« March 13, 2011 - March 19, 2011 | Main | March 27, 2011 - April 2, 2011 »

March 21, 2011

"State jobs cut due to end of death penalty"

The title of this post is the headline of this local piece out of Illinois.  Here are the details:

The state of Illinois' decision to eliminate the death penalty means about three dozen state employees will soon be out of work.  The Decatur Herald & Review reports that State Appellate Defender Michael Pelletier began notifying about 37 employees in his office on Friday that their jobs are being eliminated.

That's because Gov. Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty earlier this month and commuted the sentences of the 15 men on death row.  Most of the employees being cut are lawyers who handled death penalty cases.  The reduction will save about $4.7 million.

March 21, 2011 in Death Penalty Reforms, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Will the spectacle of the Barry Bonds trial be good or bad for perceptions of federal criminal justice?

As noted in this San Francisco Chronicle article, which is headlined "Barry Bonds trial: Expect a 'heavyweight' fight," a federal district court in California is getting a running start on baseball season with the start today of Barry Bonds' federal criminal trial for perjury. Here is some of the backstory with a bit of sentencing perspective on the forthcoming spectacle:

Bonds was indicted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, accused of lying under oath when he told a grand jury in 2003 that he had never knowingly used steroids.

Now, in a trial that is scheduled to get under way Monday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, a jury will be asked to decide whether baseball's home run king set his historic mark while using a long list of banned drugs.  He has pleaded not guilty.

For Bonds, 46, who has not played baseball since he was indicted, the stakes are high —even though most experts doubt he will face prison if convicted.  In 2008, Bonds' trial judge, Susan Illston, sentenced two defendants who were convicted of lying to authorities about steroids in sports to home confinement, not prison.  That sets a baseline for sentencing Bonds if he is convicted, experts say.

The trial represents a chance for Bonds to repair a reputation badly tarnished by his association with the BALCO steroid scandal, and, perhaps, to secure a place in baseball history that might otherwise be denied him.  If Bonds is acquitted, his chances of being elected to the Hall of Fame "go way up," said former Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent. "But if he gets convicted, it's the end of the discussion for at least 30 years."

Meanwhile, the trial is likely to further roil a sport that has been unable to get past what has been called its "steroid era" — 15 years when baseball was rife with performance-enhancing drugs. Even after Bonds' trial is over, more turbulence is likely: In July, former All-Star pitcher Roger Clemens is scheduled to go on trial in Washington, charged with lying under oath when he told a congressional committee that he had never used steroids.

Whatever the outcome, the Bonds trial will probably be "a hard-fought battle, like a heavyweight championship fight," said defense lawyer William Keane, who defended Olympic track coach Trevor Graham in 2008 in a case similar to Bonds'.

As is my tendency, I likely will pay relatively little attention to the Bonds case unless and until he is convicted and faces sentencing. Nevertheless, on the eve of his trial, I wonder if readers have thoughts about the question that titles this post: do we think the Bonds trial will be good or bad for how the public perceives the federal criminal justice system? And does the answer to this question inevitably depend on the outcome?

March 21, 2011 in Celebrity sentencings, Offense Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

March 20, 2011

Notable new forthcoming book on juve crime and punishment

41vLLrbBgJL._SL500_AA300_I am pleased to see that Professors Christopher Slobogin and Mark Fondacaro have a new forthcoming book on juvenile justice which is titled "Juveniles at Risk: A Plea for Preventive Justice."  I am also pleased to have discovered that the first chapter of this forthcoming book is now available via SSRN here. This is the abstract the authors have now posted on SSRN:

The current approach to the juvenile crime problem is insufficiently conceptualized and too beholden to myths about youth, the crimes they commit, and effective means of responding to their problems. The currently dominant punitive approach to juvenile justice, modeled on the adult criminal justice system, either ignores or misapplies current knowledge about the causes of juvenile crime and the means of reducing it.

We argue that, with some significant adjustments that take this new knowledge into account, the legal system should continue to maintain a separate juvenile court, but one that is preventive in orientation, with a new emphasis on both rehabilitation and flexible procedures.  The view that culpability should be the linchpin of juvenile justice (touted by liberals as well as conservatives) is misguided, not only because it leads to unnecessarily harsh punishment but also because it deemphasizes crime-reducing interventions and undermines the case for handling adolescent offenders through a system that is independent of the culpability-based adult system.  The currently popular view that adult-type procedures should govern the juvenile process is also open to serious doubt, given social science research that questions the extent to which such procedures promote accuracy and fairness.

Chapter 1, which elaborates on the book’s thesis, is provided here.

This book is especially timely in the wake of the Supreme Court's work last year in Graham v. Florida.  Though Graham involved constitutional limits on punishment, the ruling should be viewed by legislatures as a call to begin re-thinking the modern approach to juvenile crime and punishment more broadly.

March 20, 2011 in Offender Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack