Criminal Law Decisions: Decided
Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

Recently in Criminal Law Category

Over 30 years after his first murder, and six years after his arrest, Lonnie David Franklin, Jr., dubbed the Grim Sleeper serial killer was found guilty of 10 counts of murder in the slayings of nine women and one 15-year-old girl. Franklin targeted vulnerable young black women in the Los Angeles area for decades spanning the crack cocaine epidemic and killed his last known victim in 2007.

It was a 13-year gap in the middle of that span that earned Franklin the Grim Sleeper moniker, distinguishing him from other serial killers operating in the same area at the same time.

Last summer, anti-abortion advocates thought they had a smoking gun when they secretly taped Planned Parenthood executives allegedly discussing the donation and sale of fetal tissue. Threats to defund Planned Parenthood were made, and a grand jury was convened to investigate whether the health services provider committed any crimes.

Well, the grand jury investigation is complete, only it didn't hand down the indictments those who made the videos probably expected. Planned Parenthood was cleared of any wrongdoing, and instead the Harris County grand jury indicted two of the people behind creating the videos.

Back in 2012, the Supreme Court held that mandatory life sentences for juveniles without the possibility for parole are unconstitutional. The question at the time, and one that has been posed to state courts ever since, was whether that ruling applied to inmates already serving life sentences for juvenile convictions.

And now we know the answer. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court decided that its ruling in Miller v. Alabama is retroactive, and those that were previously sentenced to mandatory life terms as juveniles must be eligible for parole. Let's take a look at the Court's ruling.

In its first major decision of 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Florida's capital punishment sentencing scheme is unconstitutional. The Court held that juries, and not judges, should be the final arbiters of any facts related to handing down a death penalty sentence.

So what does this mean for capital punishment in Florida, and the death penalty nationwide?

For the first time ever, a state has agreed to pay for a transgender inmate's sex reassignment operation. As part of a legal settlement, California will pay for the surgery for Shiloh Quine, a transgender woman who is serving a life sentence.

The settlement with Quine follows a ruling from a federal judge that required the state to pay for the surgery for another inmate, Michelle Norsworthy. Instead, California Gov. Jerry Brown announced Norsworthy would be paroled.

Torture. When you think of torture, you think of Zero Dark Thirty and CIA interrogation of suspected terrorists.

Did you ever imagining it happening in your back yard? In Chicago, former police Commander Jon Burge and his "Midnight Crew" tortured over a 100 victims over a period of almost 20 years starting in 1972. The victims, mostly African-American men, reported that Burge and his gang used electric shocks, beatings, smotherings, and simulated Russian roulette to coerce confessions. Four of Burge's victims were sentenced to death after being tortured into giving false confessions. When Illinois Governor George Ryan left office, he pardoned the four men.

Forty years after the torture started, Chicago is making reparations.

While using a drug dog to sniff for drugs is not unconstitutional, doing so after a completed traffic stop is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ruled, in a 6-3 opinion, that the use of a drug dog to sniff for drugs, without any reasonable suspicion, after a completed traffic stop unreasonably extended the stop.

Everybody in New Mexico must report suspected child abuse and neglect, the state's highest court has ruled.

In an opinion released Monday, New Mexico's Supreme Court clarified that the state's mandatory child-abuse reporting requirements applied to all residents of the state, not just to certain publicly employed professionals.

New Mexico already has a law requiring everybody to report child abuse. So why was this ruling necessary?

Don't post sexually explicit pictures of a minor on a revenge porn website. Even more importantly, don't ignore the lawsuit when you get sued!

Eric Chanson and Kevin Bollaert, owners of the (now-defunct) revenge porn website YouGotPosted.com, must now pay a $900,000 default judgment to a young girl whose pictures were posted on the site.

What did they do, and what is a default judgment?

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has reversed the aggravated assault conviction of former Air Force Tech. Sgt. David J.A. Gutierrez for withholding his HIV diagnosis from sexual partners.

The court cited medical experts who explained there is a 1 in 500 chance of contracting HIV through unprotected heterosexual sex. That's insufficiently likely to inflict grievous bodily harm to support the aggravated assault charge, the court held.

But the court upheld a lesser assault conviction for Gutierrez based on his former sexual partners' not giving informed consent to sexual activity because he hadn't told them about his HIV status.