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Prison Profiteers

Articles by Chad Marks

Is the Death Penalty Slowly Dying Across the Nation?

In 1972, the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) in Furman v. Georgia eliminated the death penalty. The Court, in striking down state-sanctioned killing, identified problems such as racism, arbitrary application, and the fact that ending people’s lives did little to nothing in the way of public safety.

While Furman abolished the death penalty, it did not take long to get the killing machine back up and running. In 1976, SCOTUS upheld a new set of laws in Gregg v. Georgia, paving the way to walk people back down the lonely hallway of death.

Forty-four years after Gregg, support for the death penalty is dwindling. For example, in 1998 —almost 300 death sentences were imposed in the U.S. Twenty years later, in 2018, only 43 were imposed. In the last 10 years, six states have rid themselves of the state-sponsored killings by either legislation or court order. Four others have imposed moratoriums on executions. As of April 2020, the death penalty is legal in 28 states, plus the federal government and military, according to

For the same reasons SCOTUS tossed out the death penalty in Furman, the general public’s support for the death ...

Federal Judge Issues Order Reducing 40-Year Stacked § 924(c) Sentence Based on First Step Act Changes to Compassionate Release

On a cold February 2003 night, my life was shattered. That is when I was arrested and charged with a crack cocaine conspiracy along with two § 924(c) counts. My mandatory minimum sentence could be no lower than 40 years. And after a three-week trial, that is exactly what I was sentenced to at 24 years old.

I was sent to USP Big Sandy in Kentucky, where I immediately began going to the law library and working on my appeal. With the assistance of attorney Jillian Harrington, I was successful on my appeal in part. The case was remanded to the district court for a hearing related to ineffective assistance of counsel that occurred during the plea-bargaining stage. After the hearings, my request for relief was denied. A new appeal on that issue was also rejected. At that point, my 40-year sentence was looking like my reality for the next four decades.

This was a prospect that I could not accept. This is when my game plan changed — I decided that my days would now be spent in the law library. Researching the law became easy for me, and in time, I would read some very ...

New Orleans Sheriff’s Office Tracked Cellphones Absent Warrants

by Chad Marks

Securus Technologies, one of the leading providers of phone-messaging services for correctional facilities, reportedly captured thousands of coordinates showing cellphone locations for clients absent a warrant. Through Securus, both Jefferson and Orleans Parish sheriff’s offices were able to capture data used for criminal investigations, The Appeal reports. ...

Utah District Court Finds First Step Act Gives Court Authority to Reduce Stacked 55-Year § 924(c) Sentence

by Chad Marks

Kepa Maumau was a 20 year old young man when he was arrested and charged with multiple 924(c) offenses. He was eventually sentenced to a total of 55 years in prison. That sentence was driven by the mandatory minimums required under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).

After ...

Fourth Circuit: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel in Death Penalty Case for Failure to Investigate Fetal Alcohol Syndrome as Mitigating Factor During Sentencing Phase

by Chad Marks

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a district court’s finding that counsel in a capital case was ineffective for their failure to investigate potentially mitigating evidence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (“FAS”) during the sentencing phase.

Charles Christopher Williams was convicted by a South ...

Ninth Circuit Reverses Convictions Where Trial Court Failed to Provide Oral Jury Instructions

by Chad Marks

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the district court’s failure to provide oral jury instructions on the applicable substantive law constitutes structural error requiring reversal of defendant’s conviction.

In February 2016, Cesar Becerra exercised his right to a jury trial on six ...

Indiana Supreme Court Reduces 30-Year Prison Sentence to 23-Year Community Corrections Placement in Rare Case

by Chad Marks

In August 2013, Lisa Livingston was arrested for various drug charges involving 3.35 grams of methamphetamine and one baggie of cocaine weighing 1.89 grams.

Livingston posted a $75,000 property bond and was released from jail. Part of the conditions of Livingston’s release was that she reside at ...

Seventh Circuit: Woman Answering Door of Suspect’s Residence Wearing Bathrobe Does Not Constitute Apparent Authority to Consent to Search

by Chad Marks

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit asked itself an interesting question, viz.: “Is it reasonable for officers to assume that a woman who answers the door in a bathrobe has authority to consent to a search of a male suspect’s residence?” The Court ...

Seventh Circuit Orders Grant of Successive § 2255 Motion and 
Resentencing in Pre-Booker Mandatory Guidelines Case Involving Elements Clause’s Definition of ‘Crime of Violence’

by Chad Marks

In 1987, Todd D’Antoni was charged with selling cocaine to a juvenile resulting in her death.

While being held in jail on those charges, he solicited another prisoner to kill a government witness for cash and drugs. That prisoner contacted law enforcement, agreeing to cooperate in regards ...

Fifth Circuit: Denial of Habeas Petition as Successive Reversed Where Second Petition Challenges a Separate Judgment, by Same Court, Not Covered in First Petition

by Chad Marks

In 1991, Steve Vic Parker was convicted in a state court in Texas for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle (“UUMV”) and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment. Parker was eventually released from prison on mandatory supervision and returned to prison for violating that supervision.

In 2010, ...



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