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fifthamendment
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The 50th Anniversary of Miranda

“The quality of a nation’s civilization can be largely measured by the methods it uses in the enforcement of its criminal law.” This month marks the fiftieth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Miranda v. Arizona. To commemorate the occasion, here’s a great write-up on why the case matters so much and how we Read More

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A Postscript to Last Week’s Open Letter

Following up on last week’s post, readers should understand the timeline of events that brought the misconduct to light. Here are the highlights. In January 2013, a defendant in a murder case filed a motion to get some important information from the prosecution. The trial court found good cause for the motion and granted it, but the district attorney’s office Read More

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An Open Letter to the District Attorney of Orange County

Mr. Rackauckas: Just what is going on in your office, sir? I’m not talking about the fight that broke out in a county courthouse three weeks ago between one of your investigators and a defense attorney. Never mind that if a defense attorney did this to a cop, he’d be arrested so fast his head would spin. (Full Read More

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Something Wicked This Way Comes

I recently watched the documentary, Making A Murderer, and if you haven’t yet, you should. No, it’s not an indictment of all law enforcement. It’s an object lesson in why we should be deeply skeptical of power and the people who lord it over our lives. And how easy it can be for them to get you, too, especially once they’ve Read More

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The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance

Antonin Scalia didn’t coin that expression, but the late Supreme Court Justice, who died one month ago, once delivered a speech that touched on a similarly uncomfortable notion. Nearly two years to the day before his death, Scalia was speaking to a group of law students at the University of Hawaii, and he was asked about Read More

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The Age of Innocents

Ten times a month. That’s how often an innocent person is freed from prison in our country, according to this 60 Minutes segment that aired Sunday night. And those are just the ones we know about. I suspect the number comes from the National Registry of Exonerations, which recorded 125 exonerations in the year 2014. That year set a new record for Read More

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One Way to the Gallows

To appreciate due process, consider the story of a simple man named George Spencer who was accused, of all things, of impregnating a pig in puritan New England. His story takes place in 1642, and it’s excerpted from the book, The Case of the Piglet’s Paternity: Trials from New Haven Colony, 1639-1663, by Jon C. Blue, a Superior Read More

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But You Promised!

File this one under, #CallYourLawyerFirst. Two weeks ago, a federal court of appeals reversed a man’s conviction for mortgage fraud and ordered the case dismissed because the government had broken its promise not to prosecute him in exchange for his cooperation. The case presents a strange but interesting set of facts. From 2006 to 2007, the man worked for a real-estate firm that came Read More

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USDOJ Ends Certain, Controversial Property Seizures. Sort of.

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder ordered an end to a controversial, civil-asset-forfeiture practice known as federally-adopted forfeiture, or “federal adoption” for short. It’s called that because it applies to cases in which state or local agencies seize money or property under state law but then offer the property to the federal government to be forfeited under federal law because they can’t or don’t want to proceed Read More

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A Riff on California Grand Juries

The Grand-Jury Clause of the Fifth Amendment applies only to the federal government, not the states, but even so, about half of the states choose to require a grand-jury indictment in order to prosecute a felony case. In other states, like California, prosecutors have the discretion to decide whether to proceed by indictment or by complaint, preliminary hearing, Read More

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