Monday, December 26, 2011

More Juvies Could Be Charged As Adults

Prosecutors and prisoner advocates are warning that an impending change in the way California handles juvenile offenders could threaten the success of criminal justice statewide.

At issue is a midyear cut that will essentially gut the Department of Juvenile Justice, the state agency that incarcerates California's most violent juvenile criminal offenders. Under the budget reduction enacted earlier this month, the agency will cease to exist unless counties pony up $125,000 a year per youth offender.

Those who oppose the change say it could have unintended consequences: More juveniles could be charged as adults, efforts to rehabilitate youth offenders who commit less serious crimes could be hurt, and the realignment of the adult criminal justice system could be derailed.

The Department of Juvenile Justice houses 1,100 youth offenders and was among the state programs hit by midyear budget cuts after state revenues failed to meet expectations.

Read The LA Times Story.

Rear-ending Dog Gets Man Prison Sentence

A wheelchair-bound California parolee has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting an eight-month-old Chihuahua.

He must also register as a sex offender in what could be the first such requirement in an animal abuse case.

Robert Edward De Shields was renting space in a Sacramento house when the homeowners returned to find him with their Chihuahua, Shadow, "in pain and shock," reports the Los Angeles Times. A veterinarian examined the Chihuahua, and discovered the dog had suffered severe damage to its internal organs.
                                                           
Shadow survived following surgery, according to the Sacramento Bee. The dog is currently being cared for in a foster home. "Shadow is a victim in every sense of the word," the new owner told the judge. The dog is extraordinarily fearful of men, "like many victims of sexual assault," she said, and may never fully recover from its physical wounds.

Torture Becoming More Sophisticated

Use of torture around the world has not diminished but the techniques used have grown more complex and sophisticated, according to new research from Queen Mary, University of London.

The study suggests that these emerging forms of torture, which include various types of rape, bestiality and witnessing violent acts, are experienced by people seeking asylum in the UK.

In many cases the techniques cause no visible effect but are responsible for a variety of serious mental health problems. The researchers say that their findings are vital for understanding what many asylum seekers have endured and for ensuring the correct medical treatments are available.

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

LA County Deputies Rack Up 100s Of Wrong Arrests

Hundreds of people have been wrongly imprisoned inside the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department jails in recent years, with some spending weeks behind bars before authorities realized those arrested were mistaken for wanted criminals, a Los Angeles Times investigation has found.

The wrongful incarcerations occurred more than 1,480 times in the last five years. They were the result of a variety of factors, including officials' overlooking fingerprint evidence and working off incomplete records.

The errors are so common that in some years people were jailed because of mistaken identity an average of once a day.

Just Appointing Lawyer Doesn't Guarantee Justice

AN EDITORIAL

In most American counties, some indigent criminal defendants are represented by a public defender, and others by a private court-appointed lawyer. A new RAND study focusing on Philadelphia exposes a vast difference in how clients fare depending on the kind of lawyer they are assigned.

The startling findings show that merely providing an indigent defendant a lawyer, as the Constitution requires in felony cases, is not enough to secure justice. If that lawyer is not screened for quality, trained to handle the client’s type of case or paid enough to cover the time required, the client is unlikely to get fair treatment — whether in the Philadelphia system or anywhere else.

The study examined murder cases of indigent defendants with similar profiles in the city from 1994 to 2005. The conviction rate of clients represented by staff lawyers working for the public defender association, a nonprofit organization that the city pays for its services, was 19 percent lower than those represented by court-appointed lawyers working alone. Their expected time served in prison was 24 percent lower, and they were far less likely to get a life sentence.

Philadelphia’s public defenders, who are randomly assigned to represent one out of every five indigent defendants accused of murder, are paid decent salaries, have money to hire expert witnesses and work in experienced teams. Court-appointed lawyers, representing the rest, are poorly paid, tend to take on more cases than they can handle and generally practice without feedback from other lawyers. As a result, the study concludes, defendants with court-appointed lawyers often get inadequate counsel, in violation of the Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, and are vulnerable to greater punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

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7 Found Dead Christmas Day

Texas police say seven people have been found shot to death in a Dallas-area apartment on Christmas Day, and they believe the shooter is among the dead.
Grapevine Police Sgt. Robert Eberling says investigators are not actively looking for an armed person after gaining entry to the apartment on Sunday. He told The Associated Press it appears the seven victims are related.

Cannabis Christmas Tree Lands Man In Clink

A man who grew a large cannabis plant to look like a Christmas tree will spend the festive season behind bars after police found his home-based drug factory.

Ian Richards, 46, made the cannabis plant resemble a festive tree by growing it to 5ft tall and decorating it with brightly-coloured baubles.
Police found it along with a small number of other cannabis plants when they raided his home in Attlee Avenue, Aylesham, near Canterbury, Kent, last December.

Investigating officer Pc Darren Dennett, of Kent Police, said: "By using a 5ft tall cannabis plant as a Christmas tree, Richards showed a total disregard for the law."

A judge at Canterbury Crown Court sentenced Richards to 18 months behind bars for drugs offences on November 24, a Kent Police spokesman said today.

Pc Dennett added: "One of the bedrooms at his home had been transformed into a very sophisticated cannabis factory.

"He claimed the plants were for his own personal use but the factory clearly had the potential to produce a large quantity of cannabis.

"He is now spending his Christmas in prison, and by closing down this cannabis factory we have prevented a large quantity of Class B drugs from reaching the streets."

NY's High Court Defends Woman Against Guard


A New York court says the state didn't do enough to protect a woman prisoner from a guard accused, and later convicted, of rape.
The Court of Claims decision released this week found the state Department of Corrections failed to keep Corrections Officer Donald Lasker away from the woman even as an internal investigation into her accusation was underway.
The court record shows the prisoner tried to contact Lasker's pregnant fiancee at the home Lasker shared with a child from a previous relationship, proving she had information that could only have come from Lasker during the investigation.
The case stems from reports of sexual contact dating to 2007. Lasker pleaded guilty to third-degree rape and official misconduct.
The unnamed prisoner's attorney will now seek a monetary award from the state in a separate trial.

Nine Shot At Tennessee Christmas Party

Authorities say nine people were shot when a fight broke out at a Chattanooga nightclub, where some 400 teens and adults were attending a Christmas party.

Police say all those shot are expected to survive.

Chattanooga police said in a press release Sunday morning that an off-duty officer who had been working at Club Fathom fired shots at a suspect who pointed a gun at him, but the gunman got away. The officer was not wounded.

Police Chief Bobby Dodd tells WTVC-TV that a fight broke out at the club around midnight.
No arrests have been made, and it was not immediately known how the fight started.

Police say they are still working to gather details because of the number of victims and possible suspects involved.

The Holy Season Has Prison Roots

As Christmas is celebrated in Incarceration Nation, it’s worth remembering certain things about the two figures who dominate this holiday.

As more than 3,000 Americans sit on death row, we revere the birth of a godly man who was arrested, “tried,” sentenced, and put to death by the state. The Passion is the story of an execution, and the Stations of the Cross trace the path of a Dead Man Walking.

Less well known is the fact that Saint Nicholas, the early Christian saint who inspired Santa Claus, was once a prisoner, like one in every 100 Americans today. Though he was beloved for his kindness and generosity, Nicholas acquired sainthood not only by giving alms, but in part by performing a miracle that more or less amounted to a prison break.
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