Posts Tagged criminal justice

Double Jeopardy Protection? Maybe.

By: Maria Hibbard

Before I came to law school, I thought the right to be protected from double jeopardy, or being tried for the same crime twice, was one of the guaranteed rights of the American judicial system. If I’ve learned anything throughout my first year of law school, however, it’s that the answer to the question of whether anything is guaranteed is “possibly” or “maybe.”

Although the right to be protected from double jeopardy is preserved in the Fifth Amendment, as Andrew Cohen noted this weekend in The Atlantic, this right has frequently been eroded by precedent and the very nature of our judicial system. When the Supreme Court decided Blueford v. Arkansas last week, the right against double jeopardy became even more subject to parsing. In the original trial, Blueford was charged with capital murder, first-degree murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide for the death of a one-year old child. When the jury returned from deliberation, the foreperson stated that although they had voted unanimously to acquit the murder charges, they were deadlocked on manslaughter and did not vote on negligent homicide.  Although the judge sent the jury back to deliberate more on the lesser charges, a mistrial was declared.

The Supreme Court had to decide whether the foreperson’s announcement of the jury’s votes to acquit were sufficient to invoke double jeopardy protection on the murder charges. The Court agreed with the state, however, saying that protection was not valid because the jury could have re-evaluated their acquittal when they were sent back to deliberate further on the lesser charges. Chief Justice Roberts writes, “It was therefore possible for Blueford’s jury to revisit the offenses of capital and first-degree murder, notwithstand­ing its earlier votes. And because of that possibility, the foreperson’s report prior to the end of deliberations lacked the finality necessary to amount to an acquittal on those offenses…” In his analysis, Cohen criticizes the majority’s use of a hypothetical (not unlike the “what if” Socratic questions of my law school professors), noting the irony in the fact that although Blueford had heard the jury acquit him of the murder charges in open court, in his new trial (still yet to come) another jury could possibly still find him guilty.

What does this case mean for public defenders and appellate advocates? There’s no double jeopardy protection in a mistrial, even if the jury’s vote to acquit is stated in court. Although the Fifth Amendment seems to guarantee double jeopardy protection for every defendant, the only thing that seems to be sure is that it “depends on the circumstances.”

Leave a Comment

Job o’ the Day: Capital Trial Attorney at Louisiana Capital Assistance Center in New Orleans!

The Louisiana Capital Assistance Center (LCAC) is a not-for-profit law office based in New Orleans, Louisiana committed to excellence in the provision of defense services to indigent clients facing the death penalty.
The LCAC is principally a trial level office, representing indigent capital clients in cases throughout Louisiana. In addition, the LCAC provides resource and consultative services to other capital trial counsel throughout Louisiana. LCAC also represents capital defendants in state post-conviction and federal habeas proceedings.

As a part of a defense team, the capital trial attorney will be involved in and/or take direct responsibility for the provision of effective assistance of counsel in accordance with the ABA Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases.

Interested? Learn more at PSLawNet!

Leave a Comment

Job o’ the Day: Assistant Public Defender in Maryland!

The Maryland Office of the Public Defender is an independent state agency with over 800 employees dedicated to providing superior legal representation to indigent defendants in the State of Maryland.  The Office of the Public Defender seeks dynamic and dedicated litigators to serve as Assistant Public Defenders in District Court locations throughout the State of Maryland. 

Assistant Public Defender I Responsibilities:

  • Represents indigent defendants who are charged with misdemeanor criminal and traffic cases in district courts throughout the State of Maryland.
  • Prepares for and handles bail review hearings, district court trials, preliminary hearings, violations of probation hearings, sentence review hearings and modification of sentence hearings.
  • Handles telephone inquiries and correspondence from clients and the public.
  • Participates in Office of the Public Defender trainings.

Assistant Public Defender I positions are located at OPD offices throughout the State of Maryland.

Learn how to apply at PSLawNet!

Leave a Comment

Job o’ the Day: Prosecutor for the City of Kansas City, Missouri!

The City of Kansas City, Missouri Law Department has open positions in its City Prosecutor’s Office and Litigation Section. 

An Assistant City Attorney grant position is available in the City Prosecutor Division of the City Attorney’s Office through the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program.  The attorney will serve as the neighborhood prosecutor for the communities in the East Patrol Division of the City and be a member of the Neighborhood Prosecution Team.  Neighborhood prosecution is designed to reduce crime, engage citizens, and utilize limited resources in the most efficient manner to make our neighborhoods safer.

A general litigator in the litigation section at the Assistant City Attorney level will appear as first chair before state and federal courts, including jury and bench trials in relatively less complex cases. The litigator will be responsible for the case from the initial filing of the petition or complaint, through the appeals stage. The litigator works with legal investigators to investigate the case, prepares all pleadings, engages in discovery, and works the case through trial and beyond as appropriate. The litigator will meet with department personnel in preparing and trying cases.

To learn how to apply, check the listing at PSLawNet!

Leave a Comment

Job o’ the Day: Staff Attorney at the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project in DC!

The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP) is a small non-profit corporation that works to prevent and correct the conviction of innocent people in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.

MAIP has an immediate opening for a full-time Staff Attorney with a demonstrated passion for criminal justice issues and investigation and/or litigation experience. Because MAIP is such a small organization, this position will include a limited amount of non-legal work, including website maintenance and some development responsibilities (shared with others on the staff).

The Staff Attorney’s duties will include: litigating MAIP cases, usually with co-counsel; supervising MAIP’s Staff Investigator, helping him prioritize cases and determine appropriate strategy in those cases; reading case files and/or interviewing potential clients to determine whether to investigate or litigate a given case; participating in meetings with our Screening Committee and Screening Director; filing Freedom of Information Act requests with our jurisdictions and appealing decisions in those requests as necessary; when exonerations do occur, helping to coordinate post-exoneration services; updating the website and Facebook page; some development activities, which will include helping to write our annual newsletter, helping to put together our annual fundraising event, and helping to coordinate our Young Professionals Committee; other MAIP duties, as appropriate.

Learn how to apply at PSLawNet!

Leave a Comment

University of Utah Law Professor’s New Book Advocates Criminal Justice Reform

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

. . .[Daniel S.] Medwed has blazed a unique trail in the field of criminal defense law. He’s a board member of directors for the Innocence Network and the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center. In 2008, the 43-year-old native of Cambridge, Mass., helped draft and pass a factual innocence bill for the state of Utah, which created a procedure for prisoners to prove their innocence even without DNA evidence. The law also allowed compensation for wrongfully-convicted inmates who subsequently proved their innocence.

Medwed’s new book, Prosecution Complex, published by New York University Press, works from the maxim of 18th-century English judge and jurist William Blackstone that, “It’s better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer.” Medwed’s intent is to show where the nation’s criminal justice system has gone wrong, and how we can get it right, his exploration set against the contemporary backdrop in which United States prisons hold more people than were housed in Stalin’s gulags. . . .

Pre-trial mistakes might have the greatest ripple effects. If you charge someone with a crime, even though the evidence is very weak, that sets the case in motion. If a prosecutor does not turn over all exculpatory evidence, it creates a situation where the defendant may be enticed by a plea-bargain. . . .

Prosecutors, the overwhelming majority of them, want to do justice. They come into the profession wanting to do the right thing. But there are so many pressures — cultural, institutional, and political and psychological — that come into bear in prosecution.

Take for example, political pressures. Prosecutors have limited budgets. They’re financially strapped, like all government offices. One way to justify a higher budget is to show that your success with high conviction rates. It’s much harder to show, and more nuanced to demonstrate, that you’re successful when you decline to charge a case. It’s harder to show you’re being tough on crime. Conviction rates become the coin of the realm. The American system of places a premium on winning. . . .

Read more here. Thoughts?

Leave a Comment

One Law Professor’s Take on Trayvon Martin’s Killing and Probable Cause

by Kristen Pavón

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in far-faraway land, you’re well aware of the curious case of Trayvon Martin. I’ve shied away from blogging about it here because, frankly, I’ve been pretty outraged.

However, I thought I’d share the following article from The National Law Journal written by Jay Sterling Silver, a law professor at St. Thomas University of Law in Miami Gardens, Florida. I agree with him 100 percent.

Read through and let me know your thoughts!

From The National Law Journal:

. . .[P]olice are empowered to make “probable cause” determinations and arrest suspects at crime scenes, and do so thousands of times every day, to develop and preserve the evidence necessary to prosecute the case. The Sanford police, however, made little effort to thoroughly and immediately comb the scene, question the suspect and any witnesses, and confiscate evidence. . . .

The failure to take the suspect into custody for further questioning, i.e., to arrest the admitted killer standing over Martin’s body with a recently fired gun, was an egregious irregularity in police work that cannot be excused by hollow assertions of the absence of probable cause. The scene was dripping with probable cause, as it is traditionally defined in our criminal law. It requires, as any good cop or prosecutor or criminal defense attorney will tell you — and as the U.S. Supreme Court put it — only “reasonably trustworthy information” supporting a “prudent” belief that the suspect committed or is committing a crime. . . .

No leap of faith was required to reach this conclusion. The police knew that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. He admitted to it. He’d followed the victim after being told by the police dispatcher not to follow him. Without knowing anything more, they needed only to conclude that the claim of self-defense by a 250-pound adult armed with a loaded gun who tracked and killed a 140-pound youth armed only with a pack of Skittles was inherently suspect. Police know, better than anyone else in the world, that suspects have an overwhelming interest in and habit of lying to save their own skin. . . .

Read the rest here.

Leave a Comment

Job o’ the Day: Staff Attorney at Legal Aid Society’s Parole Revocation Unit in NY!

The Legal Aid Society’s Parole Revocation Defense Unit has an opening for one or more Staff Attorneys. The position is based in our Manhattan location, with significant amounts of time spent at the Rikers Island Judicial Center. The PRDU Staff Attorney’s have significant client contact and represent clients at parole revocation hearings held at the Rikers Island Judicial Center, federal detention facilities, and hospital prison wards throughout New York City. The PRDU staff attorneys also appear on behalf of clients at related habeas corpus proceedings, administrative appeals, and other post-conviction proceedings. The practice is fast-paced and litigation intensive.

Key responsibilities include: handling all case appearances, motion practice, negotiations and hearings in parole cases; directing investigations; locating and interviewing witnesses; and identifying cases that are suitable for alternatives-to-incarceration intervention by the Unit’s social workers.

To apply, see the listing at PSLawNet!

Leave a Comment

Job o’ the Day: Summer Law Student Internship at Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings in College Park, MD!

The Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings is looking for a law student intern to work 6-8 weeks this summer, starting in mid-May.  The Center is located at the University of Maryland’s College of Education, just outside of Washington, DC.

The intern will work directly with David Domenici, the Center’s Director, researching and writing on a handful of legal and policy issues related to juvenile justice and education reform work. David is one of the co-founders of the Maya Angelou Schools in Washington, D.C. (, a long-time advocate for underserved and at-risk students, and a graduate of Stanford Law School.

For more information, see the listing at PSLawNet!

Leave a Comment

Job o’ the Day: Legislative/Policy Clerk at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia!

The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) provides and promotes quality legal representation to indigent adults and children facing a loss of liberty in the District of Columbia and thereby protects society’s interest in the fair administration of justice. PDS is regarded as one of the best public defender offices in the country—local or federal. It is the benchmark by which other public defender systems often measure themselves.

The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) seeks a talented law student to serve as a legislative/policy clerk for the summer of 2012.

The clerk will report to both the Special Counsel to the Director (Legislation) as well as to the General Counsel, and will conduct complex legal research and writing on both legal, policy and legislative issues.


To learn more, see the listing at PSLawNet!

Leave a Comment

Older Posts »