Follow by Email

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Video Of 12 Year Old Accused Of Murder

Click here: Video - Breaking News Videos from CNN.com_
this happened a few miles from in PA

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rodney Hulin 16, Died In Texas Prison:

Rodney Hulin 16, Died In Texas Prison: He Had Been Raped & Beaten Repeatedly

http://www.cfcameri php?option= com_content& view=article& id=58:if- i-get-out- alive-children- sentenced- to-adult- jails&catid= 11:teens- children& Itemid=14

Teen Sex Offender Issues in the United States
Dad, I'm really scared.
Scared that I will die in here.
-- Rodney Hulin, 16, writing to his father from an adult prison in Texas.
Every day in prisons across the United States, kids are fighting for their lives.
They're locked in mortal combat with adult criminals who are bigger, stronger, meaner and
much tougher. Some kids will survive,
and come out of prison with all the mean, tough survival skills that prison life teaches. Some
kids won't.
Rodney Hulin didn't.
Sixteen years old, Rodney Hulin was beaten and raped so often in a Texas adult prison that
he hung himself in his cell. He lay in a coma for four months, and finally died. Rodney Hulin is
not alone.
IF I GET OUT ALIVE is a one-hour radio documentary, which exposes the systematic abuse
and brutality faced by juveniles in the adult prison system. It is narrated by Academy
Award-winning actress and child advocate Diane Keaton. The program addresses first-hand
accounts from adolescents currently behind bars, rehabilitated youths who survived the system,
parents of children who died in adult prisons, legal experts, policy makers and correction
1 / 4
Teen Sex Offender Issues in the United States
officers. The program also addresses the abysmal mental health conditions in prison and jails
faced by young people (fifty percent of whom, according to new research, are affected by a
serious mental illness) as well as examining alternative sentencing programs that are
successful in diverting young offenders from prison. Across the
United States, tens of thousands of children are locked up in with adults in prisons and jails
every year. This is not only immoral and unwise; it is a violation of the U.S. Constitution and of
United Nations standards. And the threat is growing. Currently, laws are pending in Congress
and in several states that would double or even triple the number of young people in adult
If I Get Out Alive is a one-hour radio documentary, which exposes the systematic abuse and
brutality faced by juveniles in the adult prison system. It is narrated by Academy Award-winning
actress and child advocate Diane Keaton. The program addresses first-hand accounts from
adolescents currently behind bars, rehabilitated youths who survived the system, parents of
children who died in adult prisons, legal experts, policy makers and correction officers. The
program also addresses the abysmal mental health conditions in prison and jails faced by
young people (fifty percent of whom, according to new research, are affected by a serious
mental illness) as well as examining alternative sentencing programs that are successful in
diverting young offenders from prison.
Featured People
The voices are from a broad range of perspectives on all sides of the juvenile justice debate. If
I Get Out Alive
will offer a fair and balanced presentation of important personal testimony and objective critical
analysis. Special effort will made to represent the disproportionate impact of these problems on
minority populations.
Among the voices we hear from in the program are:
2 / 4
Teen Sex Offender Issues in the United States
- Rodney Hulin, father of 16-year-old Rodney Hulin, who was convicted of arson in 1995
and sentenced to eight years. Rodney hung himself after 75 days of being repeatedly
sodomized, raped and beaten in a particularly brutal adult prison in Texas.
- Donna Ratliff, a sexually abused 14-year-old who set fire to her home, killing her mother
and sister. Convicted as an adult for murder, she was sent to an adult women's prison, where
she was threatened and sexually harassed, and offered no rehabilitative services. More than 60
editorials in local and national newspapers resulted in Donna's transfer to a more appropriate
juvenile rehabilitation center, where she remains;
- and Mark Soler of the Youth Law Center who has been defending the rights of young
people for more than 20 years.
The tragedies and triumphs that define this issue are emotionally arresting. Previously, most
coverage has been limited to policy debates, ignoring the human and emotional dimensions of
the story. The in-depth interviews will allow subjects to fully express their opinions and thoughts
without being reduced to a sound bite. This program provides an opportunity for the public to
hear stories that often go untold.
For many people, criminals are faceless monsters that "deserve" whatever punishment they
receive.In reality, only a small percentage of adolescent arrests are for violent crimes (6% in
both 1992 and 1994, according to a U.S. Justice Department study). Most juvenile criminals are
misbehaving adolescents in desperate need of guidance and support. Many of them are
suffering from mental health problems that their schools or parents have been unable to cope
with. The hope is that these stories will encourage people to re-evaluate the criminal justice
system they help support with their tax dollars. Effective, alternative correctional programs do
exist and need media attention. Young criminals should be disciplined, but fairly and
appropriately. They should be taught, not tortured. The line between necessary discipline and
cruel and unusual punishment must be drawn.
A Critical Need
There is also a policy side to this issue. Legislation pending on Capitol Hill would dramatically
increase the number of children tried and jailed as adults. Charles Frazier, Donna Bishop and
Lonn Lanza-Kaduce of the University of Florida conducted a study of recidivism which
concluded that "juveniles sent to the adult system are significantly more likely to be re-arrested
than those kept in juvenile court, by almost 30%." Distribution and Marketing If I Get Out Alive
is being distributed over the National Public Radio Satellite System to more than 530 public
radio stations nationwide, with a total of 17 million regular listeners.
Call your local public radio station for the broadcast date and time in your area. If I Get Out
Alive , will also
be available on audio cassette for home use and educational outreach purposes. An
3 / 4
Teen Sex Offender Issues in the United States
educational kit, as with our other radio programs, will be developed for use by public policy
makers, schools, universities and for distribution to local advocacy organizations.
The project is non-profit and all contributions are tax-deductible under the production's
501(c)(3) status through New York Foundation for the Arts. Underwriting for this program has
been provided by:
- The Center on Crime, Communities and Culture
- New York State Council on the Arts
- John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
- The Annie E. Casey Foundation
- The Butler Family Fund
- The Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media
- The National Mental Health Association
- The George M. and Mabel H. Slocum Foundation
Information about the production team and advisory board is also available

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Did Joe Sullivan, sentenced to life at 13, have a fair trial?

All Locked Up
Did Joe Sullivan, sentenced to life at 13, have a fair trial?
By Amy Bach
Posted Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2009, at 12:35 PM ET

Yahoo! Buzz FacebookMySpace Mixx Digg Reddit Furl Ma.gnolia SphereStumbleUponCLOSENext week the Supreme Court will hear arguments, in Sullivan v. Florida, about whether sentencing a 13-year-old boy to prison without the possibility of parole violates the cruel-and–unusual-punishment clause of the Constitution. Joe Harris Sullivan is one of two teenagers that young currently doing life without parole for a nonhomicide offense in the United States. His lawyers are hoping that the court will extend its 2005 bar on executing criminals who committed crimes as juveniles to Sullivan's sentence.

Joe SullivanWhatever the court decides, its ruling will be based on the premise that Sullivan received a fair trial. The adequacy of that proceeding isn't before the justices now. But a brief review of the trial record reveals a process so pathetic that it raises questions about whether Sullivan committed the crime in the first place. It also seems that the trial judge may not have intended to sentence Sullivan to life without parole. In the end, that judge, along with the prosecutor and defense lawyer, failed Sullivan so deeply that we have to wonder whether his sentence reflects a deep and basic failure of ordinary criminal justice.
Here's what we do know happened. One May morning in 1989, Sullivan, then 13, and two older teens, Nathan McCants, 17, and Michael Gulley, 15, burglarized a home in Pensacola, Fla. They left with jewelry and coins. Later that day, someone returned to the house and found a 72-year-old woman, threw a black slip over her head, made her lie on her bed, and raped her orally and vaginally—so brutally that she had to have corrective surgery.
The remaining facts are trickier. The woman testified at trial that her assailant was a "dark colored boy" who "had kinky hair and he was quite black and he was small." She never looked directly at him. However, she remembered her attacker saying something like, "If you can't identify me, I may not have to kill you." At trial, she was permitted to testify that she recognized Sullivan's voice, saying, it "could very well be" his.
The two older boys, who both received brief sentences for their roles in the crimes, also testified. Gulley claimed that Sullivan said he'd raped the woman; McCants claimed not to have gone back to the house the second time.
Sullivan denied raping the elderly woman, admitting only to the initial burglary. But he was tried as an adult on two counts of sexual battery and other related charges. The only physical evidence was a fingerprint lifted from a plaque in the bedroom, which could have been made during the burglary. The clothing and other evidence have been destroyed and couldn't be tested for DNA.
Sullivan's lawyer, Mack Plant, had a straightforward job: to investigate whether Sullivan was guilty of just the burglary or the rape as well. Plant also should have found out if Sullivan's friends got reduced sentences because they flipped on him, as well as what their criminal histories were.
Plant punted at every step, beginning with his failure to address whether Sullivan was even competent to stand trial. Social science research shows that most teens don't have the ability to determine whether to take a plea deal, much less make decisions about strategy for trial. But from the record, it appears Plant never had his client's reasoning and comprehension skills evaluated.
The lawyer declined to give an opening statement, which is like a batter not taking a swing. Plant also failed to cross-examine witnesses vigorously. He did not explore Gulley's and McCants' backgrounds to show they had a motive to lie. He never asked: "Did you get a deal here?" Michael Gulley had an extensive criminal history that included one sexual offense, according to court papers. A lawyer might have used this information to cast Gulley as a possible suspect instead of Sullivan. Plant did not. Instead, he focused on the fact that Gulley had to have his memory refreshed about the entire crime before testifying. This was a good point, but Plant blew through it. (Entire cross: a little more than a page.) And he never challenged the victim's identification of her assailant's voice as Sullivan's or asked her to listen to the other two boys' speech.

Joe SullivanIn his closing, Plant again said nothing about the self-serving nature of McCant's and Gulley's testimony. Here's his best line to the jury: "You know, I just don't know about this case." How true.
The trial whizzed by in eight hours. The jury took 35 minutes to convict. You could hardly blame them, based on the little they'd heard. Plant has since been suspended from the practice of law in Florida. The adequacy of his representation of Sullivan, however, was never properly raised on appeal.

Lawyer Tells Us To Warn Our Kids

Subject: Lawyer Tells Us That We Need To Warn Our kids
Date: Tuesday, March 16, 2010, 6:25 PM

Warn your kids!
Blog Category . A heads up from Fort Lauderale criminal attorney, John Contini:
When I was a teenager and young adult ... I did most of the things I'm talking about here; but back then, these things were misdemeanors - meaning minor offenses that don't typically result in jail sentences ... but TODAY, these are ALL felonies, punishable by lengthy state prison terms!
This is one reason why the United States now leads the world in prison population, and on that note, Florida happens to lead the nation in the highest number of people incarcerated per capita. I'm writing this because most people today have no idea how easy it is to end up in jail. I'm seeing everyday regular people getting indicted and going to jail for what most of us have done at one time or another in our lives. The feds (and law enforcement generally) are "criminalizing" everything, and even scarier than that, they are increasing the "mandatory minimum" prison sentences for almost EVERYTHING, even after upgrading all these crimes earlier from misdemeanors to felonies. The biggest boom in the construction industry these days, involves the construction of new prisons throughout Florida, followed by jails and prisons throughout this country. These jails and prisons are now being "privatized" and run by Wackenhut and their competitors, proving that this is now very lucrative, big business!

"Do your kids know what to do if ...?"

Let's just ask them:
1. What do you do if your friend mentions something illegal on the phone?
Answer: Start breathing heavily and suggestively into the phone … (not!)
Better answer: Talking about something illegal is a crime called "conspiracy," and people are arrested and indicted almost daily for the crime of conspiracy. The only way to avoid arrest and indictment for wire fraud (at a minimum), and any number of other charges relating to the actual suggested conduct, is to rebuke your friend immediately. If you even joke that you might agree to participate, you can and will be indicted, depending on who is listening, and then you're forced to tell a jury one day that you were only kidding.
2. What do you do if a friend pulls dope out in your car?
Answer: Brake abruptly while jamming his head into the passenger side dashboard.
Better answer: Pull over and get your friend and the dope out of your car immediately - the only exception: the friend can stay, if the dope gets dumped immediately out of your car. Why? You can be arrested for "constructive possession" even if you are NOT the one holding the drugs. It is only required for your conviction of this crime, that the drugs be "within" your "reach and proximity," and that you had "knowledge" of the presence of the drugs, and "knowledge" of the "illicit" nature of the contraband, period.

It is NOT required for your conviction that you touched the drugs, or that you tried to use the drugs, or that you intended to use the drugs. Two things are also possible even for the person who does NOT do drugs: either your friend is working with the police in an undercover capacity (after an earlier arrest), and you are being inappropriately set up, or at a minimum, your drug-possessed friend is putting YOU at risk of arrest on a charge of constructive possession.

3. What do you do if you're at a party and the other kids pull out the drugs?
Answer: Strike the junkies repeatedly on or about the head! (Do not do this, as I was only attempting to be humorous)
Better answer: Get out of that party immediately. When the police arrive (pursuant to a warrant or just an anonymous and yet corroborated "tip," those in actual possession of the drugs will NOT be the only ones arrested. That's right - YOU will be arrested too (based on the same laws pertaining to "constructive possession," defined above); and yes, later you'll have your chance in court to explain that you were only hanging out ("mere presence" defense) there at the party, had no intention of using the drugs, you're actually innocent, etc.

We are supposed to be "innocent until proven guilty," but who really believes that anymore? Too often today, we're guilty until proven innocent," so if you don't mind getting arrested, sitting in jail for a night or longer (until paying through friends and family for a bond), and going through a stressful trial in hopes of getting exonerated/acquitted one day, then stay at the party with the drugs.
4. What do I do or say if I'm pulled over?
Answer: Pray.
The legal answer: Be very polite, respectful, maintain eye contact with the officer and always say "yes officer," or "yes Sir," or yes Maam," while never making a face as to disbelief in what he or she is saying. Apologize for causing the officer to make the traffic stop, with something like, "I'm sorry officer, I didn't mean to mess up," or similar words of contrition, assuming you're not one of those few people on the planet who are "mistakenly" pulled over. (Let's face it, more often than not you know why you're being pulled over.) It's best to personify humility and respect, if you would like to have the discretionary option of receiving a "warning" as opposed to a ticket! This works almost every time, though most people in this increasingly rude society today wouldn't know. Surprise the officer - show him/her that YOU are a refreshingly nice throwback to a couple of decades ago when basic civility and manners were a good thing, and respect for law enforcement was a value worth trumpeting.

5. What do you do if you're sexually molested?
Answer: This question is too serious to allow for levity. Do not wash up or clean up, as you must help to preserve the evidence of the crime. Your body is essentially the crime scene. Tell the police immediately (even if you are related to, or friends with, the person who did this to you), and get to the hospital or Sexual Assault Treatment Center as soon as possible! There are "forensic" (legal-scientific) reasons that require your physical presence and evaluation at the treatment center or hospital; so please, for your sake, get some help immediately. There may be traces of hair, saliva, semen or blood from which the experts can obtain a decent DNA sample, allowing for identification, prosecution and conviction of the perpetrator. Call your parents and loved ones as soon as possible, as they only want to help you. They will not judge you, as they love you, and want you to receive immediate help!
These crimes can often occur as a result of victims being drugged. ("roofies," GHB and other dangerous narcotics can essentially knock you out or so disorient you, that you "pass out" and cannot stop the sexual assault. If you're in a bar or nightclub - or even at a date's house or a friend's party, and someone brings you a drink (even a nonalcoholic drink), do NOT drink it, unless you watched the bartender, friend or "date" make the drink right in front of you. If you didn't watch the drink being poured - or if you took your eyes off the drink before taking possession of it (or if you leave it unattended for a moment, then you are clueless as to what was then put in it! This crime ("rape") is different than "date rape," and yet it's just as pervasive. It occurs with enough frequency that it is becoming epidemic in some parts of the country.
5. What do you do if you're asked to take a breathalyzer test?
Answer: Inquire as to whether the officer knows if a 2 pencil is required for this test.
Better answer: If you were not drinking alcohol, take the breath test. Why? If you refuse to take the breathalyzer/intoxilyzer test - and assuming the police officer had the requisite "cause" to request that you take the test, then you will suffer a "license revocation" of at least 12 months in most jurisdictions.
Also, a "refusal" to take the test in Florida, is now a separate crime - simply for the act of the "refusal." Yes, you're entitled to a hearing on this immediate revocation issue, but to be brutally honest with you, winning those hearings at the "Division of Drivers Licenses," is a crapshoot, at best! You are NOT before real judges at those administrative hearings, and that's the rub.
If you have been drinking - more than two beers as an example, then (first of all!) please do NOT drive; but unfortunately, if you use only 1/3 of your brain (!) and fail to follow that sage advice, then don't take the test. The odds are, you'll blow over the legal limit! Best bet: Call your parents or your sober friends, as they'll be more than happy to drive you home - and they'll agree in advance (most of them!), to NOT judge you. You'll end up saving thousands of dollars in legal fees, bail money, towing and storage charges, and a host of other fees and costs; and more importantly, you may even save a life - your own, or someone else's.
6. What do you do if you're arrested for anything?
Answer: Cry uncontrollably while offering to wash the officer's patrol car.
Better answer: Be respectful to the arresting officer and yet invoke your Constitutional rights - your "privilege against self incrimination" (5th Amendment), and your "right to counsel" (6th Amendment) … and how do you do that? Simply inform the officer that you would like to speak with your lawyer. If the officer persists in questioning you after you've already invoked your right to counsel, simply respond the same way you did initially, repeating your invocation of rights. There is no shame or inference of guilt by simply invoking your constitutional rights. Too many men and women have died in defense of this country to preserve these rights. Politicians invoke these rights every day, and you as an ordinary citizen have the same constitutional rights as anyone else.
7. What do you do if the police officer reads you your Miranda rights?
Answer: Tell 'em you don't know this Miranda dude.
Better answer: Invoke them, as just advised, regardless of guilt or innocence, and simply state that you would like to speak with an attorney; and yet be very respectful of the officers. They are in very stressful and dangerous jobs, and they need no additional aggravation or disrespect, even if making a false or mistaken arrest. If you witnessed someone else commit the crime, then that may be the only exception to this advice. In that case, you may choose to redirect the officer to the individual who actually committed the crime. No other response is necessary or advisable.
8. What do you do if you're given a deal (huge reduction in price) that seems too good to be true?
Answer: Tell the dirt bag, "I'm wired, so please speak a little louder?"
Better answer: If it seems to be too good to be true, then it probably is too good to be "true!" The odds are, the item being sold to you is stolen, and if you purchase or receive the item, you can be arrested for the felony charge of "receiving stolen property." The law will assume that you "knew" it was stolen, if it is being sold to you way below its market value. Use your common sense here, and yet I realize that this is a challenging area for a lot of us! "Common sense is not so common anymore."
9. What do you do if one of your friends is carrying a firearm?
Answer: Run! Seriously, that depends on whether they're pointing it at you. Actually, that wasn't entirely serious. The best answer is, that depends on whether your friend has a permit for "carrying a concealed firearm." Ask them if they have one, and if they say they don't have one (and assuming you're outside the home where a permit is then necessary), then get away from them and their gun immediately. If they tell you that they DO have a permit to carry and conceal a firearm, ask them if you can see the permit and that you're simply curious as to what it looks like, etc. "Better to be safe than sorry," as the old saying goes. If they do NOT have a permit to carry and conceal the firearm (and again assuming you're outside the home where a permit is required), then they can be arrested for the felony offense of "carrying a concealed firearm," and you are at risk too, depending on the intentions of your friend.

In Florida, we have the law called "10-20-life," meaning you'll go to prison for a "mandatory minimum" prison sentence of 10 years, if you're convicted of being involved in a felony offense involving a firearm; and if that firearm is discharged (goes off!) during the commission of the felony, you're getting 20 years (mandatory minimum!) upon a conviction; and if someone gets shot when the gun goes off and you end up getting convicted, you're getting "life!" Florida doesn't play around.
Other states are following suit. You need to know about these lengthy mandatory minimum prison sentences, BEFORE you hang around with anyone who illegally carries a firearm and an "attitude" - you know the type, the guys who have that temperament to cavalierly, inappropriately and illegally use the gun!
10. What do you do if you're punched or slapped by somebody?
Answer: Smack 'em back!
OK, the real answer? Call the police immediately, and then your parents, who may want to file a lawsuit against the dirt bag who punched you, depending on whether the idiot has any assets.
11. What do you do if you're in an accident?
Answer: blame the other guy no matter what, since that's what everyone else is doing.
The better answer: Call 911 and get emergency medical help immediately, assuming you're physically able. You may be in shock and in trauma, and your injuries may not fully manifest themselves or be apparent to you for some time - or until after the shock and trauma wears off ; so again, 'better to be safe than sorry," and allow the paramedics to observe and treat you! Call your parents from your cell phone as soon as possible after the accident, and give them your location.

Be aware of the witnesses to the accident and attempt to prevail upon the witnesses to provide you with their names and contact information. Do NOT leave the scene under any circumstances before the police and paramedics arrive, lest you be arrested for the crime of "leaving the scene of an accident." It will be a felony charge of "leaving the scene of an accident with injuries," if someone is injured in the accident.
12. If the guy who hits me has no insurance, why can't I just get more money from my own insurance company to cover all my damages and injuries?
Answer: When you get an insurance policy today and pay for certain "bodily injury" limits, then those are the "limits," period, unless you paid extra ($) for what they call "uninsured motorist" or "underinsured motorist" coverage; and unfortunately, you absolutely need this extra "UM" coverage these days, since there are so many dirt bags out there on the road. In South Florida, the odds are great (approximating 70%!) that if you get in an accident, the other guy will be an "uninsured" or "underinsured" driver - so you'd better have "UM" coverage - since your own injuries will often exceed the limits under your policy; and this is the reason "why," by law, your own company must offer you "UM" coverage up to the same limits as your "bodily injury" coverage - and better for you, before they can escape paying you these "UM" benefits, they have to produce a "rejection form" (approved by the Insurance Commissioner) proving that they offered you these benefits when you took out the policy … and that you "rejected" them at that time.

You'd be surprised at how many people are clueless (like too many lawyers too!) as to this critically important issue - people who could have received far more money under their claims, had they known of this extremely important requirement under the law, people who never "rejected" this coverage "in writing" at the time of their policies, people who were never properly advised of this all-important coverage at the time of their insurance policy application - people who absolutely would have received a whole lot more money, had they only hired a lawyer who knew how to proceed.
13. What do you do if an insurance adjuster calls you about your accident?
Answer: Hang up immediately. (Just kidding, though you can bet it won't be that cute little geico-lizard on the phone)
Better answer: Call John Contini, that nice Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer, who might just be honest enough to give you some free advice, worth a penny more than what it costs you! You'll get that warm and fuzzy feeling inside, knowing you helped the nice lawyer who has kids to support and college tuition around the corner, etc. 954-766-8810 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 954-766-8810 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
14. What do I have to do to get my record sealed or expunged?
The latest: Florida legislature has recently carved out many more new exceptions into the applicable sealing statute today, disallowing a sealing of your record for any offense that involves sexual allegations or violence. There are fewer and fewer crimes that are now eligible for sealing.
You understand that even if you are eligible to have your arrest record sealed (meaning that your arrest did not involve a crime of violence or allegations of sexual misconduct), the sealing of your record only blocks access by a public party seeking information from public records. The Clerk of Court will place your sealed record, without destroying it, in a special secured area so that public access to your records is denied without a person obtaining a Court Order to unseal your record and file. Alternatively, if you are eligible to expunge your record, your record is destroyed by the Clerk's office and police agencies. However, your records are still held by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for future references by law enforcement or the Courts.
You need to know that the process of sealing and expunging your arrest records is a long, tiresome and tedious process, involving a half dozen law enforcement agencies including FDLE, the involved county and city police departments, the Clerk's office, the prosecutor's office and the Court, and this hemmoroidal process (too often an administrative nightmare) may take several months - at a minimum to complete.
Check out if you would like to get this thing done for free, God willing, thereby avoiding the quiet and festering resentment you'll no doubt feel for lining the pockets of nice lawyers like me. Seriously, I wish you the absolute best.

© 2008 John Contini (OK to re-post with attribution and contact info)
John P. Contini & Associates, P.A.
1112 SE 3rd Ave.
Fort Lauderdale FL 33316
john@jpcontini.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots.
Office: 954.766.8810
For book orders: 800.957.6476
EBooks are now available!

Please feel free to call me anytime and tell me of your problem or concerns, and if I can offer any decent and informative, free advice, I am more than happy and even privileged to be of help.
I truly hope that you can hear my heart in all this - that I would LOVE to be of help, even if this means only on the phone providing you with hopefully some good information or advice!
A friend,
John Contini

John P. Contini & Associates, P.A.
1112 SE 3rd Ave.
Fort Lauderdale FL 33316
Office: 954.766.8810

Monday, March 15, 2010

Kids Don't Belong In Prisons:

Until there is a outcry by the public, many issues you raise will simply remain as they are.
There is no rest for those in prison for crimes they did not commit.
Society seems to demand that the incarcerated admit to their crimes. If they are
innocent, why would you ever expect them to admit to anything?
When an inmate says they are innocent, The public always answers with " They all say that".
Imprisoning children for life is barbaric at best. It is an indication of a society going backwards morally.
What child does not change through time and with experience? What kind of changes for change do they have, locked away with animals? And Worst if society throws away the key?
It is pure unadulterated foolishness to even think or make others believe that a child will stay the same throughout their lives.
The other things to consider here as well, children are not the only ones capable of change.
People fail to realize a crime is much like a photograph. It is a mere snapshot in time. It does speak of happened prior to the event, nor after. It does not speak
of the overall character of those in the picture. It only says,"This is what happened at this particular time and place".
In my experience as an "inmate" I have seen hundreds of inmates come to the conclusion that their previous reasoning and understanding was clearly wrong. Those that did commit a crime some are truly evil and then there are those that sincerely regret the choices they had made, and have changed for the better because of them. I do agree some crimes were committed with malice, aforethought and planning. Yet many more were committed due to a mistake, not thinking clerarly, an err in judgement and some by those to young and immature to realize what they were getting into. Some good people make bad mistakes. For those life is to harsh of sentence to pay.
There are those of us that are not bad people nor are we guilty. I am one that is in prison for a crime I did not commit nor would I ever do what i am accused of doing.
The courts no longer care about The interest of justice. That is only a slogan of times long since past in the American judicial system.
can you please put my letter on the website.
Love And respect
Shane Crum 334-540
T.C.I. Po Box 901
Leavittsburg Oh 4430

Saturday, March 13, 2010

(Part 2)Gregory Wright

Letters from prison
Las Plumas gunman Greg Wright weighs in on his crime and his regrets

By Robert Speer

This article was published on 05.14.09.

Write to him:
Nothing cheers up a prisoner more than a letter from the outside world. Here’s the address:
Gregory Wright G-09105
SVSP/ D7-120
P.O. Box 1050
Soledad, CA 93960

Jim Adams hasn’t given up on Greg Wright, though he no longer holds out much hope of getting a reduction in the young man’s lengthy prison sentence.

Wright, you may remember, was the then-17-year-old Oroville boy who was arrested Sept. 28, 2007, after he took a .22 caliber pistol to Las Plumas High School, which he attended, brandished it before a roomful of people and shot twice into the ceiling before surrendering.

Nobody was hurt in the incident, and some of the students in the room later said they didn’t feel threatened by Wright and stayed with him voluntarily, but Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey nonetheless charged him as an adult. Ramsey offered Wright a plea deal of seven years to life; on the advice of Wright’s public defender, who argued that lifers almost never get paroled, the teen accepted a fixed-term 22-year sentence instead.

Adams quickly emerged as Wright’s most determined advocate, though he was hardly alone in that regard. The sentence was widely perceived as being too harsh, and local newspapers received dozens of letters questioning its fairness.

Adams, a retired school teacher and drug counselor, didn’t know Wright before the Las Plumas incident, but they’ve since become friends, primarily through correspondence. For more than a year Wright has been at Salinas Valley State Prison, formerly known as Soledad, where he initially resided in Level 4 Cell Block C.

SVSP is the fourth most violent prison in California. A maximum-security facility, it was built to house 2,410 inmates but now holds nearly twice that many. All of its 6-by-9-foot cells hold two inmates, and several hundred other prisoners are forced to live in large, dorm-like buildings containing three-tiered bunk beds. Most inmates are violent offenders serving long sentences, and gangs set the rules for interactions among prisoners.

Lockdowns during which prisoners are confined to their cells for weeks or even months at a time are common.

Wright entered SVSP when he was still 17, legally a child. So far, at least, he seems to be surviving reasonably well, though he has spent an inordinate amount of time on lockdown. He’s now sharing his cell with a triple murderer who is serving life without possibility of parole.

His letters—to his sister Tasha; his mother, Sharlee Morton, and to Adams—reveal a young man of limited intellectual ability and sophistication but with a reservoir of empathy and concern for others in his life, particularly his family members. In his writings, he also goes to great lengths to try to make sense of and explain his actions on Sept. 28, 2007, and to describe what life is like in prison. Remarkably, he never complains—about prison life or the severity of his sentence—though he can be unblinking in his assessment of the dangerous world he inhabits.

In a December 2008 letter to Tasha, for example, he consoles her on a recent illness and then asks her to post a message on the Las Plumas Web site in which he offers an apology, along with a disturbing glimpse into life at SVSP.

Greg Wright

“I’m sorry for what I done,” he writes, “but whoever thinks that prison helps people there [sic] wrong. … Prison makes more people worser than when they came in. So when you hear about somebody going to a level 4 prison, which is the worst prison yard you can be on, think about it cause he may come in a good person but when he leaves he will be a person that has murdered at least one person and gotten away with it….

“I just wanted to let you know what prison is like just a little. Sorry for what I’ve done in the past at the high school but I never wanted to hurt anyone at the school. Sorry.”

Adams sent Wright a letter asking him to answer some questions regarding the incident at the school. One was why he’d brought along a gun. Wright’s answer, in a letter penned on Christmas Day, suggests just how delusional and emotionally overwrought he was that morning.

The youth writes that his intention had been to kill himself in front of Sara, a girlfriend who recently sent him a “Dear John” letter, to show her how much he loved her. But when he got to school he couldn’t go through with it, so instead he began looking, unsuccessfully, for a younger boy named Aaron who owed him some money. When he saw campus security headed his way, he “panicked and went into the band room.” He thought it would be empty, but it was filled with students.

Ramsey has charged Wright intended to kill Aaron, but in a January 2009 letter to his mother, Wright denies wanting to do anything other than get the money owed him. “I never wanted to hurt anybody else,” he writes, “plus Aron was only like 14 years old he was too young for me to beat him up he wouldn’t have had a chance against me you know that.”

Wright’s affection and concern for his mother are evident in his letters to her. In one, he tells her he doesn’t need a TV “just yet you can wait for a few more months OK. It don’t want you to pawn your jewelry for that OK and I mean it Mom, don’t do it… love always, your son, Gregory W.”

In a Feb. 22 letter to Adams, Wright describes his daily routine, as follows:

“Monday—Get up around 5 a.m., eat, lay down till 9 a.m., get back up and work out for an hour or so, eat, then lay back down and watch TV until dinner comes. This goes on Monday-Friday. Saturday & Sunday I don’t work out and when we get yard back I’ll go out to yard.”

By March, Wright was able to report that he’d been moved to a general-population block where he “got to go out to yard with everyone now, phone calls, I am even in school now. … I even help other guys that don’t know how to do it. Just cause I’m in a prison doesn’t mean I’ve stopped helping people out.”

His most recent letter to Adams is dated May 3. In it he tries to explain why he shot off his gun during the school incident. “Well, I didn’t want to shoot the gun except to shoot myself, but I didn’t want anybody to come in and make the matters worser then they were, so I told myself I would shoot to the roof to make sure no one would come in.”

That happened twice, once then he thought a staff person was entering the room, and again when he thought the police were trying to enter. “I didn’t want to do it but it was like they made me cause I told them not to try anything and I wouldn’t do anything wrong.”

One of the girls who remained in the band room with him, he writes, “talked me off shooting myself … and I am sure glad I didn’t do it too. … That’s all for now, God bless you.”

Adams worries about Wright. He sees the young man as an overgrown child with faulty judgment but a sympathetic soul who desperately needs guidance and support to help him make his way in society. Instead, he’s being schooled in the ways of prison, spending time in the company of murderers and rapists. And he’s got more than 20 years to go.

14 Year Old Faces 40 Years Charged As An Adult


ROCK COUNTY (WKOW) -- From the moment she walked into screen on video conference, 14-year-old Ashlee Brown hid her face and sat silent as the judge read the charges against her.

The Edgerton area teen is charged with first degree reckless homicide in the overdose death of 13-year-old Alex Aiken.

Brown faces up to 40 years in prison and a 100,000 fine.

"Based on the serious nature of the allegations based on the consequences of actions, based on the facts we deemed it appropriate to charge," said Rock County District Attorney David O'Leary.

We learned more about what led to Aiken's overdose.

According to a criminal complaint, the day before Aiken died, Brown brought a bag, half full of Oxycontin and Oxycodone pills to her boyfriends home.

The complaint says before Aiken took the drugs, his friend, Brown's 13-year old boyfriend, said the pills might not mix well with the prescription drugs Aiken was already taking.

Aiken said he would be fine and took four of the pills.

The two boys were dropped off at Aiken's house that night and Aiken was found dead the next morning.

Wisconsin law requires minors charged with homicide to appear in adult court but O'Leary says Brown's case could be sent back to juvenile court.

He says he hopes other teens learn from Brown's mistakes.

"If we want the message to be loud and clear that we are not going to take these matters lightly and anybody who thinks its a good idea to deal drugs to children in our community are going to be facing serious consequences and will wind up in custody in court," O'Leary said.

Aiken's family was at the appearance but would not comment.

Brown's preliminary hearing is scheduled for next week.

Aiken's 13-year-old friend was charged in juvenile court with drug possession.


JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- Fourteen-year-old Ashlee Brown faces up to 40 years in prison and a $100,000 fine for the overdose death of 13-year-old Alex Aiken.

Prosecutors from the Rock County District Attorney's office said today's initial appearance sends a message that they take possession and distribution of prescription drugs seriously.

Ashlee Brown appeared through video. She covered her face the entire time.

The 14 year old is charged with first-degree reckless homicide.

According to the criminal complaint, Brown brought a bag half full oxycontin and oxycodone to her boyfriend's house. That teen brought the bag over to Alex Aiken's house.

The complaint goes on to say that teen told Aiken that he should not take the drugs, because he was on other medication. It says Aiken told the teen he would be fine.

In all, the complaint says Aiken took four oxycontin pills, three orally and one snorted.

The next morning Aiken's mom found her son dead.

The District Attorney's office says Brown can either stay in adult court and be charged as an adult, or the case could be referred back to juvenile court.

If that's the case she faces up to five years supervision under the juvenile defenders program.

The District Attorney's office says they will make that decision whether to move Brown to juvenile court next week.


JANESVILLE (WKOW) --- A five-minute hearing has ended in Janesville, where a 14-year-old girl accused of first degree reckless homicide was charged in adult court Thursday.

The charges are in connection to the death of 13-year-old Alex Aiken back in early February.

Aiken was a 7th grader in Edgerton who died of an oxycodone overdose.

Law enforcement believes the 14-year-old girl provided Aiken with Oxycodone, which led to his death.

She faces up to 40 years in jail and up to a $100,000 fine, as maximum punishment.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mentally Retarded Teen To Spend 100 Years In Prison

PARIS, Texas - A teenager who has profound mental disabilities was sentenced to
100 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges in a sex abuse case
involving his 6-year-old neighbor.

Aaron Hart, 18, of Paris, was arrested and charged after a neighbor found him
fondling her stepson in September. The teen pleaded guilty to five counts,
including aggravated sexual assault and indecency by contact, and a jury decided
his punishment.

Lamar County Judge Eric Clifford decided to stack the sentences against Hart
after jurors settled on two five-year terms and three 30-year terms, The Dallas
Morning News reported Wednesday. The judge said neither he nor jurors liked the
idea of prison for Hart but they felt there was no other option.

"In the state of Texas, there isn't a whole lot you can do with somebody like
him," Clifford said.

Diagnosed as mentally disabled
Hart has an IQ of 47 and was diagnosed as mentally disabled as a child. He never
learned to read or write and speaks unsteadily.

Rhode Island Judge Keeps Teens Out Of Prison

A Rhode Island judge ruled that felony cases brought while state law briefly treated 17-year-olds as adults would be dismissed or transferred to Family Court. (This article is from 2008)

The judge, Daniel A. Procaccini of Superior Court, ruled that about 100 pending cases would be dismissed. Cases in which a grand jury has returned an indictment will be transferred to Family Court, but they can be returned to Superior Court if the attorney general thinks the crime is egregious and should be elevated to the adult level.

“It is apparent that defendants’ rights were violated by their direct placement in the adult criminal system,” Judge Procaccini wrote.

The dismissed cases can be refiled in juvenile court, according to the ruling.

Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch appealed the ruling Tuesday, saying in a statement that it puts cases that should be in Superior Court in limbo.

“This state of uncertainty is not fair to victims and their families,” Mr. Lynch said.

The initial change in law, which took effect July 1, was meant to save millions of dollars a year by transferring juvenile defenders to the state prison. The law set off a furor among law enforcement officials and children’s advocates, and failed to take into account that juveniles are housed in protective custody, which is more expensive.

The legislature repealed the law in mid-November, but the change did not apply retroactively.

--------------------------------Note> That this law went into affect to save the state money! (That is something all the states should be ashamed off) The Federal Government gives states grants ~Funding in the millions for juvenile programs~That alone should set the kids aside from the adult system. Kids in the system 7 out of 10 times are abused before they get there then subject to abuse by other kids & sexual assault by staff) Then for our leaders to take the easy way out & let the kids pay the price for political corruption & Governmental Spending~Young adults do not belong in prisons with adult criminals.

Juvenils Do Not Get Fair Treatment Nor Have Any Rights

Juveniles No Longer Have Rights:

Under prop/21 Prosecutors no longer have to ask permission from
juvenile judges to send juveniles accused of certain serious felonies
straight to adult court leaving juvenile courts & judges out of the
juvenile proceedings.This has contributed to a large decline of youth
offenders from California youth authority and more into adult
court.Youth offenders charged as adults get longer sentences some
getting life without parole.+++++++++++++++++++++++++++It is time for
America to leave an overly punitive, counterproductive approach to
juvenile justice behind. But an improved system must address all of
the factors that cause delinquent and criminal behavior and provide
reliable avenues for rehabilitation. Only broad, concerted strategies
will bring lasting solutions. Jonathan F. FantonChicago, Aug. 20,
2008The writer is president, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur
Foundation._____________________________________Under Welfare and
Institutions code 707(a) a juvenile judge must evaluate:>>1>the
degree of criminal sophistication is exhibited by your child2>whether
your child can be rehabilitated before juvenile court jurisdiction
expires3>your childs previous deliquent history4>the success of
previous attempts by juvenile court to rehabilitate your child5>the
circumstances and gravity of the offense alleged to have been
committed by your child____________________________________The
prosecutor can and they do every day,direct file against a juvenile,
thus taking these and all juvenile rights away from the minor.Given
their developmental imatureity, and encapacety to understand the
trial process, assist their attorneys, and make decisions that will
effect them for the rest of their lives, adolescents can not assit
adequately in their defense. Their incomplete development jeopardizes
the fundamental fairness of the ajudicative process.They truely are
not competent to stand trial. Defendants must be competant to stand
trial, having suffficient present ability to consult with their
attorney with a reasonable degree of rational understanding,as well
as a factual understanding of the proceedings against them.This
includes making decisions about the waiver of important rights.If a
defendant is found incapable of making these decisions at any time
during the legal process from arraignment to adjudication and
sentencing,then the waiver of the constitutional rights during this
process may be invalidated.
---------------------------My comment>>
In my dealings with the law & courts in calif. The less a child
understands, the more isolated the police~ Da~& Courts make them.Taking away all their rights along with the parents.California is trying to do away with the juvenile system as much as possible, charging the kids as adults, charging them with crimes more serious then they commited gets them into the prison system for indefinite
amount of time: ( They sentence someone to 25-life) Going in front of the parole board only to be denied. Juveniles In california have no rights, our goverment has made up its own laws & rules in which to follow.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Floridia Sentences Juveniles To LWOP For Non-Homicide Offenses

Three of those ten large JLWOP states, California, Florida, and Louisiana, account for
88.3 percent of the national total (111) of juveniles sentenced to JLWOP for non-homicides.
While the ten states with large a number of JLWOPs have rendered a total of
1,966 JLWOP sentences, only 98 juveniles (5 percent of the total of the 10 states) received this
sentence for a non-homicide offense. 78 percent of those 98 juveniles sentenced to life without parole for non-homicides were sentenced in Florida.
. The proportion of all juvenile life without parole sentences that were for non homicides
in Florida is 25.5 percent, five times higher than second place Louisiana..

Across the nation, juvenile offenders have been sentenced to life without parole for the
following non-homicide crimes: kidnapping, sexual battery, robbery, battery, burglary, and
carjacking. 62 juvenile offenders have been sentenced to life without parole in the country for
robbery, burglary, battery, and carjacking.~ 61 of these juvenile offenders were sentenced in
twenty four offenders, three have only one JLWOP conviction. Florida has sentenced 46 youths
to JLWOP for armed robbery. Only one other armed robbery JLWOP conviction exists in the
nation: in Mississippi. All other reported JLWOP sentences for non-homicide crimes in the
U.S. were for kidnapping and sexual battery.
84% of this population is Black. and the youngest age at the time of
offense is 13 years old.
There may be other individuals in the country with JLWOP sentences for these crimes that are not included in this
study because they also have a JLWOP sentence for homicide.

The offense dates for these offenders begin in the early 1970s.
Of the juvenile offenders in Florida sentenced to life without parole for homicide offenses, 62% are Black.
(Florida Department of Corrections, June 10, 2009).
The Florida Department of Corrections lists two inmates as 13 years old at the time of their JLWOP offense.
These are Joe Sullivan and Douglas Blackshear. While Joe Sullivan was sentenced to life without parole for his crime.

The data presented in our study provides overwhelming evidence that Florida is out of step with
the nation: it stands alone in its willingness to condemn young people to life in prison for non homicides
without a chance of a reassessment of their lives in some future time.

California Is Second In Sending Juveniles To Prison

The law only recognizes as legal the acts of persons who possess the capacity to form the proper intent to perform the particular acts. Two aspects of "capacity" are recognized: the mental capacity to form the intent to commit an act, and maturity, or the roughly objective measure of the ability to form a legal intent. It is maintained that when a child reaches a certain age his or her capacity to form the proper intent matures. At this point a child can be held accountable for his or her actions.

The age at which every person is considered an adult is known as the "age of majority" and is usually 18 years old. In addition, some states allow minors who are living apart from their parents and supporting themselves to be "emancipated." This means that the minor will be treated as an adult for legal purposes. The minimum age for majority or emancipation is sometimes set out in statutes, but is frequently determined by the common law.

The variation of age limits for different activities, such as marrying, voting, or consuming alcohol, illustrates the values a society places on certain types of activities and how a society values individual responsibility and accountability. For instance, when a minor intentionally injures another or damages property, he or she may be held liable for the act at age fourteen, and even earlier, in some instances, in certain courts. But he or she may not be allowed to drink or vote until age 21 or 18.

The limitations on a minor's ability to contract, however, are established to protect innocent third parties and ignorant or immature first parties. If a minor makes a foolish business decision out of immaturity or ignorance, the contract may be voided on the basis of a lack of capacity to contract.

_______________________Yet California Sentences Them To life In Prison;Has them Sign Away their rights with no parent or counsil present:Public defenders have them sign away their right to a speedy trial with no parent consent!??

Juvenile's Rights Are Abused In Court:

Activists Say Courts Abuse Rights of Juvenile Defendants
Report: Amnesty International cites life sentences without parole as example. State spokesman calls allegation 'a stretch.'
California and the WestNovember 18, 1998|STANLEY MEISLER and JOHN GLIONNA, TIMES STAFF WRITERS
WASHINGTON — Amnesty International said today that an increasing number of children in American courts and prisons are subject to beatings, excessive detention, solitary confinement and other abuses of their rights.

Many of the abuses, according to the report, violate international treaties. As an example, Amnesty International, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to protecting human rights, cited California for sentencing juveniles to life sentences without parole.

Ads by Google
Israel Diplomacy MasterLive in Israel & Study in English Order a Free MA Diplomacy Catalog!

The report said 14 prisoners now serving life without parole in California had been sentenced when they were under 18. This, according to the organization, violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty signed and ratified by the United States. The Amnesty International report cited no other abuse of accused or convicted juveniles in California.

Rob Stutzman, a spokesman for the California attorney general's office in Sacramento, said he could not corroborate the Amnesty International figures for children sentenced as adults in California. But he said the state has the right to set its own laws on the matter.

"Californians elect their legislators and their governor to write the laws of their criminal justice system, and they should not have to abdicate that authority to foreign treaties approved by someone in Washington," he said.

"Critics of prosecuting juveniles as adults should come make their case at the state Capitol."

Larry Brown, executive director of the Sacramento-based California District Attorney's Assn., said Amnesty's criticism was wrongheaded.

"It seems a stretch to think that the drafters of any treaty would have in mind the type of juvenile offenders who receive a life sentence in California--they're not particularly a sympathetic class," he said.

"To receive such a sentence, the crime is first-degree murder with special circumstances. Those are the most heinous homicides on the books. California, like so many other states, when balancing between public safety and treatment of juveniles, for egregious crimes, the balance shifts to public safety."

Amnesty International said it was troubled by the tendency of many states to treat accused juveniles as adults and try them in regular courtrooms. The report estimated that 200,000 children are prosecuted in adult courts every year, 7,000 are held in adult jails before trial, and 11,000 are serving their sentences in adult prisons and other correctional centers.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Sentence To Harsh For kids

http://www.washingt wp-dyn/content/ article/2009/ 10/22/AR20091022 03803.html

A sentence too cruel for children

By Alan K. Simpson
The Washington Post
Friday, October 23, 2009

Rather than serving in the U.S. Senate for almost 20 years, or having so many other wonderful life experiences, I could have served a longer sentence in prison for some of the stupid, reckless things I did as a teenager. I am grateful to have gotten a second chance -- and I believe our society should make a sustained investment in offering second chances to our youth.

When I was a teen, we rode aimlessly around town, shot things up, started fires and generally raised hell. It was only dumb luck that we never really hurt anyone. At 17, I was caught destroying federal property and was put on probation. For two years, my probation officer visited me and my friends at home, in the pool hall, at school and on the basketball court. He was a wonderful guy who listened and really cared. I did pretty well on probation. At 21, though, I got into a fight in a tough part of town and ended up in jail for hitting a police officer.

I spent only one night in jail, but that was enough. I remember thinking, "I don't need too much more of this."

I had a chance to turn my life around, and I took it. This term, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether other young people get that same chance.

On Nov. 9, the court will hold oral argument in Sullivan v. Florida and Graham v. Florida , two cases that will determine whether it is constitutional to sentence a teenager to life in prison without parole for a crime that did not involve the taking of a life. There is a simple reason the criminal justice system should treat juveniles and adults differently: Kids are a helluva lot dumber than adults. They do stupid things -- as I did -- and some even commit serious crimes, but youths don't really ever think through the consequences. It's for this reason that every state restricts children from such consequential actions as voting, serving on juries, purchasing alcohol or marrying without parental consent.

The Supreme Court recognized the differences between teenagers and adults when it held a few years ago, in Roper v. Simmons , that it was unconstitutional to impose the death penalty on defendants younger than 18. Locking up a youth for the rest of his life, with no hope for parole, is surely unconstitutional for the same reasons. The person you are at 13 or 17 is not the person you are at 30, 40 or 50. Everyone old enough to look back on his or her teenage years knows this.

Peer pressure is a huge part of youth behavior, whether one grows up in Washington, D.C., or Cody, Wyo. The guys will say, "Go get the gun. We'll pick up just enough money for tonight." And almost unthinkingly, you'll do it. There is simply no way to know at the time of sentencing whether a young person will turn out "good" or "bad." The only option is to bring him or her before a parole board -- after some number of years -- and give the person the chance to declare, "I'm a different person today" -- and then prove it.

Parole boards can examine how youth offenders spent their time in prison. Did they read books or work in the library? Did they make furniture? Get a college degree? Those are critical questions for review.

If at that review a parole board finds out that a miscreant hasn't changed, then keep him or her in prison. But some juvenile offenders make real efforts while they are in jail, and we should make honest adjustments for them.

We all know youths who have changed for the better. When I was a lawyer in Cody, the court sometimes appointed me to represent juvenile offenders, and parents who knew of my history often asked for help with their children. I once handled the case of an 18-year-old who stole a car and drove it to Seattle. I later hired him as chief of staff for my Senate office, and he turned out to be one of the most able of the people I put in that job.

I was lucky that the bullets I stole from a hardware store as a teenager and fired from my .22-caliber rifle never struck anyone. I was fortunate that the fires I set never hurt anyone. I heard my wake-up call and listened -- and I went on to have many opportunities to serve my country and my community.

When a young person is sent "up the river," we need to remember that all rivers can change course.

The writer, a Republican, was a U.S. senator from Wyoming from 1977 to 1996. He is among former juvenile offenders who have submitted a friend-of-the- court brief in support of the petitioners in Sullivan v. Florida and Graham v. Florida.

Missouri's Youngest Lifer: 14 Years Old Serving LWOP

The story: At Age 14 He Was Sentenced To Life Without parole
It began as horseplay, with two teenage stepbrothers chasing each other with blow guns and darts. But it soon escalated when one of the boys grabbed a knife.

The older teen, Michael Barton, 17, was dead by the time he reached the hospital, stabbed twice.The younger boy, Quantel Lotts, 14, would eventually become one of Missouri's youngest lifers.

Lotts was sentenced in Missouri's St. Francois County Circuit Court in 2002 to life in prison without parole for first-degree murder in his stepbrother's stabbing death. Read full article »

Prosecutors Given To Much Power

Prosecutors hold power

Before the mid-1970s, teens facing felonies were primarily channeled through the juvenile justice system, which focuses on rehabilitative programs.

A juvenile court judge would weigh criteria mandated by the state, such as home environment and prior violent-crime history, before determining whether a young offender would be transferred to adult court.

Now, the number of transfer hearings held each year has dropped to zero.

Colorado is one of only 15 states that allow prosecutors, instead of judges, to decide whether youths should be charged as adults through direct files. They are not required to follow any criteria before charging kids 14 or older with the most serious felony offenses.

"Colorado prosecutors could be considered among the most powerful in the country in terms of their discretion," says Melissa Sickmund, senior research associate for the National Center for Juvenile Justice. In most direct- file states, prosecutors are required to satisfy minimum criteria or use guidelines before filing criminal charges, she notes.

Two of Colorado's neighbors, Nebraska and Wyoming, for example, require that district attorneys consider the same factors weighed by their juvenile courts in the transfer process, according to an NCJJ review.

The decision to move a juvenile to adult court exposes the defendant to significantly harsher penalties. A 14-year-old who commits a burglary in which an innocent person dies can be sentenced by a juvenile court to a maximum sentence of five years.

The same juvenile in the same circumstances facing a judge in adult district court - and facing felony murder charges - could be sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.

From 1998 through 2004, prosecutors averaged 176 direct-file convictions a year. More than 300 of those cases wound up in the Youthful Offender System, a DOC-run "last chance" for juveniles with violent or chronic criminal histories.

Thomas of the DA council points to a drop in violent crimes during much of that period - juvenile arrests for violent crime fell from 1,446 in 1995 to 1,027 in 2003, according to state data - as an indicator that the system works.

But he acknowledges the difficulty of drawing definitive cause-and-effect conclusions. And researchers note that juvenile crime nationwide is down, even in states that don't give prosecutors tools such as direct- file discretion.

Questioning justice

In addition to boosting prosecutors' powers in recent decades, state lawmakers have expanded police authority and sentencing laws that have affected juveniles.

In 1996, for example, they gave police more latitude to interrogate suspects younger than 18 without an adult present.

The law now allows authorities to seek waivers from parents, who frequently don't understand the process or consequences.

Denver teen Chris Selectman was convicted of felony murder when he was 16, partly based on an interrogation conducted outside his mother's presence. At trial, the accounts of Selectman and the interviewing officer diverged, but the prosecutor seized on the interviewing officer's account, a fact that helped seal the conviction, Selectman and his attorneys believe.

"They began to build their case upon a misconception," Selectman says in a letter from prison.

Colorado also is one of 14 states with three controversial laws on its books: direct-file discretion; the charge of felony murder; and life without parole.

"Prosecutors have been given enormous powers that can be a source of injustice," says Kathleen Lord, chief appellate deputy for the state public defender's office, who has vigorously fought felony murder convictions against juveniles. "When you throw in felony murder and the life sentence, you don't need as much evidence to throw a kid away."

Prosecutors are bringing felony murder charges against youths far more often than adults, according to state court administrator data. Prosecutors must prove only an underlying offense, such as burglary, and that someone died in the course of the crime. Of 15 juveniles sentenced to life without parole since 1998, nine were convicted of felony murder. That compares with 30 of 127 adult cases.

The Sam Mandez case, handled on appeal by Lord, raises the question of whether a flawed murder investigation and felony murder combined to convict a youth whose fingerprints were found at the murder scene, halting a fuller probe into the killing.

"I just don't believe in our system after going through that," says Kim Wise, who sat on the Mandez jury. "It's terrible law. If more people went through it, they would understand."

Although national data on juveniles convicted of felony murder aren't available, Human Rights Watch reports that 26 percent of juvenile lifers who self-reported nationally on the subject said they'd been sentenced for felony murder - a figure well below Colorado's 60 percent since 1998.

Another twist of the felony- murder law surfaced in the 1996 case of 17-year-old Trevor Jones.

Although jurors hashed out the circumstances surrounding his fatal shooting of 16-year-old Matthew Foley and found him guilty of reckless manslaughter, an accompanying robbery count led to a felony murder conviction as well.

With the two conflicting convictions surrounding Foley's death, an appeals court threw out reckless manslaughter, and its six-year sentence, and kept the felony murder conviction - with its automatic life-without- parole sentence.

Nathan Ybanez's prosecution illustrates the adult system's weaknesses in handling parent- killers.

Ybanez, who was 16 when he strangled his mother with a fireplace tool, was not given access to a guardian ad litem - a legal advocate assigned to defendants in juvenile courts when abuse or another conflict in the home is suspected - even though abuse allegations in his case were known to the court. Instead, his father steered his defense, and the abuse was never detailed for the jury.

Though state law gives an adult court judge discretion to appoint a guardian ad litem, lawyers and judges say it isn't used often.

Dietrick Mitchell, who was 16 when charged with first-degree murder after authorities said he intentionally drove over teen Danny Goetsch, went on trial at a time of rising public concern over gang activity. Prosecutors focused on Mitchell's self-portrayal as a gang member as a motive for murder, even though there was scant evidence that he was a gangster.

Because prosecutors direct- filed on him as an adult, Mitchell - identified as an alcoholic years earlier - had no chance for rehabilitation programs available in the juvenile system when he was convicted at age 17. His attorneys say Mitchell's case illustrates the simultaneous expansion of get-tough measures and decline of treatment options.

The Pendulum Foundation promises to renew its reform campaign this year, possibly by going around the legislature - through a ballot initiative. Their own polls reflect that citizens want rehabilitation options for teen offenders, Pendulum officials say.

"We want fairness and compassion injected into the system," says director Mary Ellen Johnson.

Denver Post computer-assisted reporting editor Jeffrey A. Roberts and staff research librarian Monnie Nilsson contributed to this report.

Study Done On Kids Doing Life

EJI Publishes Study on LWOP

A new study from the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) documents 73 cases where 13- and 14-year-olds have been tried as adults and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole (LWOP). The report, “Cruel and Unusual: Sentencing 13 and 14-Year-Old Children to Die in Prison,” notes that almost all of the children currently lack legal representation and in most cases the propriety and constitutionality of their sentences has never been reviewed. Declaring that such harsh sentences for such young offenders is cruel and unusual in violation of the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and that LWOP sentences additionally violate international law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, EJI has launched a litigation campaign to have the youths re-sentenced to parole-eligible sentences as soon as possible.

Learn more about the EJI campaign and report at

To read newspaper articles and editorials about juvenile life without at parole, click on the links below:

New York Times -
Baltimore Sun - ed.parole23oct23,0,974212.story

OJJDP Adds DMC Databook to Statistical Briefing Book

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has released the National Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Databook, a web-based tool that addresses the DMC Relative Rate Index (RRI) Matrix, a means of comparing the rates of juvenile justice contact experienced by different groups of youth. The Databook explains the use of RRI, contains national RRIs for 1990 through 2004, and provides a written interpretation of racial disparity trends for a large number of decision points within the juvenile justice system.

View the DMC Databook at View the entire Statistical Briefing Book at

SAMHSA Seeks Proposals to Address Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has issued a request for proposals from juvenile courts interested in receiving funding and training to address fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Organizations legally authorized to provide services to adjudicated youth on probation or dependent youth are also eligible. Proposals are due November 29, 2007.

Learn more at

Upcoming Conferences

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) will hold its 2007 National Youth Court Conference in New Orleans, LA, December 9-12, 2007. Designed to assist jurisdictions in developing, implementing and enhancing effective youth court programs, the conference allows participants to learn how to plan and implement a youth court; educate new staff and stakeholders; enhance existing programs; and network with peers from around the country. Registration is open to adult staff and volunteers involved in youth, teen, student and peer courts.

Learn more at

The CJJ e-Monitor is brought to you by staff and volunteer leaders of CJJ, and supported by membership fees paid by CJJ’s State Advisory Group members, Members at Large and Allies. We are grateful to all for their ongoing support.

The CJJ e-Monitor is distributed in the first week of every month. To submit items for publication, e-mail Kitty McCarthy at Items must be submitted two weeks prior to the first of the month for consideration. Inclusion and editing of submissions are subject to CJJ editorial guidelines.

To electronically subscribe or unsubscribe to the CJJ e-Monitor, please send a request with your name and contact information to

— Robin Jenkins, 2007 CJJ National Chair
— Kitty McCarthy, Editor