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July 2018 Archives

Report reveals racial bias in bail hearings

Both black and white judges in Pennsylvania and Florida treat African American defendants unfairly according to a study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics. Researchers from Harvard Law School and Princeton University studied cases involving 93,914 defendants who appeared before bail judges in Philadelphia and 65,944 defendants who had their bail hearings in Miami, and they found that the average bail set for black defendants was $7,281 higher than the average bail set for white defendants.

Could you have had ineffective counsel?

When you are appealing a criminal conviction, one potential avenue to explore could be ineffective assistance of counsel. If the performance of your attorney at trial was deficient and it changed the outcome of your trial or sentencing, then you could have a persuasive argument.

Identifications made during police lineups are often unreliable

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania have not yet taken steps to revise the way police departments conduct lineups, although such changes have been implemented in many states. The reliability of eyewitness identifications has been a controversial issue for decades, but legislators and police departments only began to take action when incontrovertible DNA evidence was introduced in the 1980s and it became clear that many people had been sentenced to prison for crimes they did not commit.

Supreme Court makes landmark Fourth Amendment ruling

The Fourth Amendment protects Pennsylvania residents against unreasonable search and seizure, but the courts have long held that this protection does not apply to information that is willingly shared with third parties such as banks or telephone companies. The digital age has radically changed the way that data is gathered and stored, and the Supreme Court was recently tasked with deciding whether or not the third-party doctrine should be applied to cell site location information.

How the FBI deals with hate crimes

In Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the U.S., hate crimes are a punishable offense. Hate crimes are defined as traditional offenses that range from arson and vandalism to murder, with the exception that there is an additional element of bias. For example, if a person vandalized a piece of property due to the owner's race, disability, religion, gender or sexual orientation, that person may be charged with a hate crime.

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