Before we get to the last week’s wins in the federal circuits, three things:
First, I think the most interesting opinion from the federal circuits in the last week is United States v. Murray from the Second Circuit. Trials in criminal cases may be statistically anomalous, but you still have to let the defendant put on his case.
Second, I can’t strongly recommend enough the article in the December 9 issue of the New Yorker on false confessions (sadly, subscription is required). If you’re a law geek, there’s a lot in the New Yorker this week for you – including a piece by Jeffery Toobin on why the Constitution is really dusty (login required). More on that piece from Above the Law is here.
If you don’t have access to the false confession piece, here’s the bottom line (and, yes, folks in the trenches already knew much of this):
- Confessions are really important to jurors.
- Police can get confessions really easily based on the way American law enforcement do things using a “Reid-style interrogation”.
- Psychologists have shown pretty persuasively (to my eye) that Reid-style interrogations get false confessions.
- Reid-style interrogations have been at the root of false confessions in a bunch of false conviction DNA cases.
- British cops have figured out a way to do interrogations that doesn’t get false confessions, but still let the police do their investigations.
- American law enforcement resist change from Reid-style interrogations because they hate science.
Ok, that last point may be the result of an aggressive read on my part. But, like the New Yorker’s recent pieces on forfeiture, child pornography civil commitments, and errors in deportation (subscription required for this one), there’s some really good reporting on criminal justice issues going on there.
Third, it was pointed out to me that I never provided a link to where you can vote for your favorite law-related blog of 2013. That link is here. Apologies and Happy voting!
To the victories!
1. United States v. Murray, Second Circuit: Appellant was tried and convicted of four counts of cultivating marijuana following a jury trial. The district court, during the trial, did not allow Appellant to present surrebuttal evidence regarding cell phone towers. The sentence was vacated and the case remanded because this denied Appellant a fair opportunity to defend his case.
Defense Attorney: Lee Ginsberg
2. United States v. Montes-Flores, Fourth Circuit.pdf: After Appellant was sentenced to 46 months imprisonment for illegal reentry into the United States, he appealed his sentence. The Fourth Circuit vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing finding that the district court improperly applied the modified categorical approach to assault and battery of a highly aggravated nature. This misapplication resulted in a higher sentencing enhancement and therefore sentencing guidelines calling for a higher sentence.
Defense Attorney: Kimberly Harvey Albro and Ann Briks Walsh