Tired of Cheech & Chong pot jokes and ominous anti-drug campaigns, the marijuana industry and supporting activists are...
Is Attorney General Eric Holder readying his exit strategy? The Washington Post reported earlier that he had decided to stay in his job through the fall midterm elections but that he would not commit beyond the end of the year. Now, the Post says his travel schedule this month could give another clue to his intentions.
One of his major goals was to visit all 93 U.S. attorney’s offices. There are only three left on the list, and he’s traveling to two of them this week, in Louisville and Lexington, Ky. He’s saving for last the office nearest and dearest to him at the William J. Nealon Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Scranton, Pa. Holder and Judge Nealon, 87, have been close for many years, after Holder, then a young Justice Department prosecutor, handled a major corruption case in Scranton. He’s going to Scranton at the end of this month, so that’s one more initiative checked off.
Shortly before Christmas in 2000, brothers Reginald and Jonathan Carr went on a brutal robbery, rape and murder spree that left five people dead and traumatized Wichita, Kansas's largest city. The brothers were sentenced to death, but in July, the Kansas Supreme Court set aside the death sentences for the notorious killers, shocking many Kansans and adding fuel to a debate over how justices on the state’s highest court should be chosen, Stateline reports. To state Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, a Republican, the court’s decision to overturn the brothers’ capital murder convictions is only the latest example of the court defying public sentiment, and a compelling argument for why Kansas residents should have a more powerful voice in choosing their top judges.
In several states, including Kansas and Florida, state legislators have been debating how justices for state supreme courts should be chosen. Meanwhile, elections to win or retain court seats increasingly have become big-money contests, with political parties and special interests pouring in campaign dollars to try to help elect or unseat justices in more than a dozen states in recent years. The stakes are high: State supreme courts review local courts’ criminal and civil verdicts and the constitutionality of state laws, and about 95 percent of all legal cases are filed in state courts. Politicians like Bruce argue that the courts should more closely reflect public opinion. Advocates of an independent judiciary argue that justices should be able to make decisions free of political and special-interest pressure. They warn that forcing judges to curry political favor or compile huge campaign war chests to win elections threatens that independence.
The run on guns and ammunition that began with President Obama’s election and intensified after the Newtown, Ct., school shooting has created a windfall for state wildlife programs in North Carolina, reports the Raleigh News & Observer. Receipts from a federal excise tax that dates back to the Great Depression have soared, pumping millions into wildlife research, game land projects and hunter education in North Carolina and other states. The state got nearly $20 million from the firearms and ammunition tax this year, more than three times as much as it did in 2007.
State wildlife officials say the extra money has made up for cuts in state funding and allowed them to take on new projects, including construction of parking lots, roads, new signs and boundary markers on some of the 2 million acres of game lands managed by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. The excise tax on guns and ammunition dates 1937, when Congress passed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, better known as the Pittman-Robertson Act after its main sponsors. The law was aimed at restoring game and other wildlife and had the strong support of hunters and the firearms industry. Much of the Pittman-Robertson money that has flowed to North Carolina in recent years has gone for projects that directly benefit those who pay the excise tax. The state, which historically operated only one public shooting range, will soon have four – with three more on the way.
A Texas woman is scheduled to be executed today for the starvation death of her girlfriend’s son, reports the Texas Tribune. Lisa Ann Coleman, 38, would be the the sixth woman and 517th person to be executed in Texas since 1982, the year the state reinstated the death penalty after a 1976 Supreme Court decision that allowed states to resume capital punishment. She would be the ninth person executed in Texas this year.
Coleman was living with her girlfriend, Marcella Williams, in an Arlington, Tx., apartment complex when paramedics discovered the starved corpse of a 9-year-old boy on July 26, 2004. He had been beaten, bore 250 scars and weighed 35 pounds at the time of his death, about half the typical weight for a child his age. Both Coleman and the boy’s mother were charged with capital murder. Williams pleaded guilty in 2006 to avoid facing the death penalty at trial. Child Protective Services records showed Williams and her son had been the subject of at least six child abuse investigations. Coleman attorney John Stickels is appealing her death sentence based on how his client was initially charged.
What happened in Ferguson could happen elsewhere in in the U.S., says the Christian Science Monitor. That’s the message from experts on race relations and from an analysis of census data after the killing of Michael Brown and resulting protests. Ferguson may be an extreme example, but it’s part of a larger pattern in which many communities have police forces that don’t come close to mirroring the racial composition of the populations they serve.
How many “other Fergusons” are there in America? To some extent, that’s a question answered only under the stress of events. Numbers tracked by the Census Bureau hint at stark racial imbalances that persist. “I would argue that there are hundreds of potential Fergusons throughout the United States,” says Matthew Whitaker, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Arizona State University. “It only takes a gunshot or a death for these simmering feelings to emerge.” From Ann Arbor, Mi., to Roanoke, Va., some metro areas have no black police officers, even though blacks account for 10 percent or more of their populations. Even in the many metro areas where racial imbalances aren’t so visible, African Americans are generally concerned about things such as racial bias in policing and criminal justice.
States face no real federal pressure to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system, says a new...
Responding to a petition after the police shooting of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Mo., the White House says it supports...
Many assume that police officers are rigorously trained before being allowed to patrol the streets. Drive through rural Louisiana and it's possible to be stopped by a law enforcement officer who's never experienced a day of police academy and instruction on use of force, stressful scenarios and the need for physical fitness that comes with it, reports the Shreveport (LA) Times. Sometimes, an eight-hour firearms training and on-the-job guidance is all an officer gets before starting work as a salaried, gun-toting, arrest-making officer. Due to a permissive aspect of state law, a hodgepodge of different standards can crop up from one small agency to the next. It's a pattern experts say puts police departments, and the public, at risk.
In small, often poorly-funded townships, many police departments take advantage of a state law that allows full-time officers to serve a year before finishing academy and obtaining their Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) certification. Officers working 39 hours a week or fewer are not required to attend police academy, which typically lasts around 16 weeks, even if they work for years on end. And some departments simply violate the law, sometimes failing to send full-time officers to the academy, says Capt. Kenny Sanders, director of the Caddo Sheriff's Regional Academy. "It scares me to think that my wife and daughter are cruising the streets of Louisiana and there's an officer that may pull them over on the road on a traffic stop and he's totally untrained," he says.
The two senators said their legislation is needed to reduce federal spending and because mandatory minimum drug sentences have caused an unsustainable spike in incarceration rates. Over the past 30 years, the number of inmates in federal prisons has increased by 500 percent. The bill doesn’t repeal mandatory minimum sentences for drug convictions but allows judges to determine a sentence based on an individual’s circumstances.
TCR at a Glance
special report September 22, 2014
Lax federal enforcement is aggravated by states’ willingness to let corporate violators off the hook, critics say
new & notable September 19, 2014
Almost no research has been conducted into the effectiveness of Geographic Information Systems by police, according to a new Sam Houston ...
September 18, 2014
The nation's violent crime rate fell slightly last year, possibly signaling a return to a decades-long trend, according to the U.S. Burea...
special report September 17, 2014
Despite impressive achievements, the 1974 Act left key problems unsolved. An important start would be Congressional re-authorization.
September 16, 2014
Total behind bars remains over 2 million, driven by tough sentencing laws in many states
new & notable September 15, 2014
Laws that restrict access to public services for former inmates may relate to lower rates of return to prison, but there's incomplete dat...
new & notable September 12, 2014
Mental health disorders and addiction to illicit drugs are common problems in America, according to a new study by the federal Substance ...