Friday, March 29, 2013

Should Strict Liability for Knowledge of Possession be Enough for a Conviction?

On March 15th, 2013, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in Commonwealth v. Romero[1] that the driver of a vehicle, who knew a passenger had possession of a firearm, could not be held criminally liable based on the driver’s knowledge alone.  In Romero, the defendant was charged with possession of a firearm and a jury found him guilty.  However, the defendant did not have physical possession of the firearm.  The firearm was physically possessed by a passenger in the defendant’s vehicle.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Elmo Puppeteer Charged with Fourth Underage Sex Accusation

On March 19, 2013, Kevin Clash, most famously known for his role as Elmo’s Puppeteer, has been charged with his fourth underage sex accusation.  Since the allegations arose, Clash has resigned from his role as Elmo’s Puppeteer.[1] Clash is accused by Sheldon Stephens, 24, of “baiting him into an X-rated affair fueled by crystal meth when he was just 16.”[2] Stephens claims that Clash sent chauffeurs to deliver Stephens from his home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to New York for crystal meth sex parties.  Stephens’ lawsuit accuses Clash of sexual battery for child sexual abuse, travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, and coercion and enticement to sexual activity.[3]  The suit states, “While in the apartment, Clash smoked crystal meth while engaging in sexual activity with Sheldon.  Clash also gave Sheldon ‘poppers’ as a sexual aide. While Clash had sexual contact with Sheldon, the chauffer watched and masturbated.”[4]

Friday, March 22, 2013

Are Mandatory Minimums Really a Thing of the Past?

Snitch[1], a movie dealing with mandatory minimum sentencing was released on the big screen last month.  The movie was based on true events surrounding the lives of James Settembrino[2] and his son Joey Settembrino[3].  The movie depicts a situation where eighteen year old Jason Matthew was an unwilling participant in a drug operation.  Jason’s friend set him up by sending him a large amount of illegal drugs through the mail.  When Jason retrieved the package he was arrested and charged with the distribution of narcotics.  Jason was facing up to thirty years in prison.  John Matthews, Jason’s father, agreed to become a snitch and set up drug dealers for the government in order to reduce his son’s sentence.  While the movie arguably involved bad acting and a poor portrayal of our criminal justice system, it did create a platform for the discussion of mandatory minimum sentencing.

Monday, March 18, 2013

50 Isn’t the Only Number to Watch: How the Federal Sequester Will Affect Gideon’s Right to Counsel

Fifty years ago today, Gideon v. Wainwright announced a right to counsel as a reflection of a consensus of the States that regardless of economic status representation was a fundamental right under the Sixth Amendment.  Now, with Congress on the brink of solidifying major budget cuts across all federal agencies, the very right that Gideon created is in greater jeopardy than ever before.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Reigniting the Gun Control Debate: Senator Feinstein's 2013 Assault Weapons Ban

On Thursday January 24, 2013, democratic California Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013.  The ban was introduced shortly after the devastating Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newton Connecticut where twenty children and six adult staff members were murdered by an assailant who entered the school armed with two semiautomatic pistols and a semiautomatic rifle.  Following several past mass shootings such as the Virginia Tech in 2007, and the Aurora, Colorado movie theatre massacre in 2012, the Sandy Hook tragedy reignited a national debate on gun control.  Feinstein, who herself became San Francisco’s mayor in 1978 after her predecessor was shot and killed, has a long history of fighting against gun violence.

Violence Against Women Act and Its Impact on Immigrant Women

On February 28, 2013, Congress passed the bill to renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA is the federal law providing legal protection and services to protect women, and some men from domestic and sexual violence. Prior to the enactment of VAWA in 1994, there were no legal protections for domestic violence victims. Women were treated as property of men and courts often mishandled the domestic violence cases. It was not until the 1970s that the United States began to recognize domestic violence as a significant social problem. By the late 1970s, a number of shelters for batter women were built nationwide. Finally, in 1994, under the leadership of Vice President Joseph Biden (at the time a U.S. Senator D-Del.), Congress passed VAWA. Since then, VAWA has been renewed twice without controversy in 2000 and again in 2005. VAWA has made substantial progress in addressing domestic violence issues. It created a shift in the perception of domestic violence in the United States.[1] It has “improved the criminal justice response to violence against women” and has “ensured that victims and their families have access to the services.”[2] Despite the progress 1994 VAWA has made, domestic violence has remained a serious societal problem and many scholars called for stronger protection to target multiple areas in need of improvement.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Should United States v. Jones Affect Law Enforcement’s Use of Automatic License Plate Recognition Readers?

In United States v. Jones,[1] the United States Supreme Court held that the physical attachment of a Global Positioning System[2] (GPS) tracking device on a vehicle constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment[3]of the United States Constitution.  This decision has left law enforcement questioning the policies and procedures they can employ when utilizing technology to track and store information on individuals suspected of criminal conduct.  The reality is that technology is constantly changing.  Law enforcement needs to be able to change and adapt to the technology in order to use the technology to enhance the investigation of criminal activity.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Roughing the Partner: Athletes and Violence Against Women

It is estimated that nearly twenty-five percent of all women will be victims of domestic violence during their life.  Domestic Violence is defined as “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another.”[1]  While domestic violence impacts all types of couples, relationships involving professional athletes appear to have increased rates of domestic violence.  According to the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes, in the late 1990’s, 8.5% of the general population was charged with assault, while the number was nearly 36.8% for athletes.[2]  We hear of these cases all the time in the news.  In late 2012, Jovan Belcher, an NFL player for the Kansas City Chiefs, committed suicide after he shot and killed Kasandra Perkins, his girlfriend and mother of his infant daughter.[3]  Brandon Marshall, a wide receiver for the Denver Broncos has been involved in several domestic violence incidents––police have been called to his home on at least eight separate occasions for domestic violence.[4]  Marshall has also been charged with assaulting a woman at a nightclub in New York.  Manny Ramirez, once one of the Major League Baseball’s stars, was arrested for battery after hitting his wife.[5]  These are just a few examples of hundreds.