Monthly Archive: November 2022

Missouri Executes Cop Killer

A Missouri felon, who executed a St. Louis police officer in 2005, was put to death by lethal injection yesterday.  Jim Salter of the Associated Press reports that the state Supreme Court had twice denied to stay Kevin Johnson’s execution and the Governor refused to grant him clemency.   Johnson was on probation for beating his girlfriend when on July 5 police officers, including Sergent William McEntee, came to his house to investigate the ownership of a vehicle he allegedly possessed.  As officers approached the house Johnson told his 12-year-old brother to run next door to his grandmother’s home.  Facts presented in the Missouri Supreme Court’s 2013 decision denying habeas corpus relief indicate that once the brother, who had congenital hear disease, got next door he had a seizure and died later in the hospital.  While officers attended to the boy and called an ambulance, McEntee kept the grandmother from entering the house.  The officers eventually left the neighborhood, but hours later Sergent McEntee returned to investigate a report of illegal fireworks.  As he was in his patrol car talking to some teens, Johnson approached saying. “you killed my brother’ and shot McEntee five times.

Continue reading . . .

The Influence of Crime on the Midterm Election

A review of the post-mortems from the November 8th midterm elections indicate that many were surprised by the outcome.  Most polls got it wrong.  The wailing by liberal pundits in the weeks prior to the election suggested that they were afraid voters were ready to put Republicans in charge of Congress and many state houses in response to inflation, crime, immigration and general dissatisfaction with the direction of the country under Democrat management.  With the exception of a handful of contests, this did not happen.  I was among those who felt that the issue of crime, in particular, was going to induce voters to cross political lines to pic candidates pledging to stop the violence, theft and squalor that currently defines many parts of America.   Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald evaluates the voters response to crime with this piece in the City Journal.

Continue reading . . .

Recusing the District Attorney’s Office

Can an entire district attorney’s office be recused from a criminal case on the basis of a campaign fund-raising letter that calls the defund-the-police movement “wacky” and opposes “anarchist groups”? I would think that opposing anarchy is a job requirement for a district attorney, not a disqualification.

Does it matter if the district attorney has appeared in forums where other people said critical things about a group the defendants are affiliated with? I would not think so. But surprisingly, the Superior Court for San Luis Obispo County, California, recused the DA on just such grounds, and the Court of Appeal affirmed. CJLF today filed an amicus curiae letter brief supporting the DA’s petition for review in the California Supreme Court. Continue reading . . .

Comparing nationwide violent crime estimates: Summary-based vs. incident-based reporting

The FBI released official 2021 crime statistics last month, but the data leaves major gaps in our understanding of national-level crime rates. Unfortunately, the numbers are incomplete this year because 36% of U.S. law enforcement agencies, some of them major cities, failed to submit their crime reports. This is largely because the FBI made major changes to the way that it collects crime data, making the submission process much more complicated. Rather than following the arduous process, many agencies simply declined to participate in last year’s data collection. In comparison, 2020 crime statistics included data from 85% of U.S. law enforcement agencies.

This post briefly reviews agency participation rates and discusses what that means for our current understanding of national-level crime. Then, using data from the years 2017-2020 (all of the years for which data from both systems are available),  I examine whether the two systems produce similar violent crime estimates. Continue reading . . .

DC Passes Revised Penal Code

The Washington DC City Council has unanimously passed a bill rewriting the district’s 100-year-old criminal code, as reported by Matt Pusatory and Jess Arnold of CBS News.  Supporters said that the change was “long overdue.”  Among the revisions will be the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences and enactment of early sentence review, for offenders sentenced under previous law.  The bill would also reclassify all crimes, for example; distinguishing robbery from armed robbery.  It also gives the right to a jury trial to misdemeanor defendants.  This would overwhelm the district’s court system, putting pressure on prosecutors and judges to plea bargain.  Commenting on the elimination of mandatory minimums, Councilmember Charles Allen, the head of panel which adopted the bill said, “In regards to mandatory minimums….they frequently just tie the hands of judges and juries, and treat all victims as if they were the same.”  Apparently Mr. Allen believes that convicted criminals are victims.  It is not clear that DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has been criticized for DC’s 18-year high in homicides and other violent crimes, will sign a bill reducing sentences.  The problem Bowser faces was highlighted hours before the bill passed last Tuesday, as ex-con Kelvin Blowe, who advocated for the shorter sentences, was fatally shot on his way home from work, as reported by Fox News.

Alabama Execution Update

Alabama hit man Kenneth Eugene Smith got a (hopefully brief) respite from his execution yesterday. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit granted a stay on a different issue than the one noted in this post. The Supreme Court vacated the stay, three Justices dissenting, but the warrant expired at midnight, and the execution team was not able to find a suitable vein in that time.

Execution warrants that are good for one calendar day only are an old tradition, but there is no need for such a limitation. In an era where many judges are prone to issue last-minute stays, whether they are legally justified or not, a one-day window needlessly changes quickly reversed stays into longer ones in practice, as the date-setting machinery must be restarted. This is also very stressful for victims’ families, who often travel to the execution site believing that they are finally going to see long-overdue justice done, only to have it snatched away at the last minute.

States are gradually doing away with the one-day rule. California has a 10-day window, enacted by initiative. Continue reading . . .

A Bad Week For Murderers

This is a bad week for murderers. I previously noted that the Supreme Court turned down the stay application of Alabama hired hit man Kenneth Smith. He is scheduled for execution at 6:00 p.m. CST. This morning Oklahoma executed Richard Fairchild for the torture and murder of a 3-year-old boy. AP story here; Supreme Court denial here.

Yesterday Arizona executed double murderer Murray Hooper. AP story here. Supreme Court denials here and here.

Also yesterday, Texas executed Stephen Barbee for the murders of his pregnant ex-girlfriend and her 7-year-old son. AP reports: Continue reading . . .

Philly District Attorney Larry Krasner Impeached

The Pennsylvania House has voted 107-85 to impeach Soros-bankrolled Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.  With Krasner running the District Attorney’s office,  homicides, violent crime and carjackings have reached historic levels, exceeding those of much larger cities including New York and Los Angeles.  The Washington Post reports that the impeachment now moves to a trial in the state Senate.  Krasner, a progressive reformer who brags about fewer arrests and convictions on his website, responded to the impeachment saying, “it shows how far toward fascism the Republican party is creeping.”  Both the PA House and Senate have Republican majorities.