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Criminal Law

Sentencing Law and Policy Sentencing Law and Policy

News, issues, commentary and provides resources related to sentencing law and policy.
By Douglas A. Berman

Post Frequency: 9609/day

Last Entry: January 30, 2015 at 10:07:07

Recent Entries: 9609

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Notable new commentary on Yates v. US and overcriminalization

Posted on January 30, 2015
Via email I learned about these two notable new commentaries discussing issues surrounding the federal criminal case Yates v. United States soon to be resolved by the Supreme Court: SOX on Fish: A New Harm of Overcriminalization by Todd Haugh...


Aggressive litigation prompts federal prosecutor in Chicago to drop stash house sting

Posted on January 30, 2015
As reported in this lengthy front-page Chicago Tribune article, aggressive litigation by the federal defense bar concerning aggressive federal drug-war tactics have now resulted in federal prosecutors backing off the most aggressive federal criminal charges these tactics have generated...


Intriguing review of early impact of California's Prop 47 reducing offense seriousness

Posted on January 29, 2015
Though marijuana reform is the national criminal justice reform story most significantly driven by voter initiatives, voters in California the last two major election cycles have been enacting significant sentencing reforms through the initiative process...


"The Eternal Criminal Record"

Posted on January 29, 2015
The title of this post is the title of this important new book by James B. Jacobs. Here is a description of the book via the publisher's website: For over sixty million Americans, possessing a criminal record overshadows everything else...


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Some end-of-month highlights from Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform

Posted on January 29, 2015
Though it has been less than two weeks since my last round-up of notable new posts from Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform, a lot of cannabis commotion justifies another link review: AG nominee Loretta Lynch says she does not support...


With overwhelming public support, Japanese Justice Minister continues with capital punishment

Posted on January 29, 2015
As reported in this news article, "Japan is to continue applying the death penalty after over 80 percent of the country's population expressed their support for the measure, media Thursday cited Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa as saying." Here is more:...


George Toca now a free man ... and SCOTUS now lacks a live Miller retroactivity case

Posted on January 29, 2015
This local article from Louisiana, headlined "George Toca, La. inmate at center of debate on juvenile life sentences, to go free," reports on a remarkable turn of events in a case that was supposed to serve as the means for...


Examining the sources of an ever-aging US prison population

Posted on January 29, 2015
This Wall Street Journal article, headlined "U.S. Prisons Grapple With Aging Population: More Middle-Age Offenders Are Entering or Re-entering Facilities, Research Shows," explores why and how the population of incarceration nation is aging. Here are excerpts: Criminal-justice experts often attribute...


"Lynch to Cast Herself as Departure From Holder in Bid to Be Attorney General"

Posted on January 28, 2015
The title of this post is the headline of this New York Times article previewing the start today of hearings concerning President Obama's nomination for Eric Holder's replacement as Attorney General. Here is how the article starts: Loretta E. Lynch...


Did feds just win the drug war?: kingpin twin drug dealers get kingly sentencing break thanks to cooperation

Posted on January 28, 2015
As detailed in this AP story, headlined "Trafficking Twins Get Sharply Reduced Sentences," the sentencing benefits of cooperating with the government was on full display yesterday in a Chicago federal courtroom. Here are the details: Identical twin brothers who ran...


Notable political debate over adding LWOP to punishments in Canada

Posted on January 28, 2015
The lengthy press article from Canada, headlined "Tories to table life in prison without parole, shifting legal landscape," spotlights an interesting debate over LWOP sentences up north. Here are excerpts: The Conservative government is developing legislation that would mean some...


"The Humane Death Penalty Charade"

Posted on January 27, 2015
The title of this post is the headline of this New York Times editorial. Here are excerpts: When the United States at last abandons the abhorrent practice of capital punishment, the early years of the 21st century will stand out...


More good crime news for first part of 2014 according to FBI data

Posted on January 27, 2015
As reported in this official press release, the "the FBI?s Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report reveal overall declines in both the number of violent crimes and the number of property crimes reported for the first six months of 2014 when...


"Back to the Future: The Influence of Criminal History on Risk Assessment"

Posted on January 27, 2015
The title of this post is the title of this timely new paper by Melissa Hamilton now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract: Evidence-based practices providing an empirical basis for predicting recidivism risk have become a primary focus across...


The SCOTUS culture of death: "Execution Case Highlights the Power of One Vote"

Posted on January 26, 2015
The title of this post is drawn from the headline of this New York Times piece by Adam Liptak that highlights why the Supreme Court's decision on Friday to grant cert to review Oklahoma's execution protocol is so interesting and...


Shouldn't true fiscal conservatives question a federal program with 600% recent spending growth?

Posted on January 26, 2015
The question in the title of this post is part of my reaction to this new fact sheet released by the Pew Public Safety Performance Project. The Pew document is titled "Growth in Federal Prison System Exceeds States': Federal imprisonment...


High-profile capital trials put spotlight on dynamics of death-qualification of jurors

Posted on January 26, 2015
This new AP story, headlined "Death-qualified' juror search slows marathon, theater cases," effectively reviews the distinct notable realities that attend jury selection in a capital case. Here are some excerpts: One prospective juror was brutally frank when asked whether he...


"The Unconvincing Case Against Private Prisons"

Posted on January 26, 2015
The title of this post is the title of this intriguing recent article by Malcolm M Feeley just now appearing on SSRN. Here is the abstract: In 2009, the Israeli High Court of Justice held that private prisons are unconstitutional....


Could charter schools within the prison system help reduce recidivism?

Posted on January 26, 2015
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this interesting article from Georgia headlined "Gov. Deal wants new charter high schools for prison system." Here are excerpts: Gov. Nathan Deal in the both the amended 2015 and...


"Beyond a Reasonable Disagreement: Judging Habeas Corpus"

Posted on January 26, 2015
The title of this post is the title of this notable new article by Noam Biale now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract: This Article addresses ongoing confusion in federal habeas corpus doctrine about one of the most elemental...


Will this week's confirmation hearings for AG nominee Loretta Lynch produce any fireworks?

Posted on January 25, 2015
This new National Law Journal article suggests the answer to the question in the title of this post may actually be no. The piece is headlined "Nominee Isn't Drawing a Crowd: Loretta Lynch hasn't inspired the passions that Eric Holder...


"The Politics of Mercy: Is clemency still the third rail? We may find out."

Posted on January 25, 2015
The title of this post is the headline of this lengthy piece by Ken Armstrong at The Marshall Project. Here are excerpts: For decades, the conventional wisdom has been that clemency equals danger. Any governor who grants pardons or commutations...


Another remarkable exoneration thanks only to NC Innocence Inquiry Commission

Posted on January 24, 2015
On this blog, I typically do not extensively cover or frequently discuss exonerations and criminal appeals based on actual innocence claims because, as some may know, I fear guilt/innocence concerns can at times distort sentencing procedures and policy debates focused...


US Sentencing Commission essentially giving up on fixing definition of "crimes of violence"

Posted on January 23, 2015
As noted in prior posts here and here, the US Sentencing Commission earlier this month publish proposed guideline amendments with some modest but significant possible revisions to the federal fraud sentencing guidelines. One reason these modest proposed guideline changes could...


"Where Do We Go from Here? Mass Incarceration and the Struggle for Civil Rights"

Posted on January 23, 2015
The title of this post is the title of this recent essay by Robynn J.A. Cox from the Economic Policy Institute. Here is the essay's executive summary: On the surface, crime and punishment appear to be unsophisticated matters. After all,...


Eight years after Baze, Supreme Court takes up another lethal injection challenge

Posted on January 23, 2015
As reported in this new USA Today piece, taking up a "case that could have broad implications for hundreds of death row inmates, the Supreme Court will consider whether a drug protocol used in recent lethal injections violates the Constitution's...


"Heroin addiction sent me to prison. White privilege got me out and to the Ivy League."

Posted on January 22, 2015
The provocative title of this post is the headline of this provocative Washington Post piece authored by Keri Blakinger. Here is how it gets started (with links from the original): I was a senior at Cornell University when I was...


NACDL explains the massive work behind Clemency Project 2014

Posted on January 22, 2015
As noted in this prior post, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley last week sent this letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking a number of questions about the relationship between the Justice Department and outside groups working on "Clemency...


Speculating about how new California Supreme Court will now handle capital cases

Posted on January 21, 2015
This new Los Angeles Times article, headlined "Brown appointees to Supreme Court renew hopes in death penalty cases," reviews reasons why some think that new California Justices might mean a new type of California capital justice. Here are excerpts from...


Should a court hearing be required anytime a registered sex offender seeks entry to a public school?

Posted on January 21, 2015
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable article from Virginia headlined "ACLU questions new sex offender bill." Here are the details: Their faces and address are already public, now one Virginia lawmaker wants registered...


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