Friday, April 27, 2012

Justice for Sierra Leone: Charles Taylor Guilty Verdict is Announced by International High Court

After hearing nearly four years of argument and witness testimony, the Special Court for Sierra Leone at The Hague has handed down a guilty verdict in the Charles Ghankay Taylor trial.  Taylor, former President of Liberia, was charged with eleven counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law that included rape, murder, terrorizing civilians, looting, sexual slavery, mutilating and beating, enslavement, and recruiting and using child soldiers.  The judges found Taylor unanimously guilty on all charges on the grounds that that he knowingly aided and abetted activities with the Revolutionary United Front and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, both of which contributed to the rebel forces in Sierra Leone form November 30, 1996 to January 18, 2002.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Threats Against the President: Is Ted Nugent a “True Threat?”

At the National Rifle Association (NRA) Convention on April 14, Ted Nugent made this statement: “If Barack Obama becomes the President in November, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” This is not the first time Nugent has made inflammatory remarks about the President.  He  also compared President Obama to coyotes that need to be shot, and mentioned that people should “ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.”  The Secret Service investigated each of these statements and declined to arrest him, stating the situation had been resolved.

Monday, April 23, 2012

An Unusual Bond Hearing: George Zimmerman Released on Bond, but was His Attorney Prepping the Public?

On Friday, April 20, 2012, George Zimmerman, charged with the second-degree murder of seventeen year old Trayvon Martin, appeared in court where Judge Kenneth R. Lester Jr. allowed Zimmerman to temporarily regain his freedom while he awaits his trial, by setting his bond at $150,000.  Zimmerman could be out of jail by as early as the middle of next week.  To make matters worse for Martin’s family, Zimmerman also decided to make an apology to the victim’s family.  However, it was the nature of the bond hearing and Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, which stole the show. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Norway Killer, Anders Behring Breivik, Claims Self Defense at Trial Due to Last Ten Weeks

On July 22, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik first set off a car bomb outside the government buildings in Oslo, Norway, killing eight people.  Breivik then traveled to the small island of Utoya northwest of the capital where he spent more than an hour methodically shooting and killing another sixty-nine people, mostly teenagers.  Breivik has admitted to the killings but plans to argue self-defense at trial which was scheduled to begin April 16, 2012.  Breivik has written according to his attorney, Geir Lippestad, a written presentation that will take an hour.  Breivik handed his lawyers a copy of the presentation, which runs more than 8,000 words.  His trial is expected to last ten weeks.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Letting Life Spring from Death Row: Should Death Row Inmates Be Allowed to Donate Their Organs?

Eighteen people die each day waiting for an organ donation, and the organs of just one person are enough to save up to eight lives.  Yet, no state, nor the Federal Bureau of Prisons, permits a death row inmate to donate his or her organs upon death.  The current laws only allow living organ donations to members of the immediate family, with all costs carried by the inmate’s family.  Any donor order signed by inmate while incarcerated for general posthumous organ donation is deemed unenforceable.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Trial Set of Begin: Should We Just Skip to the End?

On April 4, 2012, the Pentagon cleared the way for the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to proceed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  By now, the general public is aware that Mohammed and his four indicted co-conspirators were primary planners of the September Eleventh attacks that resulted in nearly three thousand civilian deaths.  Prosecutors have stated their intentions to pursue the death penalty, which based on the great deal of adverse evidence, is all but a forgone conclusion.  Yet, it has been a painstaking process to reach this point.  The process has been plagued with legal and political turbulence because of the polarizing questions of the role of military commissions, presidential power to establish such commissions, jurisdiction of the courts, and the procedural protections afforded to defendants.  Mohammed’s trial likely will lead to subsequent appeals that could delay any finality for an indeterminate number of years.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Fashion Within Criminal Defendants: A Ploy to Distract Jurors

Criminal defendants facing jury trials are known to be allowed to dress formally and leave their jumpsuits and handcuffs aside to avoid prejudice from the jury and look more professional.  It seems that criminal defendants are now seeking new fashion statements to elicit a new perception from jurors.  The Washington Post reported that the new strategic attire for defendants is non-prescription glasses.  This new trend has been clearly demonstrated in the 2010 South Capitol Street murder case.  Five defendants are charged with murder armed with aggravating circumstances, felony murder while armed with aggravating circumstances, and assault with intent to kill while armed, and they all happen to wear glasses; a coincidence or a strategy to gain compassion from the jurors.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

DOJ and SEC Step Up Enforcement of Subprime Fraud

Following the subprime mortgage meltdown, an issue repeatedly raised by commentators and the public at large is the Administration’s lack of prosecutions of high-ranking members of the financial sector.  The key question seems to be whether the government will be able to hold any of the major players in America’s financial institutions responsible for a financial crisis cause in part by reckless lending and excessive risk taking by major financial institutions.   60 Minutes did an excellent report on the topic in December 2011 that you can watch here.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

John Gotti: The Twenty-Year Anniversary of His Infamous 1992 Trial

Twenty years ago today, John J. Gotti was convicted for violations of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in connection with five murders, and several other crimes.  Known as the Dapper Don, Gotti presided over the largest crime family in the United States, which generated an estimated $500 million per year.  The highlight of this case was when the former Gambino underboss, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, decided to turn state’s evidence and take the stand against Gotti.  His powerful testimony implicated Gotti in numerous murders, most notably the murder of former Gambino head Paul Castellano, and former underboss Thomas Bilotti in 1985 outside Sparks Steakhouse in Manhattan, New York.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda: Evidence of Susan Powell’s Abusive Husband Raises Questions Regarding 2009 Police Investigation

Court documents unsealed last Friday, March 30, revealed previously unreported details regarding the investigation behind Susan Powell’s mysterious disappearance nearly three years ago.  The unsolved case re-entered public consciousness after her husband—the leading suspect in the police’s investigation—killed himself and his two sons in a tragic murder-suicide this past February.  Authorities say Josh Powell snatched the two boys—Braden and Charlie—from a social worker, who was delivering them for a supervised visit.  He then locked the doors and killed them and himself moments before his home exploded.