Monday, February 28, 2011

US Supreme Court - Crawford related opinion today

Michigan v. Bryant (09-150) – By a vote of six to two  (with Justice Kagan recused), the Court vacated and remanded the decision of the Michigan Supreme Court.  In an opinion by Justice Sotomayor, the Court held that a statement given to police by a wounded crime victim identifying the person who shot him may be admitted as evidence at the trial if the victim dies before trial and thus does not appear.  The Court concluded that because the  primary purpose of the interrogation was to enable police to deal with an ongoing emergency, the statements resulting from that interrogation were not testimonial and could be admitted without violating the Confrontation Clause.

Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsburg each filed separate dissents.

"Do you know Sarah Johnson?" DPA Social Worker profiled by The Morehead News

Addiction costs state millions of dollars - The Morehead News

If you talk to the district and circuit court judges, the commonwealth or county attorney or the jailer about treatment options for addicts, they’ll invariably all ask the same question: “Do you know Sarah Johnson?”

    Her name has become synonymous with genuine, and professional, advocacy for people in legal trouble because of crimes committed in addiction.

    The master clinical social worker at the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy—the public defender’s office—is well known for thorough and personalized work to find treatment options for indigent clients.

    The DPA social worker program came about as a means to lessen the taxpayer burden of overcrowded prisons and jails, according to an agency report. Johnson is one of 12 social workers throughout the Commonwealth that work in the DPA offices to assess and refer clients to appropriate treatment options.

    “Our role is to work as an agent of the attorney to assess cases where there’s apparent mental health and substance abuse and when the attorney feels a person would benefit more from treatment than incarceration,” Johnson said.

    According to a 2008 report, the social worker program has proven cost-savings. Kentucky saved $3.25 for every $1 invested in the social workers’ salaries.

    More than 10,000 days of incarceration were saved as social workers worked with the public defenders, prosecuting attorneys and judges to divert clients into long term residential treatment, outpatient treatment and other community treatment alternatives.

    While Johnson is concerned with the economic cost savings, she is also concerned with helping people recover their lives from addiction.

    “I really care about my clients and advocate for them to find the appropriate programs,” Johnson said.

    “My education and training has prepared me to find individualized options for people, each of whom are unique and valuable. All addicts are not the same,” she added.

    Usually, Johnson first encounters defendants when they are in jail. She goes to them and conducts an assessment and works with them to identify the most appropriate options for resolving legal problems and for helping them move into recovery.

    She then works with the public defender, the prosecuting attorney and the judge to recommend the best options. Oftentimes, residential or outpatient treatment is recommended for defendants with drug-related offenses.

    Johnson said she doesn’t stop at the recommendation, however.

    “I help our clients through the process. I don’t set treatment up for people. I give them options and work with them to make a good decision,” she said.

    “If they are comfortable with me talking to families, I do. There are many needs beyond just getting a person into treatment,” she added.

    Johnson said the success of the DPA social worker program goes far beyond reducing the jail and prison population.

    “My clients are people who suffer from addiction and because they suffer they committed a criminal offense.

    “If we invest in them and allow them to make something of themselves, I believe they can,” she said.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Kentucky's purchase of sodium thiopental challenged as violating injunction - AP story

Lawyer seeks to stop Ky. from using execution drug - AP

Kentucky appears to have violated a judge's order stopping all executions and preventing the state from taking any action to carry out a lethal injection by purchasing a key drug used in the process, an attorney for several death row inmates said Thursday.

Public defender David Barron wants to bar the state from ever using the 18 grams of sodium thiopental the state acquired this month

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thursday News Roundup

Kentucky - State acquires key drug used in executions

The state has acquired enough of a key drug used in executions to put three condemned inmates to death.

Kentucky and other states have had to look for other sources of the drug, an anesthetic called sodium thiopental, after the sole U.S. maker said in January it would not resume production.

The Justice and Public Safety Cabinet announced Tuesday the state had bought 18 grams of the drug from CorrectHealth, a Georgia correctional health care company.

Missouri - Judging reality: Possible reform for the public defender crisis inches forward

The Missouri Supreme Court has confirmed that the Public Defender Commission, which oversees the public defender system, is empowered to set maximum caseloads and, using a special protocol, allowed to refuse appointments when limits are exceeded.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday National News Roundup -

Smart on Crime: Recommendations for the Administration and Congress.  — developed and published by the Smart on Crime Coalition, a group of more than 40 bipartisan organizations and individuals — offers nearly 100 detailed policy recommendations across 16 criminal justice areas.

Kentucky lawyer new Hamilton public defender - Shelia Kyle-Reno, DPA Elizabethtown Directing Attorney

Hamilton County's new public defender, who oversees a $13 million budget that provides legal services for thousands of the poor charged with crimes, is a woman from out of state with a long history of representing unions and the needy.

"I lived in Cincinnati for a few years. I enjoyed the community," Shelia Kyle-Reno said Friday from her office in Elizabethtown, Ky., where she is the public defender for a four-county area in southwestern Kentucky.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Kentucky Penal Code Reform Bill Filed

Newspaper coverage of the bill

Louisville Courier Journal  Bills aim to cut prison costs, improve drug treatment

Lexington Herald Leader Kentucky drug laws would change under new proposal

Below is a summary of the bill by former Public Advocate Ernie Lewis ( caveat - I have been reviewing numerous drafts, and could easily have made a mistake in the summary. If you have a question about a provision, please go online to read the entire bill.) HB 463 and SB 161

There are several very progressive reforms undertaken in this legislation, including the following:

  • Establishes quantities for trafficking in controlled substances.
  • Changes the 1000 yards to 1000 feet in 218A.141.
  • Eliminates the enhancer for possessory drug offenses. 
  • Lowers penalties for trafficking 2nd, creating a mini-Class D for first offenses.
  • Lowers penalties for trafficking 3rd.
  • Lowers penalties for possession 1st to a mini-Class D.
  • Creates deferred prosecution as a preferred alternative for possession 1st cases and 2nd, with presumptive probation as the other alternative.   Presumptive probation is required for second offenses unless the person is ineligible.
  • Marijuana possession is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by 1-45 days.
  • Significant changes are made to pretrial release.  For example, if presumptive probation is the possible sentence, the court must release the defendant on an OR or unsecured bond unless written findings are made.
  • Deferred prosecutions are created similar to pretrial diversion.
  • Evidence based practices, including the use of risk and needs assessments, permeate the bill.  This is especially so for probation and parole. 
  • Changes are made to eliminate double enhancements.  Possession cannot be PFO'd, although it can be used as a prior.
  • Citations will be required for all Class B misdemeanors and most Class A misdemeanors. 
  • Pretrial release is changed significantly.  If a person is indigent he must be released on an OR or unsecured bond unless he is not a flight risk, a danger to himself or others, or unlikely to appear for trial. 
  • A system of graduated sanctions is created for persons on probation and parole whereby revocations won't have to take place.  Probation and Parole will also have an administrative caseload with lesser supervision and an early means of termination for persons on probation. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thursday National News Roundup -- Drug Dogs, Intoxilyzer, and Capital Defense Weekly

Handlers' beliefs influence drug-sniffing dogs' performance - San Francisco Chronicle

The study, published in the January issue of the journal Animal Cognition, found that detection-dog teams erroneously "alerted," or identified a scent, when there was no scent present more than 200 times — particularly when the handler believed that there was scent present.

"It isn't just about how sensitive a dog's nose is or how well-trained a dog is," says Lisa Lit, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Neurology and the study's lead author. "There are cognitive factors affecting the interaction between a dog and a handler that can impact the dog's performance."

Fla. Supreme Court won’t review DUI machine Source Code Ruling – Subpoena for Intoxilyzer Source Code Upheld

The Florida Supreme Court declined to review an appeals court decision that a Manatee County Circuit judge properly allowed defense attorneys to subpoena the Intoxilyzer 8000’s manufacturer for the code. The high court didn’t give a reason for its Jan. 26 denial, but said it would not reconsider the decision.

Defense attorneys praised the court’s action Monday, saying it puts further pressure on CMI Inc. to turn over the code after years of refusing to do so. Prosecutors and law-enforcement agencies say nothing has changed as a result of the decision, and they will continue to use the machine to arrest and prosecute intoxicated drivers.

A Coral Gables attorney for CMI, based in Owensboro, Ky., did not immediately respond to a telephone call and e-mail seeking comment.


Capital Defense Weekly

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Miguel Soto's death sentences vacated - AP article and order

Death sentence tossed in slaying of former in-laws AP

A judge threw out the death sentence on Tuesday of a Kentucky inmate convicted of killing his former in-laws more than a decade ago after concluding that a juror gave inaccurate statements during pretrial questioning.

Oldham County Circuit Judge Karen Conrad also found that the same juror in the case of 39-year-old Miguel "Mickey" Soto failed to follow his oath and consider mitigating evidence in the case. Conrad ordered a new sentencing hearing for Soto.

Read the Order