Day: April 16, 2012

US – Estimates of Time Spent in Capital and Non-Capital Murder Cases

A Statistical Analysis of Survey Data from Clark County Defense Attorneys
Terance D. Miethe, PhD.
Department of Criminal Justice
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
February 21, 2012

I. Introduction
A survey was designed to provide average estimates of the time spent at various stages of criminal processing for the defense of capital and non-capital murder cases. Defense attorneys were asked to use their personal experiences over the past three years to estimate the number of hours they spent in pretrial, trial, penalty, and post-conviction activities in a “typical” capital and non-capital murder case. Separate questions were asked about their experiences as “lead attorney” and “second chair” in these typical cases. A total of 22 defense attorneys completed the survey. The largest group of survey respondents were attorneys within the Public Defender’s office (n=10), followed by the Special Public Defender’s office (n=9) and the Office of Assigned Counsel (n=3). To provide some context for the time estimates provided by these defense attorneys, this survey data was also supplemented with general case processing information on a sample of 138 murder cases sentenced in District Court between 2009 and 2011. The Clark County Court’s electronic record system was used to identify these murder cases and to construct summary statistics on case processing (e.g., average time between court filing and sentencing; number of total meetings with parties present, number of orders and motions filed). These court statistics were analyzed separately for each major type of sentence (i.e., yearly maximum sentences, life with possibility of parole, life without possibility of parole, and death sentences). For the survey data included in this report, the median score (i.e., the middle score of a distribution) is used as the average estimate of time spent at each stage of criminal processing. The median is the most appropriate measure for these analyses because (1) it minimizes the impact of extreme ratings and (2) the distribution of time estimates across respondents is not normally distributed. Under these conditions, the median, rather than the mean, is the appropriate summary measure of central tendency.

read the full report : click here

Chicago – Rare legal settlements demand officers pay too

April 15, 2012 source :

To settle a wrongful-conviction lawsuit against the Chicago police, the city recently agreed to pay Harold Hill $1.25 million.

What never became public was that, to reach the settlement late last year, two detectives in the case that sent Hill to prison for 12 years for a rape and murder he insisted he did not commit agreed to contribute, too. It was not much next to the total settlement — $7,500 each — yet it apparently meant something to Hill.

The city of Chicago, like other municipalities, pays judgments and settlements when the conduct of police officers goes wrong. But in rare cases, said attorneys on both sides of the issue, people who were wronged demand money from the officers, too. It is an effort to balance the scales, a way to make the perpetrator of the pain experience something of what the purported victim went through, even if it is a nominal amount.

“It’s an expression of how a plaintiff feels about a case and wanting punishment to flow directly to the police officers,” said attorney Terry Ekl, who has sued police officers but is not involved in this case. “But very rarely does that actually translate into someone going after the police officer’s personal assets.”

That is important to victims, experts said, because in most cases the settlement check is written by a faceless municipality or its insurance company. There is no sense for victims that justice has been achieved; rather, it seems the perpetrators have escaped punishment.

Michael Seng, a professor at The John Marshall Law School, said making the officer pay also serves as a deterrent to other officers.

“It stings. It hurts them. It takes some money out of the bank,” Seng said. “It sets an example for other officers.”

The officers may agree to pay in a settlement because they see going to trial as too much of a risk. If a jury assesses punitive damages above what are called compensatory damages — the damages to compensate plaintiffs for their loss — officers must pay those punitive damages out of their own pocket. And punitive damages can run into millions of dollars; municipalities cannot pay them for their employees.

Such settlements are so unusual that attorney Flint Taylor, a noted civil rights lawyer in Chicago who has sued the Police Department many times, said he had never had a case where the police officers paid money as part of a lawsuit settlement. He said that was, in large part, because the city’s Law Department and the lawyers it hires from private practice to defend these lawsuits work hard to protect officers.

“If the city turned around and agreed to have the cops pay, too,” Taylor said, “then they might not be able to settle their cases.”

Of course, it also is because municipalities such as the city of Chicago have deep pockets. Police officers often are of modest means, so going after their assets might not achieve much, and certainly not as much as a plaintiff in a lawsuit would be able to get from a municipality.

“Most of the folks who have been victimized care more about the accountability,” said Craig Futterman, a professor at the University of Chicago‘s law school. “They want an acknowledgment that the police did them wrong or hurt them. That’s why some of these settlements are for such small amounts.”

Roderick Drew, spokesman for the city’s Law Department, agreed that such settlements are rare. He said city attorneys consider the demands from plaintiffs on a case-by-case basis. In this case, he said, Hill and his attorneys insisted that the officers pay out of their own pockets.

The two veteran detectives, identified in court documents as Kenneth Boudreau and John Halloran, had until last week to pay Hill.

Boudreau declined to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement. Halloran could not be reached.

Neither detective admitted wrongdoing in the settlement.

“It’s the symbolism that makes it attractive to a plaintiff,” said Russell Ainsworth, who represented Hill but because of the confidentiality agreement also could not discuss details of the case. “To get money from the officer who wronged them means something to some people.”

Ainsworth said the firm he works at, Loevy & Loevy, sees trying to make officers pay from their own pocket as “a policy position.”

“It’s what we believe in. It’s an attempt at restorative justice,” said Ainsworth, who called such settlements extremely rare at the firm. “It really has an intrinsic value that goes above and beyond the dollar amount, having a police officer writing a check out of his own account. There’s a feeling of justice there for the client, and that’s important. It’s also an extra psychological piece to help make the client satisfied.”

Taylor said he liked the idea of making police officers pay to settle lawsuits and, like Seng, said it could have some deterrent effect.

“The cop should somehow be held responsible,” Taylor said. “As a principle, I agree with that.”

That was what Shaun Meesak believed. Meesak and two friends had come out of a North Side bar early one morning in January 2007, got in their car and started to drive home when they said another car ran a stop sign and almost struck their car. One of his friends yelled and made an obscene gesture, which prompted the men in the car to approach them. As it turned out, those men were plainclothes police officers.

Meesak and his friends said the officers beat them, choked Meesak after he had been handcuffed, then charged them with various crimes. Meesak and his friends pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct out of fear that, if they went to trial, they would end up with a jail sentence.

The three men as well a fourth friend at the scene filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging the officers had violated their rights by beating them and bringing false charges against them. When the city settled the lawsuit in 2009 for $225,000, the agreement called for the police officers to chip in, too. Each of the five officers named in the lawsuit agreed to pay $1,250 to each of the four plaintiffs, meaning each officer paid $5,000 out of his own pocket.

“It makes them accountable essentially,” said Meesak, who is 32 and works in the construction equipment industry. “I don’t know how much damage it does to their pocketbook or their savings account, but it holds them accountable for their actions. It’s not just the city paying.”

Meesak said he would have liked an apology but knew he was not going to get one. His work sometimes takes him into the city, and that makes him anxious, though not as much as it used to. He said an admission of wrongdoing and an apology would have lessened the impact of what happened.

But the settlement agreements in the Hill and Meesak cases, as well as in others, make clear that there is no admission of wrongdoing.

Hill was one of three men arrested in the 1990 murder of Kathy Morgan. It was a problematic case from the very beginning.

Hill, Dan Young Jr. and Peter Williams were charged with the murder of Morgan, whose body was found in an abandoned building on the South Side. Close to 18 months later, Hill was arrested on an unrelated robbery charge. During questioning, he confessed to the murder and implicated Young and Williams. In time, Young and Williams also confessed and implicated the other two.

Williams later realized he was in Cook County Jail on a drug charge when the killing took place. Although the charges against Williams were dropped, prosecutors took the other two to trial and won convictions. The charges against Hill and Young were dropped in February 2005 after DNA tests cleared them.

As for Hill, he will not be able to spend his money in the outside world — at least not for some time. After he was cleared of the Morgan murder and released from prison, he was arrested on unrelated armed robbery charges and was convicted. He is serving a 27-year prison sentence.

Death Row Kids

January 2005
In the last five years, more juvenile offenders were killed in Texas than in the rest of the world combined. America continues to defend its right to execute children.

“They think we’re beasts. And we deserve nothing else other than our execution,” despairs Oswaldo. He’s been on death row since he was 17, after accidentally killing a man during an armed robbery. “In 12 years, I haven’t had a hug or a kiss.” In Louisiana, Lawrence Jacob Jr is also fighting for his life. Like Oswaldo, he was only 17 when he was sentenced to death. “I’m not asking you to release me. I’m only asking you for the chance to rehabilitate,” he reasons. Cerebral research proves that the brains of 17 year olds have not developed as much as adults. “Youths at that age are much too impulsive and don’t have the control,” explains one expert. But in America, that’s no bar to their execution.

State experiences vary with use of death penalty

april 14, 2012 source

First among states for executions is Texas, which has put to death 481 prisoners since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.


Oklahoma ranks third with 98 executions, including two in 2011. Earlier this year, the state of Oklahoma executed Gary Roland Welch at the state penitentiary in McAlester for the 1994 slaying of Robert Dean Hardcastle in Miami, Okla.

Oklahoma’s attorney general’s office also is appealing a stay of execution issued for an inmate who was scheduled to die last week.

Garry Allen was set to die Thursday, but on Wednesday afternoon, federal Judge David Russell issued the stay, ruling that Allen’s claims that he is insane and ineligible for the death penalty should be reviewed.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office immediately filed its notice of appeal with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In the appeal, the state argues that courts have found Allen sane and that he’s capable of understanding his execution is for the 1986 murder of Gail Titsworth.

Allen has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and his attorneys argue his mental state deteriorated on death row.


Missouri has 47 people on death row and ranks fifth in the number of executions since 1976, with 68.

The most recent prisoner to be put to death in Missouri was Martin Link, who was executed on Feb. 9, 2011, for the 1991 kidnapping, rape and murder of 11-year-old Elissa Self-Braun, of St. Louis.

Chris Collings, of Wheaton, is the most recent Missourian sentenced to death row. On March 23, jurors agreed on capital punishment for his kidnapping, raping and slaying of 9-year-old Rowan Ford.

Others from Southwest Missouri on death row are Cecil Clayton, sentenced in December 1997 by a Jasper County jury for the 1996 first-degree murder of Barry County Deputy Christopher Castetter, and Mark Christeson, sentenced in September 1999 by a Vernon County jury for three counts of first-degree murder in the 1998 deaths of Susan Brouk and her two children.


Kansas now has nine people on death row, including Gary Kleypas, who was sentenced to death for the killing of Carrie Williams in 1996 in Pittsburg.

The death penalty was first abolished in Kansas in 1907 by Gov. Edward Hoch. In 1935, the death penalty was reinstated, but no executions took place until 1944. The state had the death penalty statute in effect until a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck it down.

After the 1976 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that reinstated the constitutionality of it, numerous attempts were made to reinstate the death penalty. Gov. John Carlin vetoed reinstatement legislation in 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1985.

The current death penalty statute was enacted in 1994 when Gov. Joan Finney allowed it to become law without her signature. In 2004, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled capital punishment unconstitutional, but it was reinstated after the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Kansas death penalty was constitutional.

In 2010, the Kansas Senate was one vote short of voting to replace the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole for the crime of aggravated murder.