Court Nixes Extra Warnings for Teen Suspects

The US Supreme Court has declined an invitation to create a special rule for advising juvenile suspects of their Miranda rights prior to an interrogation. In a 5 to 4 decision announced Tuesday, the high court said that criminal suspects who are juveniles are not entitled to more deferential treatment than adult suspects in terms of when Miranda warnings are issued.

The decision reverses an earlier ruling by the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that had overturned the conviction of a 17-year-old involved in a 1995 murder. The majority justices rejected the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning, saying the appeals court had overstepped its authority. “The Court of Appeals was nowhere close to the mark,” writes Justice Anthony Kennedy for the majority.

Details here from the Christian Science Monitor, or read the Court’s decision here.

“Judge Dismisses ‘Political Prisoner’ Suit” By Manson Associate

A federal judge dismissed portions of a lawsuit that claimed former Manson family member Susan Atkins is a political prisoner because of Gov. Gray Davis’ policy opposing parole for most murderers.

U.S. District Judge Robert J. Timlin ruled Wednesday that Atkins cannot sue the state, its Department of Corrections, the Board of Prison Terms and three board commissioners. The judge said the commissioners are immune from prosecution for their official actions, and the U.S. Constitution bars her from taking action against the state and its agencies unless they consent to be sued.

The article continues: “Atkins, 55, is serving a life sentence along with Charles Manson and three others for their roles in a series of 1969 murders. Atkins confessed at trial that she stabbed pregnant actress Sharon Tate to death but has recanted, saying she was only present at the killing.” Read the whole thing here from the AP.

I agree that Gov. Davis’ apparent blanket prohibition against granting parole is troublesome. And I feel sorry for Ms. Atkins, whose role in a crime 35 years ago — when all agree she was on drugs and basically a child — is somewhat murky.

But, on the other hand, it is hard to imagine any governor who would like to see members of “the Manson family” paroled on his (or her) political watch. My unfortunate advice to Ms. Atkins is: Get used to it. You’ll likely die in there.

Judge Detains Five Over Ringing Phones

A judge detained and questioned a row of spectators when a cell phone rang for a third time in her courtroom, later ordering two people to serve community service for contempt of court.

When no one admitted having the ringing phones Wednesday, Lake County Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell told all five people in the row to sit in chairs reserved for jail inmates. They stayed there for more than an hour until the morning court call ended.

Boswell found three people in contempt of court because they initially refused to say who had the ringing phones. . . .

“The next time you come to court, don’t bring your cell phone,” Boswell said. “And when the court asks a question, answer the question.”

That sounds a little over-the-top to me. My bet is that Judge Boswell gets censured and apologizes. Details here from the AP via Forbes.

The Faces of Wrongful Conviction

A Conference Examining Wrongful Convictions and the Administration of the Death Penalty in California

April 7 – April 9, 2006 — Hosted by UCLA School of Law

The purpose of this conference is to illustrate both the problem of wrongful conviction and the unfair application of the death penalty in California and to mobilize for change. Since 1990, over 200 people have been wrongfully convicted and exonerated in California. This conference will facilitate the largest gathering of California’s exonerees ever. In addition, new research discussing the causes and prevalence of wrongful conviction in California and demonstrating systemic racial and geographic disparities in the application of the death penalty in this state will be presented.

This conference will offer a series of workshops on the causes of wrongful conviction (i.e., snitch witnesses, mistaken eyewitnesses, junk science, etc.), problems with the death penalty, and opportunities for action. Workshop topics will appeal to: (1) exonerees; (2) lawyers and law students; and (3) activists. Panel speakers will include: prosecutors, jurors, judges, the family members of murder victims, and the family members of people on death row. This conference will also incorporate film, art, drama, and a new book on California exonerees.

This sounds like a great “conference,” and it has a truly impressive lineup of speakers. Check out the details here.

San Francisco Voters Approve Handgun Ban

Voters approved [a] ballot measure[] to ban handguns in San Francisco . . . [on] Tuesday.

With 100 percent of San Francisco precincts reporting, 58 percent of voters backed the proposed gun ban while 42 percent opposed it.

Measure H prohibits the manufacture and sale of all firearms and ammunition in the city, and makes it illegal for residents to keep handguns in their homes or businesses.

Only two other major U.S. cities — Washington and Chicago — have implemented such sweeping handgun bans.

[A]lthough law enforcement, security guards and others who require weapons for work are exempt from the measure, current handgun owners would have to surrender their firearms by April.

This has to violate the 2nd Amendment. Private citizens being forced to surrender their firearms, presumably to the Government???

I consider myself to be a liberal. I also consider the NRA to be an insanely right-wing nutjob group of fanatics, not to be taken seriously. I support rational limits on gun sales and ownership, such as restrictions on assault weapons, background checks, waiting periods, etc.

However, I am also very respectful of our constitution, and I like guns. (Guns are extremely precise machines that I find to be endlessly interesting to look at, disassemble, calibrate, and shoot.)

I am not a hunter and I am not interested in killing living things — including other humans. But I like to shoot at paper targets, which is pretty harmless. It’s like playing darts, except that it involves complicated machines that make very loud noises. Mmm, noises . . . .

My dad is 82 years old. He owns a half dozen or so handguns, including: 1) the Colt 45 my grandfather carried in Europe during his service in World War One; 2) a Civil War era revolver; and 3) a couple of 22 caliber semi-automatic pistols designed for target shooting, including a rare version of the Colt Woodsman.

When my dad dies (which won’t be too long, given that he’s 82), I will inherit these weapons. All of them are antiques. None of them is particularly deadly. None of them would be desireable to someone wishing to commit a crime or kill a lot of people today. Yet I can’t own them in San Francisco. And I’ll have to surrender them?? What am I going to do?

The Second Amendment states, in part: “[T]he right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

I dislike the NRA, and I want nothing to do with it. However, I’m going to have to stand with it on this one.

In my opinion, the measure approved today banning the ownership of handguns in San Francisco is unconstitutional, as it violates the Second Amendment. It clearly infringes upon my right to “bear arms.” I predict that the courts will eventually so hold.

Do you agree?

UPDATE: The NRA has already filed a lawsuit challenging the ban. As one of the commentors pointed out, the 2nd Amendment only applies to acts of congress, not local regulations. The NRA challenges the law primarily on the ground that it is preempted by or contradicts state law.

Plug for “The Hot Librarian”

You may not appreciate it, but I spend a lot of time dredging through boring, dry news and legal publications trying to find funny or interesting stories to link to for your reading pleasure. Sometimes it sucks.

But once in a while, one of my “sources” throws me a hot link, as Running With Lawyers did this week.

If you don’t already know The Hot Librarian, for God’s sake go meet her now. She may be profane, sophomoric, scatalogical and “immature,” but I think she’s hilarious. (And — bonus points — she is not a lawyer and her site has nothing to do with the law.)