Nevada prison reality series pitched

The Legislature's Committee on Industrial Programs, which oversees the various prison work programs operating around the state, on Thursday approved further discussions about shooting a potential reality television show at a Nevada correctional center.

The proposed weekly program, which would be called 'inCARcerated,' would focus on the inmates who work in a prison industries program that restores and rebuilds classic cars for private citizens. The tagline for a promotional video of the show shown to the committee says: 'inCARcerated. In this garage, they have nothing but time.'" Oy.

Gone to Pot...

Forget meth and other hard-core drugs -- the administration would rather waste taxpayer dollars in an all-out assault on marijuana. An obvious statement? Yes, but seemingly still worth an article in Rolling Stone. Not much in the way of new information here, but it's always nice to be reminded that the government spends about 4 billion dollars arresting and prosecuting weed offenses every year and makes just over 700,000 pot related arrests.

The cultivation of something other than weed



After a wonderful (if exhausting) week of teaching public defenders, it's time for a nap and for an update on Judge Eileen O'Connor that nasty judge who jailed a juror in south Florida.

As it turns out, O'Connor (via counsel) has agreed to turn over her whole personnel file from her years as a prosecutor. We can all hope that the information it contains is as damming as we expect it to be.


In God We Trust

At least we do if we want to chill out in a better cell. According to this piece, Indiana prison officials plan to unveil a new program today that is based squarely on the idea that religious faith may be the key to turning a convict's life around.

Three Indiana prisons -- one each for men, women and juveniles -- are joining a growing trend in corrections by creating segregated housing units for prisoners who volunteer to be immersed in religious training."


Gotta Love Costco

Costco, as it turns out, is not at all like Walmart.:

Costco's average pay, for example, is $17 an hour, 42 percent higher than its fiercest rival, Sam's Club. And Costco's health plan makes those at many other retailers look Scroogish.

This makes me really like them and want to shop there. Of course, prickish millionaires in expensive suits would much rather be stiffing the workers. Indeed, some Wall Street analysts assert that Mr. Sinegal (Costco's CEO) is overly generous not only to Costco's customers but to its workers as well. One analyst, Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco 'it's better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder.'"

What an ass.


Here I Am...

In scenic Macon Georgia, for my annual stint at the National Criminal Defense College.

It's 97 degrees and my A/C isn't working too well. The room smells musty and after 5 minutes in the halls, I'm drenched in sweat.

More soon...


MIssissippi Mis-step

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Thursday the state isn't obligated to help counties pay the legal tabs of the poor charged with crimes.

The ruling came the same day the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Southern Center for Human Rights sued the city of Gulfport, accused the Gulfport Municipal Court of routinely incarcerating poor people unable to pay their fines and violating their right to counsel.

As a result of these practices, the Harrison County Jail has become a modern day debtors' prison, said Miriam Gohara, assistant counsel for the fund. "We are very concerned that poor people with old fines for minor violations of the law, such as riding a bicycle without a light, are being jailed for their inability to pay, and worse yet they are not being provided with a lawyer before sentencing, in clear violation of the Constitution."

In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Clarence Earl Gideon that right to counsel in criminal cases was necessary to achieve a fair system of justice. In his initial trial, Gideon represented himself because he could not afford an attorney. After his conviction was overturned, he was retried, and his appointed attorney discovered new witnesses and won an acquittal.

The Legislature passed an $11 million statewide program, which would have placed a public defender in each Circuit Court district, but lawmakers never funded the program, and it was eventually repealed. (Nearly half the states are funding such programs.)

A 2004 study by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund concluded full-time public defenders could help generate $5.3 million in tax revenue by getting suspects out of jail sooner and back to work.

Quitman County argued the Legislature's failure to fund a statewide public defender program violated the U.S. Constitution by not providing defendants representation as the high court ruled in the Gideon case.

So how does the PD system work in Mississippi?

Four of Mississippi's 82 counties — Hinds, Jackson, Washington and Forrest — have full-time public defender offices. The rest rely on lawyers working part time to pick up the slack, often for a flat fee far below the cost of providing services.


Senate backs public defender raise

Sorry for the recent silence...
But this just in...The state Senate approved pay raises for court-appointed attorneys last night, just days before a Supreme Judicial Court hearing could shine an embarrassing spotlight on the deepening lawyer shortage in Massachusetts.

Regular readers will recall my article in Slate about the deepening crisis in indigent defense in Massachusetts. (read it here) Well it looks like the impasse may be broken, though the question of the effacacy of rate raises remains an open one...


Carly's War

Following up on the questions of celebrity involvement in righteous causes (read my Mea Culpa on the subject, here) I bring you this astonishing account of Carly Simon's involvement in a drug case. And though it has a few notes of "Radical Chic" it's a wonderful account of her commitment to a kid doing 14 years on a drug bid.

Carly Simon

Sensenbrenner is out of control

This guy has to be defeated.

First it was the family snitch law and now this:

"In an extraordinary move, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee privately demanded last month that the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago change its decision in a narcotics case because he didn't believe a drug courier got a harsh enough prison term."

Who the hell does this guy think he is? Has be never heard of separation of powers?

"The panel cites no authority for this bizarre proposition and I am aware of none" Senlessbrenner wrote to the court.

The court replied by citing a Supreme Court case that showed Sensenbrenner was wrong.

Interesting question as to whether the court could take action against his law license for this.


U Rah Rah Wis-con-sin:

The Wisconsin State Supreme Court has been on a roll recently. In a series of important criminal law decisions, Wisconsin has pushed back against the see-nothing, hear-nothing, do-nothing mentality that seems to plague so many courts these days.

Significantly, just this morning, the court invalidated a show-up ruling that: "evidence obtained from such a showup will not be admissible unless, based on the totality of the circumstances, the showup was necessary. A showup will not be necessary, however, unless the police lacked probable cause to make an arrest or, as a result of other exigent circumstances, could not have conducted a lineup or photo array." That's good language, and it suggests that the court is not insensitive to the vagaries of eyewitness identification testimony. You can download the decision Here

And in another recent case the court stood firm after a reversal from the big supremes, holding that "the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine applies under the circumstances of this case under Article I, Section 8 of the Wisconsin Constitution. Where physical evidence is obtained as the direct result of an intentional Miranda violation, we conclude that our constitution requires that the evidence must be suppressed." That's right--the Wisconsin Supreme Court grounded a Miranda decision in State (rather than Federal) constitutional grounds.

What that means is that cops can't intentionally violate Miranda and still expect to use physical evidence they obtain as a result of the illegal questioning. You can grab that decision here.
(Thanks to DA for the tip)

Who is gonna win?

During his presentation, which stretched almost three hours, Mr. Lanier generally called jurors by their names and often allowed them to speak at length."


Ms. Lowry, who spoke for about 90 minutes, was polite and pleasant but usually referred to potential jurors by their jury pool numbers rather than their names.

Bets anyone?


Busted for being in New Hampshire

Yep it's true, a jingoistic Cop has started charging undocumented Immigrants with Trespass for "being in New Hampshire"

His rationale: They're here illegally, they must be trespassing on the whole darn country. And he's created quite a stir.

The Cop in question is the police chief of New Ipswitch:

W. Garrett Chamberlain

He arrested Jorge Mora Ramirez after discovering him (perfectly legally) talking on a cell phone. After the chief figured out that he was here illegally, he called INS. They didn't really want to do anything about it and so he went ahead and arrested Ramirez himself. Apparently he hasn't really heard about the doctrine of preemption.

Sentence: surgical castration

"In a rare penalty for a sex crime, a Covington child rapist agreed Tuesday to undergo surgical castration and serve 25 years in jail rather than face a possible life sentence."

Obviously, this is of some concern -- in particular the coercive potential of alternative sentences.

Blakely Bummer

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the Supreme Court's Blakely decision on criminal sentencing is not retroactive to cases that were finalized before it was issued.


Another Excellent bit of Journalism from Jennifer Gonnerman

Once again, Jennifer Gonnerman turns in a great piece. This one titled "The Juror and the Convict" As usual she writes with real grace, and manages to make a subtle point without being heavy handed. Worth a read.

Jennifer Gonnnerman

Greg's Right--I'm wrong...

In response to my post (immediately below) about Lisl Auman, Greg Worthen wrote:

"The Value of Celebrity" in this case is that it directed a bright light into the dark corners of a draconian law. It it also helped balanced (sic) the scales that were heavily tipped against Lisl Auman by the fact a police officer was murdered and the person directly responsible killed himself. That made her the killer by proxy, which of course carries its own celebrity status.

We should all be thankful that the stars did in fact like her, because it kept the focus on justice rather than vengeance. The problem isn't that celebrities drew attention to this case, but that too many other cases don't get celebrity (and therefore media) attention."

He's right. I'm wrong. My snarky post was a moment of intellectual weakness, born of a frustration with the capricious power of celebrity to affect a system that is so very bankrupt. It's so rare that anyone is willing to pay attention to the plight of criminal defendants (other than the demonstrably innocent ones) that celebrity attention seems a loosing proposition in practice and foolish one in theory. But Mr. Worthen is correct--it should happen more often not less and I should be praising their efforts, and encouraging them to do more, not taking aim at them for not doing enough.

Mea Culpa

The Value of Celebrity

A woman who had been serving a life sentence without parole because her burglary accomplice gunned down a police officer could be free in 12 years under a plea bargain announced Monday.

Lisl Auman, who was handcuffed in the back of a police car when officer Bruce VanderJagt was killed, was convicted of murder and other charges in 1998. But the Colorado Supreme Court overturned her conviction in March.

"While appealing her conviction, Auman had won support from the late writer Hunter S. Thompson, the late singer-songwriter Warren Zevon, and actors Sean Penn, Benecio Del Toro and Johnny Depp."

Oh now I understand. The stars liked her.


So True...

The Fight Goes On...

The PD's in Missouri are still fighting the judges over caseload. And while it's a noble fight, I fear it may not come out quite as nicely as it should. As it stands a judge has ordered the public defenders to interview potential clients that they've indicated they'll no longer represent.

At stake here is the idea that we are fungible cogs in the machine of justice, and that it really is just a matter of throwing a licensed body up there to insure that an appellate court doesn't reverse...


Cali Contract Defender Problem

In a scathing report about the county's public defender services, the outgoing Lake County Grand Jury has alleged the contractor providing the services is guilty of numerous contract violations and failure to follow guidelines, and has failed to offer adequate defense services to client inmates."

Among the complaints are that IRA does not provide one-on-one meetings in office settings with their attorneys and that "public defenders do not interview clients approximately 90 percent of the time."

Ok--I don't care how overworked you are--you gotta meet with clients. This is about bad lawyering and the perverse incentive structures of some of these contract systems.


Juror Furor NYC Style...

Perhaps you've read about Steven Caruso, the foul-mouthed financial planner who got held in contempt for calling a defendant he presumed guilty a 'scumbag' during jury selection.

Scumbag quoth he.

Well, Judge William Wetzel found the term offensive and ordered him back for a contempt hearing--cue the public caterwauling...

Both the NEW YORK TIMES and NEWSDAY ran sympathetic features on this moron. Now let's be clear--Wetzel's not going to put the guy in jail--though it's likely he'll fine him 250 bucks or so. But how is it that when rich white folks presume defendants guilty, and make a mockery of system by acting in ways that are beyond disrespectful, they get the kid gloves. But when poor folks make innocent mistakes during voire dire, and get put in jail, there is hardly a peep.

For shame.

Fairfax's Chief Public Defender Quits

Fairfax County's top public defender has resigned after 10 months on the job, saying she does not have adequate resources to defend the poor in Virginia's wealthiest county.

In her short tenure, Joanmarie I. Davoli, 42, has made huge strides for the Fairfax public defender's office, according to numerous defense lawyers. She obtained Internet access and e-mail for her lawyers, persuaded Fairfax judges to reduce her lawyers' staggering caseload -- last year, the 20 lawyers defended 8,452 clients -- and refurbished a cramped and crumbling office.

Interestingly, she seems to have a beef with VA's indigent defense commission, run by Rich Goemann--who I've found to be very smart, capable, and dedicated.

More on this soon as well.


More Juror Furor

In a Prince William County courtroom Friday, Heaster, 58, a retired government secretary, was found in contempt of court for lying to a judge about buying two newspapers on a day she sat as a juror deliberating the fate of Gerardo N. Lara Sr.(more here)

the woman who donated a kidney to her daughter, counseled grieving friends, gave time to local charities and by all accounts never once ran afoul of the law, lied because she panicked.

Bad? Yes, but how bad?

She was ordered to pay $21,290 in restitution -- from $260 for audiovisual equipment to $3,000 in airfare for the victim's family and $7,000 for the cost of defense attorneys.

Heaster, whose pension is about $32,000 a year, was ordered to write letters of apology to each juror in the five-day trial and to perform 250 hours of community service within a year. Alston also gave Heaster a six-month jail sentence, which he suspended.

What are these judges thinking?

We rely on jurors and should have some sense even when they screw up.

Much, more on this soon.


Under Where?

Yes it's true, they're arguing over underpants in a Tennessee detention center:

"The issue over underwear at the detention center, dubbed by Bean as "pantygate" began earlier this year when Assistant Public Defender James Owen filed a "motion for panties" on behalf of two girls who had been housed at the facility.

Owen argued that the girls had suffered psychological trauma as a result of sharing underwear.

Until recently, detainees could wear their own underwear if relatives supplied them. Bean complained that he wound up supplying underwear for the lion's share of detainees anyway. Allowing relatives to bring in underwear for others created a two-tier laundry system that was cumbersome for staff, he said.

So, he scrapped the policy and instead decided that all detainees would share underwear communal-style.

Eeeew. Call Martha.

To read more about pantygate,click here. According to Bugmenot, you can use Login ID:
Password: x223344


Don't worry about registration

Do you hate it when I link to stories that require registration? Fear not, is here. Just click on the link, type in the url and it'll give you a username and password.

Missouri Madness

The St. Louis public defender's office - will, for the first time in at least 20 years, refuse to represent certain people in court starting Tuesday, state officials said last week.

Public defenders also say,that under recently revised state laws, guilty pleas to two of certain misdemeanors can lead to a felony charge and serious prison time for the third offense, along the lines of state three-strikes laws. That could mean defendants who plead guilty to minor crimes to stay out of jail are unknowingly increasing their chance of greater future penalties.

"Our representation on that docket was unethical, unprofessional and unconstitutional, and innocent and vulnerable people were being hurt," said St. Louis District Defender Eric Affholter. "And that's why we made our decision to participate differently on that docket."

Ok, so the PD's have taken a courageous and principled stand. How, you might wonder did the judges react?

In legal paperwork filed late Friday, the public defender's office said one assistant public defender had been told by sheriff's deputies they had been ordered to arrest her and her colleagues if they didn't show up to interview clients at 9 a.m. Tuesday. But sheriff's spokesman Mike Guzy said Friday afternoon that he wasn't aware of any order to arrest public defenders.

The judges reportedly are striking back in other ways, including in ways public defenders say will punish clients. According to affidavits signed by Affholter and Assistant District Defender Laura O'Sullivan and filed Friday, Circuit Judge Michael Mullen called O'Sullivan and told her that he was changing policies in his courtroom in response to the public defender's move set for Tuesday. Mullen said he would no longer allow public defenders to postpone trials, would go with prosecutors' recommended sentences over public defenders' recommendations and would no longer reschedule hearings to avoid conflicts with the public defenders' schedules.

Let's think that one through: So judges are explicitly saying--actually saying out loud that because PD's won't do meet and greet pleas, the judges will hurt the clients--give them longer sentences and force PD's to try cases even when they aren't ready.

And you wonder about the coercive nature of the system...


overcrowding endangers inmates, haunts taxpayers

Ok I know I've been slacking off since I started the trial...
But here you go:
Another great article on the California Prison Crisis: "Overcrowding is at the root of many of the system's failures, and parole is at the root of the overcrowding. Experts blame the state's policy of keeping most released inmates on parole for far longer periods than other states and sending most of those who violate parole back to prison, even for relatively minor offenses such as missing meetings or failing drug tests.

So many parole violators are returned to prison that they make up more than one third of all inmates. The Little Hoover Commission, an independent state research body that provides policy recommendations, estimated 18 months ago that the prisons spend about $1.5 billion a year on parole violators and
parolees who commit new crimes."


Thanks Heavens...

Not Guilty.
All Counts.
Thank heavens for the good judges.

Game Over

Justice O'Connor Says She Will Retire
This means Bush will have at least two S.Ct picks. Goodnight.