Change in Laws

Change in Laws

Two Months On, “Campus Carry” Goes Off in Georgia Without a Hitch

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Updated 8/28/17

Original story posted 7/2/17

A new “campus carry” bill became valid as of July 1st in the state of Georgia, and while the law was expected to cause some level of controversy, university students seem to have accepted the new law for the most part. For example, a forum organized by Augusta University on Tuesday, August 29th to discuss the new law was only attended by one person. In the wake of that news, the university’s chief of police James C. Lyon noted that he actually hasn’t fielded a single call from fears concerning the new bill, despite initial worries that it would cause controversy.

Georgia House Bill 280 allows people to carry a concealed weapon at public colleges and universities in the state. The bill requires that only those with a state weapons license can carry, and the state emphasized that to acquire a license, you still need to be older than 21, submit your fingerprints and pass a background check. The bill also prohibits concealed weapons from being carried into athletic venues, student housing, faculty offices and areas where high school students are present. With regard to the athletic venue prohibition, due to the popular football atmosphere in the state, the bill allows for concealed carry to happen in venue parking lots, as the practice of tailgating is especially common in the state.

While the bill didn’t generate much public grassroots actions, you can find supporters and critics among the individuals. For example, Earl Kang, a graduate student at the University of Georgia, says that there has always been a concern over someone breaking the law in a campus setting, so “campus carry will give us an opportunity to defend ourselves if necessary.” Betty Leigh Miller, a parent of a university student, also supports the bill, defining her position as such: “In the world we’re living in and everything that’s happening right now, the more people that can stop things from happening the better.” On the other side of the aisle, parent Nag Bondada expressed their worry succinctly: “It’s a distraction. You came here for learning, not for carrying arms, right?”

The main point of debate over the bill has centered around whether campus police could be trusted enough to stop a threat on their own. Despite this new allowance for civilian students to carry a weapon, campus police departments are doing their part to educate for the purpose of avoiding misunderstandings in the future. Chief Lyon says that Augusta University is developing a training program for their students and staff in the near future in order to get them more familiar with how to use their weapons properly and how to react to someone who has a concealed weapon on them. Augusta University Dean of Student Life Scott Wallace notes that the administration is modeling most of its policy on the ones implemented by universities in Texas and Colorado, who also have campus carry laws. “Other states have done this. We’re not trailblazers, in the state of Georgia, for this topic,” Wallace concedes.

Justice Department to Stop Using Private Prisons

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FILE – In this July 16, 2015, file photo, President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma which is operated by the Bureau of Prisons. Evan Vucci / AP

The federal government began using private prison contractors in 1997 as the inmate population expanded rapidly. They now house about 12 percent of the total federal inmate population.

States that rely on private prison contractors are not affected by the Justice Department’s move. The private corrections industry is now a $3.3 billion a year business.

Related:

Obama Commutes Sentences of 61 Prisoners

“Private prisons served an important role,” Yates said in responding to the rapid rise in the inmate population. “But time has shown that they compare poorly to our own Bureau facilities.” And she said with the number of inmates now dropping, there’s less need for using outside contractors.

“This decline in the prison population means that we can better allocate our resources to ensure that inmates are in the safest facilities and receiving the best rehabilitative services – services that increase their chances of becoming contributing members of their communities when they return from prison,” she wrote in a blog post explaining the decision.

The Inspector General report found that contract prisons had 28 percent more assaults by inmates on other inmates, per capita, and more than twice as many cases of inmates assaulting prison staff.

Source: NBC News

State Supreme Court Strikes Down Delaware’s Death Penalty Law

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By a 3-2 margin, the Delaware Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional the state’s death penalty law, because it allows a presiding judge to disregard a jury’s recommendation on whether the death penalty should be imposed. The state’s high court held that violates the Sixth Amendment’s right to a jury trial.

The Delaware ruling follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s most recent ruling on capital punishment, Hurst v. Florida, which in January held, by an 8-1 margin, that a similar Florida law was unconstitutional, since the Sixth Amendment requires juries, not judges, be the ultimate decision makers on a criminal defendant’s guilt and punishment.

The 148-page Delaware decision, released August 1, came in a challenge to the state’s law on deliberations in capital punishment cases. The challenge was brought on behalf of Benjamin Rauf, a Temple Law School graduate accused of murdering a classmate.

Before the Supreme Court’s Hurst decision, Florida allowed executions when a separate proceeding after conviction found the death sentence justified. In that hearing, the jury provided an advisory sentence, with only a majority vote needed to recommend capital punishment, but the sentencing judge could accept or reject the jury’s advice. After Hurst’s trial, the jury recommended the death penalty by a 7-5 margin.

After the Supreme Court invalidated Florida’s procedures, that state suspended executions, leaving up in the air the fate of nearly 400 Death Row inmates in the state, while the state legislature sought to revise state law to address the Supreme Court’s objections.

In March, the legislature passed, and Gov. Rick Scott signed, a bill which removed a sentencing judge’s ability to overturn a jury’s recommendation on the death penalty, and raised the required vote for a jury calling for the death sentence from a simple majority to at least 10-2 in favor.

Of the 31 states allowing death sentences, Alabama was the only state besides Delaware and Florida that gave judges, rather than juries, the final decision on the death penalty. Shortly after handing down the Hurst decision, an Alabama inmate claimed that state’s death penalty deliberation procedures had the same flaw as did the Florida law.

Since then, at least one Alabama judge has found the state’s law unconstitutional, and — if not resolved by state courts — the issue could make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Florida, despite its revamped death penalty deliberation law, could also find itself defending the new statute before the Supreme Court. The Hurst decision did not address the constitutionality of allowing a less than unanimous jury to hand down a death sentence, but opponents of capital punishment have long wanted to interest the Supreme Court in taking up that issue.

In addition, two of the Supreme Court’s current eight members have written in favor of taking up the question of whether the death sentence inherently violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

And as public opinion polls show ever-dwindling majorities supporting capital punishment, for the first time ever, the Democratic Party’s national platform this year pledges to abolish capital punishment.

Christopher Zoukis is the author of College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Co., 2014) and Prison Education Guide (Prison Legal News Publishing, 2016). He can be found online at ChristopherZoukis.com, PrisonEducation.com and PrisonLawBlog.com

Source: Huff Post Crime

Social Media and Free Speech

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Social media is platform for many things, both bad and good. However, when someone threatens another person it becomes more than simply a hateful post on Facebook. However, the Supreme Court decided that threats made via social media must show that the person making the threats truly had intent to hurt someone.

Supreme Court Allows Teacher’s to Testify in Child Abuse Cases

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One of the hardest things for prosecutors and defense attorney’s alike is having very young children testify.  If they are victims of child abuse or child sexual abuse, this makes the situation all the more difficult, especially for the child.

Supreme Court Rules that Police Officers Cannot Prolong Traffic Stops for K-9’s to Search Vehicles

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K-9 Officers and their handlers have proven to be very effective in the field for finding drugs and other contraband, however, some officers have been known to use the dogs hit for or not they have a suspicion as to whether the person they have stopped actually has any drugs in their vehicle.  Many people have been detained unnecessarily by officers who want to run a dog around the car hoping that they get a hit for drugs.

Supreme Court Guts Voting Rights Act of 1965

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In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law.  This law was instrumental part of the Civil Rights movement.  The law prohibited discrimination on the base of race with regard to the right to vote.  The law was designed to strengthen the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution with regard to civil rights and a citizens right to vote.