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Tag: Criminal Law

Washington and Lee Law Review - Criminal Law

Article

by Margo Kaplan

This Article pushes lawmakers, courts, and scholars to reexamine the concept of pedophilia in favor of a more thoughtful and coherent approach. Legal scholarship lacks a thorough and reasoned analysis of pedophilia. Its failure to carefully consider how the law should conceptualize sexual attraction to children undermines efforts to address the myriad of criminal, public health, and other legal concerns pedophilia raises. The result is an inconsistent mix of laws and policies based on dubious presumptions. These laws also increase risk of sexual abuse by isolating people living with pedophilia from treatment.

The Article makes two central arguments: (1) although pedophilia does not fit neatly into any existing legal rubric, the concept of mental disorder best addresses the issues pedophilia raises; and (2) if the law conceptualizes pedophilia as a mental disorder, we must carefully reconsider how several areas of law address it. Specifically, it argues that sexually violent predator statutes expand state power to civilly commit individuals by distorting the concept of pedophilia as a mental disorder. At the same time, anti-discrimination law is dismissive of pedophilia as a mental disorder, excluding it from civil rights protections ordinarily associated with mental illness. Closer examination of these distinctions reveals them to be based on questionable premises.

The law should take pedophilia seriously as a mental disorder. Many individuals living with pedophilia pose a danger to others. Yet we should not categorically deny pedophilia the civil rights protections afforded to other mental disorders without a convincing normative justification supported by cogent scientific evidence. Strengthening civil rights protections for those with pedophilia also increases access to treatment and support that helps prevent child abuse.

Article

by Russell L. Christopher

Are decades-long delays between sentencing and execution immune from Eighth Amendment violation because they are self-inflicted by prisoners, or is such prisoner fault for delays simply irrelevant to whether a state-imposed punishment is cruel and unusual? Typically finding delay to be the state’s responsibility, Justices Breyer and Stevens argue that execution following upwards of forty years of death row incarceration is unconstitutional. Nearly every lower court disagrees, reasoning that prisoners have the choice of pursuing appellate and collateral review (with the delay that entails) or crafting the perfect remedy to any delay by submitting, as Justice Thomas has invited complaining prisoners to do, to execution. By choosing the former, any resulting delay is self-inflicted; delayed executions are prisoners’ own fault. Despite this argument’s commonsense appeal, left unexplained is how prisoner fault inoculates state-imposed punishment from Eighth Amendment violation. Lacking a rationale for the prisoner fault argument, this Article proposes the two most obvious candidates: (i) analogizing to fault attribution for delays in the Sixth Amendment speedy trial right context; and (ii) choosing post-conviction review rather than submitting to execution, prisoners waive Eighth Amendment challenge of the resulting delay. But neither is persuasive; moreover, each proposed rationale presupposes the existence of the very right that Justice Thomas and nearly every court vigorously deny: an Eighth Amendment right against excessively delayed execution. The absence of a persuasive rationale exposes prisoner fault as irrelevant and removes the primary obstacle to courts recognizing that execution following decades of death row incarceration constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Development

by Cadman R. Kiker III

We are at the dawn of a new era of policing in the United States. In recent months, images of armed police officers patrolling the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, and of a toddler burned by a Georgia SWAT team’s grenade have been indelibly branded into America’s social consciousness. There is a unique bipartisan outcry from Washington in a time otherwise marked by bitter political divides. Politicians and journalists alike are questioning the efficacy of a militaristic police force and the path that led to this shift in the paradigm of policing.

This Essay examines the how and why of police militarization in the United States; it details some of the most egregious instances of police overreach, mission creep, and proliferation of military-style police units treating citizens as an enemy population. It seems all is quiet in Congress after a few seemingly futile hearings on militarization. The Executive Branch has released suggestions that are expected to manifest in an executive order any day. Unfortunately, all of these solutions are too little, too late. The streets of America are much more akin to a war zone than the democratic nation that our Founders envisioned, and it is up to the people, at a local level, to reclaim what was intended.

Development

by Kevin Bennardo

Cooperation agreements and plea agreements are separate and independent promises by criminal defendants to: (1) assist the Government in the prosecution of another person and (2) plead guilty. A defendant’s breach of one should not affect the Government’s obligation to perform under the other. All too often, however, these agreements are inappropriately intertwined so that a minor breach of the plea agreement relieves the Government of its obligation to move for a downward sentencing departure in recognition of the defendant’s substantial assistance. This intertwining undermines sentencing policy as set forth in the federal sentencing statute. Thus, a district court should continue to consider a defendant’s substantial assistance when imposing a criminal sentence even if a breach of the plea agreement alleviates the Government of its duty to move for a sentence reduction under an intertwined cooperation agreement.

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