News Roundup

Over the past three weeks, two convicted murderers in Florida have escaped from prison by forging bogus “motions to reduce their respective sentences and . . . court orders granting the request.” Florida is prosecuting a third inmate for unsuccessfully attempting the same scheme. A prosecutor whose name was forged by the inmates released a statement observing that “the use of forged court documents to obtain release from prison is an ongoing threat which all law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, court clerks and prison officials must address and stop.” Perhaps there should be a secure transmission system between clerks’ offices and the prison system for certain types of court orders. I hope that North Carolina officials are out in front of this trend. CNN has the story here.

In other news:

  1. Notable last words. Staying with the Florida theme, this week the state executed William Happ, convicted 24 years ago of raping and killing 21-year-old Angela Crowley. It seems that Happ denied responsibility up until the final moments of his life, when he said, “For 27 years, the horrible murder of Angela Crowley has been clouded by circumstantial evidence and uncertainty. For the sake of her family, loved ones and all concerned, it is to my agonizing shame that I must confess to this terrible crime.” He offered his “most sincere and heartfelt apologies” to the victim’s family and asked for divine forgiveness while acknowledging that he “can certainly understand why those concerned here cannot” forgive him. The Orlando Sun-Sentinel has the story here. I’ve noted inmates’ last words before on this blog – recall that Texas records them and makes them available online – but it seems to me that Mr. Happ did about as well as possible under the circumstances.
  2. Entrapped on Craigslist. I promise this is the last Florida story of the day, but I recently read about Sunshine State resident Edwin Gennette, who was perusing the “Casual Encounters” section of Craigslist in 2011 when he found an ad offering “2 sisters seeking a man that [can] handle both [of] us.” He was intrigued! But when he replied to the ad, his interlocutor stated that she was 19 and her sister was 14. Gennette sent a picture of himself with his pet possum – because who doesn’t like a man with an oversized rodent for a pet – and engaged in an email exchange in which he expressed some hesitation about the involvement of a 14-year-old, mixed with some enthusiasm for his overall prospects. Eventually, he went to an address provided by email. You may be shocked to learn that the sisters weren’t real and he was arrested by law enforcement. He claimed that he was entrapped. The defense didn’t work at trial, but a Florida appellate court recently agreed, holding as a matter of law that the police “induced or encouraged” him, that it was “the agent who took the lead” in introducing the idea of an underage participant, and that it was only the agent’s “persistent urging” that overcame the defendant’s “obvious reluctance” to do anything illegal. See Gennette v. State, 2013 WL 4873490 (Fla. Ct. App. 1 Dist. Sept. 13, 2013). There’s a dissent and I can see both sides. Ars Technica has a story about the case – including the possum picture – and about the broader context of internet stings intended to catch pedophiles, here.
  3. iPhone breathalyzer. I didn’t know it existed, but Amazon has it here. Raises all sorts of questions, like whether it could be approved for law enforcement use, to what extent a motorist might be able to rely on it in his or defense, and how many of the fans at last night’s UNC-Miami football game could have benefited from it.
  4. Oreos are like cocaine. Well, duh, some of you might be thinking. But now you have scientific proof, according to this article in the Los Angeles Times, which reports that rats respond to Oreos much like they do to cocaine. In fact, researchers “found that the Oreos activated more neurons [in the pleasure center of the brain] than cocaine or morphine.” Also of note, many rats prefer to eat the creamy filling first, then the wafers. That’s gross, IMHO. No word on when Oreos will be added to the controlled substance schedules.
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