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Archive for February, 2011

Revenge Scheme Reaches Supreme Court

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Betrayal, infidelity, threats, revenge and intrigue are themes that catch our attention. It’s makes for bad television plots and light summer reading. But, toss in the question: Can citizens challenge the 10th Amendment which limits federal power? NOW, you’ve got lawyers paying attention.

This particular case involves a Philadelphia woman, Carol A. Bond, who attempted to poison her best friend, Myrlinda Haynes, after learning her husband had impregnated Haynes. Bond used her microbiologist credentials to obtain a highly toxic powdery substance (10-chloro-10H-phenoxarsine) and covered Haynes’s mailbox, car door handles and car muffler two dozen times. Get the details here.

Bond was indicted for stealing mail, and for violating the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, a treaty usually aimed at terrorists. What would have been a six months jail sentence from the Montgomery County Court, became a six year prison sentence (with a sentencing enhancement since Bond was a trained scientist) when she pleaded guilty in a federal court.

Bond’s attorney, Robert Goldman, says this case should be handled on the state level. A panel of federal appeals court judges unanimously agreed, but said that only states, not individuals, have the ability to make challenges under the auspices of the 10th amendment.

Do Ankle Monitors Work?

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Is it time to think outside of the ankle monitor, inventing better tracking technologies or maybe considering more realistic options?

Issuing electronic monitoring devices instead of imprisonment became mainstream in the early 80s, when the devices became inexpensive and manageable. Today there are two types of monitors.  One determines if the offender breaks curfew or remains on house arrest, and the other version continuously tracks the person with GPS signals, providing minute-by-minute location information. The question is: How reliable and adequate are today’s ankle monitors?

The effectiveness of both types of monitors is questionable, as offenders continue to tamper with them, remove them and even commit crimes while wearing them. Martha Stewart wore an ankle monitor for five months while under house arrest, and openly says YouTube is a great educational resource for learning how to remove the device. Any offender with computer access could be monitor-free after viewing a few online demonstrations.

And what about responses from parole officers? These devices send alerts for various violations, but in many cases, the officers don’t respond. How are hundreds of unanswered alerts solving the problem?

Even if the ankle monitor is worn faithfully, many violent offenders haven’t been deterred from continuing to commit crimes. Should the judicial system make tougher decisions about these offenders instead of offering them ankle bracelets?

If you have questions contact San Antonio Criminal Defense Attorney Sam Lock.

Read more about the topic here.

Population Growth in Texas Counties

Friday, February 18th, 2011

The Houston Chronicle has an interesting graphic related to population growth in Texas. Bexar County now tops 1.7 million people. Both Comal and Guadalupe Counties are well over 100,000 residents. Schertz and Cibolo account for a large part of the growth since 2000.

http://www.chron.com/databases/Census2010Texas.html

DO THE BLACKBERRY AND ‘CSI’ EFFECTS EXIST?

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

According to two recent studies, using sophisticated technology might raise juror expectations (The BlackBerry effect) more than watching the popular television show: Crime Show Investigation (CSI), also nicknamed the CSI effect.

Judge Donald Shelton, the chief judge of Washnew County in Ann Arbor, Michigan, wanted to determine whether jurors believed crimes could be solved with extravagant technologies (by well-groomed investigators with an accompanying hip soundtrack) in a magical 60-minute timeframe. The study proved that frequent CSI watchers expected more evidence to be presented, but those expectations didn’t translate into a prerequisite for conviction.

The second study found that the more sophisticated the jurors were in their technology use, the more they expected prosecutors to present scientific evidence, such as DNA, fingerprint and ballistic evidence. Is it that these jurors are more educated or have their BlackBerrys have made them more critical thinkers?

The studies asked these questions:

  1. Do jurors expect prosecutors to present scientific evidence?
  2. Do jurors demand scientific evidence as a condition for a guilty verdict?
  3. Are juror expectations and demands for scientific evidence related to watching law-related television shows?

So, CSI is simply entertaining, and doesn’t affect a juror’s overall expectations of the criminal justice system. Maybe these studies will convince prosecutors to curtail meaningless tests and fancy animation, just to show technology in use?

Learn more about Shelton’s studies on the ABA’s website.