Category «Criminal Law»

DNA Evidence: Brave New World, Same Old Problems

Criminal law expert Ken Strutin guides us through the critical facets that comprise the backbone of investigative forensics in the 21st Century – the database. Ken states that of all information gathering techniques, genetic databanking has become the holy grail of prosecutions and the last resort for exonerations. It is both the cause of and solution to many problems in the administration of justice. Thus, DNA forensics highlights the longstanding tension between scientific understanding and legal reasoning. While DNA’s scientific reputation is very near to magic, its forensic applications are subject to the faults and limitations of every kind of evidence offered as proof in a court of law. Ken’s article collects research on the law and science of genetic evidence at the pre-conviction stage. It focuses on the role of DNA in identification, investigation and prosecution of crime, social and privacy issues, and to some degree exculpation or evidence of third party culpability.

Subjects: Criminal Law, Features, Legal Research

Negotiating Justice: The New Constitutional Spectrum of Plea Bargaining

Ken Strutin focuses on the impact of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Missouri v. Frye and Lafler v. Cooper, and the upcoming appeal in Burt v. Titlow in regard to placing plea bargaining front and center on the national stage. As a result, they have divided practitioners and scholars into two camps: (1) those who consider the rulings to be a new statement in the law of plea bargaining and right to effective assistance of counsel; and (2) those who believe they are only a restatement of established principles. These cases have generated interest in the centrality and regulation of plea bargaining, the ethics and effectiveness of defense counsel as negotiator, the oversight of prosecutors regarding charging decisions, sentence recommendations and pre-trial discovery, and the scope of federal habeas corpus review and remedies. Ken’s article is a comprehensive annotated guide to high court opinions, scholarship and commentary regarding the themes addressed by the Supreme Court in Lafler and Frye as well as their implications for the administration of criminal justice.

Subjects: Constitutional Law, Court Resources, Criminal Law, Features, Legal Research, Supreme Court, United States Law

Post-Conviction Representation, Pro Se Practice and Access to the Courts

After the first criminal appeal, there is no constitutional right to counsel. Thus, the convicted and imprisoned pursuing discretionary appeals and habeas corpus relief must research, investigate and litigate as their own attorney. Law librarian, criminal defense attorney, and well-known writer and speaker Ken Strutin’s guide documents a body of law that has developed defining the spectrum between full-blown post-conviction representation and the impact of the conditions of confinement on pro se litigants.

Subjects: Court Resources, Criminal Law, Features, Legal Profession, Legal Research

Arson and the Science of Fire

Ken Strutin’s expert commentary focuses on the duality of fire as both a science and a set of actions and behaviors initiated by individuals and groups. Strutin documents how these factors relate to the complexities of criminal prosecutions in this arena, and how assumptions about the former have led to misjudgments about the latter. Further, he examines how progress in the understanding of how fires begin and spread has called into question the integrity of arson convictions. His guide is a collection of selected research publications, web resources and case studies as well as scholarly legal articles and scientific reports on arson investigation and fire science.

Subjects: Criminal Law, Features, Legal Research

Litigation, trial and pre-trail iPad apps for lawyers

One of the most popular and rapidly growing categories of apps for lawyers are those developed for litigation, during trials and during the pretrial discovery phase. In this article, attorney, legal blogger and legal tech expert Nicole Black recommends more than a dozen affordable, flexible and innovative iPad apps to assist attorneys in their work to develop, streamline, simplify and track critical litigation processes.

Subjects: Courts & Technology, Criminal Law, Legal Research, Legal Technology, Litigation Support, Mobile Tech, Mobile Technology, Technology Trends

Mass Incarceration and the “Degree of Civilization”

Ken Strutin – law librarian, criminal defense attorney, and well-known writer and speaker, documents the preeminence of the United States as the world leader in incarceration. He states that incarceration is when a person loses their freedom pending trial or by serving a sentence – and mass incarceration is when millions of people are imprisoned and kept there based on a generation of tough on crime policies. The number of persons behind bars, which is higher in the United States than anywhere in the world, creates a ripple effect throughout the criminal justice system and society at large. This fact has inspired intense study of this punishment by many academic disciplines, public interest institutions and government agencies. His article focuses on selected recent and notable publications from these sources along with a list of current awareness sites.

Subjects: Criminal Law, Ethics, Features, Legal Research

Clemency Clinics: A Blueprint for Justice

Ken Strutin’s article presents a significant collection of expertly selected resources on clemency and other established post-conviction projects. It also includes general resources that can be used in the process of starting up a clemency clinic or a project in a law school, bar association, law firm, university, college or any entity interested in undertaking a role in arena of work. Ken documents how innocence projects and law clinics are good models for clemency projects because they pursue claims frequently raised in pardons. He also identifies how schools of journalism, paralegal and legal assistant programs, and private law firms, defense providers, individual attorneys and not-for-profits spearheaded by those directly affected, have embraced a mission to address injustice in their particular ways.

Subjects: Criminal Law, Features, Legal Research

Veterans in the Criminal Justice System: Defending Conditions of the Mind

Ken Strutin’s guide includes key recent and notable cases, surveys, studies, guides, web resources and directories for legal research specific to veterans’ deployed to war who subsequently developed mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD).

Subjects: Criminal Law, Features, Human Rights, Legal Research, Surveys

Pretrial Detention, Bail and Due Process

Ken Strutin’s guide comprises recent publications and other notable resources concerning the relationship between the administration of bail and the requirements of due process. Pretrial detention of suspects directly impacts the presumption of innocence. The cornerstone of the justice system is that no one will be punished without the benefit of due process. Incarceration before trial, when the outcome of the case is yet to be determined, cuts against this principle. The Founders were aware of the dangers inherent in indiscriminate imprisonment, which is one of the main reasons behind the inclusion of the Eighth Amendment in the Bill of Rights, prohibiting excessive bail.

Subjects: Criminal Law, Features, Legal Research

The Age of Innocence: Actual, Legal and Presumed

Ken Strutin reasons that any accounting of the justice system would put the presumption of innocence at the top of the ledger. The premise underlying this evidentiary rule is that no one should be found guilty of a crime unless the state has convinced a jury with proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The materials Ken has researched and documented for this guide focus on the drift from unitary innocence, which encompasses all possible claims to a wrongful conviction, to factual innocence rooted in exoneration jurisprudence. According to some scholars, factual exonerations may have confounded the wisdom behind the Blackstone Ratio and its overarching message, i.e., criminal law and procedure ought to be weighted in favor of innocence to avoid wrongful conviction, even if there is a chance that the guilty will benefit as well. In other words, a system of justice that is fair to all and seeks to protect the innocent from wrongful prosecutions must apply safeguards that will be over inclusive. The calculations of truth and fairness are rooted in a system of justice based on due process (or a presumption of due process). The scholarship collected here attempts to address questions of whether the concept of innocence is selective or categorical.

Subjects: Criminal Law, Features, Legal Research
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