Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Downside of Being a Celebrity Prisoner: Protective Custody and its Relation to Solitary Confinement

Aaron Hernandez
On June 27, 2013, former Patriots tight-end Aaron Hernandez was denied bail in his upcoming trial for the murder of Odin Lloyd.  Until his verdict and sentencing, or alternatively a lower bail order from the judge, Hernandez will be confined in a Massachusetts state prison.  For the everyday citizen, this may seem purely procedural.  The accused is taken from the court room to the holding center, where he is then processed and booked.  Most prisoners are then entered into the general population where they await trial.  For Hernandez, a well-known football player with the New England Patriot, the situation is very different.

Friday, July 19, 2013

No Money? No Freedom

On July 16, 2013, nineteen year-old Justin Carter will have his day in court.  But roughly five months ago, the teen was arrested and charged with making a terroristic threat on his Facebook page. He has been in jail ever since.  Carter’s nightmare started when another player in the Facebook game “League of Legends” called Carter “crazy.”  Carter responded with what he believed to be a humorous and witty retort, “I’m f***ed in the head alright.  I think I’ma [sic] shoot up a kindergarten and watch the blood of the innocent rain down and eat the beating heart of one of them.”  Just two months after the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a Canadian woman who saw the post did not find it humorous or witty.  In what some might consider “Facebook stalking,” the woman discovered Carter’s address and noticed that it was close to an elementary school.  She promptly notified police, who then arrested the young teen.  Apparently, Carter’s humor was also lost on the Texas judge who set bond at an astronomical $500,000, which Carter’s family could not afford.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

UDC School of Law Professor Andrew Ferguson Weighs in on the Role of Juries and Their Verdicts

On Saturday, July 13, 2013, the jury in the State of Florida v. George Zimmerman returned a verdict of not guilty for second-degree murder and manslaughter for the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.  After the jury returned the verdict, an expected flurry of news and social media erupted, some in support of the verdict and many others criticizing it.  Given the contentious issues surrounding the case, a vast amount of media attention has honed into the jury and what occurred during the jury's deliberation.  One can hope that the jury deliberation of the Zimmerman trial was similar to the one that took place in the famous stage play and movie, Twelve Angry Men, where the jurors carefully examined all the evidence in their quest for the truth and banished personal prejudices from their deliberation.  On the other hand, many fear that racial biases may have affected the deliberation of the Zimmerman jury that was made up of five Caucasian women and one Hispanic woman.  Whether the deliberation was similar to that of Twelve Angry Men or corrupted by racial bias, many questions remain.

In his article, "The Zimmerman Trial and the Meaning of Verdicts," Professor Andrew Ferguson of the University of the District of Columbia, discusses the Zimmerman jury, the (at the time undelivered) verdict, as well as juries and their verdicts in general.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Due Process in the Context of Jones-Farmer Hearings: Implications of Kaley v. United States

On March 18, 2013, the United State Supreme Court granted certiorari in Kaley v. United States.  Docket No. 12-464.  The case represents a complicated but narrow legal issue regarding the scope of a defendant’s right to challenge an order seizing property that the government claims is subject to forfeiture when the defendant asserts that the property is necessary to pay legal fees.  Typically, these seizure orders come during an ex-parte hearing where the government needs to show property is subject to forfeiture based on probable cause.  Those assets are then frozen until the conclusion of an underlying criminal proceeding.  The Federal Circuits permit defendants to challenge the traceability of those assets in post-indictment, pretrial Jones-Farmer hearings.  The Circuits are split, though, as to whether a defendant may challenge the evidentiary support and legal theory of the underlying charges or only the traceability of the property the government claims is subject to forfeiture.  

Sunday, July 7, 2013

We Live in This Society, Lets at Least Be Real About It

In 2009, North Carolina enacted the Racial Justice Act (RJA) in an effort to combat implicit racial bias through the use of several possible measures, most significantly, statistical evidence. Later in 2012, the legislature amended the Act aiming to address what appeared to be only explicit bias, in contrast to its original purpose. Under the RJA, courts were permitted to commute the sentences of death row inmates to life in prison without the possibility of parole, upon a showing of racial discrimination.