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A little bit of this and that

Interesting postscript to the Ohio Supreme Court's decision in State v. Geeslin, which I discussed on Wednesday.  That was the case involving the due process ramifications of destruction of evidence by the police.  The seminal case on that subject was the US Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. Youngblood.  Youngblood had been convicted of raping a ten-year-old boy back in 1983, and the swabs taken by the hospital were inconclusive.  The police had taken other samples, though, but failed to refrigerate them, and they were lost.  An expert testified at trial that the lost samples could have exonerated the defendant, and the Arizona Supreme Court reversed, holding that the failure to preserve them was a due process violation.

Not so fast, said the Supremes in DC, or at least six of them.  They noted that since there was no way of knowing what the test results would have been, the lost evidence was not "materially exculpatory," but only "potentially useful," and thus it was up to the defendant to prove that the police had destroyed the evidence in bad faith.  Youngblood's conviction was reinstated, and he went off to serve seven years in prison.  By 2000, DNA technology had improved substantially, and the degraded evidence was retested.  Turns out that Youngblood was innocent after all.  The results were entered in to the convicted defender database, and a year later the actual rapist was identified and subsequently convicted.

And here's an interesting article on youthful offenders, which begins:

In December, the United Nations took up a resolution calling for the abolition of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for children and young teenagers. The vote was 185 to 1, with the United States the lone dissenter.

Indeed, the United States stands alone in the world in convicting young adolescents as adults and sentencing them to live out their lives in prison. According to a new report, there are 73 Americans serving such sentences for crimes they committed at 13 or 14.

I know there are kids who do terrible things, but that "lone dissenter" part kinda struck me.

On the other hand, it's good to know that we're not locking everybody up.  The guys over at Inside Opinions:  Legal Blogs pointed me to an article in Slate, which notes that the biggest group of lawbreakers in the country isn't the Mafia or the Bloods or the Crips, it's the Amish.  The article recounts in fascinating detail the amount of law violation that we openly tolerate, and explores some reasons why.  It's a lengthy article, but the link at Inside Opinions above gives a good synopsis of the article, and if you want to read more, you know how to find it.

Finally, courtesy of Professor Berman over at the Sentencing Law & Policy Blog comes a story about a prosecutor's office which decided that the defendant was going to be locked up for too long, so they dismissed some of the charges on which they'd gotten convictions.  In a child porn case, no less.  No, I'm not messing with your heads; it really happened.  As this article indicates, the defendant had been convicted of nine counts of possessing child pornography, each of which carried a ten-year sentence.  The prosecutor's office stated that they believed forty years was a sufficient penalty for the crime, so they dismissed five counts.

This is undoubtedly one of the signs of the End Times.

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