Monthly Archive: February 2021

BLM Wants to Abolish LA Police Unions

The Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter (BLM-LA) has announced that it is beginning a campaign to force the Los Angeles Federation of Labor to disband the city’s police unions.  David Zahmiser of the Los Angeles Times reports that Akili, an organizer with BLM-LA told reporters that the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents 9,800 police officers, promotes “white supremacy, anti-Blackness and a culture of deadly violence.”  He said the group would also seek to disband  the Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs Association, which he also claims is racist.   Last year BLM-LA demanded that the LA City Counsel cut police funding.  Last Summer, the Council cowed to their demands and slashed $150 million, cutting 250 officers from the force.  This at a  time when violent crime in Los Angeles is skyrocketing.   The Times piece calls BLM a “grass roots” organization, suggesting the it represents the views of most blacks.  A Gallup poll conducted last August reported that 81% of blacks wanted to either keep the current level of police patrols in their neighborhoods or increase them.

Legislative Amendments to California Voter Enacted Law

This morning the California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a statute passed by the state legislature (SB 1391) that prohibits 14- and 15-year-old criminal offenders from being prosecuted as adults.  In the case of in O.G. v. Superior Court (S259011), the issue was whether the California Legislature unconstitutionally amended the statutory provisions of Proposition 57 when it enacted SB 1391.  Prop. 57 was voted into law by a majority of California voters in 2016.  The ballot measure eliminated a District Attorney’s ability to directly file criminal charges against individuals under age 18 in adult court.  The measure instead gave juvenile court judges the sole authority to decide whether violent juveniles ages 14 and older should be prosecuted as adults only after conducting a full evidentiary hearing in the juvenile court.  In 2018, former Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1391 into law.  SB 1391 prohibits 14 and 15 year olds from being criminally prosecuted as adults regardless of the crime committed.  CJLF filed a brief (found here) arguing that SB 1391 unconstitutionally amended Prop. 57.  Today the California Supreme Court held that SB 1391 “is fully consistent with and furthers” the intent and purpose of Prop. 57 and upheld the statutory amendment.

Continue reading . . .

Should Felons Decide What Sentences Felons Deserve?

Sentencing Law and Policy has this thought-provoking post urging President Biden to make filling Sentencing Commission slots a priority, and recommending  —  you’ll never guess  —  “diversity.”  But it’s diversity of a notable kind.  The post’s final paragraph tells the story in only slightly scrubbed language:

In his pioneering 1972 book, Criminal Sentences: Law Without Order, Judge Marvin Frankel first advocated for a “Commission on Sentencing” to include “lawyers, judges, penologists, and criminologists, … sociologists, psychologists, business people, artists, and, lastly for emphasis, former or present prison inmates.”  As Judge Frankel explained, having justice-involved persons on a sentencing commission “merely recognizes what took too long to become obvious—that the recipients of penal ‘treatment’ must have relevant things to say about it.”  Judge Frankel’s insights remain ever so timely a half-century later, and the federal system can now follow a recent sound state example: Brandon Flood was appointed Secretary of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons in 2019, not despite but largely because of his lived experience as an inmate and his numerous encounters with the criminal justice system.  President Biden’s could and should consider going even further by including multiple persons with diverse, direct experiences with U.S. justice systems in his nominations to the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

What to make of the suggestion that the inmates should decide how long other inmates remain in the asylum?

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Insufficient Use of Force by Police

The extent to which rioters were able to enter the Capitol, trash it, and disrupt the work of Congress had multiple causes. One of them was insufficient use of force by the Capitol police. Buried deep in this AP story is this comment by Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman: “She also says officers didn’t understand when they were allowed to use deadly force, and that less-than-lethal weapons that officers had were not as successful as they expected.”

Now that Members of Congress have personally experienced the adverse consequences of insufficient use of force by police, will they learn the needed lessons from this experience? Continue reading . . .

Spike in Carjackings During the Pandemic

There are an array of explanations that are offered as to why carjackings have increased in major cities across the country in the last year. The caveat to be considered is which explanations are empirically supported compared to opinions offered based on perspective. In a WSJ article today, reporter Scott Calvert presents the argument that the spike in carjackings in Washington D.C. noticed by police officers could be due to juveniles being kept out of on-site schools due to the pandemic. While many Americans would agree juveniles have more free time on their hands with distance learning, that does not explain the use of deadly weapons and engagement in violence. These same juveniles would likely be carrying a weapon(s) whether on-site schooling was an option or not. 

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Illinois Eliminates Cash Bail

Setting the stage for a significant overhaul of its criminal justice system, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has signed a 700 page bill that he called a step toward “dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities..”   Safia Samee Ali of NBC News reports that the bill HB 3653 gives more rights to suspects, places new requirements on policing and eliminates cash bail for most arrestees, which supporters term “wealth-based detention.”  While law enforcement groups have opposed the elimination of cash bail, NPR reports that supporters point to studies that show little-to-no increase in crime caused by the near elimination of cash bail in New Jersey and Washington, D.C.

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Washington Homeless Shelters Support Drug Use

In this article from 2017 Bob Young and Vernal Coleman from the Seattle Times reported on the status of homeless shelters in the early stages of planning that allow and aid in the residents’ use of illegal drugs, including heroin. According to Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, “The idea is that users could visit a supervised facility where they could get clean needles and anti-overdose medications as well as medical attention as needed and treatment options.”

The article written by Young and Coleman in 2017 was a preview of what was to come in just a few short years. According to this article yesterday by Jason Rantz of KTTH, “A Seattle-backed homeless shelter is instructing addicts to smoke heroin and inject drugs rectally. And the shelter is using tax dollars to help get addicts high.” Rantz acknowledges the dangers in encouraging use of heroin and brings to light the posting of flyers in public areas to inform the general public of the most ideal ways to administer heroin.

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Gascón Goes Easy on Another Cop Killer

Last December, newly elected Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón made headlines by dropping the special circumstances allegations for Rhett Nelson, a criminal who shot and killed off-duty LA Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Solano and another man during a 2019 crime spree.  This prevented the cop-killer from receiving a sentence of life-without-parole and makes him eligible for release in 20 years.  Last Thursday, Gascón’s office ordered the dropping of special circumstances for Michael Mejia, an habitual felon gang member who in February of 2017, killed his cousin in order to steal his car and then gunned down a responding police officer, killing him and injuring his partner.  City News Service reports that dropping the specials in this case protects Mejia from being sentenced to death, and also gives him parole eligibility.

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Defining “Occasion”

The federal “three strikes” law provides enhanced penalties for felons who possess firearms after three convictions for violent felonies or serious drug offenses “committed on occasions different from one another.” What exactly is an “occasion”?

Wooden v. United States, No. 20-5279, taken up by the Supreme Court today, is one of the rare cases where a defendant writing his own certiorari petition actually got the Court to take the case up for full briefing and argument. Continue reading . . .

Of Nosy Cops and Children Saved

I saw this story recently in the WSJ and thought it had two lessons worth noting, one about when government agencies should intervene in family matters and one about when standard issue thinking about the obligations of criminal defense lawyers runs into basic decency.

It’s about a little boy who went to a diner with his family.  What happened next is both grotesque and uplifting.

Continue reading . . .