From 2009 to 2010, Utah trooper Lisa Steed made a jaw-dropping 750 DUI arrests. That’s nearly two arrests for every single day of the year (which becomes all the more staggering when you stop to consider that Steed, of course, had vacations and days off). Impressing her superiors with an apparently unmatched dedication to justice, Steed was celebrated by the department and named Utah Highway Patrol Trooper of the Year. But, after a brief period in the sun, Steed fell from grace when local media outlets decided to do some digging into her suspiciously prolific arrest record. What they found ultimately cost Steed her job — and now, a year later, prosecutors are seeking a whopping $30 million in damages.
While no one thinks of jail as a particularly enjoyable place, no one expects a short stay to result in death. However, that is precisely what happened in the recent cases of Michael Saffioti and Bradley Munroe — both of which are beginning to attract national controversy. Following a missed court date for a marijuana misdemeanor charge, Saffioti turned himself in to local authorities — and died in his jail cell. Bradley Munroe killed himself in a jail cell after signs of a need for medication and close monitoring went ignored. Now, Saffioti’s family is filing a lawsuit for $10 million, and Munroe’s family is taking their case before the United States Supreme Court. The legal community — and the rest of the nation — is watching both cases unfold.
When Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program was unconstitutional in August, for many New Yorkers, it seemed like a victory. But after just a few short months of courtroom scuffling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has taken the dramatic steps of not only staying Scheindlin’s decision, but removing the judge from the case altogether. And now, with a new mayor replacing Bloomberg — Scheindlin’s most vocal detractor — the future of stop-and-frisk in New York City is less certain than ever.
Being incarcerated in the United States prison system is a worst-case scenario for millions accused of crimes across the country, including Utah. The ramifications of a lengthy sentence aren’t just emotional and physical — they are financial implications to consider as well. Damage done to earning power for inmates who serve their time can make it impossible to recover fully and reintegrate into the community. Our defense attorneys open a small window into the challenges these men and women face. Continue reading
In a move that’s a possible harbinger of things to come, West Valley City has fired one of the two detectives allegedly involved in the shooting death of Danielle Willard. The termination of Detective Shaun Cowley comes after an internal review board found the shooting of 21-year-old Willard to be “unjustified” after a 10-month process. Cowley’s attorney, Lindsay Jarvis, is reportedly waging a campaign to fight the termination and peel back the layers of inexperience and ineptitude on the Neighborhood Narcotics Unit — Cowley’s old outfit now disbanded. She may very well be right that the department gave its officers little to no training or supervision. Unfortunately, as a general matter, many fatal conflicts between citizens and law enforcement are the result of poor training. A single officer can be held responsible for what is actually a failure of the system. She may be correct in portraying her client as a “fall guy” for the entire unit. But a young woman is still dead, and that is simply tragic.
Rather than appear at a sentencing hearing, convicted sex offender Norman Deem took his own life with a shotgun.
Or did he?
Standoffs involving armed suspects and the authorities are tense situations for all sides involved. Police have a sworn duty to serve and protect the community, and part of that responsibility involves minimizing the risk to the surrounding persons and property when an armed suspect barricades themselves in a home or other building. In turn, the accused is caught in an ever-tightening noose of anxiety and worsening charges. This is often complicated further by the fact that many in such situations suffer some type of mental illness and can engage in unpredictable behaviors. The situation can escalate quickly. Innocent lives may suffer needlessly. Would you believe our lawyers if they told you it’s the police who can make these situations far worse than they actually are?
Michael Doporto is set to be released from prison this November. But some say the 20 years the child sex offender spent behind bars isn’t enough and have posted a petition online in an attempt to keep him locked up.
One of the reasons judges and parole boards often cite as a deciding factor in rendering a non-custodial sentence or early release from prison is the prospect of rehabilitation. Authorities believe the convicted person still has something of value to offer to society, and they can learn from past deeds to become better people.
For those convicted of sexual offenses in Utah or around the country, having their personal information placed on a police website for all to see is anything but rehabilitative. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it’s cruel and unusual punishment designed only to shame and ostracize. Continue reading
You know what they did in earlier, more uncivilized times when they wanted to punish someone for committing a crime? The townspeople dragged the alleged offender into the street and doled out justice for the entire community to see. Public punishment. Equal parts humiliation and active deterrent for anyone else who might consider committing the same behavior. Despite what lawmakers might tell you, online posting of registered sex offenders performs the same function — a further layer of stigma on a population that doesn’t need the help. What’s worse? The information does nothing to protect the public. Continue reading