There are many prejudicial effects that a criminal defendant can encounter throughout his proceedings. One of the most prejudicial effects, and currently in hot contest, revolves around eyewitness identifications. In-court identifications are very prejudicial and detrimental to a defendant's case, but there are also problems with any extra-judicial identification procedures. Many jurisdictions are now taking measures to heighten the accuracy of identification procedures, but this still might not be enough to outweigh the innate obstacles that come with eyewitness identification. This issue has been on the back burner of the judicial system since the early 1900’s. As early as 1907, Hugo Munsterberg published “On the Witness Stand,” where he questioned the reliability of eyewitness identification. Yale Professor Edwin Borchard later wrote “Convicting the Innocent,” after he studied sixty five wrongful conviction cases and found that eyewitness misidentification was the leading cause of wrongful convictions. Now it is finally time to bring the issue into the spotlight.
Friday, March 7, 2014
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
On February 15th, 2014, news reports announced that a panel of Florida jurors found Michael Dunn guilty on three charges of attempted second-degree murder, and one count of firing a weapon into a vehicle. These charges stemmed from a November 2012 altercation over loud music between Dunn and four teenagers at a local Jacksonville convenience store that left seventeen year-old Jordan Davis dead. During the verbal exchange, Dunn saw what he believed to be a weapon. He brandished a handgun from his car’s glove compartment and fired ten shots, nine of which hit the vehicle containing Tevin Thompson, Leland Brunson, Tommy Stornes, and Jordan Davis. Of the nine shots that hit the car, three hit Davis. Officers later discovered that the teenagers were unarmed.
Friday, February 28, 2014
In a February statement by the United States Attorney General Eric Holder, he decided to announce a new push by the Department of Justice to fight state laws that restrict the voting privileges of convicted felons. In doing so, he stated that “By perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated individuals, these laws increase the likelihood [that felons] will commit future offenses.” He went on to attack such laws on the basis of their disproportionate effect on minority communities that they impose, presuming higher rates of convicted felons in minority communites, and the nature of the laws as being of an additional punishment levied on felons who have already served their due sentence. While these arguments appear facially valid, whether or not they could withstand legal challenge as a reason for why such laws should be repealed still stands to be seen.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
It has been now a few months since the world learned that political appointees in the administration of Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) likely ordered the closure of driving lanes on the George Washington Memorial Bridge. The emails between senior aides indicate that the closures may have been retribution directed towards the Mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey for failing to endorse Christie in his 2013 re-election campaign. There has also been claims made that relief aid from Hurricane Sandy was used a means to coax political support. Similarly, the indictment against former Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) and his wife paints a similar picture. If one accepts the Department of Justice’s version of events, the McDonnell’s were the protagonists who, by virtue of McDonnell’s ascent to the Governorship, communicated that lavish gifts and donations would have payoffs.
Friday, February 21, 2014
Sam Sung Like a Canary: What Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie Mean For Digital Privacy Rights
“Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead.” Benjamin Franklin’s famous idiom, in essence, alludes to the fact that our most intimate secrets may never be safe in the hands of another. In the age of the “Digital Revolution,” however, is our intimate information really safe in our own hands? 91% of adult American’s own cell phones today, and as the technology becomes more sophisticated, so does our use of it. Thumbing through our phones is no longer about a list of names and numbers, it has evolved into much more sensitive information. Our phones have become an extension of ourselves and contain information including emails, photos, and GPS data. Consequently, modern technology has courts struggling to apply a search-incident-to-arrest jurisprudence that was developed before the dawn of the digital era to the question of whether the Fourth Amendment permits warrantless searches of data on a cell phone seized from an individual. Accordingly, the Supreme Court has granted certiorari in a set of pivotal constitutional privacy rights cases.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
The Super Bowl draws approximately 150 million viewers, making it the most watched program on American television each year. Due to this expansive viewership, a 30-second national advertisement can cost as much as $4 million. Many large companies, like Budweiser and T-Mobile, run more than one commercial in an effort to reach as many viewers as possible. However, not all ads that run during the Super Bowl are funded by multimillion-dollar corporations. Many time slots are filled by local companies looking to advertise regionally without the extreme costs of a national airing.
Friday, February 14, 2014
In 2009, computer programmer Satoshi Nakamoto created an open source peer-to-peer digital currency known as “Bitcoin.” As such, Bitcoin has no physical manifestation and removes the need for third-party intermediaries (e.g., PayPal or Visa). In addition, because it is peer-to-peer, its controlling computer code is open to public view. However, the unique feature of Bitcoin is that it is the world’s first completely decentralized digital-payments system, meaning that no government or central authority has control over Bitcoin. Businesses and venture capitalists have both taken notice of the potential promise of Bitcoin, and so too have criminals.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
No Cheating Allowed: Prince George’s County Adopts the Double-Blind Method of Eyewitness Photo Identification
On February 9, 2014, the Prince George’s County Police Department (MD) announced that it will start conducting photo lineups using the “double-blind” method. The new changes will require police officers to institute two safeguards when showing eyewitnesses a photo lineup: (1) police officers must show the witness the photos one at a time, rather than all at once; and (2) the police officer showing the photos must be unfamiliar with the case. The change is part of an effort to minimize false identifications and subsequently, wrongful convictions. The accuracy of photo lineups has been a hot topic over the past decade as DNA evidence has been used more frequently to overturn convictions. A recent study by the innocence project found that eyewitness misidentification plays a role in over 75% of convictions overturned by DNA testing, making it the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide.