater on July 20, 2012, the Associated Press reports. Holmes is one of the few suspects to survive such an attack. Many are killed by police or commit suicide. His parents have begged for a plea deal that would save his life, while many survivors and family members of victims have demanded that he stand trial and face the death penalty.

Jury selection begins today. The trial could run until October. It could provide a look into the mind of Holmes, whose attorneys acknowledge he was the gunman but say he was in the grip of a psychotic episode. "The public is going to get an insight into the mind of a killer who says he doesn't know right from wrong," said Alan Tuerkheimer, a Chicago jury consultant. "It is really rare. It just doesn't usually come to this." Holmes, 27, was arrested as he stripped off his combat gear outside the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, where 12 people were killed and 70 injured during a midnight showing of a new Batman movie. It could take until June to find 12 jurors and 12 alternates who were not biased by the news coverage of the shooting.

 

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How Colorado Expanded Mental Health Services After Theater Shooting

After the Aurora theater shooting, Colorado legislators approved $20 million to change how people going through a mental health crisis can get help, NPR reports. The structure of a mental health crisis varies dramatically from person to person. The state now has 13 walk-in crisis centers. Larry Pottorff directs North Range Behavioral Health, one of them. "The first priority is why are you here and how can we help?" he says. The entryway "will be available to people around the clock," he adds.

"I really think of it as a new way of responding to people in crisis. Historically, that's been done through emergency rooms," Pottorff says. The new system includes the walk-in centers, a statewide hotline and mobile units that can be dispatched in the event of crisis. In a new respite care program, where crisis patients can stay for up to 14 days, there's a close hand-off between walk-in crisis centers and community services. There's no guarantee that the new system will prevent the next theater shooting. Mental health experts simply hope the changes will narrow cracks in the system, making it harder for the next person in crisis to slip through.

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Experts: Obama's Cybersecurity Plan Won't Stop Attacks, Protect Systems

After an onslaught of digital attacks inflicted critical wounds on Sony, Westinghouse, Home Depot and scores of other businesses and consumers last year, President Obama is renewing a call for legislation to shore up the nation’s cyber defenses. Experts tell the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that while the proposal is a necessary step that could slow some attacks, it doesn’t go far enough in stopping cyberattacks, particularly those on critical infrastructure. In his State of the Union address tonight, Obama will seek to require companies to notify consumers of a data breach within 30 days, make it illegal to sell botnets (software designed to control computers remotely) and allow law enforcement to pursue criminals selling stolen financial data overseas.

Experts say it won’t stop the barrage of cyberattacks. “Absolutely not,” said Albert Whale of the cybersecurity firm ITSecurity. “Proposals don’t get work done ... (it) may be enough for executives and companies to finally spend the money to get started. We have to start somewhere; any first step we take is a step in the right direction.” Critical infrastructure such as systems operating electrical grids or nuclear facilities wouldn’t gain significant protection under the president’s proposal, says Joe Weiss of the cybersecurity firm Applied Control Solutions, LLC. Weiss said the proposed legislation focuses on protecting information technology systems and personal information far more than protecting physical systems.

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Corizon Health Under Growing Pressure As Prison Health Contracts Are Lost

Corizon Health Inc., is under growing pressure after losing five state prison contracts, downgrades by credit analysts and increased scrutiny of inmate care, reports the Associated Press. Corizon, whose responsibility for 345,000 inmates at prisons and jails in 27 states makes it the biggest U.S. for-profit correctional health provider, is one of many firms using a similar model to vie for the billions of dollars states and counties spend on prisoner care. The growth of the for-profit prison care industry raises questions about how to divide expensive, complicated responsibilities between public agencies and private companies. States spend nearly $8 billion a year on prison health care, about a fifth of their corrections budgets, says a report by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the MacArthur Foundation.

The spending reflects inmates who are much more likely than the general population to have a history of drug and alcohol abuse. Many have had little regular contact with doctors or other health care providers before they’re locked up, allowing chronic conditions and infectious diseases to worsen. A rising population of older inmates requires more care, even as spending taxpayer money on doctoring for the accused and convicted remains politically unpopular. “The fundamental problem is not this company or that company. ... The problem is a structure that creates incentives to cut corners and deny care to powerless people that have no other options,” said David Fathi of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project.

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GA Police Ticket Hamburger-Munching Motorist For "Eating While Driving"

Madison Turner of Alabama was cited for "eating while driving" last week by the Cobb County, Ga., police, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The officer explained to me that he observed me eating a burger for two miles,” Turner said. “He said specifically three times, ‘You can’t just go down the road eating a hamburger.’”

The law cited by the ticketing officer requires drivers to “exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle.” “Maybe I was enjoying the burger too much,” Turner told Channel 2. “I needed to tone it down. I was certainly willing to do so, but I didn’t expect to be fined or punished.” Atlanta attorney William “Bubba” Head said he’s never seen the law cited unless it contributed to an accident. “If this was the law, I’d have to hire more attorneys because everybody does it including me,” he said.

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Bail Bond Queen Explains How A Controversial System Works

Flanked by two bodyguards, Michelle Esquenazi, owner of Empire Bail Bonds, took a seat in front of 30 or so sleepy teenagers in a Long Island high school. Her subject was supposed to be the criminal justice system, but she seemed more interested in scaring the kids straight, reports BuzzFeed. “The majority of bail bond consumers are moms and dads and aunts bailing out first-time offenders,” she said. “The faces of the people I bail out today look a lot like yours.” What followed was a primer on private bail bonding, the controversial industry that lifted Esquenazi from poverty and that, depending on whom you ask, is either an example of liberties afforded to people in the criminal justice system or a manifestation of its inequalities.

If you skip out on court, your agent will hunt you down and bring you back to the judge. If the agent succeeds, the bail bond company won’t have to pay your bail. This system means agents go to incredible lengths to make sure you keep up your end of the bargain. “Bail bonding is the only part of the criminal justice system that does not cost taxpayers any money,” says Dennis Sew of Professional Bail Agents of the United States. Critics call the bail bond industry predatory, a system where headhunters exploit lower-income people and minorities. Its stubborn survival in the U.S. — the Philippines is the only other nation that permits it — rests on a paradoxical concept of freedom: an irrevocable right that can nonetheless be bought and sold. The Pretrial Justice Institute says 53 percent of those accused of felonies are unable to post bail on their own.

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Most Colleges, Universities Have Own Police Forces, 3/4 Of Them Armed

Ninety-five percent of 4-year U.S. colleges and universities with 2,500 or more students had their own law enforcement agencies as of three years ago, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported today in a profile of campus law enforcement. Those agencies employed 31,904 persons, of which nearly half were sworn officers. About three-fourths of the campuses used armed officers, compared to 68 percent during the 2004-05 school year.

About 9 in 10 sworn campus officers had arrest and patrol jurisdiction beyond campus boundaries. Based on crime data reported under the federal Clery Act to the U.S. Department of Education, violent crime on college campuses during 2011 accounted for 3 percent of serious crimes reported to campus law enforcement agencies. That compared to 12 percent of all serious crimes reported to law enforcement nationwide.

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TCR at a Glance

Who’s Scanning Your License Plate?

January 22, 2015

Electronic license plate readers are a new surveillance tool for law enforcement. Privacy advocates say the public deserves access to the...

What Do Kids Know About Incarceration?

new & notable January 14, 2015

Researchers interviewed more than 100 youths about jails and prisons; many described them as "violent (places) where offenders are not safe"