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Doubling Down: Inconsistent Prosecutions, Capital Punishment, and Double Jeopardy

Vedan Anthony-North

There is a practice among prosecutors whereby they pursue incompatible theories
of a case against two or more defendants for criminal behavior for which, factually,
only one defendant can be culpable. While it’s difficult to determine just how fre-
quently these arguments are made, at least twenty-nine people have been con-
demned to death in cases where the defense has alleged inconsistencies, and seven
of those twenty-nine people have been executed. Situations like these cut against our
moral and ethical understanding of fairness and of justice; these arguments operate
in a world detached from reality, where factually singular acts can have multiple
agents, prosecutors are not accountable to a consistent narrative, and factfinders are
asked to make ultimate determinations of death based on factual impossibilities.
But finding ways to challenge the practice has, frustratingly, fallen short in pro-
viding legal relief to the condemned.

This Note looks beyond the due process and Eighth Amendment arguments against
this practice that have not provided fertile ground for protecting criminal defen-
dants from this type of vindictive approach to sentencing. Instead, this Note makes
a normative argument that the history of the Fifth Amendment’s Double Jeopardy
Clause, along with civil law principles of collateral estoppel that have been incorpo-
rated into the criminal law through the Clause, and protections against vindictive
sentencing practices that undergird the Clause bars this practice. In other words,
this Note argues that double jeopardy preclusion principles bar prosecutors from
relitigating issues of ultimate culpability in successive cases. This solution draws on
the Supreme Court’s only consideration of this issue
—Bradshaw v. Stumpf—which
makes an analytical distinction between the consequences of this practice on convic-
tion and consequences on sentencing.

The Racial Injustice and Political Process Failure of Prosecutorial Malapportionment

Michael Milov-Cordoba

District attorneys are responsible for the vast majority of criminal prosecutions in the United States, and most of them are elected by the public from prosecutorial
districts. Yet these districts are massively malapportioned, giving rural, dispropor-
tionately white voters significantly more voting power over their district attorneys
than urban voters, who are more likely to be voters of color. At the same time, our
district attorney system is characterized by the sorts of political process failures that
both triggered the Supreme Court’s Apportionment Revolution—requiring that leg-
islative and executive districts comply with one-person, one-vote—and justify judi-
cial intervention in other voting rights contexts. This Note argues that extending
one-person, one-vote to prosecutorial districts would meaningfully address
prosecutorial political process failure and have a number of salutary effects on our
democracy: It would rebalance the distribution of voters’ influence over district
attorneys, producing salutary downstream effects on our criminal justice system; it
may increase challenger rates, leading to healthier levels of prosecutorial demo-
cratic competition; and it would further core democratic norms, including respect
for the equal dignity of voters.

Police Quotas

Shaun Ossei-Owusu

The American public is slowly recognizing the criminal justice system’s deep defects. Mounting visual evidence of police brutality and social protests are generating an appetite for something different. How to change this system is still an open question. People across the political spectrum vary in their conceptions of the pressing problems and how to solve them. Interestingly, there is one consequential and overlooked area of the criminal justice system where there is broad consensus: police quotas.

Police quotas are formal and informal measures that require police officers to issue a particular number of citations or make a certain number of arrests. Although law enforcement leadership typically denies implementing quotas, courts, legislators, and officers have all confirmed the existence of this practice and linked it to odious criminal justice problems such as racial profiling, policing for profit, and overcriminalization. These problems have led legislators in many states to implement statutory prohibitions on quotas. Some of these statutes are of recent vintage and others are decades old. Nevertheless, these prohibitions and their attendant litigation have escaped sustained analytical scrutiny. Legal scholars typically overlook police quotas, subsume them within other categories (e.g., broken windows policing), or give pat acknowledgment of their existence without explaining how they work.

This Article corrects these omissions and makes two arguments. First, it contends that police quotas are a significant but undertheorized feature of criminal law and procedure. Quotas make police rewards and sanctions significant features of punishment in ways that can trump criminal offending and pervert due process principles. Second, it argues that quota-based policing is a unique area where there is widespread agreement and possibilities for change. Liberals, libertarians, conservatives, police officers, police unions, and racial minorities have all criticized police quotas. These vastly different constituents have argued that quotas distort police discretion and produce unnecessary police-civilian interactions. This Article supplements these arguments with a novel descriptive, statutory, and jurisprudential account of police quotas in the United States. It offers a framework for under- standing the arguments for and objections to quotas, and proposes some normative strategies that could build on statutory and litigation successes.

The Peter Parker Problem

W. David Ball

Sandra Mayson, in her article Dangerous Defendants, points out the ways in which pretrial detention on the basis of public safety risk violates the “parity principle”—a measure of decisionmaking fairness that evaluates whether individuals of like risk are treated alike. As Mayson convincingly argues, if public safety risk is what justifies detention of those who have been arrested, it should also justify preventative detention of similarly risky people who remain in the community at large. In other words, merely having a person in custody does not logically change the analysis of the risk they present or what should be done with them.

In this Article, I argue that psychological factors, not assessments of risk, can explain why the parity principle is violated. A person in custody and a person in the community may present the same level of public safety risk, but the human brain typically uses heuristics, not calculations, to make decisions. Our brains want to minimize losses and regret. Whenever something bad happens, our brains automatically generate counterfactuals—the “if only I had done X” hypotheticals that allow us to imagine (and believe in) a world where tragedy would have been avoided. Counterfactuals that eliminate harm are easy to generate when someone is in custody, but hard to generate when someone is at large, and our brains conflate ease of generation with real-world probability. Counterfactuals, then, may help explain why the pretrial, public safety default seems to be to keep someone locked up, “just in case”—and why this desire is resistant to information and argument.

This Article adds an important dimension to the ongoing debates about whether judicial discretion or actuarial tools should govern pretrial release decisions. Judicial discretion may be biased towards incapacitation by operating on the “gut level” of psychology—even if the harms of detention outweigh the benefits. Across the United States, jails contain thousands of prisoners who could be released safely, who could resume work and the rest of their lives, but who remain incarcerated because of the fear that one of them might commit a sensational crime. The insights of this Article may also apply more generally to a host of similar problems, including parole release, executive clemency, diversion programs, and the removal of children from potentially abusive parents, and suggest that policymakers and reformers be cognizant of the way in which current criminal justice thinking is short-sighted, overly reactive, and biased towards incapacitation. By applying theories of the counterfactual proposed by Neal Roese and other behavioral psychologists, the Article provides an explanation for why, even when regulations change, judicial decisions to release arrestees may remain low. It suggests that experimental research specifically targeting judicial counterfactual thinking should be conducted.

Restoring the Historical Rule of Lenity as a Canon

Shon Hopwood

In criminal law, the venerated rule of lenity has been frequently, if not consistently, invoked as a canon of interpretation. Where criminal statutes are ambiguous, the rule of lenity generally posits that courts should interpret them narrowly, in favor of the defendant. But the rule is not always reliably used, and questions remain about its application. In this article, I will try to determine how the rule of lenity should apply and whether it should be given the status of a canon.

First, I argue that federal courts should apply the historical rule of lenity (also known as the rule of strict construction of penal statutes) that applied prior to the 1970s, when the Supreme Court significantly weakened the rule. The historical rule requires a judge to consult the text, linguistic canons, and the structure of the statute and then, if reasonable doubts remain, interpret the statute in the defendant’s favor. Conceived this way, the historical rule cuts off statutory purpose and legislative history from the analysis, and places a thumb on the scale in favor of interpreting statutory ambiguities narrowly in relation to the severity of the punishment that a statute imposes. As compared to the modern version of the rule of lenity, the historical rule of strict construction better advances democratic accountability, protects individual liberty, furthers the due process principle of fair warning, and aligns with the modified version of textualism practiced by much of the federal judiciary today.

Second, I argue that the historical rule of lenity should be deemed an interpretive canon and given stare decisis effect by all federal courts. If courts consistently applied historical lenity, it would require more clarity from Congress and less guessing from courts, and it would ameliorate some of the worst excesses of the federal criminal justice system, such as overcriminalization and overincarceration.

The Case Against Criminalizing Homelessness: Functional Barriers to Shelters and Homeless Individuals’ Lack of Choice

Joy H. Kim

In 2018, the Ninth Circuit ruled in Martin v. City of Boise that the city’s ordinance criminalizing individuals for sleeping or camping outdoors in public space—an increasingly popular method for cities to regulate the homeless—is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause. Martin was not the first case in which a court struck down an anti-homeless ordinance under the Eighth Amendment. However, it was the first to deem it unconstitutional for a city to punish a homeless person for sleeping outside when shelters are not “practically available,” even if they technically have available beds. The court in Martin said the shelters at issue were not practically available because they were religiously coercive. This Note argues, however, that courts reviewing criminalization measures should consider whether shelters are practically available to homeless individuals for reasons beyond religious coercion. Many functional barriers to shelter deprive homeless individuals of a meaningful choice, and the Eighth Amendment prevents governments from punishing individuals for matters beyond their control. Courts should make individualized inquiries when considering the constitutionality of criminalization measures to assess whether individuals experiencing homelessness truly have a meaningful “choice” in sleeping outside. However, the constitutional infirmities behind criminalization measures, the highly factual inquiries required of courts to determine their constitutionality, and their exacerbation of homelessness underscore the need for cities to stop criminalizing homelessness.

Revisiting Hate Crimes Enhancements in the Shadow of Mass Incarceration

Shirin Sinnar, Beth A. Colgan

Although civil rights advocates have largely supported hate crimes laws over the last four decades, growing concern over mass incarceration is now leading some to question the focus on enhancing prison sentences. This Essay explores two alternatives to the traditional sentence enhancement model that might retain the expressive message of hate crimes laws—to convey society’s particular condemnation of crimes of bias—while relying less heavily on police and prisons: the reformation of victim compensation programs to help victims and targeted communities and the application of restorative justice processes to hate crimes. Each of these alternatives presents complications, but both offer sufficient potential to justify further exploration.

Anti-Segregation Policing

Monica C. Bell

Conversations about police reform in lawmaking and legal scholarship typically take a narrow view of the multiple, complex roles that policing plays in American society, focusing primarily on their techniques of crime control. This Article breaks from that tendency, engaging police reform from a sociological perspective that focuses instead on the noncriminal functions of policing. In particular, it examines the role of policing in the daily maintenance of racial residential segregation, one of the central strategies of American racial inequality. Unlike previous work that touches on these issues, this Article argues that police reformers and police leaders should adopt an anti-segregation approach to policing. It also offers legal frameworks and policy prescriptions that flow from an anti-segregation ethic in police governance.

This Article begins by setting forth a rich account of residential segregation, clarifying the distinction between easily measurable proxies for segregation and the type of segregation with which law and policy should be concerned: the spatial separation that confines, subordinates, and dominates. It then identifies and illustrates six mechanisms through which American policing perpetuates residential segregation, drawing from sociological research, including qualitative narratives collected in Dallas County, Texas; Cuyahoga County, Ohio; and Baltimore, Maryland. Next, the Article sketches the architecture of anti-segregation policing, offering legal frameworks based on fair housing law and federal and state consent decrees, as well as a non-exhaustive set of practical approaches police departments could take to advance an anti-segregation agenda. Finally, the Article engages a fundamental question central to police transformation movements today: Is meaningful police reform, including anti-segregation policing, possible in a society that is structured through race?

Race Decriminalization and Criminal Legal System Reform

Michael Pinard

There is emerging consensus that various components of the criminal legal system have gone too far in capturing and punishing masses of Black men, women, and children. This evolving recognition has helped propel important and pathbreaking criminal legal reforms in recent years, with significant bipartisan support. These reforms have targeted the criminal legal system itself. They strive to address the pain inflicted by the system. However, by concerning themselves solely with the criminal legal system, these reforms do not confront the reality that Black men, women, and children will continue to be devastatingly overrepresented in each stitch of the system. As a result, these reforms do not reach deeply enough. They do not address or confront the reality that simply being Black has been and will continue to be criminalized.

This Article asserts that measures beyond these reforms—measures that reach the root of racial criminalization—are necessary for true criminal legal system transformation.

 

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