News Roundup

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I usually listen to sports talk radio on the way to work – normally Mike and Mike – but I mix in a little NPR when the conversation lags. This week, I turned the dial just in time to catch this terrific story about exonerations, which reported that “[a]t least 87 people were set free for crimes they did not commit last year, the highest number since researchers began keeping track more than 20 years ago.” Contrary to public perception, and perhaps contrary to recent history, very few were based on newly tested DNA evidence. More resulted from reinvestigation by law enforcement or review by conviction integrity units in prosecutors’ officers. I am sure that in many instances, police and prosecutors were pushed, asked, or encouraged to review these cases, but it still struck me as worth highlighting the role that these actors in the criminal justice system are playing in combating wrongful convictions.

In other news:

Complete your required CLE. The annual CLE deadline is quickly approaching. If you have not already met your CLE requirements, the Indigent Defense Education group at the School of Government offers 37 online CLE programs, including three ethics offerings and one substance abuse offering.  You can see the options here.

Story about DWI checkpoints in Raleigh. The News and Observer ran a story this week about the frequency of DWI checkpoints in Wake County (“most every weekend”) and the federal grant support that the city recently obtained to support the checkpoints. The story is interesting and is available here, but it looks like the paper has dramatically expanded its paywall so it may be hard for non-subscribers to access.

Don’t mess with Preet. Insider trading prosecutions in federal court in New York aren’t usually within the scope of this blog, but after the recent conviction of Matthew Martoma, the office of United States Attorney Preet Bharara is 79-0 in insider trading cases since 2009. Everyone knows that you should “never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line,” but an equally strong case can be made that you should not mess with Preet when insider trading has been alleged. The WSJ Law Blog has more details here.

Lead exposure and crime rates. Sentencing Law & Policy has this new post about the connection between childhood lead exposure and crime rates. The argument considered by the post is that the hard-to-explain drop in crime from the early 1990s on is actually easy to explain as a result of the elimination of lead-based paints and leaded gasoline in the 1970s. It’s an intriguing possibility, and raises questions about whether there are environmental hazards to which children are exposed today that will have epidemiologically significant effects decades into the future.

Zimmerman boxing news. Finally, George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin but was acquitted of all charges by a Florida jury, is back in the news due to a planned celebrity boxing match against rapper DMX. DMX claims that he will break every rule in boxing and “beat the living [bleep] out of Zimmerman.” For his part, Zimmerman reports that he has previously done “boxing-type training for weight loss,” which sounds less than intimidating. Even reporting on this planned spectacle makes me feel a little dirty, like I am part of America’s cultural decay!

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3 comments on “News Roundup

  1. The 79-0 story…So I have a couple of issues with that.

    First, focusing on a prosecutor’s win-loss record as a measure of competence reinforces the win at all costs mentality which is the bane of the justice system.

    Second, 79-0 isn’t very impressive when most of those are via guilty plea. Indeed, there’s probably a couple of dozen prosecutors in the Southern District of California who could haven’t lost a case in DECADES because they try illegal entry after deportation cases.

    One could argue that a prosecutor who always wins is a more likely candidate for one that is willing to convict the innocent to maintain that ‘perfect’ record.

    Signed, cantankerous defense attorney, San Diego.

  2. Within the link to the News Observer provided it is stated “Officers need to see a motorist weaving or have reasonable suspicion to stop drivers,” This at least gives those officers a semblance of ‘Probable cause or reasonable suspicion’ to initiate a traffic stop.

    My question is where is the ‘probable cause or reasonable suspicion’ to arbitrarily stop 100s of people at so called sobriety or seat belt check points who have done nothing reasonably suspicious?

    As I see it these ‘unreasonable stops, searches, seizures, and interrogations’ are a violation of those peoples (who have done nothing) fundamental rights. So it is ok to infringe on the rights of many to apprehend a few?

    Personally I think not. I feel it is an abuse of the States Police powers, that goes beyond reasonable or rational. All it does in my opinion is justify arbitrary stops of innocent people who have done nothing, and attempt to discover evidence of any number of potential infractions other than DUI.

    It is great for the States coffers to violate the secured rights of 100s, and 1000s of motorists who are in full compliance to all laws, rules, regulations, ordinances, and policies.

  3. I wish I could feel more gratification that last year “[a]t least 87 people were set free for crimes they did not commit….”
    But that number surely represents only a minute fraction of those who deserved to have been set free.
    Thank god for DNA, but it’s no help when — as in the case of Andrew Junior Chandler
    http://www.pardonpower.com/2013/12/north-carolina-scarcity-and-need-for.html
    and other victims of “satanic ritual abuse” prosecutions — no crime was committed in the first place.

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