Monthly Archive: March 2022

Kentucky’s Misguided Approach on the Death Penalty

The Kentucky legislature has passed HB 269 and sent it to the Governor for approval.  The Bill precludes the death penalty for individuals who had “active symptoms” and a “documented history” of certain enumerated mental disorders at the time of the offense conduct.  The list includes schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder and delusional disorder.  The proposed legislation does not require proof that the “active symptoms” had impaired the defendant’s rationality in any manner during the commission of the crime.

This approach has many problems, but I will briefly discuss two.

First, the term “active symptoms” is not defined and is thus a legislative construction. However, many of these disorder are notable for their negative symptoms.  These include reduced motivation and a diminished experience of pleasure in life.  These are real symptoms and their effects can profoundly adversely affect a person’s quality of life, particularly since they tend to endure even when other symptoms of the disorder have abated.   However, given their nature, it is likely that anyone who has a documented history of one of the enumerated mental disorders will qualify as having “active symptoms” despite their level of lucidity.

Second, there is no logical or just reason why people only with a “documented history” should be treated differently.  Obviously, the legislation envisions fraud as a reason for this requirement.  But it is relatively common for people with these disorders to have no treatment history during the early course of their illness —not to mention that there is no moral reason to treat those who have not had the opportunity for treatment to be subject to a different punishment.

This is a bad Bill whatever your stance is on the death penalty.

Keeping USCA9 Weird

In some cities with oddball reputations, some residents who are proud of that reputation sport bumper stickers saying “Keep [City] Weird.”

Ninth Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas, the Chief Judge until fairly recently, yesterday announced he is taking senior status effective upon the appointment of his successor. See the court’s press release.

Not mentioned in the press release is that the timing will likely enable President Biden to appoint a like-minded successor while the Democratic Party still holds the narrowest possible majority in the Senate, a majority it is likely to lose in the November election. That is, he can appoint someone favored by the more criminal-friendly wing of his party without needing the consent of a single Republican. In other words, he can keep the Ninth weird. Continue reading . . .

Facing Recall, LADA Gascón Adjusts Policy on Juvenile Murderers

National media coverage in February of a transgender child molester set to be released after serving as little as six months under Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón’s  blanket “youth justice” policy has induced the progressive DA to admit that the policy might not be appropriate for all offenders.  Marjorie Hernandez of the New York Post reports that Hanna Tubbs, was James Tubbs in 2014 when he followed a 10-year-old girl into a woman’s restroom at a Denny’s restaurant and molested her.  Tubbs was two weeks shy of his 18th birthday at the time, which qualified him as a juvenile.   After he was arrested six years later on an Idaho battery charge, his DNA tied him to the molestation.  After his arrest Tubbs began to identify as a woman.   Because of his age at the time of the crime,  under Gascón’s policy, he/she could not be tried in adult court.  As a result, Tubbs plead guilty in juvenile court and will likely serve six months of a two year sentence in a juvenile treatment facility for young woman.

Continue reading . . .

At Least Progressive Prosecutors Have Strong Family Support

Mayilyn Mosby is  the very progressive State’s Attorney for Baltimore.  She was recently indicted by Joe Biden’s Justice Department for a bit of financial razzle-dazzle, and some old-fashioned lying, in connection with her purchase of a luxury apartment in Florida.  She has claimed  —  and I’m not making this up  —  that the charges are racially motivated.

Still, one must give Ms. Mosby her due.  The State’s Attorney position is an elected office, for which she had to campaign (and is campaigning again despite the federal indictment).  Campaigns cost money, so contributions are needed.  Ms. Mosby reported receiving a contribution from her grandfather, a former police officer.  That would be heartening in a way, except for the catch.

Continue reading . . .

Supreme Court Takes Up Arizona Murder Case

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court released this orders list from last Friday’s conference. The Court took up the case of Cruz v. Arizona, No. 21-846. The case involves the familiar scenario of a murderer who could have made a particular objection at trial or on direct appeal but did not. When he tries to raise the objection in a collateral attack on the judgment, the state court tells him it is too late. As usual, the issue in this case has nothing whatever to do with whether the defendant committed the crime. It only relates to whether he should receive the punishment his crime deserves or whether justice should be tempered with mercy to let him off with less than he deserves.

From the state’s brief in opposition:

On the day he was killed, Officer Patrick Hardesty was questioning [John] Cruz as part of a hit-and-run investigation. App. 2a. During the questioning, Cruz ran from Officer Hardesty and Officer Hardesty gave chase on foot. Id. at 202–03, ¶¶ 2–4. At some point during the chase, Cruz shot the officer five times, emptying the five-shot revolver he was carrying. Two shots struck Officer Hardesty’s protective vest, two others struck him in the abdomen below the vest, and one entered his left eye, killing him almost instantly. Id. at 203, ¶¶ 5–7. Four of the shots were fired from no more than a foot away. Id. at 203, ¶ 6.

Cruz claims that the jury should have been told he would not be eligible for parole if they gave him life in prison. The Supreme Court precedent on that point was decided nine years before the crime. Cruz’s trial attorney did not request such an instruction, even though the trial judge offered one while denying a related motion, and his appellate attorney did not make that objection on direct appeal.

This is familiar turf for CJLF. We played a role in developing the rules that generally prohibit this kind of “heads I win, tails we take it over” gamesmanship. Continue reading . . .

Mayor Adams to “Sort of” Restore Broken Windows Policing

Running for mayor last year in crime-besieged New York City, former police captain Eric Adams promised that if elected he would restore the plainclothes anti-crime unit shut down by his predecessor Mayor de Bill Blasio.  This was quite a gamble, even for a black man running for Mayor in the ultra-liberal big apple, which is the national headquarters for the woke media and race-baiting activists.  But practically every day for the past two years Americans have watched news video of New Yorkers being sucker-punched, attacked with clubs, knives and guns on crowded streets in broad daylight.  The rapes and beatings in subway cars, stairwells and parks…commuters pushed in front of subway trains….and folks being carjacked and occasionally killed by groups of thugs, including teenagers, must have helped tip the scales in favor of Adams.   After he took office, while crime continued to escalate in his city, Adams waited two and a half months to actually put a watered-down version of the promised unit back on the streets.  This time the officers would be in uniform, and there would be no stop, question and frisking of suspects.  In today’s environment, gang members will spot these officers and tweet their location to their colleagues.  Probably on stolen smartphones.

Continue reading . . .

What’s a Woman?

As has been widely reported, Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was asked at her confirmation hearing if she “could provide a definition for the word ’woman.’”

“No, I can’t,” she eventually said. “Not in this context. I’m not a biologist.”

What to make of this?

Continue reading . . .

Compassionate release and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic: New USSC report

A recent publication by the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) describes trends in federal compassionate release decisions during fiscal year 2020. It includes detailed information about offenders who received compassionate release, the nature of relief received, and reasons behind court decisions to grant or deny compassionate release motions. The report focuses on federal compassionate release decisions that occurred during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic and is not reflective of 2021 or 2022 trends. This report builds from previous USSC reports, including the First Step Act Year One Report and the Compassionate Release Data Report.

Continue reading . . .

Clergy in the Chamber

In 2004, Pablo Castro, working the night shift at a convenience store in Corpus Christi, was brutally stabbed to death by a robber seeking drug money. John Ramirez stabbed Mr. Castro 29 times. He and his cohorts netted $1.25 from Mr. Castro’s pockets as he lay bleeding to death in the store parking lot.

The U.S. Supreme Court today decided that the murderer can further delay his well deserved and long overdue execution by litigating a dubious claim regarding the state’s refusal to allow his pastor to touch him and audibly pray over his while he is being executed.

There is a sign of hope in that the decision depends a lot on the specifics of the procedure in this case. States may have the capacity to avoid stays of execution in the future. Continue reading . . .

Regulating Away Justice

For almost a year now, the administration of California Governor Gavin Newsom has been promulgating and enforcing “emergency” regulations that expand the “good behavior” credits of violent felons. A California “truth in sentencing” statute, like many in the country, limits such credits to 15%. Newsom’s regulations hand them out at more than double this rate, 33.3%.

The administration claims that they are authorized to ignore the law by Proposition 57, an initiative that was sold to the people on the promise that it would remove nonviolent felons from prisons cells to ensure they remained available for the violent ones. CJLF and many others disagree that the proposition gives them this authority. See prior posts here and here.

The latest outrage in the series is the third adoption of substantially the same regulation as an “emergency.” Continue reading . . .