There was some serious legal news this week, like the issuance of the Supreme Court’s recent Brady decision, Smith v. Cain, and the Court’s decision to grant certiorari in the dog-sniffs-a-house case I mentioned last week, Florida v. Jardines. The fact that homicide is no longer one of the top 15 causes of death in America – for the first time since 1965 – also qualifies as noteworthy. And of course, the Mississippi pardon controversy is very, very interesting. The short version is that outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour, at one time considered a possible Republican presidential candidate, pardoned 203 felons as he left office. The number is especially remarkable compared to the eight pardons he had issued in the eight preceding years, or compared to the number of pardons issued by previous governors. Reuters provides some useful context here. Most of the defendants had already completed their sentences, but something like 26 of them, including several convicted murderers, had not. Some of the latter group had worked as inmate trusties at the Governor’s Mansion, a practice that has resulted in controversial pardons in North Carolina as well. Some of the releases have been blocked due to concerns about whether the Governor followed the procedures required to issue pardons, as the Jackson Clarion-Leger explains here.
But most of the news stories that I gathered this week were more odd than serious. For example, this story in a British newspaper but apparently about an Italian convict, begins: “A convicted criminal who was serving out his sentence in a monastery has escaped for the second time and asked to be sent back to prison because life was too tough.” Apparently, Capuchin monks in Sicily run a sort of halfway house out of one of their monasteries, but life there is rather austere, to the dismay of the defendant in question. (Hat tip: Sentencing Law and Policy.) Or consider this story, reported at the Volokh Conspiracy: an individual originally named Jeffrey Drew Wilschke, who recently legally changed his name to Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop, has been arrested on marijuana charges. As Eugene Volokh wisecracks, “[w]ho’d have thunk it?” Finally, the Smoking Gun reports here that “Suzanne Basham . . . dialed police in Springfield, Missouri to report that she had paid $40 for crack cocaine that turned out to be sugar . . . . Basham . . . asked cops to arrest her dealer for theft (and, of course, secure a refund for her). While patrolmen went to the address where Basham said she purchased the crack, residents there denied selling dope and declined to let investigators into the home. Since cops discovered that Basham was in possession of a crack pipe, she was cited for possession of drug paraphernalia.”
Enjoy the long weekend. We’ll see you next week.