In March 2016, police were notified of a loud argument at an apartment in Seattle, Washington. By the time police arrived at Solomon McLemore's apartment, the argument had subsided, but police say they heard the sound of glass shattering inside. For 15 minutes, the police engaged in an argument with McLemore about whether he should open the door.
Should the federal government be able to add you to a terrorism watch list just because of your religion? Because you bought a computer at Best Buy? After you waited at a train station for your mother? Shouldn't you have to have done something suspicious before you're placed on a government list that keeps you from flying or traveling abroad?
We've discussed the case of Joe B. before. A former Clifton, Texas, high school principal, Joe was convicted of his wife's 1985 murder. The evidence seemed pretty persuasive at the time of his trial, but that evidence is quickly unraveling.
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable government searches and seizures. The general rule is that the government needs a warrant, or an exception to the warrant requirement, for a search or seizure to be constitutional. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that no warrant or even probable cause is required for customs officers to search at the U.S. border or 100 miles into the interior in what is called the "border zone." The border zone includes Houston, San Antonio and even New Braunfels.
Each year, the FBI releases its Uniform Crime Reports for the previous year, which are based on data provided by local law enforcement agencies. These reports give us crucial information about what types of crimes, and how many, have been reported to police. Similar reports are issued by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which gauge how many crimes were actually committed, even if they weren't reported. These are the two main sources used to determine America's crime rate.
At the Dallas County jail, about 5,000 people are held behind bars every day. So far this year, only 23 percent have been able to post bail, leaving most trapped in pretrial detention. After days or weeks in jail, with their housing and jobs often lost, most end up pleading guilty regardless of their actual guilt.
The Texas Forensic Science Commission, a national leader in forensic science reform, has called the blood-spatter evidence in a 1985 Bosque County murder case "not accurate or scientifically supported" and even "entirely wrong." The findings and may lead to a new trial for 77-year old Joe B. who, after 30+ years in prison, is in declining health.
In what was considered a major victory for personal privacy advocates, the U.S. Supreme court has restricted law enforcement's ability to use cellphone location data in the course of criminal investigations. A 1979 precedent had given some the impression that this data could be obtained using a mere court order. The recent ruling makes clear that police ordinarily need a warrant for the information.
Especially in cases involving drugs, state and federal governments have the authority to seize property that can be tied to illegal activity. These seizures are often performed before the owner has been tried and can be extremely difficult to reverse, even when the defendant is never convicted. How far can the government go with these seizures?