Hire a Lawyer, Avoid the Death Penalty | Criminal Justice | Change.org

By , November 11, 2009 5:30 pm

If you hire a lawyer, the chances are you won’t be sentenced to death in Houston.

University of Denver Criminologist Scott Phillips reviewed 504 capital indictments over three decades in Harris County, Texas, and found that defendants who hired lawyers for the entire trial were never sentenced to death — and were more likely to be acquitted.

The results of his study, published over the summer in the Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, are truly stunning. Since nearly all defendants facing the death penalty in Harris County were poor, Phillips argues that his results further demonstrate the arbitrariness of capital punishment. If a defendant’s family and community is able to pool resources to hire an attorney, the paid attorney might be better equipped to investigate a case or to bring bargaining power to the table against a district attorney.

He makes clear that his findings aren’t an indictment of appointed attorneys, but of the system that straddles those attorneys with thin resources in a death penalty case. Something clearly went wrong for results this drastic.

via Hire a Lawyer, Avoid the Death Penalty | Criminal Justice | Change.org.

SSRN-When Courts Collide: Integrated Domestic Violence Courts and Court Pluralism by Elizabeth MacDowell

By , November 11, 2009 5:29 pm


Scholarship about domestic violence-related judicial system reform tends to focus on criminal justice, leaving the civil system under-analyzed. Moreover, the pluralistic nature of the justice system – which consists of both criminal and civil justice – is often ignored. This article explores claims for specialized domestic violence courts that integrate civil and criminal cases into a single court and argues that the value of court pluralism is overlooked. Part I of this article introduces the problem of integrated courts in a pluralistic court system. Part II examines the normative function of criminal courts in relation to domestic violence cases and contrasts the remedies available to victims in criminal and civil courts. Part III critiques the rationale for integrated domestic violence courts from the standpoint of litigation strategy and other avenues for system reform. This Part also examines the ways in which integrated courts compromise the autonomy-enhancing functions of civil courts. Part IV shows that despite the advantages of civil courts for victims, the characterization of civil justice as relatively unproblematic is inaccurate, and revisits the normative role of the criminal courts. This Part concludes that given the risks and lack of benefits to victims of integrating criminal and civil court functions, this reform strategy should be reconsidered in light of its impact on court pluralism.

via SSRN-When Courts Collide: Integrated Domestic Violence Courts and Court Pluralism by Elizabeth MacDowell.

Sullivan v. Florida – ScotusWiki

By , November 11, 2009 5:16 pm

Does imposition of a life without parole sentence on a thirteen-year-old for a non-homicide violate the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, where the freakishly rare imposition of such a sentence reflects a national consensus on the reduced criminal culpability of children?

via Sullivan v. Florida – ScotusWiki.

Should Pot Be Legal?

By , November 10, 2009 7:38 pm
"Stop Cannabis Prohibition"
Image by E Wayne via Flickr

I think that Dave, and everyone involved in this session, will agree that we are all on the same side of this issue, namely we all want to reduce drug abuse, and all of the crime and misery that accompanies it. Where we may have differences of opinion is how best to achieve that goal.

Dave raised some points that are in the minds of many people, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss them. But throughout this discussion I want to be clear on several things. First, I don’t use marijuana, and you could give it away on every street corner and bless it by every religious leader in town, and I am still not going to use it — unless I have some form of medical problem that a medical doctor feels can be helped by this as a medicine.

Second, I strongly agree with Milton Friedman that most of the harms that come from drugs, especially including marijuana, is because they are illegal. Yes, marijuana can have its harms, but far and away the most harmful thing connected with marijuana is jail.

Third, I agree with Dave that the strength of marijuana has seriously increased in the past years. But what Dave doesn’t appear to recognize is that the reason is Drug Prohibition. Why? Because it is a cardinal reason of prohibition always to promote the stronger stuff. For example, if I were a bootlegger during Alcohol Prohibition (as opposed to Drug Prohibition, which is a time we now live in), I would be facing the same criminal justice risks for selling a barrel of beer as I would a barrel of bourbon. So which would I sell? That’s easy, the bourbon. Why? Because I make more money off the stronger stuff, which is bourbon. The exact same principle holds true with regard to marijuana. For the same criminal justice penalties, I could make much more money selling stronger marijuana. So that is the fundamental reason why the strength has increased.

Are you concerned with these problems? They are all caused by Drug Prohibition. Why? Because as soon as you prohibit a substance, you give up all of your ability to have any say whatsoever about how it is sold, the quantities, qualities, age restrictions, or anything else.

The best resolution is to repeal the prohibition of marijuana. Then we could regulate and control it, tax it, and all of this would, as I said earlier, make this substance less available for children.

via Should Pot Be Legal? – CBS News.

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Exclusive: Rape in America: Justice Denied – CBS News

By , November 10, 2009 7:28 pm

Valerie said she realized she was raped. Reporting it the next day – a classic charge of acquaintance rape. Nearly three years later still no arrest in the case.

“I feel like, I almost fee like they’re calling me a liar. That they don’t believe me,” Valerie said.

Rape in this country is surprisingly easy to get away with. The arrest rate last year was just 25 percent – a fraction of the rate for murder – 79 percent, and aggravated assault – 51 percent.

“When we have talked to victims, they very much so doubt that it was worth it for them to go to the police,” said Sarah Tofte, US Program Researcher for Human Rights Watch. “They’re incredibly disillusioned with the criminal justice system, and that sends a terrible message.”

via Exclusive: Rape in America: Justice Denied – CBS News.

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