Monday, February 27, 2012

A Case in Statutory Interpretation: The Supreme Court Interprets the Federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act

In July of 2006, the Federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (Act) was signed into law.  This Act was a result of attempts to make a previous “patchwork of pre-Act federal and 50 state registration systems” more uniform and effective.  The Act makes it a crime for a person who is required to register under the Act as a sex offender to knowingly “fail[] to register or update [his or her] registration.”  However, the Act also specifies that “the Attorney General shall have the authority to specify the applicability of the requirements” to pre-Act sex offenders.  In February 2007, the Attorney General made the Act’s registration requirements applicable to pre-Act offenders via an interim rule.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Back to Basics: Police Officers Do Not Have to Mirandize Inmates in Jailhouse Interviews, Says SCOTUS

On Tuesday, February 21, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in Homes v. Fields that police officers do not have to read the Miranda rights to inmates already incarcerated during jailhouse interviews for crimes unrelated to their incarceration.  Incidentally, the decision comes after the Court declined to establish a bright-line rule “for determining the applicability of Miranda in prisons,” the ruling it gave in Maryland v. Shatzer (2010).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Robo-Signing Settlement Leaves Questions of Criminal Liability for Banks

On February 9, 2012 the Obama Administration and forty-nine state prosecutors struck a $25 billion agreement with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers to address mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure abuses.  The announcement presages potential relief for some Americans whose mortgages are now underwater or are facing foreclosure.  Under the Agreement, forty-nine states (the lone hold-out is Oklahoma) agreed not to pursue civil charges against the banks related these types of issues.  In return for immunity from civil charges from the states, five major banks—Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Ally Financial—will reduce loans for nearly one million households.  Issues regarding criminal liability have yet to be dealt with.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Virginia Legislature Favors Pretextual Police Stops Over Fourth Amendment Rights to Weed Out Illegal Immigrants

On Friday, February 10, 2012, Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly won another battle in the war against illegal immigration, pushing House Bill Number 1060 (Bill) through the House Committee for Courts of Justice.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bronx Killing Shines a Light on Police Brutality

The Bronx has long been infamous for the widespread enmity between its residents and the New York Police Department (NYPD).  The borough of 1,400,000 mostly Latino and African-American inhabitants has the highest rates of unemployment, poverty, crime, and arrests of any in New York City.  Since February 2, 2012, officer from the Narcotics Division shot and killed eighteen-year-old Rahmarley Graham, relations between Bronx residents and their Police Department have sunk to a new low.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Governor Haley Barbour’s Pardons: Reason to Change the Pardon Power?

During his last day in office as Governor of Mississippi, on January 10, 2012, Haley Barbour pardoned over two hundred convicted criminals, with most receiving a “full, complete, and unconditional” pardon, effectively wiping their records clean.  While it is not unusual for governors and the President to exercise their pardon power as they leave office, Governor Barbour’s decisions sparked controversy.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Marine Accused of Murdering Six Raises Questions Regarding Court’s Treatment of Combat-Induced Mental Illness

Izcoatl Ocampo, an ex-marine, is  currently charged and in custody for the brutal murders of four homeless men, and now faces additional charges in connection with the killings of fifty-three-year-old Raquel Estrada and her thirty-four-year-old son, Juan Herrera.  Orange County, California authorities reported that Estrada was stabbed over thirty times and Juan Herrera over sixty times on October 25, 2011.  Although authorities have provided no information on any evidence against Ocampo, investigators are confident that they have the man responsible for all six murders only because circumstances suggest that the murderer(s) used a similar murder weapon and technique on all six of these victims.  The minimum sentence if convicted is life in prison without parole and Orange County District Attorney, Tony Rackauckas, is considering the death penalty.  However, charging an ex-marine who could be suffering from a mental illness related to his time in combat with the death penalty seems fundamentally unjust.  Further research into post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other combat-related psychological trauma demonstrates that the court system agrees and opts to take contextual evidence that suggests this altered mental state into account when a defendant has a history with the military.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Does John Hinckley Still Pose a Threat to Society?

In January 2012, Judge Paul Friedman presided over hearings to determine whether to grant John Hinckley extended furloughs from St. Elizabeth’s Psychiatric Hospital, where he has been committed for the past thirty years.  Hinckley’s counsel petitioned Judge Friedman to grant two seventeen-day furloughs, and then six furloughs of twenty-four days to his mother’s home in Williamsburg, Virginia, with convalescence leave upon the completion thereof.  Federal prosecutors challenged the petition, arguing that Hinckley remains a threat to society and his furlough privileges should not be expanded.