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The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously finds police require a search warrant to place a tracking device on a suspect's vehicle.
How fallible memories send innocent people to prisonAugust 31, 2011
Three-quarters of the defendants who are cleared by DNA evidence were convicted based on sincere yet inaccurate eyewitness testimony. The New Jersey Supreme Court highlighted that problem last week when it revised the state's rules for pretrial hearings and jury instructions based on three decades of research exposing the fallibility of human memory. Senior Editor Jacob Sullum says the decision reminds us that the most powerful testimony jurors hear may also be the weakest, subject to hidden influences that can send an innocent man to prison if they remain unexposed.
The dangers of our increasingly militarized policeAugust 23, 2011
The paramilitary approach to law enforcement flies in the face of the idea that the police and the citizens are on the same side, writes A. Barton Hinkle. Officer Friendly, strolling the block in a blue uniform and playing a paradiddle with his baton on a white picket fence, looks like he is ready to help carry groceries for the little old lady who lives on the corner. A cop in combat gear with an assault rifle slung over his shoulder looks like he is ready to go to war. And in war, Hinkle notes, there is no presumption of innocence—and the opposing side is not a fellow citizen with constitutional rights. He is the enemy.
The marijuana exception to Jan Brewer's federalismJuly 27, 2011
The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, approved by voters last November, remains on hold thanks to Gov. Jan Brewer, who worries that it conflicts with the federal Controlled Substances Act. Senior Editor Jacob Sullum says Brewer, a Republican who proudly advocates a "new federalism" that "protects the States and [their] citizens against an over-reaching federal government," in this case seems happy to let the Obama administration override the will of Arizona's voters.
Obama displays a Clintonian desire to have things both ways.July 6, 2011
There was a time, says Senior Editor Jacob Sullum, when Barack Obama seemed more honest than Bill Clinton. While Slick Willie notoriously claimed he smoked pot but "didn't inhale," Obama candidly admitted, "When I was a kid, I inhaled frequently. That was the point."
Lately Sullum has not been so impressed by Obama's truth-telling tendencies. He says three incidents last week vividly illustrated the president's Clintonian desire to have things both ways, even if it means insulting our intelligence.
How plea agreements, never contemplated by the Framers, undermine justiceJuly 5, 2011
Most Americans are under the mistaken impression that when the government accuses someone of a crime, the case typically proceeds to trial, where a jury of laypeople hears arguments from the prosecution and the defense, then deliberates over the evidence before deciding on the defendant’s guilt or innocence. But as Tim Lynch reports, this image of American justice is wildly off the mark. Criminal cases rarely go to trial, because about 95 percent are resolved by plea bargains. And as Lynch argues, these agreements, which were never contemplated by the Framers of the Constitution, undermine justice.
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