Results tagged “Laurie Levenson”

November 1, 2013

Levenson2.jpgBy Professor and David W. Burcham Chair in Ethical Advocacy Laurie Levenson

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

It is time to seriously consider a civilian oversight board for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider such a proposal next week. If approved, it could be a big step toward remedying some of the ongoing problems in our county jails.

The last few years have been tough for the department, which has been plagued by jail scandals, committee inquiries and even a federal investigation. Despite the efforts of committed professionals within and outside the department to monitor abuses in the jail system, the problems have continued. Meanwhile, the public has only been invited into the process once the situation has reached crisis dimensions.

A citizen oversight board has the advantage of providing a constant outsider view of the operations of the Sheriff's Department, very much in the same way that the Los Angeles Police Commission monitors the Los Angeles Police Department. Rather than gearing up to deal with the next inevitable crisis, the Board of Supervisors should focus on what monitoring will be the most effective in preventing scandals in the first place.

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August 9, 2012

Levenson2.jpgBy Professor Laurie Levenson

[This article was originally posted in the Los Angeles Daily Journal.]

The fundamental rules of venue are not that difficult. The government must prosecute an offense in a district where the crime was committed. See U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 3; U.S. Const., Amend. VI; Fed. R. Crim. P. 18. Generally, venue requirements for criminal cases are set by statute. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 3234 - 3244. If a crime takes place in multiple venues, the prosecutor usually has discretion as to where to charge the crime.

Despite these basic rules, interesting venue issues arise all the time. In the past year, there have been several cases addressing venue challenges in federal court. For example, in United States v. Gonzalez, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 13149 (9th Cir. 2012), the Ninth Circuit once again ruled on a challenge to venue in a conspiracy case. Circuit Judge Richard C. Tallman began his opinion by noting that "[d]etermining where an offense occurred can be quite tricky - particularly for continuing crimes, like conspiracy, where the conspirators' activities often have a ripple-like effect that may involve numerous districts." Id. at *1.

In Gonzalez, defendant was charged with conspiring to sell drugs. During the alleged conspiracy, Gonzalez never set foot in the district where the crime was charged. Rather, venue was based upon two telephone calls to Gonzalez's cell number that a confidential informant ("CI") made at the direction of the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA"). Nothing in the stipulated facts indicated whether Gonzalez knew or suspected that the CI was calling from another district at the time of the calls. However, the Ninth Circuit panel held that it did not matter. Because the calls were used to negotiate the sale and delivery of drugs, venue was proper in the district from which the calls were made.

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May 18, 2012

Levenson2.jpgLaurie Levenson, Professor of Law, William M. Rains Fellow and David W. Burcham Chair in Ethical Advocacy, was quoted in a previous article published by The Orange County Register on May 9, 2012 which discussed the Kelly Thomas trial. This is Levenson's response to recent case developments.

In some ways, the Kelly Thomas beating case is, in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, "deja vu all over again." Having watched the Rodney King trial, I can appreciate the enormous challenge of prosecuting police officers. Jurors tend to give them every benefit of the doubt. After all, police do the difficult job that many of us do not want to do. Yet, even police officers can cross the line. The Orange County District Attorney's Office must not only prove that this was bad police work, but that it rose to the level of criminal behavior that put defendant Ramos in prison for the rest of his life.

The video of the beating is powerful. It is hard to watch, but it is even harder to listen to. As Thomas cries, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," and pleads for help, one cannot help but have a visceral reaction. However, a visceral reaction may not be enough to win a murder case. If the Rodney King case is any type of precedent, we should also look for other evidence that will prove what was going on in the defendant's head. Did Officer Ramos realize he might kill Thomas? Did he act with deliberate indifference? Did he try to cover up what he did? Did he laugh and joke, like the King officers did, about what he did? What statements did he make about his actions? Why did he do it? Did his acts even cause the death?

This case is only in its early stages. As it moves through the criminal justice process, it is best to keep in mind that this will not be an easy trial. It is also important to remember that one criminal prosecution cannot cure all of the ills of our criminal justice system. We have a problem with how police interact with the mentally ill. That issue must be addressed, regardless of the outcome of this case.

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April 26, 2012

Levenson2.jpgLaurie Levenson, David W. Burcham Professor of Ethical Advocacy, was quoted in an LA Weekly article titled, "Then & Now: Images From the Same Spot as the LA Riots 20 Years Later."

Read the full article here.

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