Monthly Archive: March 2020

Frivolous Pleadings for Murderers at Taxpayer Expense

Adam GomezRaymond MataRaymond Mata is very justly sentenced to death for the murder of 3-year-old Adam Gomez. (I have reserved the stomach-turning facts for the end of the post.) He has the right to government-paid counsel to make his defense, but shouldn’t the government insist on some kind of threshold of non-frivolousness before it forks over taxpayers dollars? Do we really need to pay for complete garbage? That is exactly what Nebraskans have paid for in Mata’s latest petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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AG Probing Cyber Attack on HHS

Attorney General William Barr told reporters Tuesday that the Justice Department is investigating a reported cyber incident directed at computers at the Department of Health and Human Services.  Michael Balsamo of the Associated Press reports that a “denial of service” attack was attempted on HHS computer networks but the networks were not penetrated.  This came days after federal officials identified an effort by a foreign entity to spread misinformation about a nationwide quarantine in response to the coronavirus.  The Attorney General said the FBI and other agencies are investigating both incidents and threatened severe action for any foreign government behind disinformation campaigns attempting to spread panic among Americans.

Philadelphia U.S. Attorney Calls Out D.A.

William McSwainWilliam McSwain, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which includes Philadelphia, issued a remarkable statement yesterday:

“Last Friday, Philadelphia Police Corporal and SWAT team member, James O’Connor, a proud 23-year veteran of the Department from a family of police officers, was gunned down in the City’s Frankford section while trying to arrest Hassan Elliott, who was wanted for murder. Elliott was on the street for one reason: because of District Attorney Krasner’s pro-violent defendant policies. Those policies – which include permissive bail conditions for violent offenders, failing to pursue serious probation and parole violations by violent criminals, offering lenient plea deals for violent offenses, and outright withdrawing cases against violent felons – put dangerous criminals like Elliott on the street.”

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Triple Murderer’s Execution Delayed

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals announced today that the state will delay the execution of triple-murderer John Hummel for 60 days due to the health crisis caused by the coronavirus.  Jerry Lambe of Law and Crime reports that, according to state prosecutors, Hummel’s attorneys offered “no evidence whatsoever” that the concerns about the virus would threaten prison employees or cause any impediment to the execution.  Hummel was sentenced to death in 2011 for the stabbing murder of his pregnant wife and the baseball-bat beating deaths of this 5-year-old daughter and his father-in-law, before setting fire to their home.  Hummel’s execution had been scheduled for Wednesday.

Justice Delayed

The U.S. Supreme Court will postpone the argument session scheduled for next week. The press release says:

In keeping with public health precautions recommended in response to COVID-19, the Supreme Court is postponing the oral arguments currently scheduled for the March session (March 23-25 and March 30-April 1). The Court will examine the options for rescheduling those cases in due course in light of the developing circumstances.

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Court Allows Cop Killer to Drop Appeal

In a divided decision announced today the Arkansas Supreme Court has upheld a condemned murderer’s request to end the appeal of his conviction and sentence.   Andrew DeMillo of the Associated Press reports that Jerry Lard, convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a police officer during a traffic stop in 2011, was found competent by the court to waive his right to post conviction relief.  Lard’s counsel argued that a mental review by a psychologist had concluded that Lard suffered from mild intellectual disability which should make him ineligible for execution.  The court held that because an execution date had not yet been set, the question of Lard’s eligibility for execution was not yet ripe for review.  Dashcam video from Officer Jonathan Schmidt’s patrol car showed Lard shooting him in the face, and the officer can later be heard begging for his life, before he was killed.

23 Years for Harvey Weinstein

“Harvey Weinstein, the once-powerful and internationally acclaimed Hollywood producer, was sentenced to 23 years in a New York state prison Wednesday following a conviction stemming from sexual-assault allegations that sparked the #MeToo movement,” reports Deanna Paul for the WSJ.

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USSG Requests Hold on Federal JLWOP Case

United States v. Briones, No. 19-720, is a federal case regarding what finding needs to be made before an under-18 murderer can be sentenced to life without parole. On Monday, the Supreme Court took up a Mississippi case raising the same question, as noted in this post. Yesterday the Solicitor General filed a letter with the Court asking for its case to be put on hold pending a decision in the Mississippi case.

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