News Roundup

No single story dominated the criminal law world this week, but that doesn’t mean that it was a dull week by any stretch of the imagination.

1. The News and Observer reports here on Ty Hobson-Powell, a 16-year-old 1L at NCCU law. He’s got an impressive resume, having graduated from college in two years at age 15. Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal reports here that law school applications are down over 11% this year “as college seniors grow leery of a degree that promises certain debt and uncertain job prospects.” But as you might expect from such a high achiever, Hobson-Powell has a backup plan: he’s considering medical school next.

2. In the wake of the execution of Troy Davis, which it termed “unconscionable,” the New York Times ran this editorial, entitled An Indefensible Punishment. The editorial argues that capital proceedings are arbitrary, biased by race and class, expensive, marked by incompetent defense lawyering, and result in the conviction of innocent people. Whether you agree or disagree, those arguments are fairly standard. What I found interesting was this response by Professor Doug Berman, suggesting that focusing on the death penalty is a misallocation of energy: “All of the problems highlighted . . . in this editorial apply at least as forcefully to the punishment of life without parole . . . as to the punishment of death . . . . Further, America’s sentencing laws each year subjects only a few dozen aggravated murderers in a few states to the real prospect of a death sentence and execution. . . . Meanwhile, America’s sentencing laws each year subject thousands of lesser offenders to LWOP or functional LWOP sentences.” Food for thought.

3. The United States Supreme Court is about to begin a new Term. There’s a blockbuster GPS tracking case on the docket and . . . maybe not much else of interest on the criminal law side, according to this summary of the Court’s long conference over at Crime and Consequences. I keep hearing about some health care dispute that the Court may be asked to review.

4. Last week, I noted a jurisdiction that has banned sex offenders from public libraries. Huachuca City, Arizona has gone one step further and has banned sex offenders from nearly all public facilities, including “schools, parks, libraries, pools, gymnasiums, sports fields and sports facilities.” (Hat Tip: Sentencing Law and Policy.) As the restrictions on sex offenders in various jurisdictions increase, it is perhaps not surprising that entrepreneurs have seen a business opportunity: in Florida, one woman is planning a sex offender village in a rural area, far from any exclusion zones. Local residents? Not happy.

5. Finally, two tidbits of interest to writers, legal and otherwise. First, you may have been told not to begin a sentence with “and,” “but,” or “or.” But that’s wrong. Second, for a vivid and humorous illustration of the benefits of the so-called Oxford comma (or Harvard comma, or serial comma), click here. True grammar nerds know that the issue is more nuanced, as explained in coma-inducing — not comma-inducing — detail here.

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