Prisons

Stephen 'Hacksaw' McDaniel

In last night’s story about Stephen Mark McDaniel, the recent Mercer Law School graduate accused of murdering his former neighbor and classmate, Lauren Giddings, we tried to come up with a Nancy Grace-style nickname for the accused. Inspired by Tot Mom, Nancy Grace’s moniker for Casey Anthony, one reader suggested “Chain Mail Man” (based on McDaniel’s penchant for wearing chain mail to his law school classes).

In light of new evidence that has come to light, however, a better nickname has emerged for Stephen McDaniel. Until a superior option presents itself, the defendant may occasionally be referred to in these pages as “Hacksaw McDaniel.”

What is the basis for this new handle? Let’s take a look at the arrest warrant for Stephen M. McDaniel, which lays out the gruesome particulars….

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Stephen McDaniel

I just realized that I share several things in common with Stephen Mark McDaniel, the recent Mercer Law School graduate who has been charged with the grisly murder of his former classmate, Lauren Giddings.

During law school, I served as vice-president of my law school’s Federalist Society chapter. So did Stephen McDaniel (under Lauren Giddings, who served as president).

Through the Federalist Society, I got to meet one of my heroes, Justice Clarence Thomas. So did Stephen McDaniel, who expressed his admiration for Justice Thomas’s integrity.

I once aspired to be a prosecutor and a federal judge. So did Stephen McDaniel, who hoped to serve as a prosecutor on his way to realizing his dream of serving on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Stephen McDaniel’s mother, Glenda McDaniel, once asked her son whether romance was possible between him and any woman. My mother has posed similar questions of me.

Lauren Giddings

And this, thankfully, is where the similarities end. My hair, while sometimes problematic, doesn’t look like the result of “a grizzly bear banging Bob Marley’s mom” (as one ATL tipster described McDaniel’s mane). In law school, I wore khakis and button-down shirts to class, not chain mail (which doesn’t sound very comfortable). I have never been accused of burglarizing apartments (to steal condoms). And I’ve certainly never been accused of murder.

As we reported last night, Stephen M. McDaniel, 25, has been charged with the horrific murder of Lauren Giddings, 27, a bright and beautiful recent graduate of Mercer Law. Giddings’s decapitated torso was found on June 30. The search for the rest of her remains continues.

Let’s take a closer look at this deeply disturbing case….

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Stephen McDaniel

A recent graduate of Mercer Law School in Macon, Georgia, Stephen Mark McDaniel, has been charged with murder, according to inmate information posted tonight on the website of the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office. As you may recall, Stephen McDaniel was a neighbor and classmate of Lauren Giddings, the slain Mercer Law graduate whose torso was found on June 30, inside a trash bin just outside her apartment building.

McDaniel, 25, was previously identified as a person of interest in the killing of Lauren Giddings, 27. He is currently being held in Bibb County jail, having been charged with two counts of burglary in an unrelated case.

Bibb County jail records are how the murder charge against McDaniel came to light. Let’s take a look at Stephen McDaniel’s inmate information sheet….

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* A federal judge in Kansas has given Planned Parenthood’s Abortionplex a new lease on life. [WSJ Law Blog]

* What? A former Supreme Court clerk who got passed over for a job at a law school? Nicholas Spaeth, who’s also the former state attorney general for North Dakota, is suing the Michigan State University College of Law, for age discrimination. [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times via SBM Blog]

* Interesting thoughts from Scott Greenfield on making executions public. I certainly don’t oppose more-comprehensive coverage of the criminal justice system in general. [Simple Justice]

* Elsewhere in criminal justice news, should prisons be run on a voucher system? Dan Markel offers some thoughts on Sasha Volokh’s interesting proposal. [PrawfsBlawg]

* An interesting profile of Alan Gura, the celebrated Second Amendment litigator, by a fellow small-firm lawyer, Nicole Black. [The Xemplar]

* Hopefully this will all become moot after a deal gets done, but remember the Fourteenth Amendment argument for Obama unilaterally raising the debt ceiling? Jeffrey Rosen thinks a lawsuit against Obama would get kicked for lack of standing — or might even prevail. [New Republic]

* But Orin Kerr believes that a recent SCOTUS case might change the analysis. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Howrey going to pay all the creditors? A lot turns on how some contingency-fee cases turn out, according to Larry Ribstein. [Truth on the Market]

* From in-house to the big house: former general counsel Russell Mackert just got sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for his role in a fraud scheme. [Corporate Counsel]

* Keep It Simple: a commendable theme for Blawg Review #313. [Patent Baristas via Blawg Review]

Sheryl Crow

* I’m standing in the middle of a desert, waiting for my ship to come in. But now no joker, no J.D. degree, can take your losing hand, and make it win; you should be leaving Las Vegas. [WSJ Law Blog]

* If Miami Law could somehow figure out a way to actually do this, they would usher in a new era where law schools might still be expensive, but not useless. At some point, the way we educate future lawyers has to change, doesn’t it? [Roy Black]

* The law and law enforcement will always be behind the curve when trying to police cutting-edge techniques employed to unwittingly photograph naked women. Still not sure if you want to click on the link? How about: “This is why Kash is afraid to pee.” [Not-So Private Parts / Forbes]

* I don’t understand and/or don’t care why so many lawyers have a problem with the “and/or” construction. [Legal Blog Watch]

* Listening to Lat and Bess Levin discuss the various things can happen to meth users was the highlight of my day at the office, but seriously kids, don’t do drugs. [Dealbreaker]

* What do you get for the billionaire who has everything? His own prison. [Sentencing Law & Policy]

Chris Christie

* Wait, John Grisham stories are fictional? Man, I always thought that nobody offered to pay off my debts and buy me a house and a car in Memphis because of my race. [ABA Journal]

* New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is going to be okay. [Slate]

* Scott Drake asked me to do a podcast just after I read Rick Matasar’s response to the New York Times. This recording was made after I calmed down. [Legal Broadcast Network]

Maybe I’m just naive, but I find the concept of conducting any courtroom business via video enthralling but also a bit unnerving. It seems so inconsistent with the mythical and timeless ideals of the hallowed halls of justice, yadda yadda yadda.

Whether we like it or not, however, video conferencing is creeping into courthouses across the country. For example, as I previously reported, a Georgia court let a criminal witness testify via Skype.

Last week a government survey revealed that Pennsylvania state courts conduct more than 15,000 video conferences each month. More than half were preliminary arraignments, but the state used videoconferencing for warrant proceedings, bail hearings and sentencing hearings, too.

According to the survey, not only does video conferencing save the state a boatload of money, it also saves magistrate judges from having to personally interact with the pesky “derelicts” charged with crimes.

Keep reading to find out how virtual arraignment conserves dollars and judicial peace of mind….

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Rachel Brand

* High-powered litigatrices on the move: Rachel Brand and Kate Comerford Todd, two fabulous members of The Elect, are joining the National Chamber Litigation Center — where they will contribute to the Chamber’s impressive track record of litigating against excessive regulation. [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]

* Was it Anthony Weiner’s wiener that went out over Twitter? The congressman isn’t saying. [Daily Caller via Instapundit]

* Professor Sasha Volokh floats the intriguing idea of prison vouchers: “What would the world look like if, instead of assigning prisoners to particular prisons bureaucratically, we gave them vouchers, good for one incarceration, that they were required to redeem at a participating prison?” [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Dance protests aren’t allowed at the Jefferson Memorial, but might they be coming to Apple stores? [TaxProf Blog]

* An update on “don’t ask, don’t tell” developments. [Metro Weekly]

* This should be interesting: disgraced ex-judge Sol Wachtler tells all. [92YTribeca]

* A moving Memorial Day edition of Blawg Review. [Securing Innovation via Blawg Review]

Justice John Paul Stevens

* Opponents of “three strikes” hope that the SCOTUS decision requiring California to reduce its prison population by 33,000 inmates will help them to repeal three strikes. Four balls, standing eight count, and wicked googly are among sports terms vying to take its place. [San Diego Union Tribune]

* A law firm librarian in New Jersey is suing her old firm and police for being falsely arrested and accused of pulling a fire alarm in the law firm’s building. This lawsuit is long overdue. Dewey even need to check out the complaint? Folio microfiche rare books. [New Jersey Law Journal]

* An in-depth look at the legal issues facing moral exemplar and top-shelf human being John Edwards. [Charlotte Observer]

* Utah became the first state to recognize gold as legal tender, momentarily sending the price per ounce skyrocketing to 5.7 wives. [International Business Times]

* Retired Justice John Paul Stevens, at 91, remains as spry as ever. At an age when most men are dribbling pudding onto their shirt, he is dribbling it onto his bow tie. [New York Times]

* “Again?! Egypt bizman busted at Pierre hotel.” [New York Post]

Justice Kennedy says: 'Open Sesame.'

It’s late May, so we’re entering the home stretch of the Supreme Court Term. Over the next few weeks, the Court will be handing down opinions in the most contentious, closely divided cases.

One such opinion came down today: Brown v. Plata (formerly Schwarzenegger v. Plata). In this high-profile case, a three-judge district court issued an order that directed the State of California to reduce its prison population — e.g., by releasing prisoners (as many as 46,000, at the time of the order) — in order to address problems with overcrowding and poor health care for inmates.

When SCOTUS granted cert, I thought that it did so in order to summarily reverse. Federal judges running penal institutions, ordering tens of thousands of convicted criminals to be let out onto the streets? The district court’s order reeked of the kind of Ninth Circuit liberal activism that doesn’t sit well with the Roberts Court. (Note that one of the members of the three-judge panel was the notoriously left-wing Judge Stephen Reinhardt.)

Well, I was wrong. The Court just affirmed, 5-4, in an opinion by (who else?) Justice Anthony Kennedy.

There were two dissents, by Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito. Justice Scalia’s opinion in particular contains some stinging (but ultimately ineffectual) benchslaps….

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[T]he never-ending stream of futile petitions suggests that habeas corpus is a wasteful nuisance. By almost any measure, the use, and abuse, of habeas by convicted state prisoners is a failure, one that could corrode one of the most revered pillars of our legal system.

– Professors Joseph Hoffmann and Nancy King, in an interesting and persuasive New York Times op-ed piece, arguing that habeas review of state criminal cases should be limited to “capital cases and cases in which the prisoner can produce persuasive new evidence of his innocence.”

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