News Roundup

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Jeff has entrusted me with the virtual keys to the blog while he is away on vacation, and today will be my first crack at rounding up the week’s criminal law news. As always there’s a lot going on!

1. According to the annual summary report of uniform crime reporting data released this week, crime in North Carolina has dropped to its lowest level in 33 years. Statewide, the overall crime rate fell by 5.6% and the violent crime dropped 10.2% from 2009 to 2010. County- and crime-specific data are included in the report. As Jeff has discussed previously, experts and pundits disagree on the cause for the decline. A recent editorial in the Washington Post calls it a myth that crime has fallen because incarceration has risen.

2. The Supreme Court of the United States completed its October Term 2010 with a flurry of opinions and certiorari grants. If Jeff were here I feel sure (in light of his twin loves of gadgetry and the Fourth Amendment) that he would mention the Court’s cert grant in United States v. Jones. The case will consider whether the warrantless installation and use of a GPS tracking device on a defendant’s vehicle to monitor its movement on public streets violated the Fourth Amendment. The opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (concluding that the Fourth Amendment was violated) is available here.

3. This piece from the New York Times gives a fascinating behind-the-scenes look into the lengthy sentence imposed on Bernie Madoff by then-District, now-Circuit Judge Denny Chin. The article explores some classic sentencing themes: valuing a defendant’s acceptance of responsibility, weighing victim impact, and determining the appropriate sentence length when you know, based on the defendant’s age, that almost any prison term will be a life sentence. Madoff asked for a 12-year sentence in light of his 13-year life expectancy. He got 150 years. It’s a good read.

4. Cases involving other high-profile defendants are moving in different directions. Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich could (but probably won’t, according to this article) face a sentence even longer than Madoff’s following his conviction this week on 17 counts of corruption. Meanwhile, the sexual assault case against former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is unraveling as questions emerge about the victim’s credibility. He was released from house arrest today.

Finally, I want to conclude with a brief note about this blog. According to our site meter the blog will receive its millionth hit today. (Sorry, no pop-up prizes forthcoming—but it would be awesome if there were.) I’m pleased to be at the helm when that happens because I’ll say something about the milestone that Jeff wouldn’t say: The blog has been a success primarily because of Jeff. Others of us contribute when we can, but there’s a new post every weekday because he will always write one. I don’t know how he does it.

We received some really nice feedback on the blog while we were out on the summer conference circuit. It’s good to know you find it helpful. And it’s even better when you share your comments, so please continue to do that.

Happy and safe Independence Day to you all!

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