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With an interesting perspective on the problem of wrongful convictions, the investigators, Kim Anklin and Bob Rahn, tell the story of how they helped uncover and produce the evidence that established a wrongful conviction in Brooklyn. Take a moment to read the full article about the Jonathan Fleming case, written by one of the investigators.

Kim Anklin, The Investigation of a Wrongful Conviction: The Jonathan Fleming Case. 

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The United States Sentencing Commission has recently approved an amendment to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, “Drugs Minus Two,” which would reduce the sentencing guideline levels applicable to most federal drug trafficking offenses. Specifically, the amendment works to lower the base offense levels in the Drug Quantity Table prescribed under §2D1.1(c)(1) of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual, which may ultimately result in a lower guideline sentencing range for many defendants sentenced under federal trafficking penalties.

The Sentencing Commission has voted to apply the amendment retroactively after determining that “setting the base offense levels above mandatory minimum penalties is no longer necessary and that a reduction would be an appropriate step toward alleviating the overcapacity of the federal prisons.” The Commission’s proposal was consistent with its obligation to formulate guidelines to “minimize the likelihood that the Federal prison population will exceed the capacity of the Federal prisons. 28 U.S.C. § 994(g).

According to the Commission, there are an “estimated 46,000 offenders that may benefit from retroactive application of Amendment 782 subject to the limitation in §1B1.10 (e), and the average sentence reduction would be approximately 18 percent.”

The Chair of the Sentencing Commission, Judge Patti B. Saris, stated that “the amendment received unanimous support from Commissioners because it is a measured approach. It reduces prison costs and populations and responds to statutory and guidelines changes since the drug guidelines were initially developed, while safeguarding public safety.”

The amendment will likely go into retroactive effect beginning November 1, 2015, unless Congress disapproves of the amendment. Congress has until November 1, 2014 to make its decision. If upheld, federal prisoners may begin to petition the courts pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582 (C) (2) seeking a sentencing modification based upon the new guideline ranges.

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The protection of the attorney-client privilege has become less sacrosanct in our criminal justice system. Government practices to encroach upon the attorney-client relationship have become more invasive and widespread than ever before. For example, the prison email system has become a blueprint for maximizing the government’s leverage in interfering with one’s right to counsel and to deviously induce waivers of the attorney-client privilege.

Recently, a Federal Court in Brooklyn (EDNY) has upheld the troubling practice of federal prosecutors searching for incriminating evidence (i.e. admissions) by reading emails between defendants and their attorneys sent through the prison email system (“TRULINCS”). The government had claimed that the practice of reading all inmate emails was solely the result of a lack of financial funding, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“FBOP”) cannot afford to incorporate a screening system that would separate inmate emails to attorneys. Prosecutors failed to mention, however, that federal inmates must actually pay to use the prison’s email and telephone systems, and that the recipients of such communications must be pre-approved by the FBOP. The FBOP generally creates a list of approved contacts for each inmate, and maintains a copy of such list within its database. The list not only identifies each of the inmate’s approved contacts, but also notes each contact’s relationship with the inmate (i.e. Spouse, Friend, Attorney).

Nevertheless, the Court found that federal prosecutors could legally review inmate emails with lawyers, because federal inmates receive prior warning that their communications will not be treated as privileged and must accept those terms prior to using the email system provided by the FBOP. The Court also noted that the FBOP’s failure to provide a privileged form of email communication does not infringe upon an inmate’s right to counsel, since inmates could still privately access their attorney through other forms of communication.  The Court observed that inmates are provided sufficient alternative means to engage in privileged communications with lawyers by phone calls, mail, and in-person visits.

What the Court’s opinion fails to appreciate, however, is that email communication is the most efficient and viable form of communication used by lawyers in the twenty-first century. The suggestion that inmates could use other forms of communication to contact lawyers in the federal system is simply fantastical, especially for inmates seeking to access their lawyers for post-conviction matters.

Indeed, email communication may be the only viable way for an inmate to effectively communicate with a lawyer, since the FBOP designates inmates to be housed throughout the nation without regard to the jurisdictional location of their conviction. In post-conviction matters, attorneys may be required to travel across the country in order to conduct a legal visit with a client, which may pose significant financial and practical burdens on both the inmate and the attorney’s law practice. Likewise, the FBOP mailing system inherently poses significant delays in the transmission of communications (i.e. prison mailbox rule), and prison counselors usually require an attorney to provide notice weeks in advance before even approving an inmate’s request for either a legal visit or legal telephone call.

Notably, there appears to be a split amongst the courts in Brooklyn as to whether the government’s unfettered practice of reading attorney-client emails over “TRULINCS” can continue to occur. In a Medicare Fraud prosecution, Federal Judge Dora Irizarry of the Eastern District of New York ordered the government to refrain from reading the defendant’s prison emails with his attorneys. Judge Irizarry rejected the government’s claim that it was too expensive or burdensome for the FBOP to separate emails, noting that the practice was truly controlled by the government’s interest in gaining an adversarial advantage:

That’s hogwash… You’re going to tell me you don’t want to know what your adversary’s strategy is? What kind of a litigator are you then? Give me a break.”

In the end, allowing the government to review communications between inmates and their lawyers is a destructive and unethical practice. There is simply no justification for allowing this dangerous practice to continue, and the feeble excuses offered by federal prosecutors are simply unavailing. Unfortunately, the government’s encroachment upon attorney-client communications diminishes a criminal defense lawyer’s ability to provide effective representation. Indeed, a inmate’s ability to engage in the continuous flow of privileged communications with an attorney is paramount to the development of the attorney-client relationship, and the cornerstone to the lawyer’s ability to provide effective representation in both pre-trial proceedings and post-conviction matters.

It is to be hoped that the government’s position will at least remain consistent when astute criminal defense lawyers begin seeking the disclosure of all prison email communications between the prosecution’s cooperating witnesses and their lawyers, federal attorneys, and FBI Agents in either pre-trial discovery motions or by Freedom of Information requests.  Only time will tell whether federal prosecutors truly believe that prison emails between an inmate and an attorney can never be protected by the attorney-client privilege, and will freely accede to defense requests under its Brady and Giglio obligation. 

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POST WRITTEN BY: Prof. Peter Widulski, Assistant Director of the First Year Legal Skills Program and the Coach of International Criminal Moot Court Team at Pace Law School.

The internet’s opportunities for communication can be, and in most cases are, beneficial. But some persons may maliciously utilize such opportunities to expose others to embarrassment, and the harm inflicted can be extremely damaging, especially when such communications expose minors to severe embarrassment relating to sexual matters. Such communications have come to be termed “cyber-bullying.”

With instances of cyber-bullying increasing, public authorities have responded with varying measures, including criminalization, in an effort to curb such communications. But because the communications at issue are speech, their restriction must survive constitutional review under the First Amendment’s free speech clause.

New York State has a prior history of protecting minors against the damaging effects of sexual communications. In New York v. Ferber, 458 U.S.747 (1982), the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld, against a Free Speech challenge, a New York statute prohibiting persons from knowingly promoting a sexual performance by a child under the age of 16 by distributing material which depicted such a performance (reversing a decision of the N.Y. Court of Appeals).

On July 1, 2014, by a 5-2 vote the N.Y. Court of Appeals struck down as violating the First Amendment a law against cyber-bullying enacted by the Albany County legislature. On appeal, the County conceded that there was wording in the law that was constitutionally overbroad, but argued that, pursuant to accepted severability practice utilized in constitutional interpretation, the Court could sever the offending words and leave in place the remaining portions of the law as constitutionally valid and thus affirm the misdemeanor conviction of an Albany County high-school student who anonymously posted on Facebook photographs and detailed information about the alleged sexual practices and predilections of his classmates.

Thus, the key issue on appeal was the application of proper judicial employment of the severability doctrine, which allows a court to excise unconstitutional elements of a law in order to preserve constitutionally valid elements that may sustain conviction for the crime charged. While the Court majority acknowledged that some elements of the law’s text could be appropriately severed, other portions could not, without leaving in place other issues potentially raising further First Amendment problems.

Judge Robert Smith, in a dissenting opinion joined by Judge Pigott, stated that, with application of Albany County’s concessions for excision, the law passed constitutional muster. On Judge Smith’s reading of the applicable precedents, the defendant’s “speech designed to inflict serious emotional injury is protected only” if the defendant’s Facebook posting was “directed at a matter of public concern,” which was clearly not present in the case before the Court.

Cases:

POST WRITTEN BY: Prof. Peter Widulski, Assistant Director of the First Year Legal Skills Program and the Coach of International Criminal Moot Court Team at Pace Law School.

Reviewing a case of egregious recklessness that caused the death of an innocent victim, a 5-2 majority of the Court of Appeals reversed a conviction for depraved indifference murder and cautioned that efforts to prosecute a defendant on this charge must “fit within the narrow category of cases wherein the facts evince a defendant’s utter disregard for human life.”

In April 2009, Jose Maldonado hot-wired and stole a minivan in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. In a determined effort to avoid capture by police pursuing him through streets in a mixed residential and commercial area, during a five-minute period Maldonado greatly exceeded the speed limit, drove through several red lights, repeatedly swerved into opposing traffic lanes, and repeatedly drove the wrong way on one-way streets. After one pedestrian narrowly managed to dive away to escape being struck by the van, which did not brake, Maldonado drove, again without braking, into another pedestrian, Violet Kryzak (aged 37), who was crossing Manhattan Avenue with the traffic light in her favor. The van’s windshield on the passenger side showed signs of impact with Ms. Kryzak’s body.

Maldonado said he thought he “hit the girl in the hand or something.” Apparently, it was not her hand that he smashed into because impact with the stolen van, which witnesses estimated to be going at least 70 mph, catapulted Ms. Kryzak’s body into the air, to land more than 160 feet from the point of collision. Without stopping to seek help for Kryzak (who died at the scene), Maldonado continued his effort to avoid capture, speeding north in a southbound lane with the van’s windshield caved in on the passenger side. Apparently realizing shortly afterwards that he could not escape with the van, he crashed it into a car, got out, and ran away. This last attempt to avoid capture was unavailing, thanks to civilians who grabbed him and held him for the police.

Among other charges, the prosecutor sought to convict Maldonado for second-degree murder, pursuant to N.Y. Penal Law § 125.25 (2), on the basis that Maldonado recklessly created a grave risk of death to another person and caused such death in circumstances that evinced his depraved indifference to human life [DIM]. A jury unanimously agreed, and the Appellate Division unanimously affirmed the conviction.  It held that the evidence was legally sufficient to support defendant’s conviction for depraved indifference murder and that, upon independent review, the conviction was not against the weight of the evidence.

Maldonado sought review by the Court of Appeals. Maldonado’s appellate counsel conceded that Maldonado’s conduct was reckless but argued that it did not meet the requirements for DIM established in the Court’s recent precedents.

On July 1, 2014, a majority of the Court agreed. Quoting one of its precedents, the Court stated that “a depraved and utterly indifferent actor is someone who does not care if another is injured or killed” by his reckless conduct. The Court held that “assuming the People proffered evidence indicating that defendant was aware of and disregarded the substantial risk of injury or death caused by his driving, they failed to submit evidence establishing that defendant did not care whether grievous harm resulted.”

Despite applying the applicable standard to review the record in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the Court found that “defendant sought to mitigate the consequences of his reckless driving” by at times swerving to avoid crashing into other vehicles. The Court credited defendant for such “conscious avoidance of risk,” which it stated was “the antithesis of a complete disregard for the safety of others.” The Court found that, despite the fatal collision with Violet Kryzak, the purpose of Maldonado’s extremely dangerous driving tactics was simply “to speed his flight and to avoid crashing into other vehicles or pedestrians.” According to the Court’s review, the record showed “no indication that [Maldonado’s] conduct … was motivated solely by his intent to evade capture, regardless of the risk to human life.” Therefore, the Court ordered that, given Maldonado’s “conscious avoidance of risk” during his concededly reckless driving in a desperate effort to avoid capture for his crimes, his killing of Violet Kryzak rendered him guilty only of second-degree manslaughter.

In a dissenting opinion joined by Judge Graffeo, Judge Pigott noted that after Maldonado narrowly avoided collision with one pedestrian and then struck and killed Ms. Kryzak, he did not cease his reckless conduct “when he had the opportunity to display that he cared whether or not he might strike a pedestrian.” Applying the required standard of review, Judge Pigott stated that there was “a valid line of reasoning and permissible inferences from which a rational jury” could find that defendant “simply did not care whether or not a pedestrian died,” thus demonstrating not just extreme recklessness but also “utter indifference to the value of human life.”

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POST WRITTEN BY: Prof. Peter Widulski, Assistant Director of the First Year Legal Skills Program and the Coach of International Criminal Moot Court Team at Pace Law School.

In a June 26, 2014 decision, the New York Court of Appeals unanimously held that the evidence at trial supported Appellant Oliverio Galindo’s conviction for possession of a loaded firearm outside his home or place of business, pursuant to Penal Law § 265.03(3). But the Court was divided, 5-2, on whether his conviction pursuant to Penal Law § 265.03(1)(b) for possession of a loaded firearm with the intent to use it unlawfully against another person was in accordance with law.

Critical to this issue was Penal Law § 265.15(4), which states that “[t]he possession by any person of any … weapon … is presumptive evidence of intent to use the same unlawfully against another.” This presumption is permissive, not mandatory. But if the prosecution establishes the predicate fact (weapon possession), the presumed fact (unlawful intent) becomes part of the prosecution’s prima facie case, which the jury may rely on, with consideration of any rebuttal by the defense.

It was undisputed that on a public street Galindo shot his cousin in the leg. But the evidence regarding Galindo’s intent in regard to this shooting was much less clear. The defense did not present evidence, but argued that the statutory presumption of unlawful intent was rebutted through testimony presented by a prosecution witness who reported that Galindo told him that Galindo shot his cousin accidentally (i.e., not with unlawful intent).

Because Galindo challenged his intent-related conviction as insufficiently supported by the evidence (and not as violating due process), the Court reviewed the evidence in a light most favorable to the People. The majority interpreted the statutes as not requiring the People “to prove that defendant specifically intended to use the gun unlawfully against [his cousin] or any particular person.” The majority thus held that even if the evidence “may have suggested that defendant did not intend to use the gun unlawfully against [his cousin], it was not inconsistent with the inference that he intended to use the gun unlawfully against someone other than his cousin.” (emphasis in original). Therefore, the evidence relating to Galindo’s shooting of his cousin (whether unlawful or accidental) was essentially immaterial, except that it established the predicate fact of weapon possession, which then permitted the jury to presume Galindo’s intent to use the gun unlawfully against anyone, whether identified at trial or not.

Judge Pigott, in a dissenting opinion joined by Chief Judge Lippman, concluded that “[g]iven the lack of any evidence, direct or circumstantial, concerning defendant’s intent to use the weapon unlawfully against another, the jury could not have rationally concluded that the defendant’s mere possession of a loaded firearm established his intent to unlawfully use it against another.” (emphasis in original).

Responding to this, the majority said, “[b]ut that is exactly what the Legislature intended Penal Law § 265.15(4) to permit a jury to do: find that a defendant intended to use a weapon unlawfully merely because he or she possessed that weapon.” (emphasis added)

The Galindo majority did not fully address the constitutionality of Penal Law  § 265.15(4) because defendant did not raise this issue on appeal. Nevertheless, both the majority and dissent referenced County Court of Ulster County v. Allen, 442 U.S. 140 (1979), a habeas case in which a sharply divided Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of another New York statutory presumption. In Allen, the element statutorily permitted to be presumed was possession of a firearm attributed to any and all persons based on the predicate fact that they were occupants of an automobile when a firearm was found in the vehicle.

The Allen majority held that the proper constitutional test requires consideration of whether the fact to be presumed is “more likely than not to flow from” the statutory predicate facts. The majority stated that this standard (lower than beyond a reasonable doubt) is appropriate for permissive presumptions “[a]s long as it is clear that the presumption is not the sole and sufficient basis for a finding of guilt.”

The four Allen dissenters found the statutory presumption unconstitutional and stated that “an individual’s mere presence in an automobile where there is a handgun does not even make it ‘more likely than not’ that the individual possesses the weapon.”

In Galindo, the fact permitted to be presumed was intent to use a weapon unlawfully. The Court of Appeals interpreted section 265.15(4) to support a finding of this mens rea element even in cases in which there was no evidence supporting a finding of intent other than the predicate fact of possession.

In light of the above, the Court of Appeals may need to address the constitutionality of Penal Law  § 265.15(4) in a future case.

References:

POST WRITTEN BY: Daphne Holmes*

Technology helps law enforcement agencies and justice personnel stay one step ahead of criminals, furnishing new ways to detect and prevent crimes, as well as helping prosecutors convict offenders. And since emerging technology is available on both sides of justice, the cat-and-mouse game between perpetrators and police is never-ending, requiring continual adjustments from law enforcement agencies.

The good news for public safety is that crime rates have generally decreased over the past two decades, due in part to advancements in crime detection and deterrent technology. Since effective policing leans heavily on the rapid sharing of sensitive crime-related data; the recent explosion in information technology is a positive development for law enforcement agencies. Identification technology, social media, and mobile capabilities also enhance public safety, enabling justice staff to do their business more efficiently and respond to unfolding investigations in real-time.

While technology poses challenges for law enforcement agencies, which continually strive to keep up with technology-based criminal enterprises; it does more good than harm in the fight against crime. Tech advancements in law enforcement include the following capabilities, which illustrate how quickly things change alongside technology.

Sharing Information
Law enforcement agencies are spread throughout a national criminal justice system that involves, regional, state, and local authorities, each administering their policing efforts independently. Too often in the past, lack of access to timely information prevented various agencies from coordinating their efforts adequately. Advances in the way agencies share information and use criminal identification systems have led to tighter connections between independent law enforcement organizations and universal enforcement standards across jurisdictions. Sharing information about offenders also has a positive preventative impact, helping keep guns out of the hand of dangerous criminals and barring offenders from certain types of employment.

Security and Surveillance Upgrades
Property crimes continue to decrease statistically, so security and video surveillance upgrades have improved public safety dramatically. Camera technology, for example, produces modern models with higher image quality than past versions, and the size of high-quality cameras has also diminished, allowing them to be concealed for covert surveillance. Face-recognition technology is particularly rewarding, enabling law enforcement officials to literally pick faces from crowds.  In fact, the technology is so accurate as to create privacy-rights controversies among those who feel it is too intrusive.

Social Media
Though it is a social trend as much as it is a technological breakthrough, social media use nonetheless furnishes law enforcement advantages for agencies that use the technology effectively. For example, criminals leave trails using social media platforms, so justice agencies turn to Facebook, Twitter and other channels for vital clues and insight into criminal behavior. The technology also enables officers to distribute information directly to concerned citizens, informing them of unfolding crimes and dangerous developments.

Social media links law enforcement directly to the public at large, so it is a great tool for spreading descriptions, videos and other information about criminals. Communicating in real-time closes the crucial gap between the point at which crimes occur and when investigations begin, enabling citizens to respond with timely information.

Crime Mapping Technology
Modern computing power speeds up data analysis and enables law enforcement to track crime trends geographically. What was once accomplished through countless man-hours pouring over data is now a matter of a few mouse clicks. Crime mapping enables agencies to zero-in on problem areas, stepping-up enforcement efforts and assisting in bringing in fugitives. Like highly sophisticated “pin-maps” highlighting crime location, mapping and geographic profiling give enforcement officers clear snapshots of crime trends.

Mobile Technology
Mobile technology furnishes an electronic trail of texts, emails, calls and GPS location information that law enforcement uses to solve cases. Smartphones are so widespread the contact information and other data they contain give officers a starting point for their investigations, which often unfold in arrests directly related to information gleaned from mobile devices and usage. Using advanced digital forensics technology, investigators find links between suspects and their crimes, which might go unnoticed without mobile connections. In addition to investigative benefits, mobile technology speeds communication between officers, agencies and citizens.

Technology will never replace solid investigative work, but modern advances assist law enforcement efforts to stay ahead of criminals. Mobile technology, social media, and rapid access to information contribute to better enforcement and prevention. And crime-mapping and video surveillance breakthroughs also increase public safety, enabling justice agencies to direct resources to where they are needed most.

*Daphne Holmes is a writer from ArrestRecords.com. She can be reached at daphneholmes9@gmail.com.

Opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the position of the Pace Criminal Justice Center or its Board of Advisors.  

POST WRITTEN BY: Prof. Peter Widulski, Assistant Director of the First Year Legal Skills Program and the Coach of International Criminal Moot Court Team at Pace Law School.

July 17 is designated as the Day of International Criminal Justice because on July 17, 1998, the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court, was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome.

In a press release on July 10, 2014, the ICC stated that the State Parties to the Rome Statute “decided to commemorate [July 17 as a] unique date, recognising the efforts of the international community to strengthen the emerging system of international criminal justice and to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression.”

The Rome Statute entered into force on July 1, 2002, upon ratification of 60 countries. At this time, some 120 countries have become parties to the Statute. The Court currently has before it eight situations (all involving countries on the African continent), and the ICC Prosecutor has brought 21 cases relating to those situations. The Prosecutor is conducting preliminary investigations relating to matters in several other countries, including Ukraine.

The ICC Prosecutor has succeeded in convicting two defendants relating to the Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One of these convictions (against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo) is still on appeal. As noted in a previous post, the other conviction (against Germain Katanga) became final when appeals were terminated on June 25, 2014.

POST WRITTEN BY: Jake B. Sher (’16), Pace Law School

JSher_valle imageIn a recent post, we discussed issues of mens rea as they related to internet search history. Digital communications, however, have also recently come under scrutiny. In the hands of an adroit prosecutor, they are equally as revealing and equally powerful evidence as an individual’s internet search history.  Yet, when the prosecution relies exclusively on online communications to prove a defendant’s mens rea beyond a reasonable doubt, a skilled defense team may be able to raise issues surrounding the actual context of the communications that may preclude a conviction.

In an opinion and order issued on June 30, 2014 Judge Paul Gardephe of the Southern District of New York conditionally granted former NYPD Officer Gilberto Valle’s motion for a new trial on his conviction for conspiracy to commit kidnapping. The prosecution relied heavily on a mountain’s worth of digital communications between Valle and his alleged co-conspirators. Unfortunately, none of the evidence against Valle had any corroboration outside of the electronic world, and Valle never finalized any of his alleged “plans.” As a result, Valle’s defense counsel contended that his online activities constituted morbid fantasy role-playing, not conspiracy. The government conceded that some of Valle’s communications were fantastical, but argued that some were manifestations of Valle’s specific intent to commit the alleged crime of kidnapping.

Judge Gardephe observed that “Valle’s depraved, misogynistic … fantasies about his wife, former college classmates, and acquaintances undoubtedly reflect a mind diseased.” United States v. Valle, No. 12 Cr. 847 (PGG), 2014 WL 2980256, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89650 (S.D.N.Y. June 30, 2014). His observation notwithstanding, however, the judge granted Valle’s motion for a new trial. He did so based on the theory that the government neither demonstrated proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Valle’s chats reflected true criminal intent as opposed to fantasy role-play, and that the government’s evidence was insufficient to distinguish the real communications from the conceded fantasy communications. (emphasis added). In Valle, the Court wrote:

Valle’s visits to Internet sites devoted to death, violence, and kidnapping; his possession of images depicting acts of sexual violence against women; his computer searches regarding kidnapping methods; and his 89 computer folders containing Facebook images of women he knew, all graphically illustrate his depraved interests.  The Government did not, however, meet its burden … the Government offered no evidence that would have permitted a reasonable juror to determine whether someone who is truly interested in kidnapping a woman would be more likely to engage in these activities than someone who is merely interested in fantasizing about kidnapping and committing acts of sexual violence against women.

Even digital communications that may appear damningly unassailable require corroboration or further investigation. As Learned Hand once ruminated, “it does not follow, because a jury might have found [the defendant] guilty of the substantive offence, that they were justified in finding him guilty of a conspiracy to commit it.” United States v. Crimmins, 123 F.2d 271, 273 (2d Cir. 1941).

Proof of mens rea may require something more than digital evidence alone, even if a jury is convinced of a defendant’s guilt. As a result, the prosecution in Valle fell short of building their case for a conviction as a matter of law, a fact that Valle’s attorneys managed to exploit in floating an argument sufficient to warrant a re-trial.

Cases and Related Readings:

POST WRITTEN BY: Prof. Peter Widulski, Assistant Director of the First Year Legal Skills Program and the Coach of International Criminal Moot Court Team at Pace Law School.

On June 25, 2014, the Office of the ICC Prosecutor formally established a Scientific Advisory Board to assist the Office in its investigatory and prosecutorial work. The Board will consist of sixteen forensic experts whose task will be to inform the Office of scientific and technological developments helpful to the Prosecutor’s capability to collect and analyze scientific evidence.

The establishment of the Board represents an effort by the Prosecutor’s Office to upgrade the quality of evidence it presents to ICC Pre-Trial and Trial Chambers. In recent years, scholarly commentators have criticized international courts and tribunals, including criminal courts and tribunals, for failing to require and utilize fact findings based on scientific examination.

In its October 11, 2013 Strategic Plan, the Prosecutor’s Office noted that ICC judges were requiring “higher evidentiary standards” and “more and different kinds of evidence” from the Office. In response to this demand, the Plan stated that the Office’s Investigative Division will, among other things,

enhan[ce] its capabilities to collect other forms of evidence … in particular scientific evidence [and will] validat[e] its investigative standards with a panel of international experts.

In a June 27, 2014 press release, the Prosecutor’s Office stated that

[t]he work of the Board will be crucial to the Office’s efforts, as reflected in its new Strategic Plan, to strengthen its investigative capabilities and enhance the quality of its deliverables when it comes to scientific evidence collection and analysis.

In the effort to carry out its mandate under the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor’s Office has to work with limited resources in very difficult environments. It is to be hoped that the establishment of the Scientific Advisory Board will assist the Office in the challenges it faces.

Related Readings:

Commentators criticizing fact applications by international courts, including criminal courts and tribunals:

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