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Milwaukee Criminal Defense Law Blog

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.

Discredited hair evidence: How many innocent people are behind bars?

Any person who duly reflects upon DNA-related stories that have prominently surfaced in media reports in recent years understands well the double-edged sword wielded by investigators who assert possession of unassailable truth conferred through science.

Indeed, they are unquestionably right on some occasions. Conversely, though, and as evidenced by the release of wrongfully convicted individuals from state and federal lockups across the country (including in Wisconsin), DNA-linked assurances have often been tied to error and tragic consequences.

Vaunted eyewitness testimony: often wrong as can be

Many of our readers in Milwaukee and across Wisconsin have likely seen crime-tinged movies and television dramas -- in fact, scores of them -- where an individual steps up to save the day for state or federal prosecutors by confidently pointing out the guilty party from the witness stand.

The scene is iconic in America, with relieved finality often attaching to a case following firm eyewitness testimony that literally fingers a guilty party.

Why experienced legal counsel truly counts in an appellate action

You've heard admonitions like this before, of course, in reference to the need to steer past mere baseline competence from a contracting third party when what you truly need is high-level performance from an individual or business entity.

To wit: You wouldn't seek out a general practitioner to perform brain surgery. You wouldn't hire an entry-level cook to cater your child's wedding. You wouldn't entrust your life savings to an adviser you just met who promises you outsized returns, so …

A bit of in-the-wake reflection on AG Sessions' sentencing memo

In a mere matter of days following its issuance, what is already widely known in shorthand form as the "Sessions memo" continues to generate material fervor and related sound bites across the country.

We touched upon the continuing War on Drugs-tinged theme that strongly resonates in the U.S. Attorney General's guidance communication to federal prosecutors in a recent blog post. We noted specifically in our May 12 entry that the edict is marked by a strong dissonance that dramatically separates it from both recent policy announcements and a growing public sentiment that is clearly on display.

Defendants Suffer When Public Defenders Are Not Paid Properly

The Sixth Amendment provides one of the most recognizable lines from the Miranda Warning: “You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”

In Wisconsin, this right has become less meaningful due to the state’s absurdly low compensation rate of $40 per hour for private attorneys who take on State Public Defender (SPD) cases. It is the lowest rate in the country for private attorneys who handle SPD cases.

Reversal: Sessions says to crack down on low-level drug offenders

What crimes do you consider to be the most serious? Murder? Child sex offenses? Even drug trafficking might be a reasonable choice. Most people believe we should apply the harshest sentences to the most serious crimes, and most have an idea of which are the most serious.

Consider this method of classifying them: "By definition, the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory-minimum sentences."

SCOTUS: A racist juror can lead to an overturned conviction

One of the things courts value most is finality. Once a dispute has been resolved, courts are loath to start digging into the process of resolving the dispute -- and this has traditionally led to some pernicious consequences, even without ill intent.

Take the so-called "jury impeachment" rule. In cases where they are involved, juries' purpose is to weigh the evidence and come to a decision about what the facts are. A jury's fact finding is generally unappealable -- you have to show that no reasonable jury could have made the determination as they did. Moreover, one juror can't complain to the court about another juror's stupidity, illogic, or bias -- jury room deliberations are secret and final.

Is the Justice Dept. about to charge Assange with espionage?

Back in January, a WikiLeaks Tweet said that Julian Assange, the transparency group's editor in chief, would agree to extradition to the United States if then-President Obama gave former Pfc. Chelsea Manning clemency.

He did. Now, the Trump Administration's Department of Justice has announced it may charge members of WikiLeaks with violations of the Espionage Act, theft of government secrets, and/or conspiracy. Is Assange on the table?

SCOTUS: Overturned conviction means returning fees & restitution

Suppose you were wrongfully convicted of a crime, and as part of your conviction you were required to pay court costs and restitution to your alleged victim. Once your wrongful conviction was overturned, you should get that money back, shouldn't you?

You've probably heard that people who are exonerated are entitled to some compensation for their wrongful convictions. Simply being in prison for a number of years puts you behind -- no home equity, fewer years of steady job experience, etc. -- so Wisconsin has a statute compensating exonerated people up to $5,000 per year they spent wrongfully behind bars, up to $25,000. It's the lowest amount offered to exonerees in the nation, and yet the exoneree has to actively prove their innocence to claim it.

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