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The Habeas Citebook Ineffective Counsel

Articles by Matthew Clarke

Racism and Wrongful Convictions

The meaning of “race” is not clearly defined. Further, perhaps due to a lack of a clear definition of race, the breakdown of statistics by racial groups is not standardized. Most criminal justice statistics list racial group subdivisions of White, Black, and Hispanic. Yet there is no clear definition of what constitutes White or Black, and Hispanic is not a racial group at all, but rather an ethnic group made up of multiple races. Further, this type of designation lumps people of Asian ancestry in with Whites and lists Native Americans as White or Hispanic while ignoring those of mixed racial heritage altogether.

One way to mitigate this problem is to allow people to self-identify their racial identity, but this inevitably leads to totals in excess of 110% as some people identify with more than one racial and/or ethnic group. Given these problems, any statistical study involving race and the criminal justice system must be carefully scrutinized.

“Wrongful conviction” is also subject ...

Complexity and Lack of Standardization Makes Crime Statistics Less Useful

A lack of standardization in crime statistics and the complexity of the causes of and cures for crime have made the use of crime statistics difficult.

For instance, whether using marijuana causes crime is an important question as more states consider legalizing recreational marijuana. Legalization proponents could point to a paper in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization that found thefts decreased by 20 percent and rapes by as much as 30 percent post-legalization in Washington state.

But, in a survey of 75 sheriffs in states that legalized recreational marijuana undertaken by The New Yorker, the 25 who responded were evenly split between not seeing any change and being certain of an increased crime rate. Thus, The New Yorker survey and the journal paper have two differing conclusions, demonstrating the difficulty in comparing crime statistics.

The most basic problem in crime statistics is defining what a crime is. Behavior that is criminal in some places is not criminal in others.

The definition of what a crime is also changes over time, making historical comparisons difficult.

Further, how does one classify misdemeanors? Is speeding a crime? Is having an overgrown lawn? That is why the paper ...

Chicago Police Department Ordered to Release 49 Years of Misconduct Files

On January 10, 2020, a judge in Cook County, Illinois, ordered the Chicago Police Department (“CPD”) to produce by the end of 2020 all misconduct files from 1967 to 2015. Judge Alison Conlon noted that the CPD had “willfully and intentionally failed to comply” with the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”).

The FOIA lawsuit was brought by former Illinois state prisoner Charles Green. He was incarcerated for over two decades after being convicted of a quadruple murder that occurred on Chicago’s West Side. Green has continuously maintained his innocence.

Green filed the FOIA request with the CPD in 2015, six years after he was released from prison. He requested all closed complaint register files from 1967 to 2015. According to Green’s attorney, Jared Kosoglad, the request was made “in order to help him discover evidence of his innocence and to preserve and disseminate evidence of innocence to others wrongfully convicted.”

Kosoglad said the files would be published on the website of the Invisible Institute — an organization that has previously publicized FOIA releases from law enforcement agencies. As of January 16, 2020, the CPD had only turned over about 100 of the 174,900 responsive documents it ...

Seventh Circuit Reverses Convictions Under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c); Holds Underlying Offenses Do Not Qualify as ‘Crimes of Violence’

by Matt Clarke 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the convictions of two federal prisoners who had been found guilty of using and discharging firearms during a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). In doing so, the Court held that the ...

The Role of Police Misconduct in Wrongful Convictions

by Matt Clarke

Police misconduct takes on many forms, from unjustified violence, murder, torture, sexual assault, theft of evidence—usually cash or drugs—and extortion, to actively assisting or participating in organized crime. However, this article will focus on a narrow segment of the many-faceted police misconduct problem—misconduct that leads to wrongful ...

Sixth Circuit Holds Chalking Car Tires for Parking Enforcement Constitutes a Search Under Fourth Amendment

by Matt Clarke

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that chalking the tires of parked vehicles to gather information about whether they have committed a parking violation constitutes a search for Fourth Amendment purposes and that, at the pleading stage of the current case, neither the ...

Unanimous Vermont Supreme Court Finds State Liable for Discriminatory Search and Seizure

by Matt Clarke

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Vermont issued a 51-page unanimous decision holding that, under Article 11 of the Vermont Constitution, law enforcement is liable for discriminatory searches and seizures.

On a snowy day in 2014, Gregory W. Zullo, who is black, was pulled over by ...

Supreme Court Declines Deciding Whether Parking Violation Justifies Seizure of Vehicle

by Matt Clarke

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review a Seventh Circuit decision permitting the seizure of a parked vehicle for a parking violation, permitting evidence developed during the seizure to be used against one of the vehicle’s passengers. This leaves the Seventh Circuit decision in force.

On ...

Kansas Supreme Court: Correcting Illegal Sentence After Fully Served Violates Prohibition Against Double Jeopardy

by Matt Clarke

In a case of first impression, the Supreme Court of Kansas held it was double jeopardy to correct the sentence of a man who was convicted of aggravated sexual battery—to impose the lifetime post-release supervision mandated by statute after his illegally-imposed sentence had been completely served.  ...

North Dakota Supreme Court Reinstates Postconviction Relief Application Dismissed Without Notice of Motion for Summary Disposition

by Matt Clarke  

The Supreme Court of North Dakota held that a district court erred when it dismissed a prisoner’s application for postconviction relief after the State filed its answer “but was not put on notice that the State had effectively motioned for summary disposition” of the ...



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