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Milwaukee Criminal Defense Law Blog

Bipartisan group pushes for restrictions in FISA reauthorization

A group of House lawmakers from both sides of the aisle has agreed to support extending the FISA Amendments Act, the law authorizing warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency, through 2023. It is currently set to expire at the end of this year. In exchange for their support, the group will push for changes and restrictions on the law that would bring it more in line with general search procedures. The restrictions are opposed by the Trump administration.

The lawmakers include Jim Sensenbrenner, former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, current chair Robert Goodlatte of Virginia, and the ranking Democrat on the committee, John Conyers of Michigan. Their agreement to support a restricted renewal is apparently private but was reported to the New York Times by anonymous congressional officials.

Open records of crime lab backlogs at odds with Schimel's claims

On July 27, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin sent an open records request to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. It was seeking reports on the operations of the state crime lab and whether there continue to be backlogs in processing evidence. Hours after the request was filed, Attorney General Brad Schimel announced that he would authorize overtime and create 11 part-time positions to help law enforcement collect DNA samples and other evidence.

Schimel's spokesperson added that high-priority cases are already being processed "forthwith."

Appeals court limits reach of search warrants for cellphones

The mere fact that someone is under suspicion for a crime is not enough to justify a warrant for that person's cellphone. The mere fact that most people have a cellphone is not enough to justify a warrant. A warrant issued with no more specific reason than those is unconstitutional, the influential D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled recently.

Although the D.C. Circuit doesn't include Wisconsin, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is considered quite influential and has jurisdiction over much of what federal agencies do, and other federal courts will give weight to its decisions in their own cases.

Imprisoned for 45 years, Michigan man may soon be exonerated

For decades, Richard Phillips has insisted upon his innocence in a 1971 murder in Detroit. Now 71, Phillips may finally be released from prison after his co-defendant admitted Phillips played no role in the crime. A judge recently dismissed his conviction, although he also granted prosecutors a new trial. Prosecutors in Wayne County, Michigan, have vowed to appeal the reversal.

It might have seemed like a hopeless case before the University of Michigan Law School's Innocence Clinic took it on. For one thing, the conviction was largely based on the testimony of a witness who has since died.

Faith, advocacy groups seek independent review of Milwaukee PD

Recently, an array of faith-based, civil rights and other advocacy organizations announced they are seeking an independent review of the Milwaukee Police Department's policing practices. Milwaukee is far from immune to the nationwide debate brought up by instances of what appear to be excessive force used against unarmed, typically African-American defendants. At stake is the public's trust in the police force and even the justice system.

Justice Department audit months late, incomplete

Is the Justice Department about to crack down on marijuana?

Observers on Capitol Hill believe Attorney General Jeff Sessions may be about to lay down the law on marijuana users, reversing popular policies put in place by the Obama Administration. Moreover, the reason for the change is almost as surprising as the potential policy change.

AG Sessions heads the president's Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, a group meant to fight violent crime. According to the Hill, Sessions has explicitly instructed members of the task force to review "the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana" to determine whether they're in line with the DOJ's overall strategy against violent crime.

Supreme Court asked to rule on reach of email warrants

After a panel of federal judges ruled that the 1986 Stored Communications Act does not apply outside the United States, the Trump Administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

The issue arose in relation to a 2013 drug trafficking case. Federal investigators had sought emails and identifying information from a Microsoft email address they believed was being used to traffic drugs. Microsoft apparently agreed to comply with the warrant until it was discovered that many of the emails in question were stored in servers in Ireland.

Judge: Cruelty, isolation at WI juvenile prisons must change

The federal judge hearing the case on Wisconsin's juvenile prisons commented that Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, suffers less restrictive solitary confinement than do the juveniles confined at the Lincoln Hills School correctional facility in Irma.

Youthful offenders often spend 22 or 23 hours a day in a 7x10 cell at Lincoln Hills. During that time, they're allowed only a single book. They're often shackled, even when that seems to serve no safety goal. If they make trouble, they are subjected to incapacitating agents like pepper spray, or to excessive force.

Fourth of July: How you can improve our ailing criminal justice system

As we celebrate our nation's Independence Day,  it's appropriate to reflect not only on that which makes us proud to be Americans, but also on how we can hand down to our children and grandchildren a system of justice that honors the Founding Fathers and the generations of patriots who followed them.  We have much work to do, because at this time in our history the United States' criminal justice system is broken.  I provide a close examination of many of the problems in my book, "Illusion of Justice: Inside Making a Murderer and America's Broken System" (Harper 2017), but I also believe we can fix what is ailing.

Dean Strang and I traveled across the U.S. and internationally on a lecture tour following the success of the Netflix documentary series Making A Murderer, which recounted the murder trials of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey.

Federal prosecutor seeks 'therapeutic polygraphy' for sex offender

In 2004, the American Psychological Association said that there's "little evidence that polygraph tests can accurately detect lies." There simply isn't sufficient proof that the physiological responses measured by the so-called "lie detector" machine are actually caused by lying.

For that reason, the results of polygraph tests are received skeptically in the federal courts. Polygraph results can be admitted into evidence, but only as a matter of individual judges' discretion.

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