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Monday, October 31, 2005

The Judicial Cost of Hurricane Katrina

October 30, 2005

Katrina still threatens 3,000 New Orleans court cases
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Like the city's crumbled levees and gutted homes, New Orleans' courts have been reduced to shambles — and the chaos could jeopardize many of the 3,000 cases pending before Hurricane Katrina hit.

In his third day back on the bench since the hurricane struck two months ago, Criminal District Judge Benedict Willard opens court by entering a plea of his own — for patience.

"We're going to do as much as we can, with the limited resources," Willard says of this battered city's struggle to resuscitate a justice system crippled by the monster storm.

With the criminal courthouse still mired in muck, Willard presides at the old parish jail in a room once used for witnesses to identify criminal suspects in lineups. One-inch hash marks for measuring height dot the wall behind his small office desk. Attorneys sit in folding chairs.

Two defense lawyers for men jailed on drug charges before the storm ask for reduced bail and to see evidence against their clients. But the lawyers don't know which jails now hold the evacuated, absent defendants. And evidence rooms in the courthouse remain a swampy mess.

So Willard postpones hearing their motions. In 20 minutes, he's done all he can — until his next court session Nov. 14, when he hopes there will be less confusion and disarray and perhaps more lawyers and defendants needed to conduct the court's business.

"There's always a new roadblock, a new problem people didn't foresee," says Willard, who presides in a denim shirt and jeans, with no robe. "It's broke, but I think we're repairing it."

Judges, prosecutors and clerks displaced from the damaged courthouse are scattered from French Quarter hotels to a Baton Rouge college campus.

Other courts have been affected, too. The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles cases from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, has temporarily relocated to Houston, 350 miles to the west. Its courthouse suffered little damage but court officials say they need hotel rooms and other amenities that remain in short supply here for visiting attorneys.

In the flooded basement of the criminal courthouse, guns, drugs and other evidence soaked for weeks and could be ruined. Witnesses and defendants alike fled the city to far-flung refuges. The fraction of New Orleans' 475,000 residents who returned aren't nearly enough to fill jury pools. Judges are holding court without dockets, hearing whatever attorneys happen to show up.

"I can't file subpoenas, I can't file motions, I can't get a jury trial, I can't cross-examine witnesses right now, I can't review the evidence," said Rick Teissier, a New Orleans criminal defense lawyer. "It's all been destroyed."

Obstacles threaten to trip the courts at every step — overdue bail hearings for defendants jailed before the storm, trials delayed as clerks try to salvage evidence and prosecutors track down witnesses, appeals resting on records that may have been destroyed.

Judges and lawyers fear they could be forced to scrap some cases altogether for lack of evidence and testimony, leaving them no choice but to turn accused criminals loose.

"That's a nightmare scenario no one in their right mind could possibly want," said Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie J. Jordan Jr. "I think it may very well be possible in some cases, but it's still too early to say."

Prosecutors have their own problems. The cash-strapped city, which pays for roughly one-third of the district attorney's budget, has failed to fund the prosecutor's office for the last three months of the year. Mayor Ray Nagin says the city is broke.

While a backlog of cases piles up, Jordan says he's been forced to make money his top priority. He's laid off 57 support staffers, from clerical workers to investigators, and his office hasn't paid its phone bill in months. If the budget crunch spills into next year, he says, attorneys may be axed as well.

In addition to the 3,000 cases pending in Orleans Parish before Katrina hit, Jordan's staff — working with laptops in a French Quarter hotel suite — still are screening pre-hurricane arrests for possible prosecutions while taking in 20 to 30 new arrest reports each day.

Meanwhile, there may be fewer attorneys for defendants who need them.

"There are guys I know that are quitting the practice of law," said New Orleans attorney Kevin Boshea. "There are guys that are emptying their whole client list."

Before trials can resume, court officials will have to hire salvage experts to determine how much evidence they can save from the seven evidence and records rooms in the courthouse basement, where the water covered nearly everything in mold and slime.

Floors have become a filthy mess of soaked papers and boxes. Evidence from guitars to crowbars and car fenders is covered in grime, its value in court unknown. Guns have rusted and drugs disintegrated from water seeping into their plastic bags. Records dating back 70 years are warped and smothered in green spores.

"Nothing floated away — that's the No. 1 good news," said Kimberly Williamson Butler, the criminal court clerk.

Rusted or not, Butler says, guns and other weapons should still be admissible in court. Drugs are another story. She found one plastic bag containing crack cocaine that had swollen into a water balloon of black liquid.

"I'm neither judge nor jury, but it would seem to me a rusty gun is still a good piece of evidence," Butler said. "If you used a weapon, I don't have good news for you. But with the drugs, cocaine and water is not a good combination."

Records dealing with unresolved trials were kept upstairs, beyond reach of the floodwater. But even though documents in the swampy basement were all from closed cases, convictions could be jeopardized if flooding destroyed records of a particular trial.

"If the appellate courts don't have a record to review, then they'll probably order retrials," said Goyeneche, head of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. "If the evidence is lost, misplaced or destroyed, then (defendants) are probably going to be released back to the streets."

There are signs of progress.

Space for 800 prisoners opened Oct. 17 at the House of Detention, the old jailhouse still stained by a grimy flood mark 4 feet above ground. That enabled jailers to move out of the Union Passenger Terminal train and bus station, where they'd been booking and detaining prisoners since Katrina passed.

Judges are holding daily bail hearings and scheduling dockets for November. Some say jury trials could resume as early as February.

"We have experienced, for the first time in this country, a nuclear winter," said Chief Judge Calvin Johnson of the Criminal District Court. "This justice system has had to overcome issues no other justice system in this country has had to deal with."
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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When Rights on Paper may not be rights at all
In Russia, Trying Times for Trial by Jury
System Introduced in '90s Is Under Threat From Prosecutors, Judges and Lawmakers

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, October 31, 2005; A12

KRASNODAR, Russia -- After deliberating for three hours, a jury of six men and six women voted earlier this month to acquit Vladislav Kozachenko of the February 2004 murders of a 25-year-old woman who ran a prostitution ring in this southern Russian city and her 39-year-old lover.

Kozachenko thanked the jury from behind the bars of the courtroom cage where he sat during the three-week proceeding. But the relief visible on his face must have been tempered by the fact that twice before he had heard different juries pronounce him not guilty of the same crime. And twice before, prosecutors had refused to accept the verdict and brought him back to trial.

"I hope it's third time lucky for me," Kozachenko, 36, said after his release. "Maybe they will let me go now and look for the real murderer."

That remains to be seen. Prosecutors immediately vowed to appeal the verdict to the Russian Supreme Court and secure a new trial. "We are convinced the murder was committed by him," said Natalia Kalikanova, the lead prosecutor in Kozachenko's third trial. "He's guilty. We cannot leave an unlawful verdict in force."

Twelve years after its introduction as a landmark legal reform in a country just emerging from communism, the jury system remains the object of suspicion, even contempt, among prosecutors and some judges in Russia. "I would abolish it," Kalikanova said flatly.

Juries were introduced as part of an almost complete overhaul of the former Soviet legal system in the 1990s. On paper, it drew widespread admiration from government leaders. But scholars and human rights activists charge that the system still reflects the values of the old communist-era courts, in which a presumption of guilt prevailed. To them, the jury system's failure to take root and recent proposals to scale it back are part of a broader rollback of democratic practices and institutions in President Vladimir Putin's Russia.

Under Russian law, double jeopardy is not prohibited. Prosecutors, as well as defendants, can appeal verdicts, and almost all jury acquittals are appealed. In the past five years, between 25 percent and 50 percent of not-guilty verdicts returned by juries were reversed by the country's Supreme Court, according to annual court statistics and analyses by Russian legal scholars.

"Nobody thought so many verdicts would be overturned," said Sergei Nasonov, a professor of criminal law at the Moscow State Law Academy who has written a book on jury trials in Russia. "The reasons for overturning jury verdicts were supposed to be very limited, but the Supreme Court has interpreted the law very broadly. A jury verdict is hardly ever the final word."

Still, juries remain a significant check on the power of the state. Prosecutors were long accustomed to getting automatic guilty verdicts when they decided to go forward with a trial. Year after year, only between 1 percent and 2 percent of defendants are acquitted in bench trials in Russia, statistics show, compared with about 15 percent in jury trials.

In Krasnodar, there have been years when not a single person was acquitted by a judge, but nearly a third of defendants in jury trials were acquitted, according to regional court statistics.

Often, jury verdicts are overturned on highly technical grounds.

Kozachenko's first not-guilty verdict, in September 2004, was reversed because the judge failed to officially notify a relative of one of the victims of his right to make a final statement to the jury, which voted 11 to 1 to acquit. In Russia, a jury verdict is decided by a majority vote of the panel.

The second acquittal, in April, was overturned because of errors in the judge's written charge to the jury, which had been unanimous in finding Kozachenko not guilty.

After the 8 to 4 vote in favor of the defendant this month, Kalikanova, the lead prosecutor, said she discovered that some jurors on the panel "concealed certain information about themselves, criminal records and previous service in the police." The post-trial discovery of such information is frequently invoked in appeals to the Supreme Court.

"When a not-guilty verdict is passed, the prosecutors begin to dig around," said Judge Nina Stus of the Krasnodar regional court, who has presided over more than 100 jury trials. "It's a card prosecutors keep up their sleeve in case there is a not-guilty verdict."

Some of her colleagues on the bench "categorically refuse to participate in jury trials" because they are "unpredictable," Stus said.

At the same time, pressure is mounting to limit those eligible for a jury trial. The Supreme Court, exercising its prerogative to propose legislation, recently called for a law restricting jury trials to murder cases.

According to Nasonov, the criminal law professor, the Supreme Court is already using its rulings to steadily narrow jurors' ability to assess evidence in an effort to make juries more "manageable."

Nasonov argues that enforcement of the principles of presumption of innocence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt are key to restoring Russians' faith in their legal system. The system is now widely seen as entirely predictable -- a railroad to prison even when hard evidence is clearly lacking.

Mara Polyakova, a former prosecutor and chairwoman of the Independent Council of Legal Experts, said she recalled prosecutors showing up on the first day of a trial without having read the case material, because, she said, they were so confident the court would simply accede to their demand for a guilty verdict.

"Prosecutors are simply not used to the fact that decisions are being passed which they don't control," said Polyakova, who worked in a prosecutor's office for 27 years. "In front of a jury, they have to work harder."

The jury system was introduced in Russia in 1864 but abolished by the Bolsheviks in 1922, even though they had almost always opted for jury trials when they were charged with sedition before the 1917 revolution.

In 1993, two years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, jury trials were reintroduced in nine of Russia's 89 regions, including Krasnodar, for defendants facing charges carrying penalties of more than 10 years in prison.

In theory, the change was supposed to usher in an adversarial model with prosecutors and defense attorneys on a more equal footing and impartial judges overseeing the process. The system was extended to the rest of the country, with the exception of war-torn Chechnya, in 2003.

Acquittals suddenly became commonplace. Today, defendants such as Kozachenko seize on their right to avoid a bench trial. "The jury trial was my only hope," said Kozachenko, who returned to court last week to hear a judge officially confirm the jury's verdict.

Kozachenko was accused of stabbing to death Larisa Bezrukavaya, the operator of a prostitution ring, and her lover, Alexei Krylov, in Bezrukavaya's apartment on the morning of Feb. 16, 2004, with a motive of theft. At first, the case against him looked overwhelming. He confessed to investigators, and two of Bezrukavaya's prostitutes said they witnessed both killings.

Kozachenko had worked for Bezrukavaya as a driver. According to prosecutors, he came to her apartment when she, her boyfriend and the two witnesses were all present. He immediately stabbed Bezrukavaya in the stomach, prosecutors said. She retreated to the kitchen and then a balcony, where the two witnesses testified they also cowered in fear.

Meanwhile, the witnesses said, Kozachenko and Krylov struggled in a narrow hallway. Krylov eventually was stabbed 13 times. As he lay dying, Kozachenko came out to the balcony, where the witnesses said he stabbed Bezrukavaya three more times in front of them.

Kozachenko then stole jewelry and cash and paid the two prostitutes money they said the dead woman owed them, prosecutors charged, in an attempt to implicate them in the crime. The three then left the scene.

But the prosecution's case was not watertight. It depended mainly on the confession and the two women's accounts. There were no fingerprints or other physical evidence tying Kozachenko to the crime scene, and blood work suggested that the murders did not occur in the manner recounted by the two witnesses, according to the defendant's attorney, Valery Okhotnikov.

During the trial that ended with the third not-guilty verdict, the lawyer told the jury that the failure to produce even a single fiber linked to Kozachenko was "indisputable proof of his innocence." And Kozachenko denied the murders.

In his final argument, Okhotnikov pointed out that the stories of the two witnesses conflicted. He slyly exploited their profession to cast doubt on their credibility, drawing a rebuke from Judge Vyacheslav Plotnikov.

Because of previous Supreme Court rulings, Okhotnikov was unable to directly challenge his client's confession in front of the jury. (Outside the courtroom, he said it was coerced.)

"I leave the confession business without comment," Okhotnikov told the jurors in his final statement, "but we all remember 1937 and confessions" -- a reference to the Great Terror of dictator Joseph Stalin in which millions of Soviet citizens were killed or sent to prison camps, often on the basis of forced confessions.

The comment drew another rebuke from the judge, but some on the jury nodded knowingly as Okhotnikov spoke.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Friday, October 28, 2005

Should Sex Offenders have Driver's Licenses that Indicate one is offender

This is bound to be highly controversial.

Sheriffs want ID for predators
The proposal: People convicted of capital or multiple sex crimes would have drivers licenses that say so. But critics see liabilities.
Amy L. Edwards
Orlando (Florida) Sentinel Staff Writer

October 28, 2005

Florida's registered sexual predators already have their photographs and addresses listed on the World Wide Web in a state database for public access.

But the Florida Sheriffs Association wants such people to stand out even more. The group said it will ask the state to require them to have identifiers on their drivers licenses marking them as predators.

Registered sex offenders and predators are flagged in a state database that law-enforcement officers or dispatchers use when they run a drivers-license check.

The group's suggestion, said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd,chairman of the association's Legislative Committee, would allow police to immediately identify a predator in case a computer is down or the information isn't quickly accessible.

Although the issue was named as a priority for the 2006 legislative session by the sheriffs group last week, it likely will meet resistance.

"We may very well get some opposition," Judd said. "I'm not concerned about that. When you do the right thing, it will stand on its own merit."

Tom Berlinger, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said he thinks the agency would support such a measure if it enhances public safety.

"This proposal . . . looks like a very good idea," Berlinger said.

But critics contend the drivers-license identifier could do more harm than good if written into law.

"I think it's inappropriate," said Paul Sandman, a licensed mental-health counselor who treats sex offenders in Polk County. "They already have them identified on the Internet. They've gone to great lengths already."

Such measures are excessive and make it more difficult for sex offenders to lead a different life, he said.

"When is there going to be a bill so that they can print 'sex offender' on their forehead? It's getting to that," Sandman said. "I'm working with people to help them try and not do it again, and I have to deal with their hysterical reactions, their anger . . . from being confronted and identified as a sex offender over and over and over."

John Q. La Fond, a recently retired University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor, agreed the identifier could be useless and hurt people more than it would benefit law enforcement.

"Most of us show our drivers license to use a credit card, to cash a check and what you call everyday commercial matters," La Fond said. "The fact that one is a sex offender is absolutely irrelevant to the merchant."

Such a proposal would "increase the humiliation and shame . . . without advancing any legitimate public purpose," he said.

Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said he appreciates that the Florida Sheriffs Association is aiming its suggestion at predators only and not all sex offenders.

Predators are thought to pose a greater risk to the community because they have been convicted of capital or multiple offenses. An "offender" designation includes any lesser sex crime.

But Simon worries that the idea, if written into legislation, could lead to discrimination against such people.

"I'm not sure how much public safety is enhanced by putting a mark on the drivers license," Simon said. "I do see the opening of the door of retaliation, vigilantism and discrimination. I see all those liabilities."

Lawmakers this year passed the Jessica Lunsford Act, named after a 9-year-old Citrus County girl who was abducted from her bedroom in February and killed. Police arrested a registered sex offender who they say killed the girl.

The act increases penalties for some offenders and predators, requires background checks of people who could come into contact with children at schools, and requires some to wear electronic-monitoring bracelets.

Lawmakers are working on measures that would further strengthen the bill, including forcing counties to maintain separate hurricane shelters for sex offenders.

Cities across Florida have taken their own steps to restrict where such offenders may live. Oviedo was the first in Central Florida to ban certain sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of where children may gather.

Seminole County restricts offenders from going within 1,000 feet of a park, school or day-care facility. However, there are numerous exemptions to the measure. Sex offenders registered with the Seminole County Sheriff's Office also must carry agency-issued identification cards.

The Florida Sheriffs Association named several other priorities it says would strengthen the Jessica Lunsford Act, including prohibiting predators from staying with the public at emergency shelters.

"Florida's sheriffs are going to be tough on those who are offenders and predators -- anyone who will prey on our children," Judd said.

Amy L. Edwards can be reached at or 863-422-3395.

Copyright © 2005, Orlando Sentinel

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

This would be a major change in death penalty cases

Please remember that if the link doesn't work, both the UTA and Telecampus digital library databases have these articles.

The New York Times
October 26, 2005
Bill Would Allow Second Attempts at Federal Death Sentence

If all 12 members of a jury in a capital case in federal court cannot agree on whether to impose the death penalty, a convicted defendant is automatically sentenced to life in prison.

But that may be about to change. A little-noticed provision in the House bill that reauthorized the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act would allow federal prosecutors further attempts at a death sentence if a capital jury deadlocks on the punishment. So long as at least one juror voted for death, prosecutors could empanel a new sentencing jury and argue again that execution was warranted.

The Senate bill does not contain the provision, and representatives of both chambers will soon meet to discuss the differences between the two measures and potential compromises.

Sentencing deadlocks in federal capital trials are not unusual. In a federal terrorism trial in New York in 2001, for instance, the government sought the death penalty against two operatives of Al Qaeda for their roles in the deadly bombings of two American embassies in East Africa in 1998. The jury deadlocked 9 to 3 in favor of death in both cases, interviews conducted by The New York Times later revealed.

Mary Jo White, who was the United States attorney in Manhattan at the time, said the experience was frustrating. "I respectfully disagreed with that jury," she said.

But Ms. White said she opposed the provision in the House bill.

"I don't think the government should have two bites at that apple," said Ms. White, who is now in private practice at Debevoise & Plimpton. "There's something untoward about giving the impression that you're jury shopping for the death penalty."

California and a handful of other states already allow new capital sentencing hearings.

The federal government should follow suit, said Michael Rushford, the president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which supports the rights of crime victims.

"You can have a jury of 12 and have one juror overrule the other 11 in the sentencing phase of a capital case," Mr. Rushford said. "You're not really allowing the process to go through."

Jesselyn McCurdy, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, disagreed. "If there is one person who has a doubt about whether someone should be put to death," she said, "that should be doubt enough."

The jury provision is probably constitutional, people on both sides of the death penalty debate said. "It's one of the many situations where the Supreme Court leaves us to our folly," said David I. Bruck, a lawyer with the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project, a group that assists lawyers defending federal capital cases.

The provision was introduced as part of an amendment to the bill in July by Representative John Carter, Republican of Texas. Mr. Carter, a former Texas trial judge, called it a "common-sense clarification to the federal death penalty" and said it was supported by the Justice Department.

Federal prosecutors have obtained relatively few death sentences in recent cases. In the past year, according to statistics compiled by the counsel project, 5 of the 22 juries that heard federal capital cases imposed death sentences. During John Ashcroft's term as attorney general, from 2001 to 2005, 18 of the 63 juries that heard capital cases imposed death sentences.

Though the number of federal crimes eligible for the death penalty continues to rise, the federal government prosecutes relatively few capital cases. There have been three executions in the federal system since 1988, when the first modern federal death penalty law was enacted. There were almost 900 executions in the states in the same period.

Mr. Ashcroft was a proponent of the aggressive use of the federal death penalty law, sometimes overriding the recommendations of local prosecutors. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's approach in this area is less clear, legal experts said. None of the cases in which he has authorized capital charges have reached trial, they said.

State prosecutors said the federal jury provision could start a welcome trend.

"It sounds pretty even-handed," said Joshua Marquis, the district attorney in Clatsop County, Ore. Just as juries must generally reach unanimous verdicts for conviction or acquittal, he said, they should be required to reach a unanimous decision on life or death.

Franklin E. Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, disagreed.

"It's not supposed to be a level playing field," he said. "It's supposed to be a penalty available when nothing else will do."

Jennifer Daskal, a lawyer with Human Rights Watch in Washington, said the requirement that jurors in capital cases be open to imposing the death penalty already favored prosecutors. The possibility of repeated attempts to obtain death sentences from such "death qualified" juries, she said, would only heighten the advantages prosecutors have.

Mr. Bruck said the provision in the House bill, if it became law, could embolden prosecutors to keep trying until they found a jury willing to sentence the defendant to death.

"Flip a coin enough times," he said, "and it will land on its edge once."

* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Sntiching and T-Shirts

'Stop Snitchin' shirts stopping criminal trials
An urban fashion trend

Tuesday, October 18, 2005
By Gabrielle Banks, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Two criminal trials this month were disrupted by an article of clothing.

John Beale, Post-Gazette
"Stop Snitchin" shirts on sale at Mo Gear on Forbes Avenue, Downtown.
Click photo for larger image.

A witness called to testify against three men on trial for conspiring to kill him was ejected from Allegheny County Common Pleas Court because he came in wearing a T-shirt that said "Stop Snitchin." Without his testimony, prosecutors were forced to withdraw charges against the three defendants.

The following day, during the sentencing phase of a federal drug case, an assistant U.S. Attorney paused to show the judge two T-shirts vilifying witnesses who gave prosecutors information about a cocaine kingpin.

One shirt had a photograph of a witness, an admitted drug dealer, who eventually won a reduced sentence for cooperating with authorities. Above his image and a photo of another cooperating witness were the words "No snitching allowed." On the opposite side, it read "Niggas Just Looking For a Deal" and, once again, "Stop Snitchin."

The back-to-back incidents were no coincidence. The shirts belong to an urban fashion trend that hit Boston and Baltimore about a year ago and is now taking hold on the streets of Pittsburgh.

Vendors at stores Downtown said they have been selling "Stop Snitchin" shirts for months. Variations in stock this week include a smiley face with a zipper for a mouth and an octagonal "Stop Snitchin" stop sign that's been riddled with bullets.

Salespeople at Mo Gear on Forbes Avenue and Sneaker Villa on Wood Street said the "Stop Snitchin" shirt may have started as a bold counterculture statement but now it's nothing more than a harmless novelty item that mostly appeals to school kids. Mo Gear displays the shirts for sale; Sneaker Villa has not carried them.

Whether or not it's the right thing to do, tattling on your sister and telling on your friends has always been unhip.

Going to police with information about a buddy who's breaking the law is taboo in gang culture and it almost implicitly means you're asking for retribution, according to police and gang experts.

But since the War on Drugs in the 1980s, law enforcement officials have relied more heavily on informants in their sting operations, said Alexandra Natapoff, an associate criminal law professor at Loyola Law School who published a University of Cincinnati Law Review article on the phenomenon. She said sentencing laws have pushed more people to snitch to save themselves from spending years behind bars.

With mandatory sentences attached to drug crimes, there are more incentives for low-level players to snitch on the top dogs.

Informants who help prosecutors significantly can sometimes meet a standard called "substantial assistance" and qualify for significantly shorter sentences.

Garry P. Smith, 47, of Hazelwood, the man sentenced in federal court here this month -- and pictured on the T-shirt -- testified despite the anti-snitching shirts people were wearing around his neighborhood and despite a reputed $100,000 bounty on his head. Because of his cooperation, Mr. Smith got his sentence cut from 20 years to seven.

Witnesses like Mr. Smith are critical to getting convictions in big cases.

According to data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 40 percent of drug trafficking prosecutions in which defendants got a sentence of 10 years or more involved "substantial assistance to authorities" from informants.

Dr. Natapoff found that the pressure to become an informant has a disproportionate effect on the black community, because one in three black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are under court supervision at any time. In her article, she estimated that more than a quarter of black men in poor communities are under pressure to inform on their peers.

"Snitching becomes a fact of life," she said. "At every barbecue, at every holiday party, someone is under law enforcement pressure to snitch. That in my mind is a destructive public policy."

The Stop Snitching movement took root in the wake of those prosecutions.

A handful of rap stars, like Young Jeezy, helped spread the message with lyrics that shunned the idea of turning on your fellow gangstas. Rapper Jim Jones' video was banned in Canada because people in the video were donning the now-famous T-shirts. Carmelo Anthony of professional basketball's Denver Nuggets appeared in "Stop Snitchin," an underground documentary for sale on DVD that profiled drug dealers in his hometown of Baltimore talking about the dangers of "ratting" on people.

The anti-snitching T-shirts took off from there, promoted on Web sites like by and

The managers at Mo Gear and Sneaker Villa predicted the shirts will be "in" for another month. Then, like everything else, people will get tired of them.

Instincts of Killers

The Meanings and Measures of Our Killer Instincts

The link will only be available for 5 days but after that the UTA library has it available on university databases.

The article looks at serial killers and sociopaths and her conclusions are quite interesting. Those with an interest in criminal justice will want to read this article