Friday, August 11, 2006
News of the Day 8-11-06
After the news of NC's creation of the first state Innocence Commission, which we noted in an earlier "News" post, the Christian Science Monitor has its usual quality story on it and the reasoning that led to it, for those of you interested for or against (h/t CrimProf Blog). . . . ReutersHealth notes a study finding that the "social norms" approach to programming against teen alcohol use is effective. Since kids are influenced by peers who often believe exaggerated things (sounds like we're all kids), like how common it is to drink, behavior follows accordingly. So, the theory goes, change the exaggeration to truth among peers and behavior will change as well. Now if we could only bring that concept into the political process. . . . Science Daily reports on a U of Washington study in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology that tracked smoking, heavy drinking, and marijuana use across three generations of families. Surprise, the worse the abuses, the more likely the children to pick them up. Interestingly, the specific substances abused weren't particular to families, but the smoking was. The study also found that child behavior problems such as conduct disorder, ADD, and oppositional defiant disorder (which I personally found in many judges regarding guidelines) also traveled generational lines. I guess the best thing from the study was that the link between the substances and drug or alcohol abuse is not necessarily strong and can be dealt with. Nothing really profound, but nice to see conventional wisdom upheld for once. . . . The New Jersey Supreme Court just reversed a 1981 ruling allowing hypnosis to "recover memories" and be used in trials, saying today's evidence just makes the witnesses "honest liars." Only defendants can be hypnotized now, the court said in what was apparently as scathing a statement as Doug Berman's reply to Justice Kennedy's ABA speech the other day. . . . Finally, a judge in NM is taking heat for commenting at sentencing to a defendant, "What if, instead of being Native American, you were Anglo? What would I do then? Probably be tougher, I guess. I don't know." Besides being clueless, the statement has understandably drawn criticism. The judge is explaining his meaning and getting supporters together, but it reminds me of the concerns judges have expressed about explicit guideline worksheet requirements to indicate race or ethnicity as they fill out the sheet at sentencing, or any time, actually. The data are needed to do the disproportionate minority representation studies and reports many states do or plan, but the judges don't like the feeling or ethics of it. (Coincidentally, it gives them a reason not to complete worksheets they don't like, too, unless/until forced to.) Still, it's not a concern to blow off, and I've heard law enforcement types make the same complaint about recording race at traffic stops, for example. If your state is contemplating these types of studies, be aware and sensitive. In the meantime, the judge is looking for a good hypnotist, I understand.