Judge Slaps Philly DA For Misconduct

With homicides in Philadelphia on track to eclipse last year’s record-setting 562 murders according to AXIOS,  District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office is working to reduce sentences for convicted murderers.  The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that last week a federal judge rejected Krasner’s effort to reduce the death sentence of a 1984 double-murderer, in a decision highlighting the fact that his office had attempted to mislead the court.  Shortly after the former criminal defense attorney’s election as district attorney in 2018, Krasner fired 31 deputies, including a dozen experienced homicide prosecutors.  Since then. his office has partnered with defense attorneys to petition Philadelphia judges to resentence condemned murderers to life in prison without parole.  Earlier this year the DA joined the defense attorney for Robert Wharton, who murdered a young couple in 1984, to petition Federal District Judge Mitchell Goldberg to overturn his death sentence on a claim of ineffective assistance of council at the sentencing hearing.

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BJS releases 2021 victimization statistics

The Bureau of Justice Statistics recently released information on 2021 victimization rates derived from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). There were no statistically significant changes in violent victimization or property victimization rates from 2020 to 2021. However, the violent victimization rate increased in urban areas, from 19.4 to 24.5 per 1,000. The percentage of violent victimizations reported to police increased (+6%), as did the percentage of violent crime victims who sought assistance from victim service providers (+3%). The percentage of property victimizations reported to police decreased (-2%), which was mostly due to a decrease in reporting for “other theft” (-3%). This post outlines the major findings from the report, while more detailed information can be found via the NCVS’ interactive data dashboard.

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You billed the union health plan for what?

The U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California (LA and adjoining counties) issued this press release last Wednesday:

Federal prosecutors today filed criminal charges against nine defendants – seven of them dockworkers at the Port of Long Beach – who allowed more than $2.1 million in fraudulent claims to be submitted to their labor union’s health insurance plan for sexual services or for physical therapy that never was provided. Continue reading . . .

Violent crime is up in 2022, according to MCCA survey of 70 U.S. police agencies

Violent crime is on the rise in the U.S., according to 2022 survey results recently published by the Major City Chiefs Association (MCCA). The MCCA is a professional organization of police executives that advocates for the advancement of public safety through innovation, research, and policy development. The results presented here were collected as part of an annual survey of their membership, which included 70 of the largest jurisdictions in the U.S.

Agencies reported the number of aggravated assaults, homicides, rapes, and robberies that occurred during the first half of 2022 and first half of 2021. Counts and rates were compared across years. Among responding agencies, there was a total increase of +4.4% in violent crime. This was driven mostly by increases in robberies, which were up +13.1%, and aggravated assaults, which were up by +2.6% These two crimes were the most prevalent overall, accounting for 86% of violent crime reported in 2022. Continue reading . . .

The Full Harm of Burglary

Karen Bass, a member of Congress and candidate for LA Mayor, was the victim of a home burglary recently. KTTV has this interview.

Ms. Bass says “my safety was shattered” and describes returning home to find the house burgled as “traumatic.” But isn’t burglary a “non-violent property crime”? Aren’t people who commit such crimes nearly harmless, to be handled with kid gloves and let off lightly? That’s what the folks on Ms. Bass’s side of the aisle have been telling us for years, and California has seen a cascade of laws designed to water down the consequences of committing such crimes. Continue reading . . .

California’s overall crime rates are down, but numbers don’t reveal the whole story

In a previous post, we announced that California Attorney General Rob Bonta has officially released state crime data for 2021. He eagerly noted that violent and property crime rates are well below the historic highs seen in the mid-1990s, but whistled past the fact that violent crime rates have been slowly climbing since the early 2000s. The contradictory shifts in violent crime versus property crime are somewhat perplexing. While overall crime rates might be down, violent crimes, particularly aggravated assaults and homicides, have been increasing.

Looking at the numbers all together, it is important to keep in mind: all crimes are not created equal in the harm they cause. For example, homicides are a relatively rare event, yet they are much more harmful than high-frequency crimes like larceny. For example, an increase of 500 thefts would be a small change in the overall number of thefts and would have little overall impact on public safety, whereas an increase of 500 homicides would be a large change in the overall number of homicides and have a very detrimental impact on public safety. By looking at crime statistics though, these nuances can be overshadowed.

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AG Bonta’s Take on Crime in California

Last week California Attorney General Rob Bonta released state crime data for 2021.   In a statement to the press, Bonta noted that  violent and property crime rates “remain significantly below their historical highs,” then admitted that homicides increased 7% last year. This follows a 31% increase in homicides from 2019 to 2021. The largest single-year increase in state history.

Taking the Attorney General at his word that “Good data is a cornerstone of good public policy,” the latest Crime in California report strongly suggests that current policies are taking the state in the wrong direction.

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25 Years After Conviction, Oklahoma Executes Murderer

Oklahoma executed convicted murderer James Coddington this morning by lethal injection.  Stephanie Pagones of Fox News reports that Governor Kevin Stitt declined to commute Conddington’s death sentence yesterday, despite the murderer’s apology and the state parole board’s recommendation that his sentence be reduced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  A 2006 decision by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals describes how Coddington beat his friend, 73-year-old Albert Hale to death with a claw hammer and robbed him of $525 in order to buy cocaine.  Hale’s son found his body later that day and rushed him to the hospital, where he died from his injuries.  After murdering Hale, Coddington went on to commit least six armed robberies of gas stations and convenience stores across Oklahoma City.   Following his arrest, he admitted to the robberies and the murder.  His execution was the fifth Oklahoma has carried out since the state resumed enforcing the death penalty last year.

Cal. Legislature’s Rescue of Murderers Upheld

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón is engaged in an all-out effort to reduce the sentences of LA murderers. Among the beneficiaries of Gascón’s efforts is Scott Collins, who gunned down Fred Rose in 1992, stole his car, then drove the car to Fresno to use it in a drive-by shooting. For this he was justly sentenced to death, and the judgment has been upheld on both direct appeal and state habeas corpus.

Despite Gascón’s defection, there appeared to be a strong chance of stopping his intended miscarriage of justice until the murderer-friendly California Legislature came to his aid. Continue reading . . .

The myth of the “red state murder problem”

After declining for over two decades, homicides in the United States increased sharply in 2015 and 2016. This slowed a little bit in the years that followed, until another dramatic increase in homicides occurred in 2020. In fact, the 30% increase from 2019-2020 is the largest ever recorded. By 2021, homicides rose another 5%. This uptick was not as striking as the one seen in 2020, though the numbers were still higher than pre-2019.

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