The big news in the criminal justice world this week came from New Mexico, where Gov. Bill Richardson signed a bill repealing the state's death penalty.
It's a historic week, and another sign that the death penalty is finally dying. But don't think this means the system is fixed in New Mexico. Justice Project President John Terzano wrote on MyDD today that the chances of wrongful conviction in Richardson's home state are just as high as they ever were.
More crime and punishment from around the world this week:
While New Mexico makes progress, Texas is still sliding backwards. The state's highest criminal court this week upheld the conviction and sentence of death row inmate Andre Thomas, who removed his only eye and ate it several months ago, saying he's competent enough. Thomas “is clearly ’crazy,’ but he is also ’sane’ under Texas law,” the opinion reads. You can't make that stuff up.
In lighter courtroom news, a Washington state juror was removed from a murder trial because he made fun of the prosecutor's comb-over.
Jeffrey Rosen wrote this week in Slate about the expanding use of DNA databases and the dangers posed by the increased use of familial searches - where police follow up on not just DNA matches from crime scene evidence to people in the database, but near-matches as well. Familial searches are commonly used in the U.K., and some advocate for their use in the U.S., where the federal government recently announced it would store samples from arrestees in addition to convicted people.
Barack Obama appointed his first federal judge this week - naming Indiana judge David F. Hamilton to the 7th Circuit appeals court in Chicago. By some (admittedly lefty) accounts, Hamilton is a moderate and smart choice for the appeals court. Doug Berman wrote at Sentencing Law & Policy that we can expect some babbling from right wingers who are waiting for Obama to start his expected criminal-coddling. Right on cue, the National Review jumped into the fray.
There has been a lot of discussion here about reforms to New York's Rockefeller Laws. The Fortune Society reports that members of the legislature have been getting hundreds of calls. Keep 'em coming, take action here. If you're in New York City, there's a protest outside Gov. Patterson's NYC offices next Wednesday.
It's been ten years since the U.S. government's landmark study finding that marijuana has medicinal value. Today, 13 states allow some use of medical marijuana. There's a long way to go.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is seeking short essays from law students on the role of diversity in the criminal justice system. The top prize is 200 bucks.
McSweeney's does frequent interviews with people who have interesting or unusual jobs. Today they took us behind the scenes with a 911 operator.
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