Loophole in Drunken Driving Law Should be Closed

Posted on Categories Alumni Contributor, Criminal Law & Process, Public, Wisconsin Criminal Law & ProcessLeave a comment» on Loophole in Drunken Driving Law Should be Closed

An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breathalyzer installed in a vehicle that prevents a driver from operating the vehicle until first providing an adequate breath sample. In Wisconsin, an IID is required in one of three circumstances after being convicted of either Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or Operating with a Prohibited Alcohol Concentration (PAC): the defendant is a repeat drunk driver, the defendant refused a chemical blood or breath test under Wisconsin’s implied consent law, or the defendant is a first time drunk driver and had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 “at the time of the offense.” Because OWI 1st’s are not crimes in Wisconsin, defense attorneys specializing in OWI cases try to negotiate with prosecutors to stipulate that the defendant’s BAC was 0.149 to avoid the costly and cumbersome IID requirement. This arbitrary threshold creates an obvious loophole.

The state legislature should revise this language in the IID statute because its vague language is leading to ridiculous results in court and does not promote consistency in OWI cases. As a matter of syntax, the statute as its currently written is arguably ambiguous. The legislature specifically used the phrase “at the time of the offense” as opposed to “at the time of driving.” The most common interpretation (and one favored by defense attorneys) is that the word “offense” only encompasses the physical act of driving and nothing after it. However, if that is what the legislature intended, then it would have been clearly to use the word “driving” instead. Further, the current language is in clear conflict with the OWI statute that penalizes drunk driving. A second reasonable interpretation is that “offense” includes everything from the driving to when the police officer issues the citations. However, this reading appears to cast too wide a net. Continue reading “Loophole in Drunken Driving Law Should be Closed”

Restorative Justice and Clergy Abuse

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Judges & Judicial Process, Public, Religion & LawLeave a comment» on Restorative Justice and Clergy Abuse

Several people sit in chairs in a "healing circle" discussing instances of abuse by clergy.My trip to Rome in spring 2016 triggered a return visit this past November, when I again taught a segment of a certificate program addressing the Catholic sex abuse scandal.

The Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection offers the four-month graduate certificate program to religious sisters, brothers and priests from around the world who are assigned to head up Protection for Children offices. The program goals: to teach how to deal with past abuse and prevent further incidents.

I spent a full day with 19 students representing four continents. While there were some language barriers to overcome, the group was able to comprehend the power of Restorative Justice (“RJ) presented in different contexts — particularly its value regarding sexual abuse within the Church.

I explained how in past clergy abuse cases, it is not often possible to bring victims and offenders face-to-face in dialogue because many offenders are in denial, deceased or too old, with limited memory. We, therefore, explored the hope that RJ offers in addressing “secondary victimization” by members of the Church’s hierarchy.

Continue reading “Restorative Justice and Clergy Abuse”

Restorative Justice and the Language of Hope

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Professor Janine Geske standing at a podium with an open laptop as she addresses an audience in Germany.Regardless of one’s language, Restorative Justice (“RJ”) translates as hope. That was evident from my experience in Germany last October at a conference hosted by the University of Göttingen, which was titled “Victim Orientation in the Criminal Justice System: Practitioners’ Perspectives.”

I was invited to be one of the keynote presenters at the two-day conference. My presentation to the attendees — most of whom were criminal justice professionals including probation and parole agents — addressed how the United States actively uses RJ processes within the criminal justice system. Oh, and my presentation was the only one in English, with real-time translation provided in German through the marvels of headset technology.

I have become used to speaking internationally, so the language difference is not a daunting barrier for me, especially given the immediacy of RJ as an understandable concept and successful tool. I described the process and impact of victim/offender dialogue sessions in cases of violent crime and the value of restorative circles, particularly for schools and community organizations. Although Europe does not have much experience in using circles, I could tell that the conference attendees were eager to hear more about that process and about victim/offender dialogues in the context of juvenile RJ. As usual, most of my explanations were told through the stories of actual cases. I know that by describing the poignant experiences of real victims and offenders, the audience will better understand the transformational experience of an RJ process.

Continue reading “Restorative Justice and the Language of Hope”

Flynn Adamantly Defends Police Department and His Work as He Retires as Chief

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Criminal Law & Process, Milwaukee, Public, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on Flynn Adamantly Defends Police Department and His Work as He Retires as Chief

Near the end of their hour-long conversation, Mike Gousha asked outgoing Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn what was next for him.

“Really nothing much,” Flynn said. He’s going to go back to Virginia where his family lives and spend  more time with his children and grandchildren. Maybe he’ll do some consulting ahead. But, first, “I do need to de-stress a little bit, despite how relaxed I’m appearing.”

The line got a big laugh from the audience in the Lubar Center at Eckstein Hall for the “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” on Feb. 8. As he finished a decade as Milwaukee’s police chief, Flynn was fired up, outspoken, and more than a bit emotional and angry. Continue reading “Flynn Adamantly Defends Police Department and His Work as He Retires as Chief”

Marsy’s Law in Wisconsin 

Posted on Categories Constitutional Law, Criminal Law & Process, Public, Student ContributorLeave a comment» on Marsy’s Law in Wisconsin 

Have you ever heard something that, almost immediately after hearing it, bounced your thoughts from the possible benefits to the seriously questionable outcomes that might follow, and left you swinging back and forth between the two?  This is exactly what happened to me just recently after hearing about Marsy’s Law coming to Wisconsin.  As it stands, I can get behind the general idea of the law, but I do have some doubts—problems, even—with the way the law is being pushed forward. 

“Marsy’s Law” is the idea that crime victims, and the families of crime victims (who become victims by association) should have equal rights to those who are accused of victimizing the family.  According to the web site for Marsy’s Law for All, the law is named for Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas, a “beautiful, vibrant University of California Santa Barbara student, who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983.” (Quote from Marsy’s Law for All) One week after Marsy’s  murder, some of her family members entered a grocery store and were confronted by the man who was accused of murdering Marsy.  Marsy’s alleged murderer had been let out on bail and the family had not known about it. 

Marsy’s Law for All argues that the United States Constitution and every state constitution have a detailed set of rights for people who are accused of crimes, but the United States Constitution and 15 state constitutions do not have a list of rights for victims of crime.  As I am writing this, the web site for Marsy’s Law argues that the United States Constitution has 20 individual rights for those accused of a crime, but none for the victims of crime.  States, on the other hand, have been making some progress.  California, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Ohio have passed Marsy’s Law, with efforts to adopt the law currently underway in Kentucky, Maine, North Carolina, Georgia, Nevada, Idaho, Oklahoma, and here in Wisconsin.    Continue reading “Marsy’s Law in Wisconsin “

New Cases on the Constitutionality of Long Sentences for Juveniles: The Graham Saga Continues

Posted on Categories Constitutional Interpretation, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law & Process, Federal Criminal Law & Process, Federal Sentencing, Federalism, Public, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on New Cases on the Constitutionality of Long Sentences for Juveniles: The Graham Saga Continues

In Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), the U.S. Supreme Court barred the sentence of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) for crimes committed by anyone under eighteen years of age. Grounded in the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment, the Court’s holding recognized only one exception: juvenile LWOP might be permissible in cases involving homicide.

Despite its seemingly straightforward character, the Graham holding has spawned considerable litigation in the lower courts over its scope and application. Two interesting appellate decisions from last month highlight some of the difficulties.

In the first, U.S. v. Mathurin, the Eleventh Circuit had to consider whether a 685-month prison term should be treated as the functional equivalent of an LWOP sentence for Eighth Amendment purposes.   Continue reading “New Cases on the Constitutionality of Long Sentences for Juveniles: The Graham Saga Continues”

After Return from Prison, Friends Can Be Key to Success or Failure

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New research highlights the importance of friends in determining whether returning prisoners will commit new crimes. A considerable body of prior research has demonstrated the importance of family relationships to the returning prisoner, but a new study John Boman and Thomas Mowen suggests that peer relationships may exert an even greater influence over success or failure.

Boman and Mowen collected data on a sample of 625 serious and violent male offenders, including their self-reported substance abuse and new criminal activity over a fifteen-month period after release from prison. The data also included the offenders’ assessment of their family support and the criminal histories of their closest friends.

After controlling for a number of variables, Boman and Mowen identified several factors that proved to be statistically significant predictors of post-release recidivism.   Continue reading “After Return from Prison, Friends Can Be Key to Success or Failure”

Crime and Stigma: New Research Explores the Connections

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The colonial Americans famously had their “scarlet letter” punishments, which marked and shamed the criminal. Today, the stigma of a conviction may be less vividly displayed, but it is no less real. Two interesting new criminological articles present research on the impact of this stigma.

First, an article by Jeff Bouffard and LaQuana Askew considers potential crime-reducing benefits of stigma, specifically in relation to sex offender registration and notification (SORN) laws. Such laws, adopted across the United States in the 1990s, require certain convicted sex offenders to register their residence and other information with state authorities on an ongoing basis, sometimes for the rest of their lives. The information is then made publicly available, which can greatly magnify the duration and intensity of the stigma of the conviction.

It was thought that SORN laws might reduce sexual offending in two ways: by deterring prospective offenders from committing crimes that might land them on a registry, and by alerting potential victims to the proximity of individuals who were already registered and hence possibly dangerous. However, several studies thus far have found little or no reduction in offending in the wake of the adoption of SORN legislation.  Continue reading “Crime and Stigma: New Research Explores the Connections”

Going Beyond Police Patrols to Problem-Solving Policing

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Doing police patrol work is hard, but it often is pretty routine. An officer drives around, waits for calls and responds to them, deals with specific incidents, and writes reports about them. “There’s a simplicity in it,” said Michael Scott, a former police officer and police chief.

But if police work is to be done in the most effective way, it needs to go beyond that routine, Scott said. It needs to aim to deal with or at least understand problems that underlie so many instances of crime, disorder, or other trouble.

That explains why Scott has become the director of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, an organization which promotes exactly that problem-solving approach to police work. He is also a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. He was previously a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison. Continue reading “Going Beyond Police Patrols to Problem-Solving Policing”

Right to Counsel: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Posted on Categories Constitutional Law, Criminal Law & Process, Federalism, Public, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on Right to Counsel: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

A photo of the Supreme CourtAs part of its end-of-term flurry, the U.S. Supreme Court issued three notable decisions in the past week on the criminal defendant’s right to effective assistance of counsel. The results were a mixed bag.

First, the step forward: in Lee v. United States, the Court strengthened the defendant’s right to accurate legal advice in relation to plea bargaining. Lee, a South Korean who resided lawfully in the U.S. for more than three decades, faced a federal charge of possession with intent to distribute ecstasy. His attorney advised him that he would likely get a lighter sentence if he pleaded guilty, but Lee was concerned that he would be deported if convicted; deportation, not prison, seems to have been his primary concern. Lee’s lawyer assured him that he would not be deported, so Lee agreed to the guilty plea. However, the lawyer was wrong — Lee faced mandatory deportation as a result of his conviction. When Lee found out, he sought to withdraw his guilty plea on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel.

The lower courts rejected his motion. For Lee to show a violation of his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel, he was required to demonstrate both deficient performance by this attorney and prejudice. The lower courts seemed to accept that Lee’s lawyer performed poorly, but held that Lee could show no prejudice since he had no viable defense if the case had gone to trial. In other words, even with better information, Lee would have been convicted and deported anyway.

The Supreme Court reversed, holding that prejudice can be established in some cases based on the lost opportunity to have a trial, without regard to the likely outcome of that trial. 

Continue reading “Right to Counsel: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back”

Bill Cosby and American Popular Culture

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Media & Journalism, Popular Culture & Law, Public, Race & LawLeave a comment» on Bill Cosby and American Popular Culture

Bill Cosby and Keisha Knight Pullman walk together outside of the courtroom where he faced trial on charges of rape.Bill Cosby has made two distinctly different splashes in American popular culture.  He starred in “The Cosby Show” (1984-92), a sitcom that was America’s most highly rated television show for five consecutive years.  Then, his trial for sexual assault in the spring of 2017 became the most recent “trial of the century.”  Ironically, the immense success of the former prevented the latter from attracting the attention many had predicted.

As for “The Cosby Show,” it featured the Huxtables, a fictional upper middle-class African American family living in a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights.  Cliff Huxtable, played by Cosby, was a jolly obstetrician, while his wife Clair Huxtable was a successful attorney.  The Huxtables has four daughters and one son, and although each episode had its tender tensions, they always dissipated by the end of the hour.  “The Cosby Show” was about a happy, loving ideal family, and Cliff Huxtable became the nation’s fantasy father.  When TV Guide ranked the 50 greatest dads in television history, the magazine named Cliff Huxtable “The All-Time Greatest Dad.”

While the show rarely addressed race directly, it was what the show left unsaid that was important.  Cosby and the show’s producers consciously set out to “recode blackness.”  They turned stereotypes upside-down by presenting a tightly-knit African American family that was affluent, had friends and neighbors of different races, and was headed by a married couple, with each member belonging to a learned profession.  In the midst of the Reagan-Bush years, Americans took to the portrayal, and it, if only for a moment, obfuscated the nation’s shoddy racist inequality.

When twenty-five years later in time two dozen women claimed Cosby had drugged, sexually assaulted, and raped them, America was shocked.  When Cosby went on trial in the spring of 2017 for sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, many thought the public would be obsessed with the proceedings.  Coverage of the trial seemed likely to equal that for celebrities such as O.J. Simpson in 1994 and Michael Jackson in 2005.  Trials of the rich and famous, after all, have been pop cultural delights since the days of the penny dailies in the early nineteenth century. Continue reading “Bill Cosby and American Popular Culture”

Supreme Court Dodges Long-Running Dispute Over Defendant’s Right to Psychiatric Expert

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Poverty & Law, Public, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on Supreme Court Dodges Long-Running Dispute Over Defendant’s Right to Psychiatric Expert

A photo of the Supreme CourtThree decades ago, in Ake v. Oklahoma, the Supreme Court held that indigent criminal defendants have a constitutional right of access to a psychiatric expert in some cases. More specifically, the Court stated, “[W]hen a defendant demonstrates to the trial judge that his sanity at the time of the offense is to be a significant factor at trial, the State must, at a minimum, assure the defendant access to a competent psychiatrist who will conduct an appropriate examination and assist in evaluation, preparation, and presentation of the defense.” 470 U.S. 68, 83 (1985).

This seemingly straightforward holding has spawned a number of long-running disputes in the lower courts. Among the more important lingering questions is this: May a state satisfy its obligation under Ake by supplying the defendant with access to a neutral expert who is equally available to both sides, or must the state engage an expert who will truly serve as a member of the defense team? Of course, a wealthy defendant would almost always be well-advised to hire his own expert, rather than merely relying on a neutral, but Ake does not necessarily guarantee that poor defendants will have all of the advantages of their rich counterparts.

With the lower courts split on this question, the Supreme Court finally seemed poised to provide a definitive answer this term in McWilliams v. DunnHowever, when the Court issued its McWilliams decision earlier this week, the justices actually ruled in the defendant’s favor on quite narrow, case-specific grounds, leaving the big question about the acceptability of a neutral expert unanswered.

Whenever the Court gets around to answering the question — and, given the way that matters were resolved this week, McWilliams itself could well provide the vehicle on a return trip to the Court — the justices will confront a difficult issue that touches more generally on the role of experts in an adversarial system of justice, and even on the very nature of scientific knowledge.

Our ideal for science is objective knowledge. We hope that scientists will develop analytical methods that will invariably yield the same conclusion as to the same subject, regardless of who is doing the analysis.

If tests for mental illness are “scientific” in this sense, then there seems little unfairness in limiting the defendant to a neutral psychiatrist. The only way in which having an expert on the defense team might change the outcome would be if the defendant’s “hired gun” were dishonest or incompetent — and there surely cannot be a constitutional right to mislead the jury with bad science.

Thus, the claim that the defendant should have his own expert seems implicitly grounded in a belief — accurate, I should think — that psychiatric diagnosis does not always fit that ideal of wholly objective and indisputable conclusions. In the American legal tradition, of course, we look to adversarial process to determine the truth when there are two conflicting, but both still plausible, versions of reality available. Thus, if reasonable psychiatrists could differ over a defendant’s diagnosis, it seems natural to fall back on adversarial process and give each side an opportunity to make the best case possible for its version of reality, including with its own expert witness. We are accustomed to think that the truth will emerge from such an adversarial clash.

And, yet, there is something disquieting about this picture. When we ask a jury to choose between two competing stories about what a defendant did, we count on the jury to use its common sense and life experience to decide which version of reality is more plausible. But, when the question instead relates to what was going on in the defendant’s head, it is not so clear that common sense and life experience are up to the challenge. After all, the essence of the defendant’s claim is that his brain was not working in a way that is familiar to most lay people in their day-to-day lives. The very reason we bring experts to bear to try to deal with the issue makes lay jurors seem unqualified to pick between the two different versions of reality being presented.

There does seem a dilemma here. If we use only a single, nominally neutral expert, then the jury may be left with a sense in some cases that the science is more certain and one-sided than it really is. On the other hand, if we arm each side with its own expert, then we implicitly ask the jury to perform a task for which it is ill-equipped — adjudicating the scientific quality of competing expert opinions. There may be ways of alleviating the concerns — e.g., through use of a neutral panel of experts — but such approaches tend to raise cost and other practical difficulties.

Perhaps the conundrum helps to explain why the Court has not seemed anxious to resolve the big question that was posed by McWilliams.