Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Innocent v. Exonerated: A World of Difference

Haynesworth and his legal counsel
when he was released from jail
When most of us walk or drive to the grocery store, we go with the expectation that once we pick up what we need: eggs, fruit, milk, etc., we will then return home.  Returning home for most of us is likely more of a routine rather than an expectation.  On Sunday morning, February 5, 1984, eighteen-year-old Thomas Haynesworth, was on his way to the Trio Supermarket to pick up some bread and sweet potatoes for his mother.  Before reaching the supermarket, Haynesworth was stopped and questioned by law enforcement regarding a recent rape.  Haynesworth had never been arrested; however, on this day, he was mistakenly identified by a rape victim as her assailant.  He did not return home that day.

Monday, November 21, 2011

New Sentencing Measures Make for a Positive First Step to Correcting Cocaine Conviction Disparities and Prison Overcrowding

The nation's prison systems are in drastic need of reform. Many prisons have swelled well beyond capacity, which places a heavy burden on the inmates, prison officials, and the general public alike. Part of this problem is due to the harsh consequences that stem from crack cocaine convictions under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 (the “Act”). The Act was a sweeping piece of legislation that was pushed as a part of the “War on Drugs,” and completely reshaped drug enforcement policy in the United States. One principal component of the Act was that it prescribed minimum sentences for certain types of first time drug offenses.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Penn State Scandal: Why is the legend of a football coach the heartbreak?

With the recent Penn State scandal, Joe Paterno and his position as head coach has been called the heartbreak because of the legend he created. Some have chosen to focus more on how it was devastating to see Paterno fired than the acts committed by Jerry Sandusky and the failure to report it by Paterno. Outraged by Paterno’s dismissal, Penn State students rioted the streets. A Penn State student stated, “Joe’s leaving is the biggest heartbreak to PSU,” while another insisted, “Paterno should at least be able to finish out the season.” – The News Record.

Monday, November 14, 2011

NYPD Misconduct and the Effects on the Bronx Criminal Justice System

The Wall Street Journal reported that in 2010 the conviction rate in Bronx, New York, was a mere 48%. This statistic pales in comparison to the other New York boroughs, such as Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan that have at least a 70% conviction rate. Some attribute this low percentage to the high arrest rates in the Bronx. Anthony Schepis, an executive assistant district attorney for Bronx County attempts to defend the efforts of him and his fellow prosecutors by stating that the conviction rate is near 90% when plea bargains are factored in. Conversely, defense attorneys argue that it is difficult to overlook the high tensions between the police and the Bronx community. Some defense attorneys even factor this brittle relationship in their closing arguments, asserting that the police cannot be trusted. Academics have referred to this phenomenon, as “The Bronx Jury” or the “The Bronx Effect.” The glaring mistrust of the police is a real driving factor behind this high acquittal rate.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Banning Ex-Cons from Jobs: Acceptable Employment Practice or Civil Rights Violation?

More than 90% of all employers conduct criminal background checks on applicants as reported in Michigan Law Journal. While the law does not prohibit an employer from inquiring about or even requiring information on convictions, the way this information is used can still be illegal. Many believe that applicants who have criminal convictions cannot be hired for jobs. This is entirely false. In most cases an outright ban of applicants with criminal convictions will not be upheld in court. An employer cannot use a conviction to bar someone from employment unless the conviction is for a crime that is directly related to the position’s duties. For example, a financial institution may bar individuals with embezzlement convictions from employment. However, they would not be able to justify barring individuals with marijuana possession convictions because it is not directly related to the duties of the position.