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February 16th, 2010
06:00 PM ET

94-yr.-old man dies of natural causes on death row

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(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Something is very wrong when a 94-year-old man dies on death row.

The oldest inmate in the U.S. on death row died of natural causes in Arizona - according to the state's department of corrections. A lawyer for Viva Leroy Nash says the man had been imprisoned almost his entire life since he was 15 years old.

Consider his history:

  • Nash was sent to prison as far back as 1930 for an armed robbery
  • He then served time for shooting a police officer
  • He was sentenced to two life sentences for a robbery and murder
  • He escaped from prison and went on to kill again; later being convicted of first-degree murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault and theft

What a guy. Nash was sentenced to death in 1983 - 27 years ago - during which time he filed several unsuccessful appeals.

Nash's lawyer says the inmate was deaf, mostly blind, and had dementia. He insists Nash was mentally ill for decades - which should have kept him off death row.

Just imagine how much this has cost the American taxpayers.

It's estimated that death row inmates typically spend more than a decade awaiting execution with some prisoners, like Nash, remaining on death row for over 20 years.

What's more, the population on death row is aging, in part because of how long the appeals process takes.

Some experts question the constitutionality of the extra punishment of holding these inmates on death row for such extended periods of time.

Here’s my question to you: What does it say about the criminal justice system when a 94-year-old man dies of natural causes on death row?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

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Filed under: Crime and Punishment
October 29th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Should people who witness a crime face jail for failing to report it?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

California police now say as many as 20 people were present at the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl outside a high school homecoming dance last weekend. 10 people were involved in an assault in a back alley at the school that went on for more than two-and-a-half hours. 10 people stood around and watched without calling 9-1-1 to report it. Police say some witnesses took photos, while others laughed.

Police say a student at Richmond High School was gang raped outside during a homecoming dance.

Police say a student at Richmond High School was gang raped outside during a homecoming dance.

California law makes it illegal not to report a crime against a child, but the cutoff is 14-years-old. Since the victim in this case is 15, cops say they can't arrest the spectators. The law needs to be changed immediately.

Meanwhile this horrific rape of a young girl follows that brutal beating death caught on video of a 16-year-old honor student in Chicago.

That case has been hampered by the refusal of witnesses to come forward. These kids in Chicago also stood by and watched this teenager murdered - beaten to death in broad daylight - and did nothing.

Experts say the reason crimes aren't reported could be a social phenomenon known as "the bystander effect" that means the larger the number of people involved in any situation, the less will get done...

One famous case happened in New York in the 1960s - where people watched or heard a serial killer rape, rob and murder a woman named Kitty Genovese. At the time, one witness said: "I didn't want to be involved."

Here’s my question to you: Should people who witness a crime, like the gang rape of a 15-year-old California girl, face jail for failing to report it?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Crime and Punishment
October 14th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Crime a greater threat to your well-being than a year ago?

Three-quarters of Americans say there is more crime in the U.S. than there was a year ago. Gallup's annual crime poll shows this is the highest level since the early 1990s. The poll also finds 51-percent of Americans say there is more crime in their local area than a year ago.

The official crime statistics won't be released until next year. But it's worth noting that during difficult economic times - it's not uncommon for crime to increase. And even though the statistics aren't out yet - it seems like stories about crime and violence are everywhere these days:

Making national headlines, there was the brutal beating death of a 16-year-old honor student in Chicago... which was only one example of an epidemic of murders of young people in that city.

  • Not far from Chicago - In Joliet, Illinois - where shootings and murders are up from last year - some people are afraid to come out of their homes.
  • In Washington, D.C. - Two teens were killed and three others were wounded yesterday. Police think it was a drive-by shooting possibly motivated by an ongoing dispute between rival neighborhoods.
  • And In Deerfield, Florida - police say five juveniles are in custody after a 15-year-old was set on fire after being doused in rubbing alcohol. A couple of these kids were even seen laughing about it.

Here’s my question to you: Is crime a greater threat to your well-being than it was a year ago?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: crime • Crime and Punishment
June 4th, 2009
06:00 PM ET

Should cities like Chicago be allowed to ban handguns?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

A Chicago law banning handguns and automatic weapons within city limits has been upheld. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge by the National Rifle Association. This will probably set the stage for a Supreme Court battle over whether the Second Amendment's protections for gun owners extend to state and city laws.

Last year, the Supreme Court said the right to keep and bear arms protects an individual's right to have a gun for self-defense. Before then, many judges had said the amendment only protected the right of states to have a militia. At the time, the high court's ruling struck down a handgun ban in D.C. But the justices didn't say whether the same rules applied to the rest of the country.

Chicago's law, which has been in effect since 1982, allows ownership of rifles, but they must be registered every year with the police. Concealed weapons, semi-automatic and automatic weapons aren't allowed. There are some exceptions for members of the military and law enforcement agencies.

Gun rights advocates say the next step is an appeal to the Supreme Court, while the city of Chicago says it's prepared to defend its ordinance.

Meanwhile, the high court won't consider an appeal until the fall. By then, Sonia Sotomayor might be one of the justices considering the case. In January, she joined a three-judge panel in New York that came to the same conclusion as the Chicago case.

Here’s my question to you: Should cities like Chicago be allowed to ban handguns?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Crime and Punishment
March 3rd, 2009
06:00 PM ET

How can U.S. reduce prison population?

How can U.S. reduce prison population?

America's prison population has increased 274% over the last 25 years. (PHOTO CREDIT: MIKE SIMONS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

7.3 million people in the U.S. were in jail, prison, probation or parole in 2007. That translates to one in every 31 adults in this country in the corrections system. This is very, very expensive.

The Pew Center is out with a report showing that America's prison population skyrocketed in the last 25 years, increasing 274%. We now have the highest incarceration rate and the biggest prison population of any country in the world. But we're a long way from solving the crime problem, and with the economy getting dramatically worse, look for crime to go up even more.

The report also shows blacks are more likely than whites or Hispanics- and men are 5 times more likely than women- to be in the corrections system. Southern states have higher correctional rates than other parts of the country, with Georgia topping the list.

The Pew Center says that it's choices in state policy that lead to having more people in prison - and that Southern states choose to give out longer sentences and put more people behind bars.

Also, the record prison population is getting more and more expensive for taxpayers. At the state level spending on corrections systems ranks second only to Medicaid. One expert says prison costs 22 times more than community-based corrections and suggests that states focus on supervising people with technologies like ankle bracelets or GPS.

Here’s my question to you: What should be done to reduce America's prison population?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Crime and Punishment
February 10th, 2009
02:11 PM ET

Releasing prison inmates to save tax dollars?

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

A California court says the state has to reduce its prison population by as many as 57,000 inmates within three years. That's more than one-third of the nation's largest prison population.

Releasing prison inmates to save tax dollars?

California prisons house nearly 173,000 inmates.

The panel of three judges ruled the state could do this by shortening sentences, limiting new admissions, sending nonviolent felons to county programs, reforming parole and giving early releases for good behavior. They say these options would not harm public safety. Not sure how they came to that conclusion, but anyway.

By keeping the system at more than 150,000 - which is double capacity - the panel says inmates are not receiving a level of medical and mental health care that's guaranteed by the Constitution.

California's attorney general is already vowing to appeal the ruling, saying it goes against public safety and that they will appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the panel of judges cites Governor Schwarzenegger's support for prison reforms. He has said this would reduce the prison population by about 40,000 inmates.

Perhaps more importantly, state budgets around the country are strapped for cash in these tough economic times and the court says California would save between $800 and $900 million a year by doing this. They say some of that money could go to local groups that would work with inmates put on parole or probation.

Here’s my question to you: Should state prison inmates be released as a way of saving taxpayer dollars?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Crime and Punishment • US Prisons
February 5th, 2009
06:00 PM ET

Good idea to collect DNA from shoplifting suspects?

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Washington State is considering a bill that would require DNA samples from shoplifting suspects. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Suspects in Washington State arrested for crimes like shoplifting or driving with a suspended license might soon be forced to give a DNA sample.

The state is considering a bill that would require these samples before the suspect is even charged with a crime. More than a dozen states already allow this - and two others are considering similar proposals.

Under Washington's bill, anyone arrested for a gross misdemeanor or felony would be forced to give a DNA sample. It would be stored at the state crime lab and destroyed if no charges were filed or the person was found not guilty.

Supporters say collecting DNA helps solve crimes – that it would make it easier for law enforcement to close cases and also to free those who have been falsely accused. One murder victim's mother praised the bill, saying DNA "helps us protect the innocent and catch the bad guys."

But Critics say the proposal enables unwarranted searches and would elevate those arrested for less serious crimes into the same category as violent convicts. Criminal defense groups and the ACLU are calling the bill unconstitutional – violating the right against unreasonable search and seizure.

It's estimated the program would cost $1 million over two years. And one lawmaker says although he likes the bill, he doesn't think now is the right time to pass it because of the state's money problems.

Here’s my question to you: Should states be allowed to collect DNA samples from suspects arrested for shoplifting?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST