This isn't Texas anymore. When George W. Bush was Governor of Texas, he signed the death warrant for 152 executions; that was a full 38% of the death row inmates executed during that time period in the entire United States. When he returns to Crawford in another 40 days, he's going to find the state far different, at least in that dubious context.
To be sure, of the 36 death penalties carried out in the country this year, Texas accounted for half of them. But, to put it in marketing terms, the inventory's being used up. The latest report from the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty indicates that only nine people received the death sentence in the state this year, the lowest number since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. Harris County (Houston), which used to send as many as 15 people a year to death row, didn't impose any death sentences this year, and has imposed only seven in the past four years.
Creative prosecutions. First there was the effort to charge anyone who was arrested for some other crime and found to have drugs when they were booked at the stationhouse with "attempting to transport drugs into a detention facility." That was killed, at least here in Cuyahoga County, by the 8th District's decision in State v. Lee, discussed here. Then there was State v. Cherry, discussed here, where the police chased a couple of guys after a burglary, and found a gun in their car when the car ran into a ditch. The perps were charged with having a weapon under disability, under the "fugitive from justice" portion of the statute. Their fugitive status, of course, stemmed from fleeing from that same burglary.
But, courtesy of CrimLaw, the topper comes from Kentucky: "Dante Pardue, who last year broke into a home with another teenager who was then shot and killed by a man in the home, has pleaded guilty to reckless homicide in the death of his accomplice."
Well, that was worth it. Thanks to DUI Blog, we learn police in Bakersfield, CA, recently set up a drunk driving checkpoint, and went 0 for 3000. Well, not quite. True, of the 3000 drivers they stopped, none was drunk. But 85 of them were cited for various licence problems, and another 32 for vehicle code violations.
This is interesting in light of Arizona v. Johnson, which I discussed yesterday. The case involves the potential expansion of the power to frisk auto passengers for weapons. Here's Justice Scalia's remark during oral argument:
I guess what about -- I --I guess if we held that you could do this, this pat-down search here, it would probably carry forward to any other kind of seizure like a -- a roadblock to inspect for drunken driving or anything like that?
The idea that the police could set up a checkpoint, stop your car for no reason other than because you drove through the checkpoint, and make you and your passengers get out so you can be frisked, reminds me of several countries, but one of them isn't the United States.
Ask The Briefcase. One of the problems with this Blog, and with creating the illusion that I know what I'm talking about, is that other lawyers will actually think that I do, and call and ask questions. Yesterday's was a doozy: is an uncounseled misdemeanor conviction a "prior offense" for purposes of the expungement statute? I said that my gut instinct told me it was, and the attorney's rather uncharitable response was something to the effect that neither he nor his client were notably interested in what my gut thought of the matter. So I turned to my BFF Lexis, punched in a simple query, and seconds later I had the answer: my gut was right, at least according to this 1994 8th District decision.
Random non-legal observation. Romeo Crennel and I have at least one thing in common: we have exactly the same chance of being the head coach of the Cleveland Browns next year.
Holiday schedule. The Briefcase is going on vacation for the two weeks of Christmas and New Years. Looks like I'm going to need one: the Supreme Court finally revved up, churning out half a dozen decisions, and I ran into one of the 8th District judges last night at the CCDLA Christmas party, who told me that that court had released 25 opinions earlier that day. You'll read all about it next week.
CCDLA Listserv. The CCDLA Listserv is finally up and running. For more information, and to get access to it, check out this portion of the CCDLA website.
See you on Monday.