Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Innocence is fine, but what happened to remedies for 'unfortunate guilt'?

I've been focused elsewhere today but here are several items that each might deserve its own, separate post if I had time:

Did faulty medical evidence help secure molestation convictions?
The SA Express-News has posted online their story of the possible wrongful conviction of four women accused of child molestation in the '90s. The "San Antonio Express-News investigation — including interviews with witnesses and experts and a review of police reports, medical studies and thousands of pages of trial transcripts and other court documents — raises troubling questions about the scientific legitimacy of medical evidence deployed against the women, whether authorities checked a previous rape allegation made by the girls and whether anti-gay views prejudiced Ramirez's jury."

Inquire no more
The Third Court of Appeals shut down the Todd Willingham court of inquiry, declaring Judge Charlie Baird abused his discretion. See their ruling. Also, after looking at the related caselaw, Mark Bennett didn't think much of the decision by the Court of Criminal Appeals to shut down an inquiry in Houston into the constitutionality of the death penalty. A group of prominent, unlikely allies filed a brief on Wednesday urging the CCA to let the hearing continue. Perhaps if nobody inquires, all these questions will just go away? Or maybe not.
Reasonable suspicion is in the eye of the beholder
Check out a discussion at Liberty and Justice for Y'all of the devolving state of reasonable suspicion at DWI stops, commenting on the Court of Criminal Appeals decision to overturn an intermediate court ruling to allow a stop based on "flimsy" cause. And speaking of DWI enforcement, Paul Kennedy has interesting posts up here and here about increasingly popular no-refusal policies, and reports a rumor that state Sen. Dan Patrick wants to eliminate Administrative License Revocation hearings in a way that would conflate criminal and administrative governmental roles.

A matter of time
I noticed this preliminary story about new inmate litigation over inadequate healthcare at a TDCJ facility. Given Texas' chronic underfunding of inmate healthcare, if what's happening in California is any indication, it's only a matter of time before these suits begin to succeed if the state doesn't sufficiently invest in healthcare for inmates or else reduce their overall number.

Tipping point or temporary plateau?
The overall number of people in the United States under control of the criminal justice system - in prison, jail, on probation, or on parole - declined last year for the first time since such data began being gathered in 1980 according to a new report (pdf) from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Reading corner
I was just sent a review copy of Rev. Alan Bean's new book "Taking out the trash in Tulia, Texas," which tells the story of the infamous Tulia drug stings from one of the front-line warriors fighting to free those wrongly convicted. Also, I saw an interesting looking book on the shelf while I was Christmas shopping and then noticed a review of "The Killer of Little Shepherds: A true crime story and the birth of forensic science."

Restorative justice and shame
At Women in Crime Ink Vickie Pynchon writes that "The concept of reintegrative shaming was first introduced by restorative justice theoretician John Braithwaite  as a means of 
distinguishing between shame that stigmatizes criminal offenders (and thus increases crime) from shame that condemns wrongdoing but forgives and respects the offender, hopefully reducing recidivism and decreasing crime."

NYC: Send 'em back
In New York, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg is asking state government to do something that may be foisted onto Texas counties against their will: Get rid of youth prisons and let New York City handle its own criminal youth.

A remedy for 'unfortunate guilt'
Here's an excellent quote from Alexander Hamilton on the need for a robust clemency policy, writing as Publius in Federalist Paper No. 74: "Humanity and good policy conspire to dictate, that the benign prerogative of pardoning should be as little as possible fettered or embarrassed. The criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity, that without an easy access to exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt, justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel." Notice the author was not only concerned with pardons for innocence, but also for "unfortunate guilt." Today, of course, executive pardon power is extraordinarily "fettered" and quite frequently "embarrassed" (think Mike Huckabee), disregarding Hamilton's sage and prescient advice.


Anonymous said...

Has the CCA made a "decision" about the DP hearing in Houston?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

See the links under "Inquire no more."

Prison Doc said...

RE: Matter of Time

Lawyers say that "tough cases make bad law" and the same is true for medicine.

The case cited concerns an uncommon treatment for a very rare problem, and regardless of the details it is unlikely to be in any way representative of inadequate funding producing improper medical care.

That's not to say that such won't happen in the future, I just don't see it happening yet.

Anonymous said...

RE:Reasonable suspicion is in the eye of the beholder

Appellant was driving his vehicle near the Sixth Street bar district in Austin.
It was late at night.
Austin police often observe people driving while intoxicated near this area late at night.
Appellant stopped his vehicle closely behind the officer’s unmarked vehicle at a traffic light.
Appellant’s vehicle exhibited a lurching movement forward after he had stopped at the light.
Appellant’s vehicle moved forward again as if to try to change lanes at the light, but he was too close to the officer’s unmarked vehicle to execute the lane change.

Grits, the above is reasonable suspicion to the "T", and the opinion of Paul B. Kennedy, one of the top DWI attorneys in the Houston area is nothing more than "hot air". He makes his living and nice one at that from getting drunks off the hook and back out onto our roadways. This ruling just makes his job a little harder and he doesn't like it. Getting an opinion on the CCA decision from him is like asking a Pimp if the prostitution laws are too tough, of course everyone knows what the Pimps answer is going to be.

The Texas CCA was correct to uphold the trial courts ruling.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

11:58: It was B.W. Barnett at Liberty and Justice for Y'all, not Kennedy, who wrote about the Third Circuit's DWI decision. Please try to debate the message, not the messenger, especially when you don't actually know who the messenger is!

And despite your explanation, I still don't get how it's reasonable suspicion that the guy didn't have room to change lanes and so he didn't. IMO the intermediate court got it right.

Anonymous said...

Don't separate the parts from the whole. It was everything else as well Grits, not just the lane change. I understand you don't like the ruling, but i have to agree with 11:58. Sounds like the officer articulauted himself well and lo and behold, he was right.

On your side of the argument though, there are too many officers who do stop and detain using RS whose articulable facts are much more suspect and flimsy than this one.

Merry Christmas.