Ipso Facto

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Domestic violence impacts literally millions of women each year. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report prepared by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Center for Disease Control found that nearly one in three women in the United States have been slapped, pushed, or shoved by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

With that grim statistic in mind and the alarming nature of professional football player Ray Rice’s case it may be surprising to know that domestic violence has dropped precipitously since the mid-1990s.

The rate of domestic violence in U.S. households declined 63 percent, from 13.5 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older in 1994 to 5.0 per 1,000 in 2012. Both serious domestic violence (rape, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault) and simple assault (push, shove, slap, threaten) decreased.

Why the long and sustained drop in domestic violence?

Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined suggested, “Those countries in which women are better represented in government and in the professions, and in which they earn a larger proportion of earned income, are less likely to have women at the receiving end of spousal abuse.”

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found access to protective orders, assistance with child custody and support, divorce and property distribution and domestic legal disputes around immigration, housing and public benefits help alleviate the burdens of domestic violence.

Lonnie A. Powers, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation wrote recently that these services "appear to actually present women with real, long-term alternatives to their relationships."

Criminal justice practitioners have focused a lot of attention -- with considerable success -- on enhanced sentences, emergency shelters, counselors and hotlines. Those efforts are priceless after an assault has occurred. However, such efforts do not prevent the pervasiveness of violence.

Domestic violence includes rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault committed by intimate partners -- current or former spouses, boyfriends and immediate family members.

I recently wrote in a column for GateHouse Media, “The greatest impact on violence against women in America and around the world is to empower women. In this country, women have excelled at every level. That kind of transformation is underway in many countries around the globe. However, until full equality is achieved professionally and personally, here and abroad, the scourge of domestic violence will continue.”

(Image: VvoeVale/Getty Images)


Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

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As the new school year begins many school districts are heightening security.

Security measures continue to evolve 20 months after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 students and six staff members dead following a rampage by a 20-year-old gunman.

The massacre at Sandy Hook brought about new procedures, cutting-edge equipment and security personnel.

This school year extends many of those efforts, some partly funded by state or federal grants. Experts point out that schools are one of the safest places for children and say security upgrades should be driven by factual assessments, not fear.

At Franklin Regional High School a student stabbed 21 students last spring. The western Pennsylvania school district received a Safe Schools Initiative Competitive Targeted Grant to improve security. The grant money will be used to upgrade building locks, improve communications throughout the school, improve response plans and train district staff members.

In Connecticut, police will be making more frequent visits to school buildings and doing periodic checks of buildings throughout the year, making sure students are aware of their presence.

"I've heard new alarms, new security with the doors, new cameras in the hallways which is reassuring," said Cindy Ramadanov, the parent of a school aged child.

The school also installed a box in the main office where students or anyone else can anonymously drop a note to report any situation.

"It makes me feel better. We weren't really aware last year, but we know the kids are safe," Ramadanov added.

Some school districts are only beginning to implement security measures that have become routine in other parts of the country. In Georgia, once the school day begins in some districts, the doors to the schools will be locked and visitors will need to press a button on a control panel to get in.

The control panel includes a video camera that allows staff inside the school to see who is at the door. Upon entering the school, visitors will follow the normal visitor procedures, signing in and showing identification to receive a visitor’s badge.

When visitors are ready to leave, they must exit the building through the main entrance and officially check out.

In Minnesota, some school districts installed "school safe activation buttons", commonly called panic buttons. The buttons can lock school entrances and trigger a school lockdown. Staff say the measures save precious time.

Other new security measures include flashing lights in hallways and outside of buildings that can alert students and staff to a lockdown. Students will soon undergo drills to better understand the new system, which is designed to create barriers in the threat of an intruder, allowing law enforcement more time to respond.

In the 21st century, unfortunately, returning to schools is about more than new books, old friends and the optimism of a new year.


Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

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Ninety years ago this this week, Clarence Darrow gave a 12-hour summation in the sentencing hearing for Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold.

The case known as Leopold and Loeb was heralded as the “trial of the century.” The case was not really a trial at all. Darrow had changed the young men’s pleas from not guilty to guilty and focused his efforts on preventing a death sentence.

On May 21, 1924, Leopold and Loeb rented a car and stocked it with tools to commit the “perfect crime.” Then they drove to a park near a local prep school to wait for the perfect victim. They found Bobby Franks.

The two wealthy University of Chicago students lured the 14-year-old Franks into the car. The two men murdered Franks for the thrill of the kill.

The next morning, a man on his way to work found Frank’s naked body, his face and genitals burned with acid, in a culvert in an isolated field outside of Chicago.

Darrow’s change of plea had turned the case on its head. Darrow, a graduate of Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, needed only a reduction from death by hanging to life in prison to win the case.

Darrow’s summation has been characterized as one of the greatest orations ever presented in opposition to the death penalty.

Darrow asked the judge, “Why did they kill little Bobby Franks? Not for money, not for spite; not for hate. They killed him as they might kill a spider or a fly, for the experience. They killed him because they were made that way.”

He continued to argue, “Kill them. Will that prevent other senseless boys or other vicious men or vicious women from killing? No!

Darrow pleaded, "If the state in which I live is not kinder, more humane, and more considerate than the mad act of these two boys, I am sorry I have lived so long."

He concluded “Your Honor, what excuse could you possibly have for putting these boys to death? You would have to turn your back on every precedent of the past. You would have to turn your back on the progress of the world. You would have to ignore all human sentiment and feeling …You would have to do all this if you would hang boys of eighteen and nineteen years of age who have come into this court and thrown themselves upon your mercy.”

Cook County Circuit Court Judge John R. Caverly was impressed. He imposed a sentence of life in prison for both men.

(Image: Nathan Leopold, 19, far right, and Richard Loeb, 18, second from right, are seen during their arraignment in a Cook County courtroom with attorney Clarence Darrow, left, in July 1924. The two teenagers were convicted and sentenced to serve life plus 99 years for the murder-kidnapping of Bobby Franks in May 1924. AP Photo)


Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

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Predictive analytics has made its way into the criminal justice system through the use of assessments to predict future risk. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

Predictive analytics is the process by which analysts are able extract information from a huge amount of data in order to reveal patterns and make predictions about what might happen in the future. Predictive analytics is not a crystal ball, but it is a tool that looks into the future with an acceptable level of reliability.

Holder cautioned against the use of data in sentencing criminal defendants, saying judges should base punishment on the facts of a crime rather than on statistical predictions of future behavior that can be unfair to minorities.

"Criminal sentences must be based on the facts, the law, the actual crimes committed, the circumstances surrounding each individual case, and the defendant's history of criminal conduct. They should not be based on unchangeable factors that a person cannot control, or on the possibility of a future crime that has not taken place," Holder said.

The concept is not new. The Commonwealth of Virginia has used risk assessment in sentencing for 15 years. The higher the assessment score, the less likely the offender will be diverted from prison. The result has been fewer people in prison and a crime rate lower than the national average.

Risk forecasting is not just relegated to the courtroom. Police departments have been refining forecasting over the last two decades.

Five years ago, Holder’s justice department sponsored a National Institute of Justice Symposium on Predictive Policing. Then Assistant Attorney General Laurie O. Robinson told the conference attendees, “Eric Holder is thinking a great deal about where we are in the evolution of law enforcement. He knows, as all of you do, that we’re at a point where some very strategic, and collaborative, thinking is in order.”

Predictive policing is the use of analytical techniques to identify promising targets for police intervention with the goal of preventing crime, solving past crimes, and identifying potential offenders and victims. These techniques can help departments address crime problems more effectively and efficiently.

Jeremy Heffner of Azavea, a firm specializing in geographic information system mapping said, “You can kind of think of crime as a disease. If a crime happens, we can see how it affects the likelihood that another incident is going to happen within a certain area in a certain amount of time after that.”

(Image: adrian825/iStock)


Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

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Judge Terrence Boyle of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina presided over the government’s prosecution of Wakemed Health and Hospitals in 2013, a company accused of pervasive Medicare fraud. He rejected a plea agreement, lamenting the skyrocketing number of healthcare fraud cases across the country and their impact on “every American wage earner and every American citizen.”

Judge Boyle noted the difficulty “for society and the court to differentiate between the everyday working Joe or Jane who goes to prison and the nonprofit corporate giant who doesn’t.” He complained that deferred prosecution agreements like the one he rejected are supposed to be for marijuana-smoking teenagers, not corporations accused of financial crimes.

Boyle’s complaint seemed to be directed at the U.S. Commission on Sentencing. The Commission, which yesterday voted on priorities for the coming year, has expressed interest in examining punishments for white-collar crime. Not to make them stiffer, but to be more lenient.

The timing of the Commission’s action seem a bit peculiar given the public outrage at those recently convicted of massive fraud—stealing the life savings of their clients; the lingering anger over the damage inflicted by the 2008 financial meltdown; and situations described by Judge Boyle.

Sentencing guidelines are advisory rather than mandatory, but judges still rely heavily on them. Advocates argue that white-collar sentencing guidelines are "mixed up and crazy" and could weaken support for keeping them in place, said Ohio State University law professor Douglas Berman, a sentencing law expert.

Critics of the guidelines in white-collar cases contend that they have come to rely too heavily on financial-loss calculations, which can quickly mushroom when the crime involves a public company. In certain cases, a public-company executive could face life in prison, said James Felman, a Tampa, FL defense attorney and member of an American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section Task Force on the Reform of Federal Sentencing for Economic Crimes looking at proposing revisions in the guidelines for economic crimes.

The commission's action to soften drug-crime guidelines is a signal that the time is ripe, to soften the impact on white-collar crime sentencing. Advocates hope the commission's decision to lower sentencing guideline ranges for drug crimes, effectively de-emphasizing the significance of drug quantity, paves the way for a new sentencing scheme that removes some of the weight attached to economic loss.

A 2013 proposal from an American Bar Association task force proposed that very thing in 2013. The task force encouraged judges to place less emphasis on how much money was lost and more on a defendant's culpability.

Under the proposal, judges would more scrupulously weigh less-quantifiable factors, including motive, the scheme's duration and sophistication, and whether the defendant actually financially benefited. Essentially, the Commission would give judges a little more discretion.

I’m sure Judge Boyle would be pleased with a little more discretion, but those brought before him might not be as pleased with the result.

(Image: John Lund/Sam Diephuis/Blend Images)


Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued its highest-level alert in response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

Two Americans, Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, have been returned to the U.S. from Liberia and are being treated for Ebola at the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Could a patient with a communicable disease, or merely exposed to a communicable disease, be isolated or quarantined in Pennsylvania?

In 2007, I wrote a column for the Pennsylvania Law Weekly on the issue of quarantine -- in light of the Ebola scare the law in Pennsylvania is worth revisiting.

The United States Constitution prohibits the federal government as well as state governments from depriving individuals of specifically protected liberty rights. There are exceptions. In Pennsylvania the health and well-being of the community at large may supersede individual rights of freedom and liberty.

Although matters relating to public health have been left largely to individual states to manage, the federal government does have jurisdiction over cases where communicable disease is introduced into this country from a foreign source or to prevent or curtail the interstate movement of communicable disease.

In Pennsylvania the Disease Prevention and Control Law (DPCL) provides that the state department of health, county/municipal health departments or a local heath authority may, without court intervention, order an individual quarantined or isolated if the individual poses a significant threat to the health of the public and no lesser restrictive means is warranted. The court may be asked to review the order within 24 hours of service upon the individual being detained.

The DPCL defines quarantine as the “limitation of freedom of movement of persons . . . who have been exposed to a communicable disease.” The limitations may continue for a period of time equal to the incubation period of the disease. Isolation is the separation of persons already infected, from other people to prevent direct transmission of disease.

As far back as 1902 the U.S. Supreme Court recognized isolation and quarantine as legitimate public health techniques to contain the spread of infectious disease.

In the months following the September 11th attack, the Pennsylvania legislature went even further by enacting the Counterterrorism Planning, Preparedness and Response Act (Act). The Act provides the governor with authority to order the temporary isolation or quarantine of individuals or groups. The Act, although not clear, was intended for use following a suspected act of bioterrorism. The statute does not specifically preclude the Act from being utilized during a pandemic.

The governor has also been empowered to order a “cordon sanitaire” which is the quarantining of an entire town or city. Such an order from the governor is subject to judicial review.

(Image: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials have a conference call on Ebola earlier this week with CDC team members deployed in West Africa from the agency's Emergency Operations Center in Atlanta. David Goldman/Associated Press)


Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

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Last week, I wrote about Pittsburgh Public Safety director Stephen A. Bucar’s charge: Lead by example. He said after his confirmation hearing “the way forward is to build leadership that instills respect in the rank and file… [and] reach out to communities that have seen a deteriorating relationship with the department.”

Then his first step as public safety director was to make a questionable challenge to the authority of the district attorney. That won’t do much to boost confidence in the police and criminal justice system. He issued a statement saying that the city police bureau will not adopt practices on eyewitness identification implemented by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.

“Although the model is endorsed by certain academic and research facilities, there is dissenting opinion in those same communities that disputes the conclusion that the best practice for eyewitness identification procedure lies with a sequential process rather than a simultaneous process,” Mr. Bucar said.

United States Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. wrote in a dissenting opinion more than thirty years ago, “There is almost nothing more convincing than a live human being who takes the stand, points a finger at the defendant, and says, ‘That’s the one!’

More than 75,000 prosecutions every year are based entirely on eyewitness identification. Some of those identifications are erroneous.  One study by University of Virginia Law School professor Brandon L. Garrett found that eyewitness misidentifications contributed to wrongful convictions in 76 percent of the cases overturned by DNA evidence

Even U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has acknowledged the shortcomings of eyewitness identification. She wrote, "eyewitness identifications' unique confluence of features — their unreliability, susceptibility to suggestion, powerful impact on the jury, and resistance to the ordinary tests of the adversarial process — can undermine the fairness of a trial."

According to the Post-Gazette, Bucar cited debate in the scientific community over the most effective means to utilize eyewitness identification. Nancy Steblay, a leading eyewitness scientist from Augsburg College in Minneapolis, said that’s not the case anymore.

A 2011 review she co-authored reported that the sequential process is superior.

“We have over 70 studies we’ve reviewed and verified, and you see the pattern over and over again for sequential,” Ms. Steblay said. “In an enormous set of studies, you’re always going to find some outliers. But that’s what science does — look for the pattern.”

Zappala is advocating for the sequential process. “Although it’s not perfect, it’s far superior — significantly superior — to the simultaneous procedure,” said Steblay.

In fact, this area of the law is rapidly changing. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled recently that criminal defendants have the right to offer expert testimony about the reliability of eyewitness identification. The decision overturned a 20-year prohibition against using such experts in Pennsylvania.

(Image: Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar, right, and Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala. Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette photos)


Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

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"What's going on in Pittsburgh is a crisis in confidence," said Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess during acting Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar's confirmation hearing this week.

"I absolutely agree with you that there's a confidence problem in some parts of the city," responded Bucar. "In attending these police chief meetings, I can see some of the anger and frustration in some areas of the city."

Bucar acknowledged low morale at the police bureau, but he was quick to mention that the department is a “very professional organization.”

Bucar should be applauded for acknowledging the problem, but the mere fact that he brought it up points to the work needed to rectify the problem. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, when he was General Eisenhower was constantly concerned with troop morale. He once said, "The best morale exists when you never hear the word mentioned. When you hear a lot of talk about it, it's usually lousy."

What Eisenhower meant was you cannot just talk about improving morale you’ve got to do something about it.

Bucar went on to say, the department has a “small number of bad seeds” and they get all the publicity. “It taints and paints with a broad brush,” he said, adding that public perception of officers affects their work.

Although research on police morale has evolved significantly over the years, almost all of the early research in this field focused on operational stress that officers face. The source of low morale was based on the premise that law enforcement professionals are placed in continuously difficult situations and are required to deal with these situations in the course of their duties.

What has evolved recently is the theory of organizational stress. A study of more than 2,500 officers indicated that “the findings reveal the majority of the 10 greatest sources of anger and frustration among officers have a crucial common denominator, their administrators.”

Low morale, whether operation or organizational, has consequences. A morale problem can increase turnover, absenteeism and low productivity — all of which make neighborhoods more vulnerable. Low morale can also spur civil liability which depletes resources and drives up taxpayer costs. Finally, and most tragic, low morale drives up officer suicide.

Bucar says the way forward is to build leadership that instills respect in the rank and file, and hire a new chief who not only can inspire officers but successfully reach out to communities that have seen a deteriorating relationship with the department.

“It can’t be somebody who hasn’t earned that respect by being in law enforcement for a number of years,” he said. “I have to build that trust and I have to be confident that my police chief shares that interest in drilling down in those communities that don’t trust the police.”

(Image: Stephen A. Bucar, the city of Pittsburgh's new acting public safety director, at a news briefing with Mayor Bill Peduto. Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette)


Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

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