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Evidence-Based Sentencing And The Scientific Rationalization Of Discrimination, Sonja B. Starr Jan 2014

Evidence-Based Sentencing And The Scientific Rationalization Of Discrimination, Sonja B. Starr

Articles

This Article critiques, on legal and empirical grounds, the growing trend of basing criminal sentences on actuarial recidivism risk prediction instruments that include demographic and socioeconomic variables. I argue that this practice violates the Equal Protection Clause and is bad policy: an explicit embrace of otherwise- condemned discrimination, sanitized by scientific language. To demonstrate that this practice raises serious constitutional concerns, I comprehensively review the relevant case law, much of which has been ignored by existing literature. To demonstrate that the policy is not justified by countervailing state interests, I review the empirical evidence underlying the instruments. I show that ...


Rate Of False Conviction Of Criminal Defendants Who Are Sentenced To Death, Samuel R. Gross, Barbara O'Brien, Chen Hu, Edward H. Kennedy Jan 2014

Rate Of False Conviction Of Criminal Defendants Who Are Sentenced To Death, Samuel R. Gross, Barbara O'Brien, Chen Hu, Edward H. Kennedy

Articles

The rate of erroneous conviction of innocent criminal defendants is often described as not merely unknown but unknowable. There is no systematic method to determine the accuracy of a criminal conviction; if there were, these errors would not occur in the first place. As a result, very few false convictions are ever discovered, and those that are discovered are not representative of the group as a whole. In the United States, however, a high proportion of false convictions that do come to light and produce exonerations are concentrated among the tiny minority of cases in which defendants are sentenced to ...


Evidence-Based Sentencing And The Scientific Rationalization Of Discrimination, Sonja B. Starr Jan 2013

Evidence-Based Sentencing And The Scientific Rationalization Of Discrimination, Sonja B. Starr

Law & Economics Working Papers

This paper critiques, on legal and empirical grounds, the growing trend of basing criminal sentences on actuarial recidivism risk prediction instruments that include demographic and socioeconomic variables. I argue that this practice violates the Equal Protection Clause and is bad policy: an explicit embrace of otherwise-condemned discrimination, sanitized by scientific language. To demonstrate that this practice should be subject to heightened constitutional scrutiny, I comprehensively review the relevant case law, much of which has been ignored by existing literature. To demonstrate that it cannot survive that scrutiny and is undesirable policy, I review the empirical evidence underlying the instruments. I ...


Witness Recantation Study: Preliminary Findings, Alexandra E. Gross, Samuel R. Gross Jan 2013

Witness Recantation Study: Preliminary Findings, Alexandra E. Gross, Samuel R. Gross

Other Publications

In September 2012, the National Registry of Exonerations began a research study of all the cases in our database that involve post-conviction recantations by witnesses or victims. This is the first systematic study of recantations ever conducted. Its purpose is to identify patterns and trends among these cases, with a particular focus on the circumstances that first elicit the false testimony, and on the official reactions to the recantations by judges and other authorities. Our data set includes all the cases in the Registry as of February 28, 2013 – a total of 1,068 cases, 250 of which involve recantations ...


Deferred Prosecution And Non-Prosecution Agreements And The Erosion Of Corporate Criminal Liability, David M. Uhlmann Jan 2013

Deferred Prosecution And Non-Prosecution Agreements And The Erosion Of Corporate Criminal Liability, David M. Uhlmann

Articles

On April 5, 2010, a massive explosion killed twenty-nine miners at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine near Montcoal, West Virginia. Following the explosion, President Barack Obama vowed that the U.S. Department of Labor would conduct "the most thorough and comprehensive investigation possible" and work with the U.S. Department of Justice ("Justice Department" or the "Department") to address any criminal violations. Later in the month, the President and Vice President flew to West Virginia to eulogize the victims and comfort their families. It was the nation's worst coal mining disaster in forty years. The tragic loss ...


Interpersonal Power In The Criminal System, Kimberly A. Thomas Jan 2013

Interpersonal Power In The Criminal System, Kimberly A. Thomas

Articles

This Article identifies the workings of interpersonal power in the criminal system and considers the effect of these cases on criminal theory and practice. By uncovering this phenomenon, this Article hopes to spark a legal academic dialogue and inquiry that has, until now, been unspoken. This Article has roots in my former work as a Philadelphia public defender and in my current work as a clinical professor with students who appear in criminal and juvenile court. As an advocate for the poor in a busy courthouse, one of a lawyer's tasks is to discover the multiple "real" stories behind ...


On Estimating Disparity And Inferring Causation: Sur-Reply To The U.S. Sentencing Commission Staff, Sonja B. Starr, M. Marit Rehavi Jan 2013

On Estimating Disparity And Inferring Causation: Sur-Reply To The U.S. Sentencing Commission Staff, Sonja B. Starr, M. Marit Rehavi

Articles

In this Essay, Professors Starr and Rehavi respond to the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s empirical staff’s criticisms of their recent article, which found, contrary to the Commission’s prior work, no evidence that racial disparity in sentences increased in response to United States v. Booker. As Starr and Rehavi suggest, their differences with the Commission perhaps relate to differing objectives. The Commission staff’s reply expresses a lack of interest in identifying Booker’s causal effects; in contrast, that is Starr and Rehavi’s central objective. In addition, Starr and Rehavi’s approach also accounts for disparities arising ...


Mandatory Sentencing And Racial Disparity, Assessing The Role Of Prosecutors And The Effects Of Booker, Sonja B. Starr, M. Marit Rehavi Jan 2013

Mandatory Sentencing And Racial Disparity, Assessing The Role Of Prosecutors And The Effects Of Booker, Sonja B. Starr, M. Marit Rehavi

Articles

This Article presents new empirical evidence concerning the effects of United States v. Booker, which loosened the formerly mandatory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, on racial disparities in federal criminal cases. Two serious limitations pervade existing empirical literature on sentencing disparities. First, studies focus on sentencing in isolation, controlling for the “presumptive sentence” or similar measures that themselves result from discretionary charging, plea-bargaining, and fact-finding processes. Any disparities in these earlier processes are excluded from the resulting sentence-disparity estimates. Our research has shown that this exclusion matters: pre-sentencing decision-making can have substantial sentence-disparity consequences. Second, existing studies have used loose causal ...


Did Booker Increase Sentencing Disparity? Why The Evidence Is Unpersuasive, Sonja B. Starr Jan 2013

Did Booker Increase Sentencing Disparity? Why The Evidence Is Unpersuasive, Sonja B. Starr

Articles

The Sentencing Commission’s recent report on the effects of United States v.Booker makes a number of very worri- some claims.The most alarming is that the gap in sen- tences between otherwise similar Black and White men has nearly quadrupled: from 4.5 percent before Booker, to 15 percent after it, to 19.5 percent after United States v. Kimbrough and United States v.Gall. 1 The Commission further claims that interjudge disparity has increased in two-thirds of the federal districts, and that interdistrict variation has also increased.2 If its findings were accurate, and if these changes ...


Racial Disparity In The Criminal Justice Process: Prosecutors, Judges, And The Effects Of United States V. Booker, Sonja Starr, Marit Rehavi Nov 2012

Racial Disparity In The Criminal Justice Process: Prosecutors, Judges, And The Effects Of United States V. Booker, Sonja Starr, Marit Rehavi

Law & Economics Working Papers

Current empirical estimates of racial and other unwarranted disparities in sentencing suffer from two pervasive flaws. The first is a focus on the sentencing stage in isolation. Studies control for the “presumptive sentence” or closely related measures that are themselves the product of discretionary charging, plea-­‐bargaining, and fact-­‐finding processes. Any disparities in these earlier processes are built into the control variable, which leads to misleading sentencing-­‐disparity estimates. The second problem is specific to studies of sentencing reforms: they use loose methods of causal inference that do not disentangle the effects of reform from surrounding events and trends ...


Estimating Gender Disparities In Federal Criminal Cases, Sonja Starr Aug 2012

Estimating Gender Disparities In Federal Criminal Cases, Sonja Starr

Law & Economics Working Papers

This paper assesses gender disparities in federal criminal cases. It finds large gender gaps favoring women throughout the sentence length distribution (averaging over 60%), conditional on arrest offense, criminal history, and other pre-charge observables. Female arrestees are also significantly likelier to avoid charges and convictions entirely, and twice as likely to avoid incarceration if convicted. Prior studies have reported much smaller sentence gaps because they have ignored the role of charging, plea-bargaining, and sentencing fact-finding in producing sentences. Most studies control for endogenous severity measures that result from these earlier discretionary processes and use samples that have been winnowed by ...


Exonerations In The United States, 1989-2012: Report By The National Registry Of Exonerations, Samuel R. Gross, Michael Shaffer Jan 2012

Exonerations In The United States, 1989-2012: Report By The National Registry Of Exonerations, Samuel R. Gross, Michael Shaffer

Other Publications

This report is about 873 exonerations in the United States, from January 1989 through February 2012. Behind each is a story, and almost all are tragedies. The tragedies are not limited to the exonerated defendants themselves, or to their families and friends. In most cases they were convicted of vicious crimes in which other innocent victims were killed or brutalized. Many of the victims who survived were traumatized all over again, years later, when they learned that the criminal who had attacked them had not been caught and punished after all, and that they themselves may have played a role ...


Shaken Baby Syndrome, Abusive Head Trauma, And Actual Innocence: Getting It Right, Keith A. Findley, Patrick D. Barnes, David A. Moran, Waney Squier Jan 2012

Shaken Baby Syndrome, Abusive Head Trauma, And Actual Innocence: Getting It Right, Keith A. Findley, Patrick D. Barnes, David A. Moran, Waney Squier

Articles

In the past decade, the existence of shaken baby syndrome (SBS) has been called into serious question by biomechanical studies, the medical and legal literature, and the media. As a result of these questions, SBS has been renamed abusive head trauma (AHT). This is, however, primarily a terminological shift: like SBS, AHT refers to the two-part hypothesis that one can reliably diagnose shaking or abuse from three internal findings (subdural hemorrhage, retinal hemorrhage, and encephalopathy) and that one can identify the perpetrator based on the onset of symptoms. Over the past decade, we have learned that this hypothesis fits poorly ...


Do Sex Offender Registries Make Us Less Safe?, J. J. Prescott Jan 2012

Do Sex Offender Registries Make Us Less Safe?, J. J. Prescott

Articles

State legislatures enacted sex offender registration and notification (SORN) laws with the explicit and exclusive aim of reducing sex offender recidivism. The general idea that we ought to “regulate” released offenders — of any type — to reduce the likelihood of their returning to crime is an attractive one, at least in theory. Criminal recidivism generates significant social harm. Nevertheless, despite their now-widespread use, SORN laws became the norm without any systematic study of their consequences. Admittedly, the logic underlying these laws seems at first difficult to gainsay: if a known sex offender poses even a small risk to a potential new ...


David Baldus And The Legacy Of Mccleskey V. Kemp, Samuel R. Gross Jan 2012

David Baldus And The Legacy Of Mccleskey V. Kemp, Samuel R. Gross

Articles

The first major empirical challenge to racial discrimination in the use of the death penalty in the United States was presented in federal court in the case of William L. Maxwell, who was sentenced to death in Arkansas in 1962 for the crime of rape.1 It was based on a landmark study by Marvin Wolfgang, a distinguished criminologist who had collected data on some 3000 rape convictions from 1945 through 1965 in selected counties across eleven southern states.2 He found that black men who were convicted of rape were seven times more likely to be sentenced to death ...


Symposium: Examining Shaken Baby Syndrome Convictions In Light Of New Medical And Scientific Research, David A. Moran Jan 2012

Symposium: Examining Shaken Baby Syndrome Convictions In Light Of New Medical And Scientific Research, David A. Moran

Articles

I've been asked to react to Professor Findley's talk, and I just wanted to try to put this in a concrete format that we can understand. In the summer of 2001, when my oldest daughter was about six months old, I put her in a backpack (the kind that you strap to your back) to go for a hike. In trying to get her out of that backpack after the walk, I dropped her, and she landed on her head, and she very briefly lost consciousness. So I rushed her to the University of Michigan Medical Center in ...


After The Spill Is Gone: The Gulf Of Mexico, Environmental Crime, And Criminal Law, David M. Uhlmann Jan 2011

After The Spill Is Gone: The Gulf Of Mexico, Environmental Crime, And Criminal Law, David M. Uhlmann

Articles

The Gulf oil spill was the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, and will be the most significant criminal case ever prosecuted under U.S. environmental laws. The Justice Department is likely to prosecute BP, Transocean, and Halliburton for criminal violations of the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which will result in the largest fines ever imposed in the United States for any form of corporate crime. The Justice Department also may decide to pursue charges for manslaughter, false statements, and obstruction of justice. The prosecution will shape public perceptions about environmental crime, for reasons ...


Child Pornography And Community Notification: How An Attempt To Reduce Crime Can Achieve The Opposite, J. J. Prescott Jan 2011

Child Pornography And Community Notification: How An Attempt To Reduce Crime Can Achieve The Opposite, J. J. Prescott

Articles

Community notification laws, designed to reduce the frequency of sex offenses by alerting potential victims to nearby threats and by encouraging citizen monitoring of potential recidivists, may make sense in the context of traditional sex offenses and sex offenders. But child pornography crimes and the individuals who commit them are different, and they differ from archetypal sex crimes and criminals in ways that may unintentionally cause community notification laws to facilitate crime rather than inhibit it. Child porn offenses typically involve money or trade, and their commission hinges on successfully conspiring with others. Markets and information are necessary building blocks ...


Do Sex Offender Registration And Notification Laws Affect Criminal Behavior?, J. J. Prescott, Jonah E. Rockoff Jan 2011

Do Sex Offender Registration And Notification Laws Affect Criminal Behavior?, J. J. Prescott, Jonah E. Rockoff

Articles

Sex offenders have become the targets of some of the most far-reaching and novel crime legislation in the U.S. Two key innovations in recent decades have been registration and notification laws which, respectively, require that convicted sex offenders provide valid contact information to law enforcement authorities, and that information about sex offenders be made public. Using the evolution of state law during the 1990s and 2000s, we study how registration and notification affect the frequency of reported sex offenses and the incidence of such offenses across victims. We find evidence that registration reduces the frequency of sex offenses by ...


What Does Graham Mean In Michigan?, Kimberly A. Thomas Jan 2010

What Does Graham Mean In Michigan?, Kimberly A. Thomas

Articles

In Graham v. Florida, the United States Supreme Court held that life without parole could not be imposed on a juvenile offender for a nonhomicide crime.1 In this context, the Graham Court extensively discussed the diminished culpability of juvenile criminal defendants, as compared to adults. The Court relied on current scientific research regarding adolescent development and neuroscience. While the narrowest holding of Graham has little impact in Michigan, the science it relies on, and the potential broader implications for adolescents in Michigan, are significant.


Reply To Richard A. Leo And Jon B. Gould, Samuel R. Gross, Barbara O'Brien Jan 2010

Reply To Richard A. Leo And Jon B. Gould, Samuel R. Gross, Barbara O'Brien

Articles

The following is a letter to the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law received from Professors Samuel Gross and Barbara O'Brien, responding to an article published in the Journal in Fall 2009 by Professors Richard Leo and Jon Gould. This letter is followed by a reply from Professors Leo and Gould. Professors Gross and O'Brien did not see the reply prior to the Journal going to press. As we have indicated before, we welcome letters to the Journal from readers on any topic covered in a prior issue. - Editors


Defending Juveniles Facing Life Without Parole In Michigan, Kimberly A. Thomas Jan 2010

Defending Juveniles Facing Life Without Parole In Michigan, Kimberly A. Thomas

Articles

In Graham v. Florida, the United State Supreme Court held that life without parole could not be imposed on a juvenile offender for a non-homicide crime. This article discusses the challenges, under the Eighth Amendment and the Michigan Constitution, to the sentence of life without parole imposed on someone 17 years old or less.


Crimes On The Gulf, David M. Uhlmann Jan 2010

Crimes On The Gulf, David M. Uhlmann

Articles

The explosion that rocked the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, 2010, killed 11 workers and triggered the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. After six weeks of failed efforts to stop the gushing oil and protect the fragile ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico and the communities along its shores, President Obama pledged on June 1 that “if our laws were broken . . . we will bring those responsible to justice.”


Sentence Reduction As A Remedy For Prosecutorial Misconduct, Sonja B. Starr Jan 2009

Sentence Reduction As A Remedy For Prosecutorial Misconduct, Sonja B. Starr

Articles

Current remedies for prosecutorial misconduct, such as reversal of conviction or dismissal of charges, are rarely granted by courts and thus do not deter prosecutors effectively. Further, such all-or-nothing remedial schemes are often problematic from corrective and expressive perspectives, especially when misconduct has not affected the trial verdict. When granted, these remedies produce windfalls to guilty defendants and provoke public resentment, undermining their expressive value in condemning misconduct. To avoid these windfalls, courts refuse to grant any remedy at all, either refusing to recognize violations or deeming them harmless. This often leaves significant non-conviction-related harms unremedied and egregious prosecutorial misconduct ...


Environmental Crime Comes Of Age: The Evolution Of Criminal Enforcement In The Environmental Regulatory Scheme, David M. Uhlmann Jan 2009

Environmental Crime Comes Of Age: The Evolution Of Criminal Enforcement In The Environmental Regulatory Scheme, David M. Uhlmann

Articles

The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 often is considered the first environmental criminal statute because it contains strict liability provisions that make it a misdemeanor to discharge refuse into navigable waters of the United States without a permit. When Congress passed the Rivers and Harbors Act, however, it was far more concerned with preventing interference with interstate commerce than environmental protection. For practical purposes, the environmental crimes program in the United States dates to the development of the modem environmental regulatory system during the 1970s, and amendments to the environmental laws during the 1980s, which upgraded criminal violations of ...


Prosecuting Worker Endangerment: The Need For Stronger Criminal Penalties For Violations Of The Occupational Safety And Health Act, David M. Uhlmann Jan 2009

Prosecuting Worker Endangerment: The Need For Stronger Criminal Penalties For Violations Of The Occupational Safety And Health Act, David M. Uhlmann

Articles

A recent spate of construction deaths in New York City, similar incidents in Las Vegas, and scores of fatalities in recent years at mines and industrial facilities across the country have highlighted the need for greater commitment to worker safety in the United States and stronger penalties for violators of the worker safety laws. Approximately 6,000 workers are killed on the job each year1—and thousands more suffer grievous injuries—yet penalties for worker safety violations remain appallingly small, and criminal prosecutions are almost non-existent. In recent years, most of the criminal prosecutions for worker safety violations have been ...


Jesting Pilate, Carl E. Schneider Jul 2008

Jesting Pilate, Carl E. Schneider

Articles

I have two goals this month. First, to examine a case that's in the news. Second, to counsel skepticism in reading news accounts of cases. Recently, I was talking with an admirable scholar. He said that transplant surgeons sometimes kill potential donors to obtain their organs efficiently. He added, "This isn't just an urban legend - there's a real case in California." A little research turned up California v. Roozrokh. A little Googling found stories from several reputable news sources. Their headlines indeed intimated that a transplant surgeon had tried to kill a patient to get transplantable organs ...


Frequency And Predictors Of False Conviction: Why We Know So Little, And New Data On Capital Cases, Samuel R. Gross, Barbara O'Brien Jan 2008

Frequency And Predictors Of False Conviction: Why We Know So Little, And New Data On Capital Cases, Samuel R. Gross, Barbara O'Brien

Articles

In the first part of this article, we address the problems inherent in studying wrongful convictions: our pervasive ignorance and the extreme difficulty of obtaining the data that we need to answer even basic questions. The main reason that we know so little about false convictions is that, by definition, they are hidden from view. As a result, it is nearly impossible to gather reliable data on the characteristics or even the frequency of false convictions. In addition, we have very limited data on criminal investigations and prosecutions in general, so even if we could somehow obtain data on cases ...


In Memoriam: Francis A. Allen, Yale Kamisar Jan 2008

In Memoriam: Francis A. Allen, Yale Kamisar

Articles

Francis A. Allen graced the law faculties of five universities in the course of a remarkable, forty-six-year teaching career. In that time, he established himself as one of the half-dozen greatest twentieth century American scholars of criminal law and criminal procedure.


Strange Bedfellows, David M. Uhlmann Jan 2008

Strange Bedfellows, David M. Uhlmann

Articles

Environmental protection has not been a priority for the Bush administration, but, contrary to popular perception, criminal prosecution of companies and officials accused of breaking environmental laws has flourished.