Criminal Procedure


Reasonable Moral Doubt

Emad H. Atiq

Sentencing outcomes turn on moral and evaluative determinations. For example, a finding of “irreparable corruption” is generally a precondition for juvenile life without parole. A finding that the “aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors” determines whether a defendant receives the death penalty. Should such moral determinations that expose defendants to extraordinary penalties be subject to a standard of proof? A broad range of federal and state courts have purported to decide this issue “in the abstract and without reference to our sentencing case law,” as the Supreme Court recently put it in Kansas v. Carr. According to these courts, “it would mean nothing” to ask whether the defendant “deserves mercy beyond a reasonable doubt” or “more-likely-than-not deserves it” because moral questions are not “factual.” Instead, moral determinations are highly subjective “value calls” to which concepts of doubt and certainty do not intelligibly apply.

Implicit in these rulings is a controversial view of the nature of moral judgment. This Article traces the contours of the view and argues that it is out of step with the way the broader public thinks about morality and fails to address the issues defendants have raised. Courts should avoid wading into such controversial waters for two reasons. First, the judiciary has historically maintained neutrality on issues of significant public concern. Second, even if moral determinations are not factual, applying a standard of proof to at least some moral decisions at sentencing would change the outcome of the sentencer’s deliberations and improve the legitimacy of the legal system. For the reasonableness of doubt depends on context, and moral questions—“Are you certain the defendant deserves death?”—make salient the stakes relative to which a person should decide what to believe about ordinary empirical matters. On the resulting view, reasonable doubt in the final moral analysis is not just intelligible, but essential for correcting a bias in the structure of the bifurcated criminal trial that systematically disadvantages defendants: the tendency for de-contextualized “factual findings” in the guilt phase to control outcomes at sentencing.

Lawless Surveillance

Barry Friedman

Policing agencies in the United States are engaging in mass collection of personal data, building a vast architecture of surveillance. License plate readers collect our location information. Mobile forensics data terminals suck in the contents of cell phones during traffic stops. CCTV maps our movements. Cheap storage means most of this is kept for long periods of time—sometimes into perpetuity. Artificial intelligence makes searching and mining the data a snap. For most of us whose data is collected, stored, and mined, there is no suspicion whatsoever of wrongdoing.

This growing network of surveillance is almost entirely unregulated. It is, in short, lawless. The Fourth Amendment touches almost none of it, either because what is captured occurs in public, and so is supposedly “knowingly exposed,” or because of the doctrine that shields information collected from third parties. It is unregulated by statutes because legislative bodies—when they even know about these surveillance systems—see little profit in taking on the police.

In the face of growing concern over such surveillance, this Article argues there is a constitutional solution sitting in plain view. In virtually every other instance in which personal information is collected by the government, courts require that a sound regulatory scheme be in place before information collection occurs. The rulings on the mandatory nature of regulation are remarkably similar, no matter under which clause of the Constitution collection is challenged.

This Article excavates this enormous body of precedent and applies it to the problem of government mass data collection. It argues that before the government can engage in such surveillance, there must be a regulatory scheme in place. And by changing the default rule from allowing police to collect absent legislative prohibition, to banning collection until there is legislative action, legislatures will be compelled to act (or there will be no surveillance). The Article defines what a minimally acceptable regulatory scheme for mass data collection must include and shows how it can be grounded in the Constitution.

Justice for Emerging Adults After Jones: The Rapidly Developing Use of Neuroscience to Extend Eighth Amendment Miller Protections to Defendants Ages 18 and Older

Francis X. Shen, Fenella McLuskie, Erin Shortell, Mariah Bellamoroso, Elizabeth Escalante, Brenna Evans, Ian Hayes, Clarissa Kimmey, Sarah Lagan, Madeleine Muller, Jennifer Near, Kailey Nicholson, Job Okeri, Ifeoma Okoli, Emily Rehmet, Nancy Gertner, Robert Kinscherff

Federal and state court decisions over the past year are reshaping the contours of juvenile justice litigation. At the federal level, the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Jones v. Mississippi left intact the Court’s current commitment to treating age 18 as the dividing line between youth and adult criminal sentencing. If a youth commits a crime at age 17 years, 364 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds old, that youth cannot be put to death or receive mandatory life without parole (LWOP). One second later, these constitutional protections disappear. Calling into question this line drawing, litigants across the country are actively leveraging neuroscientific research to argue that emerging adults ages 18 through early 20s should receive the same constitutional protections as those under 18. While federal courts have not been receptive to this argument, some state courts are. Groundbreaking recent cases in Washington, Illinois, and Massachusetts state courts may signal a potential path forward. In light of these many recent developments, this Essay provides the first empirical analysis of how courts are receiving the argument to raise the age for constitutional protections and introduces a publicly accessible, searchable database containing 494 such cases. The data suggest that at present, Eighth Amendment arguments to categorically extend federal Miller protections to those 18 and above are unlikely to win. At the same time, however, state constitutions and state-level policy advocacy provide a path to expand constitutional protections for emerging adults. We discuss the implications of these trends for the future use of neuroscientific evidence in litigation concerning the constitutionality of the death penalty and LWOP for emerging adults. As this litigation moves forward, we recommend further strengthening connections between litigants and the scientific and forensic communities. Whether at the state or federal level, and whether in courts or legislatures, the record should contain the most accurate and applicable neuroscience.

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 Air Was Blue with Perjury”: Police Lies and the Case For Abolition

Samuel Dunkle

Police officers lie. About nearly every aspect of their work and at every stage of the criminal legal process—in arrest paperwork, warrant affidavits, courtroom testimony, and disciplinary proceedings. The primary scholarly account of police perjury frames the problem as one that emerged largely after the Supreme Court decided Mapp v. Ohio, which made the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule applicable in state criminal proceedings. But a gap exists in the literature, one this Note seeks to fill: Scholars have neglected to consider whether, and to what extent, police lied before Mapp. By reaching into the historical record, this Note uncovers a rich tradition of rank perjury dating back to the origins of modern policing.

Building on the insight that police have lied for as long as police have existed, this Note sketches an abolitionist framework for police perjury. A structural understanding better accounts for the fact that police lies legitimate police power and figure prominently in two other features of modern policing—racialization and violence. In offering a new framework to understand the perjury problem, this Note joins the growing chorus of scholars, organizers, and activists calling for defunding and dismantling the police.

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.

Populist Prosecutorial Nullification

W. Kerrel Murray

No one doubts that prosecutors may sometimes decline prosecution notwithstanding factual guilt. Everyone expects prosecutors to prioritize enforcement based on resource limitation and, occasionally, to decline prosecution on a case-by-case basis when they deem justice requires it. Recently, however, some state prosecutors have gone further, asserting the right to refuse categorically to enforce certain state laws. Examples include refusals to seek the death penalty and refusals to prosecute prostitution or recreational drug use. When may a single actor render inert her state’s democratically enacted law in this way? If the answer is anything other than “never,” the vast reach of American state criminal law demands a pertinent framework for ascertaining legitimacy.

In offering one, this Article provides the first extended analysis of the normative import of the locally elected status of the state prosecutors who make such pledges. If legitimacy is the problem, local elections can be the solution. That is, there may well be something suspect about unilateral prosecutorial negation of democratically enacted law. Yet that same negation can be justified as distinctly democratic when the elected prosecutor can wrap it in popular sanction.

This Article first unspools a once-robust American tradition of localized, populist nonenforcement of criminal law, best seen in jury nullification. It then draws upon democratic theory to construct a normative basis for reviving that tradition in the context of state prosecutors’ categorical nonenforcement. These moves uncover a before-now unappreciated connection: At least where the prosecutor ties her categorical nullification to the polity’s electorally expressed will, she accomplishes wholesale what nullifying juries could once do retail. I thus dub that wholesale action “populist prosecutorial nullification.” Building upon that analogy and my normative analysis, I set out a novel framework for evaluating state prosecutors’ categorical nonenforcement that is keyed to the concept of localized popular will, while accounting for populism’s well-known downsides.

Delay in the Shadow of Death

Lee Kovarsky

There is a widely held belief that, in order to delay executions, American death-row prisoners strategically defer litigation until the eleventh hour. After all, the logic goes, the incentives for prisoners who face the death penalty differ from those who do not. Noncapital prisoners typically try to move the terminal point of a sentence (release) forward, and capital prisoners typically try to push that point (execution) back. This theory of litigant behavior—what I call the “Strategic Delay Account,” or the “SDA”—underwrites an extraordinarily harsh institutional response. It primes courts to discount real constitutional grievances and to punish participating lawyers, and it spurs legislatures to restrict crucial remedies.

In this Article, I explain that the SDA inaccurately describes condemned prisoner behavior, both because it assumes a non-existent incentive structure and because it ignores the major structural causes of delayed litigation. First, deferred litigation is risky, and fortune disfavors the bold. Procedural doctrines that operate across post-conviction law strongly incentivize the promptest conceivable presentation of claims. Second, prisoners often omit challenges from early rounds of litigation not because they have done so strategically, but instead because some claims are inherently incapable of being asserted at that time. Third, the volume of end-stage litigation reflects the comprehensive failure of American jurisdictions to provide adequate legal services; condemned prisoners are often functionally unrepresented from the moment early-stage proceedings conclude until the state sets an execution date.

1 2 3 6