Crime and Punishment

The Crime You Dare Not Stop

I’ve always thought that “possession” was an odd type of crime. Legal possession is such a passive concept. It doesn’t seem right to even call it a behavior. I’m pretty sure you can be guilty of possessing contraband even when you are literally asleep in bed. That just doesn’t sound harmful enough to justify punishment. […]

Thinking About Lethal Force – Part 3

This is my third post in a series of ruminations about lethal force. Part 1 discussed the basics of what might or might not be self defense, and in Part 2 I discussed how participants and witnesses report and distort what happens, and in this part, I’ll be exploring how the news gets out, and […]

Believing Victims

In the Washington Post, Zerlina Maxwell insists that, despite the way the UVA fraternity gang rape story seems to be falling apart, when it comes to accusations of rape: In important ways, this is wrong. We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says. Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor […]

Thinking About Lethal Force – Part 2

This is my second post in a series that explores how we can think about news stories about people using lethal force in an act of claimed self defense. Part 1 discussed the basics of what might or might not be self defense, and this part expands the discussion to cover witness reliability. I want […]

The Special Case of Darren Wilson

In response to my earlier post about the grand jury in the Michael Brown case, Jack Marshall posted a lengthy comment. Events have somewhat overtaken that post, but I wanted to address a few points Jack makes. (He wrote his comment before the grand jury decision came out.) I don’t find the fact that a […]

The Drunk Under the Street Lamp Meets Saddam Hussein

Ferguson is breaking my heart. I’m not talking about the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown. I pretty much expected that. What’s breaking my heart is the magnitude of the destruction going on during the protests. I paid pretty close attention to the earlier batch of protests, […]

Awaiting the Grand Jury…

We keep hearing about police plans to respond to protests in Ferguson, Missouri if the grand jury investigating Officer Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown decides not to return an indictment. On the other hand, if the grand jury decides to indict Wilson, there would be a warrant for his arrest, and that would mean […]

Thinking About Lethal Force – Part 1

We’ve heard a lot of argument about whether or not George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin was murder or self defense, and more recent controversial shootings such as that of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri have raised many of the same issues. Some of the disagreements represent a genuine clash of values, […]

What If We Eliminated Plea Bargaining?

Scott Greenfield is complaining about people who propose simplistic solutions to the ills that infest the criminal justice system. This time it’s the Economist, and their solution is the ever-popular one of eliminating the problems of plea bargaining by eliminating plea bargaining. Scott’s not happy with that for the usual reason criminal defense lawyers aren’t […]

You Can’t Trust a Killer

We just had Elliot Rodger’s rampage in Isla Vista, and we’re now seeing another horror story from Waukesha, Wisconsin, in the form of two 12-year-old girls who stabbed another 12-year-old child, supposedly to benefit a supernatural entity known as “Slenderman.” Slenderman is an entirely fictional creation of recent vintage: He is Slenderman, a menacing, faceless […]

Elliot Rodger’s Motive Says Very Little About Anyone Except Elliot Rodger

A young man named Elliot Rodger apparently killed six people Saturday in Isla Vista California. I say “apparently” because the story is new enough that it keeps changing. When I first heard it, he had shot six people dead, but now it appears that three of them were stabbed, according to a recent version of […]

Crime and Incentives

In response to my post about some of economist Gary Becker’s views on crime, “russ” leaves a comment with a couple of interesting points: I would think the failure of the war on drugs is the evidence AGAINST Becker’s idea that increased punishment reduces crime. Just because criminalizing drugs hasn’t made them go away completely […]

Death Doesn’t Have to Knock: A Modest Proposal

In the past few years, the states have been facing increasing difficulties obtaining the drugs they need to carry out their death penalties. This is in part because manufacturers have been refusing to make the drugs available for use in executions. So instead of using the traditional three-drug sequence, states have been experimenting with new […]

SORNA Challenge Update

Last summer, I expressed my doubts about scientific aims of the SORNA Challenge. By asking for proposals for “innovative” ways to measure the costs and benefits of the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act, I felt that the National Institute of Justice was implicitly admitting that the widely accepted methodologies of sociology, criminology, and economics […]

Lessons in Allocution and Acquitted Conduct

Apparently yesterday was sentencing hell day at Simple Justice. First up, Scott reminds us of the case of Antwuan Ball, Joseph Jones, and Desmond Thurston who were accused of engaging in a massive drug dealing conspiracy. The case went to a jury trial, and they beat all of the conspiracy charges. The jury only found […]

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