"Black and Whitey: How the Feds Disable Criminal Defense" for Forbes.com

Lord Conrad Black and James “Whitey” Bulger are vastly different men. But both federal prosecutions raise similar fundamental questions about the propriety of certain prosecutorial tactics that interfere with a defendant’s constitutional right to mount an adequate defense. In my most recent “Injustice Department” column for Forbes.com, I explain how these tactics virtually assure convictions, regardless of guilt or the niceties of “due process of law.” Yet these unconstitutional techniques are the rule, not the exception, when the Department of Justice really wants to win a case without the defendant putting up much of a fight.

The column after the jump... 

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Tufts Students Interview Silverglate on Baran Case

Tufts undergraduates Aeden Pillai and Mike Yeung recently interviewed me on the topic of prosecutorial misconduct in the case of Bernard Baran for their course on contemporary issues in the criminal justice system. You can read the piece on Mr. Pillai's blogwith an excerpt after the jump. 

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Anatomy of a Bad Confession

On Thursday, February 16th, David Boeri, a friend, colleague, and sometimes co-conspirator is going to be joining WCVB Television's "Chronicle" to discuss an absolutely outrageous case of injustice: the story of a 16 year old girl who was coerced by the Worcester police department into confessing to the murder of her infant. 

The girl, Nga Truong, spent three years in jail before her release following a judge's order. After WBUR’s story aired in December, “Anatomy of A Bad Confession” prompted public outrage nationwide, calls for changes in the law and discipline of the police officers involved.

Now, Boeri continues to follow Truong’s story with a special half-hour report and an exclusive television interview with her for WCVB-TV. It airs on Chronicle this Thursday evening at 7:30. I truly believe that this is must-see TV. 

For more, click here.

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Have Gun? Don't Travel!

In December of 2011, a series of arrests for gun possession charges in New York City raised a number of important—if perhaps unexpected—legal issues. A number of individuals with valid conceal/carry gun permits issued outside of the city had attempted to “check” their guns—whether at the Empire State Building lobby, the airport, or in one case the 9/11 memorial—and were arrested under the NYC gun law, which recognizes the validity of no outside permits, and carries with it a mandatory minimum sentence of three and a half years in state prison for possession of a loaded weapon. Many commentators have focused their ire on the specific nature of the New York City gun law itself, or have otherwise used the cases as a launching point for a discussion of the Second Amendment’s requirements.

In the piece we posted today on Forbes.com, Daniel Schwartz and I discuss, instead, the dangerously diminishing importance of “intent” in the criminal law—the so-called mens rea requirement that an individual be aware that he is committing a crime before he can be found guilty. Combined with the existence of mandatory minimum sentences, this creates a toxic soup that invites a seemingly radical remedy: “jury nullification,” or the controversial idea that juries have the power (even if not the clear right) to “nullify” unjust laws by voting for acquittal even when a person is, technically, in violation of the statute. Jury nullification, we argue, is essential in a free society that has gone off the rails in terms of prosecutorial abuse. While my book Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent (updated paperback June 2011 from Encounter Books) details federal law injustices, Schwartz and I point out in this forbes.com piece that state legal systems are not entirely immune from similarly abusive tactics.

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The Supreme Court: A Prosecutor's Best Friend


On October 27th, the Innocence Project, in conjunction with the Veritas Initiative and Voices of Innocence, announced a “nationwide tour seeking policy reforms to prevent prosecutorial misconduct.” Headlining the tour will be John Thompson, the man who, despite being placed on death row due to corrupt and negligent actions on the part of the New Orleans District Attorney’s Office, was stripped of his 14 million dollar judgment against the DA by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Connick v. Thompson. In our latest post on Forbes.com, my research assistant Daniel Schwartz and I discuss the ruling, and critique the notion that the prosecutor’s office deserves immunity for its horrific neglect of basic constitutional rights. As we have written elsewhere, the explosion of federal statutes has made all people increasingly at risk of facing criminal and civil charges for a host of innocuous behaviors. Surely, so-called public servants should be held to at least as high a standard as their masters, rather than be given protections that would be unheard of for normal citizens.

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Updates related to Harvey's
book Three Felonies a Day, a critical
take on the Justice Department

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