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New California Criminal Laws: Part Deux

To conclude our series on new criminal laws, here are two more notable ones. You have more protection against abusive asset forfeiture. This is Senate Bill 443. It amended the Health and Safety Code to curb law enforcement’s ability to take and keep your property without convicting you of a crime. For more background see here. Under Read More

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Lies, Damned Lies, and Sex Crimes

If you thought the case from last week was bad, here’s another one that’s worse. This time, the supposed victim hasn’t stepped forward to admit she lied, so the man she accused of child molestation sits in prison, as he has for seventeen years, and the system seems powerless to stop it. What happened? The jury never saw medical records Read More

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California Prosecutor to Pursue Perjury Cases More Aggressively

Speaking of district attorneys’ doing creative things, here’s another one. The district attorney from Lake County, California has created a perjury-investigations unit to prosecute what he views as rampant, unchecked perjury in the courtroom. And he’s not wrong about that. Just ask a divorce lawyer about the vicious lies that people will tell in court when it suits them. It’s Read More

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Prosecutors Form Conviction-Review Units

More and more, district attorneys are creating specialized, dedicated teams of prosecutors to review viable claims of wrongful conviction in their counties. They’re called conviction-review units or conviction-integrity units, and it’s a good thing. They’ve only been around for ten or fifteen years, but the concept is catching on. According to this April 2016 study by the 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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A House of Cards

That’s how the U.S. Supreme Court described the evidence in a murder case that it reversed last week because the prosecution had wrongly concealed other important evidence from the defense and jury. Factor in that other evidence, the Court held, and the house begins to crumble. How so? There was no physical evidence tying the defendant to the murder, only the 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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It’s All Just Harmless Error, Except When It’s Not

We say you’re not guaranteed a flawless trial, only a fair one, so even when there’s error, we don’t reverse a conviction if the error is deemed to be harmless overall. But a federal court of appeals recently reversed a state murder conviction because of a legal error that several courts before it had deemed harmless. The case takes an interesting look at the weight and power of jury Read More

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