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San Francisco police chief: Journalist ‘crossed the line’
Criminal Law Updates | 2019/05/22 04:50
The San Francisco police chief said Tuesday that he respects the news media, but a freelance journalist whose home and office were raided by officers had “crossed the line” by joining a conspiracy to steal a confidential report.

Chief William Scott addressed reporters hours after police agreed in court to return property seized from Bryan Carmody in raids aimed at uncovering the source of a leaked police report into the unexpected death of the city’s former elected public defender, Jeff Adachi.

Tensions are high in the case, which has alarmed journalism advocates and put pressure on elected leaders in the politically liberal city to defend the press.

Authorities believe a police department employee was involved and had contact with Carmody.

“We believe that that contact and that interaction went across the line. It went past just doing your job as a journalist,” Scott said.

He added: “This is a big deal to us, as well it should be. It’s a big deal to the public. It’s a big deal to you all.”

Scott said the primary target of the ongoing investigation is the employee, whose identity investigators do not know. He said the secondary focus is on Carmody, who may have been motivated by profit or a desire to tarnish Adachi’s reputation, or both.


High court declines to take Pennsylvania rap artist’s case
Criminal Law Updates | 2019/04/13 23:46
The Supreme Court is declining to take the case of a Pennsylvania rapper who was convicted of threatening police officers in one of his songs.

The high court declined on Monday to take the case of Jamal Knox, known as Mayhem Mal. In 2012, he and rapper Rashee Beasley were arrested by Pittsburgh police on gun and drug charges. A song they later wrote about the arrest contains phrases including “Let’s kill these cops cuz they don’t do us no good.”

Both were charged with terroristic threats and other crimes.

Knox argued that the song was protected by the First Amendment, but he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to one to three years in prison. Pennsylvania’s highest court upheld his convictions.



Philippine Supreme Court orders release of drug war evidence
Criminal Law Updates | 2019/04/03 05:37
The Philippine Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the release of police documents on thousands of killings of suspects in the president’s anti-drug crackdown, in a ruling that human rights groups said could shed light on allegations of extrajudicial killings.

Supreme Court spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka said the court ordered the government solicitor-general to provide the police reports to two rights groups which had sought them. The 15-member court, whose justices are meeting in northern Baguio city, has yet to rule on a separate petition to declare President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign unconstitutional.

Solicitor-General Jose Calida had earlier agreed to release the voluminous police documents to the court but rejected the requests of the two groups, the Free Legal Assistance Group and the Center for International Law, arguing that such a move would undermine law enforcement and national security.

The two groups welcomed the court order. “It’s a big step forward for transparency and accountability,” said Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, who heads the Free Legal Assistance Group.

He said the documents will help the group of human rights lawyers scrutinize the police-led crackdown that was launched when Duterte came to office in mid-2016, and the massive number of killings that the president and police say occurred when suspects fought back and endangered law enforcers, Diokno said.

“This is an emphatic statement by the highest court of the land that it will not allow the rule of law to be trampled upon in the war on drugs. It is a very important decision,” said Joel Butuyan, president of the Center for International Law.

“These documents are the first step toward the long road to justice for the petitioners and for thousands of victims of the ‘war on drugs’ and their families,” Butuyan said.

More than 5,000 mostly poor drug suspects have died in purported gunbattles with the police, alarming Western governments, U.N. rights experts and human rights watchdogs. Duterte has denied ordering illegal killings, although he has publicly threatened drug suspects with death.

The thousands of killings have sparked the submission of two complaints of mass murder to the International Criminal Court. Duterte has withdrawn the Philippines from the court.

After holding public deliberations on the two groups’ petitions in 2017, the Supreme Court ordered the solicitor-general to submit documents on the anti-drug campaign, including the list of people killed in police drug raids from July 1, 2016, to Nov. 30, 2017, and documents on many other suspected drug-linked deaths in the same period that were being investigated by police.


Court reinstates late Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction
Criminal Law Updates | 2019/03/15 20:19
Massachusetts' highest court on Wednesday reinstated the late Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction, which was erased after the former NFL star killed himself in prison.

The Supreme Judicial Court also scrapped the legal principle that wiped out Hernandez's conviction for future cases, calling it "outdated and no longer consonant with the circumstances of contemporary life."

"We are pleased justice is served in this case, the antiquated practice of vacating a valid conviction is being eliminated and the victim's family can get the closure they deserve," Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III said in a tweet.

Hernandez was convicted in 2015 of killing semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. Two years later, the 27-year-old killed himself in his prison cell days after being acquitted of most charges in a separate double-murder case.

A judge threw out Hernandez's conviction that year, citing the legal principle that holds that a defendant convicted at trial who dies before an appeal is heard should no longer be considered guilty in the eyes of the law, thereby returning the case to its pretrial status.



TigerSwan appeals attorney fees ruling to state's high court
Criminal Law Updates | 2019/03/09 02:19
A North Carolina security company that won a court case in the wake of protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline is continuing to pursue reimbursement of its attorney fees.

North Dakota's Private Investigative and Security Board sued TigerSwan in 2017, alleging the company that handled security for the pipeline developer illegally operated without a state license.

Judge John Grinsteiner ultimately dismissed the case, but he also rejected TigerSwan's request for reimbursement of at least $165,000 in attorney fees. Grinsteiner said the board's case wasn't frivolous even though the board lost. TigerSwan has appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The board has appealed the dismissal of its case to the state Supreme Court and also is seeking up to $2 million in fines against TigerSwan through an administrative complaint.


High court deciding fate of cross-shaped Maryland memorial
Criminal Law Updates | 2019/02/25 15:32
The Supreme Court this week is hearing a case challenging the location of a nearly 100-year-old, cross-shaped Maryland war memorial.

Three area residents and the District of Columbia-based American Humanist Association argue the cross' location on public land violates the First Amendment's establishment clause. The clause prohibits the government from favoring one religion over others. They argue the cross should be moved to private property or modified into a slab or obelisk.

The cross' supporters say it doesn't violate the Constitution because it has a secular purpose and meaning: commemorating World War I veterans. The cross' base lists the names of 49 area residents who died in the war.

The American Legion and Maryland officials are defending the cross. They have the support of the Trump administration and 30 states.



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