Thought For The Day:

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”-  Oscar Wilde
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Our Criminal Justice System Has an Innocence Problem . . . and a Guilt One Too

Click here to listen to my guest appearance on KCRW’s To the Point, addressing the exoneration movement, and also the excessively punitive turn in our criminal justice system.

By |February 3rd, 2015|Blog|Comments Off|

Serial, Plea Bargaining and Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Click here to read my op-ed in the New York Times, addressing the absence of a plea bargaining effort in the case of Adnan Syed, the subject of the popular podcast, Serial.

By |February 3rd, 2015|Blog|Comments Off|

Eighth Circuit Affirms Denial of Safety Valve and Imposition of Ten-Year Sentence

It is unlikely that today Alfonso Vega Diaz would face a mandatory minimum sentence under A.G. Holder’s new drug charging policy (no violence, weapons, minors, serious injury or death; not an organizer, leader or supervisor; no “significant ties” to “large-scale drug trafficking organizations, gangs, or cartels;” and no or minimal criminal history). Unfortunately for Diaz, […]

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By |March 27th, 2014|Blog|Comments Off|

Eighth Circuit Rejects Cross-Section Jury Challenge

In those increasingly rare cases that go to trial, the defendant is entitled to a jury “selected from a fair cross-section of the community.”  Defendants like Carlous Horton can be surprised to learn that this doesn’t mean a jury pool, much less an actual jury, that actually reflects racial, gender and economic demographics (in Horton’s […]

The post Eighth Circuit Rejects Cross-Section Jury Challenge appeared first on .

By |March 27th, 2014|Blog|Comments Off|

Eighth Circuit Affirms Sentences Based on Uncontested Facts in the PSR

How must a defendant effectively object to facts in the presentence report (PSR)? With “specificity and clarity,” the Eighth Circuit repeats in United States v. Pepper, issued on March 20, 2014 (published), so as “to put the Government on notice of the challenged facts.” In other words, it is not enough for the defense [...]
By |March 23rd, 2014|Blog|Comments Off|

Historyapolis Publishes Blog Entry about Lena Olive Smith

The fabulous Historyapolis Project, run by Kirsten Delagard, Scholar-in-Residence in the Department of History at Augsburg College, is running a series of blog entries this women’s history month showcasing notable Minneapolis women. On March 13, 2014, the Project ran this entry by JaneAnne Murray on civil rights lawyer and activist, Lena Olive Smith.    
By |March 23rd, 2014|Blog|Comments Off|

In Sex Abuse Case, Eighth Circuit Affirms Exclusion of Prior Sex Abuse Conviction to Avoid Confusion

The headline of this post may be misleading, since it implies a rare ruling excluding a defendant’s prior conviction similar to the charge at issue. In United States v. Patrick Brown Thunder, issued on March 12, 2014 (published), however, at issue was not a prior conviction of the defendant, but a prior conviction of [...]
By |March 23rd, 2014|Blog|Comments Off|

Eighth Circuit Affirms Imposition of Lengthy Sentences Despite Erroneous Estimates in Plea Agreements

Time and again, the issue on appeal involves a defendant whose presentence report estimated a guideline range far higher than that in his plea agreement – sometimes triggering three-strikes laws and mandatory minimum sentences. Two recent cases, United States v. Ruacho, issued on March 11, 2014 (published), and United Haubrich, issued on March 3, [...]
By |March 23rd, 2014|Blog|Comments Off|

Eighth Circuit Affirms Denial of Suppression Involving Abandoned Property

Is this a bar exam question? Spot the bases for suppression in the following thumbnail description from the Eighth Circuit’s website of United States v. Douglas, issued on March 11, 2014 (published): District court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress a shotgun found hidden in a trash bag in an abandoned refrigerator [...]
By |March 23rd, 2014|Blog|Comments Off|

Eighth Circuit Affirms Trial Conviction Where Defendant’s Plea Stipulation Entered Into Evidence

In a cautionary tale, Raymond Cortez was convicted at trial based in part (or maybe wholly) on a factual stipulation contained in a written plea agreement he had entered into with the government, but which he later rejected. In the plea agreement, Cortez “agree[d] this stipulation [could] be used against [him] at any time [...]
By |March 23rd, 2014|Blog|Comments Off|