THE CRIMINAL TRIAL: AN ENDANGERED SPECIES?

Federal Judge Says Threat of Mandatory Sentences Used as “Chip” to Coerce Pleas

By: Houston Criminal Lawyer John Floyd and Paralegal Billy Sinclair

John L. Kane, Jr. is the Senior Judge of the United States District Court in Denver. This prominent jurist recently told the New York Times that criminal defendants are being ”coerced” into pleading guilty with threats of a harsher sentences should they decide to go to trial. “How many times is a mandatory sentence used as a chip in order to coerce a plea? They don’t keep records,” Judge Kane told the newspaper. “That’s what the public doesn’t see, and where the statistics become meaningless.” Judge Kane said that prosecutors “have grown more powerful than judges” and the end result is that “we hardly have trials anymore.”

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18 U.S.C. § 2559: U.S. APPELLATE COURTS IN CONFLICT OVER CHILD PORNOGRAPHY RESTITUTION ISSUES

Difficulty Establishing Restitution Child Pornography Cases

By: Houston Criminal Lawyer John Floyd and Paralegal Billy Sinclair

In two previous posts (here and here), we discussed the increasing trend of victims of child pornography seeking restitution damages under 18 U.S.C. § 2259 against defendants who were convicted of possessing child pornography depicting their images. These restitution requests have triggered significant conflicts in the federal courts of appeals, most notably between the Fifth and Second Circuits. On September 8, 2011, the Second Circuit, in United States v. Aumais, reinforced the reasoning it expressed in its August 18, 2011 decision, United States v. Marino; specifically, that these victims must demonstrate a “proximate cause” between a defendant’s possession of the pornographic images and any “harm” suffered by the individual.

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IMPACT OF CRIME VICTIMS RESTITUTION ACTS

Fifth Circuit’s Decision on Restitution in Possession of Child Pornography Cases Creates Sentencing Nightmare

By: Houston Criminal Lawyer John Floyd and Paralegal Billy Sinclair

In theory the criminal justice system has a fundamental obligation to provide restitution to crime victims. In practice this obligation has created a contentious and ongoing legal debate in federal appellate courts as to how this obligation must be met. Two recent decisions emanating out of the Fifth and Second federal circuits underscore the difficulties faced in deciding when and how restitution is appropriate, the level of harm caused to victims, and the statutory standards by which restitution can be awarded. Last year we dealt with the issue of restitution in child pornography cases which, we believe, has run constitutionally amuck (here). We feel it’s time to examine both the legislative history, and the statutory application, of crime victims’ restitution acts, both of which were discussed at some length by the Second Circuit on August 18, 2011 in United States v. Marino.

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ROMEO AND JULIET, MEET ADAM WALSH

Texas law Allows Removal/Avoidance of Sex Registration for Youthful, Non-Violent Consent Based Sex

By: Houston Criminal Lawyer John Floyd and Paralegal Billy Sinclair

Former President George W. Bush in July 2006 signed into law the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. Title I of this act is called the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”) which expanded the National Sex Offender Registry, including sanctions up to a maximum of twenty years for sex offenders who do not comply with the law’s registration requirements. This includes juveniles convicted, or adjudicated as delinquent in juvenile court, who are 14 years of age or older and who have been convicted of an offense either more serious or similar to federal aggravated sexual assault. It is this juvenile registration issue that has caused many states, including Texas, to have serious reservations about complying with SORNA.

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DOUBLE STANDARD OF EVIDENCE IN CONRAD MURRAY TRIAL

By: Houston Criminal Lawyer John Floyd and Paralegal Billy Sinclair

Jury selection has begun in the high profile criminal case against Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician charged with involuntary manslaughter in the drug overdose and death of Michael Jackson. This comes the day after a California Court of Appeals denied Murray’s request to have the jury sequestered in what will assuredly be intense media coverage and “expert” speculation.

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