Criminal Law News – September, 2012
Colorado theater massacre
Prosecutors sought access to a notebook sent by James Holmes to a university psychiatrist prior to his deadly shooting attack on a Colorado theater. Defense attorneys argued that the notebook should be protected pursuant to doctor-patient privilege, and the judge agreed. A second hearing was set, but prosecutors decided to give up the fight. Prosecutors will wait to see if Holmes presents an insanity defense before seeking access to the notebook again.
Arizona’s “show me your papers” law
Photo reprinted from csmonitor.com
or the first time since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Arizona’s controversial “show me your papers” law does not conflict with federal law, the law will again be enforced. An Arizona judge has ruled that police can immediately enforce the law. Civil rights advocates are staffing a hotline to field questions about people’s rights in the event they are questioned about their immigration status. Volunteers are also contacting local police departments to ask them not to enforce the law and have plans to videotape all planned immigration patrols.
The law’s biggest advocate, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, was previously being investigated by federal authorities for abuse-of-power charges relating to his questionable enforcement policies and a government corruption scheme. Federal officials now say Arpaio will not be criminally charged. Arpaio still faces a civil class action law suit brought by Latinos who accuse Arpaio of systematic racial profiling. In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice has sued Arpaio for constitutional violations, including racial profiling, retaliating against critics, punishing Latino jail inmates and failing to adequately investigate sex crimes.
Jerry Sandusky’s Sentencing is scheduled for October 9, 2012.
Jerry Sandusky was convicted in June of 45 counts of child molestation and is scheduled to be sentenced. Sandusky faces up to 373 years in prison for abusing 10 boys over a period of 15 years. Sandusky is the former defensive coordinator for Pennsylvania State University’s football team. It is expected that Sandusky will be sentenced to life without parole or the functional equivalent.
Texas has executed eight death row inmates this year.
Ryan Harris was convicted in 2000 with abducting and killing a pregnant woman and then killing five others at a local carwash. Harris was executed by lethal injection on September 20, 2012. Texas is the nation’s most active death penalty state and has executed eight inmates this year.
Damon Thibodeaux was convicted fifteen years ago after falsely confessing to raping and murdering his 14-year-old cousin. The confession came after nine hours of interrogation. Thibodeaux was sentenced to the death penalty. Fortunately, his court-ordered release finally came, after DNA evidence established that he was innocent of the crime. Innocence project representatives say the case illustrates the need to abolish the death penalty, as well as the need for police to videotape all interrogations.
Photo reprinted from presstv.com
Although Ryan does not promote legalization of marijuana, he believes “states should have the right to choose whether to legalize the drug for medical purposes.”
Utah denies two requests for DNA testing in murder cases.
The Utah Court of Appeals denied Terry Johnson’s request for NA evidence, because his trial attorney “made a tactical decision not to request DNA testing at the time of trial.” Johnson was convicted in 1993 with the stabbing death of a teenage boy who was babysitting Johnson’s son.
The Utah Fourth District Court also denied DNA testing in the case of George Hamilton, because he did not establish that the DNA was in “testable condition” or that the testing could prove that he is “factually innocent.” Hamilton was convicted in 1985 with the murder of a Fillmore hitchhiker.
Utah lawmakers try again to amend open carry laws.
For the second year in a row, Utah law makers have New Mexico has launched a smartphone application aimed to fight drunk driving.
The application, ENDWI, includes two games intended to test the user’s ability to drive using reaction time and memory, as well as a calculator that determines BAC based upon the user’s weight and how many drinks consumed in one hour. ENDWI is also designed to call the nearest cab company.
The toddler’s mother was searching for public bathroom facilities when the toddler “took matters into his own hands.” A police officer observed the incident and promptly delivered the citation to the toddler’s mother, stating, “’I’m doing this for your own protection because God forbid there might have been a pervert out there looking at my son.” The mother was outraged and expressed that children should feel safe and have positive experiences with police officers.
Facial hair is a hot topic for the month of September.
The Army psychiatrist charged in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage must appear clean-shaven or be forcibly shaved, according to an order issued by U.S. Army Colonel Gregory Cross. Defense counsel argued that the accused’s Muslim faith required him to grow a beard. But Colonel Gross found that the defense failed to establish that the beard was grown for religious reasons. “Beards are a violation of Army regulations, and soldiers who disobey orders to get rid of facial hair can be shaved against their will.”
AP Photo, reprinted from Huffington.com
Amish bishop Samuel Mullet was convicted of federal hate crimes and conspiracy after ordering followers to kidnap and forcibly cut the hair and beards of those who opposed the view of his religious sect. Prosecutors argued to the jury that the attacks were intended to humiliate those who opposed Mullet’s cultlike methods. The attacks were carried out with clippers, scissors and razor-sharp shears designed to trim horse manes. Mullet could face life in prison for his crimes.
A New Hampshire jury has cleared a local Rastafarian after he was charged with a felony for growing marijuana. New Hampshire has not legalized marijuan for any uses. However, defense counsel encouraged the jury to nullify the verdict, and the trial judge gave a jury instruction on nullification. The jury expressed that the defendant “seemed to be the only victim” in the case. The defendant has no criminal history but has practiced Rastafarianism since the 1980s. Rastafarianism promotes the spiritual use of marijuana and the rejection of Western society.
A Boston judge has ordered Massachusetts authorities to provide a tax-funded sex-change operation for a transgender prisoner. Department of Corrections doctors recommended sex-reassignment surgery as “the only form of adequate medical care” for Michelle Kosilek, who used to go by “Robert.” Kosilek has been diagnosed with severe gender identity disorder, has attempted to castrate himself and twice tried to commit suicide. Judge Wolf reasoned that denying Kosilek the surgery was a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
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