Archive for the 'Criminal Law' CategoryPage 9 of 74

A Teacher Was Raped and the State’s Response Is Unacceptable

A female teacher was raped in an Eyman Prison in Florence, Arizona on January 30 2014. She was administering a pre-GED exam to seven convicted sex-offenders and mentally handicapped prisoners. The convicts arrived unescorted, and the classroom was in a remote location without security cameras or in the view of security guards. After the test, all inmates left with the exception of 21 year old Jacob Harvey. Harvey was convicted of a day-time home invasion where he brutally raped and beat a woman while her toddler watched. He was sentenced to 30 years in March 2013.

Jacob HarveyHow can an unarmed woman who is not trained in self-defense protect herself when in a classroom of convicted sex offenders? Should the state be held liable for her injuries? After all, she is an employee, isn’t it their job to protect her? According to Laurie Roberts of The Arizona Republic, the attorney general’s reasoning was essentially “The woman knew she was in a prison, so what did she expect?”

The only communication device she was given was a radio to reach prison guards if an incident occurred. When the inmate attacked the teacher, she tried using the radio, but it was tuned to a channel the guards didn’t even use. She also tried screaming, as Harvey threw her to the ground and stabbed her with pencils, choking her and slamming her head into the floor all at the same time. No guard came to help. The teacher has accused the state of negligence, false imprisonment, and violation of her civil rights.

The state of Arizona has requested that the teacher’s negligence lawsuit be thrown out. But, U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton stated that the suit “contains sufficient allegations” and is letting the civil suit go forward. She stated the teacher “faced an unusually serious risk of harm” and the defendants “acted with deliberate indifference in failing to take steps to address that danger”.

The Attorney General’s Office stated the teacher “has attempted to recast absolutely routine prison events”. So an employee being raped by a prisoner is a routine prison event?

Scott Zwillinger, the teacher’s attorney, believes this is a classic case of victim-blaming. On top of physical injuries, he stated “the emotional part of this has tore my client’s life up” and it’s like we’re back in 1952 because “Absolutely, it’s blaming the victim”.

Who is at fault, is yet to be decided. The pretrial conference is set for February 23rd. To me, if an employee is subjected to physical harm with a clear lack of protection that is expected from a prison, the state is at fault and should pay the highest amount of restitution. Victim blaming is not the answer.

Sexual Assaults Continue to Plague College Campuses – What Is Being Done?

Statistics continue to reveal disturbingly high numbers of sexual assaults taking place on college campuses.

college sexual assaultAccording to Kathleen Hirsch’s, “Fraternities of Fear: Gang Rape, Male Bonding, and the Silencing of Women”, 1 in 4 women will be the victim of sexual assault sometime in her college career. Over a period of 6.9 months, 35.3 out of 1,000 female students fell victim to sexual assault, according to a study conducted by the 2000 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, “The Sexual Victimization of College Women”.

Schools are responsible for punishing offenders. However, an analysis by the Huffington Post discovered that not even a third of college student sexual assault perpetrators were kicked out of school. They might have been ordered to stay clear of the person they assaulted, but women are still forced to see their attacker on campus.

The Huffington Post also collected data revealing that 30% of guilty sexual assault criminals were expelled, 47% were suspended, 17% received educational sanctions, and 13% were placed on probation.

The Association for Student Conduct administration stresses that “legalistic language” such as “rape” or “guilty” should not be used in sexual assault policies or procedures of the school. Universities have also started using terms such as “nonconsensual sex” to replace “rape”.

Why are schools using language that falsely describes the crime? Are they more concerned with their reputation than the safety of female students? This seems to be the case. If a man forces himself onto a woman, it is sexual assault. The replacement language has enraged students and alumni across the country.

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden launched the “It’s On Us” campaign September of last year. The White House sent out a release that states, “The campaign seeks to engage college students and all members of campus communities in preventing sexual assault in the first place”.

Hopefully, with Obama’s new campaign and the new confidence of victims to come forward, sexual assault on campus will start to dwindle, and perpetrators will be punished appropriately.

Medical Researcher Sentenced for Killing His Wife with Cyanide

Robert Ferrante, a researcher from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, has been sentenced to life without parole. The final conviction took place Wednesday, February 4th. He has been convicted of first-degree murder by poisoning his wife. The accomplished researcher in Lou Gehrig’s disease added cyanide to an energy drink that he later gave to his wife in April 2013. She dropped dead three days later.

robert ferranteText messages between Ferrante (66) and his late wife, Dr. Autumn Klein, revealed that Ferrante convinced Klein consuming the drink will help her ovulate. Klein was “obsessed” with having a second child, and Ferrante took advantage of her longing. Klein, although an experienced 41 year old neurologist, believed her husband and had the drink.

Ferrante defended himself by denying any involvement of poisoning his wife. He claimed he ordered the cyanide to use in an experiment to imitate Lou Gehrig’s disease in his lab. But, evidence from text messages and Ferrante’s ever changing story, led the jury to convict him of murder.

During the trial, prosecutors alleged that Ferrante was in fear his wife was going to divorce him, so he killed her before she could.

The couple has an eight year old daughter, Cianna, who is now in the custody of Klein’s parents.

If a victim is poisoned and dies, the perpetrator has committed first degree murder. It does not matter what kind of poison it was or how the poison was ingested, any intentional poisoning is murder. To prove that a defendant killed the victim, the jury must prove the defendant intended to kill, and they killed the victim by administering the poison.

At the end of the trial, the defense and prosecution agreed to work together on a settlement that will end the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Klein’s parents, Lois and William.

Revenge Porn – Is It Legal?

Scorned ex-lovers have taken to the Internet to shame and expose the women who have broken their hearts. In this century’s version of blackmail, revenge porn has become rampant across the country. The perpetrators (mostly men) submit explicit images of the ones who used to trust them to websites dedicated to revenge porn. The images often times link to the victim’s social media pages and include personal information such as address, phone number, and email. Disgusting and offensive? Absolutely. But is it illegal?

revenge pornThe website,, launched in December of 2012. The website developer is a 28 year old from San Diego named Kevin Bollaert. Since its launch about two years ago, the site has accumulated over 10,000 nude photos of mostly women. If victims want their photos to be taken down, they have to go through Bollaert’s second website, They must pay $300 to $350 for the photos to be removed. He has made tens of thousands of dollars through this horrific website.

The two sites have since been shut down.

Bollaert was arrested December 2013 after a new law passed in California prohibiting the distribution of nude photos without the person’s consent. The law was passed in October 2013. The law makes posting identifiable nude photos without consent a misdemeanor. A person will also be convicted if they are guilty of intent to cause emotional distress or humiliation to the victim.

Bollaert was found guilty of 27 counts, which included identity theft and extortion. The San Diego County Superior Court jury was not able to reach verdicts on two of the counts, including identity theft and conspiracy, and the judge pronounced a mistrial on them. Either way, Bollaert is now facing up to 20 years in prison.

Bollaert’s lawyer, Emily Rose-Weber, attempted to defend his actions by claiming he is just a web developer. Because he did not post the photos himself, he is in no way guilty of breaking the new law. She also added that although he took advantage of “human weakness,” developing an outlet for angry ex’s is not illegal. The statute states that charges can be held only against the person who actually took the photo. But, he was still convicted of identity theft and six counts of extortion.

At the moment, only 16 states have enacted laws to protect victims of revenge porn. Florida is in the process of legitimizing a similar law.

How the Insanity Defense Will Be Central in the Trial of Chris Kyle’s Murderer

February 2nd marked the anniversary of Chris Kyle’s death. Legendary Navy SEAL sniper was murdered by a fellow veteran at the Rough Creek Lodge in Glen Rose, Texas on this date 2013. After putting his life on the line for fellow soldiers during four tours in the Middle East, his murder by a veteran is disturbingly ironic.

chris kyle american sniperThe release of the acclaimed film “American Sniper” does not bode well for Eddie Ray Routh, the man who killed Kyle. Since the film’s release, Routh sought to move his trial out of Texas. His request has been rejected. At this point, it is going to be near impossible to find a set of jurors who haven’t seen the movie, or haven’t heard of Chris Kyle.

Background on the Murder

Kyle took Routh to the shooting range about an hour from where Kyle lived. He got in touch with Routh after his mother contacted Kyle asking for his help. Kyle’s plan was to help Routh with his PTSD, by providing a safe place for Routh to talk and open up to Kyle. A huge problem that comes along with PTSD is the inability to trust others. Kyle wanted to help Routh with this problem and make him feel heard and not alone.

Once settled at the gun range, they raised the red Bravo flag, to indicate they were going to start shooting. Kyle had helped design the range, and could come and go as he pleased. He reserved the space until 4 pm. At 4:55 pm, a guide noticed the flag was still up and drove towards the platform. He then discovered the body of Kyle with a bullet in his back and head and the body of a second veteran, Littlefield, with multiple gunshot wounds. Both were dead.

Routh is facing charges of capital murder.

Insanity Defense for Veterans with PTSD

As expected, Routh’s lawyers will be defending him with an insanity defense. He admitted to police that he killed Kyle and Littlefield, and then fled the scene with Kyle’s truck. Routh was formally diagnosed with PTSD, and also suffered from depression, mania, and nightmares. According to Routh’s family, he has had a long list of incidences relating to his PTSD. He had threatened to kill himself and his family in the past, and was admitted to psychiatric wards numerous times. He was in the Dallas V.A. Medical Center and Green Oaks Hospital in Dallas just days before the murder.

A 2014 study revealed that veterans suffering from PTSD or alcohol abuse are seven times more likely to commit violent crimes than fellow veterans. Also, dozens of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have been accused of murder, some even killing themselves. 2.6 million Americans have served in either Iraq or Afghanistan, and half a million suffer from PTSD. Some people with PTSD can also have flashes of anger, that turn into hallucinations. These hallucinations can bring veterans back to the battlefield, and make violent decisions that can turn them into criminals.

In recent years, it has become apparent that a change needs to be made to the criminal justice system. Too many soldiers are being sent to jail for crimes committed due to their PTSD. In 2013, the Veterans Defense Project published a manual for defense attorneys to use when defending a veteran with a post-battle mental illness. The book is “The Attorney’s Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court.” The book helps explain PTSD and traumatic brain injury and its effects on soldiers. It also has a section that explains how PTSD can be used as an insanity defense in court. The projects goals are to help rehabilitate suffering veterans, assist attorneys in understanding their clients and their illness, and to help increase public knowledge of issues within the criminal justice system.

Individual Veterans Treatment Courts have started to spread throughout each state. A key aspect to these courts is the option of alternative rehabilitation treatment instead of incarceration. The programs can be for mental health or substance abuse, and are often lead by veteran mentors. PTSD has increasingly become a defense for an insanity plea because of this system. This type of court is essential to keeping mentally unstable veterans out of jail, and into the help they really need. But it does not come without its issues. It is still being decided if felonies or violent crimes should be held in veteran’s court, or go through the regular criminal justice system.

In the case of Routh, he will be tried in the conventional criminal justice system. His PTSD and depression will definitely be used by his lawyers as a basis for the insanity defense plea. Either way, the murder of legendary veteran Chris Kyle, will not be forgotten.