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'Baby Steps' Toward Open Courtrooms?

The public wants more access to the judicial system. In the past few years, states have responded by allowing more cameras into more courtroom proceedings. But federal courts have been slower to make change. Following our story last week, “Cameras and 'Making a Murderer”, The Crime Report asked readers: “Should cameras be given unrestricted access to all phases of a courtroom trial?” Some 63 percent responded “Yes.” 24 percent responded “No.” The remainder submitted comments only, with many of those […]


High Court Juvenile Life Sentence Ruling Could Affect 1,500 Inmates

Attorneys who specialize in juvenile justice called yesterday’s Supreme Court decision on life sentences for those who committed crimes as teens “potentially sweeping” but warned that resentencing hearings were far from a sure path to freedom, reports the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. The court ruled, 6 to 3, in Montgomery v. Louisiana that prisoners serving mandatory life sentences without parole for murders they committed as juveniles should have a chance at release via a resentencing hearing. Though parole boards will […]


NJ Instruction Makes Jurors Suspicious Of All Eyewitness Testimony

The state of New Jersey has been trying to help jurors better assess the reliability of eyewitness testimony, but a study reported by NPR suggests that the effort may be having unintended consequences. That’s because a new set of instructions read to jurors by a judge seems to make them skeptical of all eyewitness testimony, even testimony that should be considered reasonably reliable. In 2012, New Jersey’s Supreme Court said that in cases that involve eyewitness testimony, judges must give […]


All Juvenile Lifers May Argue For Their Release, Supreme Court Rules

Teenagers sentenced to life imprisonment for murder must have a chance to argue that they be released from prison, the Supreme Court ruled today. The 6-to-3 ruling said the high court’s 2012 decision that struck down mandatory life imprisonment terms for juveniles must be applied retroactively, the Washington post reports. That would mean new sentencing or a chance to argue for parole, said Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority decision. The decision continues the trend of the court’s deciding […]

Bill Kelly

Rethinking Criminal Intent: Why ‘Mens Rea’ Matters

In order for the government to legally prosecute, convict and punish someone, in most cases it must prove that the person committed the criminal act (known as actus reus) and that he or she committed that act with criminal intention (mens rea). There are a variety of terms used to describe mens rea, including moral blameworthiness, a guilty mind, an evil mind, conscious will, or willful action. Mens rea is a foundational element of American jurisprudence. The U.S. Supreme Court […]


High Court To Decide On Obama’s Power To Defer Deportations

The Supreme Court today said it will decide whether President Obama has the authority to declare that millions of illegal immigrants be allowed to remain and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation, reports the Washington Post. The court likely will hear the case in April, with a ruling before July. It provides the last chance the administration would be able to implement the program Obama announced in 2014, which affects upwards of 4 million people, before he leaves […]


Cameras and 'Making a Murderer'

If you watched the popular, and controversial, Netflix documentary series, “Making a Murderer,” you were treated to a rare, compelling portrait of a trial inside the Wisconsin state courthouse. If filmmakers Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi had been covering a trial in a different state, or different level or court, their documentary may have looked a lot different. We're familiar with fictional courtroom dramas in the movies and on TV, but in most real-life courtrooms across America, what cameras are […]