Friday, March 30, 2012

Lafler v. Cooper: SCOTUS Extends the Constitutional Right of Effective Assistance of Counsel

On Wednesday, March 21, 2012 Justice Kennedy announced the Court’s 5-4 decision in the case of Lafler v. Cooper.  The majority opinion dictated the proper procedure for defendants to challenge their assistance of counsel as ineffective when it leads to the rejection of an otherwise favorable plea offer.  The Court found that in this case, defense counsel’s advice to the defendant to reject the plea offer, which counsel based on an incorrect interpretation of the law, unconstitutionally prejudiced the defendant because he was denied the more favorable sentence with his rejection of the plea offer.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

SCOTUS Recognizes Constitutional Right to a Plea Bargain: Missouri v. Frye

On Wednesday, March 21, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Missouri v. Frye, holding that the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel extends to the consideration of plea offers that lapse or are rejected.  Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, which was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.  Justice Scalia wrote the dissenting opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Thomas and Alito.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Can the Criminal Justice System Protect Victims of Domestic Violence?

Heather Lynn McGuire, a thirty-six-year-old mother of Rockville, Maryland, presumably did everything according to the law to protect herself from her estranged husband Phillip Joseph Gilberti, a fifty-one-year-old former professional boxer originally from Kensington, Maryland.   However, on March 13, 2012, Gilberti killed McGuire, when he shot her in the back of the head and dumped her out onto Connecticut Avenue in Kensington, Montgomery County, Maryland according to witnesses interviewed at the scene by Montgomery County Police.  This alleged murder was caught on video from the Shell Gas station surveillance camera.  A manhunt then began for Gilberti, who had quite an extensive criminal history since 1984 which included attempted murder, assaults, and drugs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Is Stand Your Ground a License to Kill?

George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012. Trayvon, a seventeen-year-old high school junior, was visiting his father, who lives in the same neighborhood as Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida.  On the walk back from 7-Eleven after buying Skittles and iced tea for himself and his younger brother, he encountered Zimmerman.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

U.S. Soldier Accused of Afghan Killings Brought Home: Conflicting Accounts of His Character Emerge

U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
On Friday, March 16, 2012, Robert Bales, the U.S. soldier accused of killing sixteen Afghan civilians on March 11, 2012, was flown from Kuwait to the military’s only maximum-security prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  Although Bales is now in the U.S., where he is being held in pre-trial detention, his military tribunal proceedings may take place in Afghanistan.  However, the Afghan government has demanded that Bales be tried in an Afghan tribunal.  If Bales is convicted he could receive the death penalty, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Is "Glitter-Bombing" Criminal Assault?

Over the past few years, marriage equality activists have conjured a new form of protest known as “glitter-bombing.”  To protest the lack of equal rights for LGBT individuals, some activists employed the novel tactic of showering homophobic politicians with pink or rainbow-colored glitter.  Recent victims of glitter-bombing have included Republican candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul.  Prominent supporters of gay rights, including Senator Joe Lieberman and writer Dan Savage, have also been glitter-bombed because some LGBT activists felt that their support for the cause does not go far enough.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Guilty Verdict Gets Justice for Twenty-Six Year Old Murder

Stephanie Lazarus, a Los Angeles Police Department veteran was accused of the February 24, 1986, beating and murder of Sherri Rasmussen, a nurse who had married Lazarus’ old boyfriend.  The facts of the case resembled a soap opera mixed in with Law and Order episode where the twenty-six year old love triangle has faced the Downtown Los Angeles in Judge Robert Perry’s courtroom.  Trial began on Monday, February 6, 2012, and closing arguments were not given until Monday, March 5.  On Thursday, March 8, the jury returned a returned a guilty verdict for first degree murder.  Lazarus now faces life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after about fourteen years.  Sentencing is scheduled for May 4, 2012.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Did a Second Gunman Really Shoot RFK?

On February 1, 2012, attorneys for Sirhan Sirhan, the man convicted of assassinating Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) in 1968, filed documents in federal court requesting either his outright release from prison, or a new trial.  This request was based on new evidence indicating that a second shooter was at the scene of RFK’s assassination, and that Sirhan never actually shot the presidential candidate.  Further, they alleged that the prosecution did not rely on plausible physical evidence because Sirhan was apprehended while shooting at RFK, and his case was biased because “all credible accounts” named Sirhan the killer.  In all, Sirhan was charged and convicted of murder and five counts of attempted murder. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Tribal Law and Order Act: A Step in the Right Direction

On July 29, 2010, President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) into law.  The TLOA addresses several issues tribes were dealing with in criminal law.  These issues range from domestic violence against American Indian women to allowing tribes the ability to sentence offenders for longer periods of time.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Freedom of Press or a Battle Against Espionage

On February 23, charges were brought against Private Bradley Manning among which was the charge of “aiding the enemy,” an offense that could bring the death penalty if convicted.  Manning is accused of providing at least ten thousand confidential military documents and videos to the organization WikiLeaks, which WikiLeaks then published on its website for public viewing.  Among the many materials that Manning is accused of leaking, is a highly controversial video from July 2007, which shows an American military attack in Iraq that resulted in numerous Iraqi civilian deaths.