By Bill Keller
In the mid-nineteen-eighties, shortly after the convictions of six members
of the House of Representatives and one senator in the F.B.I. bribery
sting code-named Abscam, one of the bureau’s anticorruption units
turned its attention to the California legislature, where an informant
had reported that lawmakers were on the take. Agents posing as representatives
of a shrimp-processing company announced plans to build a plant near Sacramento,
provided that a state-loan guarantee could be procured. They offered to
reward legislators who would help secure their financing. The operation,
inevitably, was known as Shrimpscam.
Read more here.
Florida Police Concealed DNA Evidence That Could Exonerate Man Accused
In Quadruple Homicide
Jennifer Portman, Tallahassee Democrat, 7:05 p.m. EDT June 12, 2015
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement sat on DNA evidence for more
than two years that could point to another suspect in the 2010 killing
of Brandi Peters and her three young children.
A motion filed Friday by the defense attorney for Henry Segura, who is
set to stand trial in two weeks on capital murder charges, revealed a
FDLE crime lab analyst was ordered by her supervisor to disregard findings
by the FBI that DNA evidence found at the crime scene was a partial match
to a convicted international drug trafficker.
Hobbs argued in the filing FDLE’s “conscious, willful and
deliberate attempt” to conceal the DNA information in a timely fashion
hurt his ability to track down leads and prepare for the defense of Segura,
who faces the death penalty.
“This was no harmless error,” Hobbs wrote. “This willful
decision to conceal such evidence until the 11th hour leaves the defense
in the posture of questioning the credibility of the FDLE lab analysts.”
Hobbs, who declined to comment beyond his court motion, is asking that
the case either be dismissed, postponed so all evidence can be independently
tested or that he be allowed to raise the issue at trial before jurors.
Adventures In Litigating Attorney-Inmate Visiting
By Stephen Munkelt
I recently had the great honor and privilege of serving as lead counsel
for a passionate group of defenders fighting for jail visits without glass
barriers. The decision in
County of Nevada v. Superior Court (Siegfried) (Filed 4/23/2015) 2015 Cal. App. LEXIS 412 (
Siegfried) represents a significant win for our county, and for future litigation
over attorney-client visits in jail or prison. There is now California
authority that due process under the Fourteenth Amendment “includes
the right to contact visits with counsel.”
Deadline Crime with Tamron Hall Murder in the Mellen Patch
Suzy Mellen's story will be hitting the screen on June 18, 2015 on
NBC's Deadline Crime with Tamron Hall. The show will begin with the
gruesome discovery of a body engulfed in flames in an alley in San Pedro.
They will take us through the detective's investigation of this vicious
and sadistic murder, which ultimately resulted in Suzy Mellen's wrongful
The terrible injustice and extraordinary hardship that Suzy and her family
faced when she taken away from her two young children for 17 years will
now be shared with all of America. In one year the Innocence Matters team
was able to vindicate Suzy and return her to family and friends. With
your generous support, our next round of interns can help to free other
You can read more about Suzy's exoneration and Innocence Matter's work
State Bar of California: Commission to Study the California Rules of Professional Conduct
At the its meeting on May 29 & 30, 2015, the Commission considered an
agenda item (action Item III.A) involving a request from
the Innocence Project that the State Bar expedite study of ABA Model Rule 3.8. Following discussion,
the Commission voted that a study group be appointed immediately to evaluate
ABA Model Rule 3.8; and that the Commission’s work plan be amended
to accommodate the study group’s consideration. Members of the Commission
indicated their belief that a study of ABA Model Rule 3.8 should begin
promptly but that any determination for further action should await the
report and recommendation of that assigned study group. In other words,
the Commission has not yet taken any position on whether a proposed California
counterpart to Model Rule 3.8 rule should be processed (e.g., issued for
public comment, presented to the Board for adoption, submitted to the
Supreme Court for approval, etc. . . ) on a separate track from the Commission’s
comprehensive work to revise the entire rules.
As mentioned, the comprehensive consideration of the Rules in their entirety
is scheduled to be completed by March 2017.
Public Comment Period Deadline: June 16, 2015
Nebraska's Legislature Votes to Repeal the Death Penalty
The Nebraska legislature voted 30-19 to override the veto of Governor Pete
Ricketts and abolish the death penalty. Nebraska becomes the 19th state
to repeal the death penalty, and the 7th state to do so since 2007. It
is the first predominantly Republican state to abolish the death penalty
in over 40 years, and state legislators said Republican support was critical
to the bipartisan repeal effort. Sen. Jeremy Nordquist said, "This
wouldn't have happened without the fiscally responsible Republicans
who aren't just beholden to conservative talking points, but are thoughtful
about policy." Sen. Colby Coash cited fiscal concerns among his reasons
for supporting repeal: "The taxpayers have not gotten the bang for
their buck on this death penalty for almost 20 years. This program is
broken." The sponsor of the repeal bill, Independent Senator Ernie
Chambers, opened the repeal debate with a reference to the historic nature
of the pending vote. “This will be the shining moment of the Nebraska
Legislature,” he said. “The world, by anybody’s reckoning,
is a place filled with darkness, contention, violence. We today can move
to lift part of that cloud of darkness that has been hovering over this
state for all these years.”
(G. Schulte and A. Gronewold, "
Nebraska abolishes death penalty in landmark override vote," Associated Press, May 28, 2015; Joe Duggan, Paul Hammel and Martha
Hours of suspense, emotion lead up to a landmark vote for legislators on
repealing death penalty," Omaha World-Herald, May 27, 2015)
"The death penalty is arbitrary, discriminatory, fallible, irrevocable,
costly, and ineffective. Whether taken individually or collectively, these
reasons necessitate the elimination of the death penalty. Nebraska now
stands at the vanguard of an emerging bipartisan consensus that there
is no place for capital punishment in America. Today’s vote is a
critical step forward in bringing this woefully defective practice one
step closer to being properly and universally eliminated," said National
Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) President Theodore Simon.
"NACDL applauds the profiles in courage in the Nebraska legislature
who, under intense pressure from Gov. Ricketts's office not to override
his veto, nonetheless followed through and made history today."
For more information on the death penalty and NACDL’s efforts in
this area, please visit
From other medial outlets:
Facebook, Inc., Instagram, LLC, and Twitter Inc. vs San Francisco County
Superior Court Don Landis, Monterey County Assistant Public Defender, has written a CACJ
amicus brief addressing Facebook, Twitter, etc litigation--over the defense's
ability to get material from media companies to prepare a defense.
"CACJ will address what appears to be the elephant in the courtroom,
but has not generated much legal analysis in these proceedings- whether
a state court trial judge can rule on the federal constitutionality of
a federal statue as applied in a state court criminal proceedings."
Assembly Public Safety Committee on Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras:
Policies and Pitfalls
This morning at the State Capitol CACJ President Jeff Thoma participated
in a panel discussion regarding the use of body cameras by law enforcement.
The legislative informational hearing was convened by the Assembly Public
Safety Committee chaired by Assemblyman Bill Quirk. The hearing consisted
of testimony by a number of experts from law enforcement and civil rights
organizations. Jeff Thoma addressed a number of key legal issues involved
in the potential use of body cameras.
We Need to Talk About an Injustice
"In an engaging and personal talk — with cameo appearances from
his grandmother and Rosa Parks — human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson
shares some hard truths about America's justice system, starting with
a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country's black
male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. These
issues, which are wrapped up in America's unexamined history, are
rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness."