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A study following up on a 1980s report about mandatory domestic violence arrest policies in Milwaukee was the centerpiece of this week’s annual Jerry Lee Symposium on Evidence-Based Crime Policy in Washington, D.C.

The symposium is named for Jerry Lee a Philadelphia radio station owner, and native of New Castle, Pennsylvania, who has funded criminology research at the University of Pennsylvania and Cambridge University in England.

The study, Increased death rates of domestic violence victims from arresting vs. warning suspects in the Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment, found increased death rates among victims when suspects were arrested, rather than merely warned, by police.

"The foundational question being begged by this research is an important and understudied one: Is the criminal justice system the best societal response to non-felonious domestic assault?" Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn asked when the report was released.

Researchers highlighted the findings that victims were 64 percent more likely to have died of all causes, such as heart disease, cancer or other illness, if their partner was arrested rather than warned, and noted that among African-American victims, arrest increased early mortality by 98 percent while white victims saw mortality increased from arrest by 9 percent.

The study was a follow-up to the Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment from 1987-1989 and undertaken by the same primary researcher, Lawrence W. Sherman, a University of Maryland professor and director of Cambridge University's Police Executive Program. Sherman was formerly of the University of Pennsylvania, where I had the chance to observe his research first-hand as a student in Penn’s criminology program.

At this week's conference, Sherman contended that "criminal penalties have enormous side effects. They do not always deter crime, and they may increase crime." He went on to say, "We should get away from a one-size-fits-all policy."

Flynn and other speakers said that more research is needed to provide law enforcers with better guidance on the effectiveness of arrests versus other tactics, such as referring alleged abusers to social services, reported The Crime Report. He noted that of 81 domestic violence homicides in Milwaukee in the last eight years, suspects in 61 of them had prior arrest records.

Flynn refrained from concluding that the arrests somehow provoked the killings and should not have been made.

Previous studies have shown post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) to be prevalent in victims of domestic violence, and that low but chronic PTSS has been linked to premature death from coronary heart disease and other health problems.

“The impact of seeing a partner arrested could create a traumatic event for the victim, one that raises their risk of death. An arrest may cause more trauma in concentrated black poverty areas than in white working-class neighborhoods, for reasons not yet understood,” concluded the report.

The exact cause of the surprising results remains a “medical mystery,” says Professor Sherman.

(Top image: moodboard/Thinkstock)


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 Massachusetts Bar Association, Commission on Criminal Justice Attorney Compensation found that Massachusetts ranks dead last in annual salaries paid to public defenders and that the county prosecutor is often the lowest-paid person in the courtroom, finishing behind custodial workers.

Martin W. Healy, chief legal counsel for the bar association told the Boston Globe “There is definitely a public safety aspect to all of it… [t]ax dollars are not being spent in a wise and appropriate fashion.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1963 landmark decision, Gideon v. Wainwright, required states to provide lawyers for defendants, regardless of their ability to pay—a ruling that transformed the nation’s legal landscape. More than fifty years later, defender resources remain scarce and prosecutors have not fared much better.

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Recently Oklahoma became the center of national attention because of the botched execution of Clayton Lockett. A minute-by-minute account of the lethal injection procedure released by the state's Department of Corrections suggested that Lockett was conscious for more than 30 minutes before state officials called off the execution. Lockett died of an apparent heart attack ten minutes later.

This week, a committee of the The Constitution Project (TCP), a Washington-based think tank, identified systemic flaws with the death penalty from arrest to execution and offered proposals to remedy them.

"From the moment of arrest to the moment of death, the criminal justice system faces vexing challenges in carrying out the ultimate punishment," said former Texas Governor Mark White, a co-chair of the committee.

White noted that the issuance of the new report could not be more timely. Just last week, President Barak Obama declared that America continues to have "significant problems" in the application of the death penalty. The president asked Attorney General Eric Holder to review how the death penalty is administered in this country, and report back to him.

Here are some of the recommendations made in the TCP report entitled Irreversible Error:

-- Lethal injection should consist of a deadly dose of a single anesthetic or barbiturate approved by the Food and Drug Administration, rather than a complex multi-drug cocktail.

-- Defendants should be entitled by statute to testing of forensic evidence if the results may be relevant to a claim of innocence or wrongful conviction.

-- Custodial interrogations of a suspect in a homicide case should be videotaped or digitally recorded whenever practical.

-- State and federal jurisdictions should adopt legislation to require that eyewitness identifications be conducted in accordance with best practices called for by prevailing scientific research.

-- There should be a rebuttable presumption that a person with an IQ below 75 is intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for the death penalty.

-- A defendant who shows reckless indifference but does not personally kill, attempt to kill or intend that a killing take place should not be eligible for capital punishment.

-- Every jurisdiction that imposes capital punishment should create an independent authority to screen, appoint, train and supervise lawyers to represent defendants charged with a capital crime.

-- Judges should be prohibited from overriding a jury’s recommendation of a sentence of less than death.

-- All capital jurisdictions should establish charging review committees to review prosecutorial decisions in death-eligible cases.

The Committee’s members include both supporters and opponents of the death penalty. They are Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals. They reflect the full range of criminal justice stakeholders, including those with experience as judges, prosecutors, defenders, law enforcement officers, policymakers, victim advocates and scholars.

The Committee has released two previous reports: Mandatory Justice: Eighteen Reforms to the Death Penalty, released in 2001 and an update, released in 2005, called Mandatory Justice: The Death Penalty Revisited.

(Top image: Robert Patton, director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, addresses a press conference about the attempted execution of Clayton Lockett, in Tulsa, Okla. on Tuesday, April 29.  John Clanton/Tulsa World via 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 fall, the Washington Post reported that U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. told a room full of college students that the biggest constitutional challenge facing the court was "the fundamental principle underlying what constitutional protection is and apply[ing] it to new issues and new technology."

The Supreme Court took on another aspect of that challenge this week, hearing arguments in two cases, Riley v. California, No. 13-132, and United States v. Wurie, No. 13-212.

The Court is considering whether police need a warrant to search the contents of a cellphone seized when making an arrest. Each case deals with similar, but not identical, technologies. The Wurie case is out of Massachusetts and deals with an old-style flip phone, while the Riley case out of California deals with a smartphone.

The Obama administration and the California Attorney General’s Office urged the court to endorse a bright-line rule that would allow police to search the full content of any cellphone, tablet, or laptop computer being carried by anyone arrested by authorities for any reason.

Sixteen states’ attorneys general asked the Supreme Court to equate the privacy of handheld data with that of “information on paper or in other documentary forms.” The National Sheriffs’ Association and related law enforcement agencies argued that warrantless search of cell phones is justified in the face of “time-sensitive accessibility” features like password locks.

Critics say cellphones, particularly smart phones, and other electronic devices increasingly hold or provide access to the most private details of a person’s life -- including personal photos, videos, messages, names of friends and associates, banking and financial information, and medical records, among others.

Justice Antonin Scalia did not seem deeply troubled by the prospect of a cellphone search during an arrest. However, he suggested that it should be limited to evidence of the crime for which the individual was arrested.

Justice Anthony Kennedy brought up a perceived conflict in allowing warrantless cellphone searches in connection with arrests for serious crimes while denying police that right in the case of lesser offenses.

The most vocal defender of smartphone privacy was Justice Elena Kagan, who said she was troubled by the notion that police could confiscate and copy someone’s phone just because he or she was arrested for driving without a seatbelt.

“People carry their lives on cellphones,” she declared.

Scalia seemed to agree. “It seems absurd you should be able to search that person’s iPhone because of an arrest for a minor crime,” he said.

(Top image: maxkabakov/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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executionerstoll150The legal maneuvering in Oklahoma over the scheduled executions of two condemned men convicted of separate murders has taken a strange, but not entirely unusual turn. This week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court stepped in to delay the executions of Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner while they pursued their challenge to the state’s “secret” lethal injection methods. That is not unusual.

What is unusual is that the Oklahoma Supreme Court does not normally handle criminal matters. The Court of Criminal Appeals had refused to consider the request for a delay, leading to an uneasy confrontation between the two courts.

As politics and the death penalty intersect the issue of delay got even murkier.

The Oklahoma Attorney General called into question the Supreme Court’s authority and asked the Court to drop its stay. The Court rejected the request, and soon after Governor Mary Fallin issued an executive order asserting that the stay was “outside the constitutional authority” of the Supreme Court. She exercised her own constitutional authority to delay the executions by one week, meaning that the two men could both be put to death before their challenge to lethal injection is resolved.

This confrontation is only the latest in a long history of political wrangling over the death penalty. My book, The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States released this week by McFarland & Company, examines how the death penalty has evolved from a term of art utilized in the criminal justice system to cultural buzz words used to reveal a philosophy on issues of law and order.

The death penalty has become, in many ways, a symbolic political term that lends itself to the illusion of toughness, if you support the death penalty; and to the illusion of weakness if you do not support the death penalty.

The idea that a political candidate can establish her law and order bona fides by being pro-death penalty has enhanced the significance of the death penalty in American politics. As capital punishment has evolved into a political symbol, “Joe Six-Pack” at the corner bar can also confirm his tough, red-blooded, law-abiding persona through his support of the death penalty.

The death penalty has morphed into a hot-button political issue right up there with abortion, guns and taxes. That is why Oklahoma’s Governor, attorney general, Supreme Court Justices and appellate judges are involved in this race to the death chamber—a public spectacle that serves no other purpose than political aggrandizement.


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 book The Executioner's Toll, 2010 is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

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In 2013, 246 people were murdered in Philadelphia but the police only received 82 tips about those homicides. Officials say those numbers are indicative of the “no snitching” culture in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia officials are actively trying to recruit informants to help solve murders through innovative social media efforts and good old fashioned rewards. Ironically, at the same time a high profile Philadelphia informant is being eviscerated in the media. Tyrone B. Ali an informant who was helping the Attorney General’s office in a corruption probe has been hung out to dry.

Informants are a hot topic in Philadelphia. Anyone thinking of cooperating with police is certainly going to be influenced by the battle between the attorney general, a former lead prosecutor in the attorney general’s office and the district attorney of Philadelphia.

Last month, Attorney General Kathleen Kane decided to drop a political corruption probe in Philadelphia.

One of the primary prosecutors in the investigation was Frank G. Fina. He is now front and center in this embarrassing public dispute along with his new boss Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.

The dispute is centered on the viability of corruption prosecutions which hinge on the credibility, or lack thereof, of Ali.

A confidential informant is a person usually accused of a crime that either comes forward, or is asked by police, to offer assistance in exchange for leniency. Jailhouse informants, inmates often already convicted, are commonly recruited to testify about statements made by other inmates accused of murder, organized crime, sexual assault and just about any other crime.

The confidential informant has a useful place in the investigation and prosecution of criminal conduct. The closely vetted and reliable confidential informant can provide a wealth of information about an ongoing criminal enterprise. A drug informant can make controlled hand-to-hand purchases of illegal drugs without which there would be few successful drug prosecutions.

At times, confidential informants go sour. In Sarasota, Florida prosecutors dropped or reduced felony drug charges against more than a dozen people after learning that the police informant who set up the drug deals had sex with some of the defendants.

The informant crossed ethical and legal boundaries in what is already a murky world where criminals work with undercover officers under unseemly and often dangers circumstance to document criminal activity.

Although almost invisible to the public, the use of criminal confidential informants permeates the criminal justice system across the country. According to Alexandra Natapoff in Secret Justice: Criminal Informants and America’s Underground Legal System, “These deals typically take place off-the-record, subject to few rules and little oversight. While criminal informants…can be important investigative tools, using them has some serious costs.”

(Top image: The skyline of downtown Philadelphia. Tom Mihalek/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 book The Executioner's Toll, 2010 is due out this summer.

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justicedepartmentlogo 150The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced a major new initiative aimed at enhancing public safety by strengthening relationships between law enforcement and communities. The DOJ has established the National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice.

For years, criminal justice practitioners have advocated for better relationships between the police and the public. Eight years ago, Police Chief Magazine suggested, “By building trust with the community, police officers can persuade citizens to come out of their houses and businesses to talk about problems.”

A better police community relationship serves four important objectives. First, it enables police officers and community prosecutors to develop a plan for solving problems and finding solutions. Second, it provides invaluable information that law enforcement can use to develop witnesses. Third, it builds the trust in the criminal justice system that is necessary to cultivate potential jury pools. Fourth, citizens who feel that their problems are taken seriously become part of the problem-solving process, providing the court with victim impact statements on how crime affects them.

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Jack Ready died on February 24, 2014 in Ft. Washington, Maryland. He was 86 years old. There was so much more to Ready’s life. Ready was a special agent in the U.S. Secret Service, assigned to the presidential motorcade as it made its way through Dealey Plaza in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Ready was assigned to the car following the presidential limousine positioned on the car’s right-front running board. His position placed him opposite agent Clint Hill.

When the shots rang out, Hill rushed forward and—in a scene that would become iconic -- jumped onto the limousine in an effort to shield the president and the first lady. Ready held his position.

Hill would later say, “I know that it was devastating to Jack that he was unable to do anything.”

It wasn’t until 1902 that the Secret Service, created in 1865 to eradicate counterfeit currency, assumed official full-time responsibility for protecting the president. Before that, security for the president could be unbelievably lax.

The most astounding example was the scant protection afforded President Abraham Lincoln on the night he was assassinated. Only one man, an unreliable Washington cop named John Frederick Parker, was assigned to guard the president at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.

The secret service has become more and more sophisticated and at times more heroic. On March 30, 1981, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy stepped in front of a bullet, fired by John Hinckley Jr., intended for President Ronald Reagan.

"You never dream that you are going to be in this situation. You train intensely, there's a reason for doing it, and frankly I never thought it would happen to me," McCarthy said in an interview with CNN last year. “I'm just thankful that on that particular day I was able to do what I was trained to do."

Lately the news about the Secret Service has been anything but heroic—starting with a South American prostitution scandal last year that made world-wide headlines.

Thirteen agents were accused of partying with female foreign citizens at a hotel in the seaside resort of Cartagena, Colombia, where they were staying before President Barack Obama's arrival for a Latin American summit. Some of the women were prostitutes and the incident came to light after an agent had a fight in the hotel with a prostitute over payment.

Last month, two agents in Florida were involved in a traffic accident that reportedly involved alcohol. Then there was an incident involving an agent recently found drunk in a hotel in the Netherlands.

Not the stuff of Jack Ready, Clint Hill or Tim McCarthy.

(Top image: United States Secret Service director Julia Pierson and Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., leave a committee hearing on recent Secret Service agents behavior, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 1, 2014. Cliff Owen/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 book The Executioner's Toll, 2010 is due out this summer.

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