Tuesday, May 01, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Tuesday, May 1, 2007

  • Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy points us yet again to a story on the use and justification of geographic sentence disparity, that is, rural counties tend to sentence differently than suburban counties tend to sentence differently than urban counties. And like it that way, as it reflects the values of those jurisdictions. This, of course, has good and bad attached--local school boards and segregation have both been justified this way and centralized values aren't always the unbridled good that sentencing guidelines always assume even with that "equal justice" thing. We accept disparate sentences among the states on the same grounds so why not counties? The borders are just as artificial. The state Doug directs us to is OH this time, but I've seen it in every state I've worked sentencing in, which is just about all of them by this time.
  • For those who say prison is the only or best way to stop crime, once again the example of NY, which is emptying prisons but doing better than anyone on public safety through law enforcement initiatives like Operation Impact, described here.
  • Some basic research news. Pamphlets can limit binge drinking? Wonder if it works on more regular heavy drinking. And since risky teen behaviors, including delinquency, are so often linked, maybe doctors could start be more aware of the others when the health ones show up in their exams and screenings. Finally, looks like false memories may often be more a problem for older kids and adults than for younger children. The story makes it sound like maybe we should take young kids' testimony more seriously, but it made me think we should basically throw out anything that, like treason, doesn't have two witnesses saying the same thing about the same thing.
  • Last, but definitely not least, Adam Kolber at Neuroethics & Law Blog has found a virtually perfect example of the use of MRIs as an attempted defense, showing that a molester "was so psychologically impaired that he could not form the intent to commit a crime. He has hinted that [his] attack on the woman was part of an elaborate fantasy over which he had little conscious control." It's just a matter of time before we start building our libraries of these MRIs, prosecution and defense, to show that the defendant was genetically dangerous and therefore should be put away or was genetically not responsible and therefore should be freed. Before you get mad at the thought of how guilty folks may end up walking, please remember how American criminal justice and public opinion really works. And you defense counsel types should be getting this guy's attorney under control before he gets this rock too far down the hill. Just a friendly warning. Take it for what you paid for it.


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