Friday, August 22, 2014

Justice For Sale

Bank of America Reaches $16 billion Settlement With U.S.:

The Justice Department said on Thursday that it had so far recovered nearly $37 billion from big banks for their role in selling shoddy mortgages before the financial crisis.

Such a large number — intended to deter misdeeds in the future — suggests that Wall Street is being made to pay for its role in stoking the subprime debacle. Yet the financial pain inflicted by the settlements may not be as great in the end.

Take the latest, and largest, mortgage settlement. Bank of America has agreed to a $16.65 billion deal with federal and state authorities. The actual financial burden for Bank of America, however, may not exceed $12 billion — certainly a large amount, but one significantly less than the number the government trumpets.
And get this: a lot of it can be written off on their taxes (i.e. YOU the taxpayer are going to pay for it). It's like you robbing someone on the street then having the victim pay a portion of your fine.
The actual pain to the bank could also be significantly reduced by tax deductions. Tax analysts, for instance, estimate that Bank of America could derive $1.6 billion of tax savings on the $4.63 billion of payments to the states and some federal agencies under the settlement. Shares of Bank of America jumped 4 percent on Thursday, suggesting investors believe that the bank could take the settlement in stride.

“The American public is expecting the Justice Department to hold the banks accountable for its misdeeds in the mortgage meltdown,” said Phineas Baxandall, an analyst with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization. “But these tax write-offs shift the burden back onto taxpayers and send the wrong message by treating parts of the settlement as an ordinary business expense.”
For those who have inquired, this is why I think Eric Holder is the worst AG the United States has ever had. Yes, he's done a lot to help reform the criminal justice system, criminal sentencing, and the like. And his visit to Ferguson, MO this past week was well-timed and thoughtful in helping defuse the situation.

But it's astonishing that for this crime of the century, a crime so vast and huge it dwarfs literally every other financial or violent crime ever committed in United States history, not one single person went to prison for it.

What crimes did they commit, you say?
Documents released as part of the $16.65 billion settlement between Bank of America and the Justice Department read like a highlight reel of the mortgage sins that fed the 2008 financial crisis. As part of the deal, the bank and the Justice Department agreed to a “statement of facts” that offers a window into some of the darkest corners of the Countrywide and Merrill mortgage machine that was responsible for funneling a stream of troubled loans that helped devastate the global financial system.

The Justice Department documents also show the failings of the government’s efforts to protect itself against insuring defective mortgages.

One Bank of America employee describes trying to “trick” a system that screened mortgages that the Federal Housing Administration agreed to insure.
Only on Wall Street is "trick" an acceptable euphemism for fraud. 

I wonder how that would hold up on the street level? "No officer, I wasn't robbing the Quick Mart, I was trying to trick them into giving me money. That's all." Or, "Instead of prison time, can't I just settle with the DA?"

Holder et al (including the president) have said repeatedly that we need to "look forward, not backward" when it comes to the crimes of Wall Street. I wonder how victims of street crime would feel about that? "Rather than prosecuting this rapist or mugger or molester, I think it's better we look forward, not backward, and learn from these unfortunate events." Ugh.

It's the ultimate, ignominious ending to the biggest criminal enterprise ever at work in United States history. Pay your fine (most of which will be written off, thus footed by the taxpayer) and go on about your ways (for more, go here).

I can guarantee you two things: 
  1. If these sociopaths on Wall Street knew they were facing hard time in prison, with razor wire, barking dogs, solitary confinement, and sexual assault, this kind of criminal conduct would never have taken place. 
  2. Because they know in the future they'll never go to prison and can pay their way out of the legal system, this shit will happen again.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Junkies and their Dealers

Execution Drugs Quadruple for Texas Prisons:
Texas is paying four times more for its execution drugs from a new supplier, putting it in line with a local consumer rate but well below the cost in at least one other death penalty state.


The prison agency in the nation’s busiest death penalty state paid $13,500 for its most recent batch of pentobarbital at a cost of $1,500 per vial, compared to $350 per dose spent last year, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press under an open records request.

The extra cost comes after the state’s previous supplier refused to provide more of the powerful sedative last year, claiming it had become a target of execution opponents. Prison officials have since found a new compound pharmacy for pentobarbital, and have waged a successful legal battle to keep the business’ name secret.
And wouldn't you, if you were buying dope from drug dealers on the down low? Why, the only way you'd give up the name of your supplier is if we threatened you with incarceration.
Texas responded by switching to pentobarbital, but Denmark-based Lundbeck Inc., the drug’s only U.S.-licensed maker, bowed to pressure from death penalty opponents and announced its medication was off-limits for capital punishment.

The Texas prison agency then opted to purchase pentobarbital from The Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy until the Houston-area company refused to provide more drugs in October. The owner wrote a letter to the agency accusing state officials of placing him “in the middle of a firestorm” of hate mail and potential litigation when his company’s name became public.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has supported the prison agency’s refusal to publicly name its new supplier, citing a “threat assessment” signed by Texas Department of Public Safety director Steven McCraw that says pharmacies selling execution drugs face “a substantial threat of physical harm.”
Makes sense, doesn't it? We don't really like drug dealers in the U.S.
The agency’s higher cost does not appear extraordinary. A survey of nearly two dozen pharmacies in the Houston area shows Nembutal, the brand name for pentobarbital, sells for about $1,500.

The cost is a bargain compared to Missouri, which also uses pentobarbital for executions. Records earlier this year showed state officials paid as much as $8,000 per dose.
A bargain! And don't you love the way some dealers are intruding on other dealers' turf? I can see a real gang war brewing between compounding pharmacies: nerds in white lab coats on one side versus nerds in white lab coats on the other.
At least 10 inmates have execution dates in the coming months, including two in September, which means Texas’ latest batch of pentobarbital is set to run out by the end of the year. The agency has confirmed it will attempt to purchase more drugs.
Like any good addict would. The first step in treating your addiction, Texas (and any other junkie state scrambling to replenish its stash) is to admit you have a problem. And it doesn't sound like that's happening anytime soon in Texas.

UPDATE: Great expose in today's (8/18/14) NYT on Arizona's lethal injections procedures and how they are, literally, "just making shit up as they go along."

Friday, August 15, 2014

Spectacle As Social Control

I've been writing about the militarization of policing on this blog since I started it in 2007, and have been teaching about it in Criminology and Punishment and Society since 2000. With the grotesque events unfolding in a place called Ferguson, Missouri, suddenly everyone seems to be cognizant of the disaster that comes when you give military equipment to domestic law enforcement with little or no training in how or when to deploy such force. It's Keystone Cops meets the Battle for Baghdad, right here in your backyard.

In fact, you get classic footage like this SWAT video, posted by a Georgia police department to their website (but recently removed after national outrage):



I particularly enjoyed reading about (and watching) the Ferguson SWAT arrest two reporters at a McDonald's, decked out in "suburban camouflage."



The defense for jack boots, body armor and camo at McDonald's is found in the following exchange:
Ever see St. Louis County cops in camouflage military fatigues on the street and wonder why they're dressed like they're going to Iraq instead of Creve Coeur? 
That's the county's Tactical Operations Unit -- the SWAT team -- and Sergeant Matthew Pleviak tells Daily RFT that the camouflage is worn so the SWAT cops can "blend in with the environment." 
Blend in with the environment of Creve Coeur? 
"If you go to any subdivison, there's grass and trees and bushes," Pleviak explains.
Snicker. From Walter Olson at the Cato Institute:
Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that “We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone”?
Plus,  the Hamburgler is often present at McDonald's, so there's that.

Oddly (or maybe not, if you can put away your ideological blinders for one second and think rationally), the outrage over the heavy handed SWAT tactics on display in Ferguson have cut across party and ideological lines, one of  the best articulations I've found comes from Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky (Republican):
When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury—national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture—we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.
Again, "duh" for those of who have been studying this insanity for years now, but welcome to the debate, ideologues right, middle and left.

The one thing that's missing in all the coverage, however, is historical context. Most of this militarization is chalked up to post-9/11 and the buildup of surveillance, technology, etc. following the advent of the War on Terrorism. But the militarization of policing has been going on since the Johnson administration and the creation of the LEAA (Law Enforcement Assistance Administration) in 1968.

The LEAA funneled federal monies directly to local police departments to increase training, build up firepower and armor and, among other things, create SWAT teams in any department that wanted one. SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) was designed for urban hostage situations. Now, under Nixon's increase of LEAA funding, even Chief Smith of the Podunk Police Department in rural nowhere can have a SWAT team (and does).

This continued throughout the 70's (Ford, Carter), the drug wars of the 80's (Reagan, Bush), then kicked into high gear following the end of the Cold War in the early 90's. Once we stood down from the threat of nuclear war and Communism, all the surplus Defense Department equipment began to find its way to the streets and local police. The Clinton administration (via the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act; aka "The Biden Bill"), accelerated the flow of bayonets, grenade launchers, armored personnel carriers and military firepower to the streets of America.

Following 9/11, the Bush administration created the Department of Homeland Security, which took over LEAA and turned on the spigot of funding for more military equipment (including mine-resistant trucks) in the newly launched War on Terror. The Obama administration has continued the flow, more targeted towards the War on Immigration (for more, see our featured sociologist of the semester Christian Parenti and his book "Lockdown America").

And so we stand today a true garrison state, as originally envisioned by sociologist Harold Lasswell back in 1941: a state maintained by military firepower (Constitution, Posse Comitatus, and common sense be damned).

As Parenti notes in Lockdown, all of this spectacle put on by local law enforcement is not about the immediate threat of convicts, druggies, rioters or even terrorists. Spectacle is a way you control people through brute force and state terror, and these kinds of egregious uses of force have been on display in poor, minority neighborhoods for decades. What seems to have changed here is the Ferguson PD took this into middle class areas, and the immediate social media reaction was swift and intense.

The debate over militarization is, again, much welcomed by those of us who have been sounding the alarm for years now (and met with essentially deaf ears and eye rolls). Let's hope we reach the point soon where our local police departments can stand down from militarization insanity and go back to the business of keeping the peace.

Cross posted to: The Cranky Sociologists

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Don't Experiment With Drugs, Kids

Two Hour Botched Execution in Arizona:

Arizona had never tried the two-drug cocktail of midazolam and hydromorphone before it injected an unknown dose into Joseph Wood's veins Wednesday afternoon. Most executions by lethal injection take between 10 and 20 minutes once the drugs are injected, if performed properly. This experimental cocktail took almost two hours to end Wood's life, so long that his lawyer had time to file an emergency stay of execution in federal court, claiming that Wood had been "coughing and snorting for over an hour" by then. "I counted about 660 times he gasped," reported an Arizona Republic reporter who witnessed the execution. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said in a statement that Wood "died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer."
And of course, Jan Brewer is perfectly qualified to make that judgment given A. she wasn't there and B. her advanced medical training and background.
Defense attorneys have repeatedly begged the courts to compel corrections officials to at least reveal the source of the drugs that would end their clients' lives. They have repeatedly been refused. This time, Wood and his lawyers tried a First Amendment challenge to execution-secrecy laws, arguing that the public has a right to know how their government puts their fellow citizens to death. This would also give the inmates the facts needed to pursue Eighth Amendment challenges.

But so far, lower courts have deferred to the states' claimed need for secrecy. "The information already released by the state enables informed debate about the lawfulness and propriety of Arizona’s two-drug cocktail," replied federal Judge Jay Bybee of the Ninth Circuit. Wood appealed that decision to the Supreme Court; last night, the justices denied his petition without further comment or dissent. Less than 24 hours later, Wood died choking.
And I noted the irony of "Judge" Bybee being part of the decision two days ago in my post. If anyone should know anything about torture, it's the author of the "Torture Memos" I suppose.

Predictably, the git tuff types are howling back with false equivalents and other straw men regarding what Wood did to end up there (as if we should be using a murderer's actions as our baseline for determining morality and legal punishments), and insisting that the witnesses themselves were wrong (even if they weren't there).
When states were able to use the single-drug protocol with pentobarbital, the executions went smoothly.  The problem here has been caused by those who pressured the suppliers to stop supplying pentobarbital, and any response should be directed at reopening that supply line.

The anti-death-penalty crowd is already throwing around their favorite word, "botched."  Wrong.  Joseph Wood died, as he should have, and he was sedated, not suffering extreme pain or, for that matter, any pain.  That is not "botched."
Again, a pro-death penalty blogger (who wasn't there and has no medical background or training) isn't qualified to make that statement. Although I do like the way he assertively identifies the killer "Joseph Wood" by name...ironically, the Arizona Department of Corrections didn't even know his name when they killed him initially, referring to him as "Robert G. Jones" in a press release. Jones, Wood, Smith, whoever.

More fascinating is that it took so long to be carried out, Wood's lawyers had time to make an appeal in the courts to stop it, even getting Justice Anthony Kennedy on the phone from the Supreme Court.
In a bizarre twist, Mr. Wood’s lawyers filed an emergency appeal to a Federal District Court to halt the procedure as Mr. Wood lay on the gurney, and they even called Justice Anthony M. Kennedy of the United States Supreme Court.

“He is still alive,” the lawyers said in the district court appeal, filed just after 3 p.m. “This execution has violated Mr. Wood’s Eighth Amendment right to be executed in the absence of cruel and unusual punishment. We respectfully request that this court stop the execution and require that the Department of Corrections use the lifesaving provisions required in its protocol.”

Mr. Wood died before the district court responded, while Justice Kennedy turned down the request to halt the procedure by telephone while Mr. Wood was still alive, said Robin Konrad, a lawyer for Mr. Wood.
Which makes no sense. What, "let's see if he dies first and then make the call to stop it?" I have a hard time believing one of our supreme court justices could be that dense.

Regardless, as I wrote the other day, the death penalty itself is circling the drain and will eventually be relegated to the ash heap of history where it resides in most other civilized worlds. But it won't be before the junkies (er pro-death penalty states experimenting with illicit drugs) and their supporters torture to death scores more in the process.

Cross posted to: The Cranky Sociologists 

UPDATE: Today's NYT (7/25) has more on the fallout of Arizona's chamber of horrors. The state AG has suspended further executions until further notice.
The Arizona attorney general on Thursday called a temporary halt to executions in the state, a day after the convicted killer Joseph R. Wood III died one hour and 57 minutes after his execution began. Death penalty experts said it was one of the longest times it has taken in the United States for drugs to kill a condemned man.

But Charles L. Ryan, the director of the state’s Department of Corrections rejected the notion that the execution was botched, despite the fact that the procedure of death by lethal injection usually takes about 15 minutes. He said in a statement that an autopsy by the Pima County medical examiner, concluded on Thursday, found that the intravenous lines were “perfectly placed,” “the catheters in each arm were completely within the veins” and “there was no leakage of any kind.”

“I am committed to a thorough, transparent and comprehensive review process,” Mr. Ryan said.
LOL. That must be why the names of the execution team, the source of the drugs, and the chain of custody related to those drugs is "state secret" and Mr. Ryan's department has fought tooth and nail from allowing the information to be made public.

Interestingly, one of the judges who dissented in the decision to lift Wood's stay (thus being anti-death penalty) made the same argument the victim's family did in the aftermath: bring back the firing squad.
After the execution on Wednesday, Ms. Dietz’s brother-in-law, Richard Brown, scolded reporters, saying that Mr. Wood “smiled and laughed at us, and then went to sleep.” He added: “So all you people who think that these drugs are bad? Well, to hell with you guys. You guys need to look at the big picture. This man conducted a horrific murder and you guys are going, let's worry about the drugs. Why didn't they give him a bullet?"

In a legal opinion that preceded the execution, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, dissenting from the court’s decision to deny a full hearing over a panel’s granting of a temporary stay of execution for Mr. Wood, said that death by lethal injection should be replaced by more “foolproof” methods, preferably firing squads. Judge Kozinski referred to drug-induced deaths as a “misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful.” 

In a telephone interview on Thursday, Judge Kozinski declined to talk directly about the Wood execution, but said that in general, “bodies are different, and people react differently to the medicine” in lethal injections. “I think mishaps are inevitable” with drugs, he added, “unlike bullets.” Besides, he said, “These medicines are not made to kill people — they are made to heal.”
Precisely. I discuss this in my punishment class every year, but as we have sanitized the methods of killing, we somehow try to pass ourselves as more "humane and enlightened" in the 21st century, and in the process make the death penalty look like it's just someone laying down on a gurney and going to sleep.

The judge is saying: you want to keep the death penalty? Then let's go back to more barbaric methods like firing squads or the electric chair, and open them up to the public so we can see exactly what is taking place in the chamber.

Beyond a few knuckle-dragging supporters, the judge is arguing, most people would be aghast at the machinery of death up close and choose to put an end to it. 

Regardless, we (the people, the state) will continue playing the same games with bone and flesh that the murderers do. And call ourselves more "enlightened" in the process.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Criminals Are Coming!

U.S. Sentencing Commission to Reduce 46,000 Drug Offender Sentences:

The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted Friday to slash the sentences of 46,000 inmates serving time for drug offenses, the latest move by federal officials to ease decades-old policies that have clogged the nation's prisons.

If the decision is not blocked by Congress, nearly half of federal prisoners incarcerated for drug crimes will be eligible for sentence reductions averaging more than two years. It would take effect Nov. 1, 2015.

The commission decided in April to reduce future sentences. Friday's vote extends the same approach retroactively to those already serving time.
It's ironic, for all the rhetoric these days of getting "smart on crime" and reforming the criminal justice system, it took the USSC and its intestinal fortitude to do what no legislative, judicial or executive branch of the government would dare to do: let inmates who clearly don't belong behind bars out of prison early. Not even my favorite AG Eric Holder can claim credit for this since they advocated for a much narrower interpretation and number of inmates.

As Doug Berman points out over at Sentencing Law and Policy, it's still up to the individual inmate to make the appeal for sentence reduction (it is not an automatic "prison holiday" for all 46,000 inmates, as dunderheads on the stuck-in-the-90's side have claimed). And whether or how these 46,000 inmates gain access to counsel to file an appeal for a reduced sentence is unknown.

Nonetheless, it's a bit of good news from the world of punishment and incarceration. It is still disappointing that our legislators, executives and courts are so fearful of allowing wrongfully convicted or inappropriately sentenced inmates out of our nation's prisons. But, baby steps, I suppose.

Bonus: John Oliver's take on this is absolutely dead on. Click the video to watch on Youtube.

Big Brother (With Benefits)

File this under: what a shocker.

NSA Gathered and Shared Sexually Explicit Photos:

The former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden said in a wide-ranging interview published on Sunday that the oversight of surveillance programs was so weak that members of the United States military working at the spy agency sometimes shared sexually explicit photos they intercepted.

In the interview, Mr. Snowden said that some of the American military personnel working on agency programs were between the ages of 18 and 22 and did not always respect the privacy of those whose communications were intercepted.

“In the course of their daily work they stumble across something that is completely unrelated to their work, for example an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising situation but they’re extremely attractive,” he said. “So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and they show a co-worker. And their co-worker says: ‘Oh, hey, that’s great. Send that to Bill down the way.’ ”

Mr. Snowden said that type of sharing occurred once every couple of months and was “seen as the fringe benefits of surveillance positions.” He said that this was never reported and that the system for auditing surveillance programs was “incredibly weak.”
Of course, we've known the NSA is a bunch of young guys in their 20's who were surfing porn sites under the guise of "national security." But this story confirms the Animal House-like behavior,   misogynistic treatment of women, and the overall dangers of employing "useless hacks" to spy on the American public "for their own shits and giggles."

Death Penalty on the Skids

Two big stories in the past week regarding the DP:

Court Delays Execution over Secrecy With Drugs:

A federal appeals court has delayed the imminent execution of an Arizona man, saying he has a legal right to details about the lethal injection drugs to be used and about the qualifications of the execution team. 

The ruling on Saturday, by a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, contrasted sharply with recent decisions by other state and federal courts defending states’ rights to keep information about drug sources secret. 

“This is the first time a circuit court has ruled that the plaintiff has a right to know the source of execution drugs,” said Jennifer Moreno, an expert on lethal injection law at the Death Penalty Clinic of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. 
The notion that where the junkies (er, states) are obtaining their drugs from are "state secrets" in need of protection from the public is ludicrous, as I've written for several years now. But it is interesting that this is the first appellate-level decision to recognize the insanity behind so-called secrecy laws.
On Saturday, the appeals panel ruled that Mr. Wood “has presented serious questions going to the merits of his claim,” according to the majority opinion, written by Judge Sidney R. Thomas. 

Arizona’s secrecy, he wrote, “ignores the ongoing and intensifying debate over lethal injection in this country, and the importance of providing specific and detailed information about how safely and reliably the death penalty is administered.” 

In a dissent, Judge Jay S. Bybee said the court had drastically expanded the “right of access” and had misused the First Amendment “as the latest tool in this court’s ongoing effort to bar the state from lawfully imposing the death penalty.”
For those of you with short memories, Judge Bybee is the same guy who advocated for torture in the infamous "Bybee Memos" (sometimes called "The Torture Memos") during the Bush years. He has also been the subject of discussion regarding his impeachment and removal from the bench over the years.

Regardless, Judge Thomas's opinion recognizes the ongoing debate over the efficacy of the death penalty in the 21st century, including the recent take down by a federal judge of California's death penalty system.
“How has it gone on this long?” Justice Antonin Scalia asked a lawyer for the State of Florida during oral arguments in March on a condemned inmate’s appeal. The legal issue in that case had to do with how states define intellectual disability, but Justice Scalia was troubled that Freddie Lee Hall had been on Florida’s death row for more than three decades. 

In that same session, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that the last 10 people executed by the state had spent an average of 24.9 years on death row.

“Do you think that that is consistent with the purposes of the death penalty,” Justice Kennedy asked the state’s lawyer, “and is it consistent with sound administration of the justice system?”

Last Wednesday, in an unrelated case, a federal judge in California answered that question with a resounding no. The state’s death-penalty system is “so plagued by inordinate and unpredictable delay,” wrote United States District Judge Cormac Carney, that it violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. 

In a remarkable ruling overturning the death sentence of Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced in 1995 for the murder of his girlfriend’s mother, Judge Carney, an appointee of President George W. Bush, pointed out that of the more than 900 people California has sentenced to death since 1978, 13 have been executed. More than 40 percent of the rest have been on death row for at least 19 years, and the backlog is growing.
Carney's opinion is, of course, just one district judge's opinion. It could easily be overturned at the appellate level or even by the Supreme Court, which itself has said that 20 years or more on death row does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment (Knight v. Florida, 1999).

And the get tough types are immediately pushing back against both decisions. Arizona's response, for example, to the secrecy injunction:
But Arizona officials were not backing down. On Sunday, the state appealed to the Ninth Circuit for reconsideration by a wider panel of judges and it appeared possible that the state would appeal all the way to the United States Supreme Court if necessary. 
And over at my favorite pro-death penalty blogger's site:
The California Legislature has been derelict in its duty to pass the needed reforms, killing them in committee time after time.  The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and ultimately the Governor, have been derelict in their duty to carry out their responsibilities to execute judgments and implement a protocol that will allow them to do so.  The California Supreme Court has been derelict in its duty to resolve state habeas petitions in a reasonable time by referring them to the superior court where they belong.  The federal courts have been derelict in their duty to fully implement the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, evading it at every turn despite numerous reversals by the Supreme Court.
In other words, blame everyone else for the failings of a system you advocate for but yourself and your ilk. Even funnier is their proposed "Miranda-like" solution to speeding up the appellate process and gettin' folks dead (all the while, decrying Miranda as "lawless"). The, uh, "logic" of the pro-dp side never fails to amaze.

At the end of the day, neither of these decisions portends the end of the death penalty as we know it in the United States. But if California were to take the extraordinary step of getting rid of its apparatus of death, the trend towards abolition would undoubtedly accelerate. And under Trop, the death penalty may indeed fall at the SCOTUS level, even given the current makeup of the court.

Cross Posted to: The Cranky Sociologists