"How many cases of innocent people being wrongly convicted have to occur before people realize that there's a very broad spectrum of forensic science?" asks U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff, a former member of the National Commission on Forensic Science.
Despite the obvious momentum for criminal justice reform demonstrated in the recent election and the potential passage of the First Step Act, many prosecutors around the country continue to engage in harsh, "tough on crime" tactics. One exception who bears watching is Larry Krasner, the elected district attorney for Philadelphia.
Last August, 50-year-old Eric Weil called 911. He had taken in a friend's son who was struggling with opioid addiction. This help was offered on the condition that the young man bring no drugs into the house, but he did. When Weil discovered a packet of white powder in the guest room, he called for help.
If the police have a warrant to search your home, you have to let them in. A warrant is a court order requiring you to stand aside and let them perform the search described.
Did you know that multiple studies have shown that faulty, unscientific or exaggerated forensic science is a major cause of wrongful convictions? According to the National Registry of Exonerations, improper or invalid forensic science has been discovered in approximately 24 percent of all exonerations since 1989.
Imagine you're out on a freezing January evening in Milwaukee. You stop at a liquor store, momentarily parking your car while you run inside. Unfortunately, you park less than 15 feet from an unmarked crosswalk.
In 2015, Abdisalam Wilwal, Sagal Abdigani, and their four young children were heading home after visiting Canadian relatives when they stopped at the Portal, North Dakota, border station. They are both U.S. citizens and married. Shortly after handing over their papers, they were confronted by armed and aggressive Customs and Border Protection officers. Mr. Wilwal was handcuffed in front of his frightened, crying children.
Should people be locked up for being unable to pay bail? More than 30 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court held that was unconstitutional. Bail is meant to incentivize people to show up at their court dates. But as we mentioned in a recent blog post, nearly half a million Americans are currently locked up awaiting trial, simply because they can't afford bail.
Over 30 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that people who cannot afford their court fees or fines should never be locked up for their inability to pay. Yet across the country, nearly half a million people sit in jail awaiting trial -- often simply because they can't afford bail.
Shawn K. was 15 when he and three other teens broke into a neighbor's house looking for cash. Shawn's job was to guard the back door. Unfortunately, things did not go as expected and the homeowner was seriously injured and ultimately died. Although no one, not even prosecutors, accused Shawn of harming the victim, he was still found guilty of first-degree murder. How? The felony murder rule.