Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Overloaded Public Defense Systems Result in More Prison Time, Less Justice - Justice Policy Institute Report

New report from Justice Policy Institute : Public defense systems in U.S. have too many cases, too little time, too few resources

The report identifies 5 ways poor quality public defense increases incarceration

1. more pretrial detention for people who do not need it;
2. increased pressure to plead guilty;
3. wrongful convictions and other errors;
4. excessive and inappropriate sentences that fail to take into account the unique circumstances of the case; and
5. increased barriers to successful reentry into the community.

Recommendations from the report include:

  • Integrate a holistic and community-based approach to public defense. Community-based and holistic approaches to defense can help address the root causes of justice system involvement and prevent future involvement by treating the whole client. This can improve public safety, save money on corrections and have a positive impact on people and communities.
  • Collect better data and conduct more empirical evaluations on the impact of public defense systems on people, communities and criminal justice. Rigorous research and data collection on all justice policies and practices, but especially public defense, can help policymakers make informed decisions on policies that impact public defense.
  • Involve public defenders and affected communities in the policymaking process. As people who are directly involved with the laws and policies in a state or locality, defenders are in the unique position of being able to offer insight on the impact these policies have on people, on their law offices, and on the justice system. As such, defenders should be actively engaged in the policymaking process for criminal justice policies as equal partners in the justice system.
  • Actively seek out the voices and perspectives of people who have used defender services to gain a better understanding of the realities of various systems and the implications for people. Nobody knows better the impact of criminal justice policies and practices than people who are involved in the justice system. Involving people directly impacted by the justice system will provide crucial information on making better and more effective and just policies.

Full Report
Press Release

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Subpoena: Ethical Use and Unethical Myth-Use - Myth No. 4

Myth No. 4: I can subpoena children to court by serving EITHER parent with a subpoena.

Not exactly.  RCr 7.02(2) provides in part that “[a] subpoena for an unmarried infant shall be served upon the infant’s resident guardian if there is one known to the party requesting it, or, if none, by serving either the infant’s father or mother within this state or, if none, by serving the person within this state having control of the infant…”  On those occasions where the parents are divorced and custody is granted to one parent, the defense lawyer must serve the subpoena on the custodial parent, not the non-custodial parent. 

The rule specifies that either parent can be subpoenaed only where there is no known “resident guardian.”  If you serve your own client with the subpoena, and he does not have custody of the children, you will not prevail when the children do not show up and you have to prove to the court proper service of the subpoena in order to get a continuance or other remedy.  Certainly, the non-custodial parent qualifies as the “resident guardian” when the child is visiting pursuant to the decree of custody; but when the child is not visiting the resident guardian will be the custodial parent.  To avoid any doubt, subpoena both parents.

an excerpt from The Subpoena: Ethical Use and Unethical Myth-Use byb Scott West

Monday, July 25, 2011

2011 DPA Awards Video Now Available

[vimeo 26721126 w=400 h=300]

Welcome - BIll Robinson, ABA President

Keynote - Cat Kelly, Director of the Missouri State Public Defender System

2011 Professionalism & Excellence Award – Mark Solomon

For exemplifying professionalism and excellence in the service of public defender clients

2011 In re Gault Award – Nathan Shirley

For courageous representation of juvenile defendants

2011 Rosa Parks Award – Rosie Nunn

 For courageous investigation on behalf of clients

2011 Furman Award – David Barron           

For courageous representation of capital clients

2011 Anthony Lewis Media Award – Andrew Wolfson, The Courier-Journal

For informing the public on the Gregory Wilson capital case

2011 Gideon Award - Brian Scott West

For courageously advancing the right to counsel for the accused

2011 Public Advocate Award - Senator Tom Jensen

For advancing justice through criminal justice reforms.
2011 Public Advocate Award - Representative John Tilley

For advancing justice through criminal justice reforms.

2011 Public Advocate Award - Bruce K. Davis

For advancing the integrity of the justice system through the Kentucky Bar Association
2011 Nelson Mandela Lifetime Achievement Award – David E. Murrell

For a lifetime of courageous service in the fight to increase the right to counsel for Kentucky indigent criminal defendants


Sunday, July 24, 2011

2011 Penal Code Task Force - DPA submits two documents

DPA has recently submitted two documents to the 2011 Penal Code Task Force.  To start their work this year, the Task Force solicited criminal law reform ideas through a survey.  To further assist the Task Force, Public Advocate Ed Monahan created a document outlining the development and impact of the PFO and Violent Offender laws. 

Cost-Efficient Adjustments of Kentucky’s Persistent Felony Offender and Violent Offender Laws submitted to 2011 Penal Code Task Force by DPA

Survey of DPA Attorneys Regarding Needed Penal Code Reform

Proposed Adjustments to Kentucky’s PFO Law (KRS 532.080)

A.    Eliminate PFO enhancements for non-violent felonies.

B.    Eliminate first and second degrees, leaving PFO status to apply only to those with two or more prior felonies without any substantial break in criminal activity. 

C.    Repeal 10-year parole eligibility requirement for PFO first degree.

D.    Require actual imprisonment on prior felonies.

E.    Prohibit all double enhancements by eliminating PFO for all offenses already enhanced by a prior conviction.

Proposed Adjustments to Kentucky Violent Offender Law (KRS 439.3401)

A.    Reinstate 50% parole eligibility for violent offenders, as originally passed in 1986 and maintained until 1998 when Congress conditioned federal funds on passage of 85% parole eligibility. (No federal funds would now be lost by reverting to the prior law.)

B.    Limit the category of violent offenders to those convicted of:
   i.     Murder
   ii.    First-Degree Rape
   iii.    First-Degree Sodomy
   iv.    First-Degree Robbery with a Firearm
   v.    First-Degree Burglary with a Firearm
   vi.    First-Degree Assault

Other Alternative Adjustments to the Kentucky Violent Offender Statute Include:

A.   Limit 85% parole eligibility to intentional conduct resulting in death, serious physical injury, or substantial sexual contact.  Wanton murders, assaults and other non-intentional crimes resulting in death or serious injury and other violent intentional crimes not resulting in death, serious injury, or substantial sexual contact (i.e. first-degree robbery) could be reverted 50% parole eligibility rather than 85%.

B.    Limit each category of crime in KRS 439.3401 to convictions “involving the death of the victim or serious physical injury to a victim.”

C.    Limit violent offenses to any class A or B felony or capital offense involving the use or threatened use of physical force upon another person.

D.    Graduate the parole eligibility according to the Classification of the violent offense, e.g., 75% for violent Class A convictions, 50% for violent Class B convictions, etc. 

E.    Provide that violent offenders who reach a certain age, such as 65 or 70 years, except for those sentenced to life without parole or life without parole for 25 years, be parole eligible.

F.    Repeal the 2006 substantial expansion of the violent offender statute, which added the following crimes to the definition:
   1.    Commission or attempted commission of a felony sexual offense in KRS Chapter 510;
   2.    Use of a minor in a sexual performance as described in KRS 531.310;
   3.    Promoting a sexual performance by a minor as described in KRS 531.320;
   4.    Unlawful transaction with a minor in the first degree as described in KRS 530.064(1)(a);
   5.    Promoting prostitution in the first degree as described in KRS 529.030(1)(b);
   6.    Criminal abuse in the first degree as described in KRS 508.100;
   7.    Burglary in the first degree accompanied by the commission or attempted commission of an assault described in KRS 508.010, 508.020. 508.032, or 508.060;
   8.    Burglary in the first degree accompanied by commission or attempted commission of kidnapping as prohibited by KRS 509.040; or
   9.    Robbery in the first degree
G.    Expand the KRS 439.3402 exemption to include additional significant mitigating conditions such as mental illness, mental retardation, the age of the defendant, a victim of  sexual abuse, and those in KRS 532.025:
   1.    The defendant has no significant history of prior criminal activity;
   2.    The offense was committed while the defendant was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance even though the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance is not sufficient to constitute a defense to the crime;
   3.    The victim was a participant in the defendant's criminal conduct or consented to the criminal act;
   4.    The offense was committed under circumstances which the defendant believed to provide a moral justification or extenuation for his conduct even though the circumstances which the defendant believed to provide a moral justification or extenuation for his conduct are not sufficient to constitute a defense to the crime; 
   5.    The defendant was an accomplice in an offense committed by another person and his participation in the offense was relatively minor;
   6.    The defendant acted under duress or under the domination of another person even though the duress or the domination of another person is not sufficient to constitute a defense to the crime;
sp;  7.    At the time of the offense, the capacity of the defendant to appreciate the criminality of his conduct to the requirements of law was impaired as a result of mental illness or retardation or intoxication even though the impairment of the capacity of the defendant to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform the conduct to the requirements of law is insufficient to constitute a defense to the crime; and

   8.    The youth of the defendant at the time of the crime.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

KY Supreme Court Bail Pilot Project Extended and Amended: A Program Coming to Your County

In 2009, the Kentucky Supreme Court Criminal Rules Committee recommended a 9-county piloting of a bail schedule to the Court. The goals were to increase release rates, to have release occur sooner for persons presumed innocent, and to save counties jail money.

The Kentucky Supreme Court in Administrative Order 2009-14 authorized a Bail Pilot Project in Bell, Boyd, Boone, Butler, Campbell, Edmonson, Kenton, Ohio and Pike Counties from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010 and extended this program in Administrative Order 2010-12 through June 30, 2011. In Administrative Order 2011-05 it was again extended through June 30, 2012 for further study and the impact of HB 463 on it with some changes. These Administrative Orders effectively amend the bail rules, RCr 4.00 et. seq.

The 2011 changes include

  • Amended Uniform Schedule of Bail to be used in 9 counties except in Campbell "the class D felony Schedule shall not be used."
  • DUI 1st, AI, PI, Drinking in a Public Place and all violations have been deleted from the Schedule.
  •  A new "one bail for all" calculation of bail is made as follows: except where there is at least one Class D felony and the number of crimes charged exceeds five, the bail for all will be the one bail for the highest crime charged. 

The Schedule can be found here.

AOC continues monitoring the Schedule for performance. A new AOC Report will be out in October 2011. Crimes covered by the Schedule are non-violent, non-sexual and generally 1st offense only. A  Judge has the discretion to go below the Schedule. However, if a Judge goes above it, the reasons have to be recorded, creating a record for immediate appeal, if necessary.

The year-end analysis of the 9-county pilot reports pretrial incarceration time, failure rates, and cost savings to the counties. Justice Will T. Scott said that the Report "indicates that the Jailer operated Schedule practically ties Pretrial on reported Failure to Appear Rates (12% vs. 13%) and beats them by 2% on recidivism, while doing it on an average release time of 4 hours versus 35 hours for pretrial - even on Schedule qualified defendants. The statewide average is around 95-100 hours.  So generally, on the types of crimes the Court has limited the Schedule to, it is outperforming the science-based release practices. That's the success of the Schedule as I see it."

The Report also discusses the differing viewpoints on bail schedules:

"When discussing the concept of bail schedules in general, pretrial practitioners, judges and the public are split philosophically. Advocates for bail schedules cite the positive aspects such as monetary and time savings for pretrial staff, a faster release from jail and a higher percentage of releases overall. Those opposed to bail schedules cite the negative aspects such as risk to public safety due to the lack of a risk assessment being conducted, limited judicial discretion in bail decisions, a step away from the use of evidence based practices and unfairness to the poor."

The full Report can be found here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Featured Case - Lowe - Notice of Appeal & Lesser Included for Assault 2nd

Lowe v. Commonwealth, 10-CA-619-MR (unpublished):

  • The Court noted that the notice of appeal which indicated the appeal was taken from a date prior to even the date of the crime was patently erroneous.  “The failure to properly state the order being appealed from could prove fatal to an appeal.”  Thus, trial attorneys need to be careful that notices of appeal and supporting documents are correct.  “[C]ounsel is cautioned to take appropriate measures to ensure such errors do not occur in the future because sanctions may be imposed under different or more egregious circumstances.”
  • The trial court should have instructed on assault 4th degree as a lesser included offense to assault 2nd where there was a factual question as to whether there was serious physical injury.  The trial court should not have determined as a matter of law that the victim’s injuries constituted a “serious physical injury.”  The extent of injury is a question of fact for the jury to decide. 

Citing Unpublished Opinions - CR 76.28(4)(c)  Opinions that are not to be published shall not be cited or used as binding precedent in any other case in any court of this state; however, unpublished Kentucky appellate decisions, rendered after January 1, 2003 may be cited for consideration by the court if there is no published opinion that would adequately address the issue before the court. Opinions cited for consideration by the court shall be set out as an unpublished decision in the filed document and a copy of the entire decision shall be tendered along with the document to the court and all parties to the action.

Contributed by Emily Rhorer

Monday, July 18, 2011

Unlocking America: Why and How to Reduce America's Prison Population

This report published by The JFA Institute shows "that incarcerating large numbers of people has little impact on crime" and that the "improper use of probation and parole increases incarceration rates while doing little to control crime" (p. 2). This publication is divided into seven parts: crime rates and incarceration; three key myths about crime and incarceration; the limits of prison-based rehabilitation and treatment programs in reducing the prison population; decarceration, cost savings, and public safety; six recommendations; and concluding remarks.

Unlocking America: Why and How to Reduce America's Prison Population (November 2007)


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Featured Case - Brewer - DUI 2nd enhancement

Commonwealth v. Brewer, 09-CA-873-DG (unpublished):  While unpublished, this is still an important case.  In this Commonwealth appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s vacating of a district court conditional plea to DUI 2d because under Commonwealth v. Beard, 275 S.W.3d 205 (Ky.App. 2008), a person cannot be convicted of DUI 2nd if he was not convicted of the first DUI before committing the second DUI.

Citing Unpublished Opinions - CR 76.28(4)(c)  Opinions that are not to be published shall not be cited or used as binding precedent in any other case in any court of this state; however, unpublished Kentucky appellate decisions, rendered after January 1, 2003 may be cited for consideration by the court if there is no published opinion that would adequately address the issue before the court. Opinions cited for consideration by the court shall be set out as an unpublished decision in the filed document and a copy of the entire decision shall be tendered along with the document to the court and all parties to the action.

Contributed by Emily Rhorer

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Featured Case - Barker - Self-defense instruction

Barker v. Commonwealth, 2009-SC-794 (June 16, 2011) (published)-

The Supreme Court found palpable error due to the erroneous wording of the provocation qualifier of a self-defense instruction. A defendant forfeits his right to the defense of self-protection when (1) the defendant had the intention of causing serious physical injury to the victim; and (2) the defendant must actually provoke the victim to use physical force. In this case, the provocation qualifier failed to include the element requiring the defendant to provoke the victim with the intent to cause death or serious physical injury to him. 

The instruction given -

Provided, however, that if you believe from the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Adam Anthony Barker provoked Zachary Scarpellini and/or Shawn Reilly to use or attempt to use physical force upon the defendant, Adam Anthony Barker, and that they did so with the intention of causing death or serious physical injury to Adam Anthony Barker, then the defense of self-protection is not available to him.

The Kentucky Supreme Court  -

The instruction given in this case is fatally flawed because it fails to properly set out the elements of the statute. It lacks the statutory element requiring Appellant to provoke the victim with the intent to cause death or serious physical injury to him . Instead, the instruction requires that Zachary Scarpellini and/or Shawn Reilly have the intent to cause death or serious physical injury to Appellant. The provocation exception, under KRS 503.060(2), is concerned with the defendant's state of mind, not the victim's.

Contributed by Shannon Smith

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fundamentals of Evidence-Based Policy-Making

Evidence-based policy-making is an attempt to identify and adopt policies scientifically proven to achieve desired results.  In the area of criminal justice, the ultimate goal is to reduce crime while at the same time reducing spending.  Believe it or not, this has been accomplished in many states.

So what are the fundamentals of evidence-based policy making in the criminal justice system?  What principles result in less crime at lower cost? Here they are:

  • Sort offenders scientifically by risk – Save the expensive jail and prison space for people who are statistically high risk.  In bond decisions, sentencing decisions, and parole board decisions, seek to avoid incarceration of low and moderate risk individuals and adopt community-based alternatives instead.
  •  Base intervention programs on science – Literally thousands of programs all over the country have been studied and evaluated for their success in reducing things such as failure to appear, committing new crimes while out on bail, and recidivism after re-entry into the community.  The research is ample and best practices are being identified.  Just as an example, the research is clear that most programs need to invest more in supervision of people identified as high risk and less in supervision of low and moderate risk individuals.  Implementation of evidence-based practices results in average decrease in crime of 10 to 20 percent.
  • Harness technology – Technological innovations have made supervision of people before trial, on probation, or on parole, much easier and effective.
  • Make sanctions for violations certain and proportionate – Probation officers with high caseloads, a lack of a range of appropriate sanctions, and who have to go through administrative hurdles to get a sanction imposed,  often delay seeking sanctions until a really serious offense has been committed.  HB 463 introduces a mandate for graduated sanctions to be imposed on those who violate probation or parole and gives courts the ability to grant probation officers the authority to impose those sanctions without prior approval of the court for each violation.  This reduces delay, reduces time probation officers have to spend in court, and reduces time violators spend in jail.
  • Measure progress – Ways must be identified and adopted to measure progress throughout the entire criminal justice system.  Which jails, prisons are saving money?  What is happening to the recidivism rate?  Which circuits or districts are reducing failure to appear among those released prior to trial?  How many more people are paying restitution?  How many more people are completing treatment in community-based services rather than being incarcerated? 
  • Create incentives for success -  HB 463 contains provisions for creating incentives for success at many levels – that of the individual probationer or parolee, of a circuit or district court, of statewide programs.

For  a more extensive discussion of these principles and their use see the Kentucky Task Force on the Penal Code and Controlled Substances Act Report

Contributed by Glenn McClister

Monday, July 11, 2011

Featured Case - Mullikan - Evidence regarding priors in penalty phase

Mullikan v. Commonwealth, 09-SC-519 (June 16, 2011) (published)-

The Supreme Court found reversible error in the penalty phase when a police officer, without personal knowledge of the incidents, told the jury numerous facts about the client’s prior felony offenses, in excess of that allowed for showing the “the nature of the offenses” in KRS 532.055.

The Court noted it had previously failed to provide a workable definition for that phase. It held that “evidence of a prior conviction is limited to conveying to the jury the elements of the crimes previously committed.” The Court also said the trial court should avoid identifiers that might trigger the memory of jurors who may have knowledge of the prior crimes.

It seems to us that the nature of a prior conviction is closely akin, if not identical to, the definition of a prior conviction . In Robinson, this Court went to great lengths in attempting to define the "nature of prior offenses ." The Court seemed to settle upon "description of a general character" as being as far as is allowed in dealing with these prior crimes . Therefore, we hold today that the evidence of prior convictions is limited to conveying to the jury the elements of the crimes previously committed . We suggest this be done either by a reading of the instruction of such crime from an acceptable form book or directly from the Kentucky Revised Statute itself. Said recitation for the jury's benefit, we feel, is best left to the judge . The description of the elements of the prior offense may need to be customized to fit the particulars of the crime, i .e ., the burglary was of a building as opposed to a dwelling . The trial court should avoid identifiers, such as naming of victims, which might trigger memories of jurors who may--especially in rural areas-have prior knowledge about the crimes .

Contributed by Shannon Smith 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Featured Case - McDaniel - Jury Strikes and Investigative Hearsay

McDaniel v. Commonwealth, 09-SC-443 (June 16, 2011) (published)

The Supreme Court held it was reversible error for the trial court to fail to strike two jurors  for cause, depriving the client of two peremptory challenges. The Court noted the issue was properly preserved under Gabbard. One juror worked with the murder victim’s wife, who was also charged, and the other who worked with the victim previously and liked him. Neither juror could say unequivocally they could be fair and impartial. Very nice language in this case about the importance of an impartial jury and that “equivocal” is not good enough.  

The failure to strike a clearly biased juror for cause, necessitating the use of a peremptory strike to ensure an unbiased jury, is the denial of a substantial right, and we hold that a trial court abuses its discretion when it seats a juror who is truly equivocal with regard to his or her ability to render an impartial judgment. Under Shane and Paulley equivocation is simply not good enough. Shane, 243 S .W.3d at 339; Paulley, 323 S.W.3d 715 . The substantial right recognized in those case provides no room for a trial court to seat a juror who is not sure whether he can provide both sides with a level playing field . A juror's statements and demeanor must support the trial court's decision to seat him, given the totality of the circumstances . To do less would give defendant's a substantial right "with one hand and take [it] away with the other." Shane, 243 at 339 . Therefore, because these two jurors could not state that they possessed the ability to be fair and impartial we hold that the selection process was not fair in this case. We reiterate that "a trial is not fair if only parts of it can be called fair." Id.

The Court also ruled that the police chief offered investigative hearsay when he repeated what other charged defendants had told him about McDaniel’s involvement.

 Contributed by Shannon Smith

Saturday, July 9, 2011

SCOTUSblog - Review of the US Supreme Court???s Fourth Amendment cases

The Supreme Court heard oral argument in five Fourth Amendment cases in the recently completed Term.   The Court dismissed one case as improvidently granted and didn’t reach the merits of the Fourth Amendment issue in a second case.  In the three cases that did reach the merits, however, the government’s side readily won: 8-0, 8-1, and 7-2.   Justice Alito wrote two of the three majority opinions, and Justice Scalia wrote the third.

Click here for complete SCOTUS blog post by Orin Kerr

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Featured Case - Meece - KRE 410???s exclusion of statements made during the course of plea discussions

William Meece v. Commonwealth, 2006-SC-881 (June 16, 2011) (published)

In a 177 page opinion that found 20 errors harmless, the Supreme Court affirms the defendant’s convictions and death sentences.  The Court holds, among other things, that KRE 410’s exclusion of statements made during the course of plea discussions applies only to statements before the signing of a written plea agreement, and then only if they fit within a standard the Court sets out in its opinion.  The Court professes not to have overruled Roberts v. Commonwealth, 896 S.W.2d 4 (Ky. 1995), which had included statements made as part of the “quid pro quo” of the agreement under KRE 410’s exclusion, in order to avoid violating the defendant’s right to due process of law.

Relying upon United States v. Robertson, 582 F .2d 1356, 1365 (5th Cir.1978), we defined plea discussions as "discussions in advance of the time for pleading with a view to an agreement whereby the defendant will enter a plea in the hope of receiving certain charge or sentence concessions ." Roberts, 896 S .W.2d at 5 . In addition, we adopted the two-prong test set out in Robertson to be applied by the trial court in determining whether a discussion is a plea discussion, to wit:

1 . Whether the accused exhibited an actual subjective expectation to negotiate a plea at the time of the discussion
2 . Whether the accused's expectation was reasonable given the totality of.the objective circumstances .

Roberts, 896 S.W .2d at 6 (citing Robertson, 582 F.2d at 1366) . "To determine whether a discussion should be characterized as a plea negotiation and as inadmissible, the trial court should carefully consider the totality of the
circumstances." Robertson, 582 F.2d at 1366 . "[U]nder a totality of the circumstances approach, an accused's subsequent account of his prior subjective mental impressions cannot be considered the sole determinative factor." Id. In this respect, we noted that "[t]he intent is to protect the accused's subjective expectations while protecting against subsequent, selfserving claims by the accused ." Roberts, 896 S .W.2d at 6 . Given that the appellant in Roberts accepted the Commonwealth's plea offer by the sole act of then giving the statement concerning his participation in eight of the robberies, we held his statement met the two-part test established in Robertson and was a statement "made in the course of plea discussions" and was therefore protected by KRE 410. Roberts 896 S.W.2d at 6 .

Contributed by Shannon Smith

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Kentucky News Roundup

Five myths about Americans in prison - Lexington Herald-Leader and others

No country on Earth imprisons more people per capita than the United States. But for America, mass incarceration has proved a losing proposition. The Supreme Court recently found California’s overcrowded prisons unconstitutional, and state legislators want to cut the vast amounts of public money spent on prison warehousing.

Why are so many Americans in prison, and which ones can be safely released? Let’s address some common misunderstandings about our incarceration problem.

State can't fight drug abuse without more treatment - Lexington Herald-Leader

I have had the privilege of working as an alcohol- and drug-addiction counselor for more than 11 years. I moved from Ohio to Kentucky three months ago and plan on attending the University of Kentucky to work on a master's degree.

I am shocked and appalled at Kentucky's response to the drug and alcohol epidemic that is sweeping parts of Kentucky away. I also have learned that Kentucky contributes $6.3 million a year to alcoholism and addiction treatment. A mid-level drug dealer averages a half million a year in profits

Time to end Kentucky's death penalty - Lexington Herald-Leader

The guilty plea and sentencing to life without parole of former state representative Steve Nunn for the murder of Amanda Ross came just one week after release of a report from the Death Penalty Information Center on the 35th anniversary of U. S. Supreme Court rulings allowing restoration of capital punishment.

Out and About: State penitentiary tour an eye-opening ordeal - Bowling Green Daily News

The address on the front of the building simply reads 266 Water St. There are lots of Water Streets in America and even a few others in Kentucky, but this one is not exactly a place you want to call home.

At 266 Water St. in Eddyville sits the Kentucky State Penitentiary, where about 900 men of all ages reside.

I had the opportunity recently to visit the 125-year-old facility only as a tourist, and was it ever an eye-opener.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Kentucky Supreme Court July 2011 Criminal Opinions

Are now available all in one document

June 2011 ( 284 pages)

And in case you missed them

May 2011 (140 pages)

Stay tuned in coming days for summaries of published criminal cases.

Friday, July 1, 2011

LRC Press Release - Lawmakers continue study of status offenders

FRANKFORT—The average age of a child committed to state child protection in Kentucky for a status offense—including being habitually truant—is 16. Many enter the system at age 13 or 14, state lawmakers were told today by the state Department for Community Based Services, and many go to foster care.

Of the 1,221 status offenders committed to the department as of January 2011, 945 were placed in “out of home care,” or foster care, said DCBS Commissioner Pat Wilson. They included victims of substantiated abuse or neglect, children with attention deficit disorders, victims of school bullying, substance abusers, or those who felt marginalized by society in some way, she said.

Foster care is one way to help these youth, but a course of action Wilson said DCBS does not favor for habitual truants is juvenile detention, or jailing of students. Habitual truancy, which Wilson said is the most common status offense in Kentucky, is defined by state law as six or more unexcused school absences per school year and is subject to action by the courts.

“We certainly agree that the detention of youth is not the answer to the problem,” Wilson told the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary.

Only seven of the 1,221 children committed to DCBS in January were in juvenile detention facilities, she said, although that number only reflects the number of children under DCBS. It does not include status offenders who are detained before being committed to DCBS.

Wilson and Patrick Yewell, who is the executive officer of the Administrative Office of the Courts Department of Family and Juvenile Services, both seemed to favor diversion programs for truants that allow children to work through their issues with their school and the state without going to court.

“Truancy diversion programs do work,” said Wilson. “It’s essential we assess what the problems with these youth are and work… toward keeping them in school.”

Senate President Pro Tem Katie Kratz Stine, R-Southgate, suggested reducing truancy could also lower the state’s dropout rate.

“It seems to me there is a correlation between truancy and dropouts,” she said.

Yewell said the state’s Truancy Diversion Program has been voluntary chosen by 61 counties and 149 Kentucky schools so far as an option for handling truants. The program has been about 90 percent successful in correcting truancy issues based on grades and other measures of school performance, said Yewell. Still, not every county elects to join the program.

That drew comments from Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, who said participation should be strongly encouraged.

“It’s as good to me as a truancy officer in your school system,” she said.

Yewell recommended that lawmakers consider statutory changes to Kentucky’s status offender laws including expanding parent accountability, reviewing the state court designated worker program, assessing programs and services—“Find what works, find what doesn’t work,” as Yewell said—and look at increasing the pay of state employees who work with status offenders.

“It’s gotten to the point where we must realize the key to any program is its workforce and the stability of that workforce,” he added.