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New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announced that William Bratton will again serve as police commissioner.
He replaces Raymond Kelly, who served since 2002.
Good move by de Blasio. Bill is a strong believer in constitutional rights. I attended his swearing-in ceremony in Los Angeles in 2002 -- here's my report.
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As many have been saying for years, the Global war on drugs has been an epic failure:
The International Centre for Science in Drug Policy said its report suggested the war on drugs had failed. The report, published in the British Medical Journal Open, looked at data from seven international government-funded drug surveillance systems.
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The Office of Inspector General has issued a new report on DOJ's reporting of prosecutions and convictions, including terrorism cases. The report is a follow-up to a 2007 and 2012 report which found DOJ inflated its terror case statistics. The new report finds DOJ continues to misreport its record in terrorism cases. The OIG attributes the mistakes to shoddy record-keeping.
“These inaccuracies are important in part because DOJ management and Congress need accurate terrorism-related statistics to make informed operational and budgetary decisions,” [I.G. Director Michael] Horowitz said in a statement accompanying the audit’s release.
The full report is here. [More..]
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The Department of Justice has officially spoken about state marijuana laws. It has advised the Governors of Colorado and Washington that provided it enacts robust regulations that do not not interfere with 8 DOJ priorities, it will "defer its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time."
AG Eric Holder has issued a memorandum to federal prosecutors (available here) on the new policy and the 8 priorities in enforcing federal marijuana laws.
The key point: The major sea change is not with respect to possession for personal use, which the feds don't normally charge anyway, but in its willingness to allow some private production and distribution of marijuana. [More...]
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Sen. Patrick Leahy has scheduled a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on September 10th on the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws. Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole have been invited to testify.
“It is important, especially at a time of budget constraints, to determine whether it is the best use of federal resources to prosecute the personal or medicinal use of marijuana in states that have made such consumption legal,” Leahy said. “I believe that these state laws should be respected. At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government.”
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It may be Sequester time for the rest of us, but not the DEA. It's moved on from Africa to the South Pacific. Why? To catch cocaine going from South America to Vanuatu in the South Pacific with a final destination of Australia.
U.S.-Australian cooperation with authorities in Vanuatu, Tonga, the Cook Islands, and New Caledonia have resulted in almost 2 tons of cocaine destined for Australia being seized from five vessels since 2010.
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Attorney General Eric Holder will announce a sea change in policy at the Justice Department this morning in his speech to the American Bar Association in San Francisco. I hope he gets a standing ovation.
“I have mandated a modification of the Justice Department’s charging policies so that certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs, or cartels will no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences,”
Since we have had a do-nothing Congress on mandatory minimums since they were enacted in Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 under President Reagan --27 years -- Holder is going to effect change through prosecutorial discretion. Why?
[Mandatory minimum sentences] "breed disrespect for the system. When applied indiscriminately, they do not serve public safety. They have had a disabling effect on communities. And they are ultimately counterproductive."
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The New Yorker has a lengthy new article on civil forfeiture abuse by state and local authorities. It's filled with horror stories of corruption and violations of civil liberties.
In many states, it's no more than highway piracy:
Patterns began to emerge. Nearly all the targets had been pulled over for routine traffic stops. Many drove rental cars and came from out of state. None appeared to have been issued tickets. And the targets were disproportionately black or Latino.
In others, it's policing for profit. Some cities, like Detroit, try to justify the seizures as "quality of life" preservation under ancient vice statutes. This one is a doozy: [More...]
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I'm delighted to see the media get on the case of the DEA Special Operations division.
A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.
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Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn takes on the claims that Chicago's murder rate is the highest in the country and that it's murder rate has reached a crisis point in his new column, Wrongly Accused.
"Since Trayvon Martin was killed, 500 people have been killed in Chicago alone," said talk-show host Larry Elder during a guest appearance on CNN on Tuesday evening. The previous night on the same network, in a video montage related to the umpty-whillionth panel discussion prompted by Zimmerman's acquittal, an unidentified woman said, "Nobody's talking about what happened in Chicago last week; 62 people were killed."
Nobody was talking about it because it didn't happen. No one on the show bothered to correct the assertion — the actual number of murders in Chicago in that week was 10, police said...
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The DEA raided several medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington State yesterday. One had only been open a month.
Casey Lee, an employee at the Bayside Collective, said DEA agents served him with a search warrant and seized about "11 or 12 plants Wednesday morning. They also took marijuana in jars that is set aside for patients. He said the seized marijuana totaled about a quarter pound. The DEA agents seized his and another employee's cell phone, Lee added.
Fellow Bayside Collective employee Addy Norton said she was "terrified" during the raid, and DEA agents pointed guns in her face as they entered the building.
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A hearing was held yesterday on sequester cuts to defender services. Funding for federal defender services is quickly becoming a constitutional crisis. Federal defender offices are facing closure, federal courts are considering doing away with juries in civil cases, fees for appointed counsel are being delayed, and funding is being slashed for probation and pre-trial services. The Judiciary has requested emergency funding, and Congress has not acted on it. Here is the statement of Hon. Julia S. Gibbons, Chair of the Committee on the Budget of the Judicial Conference of the United States.
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Just released: a groundbreaking report with
[an] inclusive examination of the profound racial and ethnic disparities in America’s criminal justice system, and concrete ways to overcome them.
The full report is here. It is co-sponsored by co-sponsored by the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, the Foundation for Criminal Justice, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions, and the New York County Lawyers’ Association.
The scope of the disparity: [More...]
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The Department of Justice's latest report on gun violence by the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows a 39% drop in gun murders from 1993 to 2011. Non-fatal gun crimes are down 69%.
In 2011, homicides made up about 2% of all firearm-related crimes. During the same period, gun sales increased. Also, 60% of state inmates charged with gun crimes obtained their guns legally. Only 2% got their guns at a gun show:
60 percent of state prison inmates arrested for a gun-related crime obtained their guns legally: 37 percent from family or friends, 10 percent from a retail or pawn shop and just 2 percent from a gun show or flea market.
The full report is here.
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Attorney General Eric Holder sent out a memo to Justice Department employees Friday (available here) saying he transferred $150 million from DOJ's funds to the Bureau of Prisons to avoid mass furloughs of prison guards and staffers.
Absent this intervention, we faced the need to furlough 3,570 staff each day from the federal prisons around the country. The loss of these correctional officers and other staff who supervise the 176,000 prisoners at 119 institutions would have created serious threats to the lives and safety of our staff, inmates, and the public.[...more]
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