This post simply highlights and links to some of the criminal law news that’s broken over the last few days, since there’s been an unusual amount of it.
First, the National Academy of Sciences issued an apparently scathing report about the state of the nation’s crime labs. Newspaper story here, full report available for purchase here. Aside from DNA evidence, the report apparently concludes that most forensic techniques are not grounded in rigorous scientific research, are often conducted by inadequately trained personnel, and are conducted in labs that are not subject to a rigorous set of certification standards. Since I didn’t buy the full report, I don’t know if the study comments on North Carolina’s labs at all. If you do know, please post a comment.
Second, the Pew Hispanic Center just released a report showing that Hispanics now make up by far the largest proportion of federal criminal defendants. A story about the report, which contains a link to the report itself, is available here. Apparently, 40% of all federal criminal defendants are Hispanic, and about half their crimes are immigration-related, most often for re-entering or remaining in the United States illegally. It appears that most of those cases involve defendants who have previously been deported after a criminal conviction and have returned to the United States again, since 80% of those prosecuted for illegal re-entry receive aggravated sentences based on prior convictions.
Third, a UNC law professor and the ACLU recently released a report critical of so-called 287(g) programs, which give local authorities some power to enforce federal immigration laws. A story on the report is available here.
Finally, two stories on the lighter side. Criminal magistrates in Durham have started wearing black robes, according to the article available here. Apparently, when gussied up, they get more respect from the cross-section of humanity that comes before them. Sounds great to me — after all, federal magistrate judges wear black robes — especially since it isn’t costing the state a dime: the magistrates are buying their own black church choir robes for $119 each at a local outfitter. Meanwhile, police in the UK put an ankle bracelet on a defendant’s removable prosthetic leg, according to an article available here. Apparently, concerns about adequate supervision of offenders are not unique to North Carolina!