Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Roundup: Great writs, great walls, and a cautionary note on covering a great tragedy

Here are a few odds and ends that didn't make it into full blog posts but deserve readers' attention:

Judge shot to death in Corpus Christi
A Nueces County district judge was found shot to death in his chambers. Few details so far on possible perpetrators, motive, etc., or even whether it may have been a suicide. ¿Quien sabe? Grits would caution the press to beware of premature speculation. If the murder of the Kaufman County DA, his wife and another prosecutor earlier this year taught us anything about such high-profile episodes, it should be not to jump to conclusions. The press spent weeks hypothesizing that the Kaufman murders were attributable to everyone from the Aryan Brotherhood to Mexican drug cartels before it allegedly turned out to have been a former elected official angry about personal, political and legal disputes. Let's not repeat that pointless cycle of error and guesswork before the salient facts come out. UPDATE (7/17): Authorities are now calling the death a suicide.

Mental health funding got boost
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has a story detailing increases in mental health and drug treatment funding from the 83rd Texas Legislature. Unfortunately, the Lege did not direct any of it specifically to help solve competency restoration backlogs.

Profiling LaSalle Corrections
See Prison Legal News' profile of LaSalle Corrections, a family-run private prison firm out of Louisiana.

Fundamentals of private prison giant weak
Grits recently mentioned the report on Corrections Corporation of America from Anonymous predicting their economic demise. Well, here's another argument for shorting their stocik, this time from The Motley Fool.

Indoor cell-phone tracking
Stores are using indoor cell-phone tracking to generate data on consumers. The tactic also highlights how rapidly cell-phone location data is becoming super-accurate thanks to the proliferation of towers, antennae and femtocells.

Constitutionality and the meaning of metadata
Here are two perspectives on why collection of cell-phone metadata should be unconstitutional: One from libertarian constitutional expert Randy Barnett and another analyzing why Thurgood Marshall thought the entire "special needs" doctrine on which the program is based was bad law in the first place. Here's a basic primer on the current state of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence related to "metadata." For those who don't understand precisely what the government gets when it acquires "metadata" from your phone calls, this blog post lays it out nicely. MORE: At the Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr makes the case for allowing NSA phone snooping under existing (IMO grossly flawed and denuded) Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. So much about that post irked me Grits may have more to say on the subject later. AND MORE: Randy Barnett responds to Kerr. FWIW, my gripe isn't with Kerr's analysis of 40-year old case law, which is accurate as far as it goes,  but his omission of political responses to the cases he cites and his implicit normative assumption that those cases from the '70s should be adapted and expanded to allow gathering data prospectively about millions of non-suspects

Border wall repeats one of 'history's great blunders'
So argue writers from The Atlantic, tracing the history of border walls and the fall of empires from China to the Roman Empire to Russia and Great Britain. Communication and partnerships are far more effective than physical barriers, which is why I'm glad to see the new mayor of Monterrey visiting Texas cities to exchange ideas about crime fighting efforts.

The Great Writ diminished
Here's an interesting item articulating how habeas corpus has been emasculated by restrictive legislation under the federal system. With a handful of exceptions, one could make the same case for state-level habeas writs, certainly in Texas. Sen. John Whitmire's SB 344 this session was one of the first expansions of habeas power in memory - nearly all legislation restricts its use rather than enabling it. Unfortunately, like much habeas discussion, the article is too focused on the death penalty. The real shame is that attempts to restrict habeas in death cases had reduced its value across the board, IMO with unforeseen, negative consequences.

'Language turned convict'
Ran across this nice essay on mediaeval thieves cant, a secret language of old ("cryptolect" is the formal term) that's recently making a comeback in British prisons. Via Bruce Schneier.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow. A Judge who commits the ultimate act in his own chambers. I would love to hear the story behind that...