Crime

With the media scrutiny, not charging George Zimmerman would have been the bigger surprise.

The Washington Post is reporting that special prosecutor Angela Corey will hold a press conference this afternoon charging Zimmerman with something arising out of the death of Trayvon Martin.

Just what he’ll be charged with is anyone’s guess, is he getting hit with murder, manslaughter, or the simple “hunting black teens without a license,” which I think is just a misdemeanor in Florida. Check back for updates as we learn more.

Of course, charging the man and finding him are two completely different things…

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The lethal injection room at San Quentin State Prison.

Debating the death penalty never gets old in the United States. Sometimes it cools off for a while, but if you wait long enough it always bubbles up again. These days it’s getting hot out here on the West Coast, where a ballot initiative aims to roll back the state’s death penalty and replace it with life without parole. The initiative would replace Proposition 7, passed in 1978, which made California’s death penalty law “among the toughest and most far-reaching in the country.”

At the center of the debate are two men — one of them a former prosecutor from New York — who helped pass the death penalty bill in California 30 years ago. Now they have completely changed their tune. What prompted this change of heart?

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Vigilante justice in the Sunshine State isn’t getting a great rap right now. The tragic killing of Trayon Martin by a community watch participant, George Zimmerman, has raised serious questions about Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law (and also caused headaches for Hollywood).

But sometimes — perhaps most of the time? — alert and engaged citizens are a good thing. Today we bring you the happy and heartwarming story of two Florida law students who helped apprehend a fugitive from justice.

How did they do it? Through keen observation and quick thinking….

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Stephen McDaniel

Last week, we saw some big news in the Stephen M. McDaniel murder case. In a bond hearing, prosecutors told the court about another internet post allegedly made by McDaniel, the Mercer Law School graduate who stands accused of murdering classmate Lauren Giddings. The newest post was particularly unsettling and gory.

At first glance, the post seemed like it could be a smoking gun. But things are never as simple as they seem: rumors are going around that the post is a fake. Because, as Above the Law readers know, don’t believe everything you read in online comments…

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Stephen McDaniel

It has been a while since our last significant update on the criminal case against Stephen M. McDaniel, the Mercer Law School graduate accused of killing classmate Lauren Giddings. But as noted in Morning Docket, we now have an update.

A rather lurid and gory update. Reader discretion is advised….

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[T]he fact that it is constitutional and commonplace does not quiet the nagging sense that hate crime legislation resembles something from an Orwell dystopia. Horrific crimes deserve stern justice, but don’t we want to be careful about criminalizing a defect of character? Because our founders believed that democracy requires great latitude for dissent, America, virtually alone in the developed world, protects the right to speak or publish the most odious points of view. And yet the government is authorized to punish you for thinking those vile things, if you think them in the course of committing a crime.

Bill Keller, former executive editor of the New York Times, in an op-ed piece discussing the cases of Tyler Clementi and Trayvon Martin.

(A law professor makes a cameo in the column, after the jump.)

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The Supreme Court handed down a new ruling today, taking a controversial stance in a (literally) sensitive area. The decision should make would-be criminals across the country wince.

In a split decision (is there any other kind these days?), the justices decided that law enforcement is justified in strip-searching anyone, for any offense, before admitting them to jail.

Understandably, a lot of people are butthurt about the 5–4 ruling…

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* Alexander Wang says that he wasn’t running a sweatshop and that the former employee making the allegations was actually mean to all the other indentured servants workers. [Fashionista]

* We’re well into the phase of the Trayvon Martin investigation where people are trying to blame the victim, but until they show me a guy who was killed by a pack of Skittles, I really don’t think we’ve learned anything new. [New York Daily News]

* A sports agent tells all. [Legal Blitz]

* You don’t think your Skype chats at work are private, do you? In fairness, who still thinks anything they do at work is private? If you want to keep your privacy, you best work in disguise. I mean, you don’t really think I’m a large black man who talks about race all the time, do you? [Not-So Private Parts / Forbes]

* Defending child pornographers. Somebody has to do it, and I’m so glad it’s not me. [Underdog]

After the jump, we’ve got some video footage of Lat dancing around like heathen as he throws fresh dirt on Dewey’s grave….

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Yesterday, a French judge charged embarrassing grandpa and former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn with “aggravated pimping” for his role in a prostitution ring run out of upscale hotels in Lille, France. The charge is the latest in a series of sexual allegations against liver-spotted DSK, including attending sex parties with hookers, sexually assaulting his goddaughter, raping a maid in a hotel, and having sex at age 63.

DSK’s most recent charge raises an important issue: What is aggravated pimping? And if pimpin’ ain’t easy, isn’t all pimping “aggravated pimping”? According to this blogger, whose analysis sounds good to me because I’m too lazy to check it, the French charge of “aggravated pimping” likely involves some aggravating circumstance, such as paying for prostitutes with corporate funds or paying for annoying prostitutes with your own money. Apparently most U.S. states also have “aggravated promotion of prostitution” statutes, which make angry pimping a more serious crime than relaxed pimping — which makes sense from a public policy perspective.

But what about the millions of permissible P.I.M.P.s who just happen to be having a bad day? Are they at risk of breaking the law? And where do we draw the line between perfectly legal Big Pimpin’ and illegal aggravated pimping?

To help make sense of this mess — and to keep you on the legal side of where the true players are at — see my Guide to Pimping chart below….

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Florida’s “stand your ground” law has received a lot of attention this week as people struggle to understand how a teenager named Trayvon Martin, armed with Skittles, was gunned down in the street. The FBI, the Justice Department, and a Florida grand jury are now all investigating the incident where Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, claims he was acting in self-defense.

I don’t want to get into the racial aspect of the instant situation — mainly because it’s too obvious. Don’t get me started on what the police would have done if a black man shot a white teenager to death and claimed he was standing his ground. It’s not even worth debating.

But even if race played a role here, it doesn’t mean a prosecutable crime took place. As many now know, that’s because Florida’s “stand your ground” law does not require people to retreat, even if they can do so safely.

Sure, “real men” don’t run. You can’t find a culture on Earth where running away is “honorable.” But in light of what’s happened with these laws on the books, do they really make sense? Is the enforcement of these laws racially prejudiced? Do “stand your ground” laws really just make it open season on black youths who might “scare” prejudiced people who incorrectly think they’re in danger of their lives?

I think so, but at least that’s a position where reasonable people will disagree….

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