Ipso Facto

20131115wap josephpaulfranklin 150Joseph Paul Franklin is scheduled for execution next Wednesday in Missouri. Franklin is a rare racially-motivated serial killer.

Franklin drifted city-to-city and state-to-state in search of new hunting grounds in a quest, as he put it, to "cleanse the world.”

Franklin’s murderous acts can be traced back to his indoctrination by extremist groups he joined—the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), the American Nazi Party and the National States Rights Party (NSRP). Uneducated and shiftless young men like Franklin were targeted by the KKK, the Nazi Party and the NSRP in their recruitment of members.

In total, Franklin has been linked to roughly 20 killings and numerous other crimes. Beginning in 1977 and running through 1980, Franklin has been implicated in, or convicted of, two killings in Madison, WI; and a killing, in St. Louis. He is also responsible for a couple killings each in Chattanooga, TN, Johnstown, PA, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City and Oklahoma City; single killings in Jackson, MI, Tomah, WI and Falls Church, VA, as well as multiple killings in Indianapolis.

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supremecourt 2013wap150This week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Burt v. Titlow that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals did not apply the correct standard of review when it decided that advice given Vonlee Titlow about her plea bargain was inadequate.

Titlow had been living with her uncle Donald Rogers and his wife, Billie Rogers, in Troy, MI, at the time of his death in August 2000.

Titlow's boyfriend told police that Titlow and Billie had discovered Donald passed out, and then tried to pour vodka down his throat while holding his nose shut. Titlow allegedly stopped the vodka plan and left the room, at which point Billie apparently smothered Donald with the pillow.

The boyfriend had Titlow recount these details sometime later while wearing a wire.

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20121224 pasupremecourtlogo 150This week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided Commonwealth v. Ian Cunningham. The 4-3 decision ruled that Miller v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory life in prison for juveniles, is not retroactive.

The deciding fourth vote was cast by Justice Correale F. Stevens who was not on the Court when Cunningham was argued.

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Panic Street Lawyer: One day goodbye will be farewell

Sunday, 27 October 2013 06:00 AM Written by

20131027 sunrisepittsburgh490

In a week of departures, I promise not to be emotional like Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland. But, unlike that rubber yellow duck at the Point of Pittsburgh, I will say something.

A lot happened the last 156 weeks, and I have written about some of those happenings: in free speech, same-sex marriage, marijuana (medical and non-medical), health care (for athletes and non-athletes), fracking, voting (for politicians, movies, and music), Native Americans today, and relocated Philadelphia art museums. I have experienced the thrill of election victories by candidates I supported. I have also experienced the agony of defeatism after Tucson AZ, Chardon OH, Aurora CO, Oak Creek WI, and Newtown CT.

The last three years have seen some colossal falls from grace in the world of sports: Joe Paterno, Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Oscar Pistorius. It has also seen some remarkable comebacks in the world of media: Keith Olbermann alone had two.

I will also have a comeback of sorts: I come back to teaching undergrads at Carnegie Mellon University’s business school starting in January after a 19-month hiatus (I will continue to teach my Disability Discrimination course this coming semester at the University of Pittsburgh Law School).

After becoming a “Community Voice” for the Post-Gazette, I signed up for Twitter. More than 8,000 tweets later, I join outgoing Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl in saying: I wish I knew how to quit you. But I am quitting Ipso Facto.

What convinced me that the time was right to leave this space? When I started writing Panic Street Lawyer, I had no idea how long I would continue to write it. As time went on, I began to think that it would take something truly monumental to occur in order for me to justify hitting the “pause” button on PSL.

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supremecourt 2013wap150The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to define mental disability for the purpose of imposing the death penalty.

In 2002, Atkins v. Virginia established that subjecting a mentally disabled individual to capital punishment would violate the Constitution. But the court left it to the states to define the parameters of who qualifies as mentally disabled for purposes of capital punishment.

Ultimately the question is whether a defendant’s mental deficiency is so significant that he is unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct. If so, his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

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