September 17, 2007
State judge adds banishment to long sentence
At a time when residency restrictions are legislatures' latest sentencing fad, perhaps it is not surprising that judges are inclined to get into the banishment sentencing game. As this local article details, a county judge in Pennsylvania has banished a drug dealer from his hometown. Here are more details:
A Westmoreland County judge ordered a man to stay out of his hometown of Arnold and two nearby towns after serving a 10- to 20-year prison term. State officials and law professors say the order may go too far....
Westmoreland County Judge Rita D. Hathaway ordered Chambers to stay out of Arnold, New Kensington and Lower Burrell when he gets out of prison, according to court records. Prosecutors had asked for the ban. Defense attorney Duke George, who is handling the appeal for the more recent case, said the stay-out provision is unjust and unconstitutional....
Since January 2006, various county judges have issued at least seven similar orders to people who received sentences of fewer than two years.
Some related posts:
September 16, 2007
Any thoughts about Mukasey as the new AG?
As this AP story details, "President Bush has settled on Michael B. Mukasey, a retired federal judge from New York, to replace Alberto Gonzales as attorney general and will announce his selection Monday, a source familiar with the president's decision said Sunday evening."
Though I know Mukasey's impressive resume and reputation, I do not know much more about the former federal district judge. (Jeralyn at TalkLeft provides a profile here.) Do any readers have thoughts on this new AG, particularly sentencing thoughts?
Some recent related posts:
O.J. and acquitted conduct sentencing
As detailed in this CNN report, "Las Vegas police arrested O.J. Simpson on Sunday amid an investigation into an alleged armed robbery at a hotel in Las Vegas." I cannot help but wonder, assuming Simpson is convicted on some charges related to this investigation, if perhaps the most infamous of all acquittals could ultimately become the basis for a sentencing enhancement.
Tenn Gov commutes death sentence based on poor lawyering
As detailed in this official announcement, on Friday Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen "commuted the death sentence of Michael Joe Boyd (also known as Mika’eel Abdullah Abdus-Samad) to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole citing grossly inadequate legal representation received by Boyd during his post conviction hearing and procedural limitations." A very large pdf file, available here, provides all the documents relating to the commutation, including the official statement that Bredesen had a "substantial and unresolved doubt that the trial jury would have impose the death penalty had the defendant received competent legal representation."
Local press coverage in this article indicates that the "commutation is believed to be the first in Tennessee since the return of the 'modern death penalty' in Tennessee, in 1977." Moreover, I think it has been quite a long time since a capital commutation has been based principally on poor lawyering. (The DPIC has this effective archive of modern capital clemency grants.)
This Tennessee commutation, as well as the recent one in Texas, provides another basis for believing that the death penalty is continuing to lose some of its one-sided political punch.
The backstory of an exceptional commutation
P.S. Ruckman continues to do a lot of very interesting work on pardon politics and practicalities at his pardons blog. Today Ruckman here highlights a strong article by Richard Schmitt in the Los Angeles Times about the (ultimately successful) efforts to obtain a federal commutation for a defendant sentenced to 27-years (in 1992) for dealing methamphetamine. The personal story cannot be readily summarized, but here are some of the broader points from this article:
Cases such as those of [Scooter] Libby and Marc Rich, the fugitive financier pardoned by President Clinton in 2001, have raised questions about the fairness of presidential clemency because they involved the affluent and politically connected. More routinely, hundreds of the unconnected apply for clemency every year with little or no guidance or hope.
Their petitions are filed with the 12-person Office of the Pardon Attorney in the Justice Department, whose deliberations and recommendations are never made public. Applicants often wait years for a response. Yet they frequently have compelling stories of rehabilitation and steep punishment. Even some prominent conservative jurists have come to believe that clemency is a tool of the justice system that is not used enough....
In Libby's case, Bush declared the 30-month sentence "excessive," even though it was at the low end of the range of federal guidelines. He also said Libby was a first-time offender and that his family had suffered from his conviction. Some inmate advocates hope the president now will take another look at the sentences given lesser-known defendants. Margaret Colgate Love, a lawyer who once headed the pardon office, said: "There are scores, perhaps hundreds, of people doing hard time in federal prison who are also worthy of the president's mercy."
Will the federal moratorium on Calfornia executions end this decade?
As detailed here, California has over 650 defendants on death row (nearly twice as many as any other state). But as detailed in a set of article How Appealing notes here, the defendants need not fear being executed anytime soon: a federal district judge seems to be in no rush to lift the moratorium on executions he imposed because of constitutional concerns over the state's lethal injection protocol. Here are the basics from this Los Angeles Times article:
A federal judge Friday postponed a major hearing on the state's new lethal injection protocol, making it highly likely that a court-ordered moratorium on executions in California will stretch to at least two years. U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose pushed the hearing back from Oct. 1 to Dec. 10 and 11. The judge also scheduled a formal visit Nov. 19 to a new death chamber under construction by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The delay of the hearing all but ensures that Judge Fogel won't rule on the merits until next year, and then an appeal to the Ninth Circuit seems inevitable no matter how Judge Fogel rules. Given that capital cases have a way of taking years to be fully resolved by the Ninth Circuit, I would be surprised in California is allowed to execute anyone before, say, 2011.