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murderandmanslaughter
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When You Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

You may never serve on a jury, but suppose you did. How would you feel—how would any of us feel—if we voted to convict someone innocent? This person knows. In 2009, she voted to convict a 17-year-old boy for murder based on the testimony of one eyewitness. The witness and victim were friends, and they were Read More

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Murder, Manslaughter, or Self-Defense?

True story. One homeless man killed another in a street fight, and they charged him with first-degree murder. He was convicted at trial, but last week, the California Court of Appeal reversed that conviction and sent the case back. Why? The defendant had pleaded self-defense, but the trial court didn’t let him present expert testimony that homeless Read More

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What’s a Hate Crime in California?

If you’re wondering about that in light of recent events, here’s an overview. California defines a hate crime as any crime that you commit, in whole or in part, because of a victim’s actual or perceived race, gender, religion, ethnicity, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, or association with those who bear these characteristics. The phrase “in whole or in part” 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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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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Should We Ever Sentence Children to Life Without the Possibility of Parole?

What’s wrong with possibilities? Earlier this month, the California Court of Appeal held that a trial court could impose a sentence of life without the possibility of parole (or LWOP) on a 16-year-old boy even though the court could not rule out the possibility of rehabilitation. He’s older now, but the boy was just sixteen years old when he committed Read More

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Mother of Five Gets New Trial on Capital Murder Conviction

Have you heard of Hannah Overton? She’s spent the last seven years serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for the murder of her four-year-old, then-soon-to-be-adopted son. But this September, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is that state’s supreme court for criminal cases, reversed her conviction and sent it back Read More

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The Courage of Our Convictions

Speaking of self-defense cases, here’s a story you don’t hear very often. A retired judge in New York has prompted the courts there to overturn a murder conviction that he believes was a mistake, and here’s the thing: the judge says he’s the one who made the mistake. In 1999, Frank Barbaro presided over the trial of a white man who was accused of shooting a black man outside a movie Read More

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