Thursday, August 30, 2012

ABA Journal - Race Matters in Sentencing, Study Suggests

Researchers say they their new study suggests a reason why African Americans are overrepresented in prison. Black defendants are more likely to be sentenced to prison than whites, on average, but the racial gap is even more pronounced among some judges, suggesting that race is influencing the decision, the study found.

The researchers studied judicial variations in sentencing in felony cases from Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago. “Race matters in the courtroom,” says the study posted as SSRN. Differences in sentencing by race across judges “suggests that courtroom outcomes may not be race blind. This may be one source of the substantial overrepresentation of African-Americans in the prison population.”

Complete article about study

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE Do Judges Vary in Their Treatment of Race, set for publication in The Journal of Legal Studies

Friday, August 24, 2012

KY COA July 20 - Southwood - Probation Revocation

Southwood v. Commonwealth, 2011-CA-001277-MR (Decided July 20, 2012; To be published)

The Court of Appeals found that there was no abuse of discretion where the trial court did not make a specific finding of fact that the defendant could not be appropriately managed in the community.

Leslie Southwood pled guilty to arson in the second degree.  About a month later he was sentenced to twenty years probated for five years. A condition was imposed that Southwood’s probation included that he remain in the area of supervision within Breathitt County and that he would commit no new offense while on probation.  Southwood was later arrested in Perry County and charged with possession of a controlled substance in the first degree, carrying a concealed deadly weapon, and operating a motor vehicle under the influence.

At the probation revocation hearing, the only witnessed called was the probation officer. The probation officer testified that Southwood was not supposed to leave the county except for emergency medical treatment. The court was also made aware of a pending assault charge against Southwood  in Breathitt District Court for allegedly assaulting his mother.  It was further suggested that he may have been involved in a shooting incident involving his brother.  The trial court revoked Southwood’s probation.

Southwood filed a motion to alter, amend or vacate the order pursuant to KRS. 439.3106, pursuant to a statute that had been enacted on June 8, 2011, two days prior to his revocation hearing.  Southwood argued that the statute required the court to make a finding that he could not “be appropriately managed in the community.” The trial court found that they very nature of the pending charges in Perry County were sufficient to revoke his probation and deny the motion.

The Court of Appeals Affirmed, citing KRS 439.3106(2) discussing severity of the violation behavior and risk of future criminal behavior. The Court further noted that Commonwealth v. Alleman, 306 S.W.3d 484, 488 (Ky. 2010) was applicable to the instant case, where the sole testimony introduced was that the defendant absconded.

Contributed by Jason Apollo Hart

Thursday, August 23, 2012

New Model Instructions to Jurors on Social Media Use

The Judicial Conference Committee for the federal courts has recently updated its instructions regarding jurors and social media.  These new instructions are available here

"The overwhelming majority of judges take steps to warn jurors not to use social media during trial, but the judges surveyed said additional steps should be taken," said Judge Julie A. Robinson, the Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM) chair. "The judges recommended that jurors frequently be reminded about the prohibition on social media before the trial, at the close of a case, at the end of each day before jurors return home, and other times, as appropriate. Jurors should be told why refraining from use of social media promotes a fair trial. Finally, jurors should know the consequences of violations during trial, such as mistrial and wasted time. Those recommendations are now part of the guidelines."


[T]he Article explores possible steps to limit the negative impact of the Digital Age on juror research and communications. While no single solution or panacea exists for these problems, this Article focuses on several reform measures that could address and possibly reduce the detri-mental effects of the Digital Age on jurors. The four remedies discussed in this Article are (1) pe-nalizing jurors, (2) investigating jurors, (3) allowing jurors to ask questions, and (4) improving juror instructions. During the discussion on jury instructions, this Article analyzes two sets of jury instructions to see how well they adhere to the suggested changes proposed by this Article. This is followed by a draft model jury instruction.