Monday, October 01, 2007

Legal Blog Watch

Legal Blog Watch

Technology Changes the Law

Sometimes technology, not ideology, drives change in the law. And in the case of DNA evidence, technology has done what the Constitution and the due process clause never could: lead to systemic changes in state laws to allow convicted defendants to reopen closed criminal cases and seek access to DNA evidence for testing through procedures that did not exist at the time of trial. The trend is discussed in this New York Times article, Exoneration Using DNA Brings Change in Legal System.

The article reports that as the result of the exoneration of more than 200 convicts through use of DNA evidence over the past decade, states are now providing easier access to DNA evidence. From the article:

All but eight states now give inmates varying degrees of access to DNA evidence that might not have been available at the time of their convictions. Many states are also overhauling the way witnesses identify suspects, crime labs handle evidence and informants are used. At least six states have created commissions to expedite cases of those wrongfully convicted or to consider changes to criminal justice procedures. One of them, the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, will hold a hearing this month on remedies for people who have been wrongfully convicted.

Personally, I've never understood the reluctance of prosecutors and courts to allow access to DNA evidence for testing that was not technologically possible at the time of trial. Many times, DNA evidence will corroborate the outcome, thus increasing the credibility of the conviction. And where the DNA evidence exonerates a defendant, then an innocent person can be freed -- a result that I'd assume all players in the criminal justice system would want to achieve. In any event, my policy argument doesn't matter as much anymore, and that's fine -- because 200 exonerations based on DNA evidence is the most powerful argument of all.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 1, 2007 at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lawyers Seek Six Figures for Refund Over Discredited Memoir

Remember James Frey, the author of the memoir A Million Little Pieces, a purported "real life" memoir about Frey's drug use that Frey later admitted he'd fabricated? Disappointed readers subsequently filed a class action against Frey and his publisher, Random House, seeking a refund for the cost of the book, and they'll be getting a small refund check. Now, as The Smoking Gun reports here, only 1,345 of 4 million purchasers have actually sought a refund. No matter; the lawyers who brought the suit are still seeking $788,333.33 in legal fees for their efforts. Evan Smith, one of the attorneys in the case, noted that it cost about $335,000 to publicize the proposed book refund settlement in newspaper advertisements.

I'm not sure how Smith can justify the extent of the fees sought. If only a few customers sought a refund due to poor publicity, then  Smith should not be permitted to recover the full costs of what was, apparently, an unsuccessful advertising initiative. On the other hand, if few customers sought a refund just because it wasn't worth their time -- or they enjoyed the book, notwithstanding that it was a false account, then wouldn't Smith's fees be disproportionate to the benefit achieved? What's your view?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 1, 2007 at 02:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

News From the First Monday in October

It's the first Monday in October, which brings plenty of news and commentary about the Supreme Court to the blawgosphere. In this article, Tony Mauro discusses the first case of the term, Washington State Grange v. Washington Republican Party (consolidated with State of Washington v. Washington Republican Party. According to Mauro, the case is the first of three voting-related cases scheduled for the docket that invoke the First Amendment. And if you're interested in reading other news predictions for the coming term, check this post from Blog of the Legal Times that rounds up several news stories discussing what's ahead.

SCOTUS Blog also has some First Monday news -- the creation of a Supreme Court wiki that will serve as an added resource on the Court.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 1, 2007 at 02:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blawg Review #128

This week's Blawg Review #128 travels overseas, hosted here at Trinity College graduate student Daithi Mac Sithigh's Lex Ferrenda. Over in Dublin, this first Monday in October has significance other than it does here; it's the first day of class for the new crop of undergrads. So, Mac Sithigh chooses a back-to-school theme to organize the highlights of the past week in the blawgosphere. Even if you're not a new student, this week's comprehensive Blawg Review #128 is worth studying.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 1, 2007 at 02:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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