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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Peterson Murder Convictions Reexamined

murder conviction

In 2000, Richelle Nice filed a lawsuit to get a restraining order against her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend, according to The Los Angeles Times. The ex-girlfriend had harassed Nice while she was 4½ months pregnant, allegedly. Why is a 20-year lawsuit important? Nice was one of the jurors in the infamous Scott Peterson case. 

Peterson, you may remember, was charged and convicted of first-degree murder in 2004. He received the death penalty for killing his pregnant wife Lacie Peterson and unborn child; Lacie was due to give birth in 4 weeks at the time of her death. The Peterson murder case dominated headlines in California and was practically all that was talked about on Court TV. 

Now, sixteen years later, Scott Peterson is back in the headlines; the California Supreme Court overturned his death sentence in August, NPR reports. Last week, the court called for a re-examination of the murder convictions. 

The court's decision to overturn the death sentence and order a re-examination is directly linked to some questions Nice answered dishonestly during jury selection. 

 

Prejudicial Misconduct

 

When prosecutors and defense attorneys consider prospective jurors, they are asked a series of questions. The State and the defense try to determine if an individual can be impartial and unbiased when sitting on a jury. 

During jury selection in the Peterson case, Nice said "no" when asked if she had ever been a victim of a crime or involved in a lawsuit, the article reports. Interestingly, according to his lawyers, Nice was one of the jury's two holdouts for convicting Peterson of murder. Her failure to disclose that she had been involved in prior legal proceedings could be the impetus for a new trial. 

"I think this is going to be ironic ... if it turns out that the juror who was most prominent in the post-trial proceedings and who is most adamant about Peterson's guilt, is going to turn out to be ... the very juror whose actions caused the reversal of the conviction and a new trial," said Johnson, a legal analyst. "And I think there's a very, very good chance that we may see a second Scott Peterson trial." 

We will continue to follow this story as it develops. 

 

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

 

If you are facing legal challenges in California, please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. Attorney Brower is a criminal defense attorney specializing in many areas, from aggravated assault to white-collar crimes. You can reach us today at 714-997-4400 for a consultation.

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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Prison Inmates Kept Working Amid Pandemic

COVID-19

Life in America has changed significantly. Social distancing meant not congregating and adhering to stay at home orders. Tens of millions of people were laid off as the economy halted to a standstill. Naturally, the COVID-19 pandemic affected the incarcerated; millions of Americans are behind bars—housed in tight quarters. 

Fortunately, prisons suspended rehab programs, religious services, and educational classes, according to The Los Angeles Times. On the surface, the above action would signal that correctional facilities were prioritizing inmates' well-being. However, prison factories kept running, even after the coronavirus had jumped the prison fence, infecting inmates and guards alike. 

While businesses shut down across America, men and women working in prison factories were ordered to keep working. The health and safety of inmates were jeopardized, the article reports. Ironically, female inmates sewing personal protective equipment like face masks were not allowed to wear masks themselves. 

Not surprisingly, some of those same women became sick, such as Robbie Hall, an inmate seamstress at the California Institution for Women in Chino. Hall and her fellow workers knew that they were at risk but had to keep working. 

 

Incarcerated Workers Contracted COVID-19

 

For 8 cents to $1 an hour, thousands of inmates kept working as the coronavirus spread across the prison system. Millions of dollars were made off of prison labor at the height of the pandemic. Prisoners were making masks, hand sanitizers, and furniture. 

Some inmates were forced to COVID-19 units in prison hospitals. Hall and at least three other mask makers got sick after using fabric from the nearby men's prison, where 23 inmates died from the coronavirus. What's more, the women's boss visited both institutions on several occasions. 

Not only were women sewing masks for next to no compensation, but supervisors also kept raising the daily quotas, from 2,000 to 3,000 to 3,500 face covers, seven days a week, at the California Institution for Women.

"It is a bureaucratic decision to keep people working for pennies an hour during a pandemic," said Kate Chatfield, director of policy at the Justice Collaborative, a national organization that advocates for criminal justice reform. "This should appall everyone who wants to live in a civilized society." 

Hall was laid up for weeks, struggling to breathe, in the hospital unit. Her sickness was not an isolated event. She was among 352 inmates and 85 staffers who have been infected at the Chino women's prison.

 

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

 

Please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you are facing legal challenges. Attorney Brower has decades of criminal defense experience, and he can help you achieve a favorable outcome.

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Friday, October 2, 2020

California Grocers Back Prop 20

proposition 20

Last week, we shared about efforts to roll back criminal justice this November. If you didn't have a chance to read the post, we encourage you to do so. It always helps to be informed before you enter the voting booth in November. 

Let's quickly recap. Next month you will be asked if you would like to erode Proposition 47, which reduced the California prison populations. Prop.47 meant early parole and downgraded sentences for thousands of inmates. It allowed the state to invest more in rehabilitation to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. It also changed the severity of certain crimes, such as shoplifting. 

You will also be asked to weigh in on how you feel about money or cash bail in the Golden State. Voting "no" on Proposition 25 could lead to a repeal of Senate Bill 10. If SB-10 stands, then the question of who gets bail will land on the judges' desks—cash bail would go away for detained suspects. 

As we have pointed out in previous posts, law enforcement organizations are not fans of both Prop. 47 and SB-10. However, other groups would like to see criminal justice reforms rolled back, such as grocery stores. 

 

Grocery Stores Want to Erode Prop. 47

 

Grocery outlets joined law enforcement organizations in standing behind Prop. 20, The Los Angeles Times reports. The legislation would mean that people who commit certain theft-related crimes (such as repeat shoplifting) could receive increased penalties (such as longer jail terms).

Albertsons, Kroger, and the California Grocers Association are the largest commercial entities backing Prop 20. According to the article, they argue that the legislation is needed because shoplifting and organized retail crime are on the rise. They say that grocers have suffered significant financial losses and that employees and customers are not safe. 

The National Retail Federation conducted a study which found that theft or "shrinkage" was at an all-time high. In the 2019 fiscal year, theft cost the industry $61.7 billion. That only amounts to 1.62 percent of retailers' profits. 

 

"People are stealing, and there are no consequences," said Richard Temple, a spokesman for the Yes on Prop. 20 campaign. 

 

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

 

Please reach out to The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you or a family member face criminal charges in California. Attorney Brower has decades of experience in helping to bring about favorable outcomes for his clients. Please call (714) 997-4400 for a consultation.

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Friday, September 25, 2020

Criminal Justice Reforms Under Fire

In 2018, former California Governor Jerry Brown signed a controversial piece of legislation into law that ended cash bail in the Golden State. Senate Bill 10 put the decision for when a criminal defendant was eligible for release in the hands of judges.

Another relatively recent criminal justice reform is Proposition 47. The ballot measure reduced the California prison population. The financial savings from housing fewer prisoners led to a more significant investment in victims' services, schools, and treatment programs. By keeping 4,569 inmates out of prison, Prop. 47 is projected to save $122.5 million next fiscal year, according to KQED. The savings is up from $44 million in the previous fiscal year.

Both SB 10 and Prop. 47 have been hailed by criminal justice advocates and decried by law enforcement organizations. 2020 will put both criminal justice reforms to the test.

 

Rolling Back Criminal Justice Reforms


KQED reports that voters will have the option to roll back Prop. 47 and SB 10 this November. Some readers may remember that the latter never took effect because the money bail industry gathered enough signatures to qualify for a referendum for the November 2020 ballot. 

Proposition 20: A "yes" means: People who commit certain theft-related crimes (such as repeat shoplifting) could receive increased penalties (such as longer jail terms). Additional factors would be considered for the state's process for releasing certain inmates from prison early. Law enforcement would be required to collect DNA samples from adults convicted of certain misdemeanors. 

Proposition 25: A "no" vote is to repeal the contested legislation, Senate Bill 10 (SB 10), thus keeping in place the use of cash bail for detained suspects awaiting trials.

Political consultant, Dan Newman, helped push many of the earlier reforms, according to the article. He says that he is not worried about the two propositions given the current climate regarding policing and racism in America.

"I think people are looking for ways to channel what they know and believe into real action and real reform and make a difference," said Newman. "So it's just sort of a matter of ensuring that they know: If you care about mass incarceration, if you care about racial injustice, here are some ways that you can really weigh in with power and make a difference."  

 

Southern California Criminal Defense Attorney

Please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you are facing criminal charges. Attorney Brower has more than 30 years of experience; he has the expertise to advocate for you. Please call (714) 997-4400 for a consultation.

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Friday, September 18, 2020

AB-2147: Inmates Can Be Firefighters

AB-2147

Each fire season in California has been longer and more severe than the previous year. You are probably aware of how dire the situation is right now, even if you live nowhere near the hot zones; coastal cities have been inundated with smoke and haze for more than a week. The skyline of late is reminiscent of pictures taken on Mars. 

Our readers may remember a post from last year about the nearly 3,000 inmates serving on fire crews. We covered a report from the The Los Angeles Times shining a light on how incarcerated individuals were volunteering to smother the flames. It was revealed that most brave individuals would never be able to secure a position in a fire crew upon their release. 

A significant facet of criminal justice is rehabilitating inmates; job training is offered to the incarcerated, with the hope of reducing recidivism rates. However, the courageous ex-cons being paid $2-5 a day to put their lives at risk have been hindered from seeking the same type of work upon release. 

California law instructs emergency services agencies to deny EMT certification to any applicant who has committed any felony within the past 10 years, convicted of two or more felonies, or is on parole or probation. 

Former Inmates Right to Fight Fires

AB-2147

Last week, we observed September 11th memorials. It was time to remember the thousands of lives lost and pay respect to the brave men and women who met the day responding to the tragedy. Tens of thousands of first-responders voluntarily put themselves in harm's way to save lives. 

It seems fitting that California Governor Gavin Newsom would sign a bill that paves the way for former inmates to be productive members of society. Assembly Bill 2147 allows inmates who have worked as firefighters to ask the court to dismiss their charges, which makes it easier for them to find a job after completing their sentences, NPR reports. The legislation signed into law states

"Due to the their service to the state of California in protecting lives and property, those incarcerated individual crew members that successfully complete their service in the conservation camps or successfully complete services as members of a county incarcerated individual hand crew, as determined by the appropriate county authority, and have been released from custody, should be granted special consideration relating to their underlying criminal conviction."

AB 2147 gives inmates the ability to secure stable employment upon release, adding to the arsenal of men and women who selflessly rush toward a fire when all others head the other way. The bill excludes people convicted of certain violent or sex crimes. 

"Inmates who have stood on the frontlines, battling historic fires should not be denied the right to later become a professional firefighter," Gov. Newsom said upon signing the bill into law at the North Complex Fire zone. "AB 2147 will fix that."
 

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

 

The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower can help you or someone you love with a criminal legal matter. Attorney Brower's decades of experience makes him the ideal advocate for your family. Please contact us today at (714) 997-4400 for a consultation. 

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Friday, September 11, 2020

Golden State Killer Gets Life Sentence

Golden State Killer
The "Golden State Killer" and his heinous spree of rape and murder had been a significant focus of our attention for more than two years. Some of our readers may remember the remarkable story about the capture of Joseph James DeAngelo. You may also not forget that investigators discovered his identity using a relatively new and controversial method—genealogical triangulation.

Police investigators utilized the public DNA database GEDmatch to match crime-scene DNA; however, DeAngelo's DNA was not in the database, but a relative genetic sequence was in the system. Here's how GEDmatch works:

"People voluntarily supply their own DNA sequences that they obtain through consumer sequencing companies—such as MyHeritage and provide email addresses, which allows presumed relatives to contact each other."

Using a 37-year-old rape kit from a murder case attributed to the Golden State Killer, detectives were able to find a relative of DeAngelo, and the rest is history. Some forty years later, the Golden State Killer, aka the "Original Night Stalker," found himself behind bars. DeAngelo is thought to be responsible for at least 12 murders and 50 rapes in California.

Genetic Privacy


We have been following the DeAngelo's trial and other instances of cold cases solved through genealogical triangulation. The technique for solving crime has led to several arrests, and it's led to many concerns about genetic privacy.

Yaniv Erlich, a geneticist at Columbia University and GEDmatch chief science officer, wrote a piece on genetic privacy appearing in Nature Reviews Genetics. He cautioned that police could use public genetic databases for fishing for perpetrators. That was in 2014. Following DeAngelo's arrest four years later, when asked about people voluntarily putting their DNA data into GEDmatch, Erlich said:

"It's not like people fully understand the consequences of putting their DNA into a public database. They think, "So many people use the website, so it's OK." Or: "Oh, it's a website for genealogy." What if it was called Police Genealogy? People wouldn't do it. We don't think about everything. We think about the most likely thing."

 

Golden State Killer Sentenced to Life


In July, we shared that DeAngelo, a former police officer, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of kidnapping. The surprise admission of guilt came one day after HBO aired a six-part docuseries about the decades-long crime spree.

In August's final days, Judge Michael Bowman sentenced 74-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. to life without parole for killing 13 people and raping 50, The Los Angeles Times reports. Victims, family members, prosecutors, and some of the news reporters who covered the first of DeAngelo's crimes dating back to the 1970s were at the sentencing.

"These rapes and these murders, in the words of our victims, have cut across families, friends, generations, and entire communities," said Sacramento County Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert.

Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer


At the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower, we can help you or a loved one with a criminal matter. Attorney Brower has decades of legal experience, and his expertise can help you find a favorable outcome. Please contact us today for a consultation.

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Thursday, September 3, 2020

Ending Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System

ab-3070
The right to a trial by a jury of one's peers is sacred to Americans. Our Founding Fathers guaranteed the right in the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law."

The Sixth Amendment is meant to ensure that each of us receives a fair and impartial trial by a jury when facing criminal prosecution. The ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment extended the right to each State.

In recent years, the topic of a "jury of one's peers" has been put into question and thrust into the national spotlight. Exposés and podcasts have brought heinous violations of the law into question. Time and time again, prosecutors will use the jury selection process to their advantage, removing prospective jurors of color without cause. Both the prosecution and defense are afforded a specific number of such peremptory challenges.

Season two of the podcast In the Dark focused on the story of Curtis Flowers, who has been tried for the same murder six times in the State of Mississippi. In practically every instance, all white juries were charged with deciding Flowers' fate. He was convicted four times, and each time the convictions were overturned on appeal.

In all six trials, State District Attorney Doug Evans made efforts to exclude Black jurors. Flowers' appeals argued that Evans was discriminating against jurors of color during the selection process. Last year, the United States Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts. However, the State of Mississippi could still go after Mr. Flowers for the seventh time.
 

Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System


While the average American may not be surprised about instances of jury discrimination below the Mason Dixon line, they may find it interesting to learn that such is the case across the country. The same is true in California. In July, we shared some statistics with our readers that are concerning.

The UC Berkeley Law's Death Penalty Clinic found that California prosecutors excuse African-American jurors in about 75 percent and Latinx jurors in about 28 percent of cases. On the other hand, white jurors were excused in 0.4 percent of cases. Around the time the findings were published, lawmakers took action and introduced Assembly Bill 3070 (AB 3070).

Introduced by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), AB 3070 would limit the removal of prospective jurors without cause, The Los Angeles Times reports. The bill is meant to prevent discrimination based on:
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender and Gender Identity
  • Sexual Orientation
  • National Origin
  • Religious Affiliation
If Governor Gavin Newsom signs AB 3070 into law, the attorney who excuses a juror would have to provide a reason for the exclusion, if the opposing side calls the peremptory challenge into question. Then the presiding judge would decide if the action is discriminatory.

"This bill is about ending what has been going on for many, many years in this country, specifically the exclusion of Black and brown communities from juries, a problem that has been with us and that undermines confidence in the entire system," said Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). 

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney


Please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you or a loved one requires legal assistance. Attorney Brower has extensive experience and can help bring about a favorable outcome for your family. You can reach our office at 714-997-4400.

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