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Archive for the ‘Criminal Justice Reform’ Category

Heated argument over ‘Bail Bill’ included multiple ‘F-Bombs.’

By Lee Williams

A meeting between the state’s top cop and its chief public defender became so heated, so loud and so profane Thursday, that a worried Senate staffer called the Capitol Police to intervene, the Caesar Rodney Institute has learned.

Attorney General Beau Biden and Delaware Public Defender Brendan O’Neill had been discussing Senate Bill 60, an act that would be the first leg of a constitutional amendment that would allow the General Assembly to define certain criminal offenses for which bail or pre-trial release would not be allowed.

The Caesar Rodney Institute was told the two attorneys began yelling at each other, frequently using the “F-Word.”

A Senate staffer – worried that the screaming and profanity could be indicative of a security risk – called the Capitol Police Department, the agency charged to maintain order inside Legislative Hall.

Two Capitol Police officers were dispatched to investigate the source of the screaming and profanity.

Biden and O’Neill, however, had left the area before the officers arrived. Since the source of the yelling was not found, the officers did not take any action or complete any official reports.

O’Neill confirmed he never saw a Capitol Police officer.

“Beau and I had a disagreement over a business issue – SB 60,” O’Neill told the Caesar Rodney Institute. “He’s supporting it. I oppose it. We had a lively debate.”

As to any profane yelling inside Legislative Hall, O’Neill said, “I don’t recall.”

The Caesar Rodney Institute asked Biden in an e-mail whether his office would prosecute a Delaware taxpayer for screaming profanity inside of the People’s House. However, Biden was not willing to be interviewed for this story.

The cause of the cussing: SB 60

Battle lines are already being drawn over the legislation sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Anthony J. DeLuca, D-Varlano.

Sen. Deluca’s bill is designed to address an anomaly within the state’s criminal justice system.

Currently, bail may only be denied to a defendant in capital cases. However, this constitutional provision was written in 1792, at a time when crimes other than first-degree murder were punishable by death, such as rape, robbery and burglary.

Rape and aggravated arson were removed from the list of capital crimes by Supreme Court application of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, partially in recognition that application of the death penalty was sometimes racially motivated.

DeLuca’s legislation would allow bail to be withheld from crimes “as the General Assembly may from time to time prescribe by law, when the proof is positive or the presumption great.”

By changing Article I, Section 12 of the state constitution, the General Assembly would be able to define the offenses that may subject a defendant to denial of bail, which preserves the state’s due process protections through hearings related to the offenses.

Nowadays, under current state law, even defendants such as Lewes pediatrician Dr. Earl Bradley – who investigators suspect of molesting more than 100 children – must be granted an opportunity to make bail.

Bradley, while arguably the most notorious, is not the first defendant accused of a heinous crime to be afforded the opportunity to post bail and walk away from a Delaware courtroom.

In the 1970s, Delaware captured an international drug lord, along with tons of marijuana and pounds of cocaine.

He posted the required $1 million in bail, and was never seen again.

Contact investigative reporter Lee Williams at (302) 242-9272 or lee@caesarrodney.org

The Caesar Rodney Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan research and educational organization and is committed to being a catalyst for improved performance, accountability, and efficiency in Delaware government.

© Copyright Jan.25, 2010 by the Caesar Rodney Institute

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The Attorney General’s Office lost another one. Malik S. Brown was acquitted of murder yesterday by a Wilmington jury. He had been charged with the 2008 killing of Adrian Malone.

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From the Governor’s office:

Markell Names Widener University Law School Dean Linda L. Ammons to Lead Independent Review of Delaware’s Statutory and Administrative Procedures Governing Child Abuse and Exploitation

Dover, DE – Governor Jack Markell announced today that he has named Widener University School of Law Associate Provost and Dean Linda L. Ammons, Esquire to lead an independent review into the State’s statutory and administrative procedures governing child abuse and exploitation, in the wake of the Lewes pediatrician being accused of sexually assaulting children in his care.

Markell was joined by Senator Brian Bushweller, Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee and Representative Larry Mitchell, Chair of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee to call for the review to examine where critical improvements are necessary.

“The bottom line is that the system failed these children.  I am asking Dean Ammons to take an independent look at why this systemic failure occurred. I am asking that she make recommendations that will foster a child protection community of collaboration and accountability, so that we can make the necessary improvements to protect our children from predators,” Markell said. “This situation demands tough questions and real answers. Together, we intend to get them.”

Dean Ammons is expected to consult with the Attorney General, recognized experts in criminal justice, sexual assault and child protection to assist her in her review, as well as look at best practices in formulating her recommendations.

Dean Ammons is the seventh dean of Widener Law and the first woman and first African-American person to lead the state’s only law school. An accomplished lawyer, professor and administrator, she came to Widener in July 2006 from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in Cleveland, Ohio, where she was associate dean and professor of law. Her primary area of expertise is administrative law, which involves the operation of government and regulatory agencies.

Dean Ammons has a wealth of administrative and state-agency experience. She served as executive assistant to former Ohio Gov. Richard F. Celeste from 1988 to 1991, a job in which she oversaw criminal justice policy for the governor and served as his point person on state-prison issues. She served on the Ohio Supreme Court Futures Commission, which worked to improve the court system, and co-chaired for two years the American Bar Association National Institute on Defending Battered Women in Criminal Cases.

“I have agreed to undertake this review at Gov. Markell’s request because it presents an opportunity to help improve a system that cannot leave its children – its most vulnerable citizens – without adequate protections,” Dean Ammons said. “This call to public service is in keeping with our core values at Widener, where students are encouraged to use their educations and talents in ways that contribute to the communities we serve, in order to make them better places. I appreciate the confidence Gov. Markell has shown by asking me to lead this review and I welcome the chance to help make the First State safer, particularly for children.”

Dean Ammons will undertake a comprehensive review of the State’s policies and procedures and make recommendations to improve the administrative handling of child abuse and sexual exploitation cases focused on reducing child trauma, enhancing the effectiveness of administrative action, and reforming state laws and regulations to meet these objectives.

Markell made clear that Dean Ammons’ review must not and will not jeopardize the current prosecution in the Lewes pediatrician case or the Attorney General’s ongoing investigation of whether anyone violated the current reporting requirements under the existing statutory scheme.

“Not only must we ensure a successful prosecution in this case, we must have, and Dean Ammons will help provide, real answers to how and why the system failed and a roadmap to protect our children going forward,” Markell said. “While the Attorney General will prosecute the laws that were broken, this independent review will help decide whether we have the right laws, processes and procedures in place for the handling of future child abuse and sexual exploitation cases.”

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden supports the State’s independent review.

“I support the Governor’s independent review.  In the meantime, my office will continue to pursue Dr. Bradley to the fullest extent of the law and get to the bottom of who may have violated Delaware’s current reporting requirements and take whatever action is necessary.  There must be accountability.”  Biden said.

Issues to be addressed in the independent review include but are not limited to:

  1. Professional reporting requirements for suspected incidents of misconduct and the enforcement thereof;
  2. Professional licensing requirements, procedures and enforcement, including comprehensive background checks and procedures for on-going review;
  3. Medical standards and protocols around proper pediatric care and the publication thereof to ensure that doctors, medical staff and parents have clear guidance;
  4. The sufficiency of outreach efforts regarding reporting requirements, so that those with legal obligations to report questionable behavior do so;
  5. Proper communication and coordination between law enforcement agencies, professional regulators and the medical community; and
  6. Ensuring that adequate services are provided for the protection and treatment of children suspected of being sexually abused in order to protect them from further harm.

At the conclusion of the independent review, Dean Ammons will issue a final report to the Governor’s Office, the Senate Public Safety Committee and the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

According to Senator Bushweller, “Protecting children, and indeed all patients, needs to be our first priority and I support the Governor’s decision to review this matter.  We need a broad-based review of all facets of this horrendous situation. I look forward to considering the results and recommendations of Dean Ammons’ independent review.”

Representative Mitchell stated, “It is imperative that we take a top-down and independent look at where the system failed these children, and make the necessary improvements to ensure that something like this never happens again.  Dean Ammons is an accomplished individual who is well-suited to undertake such an important review.”

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Two inmates housed at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (JTVCC) near Smyrna died Thursday of apparent suicides.

According to press releases from DOC spokesman John Painter, both inmates hung themselves.

Brian Smith, 40, of Lansdowne, PA, was being held in default of bail on charges of Rape 1st, Endangering the Welfare of a Child, Possession of a Deadly Weapon During Commission of a Felony, Rape 2nd, Unlawful Sexual Contact, Kidnapping 1st, Aggravated Menacing, and Terroristic Threatening.

Smith had been in Department of Correction custody since 07/20/2007. He arrived at JTVCC on 07/03/2008.

Smith was found at 5:50 a.m.

Kenneth D. Bigelow, 36, was found unresponsive in his cell and was pronounced dead at 2:50 p.m.

Bigelow, of Wilmington, DE, was being held on Violation of Probation on an original charge of Burglary 3rd. Bigelow arrived at JTVCC on 01/04/2010.

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Radley Balko gives his take at Reason.com.

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