Tuesday, May 20, 2014

911 texting has begun, but can the text messages be used as evidence?

As of last Thursday 5/15/14, major U.S. cell phone carriers support text messaging to 911 dispatch. Most call centers across the country are not equipped the handle the messages but, interestingly, Maine’s have been ready since last summer. The FCC site links to this document showing where you can text 911.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tolan v. Cotton, SCOTUS reverses summary judgment for cop who shot pro baseball player

Monday was an interesting day at the U.S. Supreme Court. The court approved of a local government opening official business with an explicitly religious ceremony, the judges refused to hear a highly anticipated challenge to a New Jersey law that severely limits gun rights, but for my money the most interesting story comes from Tolan v. Cotton. The case tells a bizarre tale of how police came to shoot and nearly kill a professional baseball player, in front of his parents, while mistakenly believing that he had stolen his own car.[Read More at the Portland Press Herald].... 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Maine's OUI / DUI look-back will not be extended beyond 10 years

Maine's legislature will not extend the OUI look-back to 15 years
Read my latest post at the Portland Press Herald site: Legislative committee rejects 15 year OUI look-back. From the article:
Second, third and subsequent OUI offenses have serious mandatory minimum sentences in Maine. Current law “looks back” 10 years to count prior convictions within that period. While the sentencing judge can consider older offenses, they don’t change the mandatory minimum penalties. In its original form, LD 1729 would have increased the look-back period from 10 to 15 years. Amendments to the bill eliminated that increase....[Read more]

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Meet Maine's newest crime: "Improper Contact"

This is where they make laws
On March 16, 2014 Governor LePage signed LD 1656 into law and created a new crime in Maine. It’s called “Improper Contact” and it’s an awkward fix for an unintended consequence of an unnecessary change to Maine’s bail code. I wrote before about LD 1656. You can read this post for more about how bail works in Maine.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Samuel Ford v. U.S: SCOTUS applies Burrage to vacate a life sentence

In its 2/24/14 list of orders, the U.S. Supreme Court summarily disposed of three criminal cases. One of them was Samuel Ford v. United States. Ford was convicted of selling heroin which caused the death of a man named Joseph Scolaro. Since Ford had a prior felony drug conviction, the mandatory minimum sentence under 841(b)(1)(C) was life in prison. Without further briefing or argument, the Supreme Court granted cert, applied the rule announced in Burrage v. U.S. and vacated the conviction.

You can read my post about the case on the Portland Press Herald site.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jeffrey Cookson v. Maine: Head in the Sand, DNA Evidence in the Trash

Maine postconviction DNA testing Cookson v. State of Maine
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court decided Jeffrey Cookson v. State of Maine on 2/18/14. Their decision will prevent DNA testing of evidence which might show that the wrong man is in prison while a killer remains at large. The court gives a unique interpretation of Maine's chain of custody law and while it prevents testing for Cookson, it might help other defendants who challenge the prosecution's evidence at trial.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Walter Scott Fox, Fixture in Portland Sailing, Guilty of $14m Fraud

Scott Fox pleads to $14m bank fraud
Walter Scott Fox III, better known as Scott Fox, was a fixture in the Portland sailing community for at least the last 20 years. The 56 year old was a longtime member of the Portland Yacht Club, owner of expensive racing sailboats, and a great advocate of junior racing.

He owned The Boathouse, a boating supply store in Falmouth's Handyboat complex where he appeared to do a good business of outfitting junior sailors with racing dinghies and associated gear. Scott Fox looked to be a successful businessman and a role model for the many youth that he helped support. As it turns out, his whole life was built on a fraudulent loan scheme that ran from 1995 to 2012 and netted Fox about $14,000,000.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Burrage v. U.S.: Trafficked Drug must be But-For Cause of Death

Burrage v. United States, supreme court rules in defendant's favor
On 1/27/14 the United States Supreme Court decided Burrage v. United States. The opinion limits the use of a Federal drug trafficking sentencing enhancement for cases where the drug user dies. The decision considers one specific statute, but it has lot to say about legal causation in general. In the end, the high court unanimously rejects the criminal causation rule used by Maine and a handful of other states.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Harmless Error at the Portland Press Herald

Harmless Error blog is now on the Portland press Herald website: http://www.pressherald.com/blogs/harmlesserror

I will be posting there at least twice a week. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Marijuana Trial to Begin for Malcolm French, Rodney Russell & Kendall Chase

This week, one of the largest marijuana busts in Maine history will go to trial in Bangor federal court. Malcolm French, Rodney Russell and Kendall Chase, all businessmen in their 50s, are accused in a marijuana trafficking conspiracy involving thousands of marijuana plants worth some $9 million. The indictment alleges that from 2006 to 2009, the men ran an outdoor marijuana grow of at least 1000 plants in rural Washington County Maine. Federal law mandates a minimum prison sentence of 10 years and a maxim sentence of life.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Bond v. United States: Infidelity, Chemical War, and a RadioLab Podcast

Bond v. United States Chemical Weapon Symbol
Bond v. United States has been to the U.S. Supreme Court twice now. Round one resolved a standing issue and the latest argument dealt with the merits of the case. Bond asks whether there are limits on the way federal criminal liability can be expanded when congress enacts treaties and legislation to enforce them. The defendant was sent to federal prison for violating an international chemical weapons ban when she tried to get revenge on her husband's lover.