Monthly Archive: November 2021

Crime could become hot issue in 2022

Veteran California political commentator Dan Walters has this column at CalMatters with the above title. The summary reads, “Political reaction to a spate of smash-and-grab retail thefts indicates that crime could be a hot button issue in next year’s California elections.” Walters notes:

“The current governor, Gavin Newsom, has largely continued [previous Governor Jerry] Brown’s [soft] policies, unilaterally suspending the execution of murderers and proposing to shut down some prisons. It was a bit odd, therefore, to see Newsom publicly denounce lawbreakers last week after a series of smash-and-grab raids on high-end retail outlets in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California.”

In the home stretch, Walters has opened up a lead for understatement of the year 2021. A bit odd? Continue reading . . .

The Ahmaud Arbery Verdicts and the Felony-Murder Rule

The felony-murder rule, in effect in some form in most states, is the controversial rule that if a person is killed during the commission of certain felonies, all parties to the felony are guilty of murder of that person. The rule can be harsh in some applications, and I agree that some judicious pruning is in order in many jurisdictions, but many critics want to get rid of it altogether.

Here is the WSJ’s report of the today’s verdicts in the Ahmaud Arbery case:

Travis McMichael, 35, chased Mr. Arbery with his father, Gregory McMichael, 65, and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., 52, in two pickup trucks on Feb. 23, 2020. Travis McMichael shot Mr. Arbery three times with a 12-gauge shotgun, killing him.

Travis McMichael was found guilty on all counts, including one count of malice murder and four counts of felony murder. Gregory McMichael was found guilty of four counts of felony murder and acquitted on a charge of malice murder. Mr. Bryan was convicted on three counts of felony murder and acquitted on malice murder and an additional felony murder charge.

Two of the three would have been acquitted of murder, and convicted only of non-homicide offenses, if Georgia did not have the felony-murder rule. Continue reading . . .

Justice Department awards $139 million to advance community policing

The federal government has awarded $139 million in grant funding to 183 law enforcement agencies across the nation through the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) COPS Hiring Program (CHP). The funds are to be dedicated to the hiring of additional full-time law enforcement professionals and the advancement of community policing efforts.

Continue reading . . .

Death By Sentencing Reform

Six People were killed and at least 40 were injured after a 39-year-old repeat felon on parole ran down participants in Waukesha, Wisconsin’s annual Christmas Parade on Sunday.  18 of the victims are children and 10 are in intensive care.  Michael Ruiz of Fox News reports that the suspect, Darrell Brooks, Jr.  had a 50 page rap sheet of criminal charges going back two decades, and was free on bail awaiting trial on charges of battery, domestic abuse, resisting arrest and bail jumping.  Current Wisconsin law does not consider these to be serious crimes and does not hold criminals in jail who were on parole or probation when they are arrested for them.  Last February Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, a democrat, vetoed a bill passed by the state legislature which required offenders who commit new crimes while on parole or probation to be returned to prison or jail.  In his veto message Evans expressed his support for “policies that focus on rehabilitation and reduce incarceration, particularly the over-incarceration of poor people and people of color.”  Brooks was one of the “people of color” Evans protected from over-incarceration.  Continue reading . . .

Cannabis and Mental Disorder

I meant to blog about this a few months ago, but time got away from me.  There is an established link between mental disorders and crime.  Of course, most people who have mental disorders do not commit crime, but the link is well established.  For many years, there has been mounting evidence that cannabis use, particularly during adolescence, increases the risk of developing schizophrenia.  There is an ongoing debate about whether this is a causal or correlational relationship.

Back in July, JAMA Psychiatry published a population-based study from Denmark.  One of the great benefits of the Nordic countries is the ability to conduct population studies due to their public health system structure.  The study, Development Over Time of the Population-Attributable Risk Fraction for Cannabis Use Disorder in Schizophrenia in Denmark, shows that as the prevalence of Cannabis Use Disorder increased, so too did schizophrenia.   As the authors conclude, the results from these longitudinal analyses show the proportion of cases of schizophrenia associated with cannabis use disorder has increased 3- to 4-fold during the past 2 decades.

Another recent study revealed a rise in congenital anomalies among newborns has been observed in Colorado and Washington since 2013, the first states to legalize adult recreational use.  We are in uncharted territory when it comes to cannabis, regardless of one’s opinion about its legal status.

Lack of data hinders research on police violence: Official vs. open-source data

Over the last  few years, strain between police-community relations has intensified greatly as incidents have come to light (e.g., officer-involved shootings, protests) showing hostility between the police and the communities. Although circulation of “viral” videos of police incidents has increased, officer-involved shootings are still a relatively low-occurring event overall. Though, media exposure may make this problem seem more exacerbated than it is. Regardless, lack of transparency on official numbers contributes to contention over police. At present, there is no official number of the number of people killed by police annually.  Still, unreliable government numbers fail to portray the true scope of officer-involved shootings and fatalities. The National Use-of-Force Data Collection is the first national-level dataset to offer big-picture insights on police use of force but it is still in its infancy.

Otherwise, one of the closest things to an official source regarding officer-involved fatalities is collected by the U.S. National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), which tracks death certificates and causes of death in the country. Unfortunately though, these results may be undercounted by more than half, per a recent study in The Lancet. The study compared data from NVSS with data from three of four major publicly available, open-source databases compiled by various researchers (i.e., “Fatal Encounters,” “Mapping Police Violence,” and “The Counted”). The information in these databases is collated from news reports, department websites, and in some cases, public records requests. However, the data sources vary in where and how they collect their data (and how successful they were), so it is difficult to know whether any of these databases adequately represents the United States.

Update: As of December 9, 2021, law enforcement participation in the use-of-force data collection has remained quite low, which may cause the database to shut down.

Continue reading . . .

Ankle Bracelets Work……..Or, Well, Even if Not So Much, We Need to Stop Being Incarceration Nation

Here’s the headline from the CNN story (no, not Breitbart):  “A California couple vanished after stealing millions in Covid-19 relief funds. They left a goodbye note for their three kids.”

Look, we don’t want to be too judgmental here.  The kiddies got a goodbye note! There might even be a jar of peanut butter left in the pantry.  And Covid relief has been over-hyped anyway.  Please, can we put away the sourpuss Puritanism?

Continue reading . . .

Rape? Hey, Stuff Happens.

The New York Times, of all things, has a story today about the violent rape of a young teenage girl (the defendant did not contest it and pleaded guilty), followed by a sentence of zero imprisonment.  But not to worry  —  the judge determined that incarceration for Mr. Nicey was “not appropriate” after “praying” about it.

I am not making this up.  Indeed, I don’t have to make it up, since it has a good deal in common with the notorious Stanford rape case about which that same NYT was kind enough to print my op-ed, see here.  Still, in the Stanford case, at least the rapist got a token jail sentence.  I guess New York is more “enlightened.”  Criminal justice reform, dontcha know.

Continue reading . . .

Death Penalty Whumps Joe Biden

Gallup has two contrasting polls out today.  One shows President Biden’s approval rating at 42%.  On crime, it’s lower than that (39% approval to 57% disapproval); perhaps citizens are not real thrilled with his Attorney General’s denominating parents as “domestic terrorists” if they voice dissent at school board meetings.

Gallup’s other news release is about its annual  death penalty poll, showing approval at 54%, which, Gallup notes, “is essentially unchanged from readings over the past four years…”

Continue reading . . .