Monthly Archive: June 2020

What the Data Say About Police

Roland Fryer, professor of economics at Harvard, wrote this op-ed for the WSJ, published yesterday.

In 2015, after watching Walter Scott get gunned down, on video, by a North Charleston, S.C., police officer, I set out on a mission to quantify racial differences in police use of force. To my dismay, this work has been widely misrepresented and misused by people on both sides of the ideological aisle.

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USCA-DC Orders Flynn Case Dismissal

A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today ordered the district judge in the Michael Flynn case to grant the Government’s motion to dismiss. The opinion is by Judge Rao, joined by Judge Henderson. The decision is not a surprise, given the strong language in the Circuit’s Fokker precedent. See this post. Judge Wilkins dissents in part, disagreeing with the majority’s decision to go forward on the merits now rather than wait for the district court to rule on the motion.

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Open Season on the Most Vulnerable in NYC

As reported in earlier posts, the no bail law in New York City, the widespread attacks on police officers and the mayor’s soft approach to rioters during the first two weeks of June has resulted in a spike in shootings, murders, burglaries and assaults.   Last week a habitual criminal with over 100 arrests for prior crimes was caught on video punching a 93-year-old woman, who hit her head on a fire hydrant as she fell.  The attack was unprovoked.

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Revisiting the Roger Stone Sentencing

Tomorrow, one of the line prosecutors in the Roger Stone case will testify before the House Judiciary Committee.  A news story relating part of his prepared testimony tells us that the attorney, Aaron Zelinsky, plans to say, among other things:

What I saw was the Department of Justice exerting significant pressure on the line prosecutors in the case to obscure the correct Sentencing Guidelines calculation to which Roger Stone was subject – and to water down and in some cases outright distort the events that transpired in his trial and the criminal conduct that gave rise to his conviction….What I heard – repeatedly – was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the President. I was told that the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Timothy Shea, was receiving heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice to cut Stone a break, and that the U.S. Attorney’s sentencing instructions to us were based on political considerations.

Zelinsky’s account seems both odd and oddly incomplete.

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How Covid Inmate Releases Contributes to NYC’s Crime Spike

Recent reports from the New York City Police department tell of a sudden, staggering increase in violence and crime. The city has seen high numbers of shootings and injuries, as officials warn these incidents point to a “storm on the horizon” that warrants immediate change.

In the last week alone (June 15-June 22), an estimated 73 people were wounded in 53 shootings across the city, as compared to only 14 injured individuals and 12 incidents in the same period last year.  On Saturday alone, two dozen shootings occurred.

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Can the President Fire a Court-Appointed US Attorney?

Geoffrey Berman was appointed interim US Attorney for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan) by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  After his 120-day interim appointment had run its course, he was re-appointed by the US District Court.  Over the last couple of days, we have seen quite a drama as Attorney General Barr announced Berman’s “resignation;” Berman said he had never resigned and was staying put until a successor was confirmed; Barr then fired him, saying it was at the direction of the President; and (yesterday) Berman said he was resigning forthwith.

The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing to look into this.  No doubt it will be chock full of politics and accusations that the President and/or Barr were trying to derail potentially damaging investigations in the run-up to the election.  In this post, however, I’m going to put the politics to one side and address the quite interesting question whether, under the governing statutes and the Constitution’s separation of powers principle, the President can fire a court-appointed US Attorney. Continue reading . . .

Criminal Witch-Hunting

When does the present witch-hunt atmosphere cross the line from merely deplorable into criminal? A Vermont school board may have crossed the line. They have removed a school principal from her duties, put her on administrative leave, and stated a determination that “she will no longer lead our school.” That is, they have stated an intent to remove her from her position permanently. See this press release. And what was the principal’s offense that warranted this action? She posted on her personal Facebook page, not a school page, a statement refusing to grovel in front of the Black Lives Matter movement and endorse everything they do and demand. In my opinion, this is a crime under federal civil rights law, 18 U.S.C. § 242.

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Supreme Court Fast-Tracks Federal Execution Petition

In the on-going litigation over the federal execution protocol, the U.S. Supreme Court today granted the murderers’ motion to fast-track the briefing on whether the high court should take the case up. The government did not oppose the motion.

The government’s response is due tomorrow, as are any amicus curiae briefs. The murderers’ reply is due Monday. That would allow the Court to consider the case at its conference next Thursday.

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