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May 18, 2019

Rounding up some interesting criminal justice reads

Frequently, when I come across interesting criminal justice news pieces or commentary while working on other matters, I will email the link to myself with the hope I will find time later to blog about the item.  This week seemed to lead to an especially large number of these items in my in-box, and so I will blogging about them all through this round up.   

A few of these pieces are news accounts of notable court rulings, but most are commentary.  And everyone on of these pieces could justify its own post, which is my way of saying folks should check them all out.  So, in no particular order:

By Seth Mayer, "What Criminal Justice Reformers Can Learn from the Green New Deal"

By Adureh Onyekwere and Ames Grawert, "Welcome To The Age Of Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform"

By Kara Gotsch, "Criminal justice includes food security — we can't ban the social safety net"

By John Pfaff, "Five myths about prisons"

By David Nathan, Joycelyn Elders and Bryon Adinoff, "21st Century Reefer Madness"

By Andrew Wolfson, "A prosecutor ridiculed a couple's patron saint. So a court reversed their drug convictions."

By John Ellement, "SJC orders release of Wayne Chapman, convicted child rapist"

By Tamara Gilkes Borr, "How the War on Drugs Kept Black Men Out of College"

By Doyle Murphy, "St. Louis’ Justice System Grapples Daily with an Impossible Question: What Punishment Fits the Crime?"

May 18, 2019 at 10:26 AM | Permalink


The article by Andrew Wolfson is about the reversal of meth convictions and the 15 year sentences that was obtained by my friend, Lexington, Ky. criminal defense lawyer Russ Baldani. The convictions were reversed based upon prosecutorial misconduct by AUSA Roger West, who prosecutes cases in the Eastern District of Kentucky. Mr. West has been a Federal prosecutor for almost 20 years, which makes his misconduct that led to these reversals incomprehensible. These reversals are all the more remarkable because they are based upon a finding of PLAIN ERROR, since Mr. Baldani did not make objections at trial. Further, the PUBLISHED OPINION was written by Judge Bush, a recent Trump appointee who is also a close friend of Senator Mitch McConnell. Judge Bush is a notoriously conservative man and lawyer, so it speaks volumes that he and the other 2 Judges on the panel reversed the defendants' convictions and ordered a new trial, in substantial part because of repeated questioning and closing arguments about the defendants' religious practices, which reputedly include worshiping the Mexican patron saint of drug traffickers. AUSA West also asked the male defendant how he could reconcile that with being a Catholic, when the Bible says that "Thou shalt have no God other than me"? The U.S. Supreme Court opinions make clear that there is no place in a criminal prosecution for making references to the defendants' religious practices. AUSA West repeatedly crossed an uncrossable line. It remains to be seen whether Mr. West will be disciplined for his prosecutorial misconduct.

Posted by: James Gormley | May 18, 2019 5:35:27 PM

The two (virtually identical) opinions that Judge John K. Bush wrote reversing the meth convictions of two defendants, based upon prosecutorial misconduct by AUSA Roger West can be found at the Sixth Circuit's web site, www.ca6.uscourts.gov. The opinions were issued on May 15, 2019: United States v. Jessica Acosta, No. 18-5207 and United States v. Luis Morales-Montanez, No. 18-5212.

Posted by: James Gormley | May 18, 2019 5:54:37 PM

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