Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Skagit County suit claims public defenders too busy to defend

A class action suit against the cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington claims that the attorney with the contract to handle public defense of misdemeanor cases has such a high caseload that it violates defendants' right to counsel. Skagit County suit claims public defenders too busy to defend | Seattle Times Newspaper, June 20, 2011.

Public defenders suing Seattle

After 40 years, The Defender Association's contract with the City of Seattle was not renewed, going instead to Northwest Defenders Association. TDA is challenging the decision, because the other group's lower bid was adjusted (at the city's request) to be higher than TDA's. Public defenders suing Seattle | Seattle Times Newspaper, June 21, 2011.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Prosecutor's Comments Questioned

The Washington State Supreme Court overturned a conviction this month because of the white prosecutor's remarks that black witnesses had not testified against the black defendant because of a purported code that "black folk don't testify against black folk." State v. Monday, No. 82736-2 (June 29, 2011), links to opinions on court's website: majority, concurrence, dissent. See Jennifer Sullivan, Seattle murder conviction tossed out over 'racist' comments, Seattle Times, June 9, 2011.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg wrote a guest editorial apologizing for the comments. 'No-snitch' argument untrue, damaging to trust in law enforcement, June 16, 2011.

This statement is untrue and offensive. We know from experience that the "no snitch" ethic is not confined to any particular race or background. We see it commonly across a wide range of cases that we handle. On the other hand, we also see witnesses of all races and backgrounds participate fully in the criminal-justice system, fulfilling an important civic duty that keeps us all safe and protects our constitutional rights.

Compounding the error, the statement has the unfortunate and ironic effect of further eroding trust in the criminal-justice system. By decrying the "no snitch" ethic in this manner, the senior deputy prosecutor created yet another reason for some to believe that our justice system is biased and racist.

Now an appeal is arguing that the same deputy prosecutor (James Konat) made inappropriate comments in his closing argument in the trial of Sebastian Burns who was convicted with Atif Rafay of killing Rafay's parents and sister. Konat said that the crime was worse than a Middle East beheading of a U.S. citizen, a comparison the brief argues was an appeal to nationalism and prejudice. Prosecutor's comments cited in call for new Sebastian Burns trial | Seattle Times Newspaper, June 20, 2011.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Gene Anderson, U.S. Atty, Prosecuted White Collar Crime, Neo-Nazis

Gene S. Anderson, who served as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington 1981-89, died on March 27, 2011. He was noted for his prosecutions of white collar crime, both in the King County Prosecutor's Office and then on the federal level. He also worked with his counterparts in other jurisdictions to convict 20 members of the Order, a neo-Nazi group. A memorial will be held Friday, June 24, at 4 pm in the U.S. Courthouse, 700 Stewart St. Gene S. Anderson: memorial to honor trailblazing prosecutor, Seattle Times, June 18, 2011.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Churches Against ‘Jim Crow’

For many black congregations, this weekend’s celebration of Juneteenth will feature a special emphasis on exposing the racial biases of our nation’s criminal justice system.

Since attorney Michelle Alexander wrote The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, a network of churches has joined her in the fight against a criminal justice system that targets poor minority communities and locks up a disproportionate percentage of African American men.

The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, a group of thousands of black churches involved in local and global social justice issues, is coming together for Juneteenth to galvanize faith-based action against the new Jim Crow that Alexander writes about in her book.
Catherine Newhouse, Churches Against ‘Jim Crow’ | Urban Faith, June 17, 2011.

See earlier posts on The New Jim Crow. See also the Gallagher Law Library (UW Law) guide, Race in the Criminal Justice System and the website for the state Task Force on Race and the Criminal Justice System.

Juneteenth is a celebration of African American freedom and accomplishment. The Washington State legislature declared:
The legislature recognizes that on June 19, 1865, Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War had ended and the slaves were now free; that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863; that the end of slavery brought on new challenges and realities in establishing a previously nonexistent status for African-Americans in the United States; that racism and continued inequality is the legacy of slavery and acknowledging it is the first step in its eradication; and that since 1980 June 19th has been celebrated as Juneteenth across the United States as a day for people to come together in the spirit of reconciliation to commemorate the contributions of African-Americans to this country's history and culture.

The legislature declares that an annual day of recognition be observed in remembrance of the day the slaves realized they were free as a reminder that individual rights and freedoms must never be denied.

The legislature declares that an annual day of recognition be observed in remembrance of the day the slaves realized they were free as a reminder that individual rights and freedoms must never be denied.
Laws of 2007 ch. 61 § 1, codified at RCW 1.16.050.

Emotional Testimony in Murder-Rape Trial

The cover story in The Stranger describes in some detail the painful and moving testimony by a Seattle woman who was raped and stabbed and whose partner was raped, stabbed, and killed. The Bravest Woman in Seattle, June 14, 2011.

The reporter, Eli Sanders, has followed this case since the crime was committed, nearly two years ago. See his earlier feature stories: While South Park Slept: A Gruesome Murder, a Beloved Bar, and a Week on the Edge, The Stranger, July 28, 2009, and The Mind of Kalebu, Sept. 22, 2009. The second article describes incidents showing the mental instability and possible dangerousness of the defendant, Isaiah Kalebu.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Conference on Forensic Inference Statistics in Seattle Next Month

8th International Conference on Forensic Inference Statistics
Date:  July 18-21, 2011.

Location: University of Washington School of Law, William H. Gates Hall, 4293 Memorial Way, Seattle, WA

The area of statistical reasoning applied to forensic science has undergone a rapid growth and development both theoretically but also in applied research, becoming a highly interdisciplinary field. This conference is the only forum where police officers, forensic scientists, jurists, scholars from related disciplines and statisticians meet to discuss the constraints, mechanisms and opportunities to provide statistical and inferential support to the decision making process either at level of the investigation or in court.

The Washington State Bar Association has approved the July 18, 2011 ICFIS program for 7 hours of general CLE credit, and the July 19-21 ICFIS conference for 18 hours of general CLE credit.

More details on the program are here.

Miranda and Kids

Marcia Coyle, In Miranda Calculus, Age Should Be a Factor, Court Says, Nat'l L.J., June 16, 2011.

Stressing that children are not "miniature adults," a divided U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday held that the police must consider a juvenile suspect's age in deciding whether the child is in custody and must be given Miranda warnings.

"It is beyond dispute that children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstances would feel free to leave," wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor for the 5-4 majority. "Seeing no reason for police officers or courts to blind themselves to that commonsense reality, we hold that a child's age properly informs the Miranda custody analysis."

J. D. B. v. North Carolina, No. 09-11121 (June 16, 2011)

For more on the vulnerability of children to coercive interrogation, see this video from the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth (Northwestern Law in Chicago).

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jurors Online Discussed in New Journal

The Reynolds National Center for Courts and Media and Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism (University of Nevada Reno) launched a new journal in February: the Reynolds Courts and Media Law Journal.

The first issue, Winter 2011, included articles on venue after Enron, guidelines for unmasking in public figure libel cases, and a summary guide on courts and media for judges.

The Spring 2011 issue has four articles on "Modern Media in the Courts":

  • Judge Dennis M. Sweeney, When Worlds Collide: Digital Natives Enter the Jury Box, p. 121
  • Genelle I. Belmas, That's What "Friend" Is for?: Judges, Social Networks and Standards for Recusal, p. 147
  • Gareth S. Lacy,* Untangling the Web: How Courts Should Respond to Juries Using the Internet for Research, p. 169
  •  Stacy Blasiola, Say "Cheese!": Cameras and Bloggers in Wisconsin's Courtrooms, p. 197
*Gareth is a 2011 graduate of the University of Washington School of Law.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Miranda Anniversary

Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436, Justia, was decided 45 years ago today (June 13, 1966). For a quick summary and the oral arguments, see (or hear) the Oyez Project.

Here are some recent books discussing Miranda and its impact:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cameras in Federal District Courts

The federal courts are beginning an experiment to have some trial court proceedings videorecorded and made public. The Western District of Washington is one of the fourteen districts in the pilot project. See Courts Selected for Federal Cameras in Court Pilot Study, U.S. Courts, June 8, 2011; Restrictive Rules Announced for Federal Courts Camera Experiment, The BLT: Blog of the Legal Times, June 8, 2011.

Update (June 10): One commentator rues the restrictions in the experiment (e.g., recording of only civil cases, and only cases where the parties consent): Sean Doherty, No Fly-on-the-Wall Effect From Cameras in U.S. District Courts, Law Technology News, June 10, 2011.