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Law and Justice



The CWU Department of Law and Justice is proud to announce that we have presentations from ten Law and Justice students in today's SOURCE (Symposium on University Research and Creative Expression), including two of our Masters program graduate students. We encourage you to stop by and see what our students, and the rest of CWU, have been working on this year!
See below for the full lineup of LAJ presentations.


Poster Session

SURC Ballroom C/D, 11:15 a.m.–1:45 p.m.

Meth Action Council Research Project by Holly Hankins

The Meth Action Council Resource Project focused on the drug problems, with an emphasis on methamphetamines, which affect Kittitas County. This data collection project was designed to gain a picture of the drug cases and trends in Kittitas County. Along with the Meth Action Team, the Kittitas County Community Network Coalition had a large hand in the research and data collection. The Meth Action Team was formed in 1993 and their main goal has been the awareness and the prevention of the usage of methamphetamines. The data was gathered using the prosecutor’s files of felony drug cases. The focus was on identifying the trends from a time period of 2004 through 2011 and then looked at each drug individually. In addition, the drug cases were broken out by gender, age, county of residence, repeat offenders, and poly vs. single drugs involved in the cases. At the conclusion of this project, the evidence of meth usage in Kittitas County shows a drastic decrease. Although it still holds the number two spot in popularity for drug usage, the instance at which meth is being used is steadily declining.


Session 2: SURC 137a 8:30 a.m.–9:50 a.m.

Identifying Missing and Unidentified Persons: A New Methodology by Andrea Blume (grad student)

The challenges in Washington State for missing and unidentified persons are complex and part of a national problem. The National Institute of Justice estimates that there are 40,000 unidentified remains in the United States, and that there are as many as 100,000 active missing person’s cases at any given time (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, 2011). My project study will identify how many additional missing and unidentified person cases there are by compiling the databases of the private and other governmental-run databases to Washington State’s database. From these comprehensive comparisons, I will identify the Washington cases that are not in our State’s database or the National database. I will also identify the Washington cases that lack dental, DNA and family reference DNA submissions, which like other states, contribute to the growing number of unidentified remains across the nation. From there, law enforcement agencies will be given the data to update their system which ultimately uploads into the state system. By identifying the cases specific to the agencies that lack DNA and Dental, it will bring awareness to each case of what samples are still needed in order to give these cases the best chance they have for identification and recovery.

The Role of Libraries i​n Offender Rehabilitation by Justin Head (grad student)

The United States currently has the largest incarcerated population in the world at approximately 2.3 million individuals. Of this population roughly 95 percent will be released from prison and will reenter society. With increasingly scarce resources due to budgetary constraints, correctional facilities are experiencing difficulties in providing rehabilitative programs for incarcerated populations. This reduction in emphasis on rehabilitation of inmates is leading to increasing rates of recidivism. This issue presents an opportunity for prison, public, and academic libraries to play an active role in facilitating the rehabilitation process. For successful rehabilitation to occur, it is important to address current juvenile and adult offender needs by highlighting the ways correctional, public, and academic libraries can meet these needs through the programs and services they offer. To address these needs, current obstructions to offender rehabilitation must be negotiated, including the issues of censorship, access, literacy, and the changing nature of state and federal legislation. By addressing these issues, programming can be implemented increasing parolee attachment and utility to society. It is also important to investigate some of the most innovative approaches taken by libraries today. Research evaluating many of these programs suggests that there is a need for more empirically designed programs to increase offenders’ education, vocational training, and social control. Innovative programs addressing these issues have proven to be successful in reuniting ex-convicts with communities. It is important to use these existing models to develop national initiatives aimed at offender rehabilitation, thereby reducing the threat of offender recidivism.

Session 10: SURC 137a 10:00 a.m.–11:20 a.m.

U.S. Supreme Court in Connick v. Thompson Lets Prosecutors Off the Hook for a 14 Million Dollar Civil Rights Claim by Salomon Phe

In this U.S. Supreme Court case John Thompson sought to find the Orleans Parish District Attorney, Harry Connick, liable for a civil rights claim under Section 1983. Thompson alleged that the prosecution’s failure to disclose exculpatory evidence (as required by the Brady rule) to his defense violated his civil rights. As a result of their failure, Thompson spent 18 years in confinement with an approaching death sentence. The exculpatory evidence was discovered by his private investigator one month prior to his execution date. With the new evidence in hand, Thompson was retried for murder and acquitted. At the lower court level, Thompson was awarded $14 million in damages on his claim. Connick appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court claiming that the deliberate indifference standard, outlined in Canton v. Harris, had not been satisfied. By a notable 5-4 decision, the majority agreed with Connick holding that a District Attorney’s Office cannot be found liable under Section 1983 for a failure to train its prosecutors based on a single Brady violation. The presentation will discuss the facts of the case and the policy implications for agencies based on the size of this award and the potential to provide a substantial deterrent for non-disclosure of evidence along with the social policy concerns regarding a person being held behind bars for 18 years. Also discussed will be what this case shows regarding trends of the U.S. Supreme Court based upon its current composition.

United States v. Jones by Ashley Siljeg

The Fourth Amendment was established to protect people from unreasonable searches and seizures. Advancements in technology, however, have blurred the definition of a search. The employment of technology by the government is forcing a review and redefinition of the borders and limits of an individual’s right to privacy. Through examination of the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in United States v. Jones, I intend to show how technology has made more complex the once understood role of government in upholding privacy rights. U.S. v. Jones questioned the actions of federal agents who, without a warrant, placed a GPS tracking unit on Jones’ jeep as part of a drug trafficking investigation. After several appeals, the Supreme Court unanimously decided that the use of a GPS device without a warrant constitutes a search, thus the agents’ actions violated the Fourth Amendment. This presentation will also address how the Jones decision will affect the criminal justice system and how police can employ advancements in technology to reduce manpower and operating costs. Furthermore, I will explore how the Jones case is different from other vehicle cases and the precedent it sets.

Lafler v. Cooper by John Wynne and Matthew Klein

In the United States, about 90% of court cases utilize some form of plea bargaining system. Therefore, the rights and protections for individuals who utilize plea bargains cannot be ignored. In the case of Lafler v. Cooper, the United States Supreme Court held that in the event of ineffective counsel, previously offered plea agreements must be re-offered. Then it is up to the court’s discretion to vacate the convictions and re-sentence using the re-offered pleas agreement; vacate only some of the convictions and re-sentence accordingly; or leave the convictions and sentence undisturbed. This case expands on the ruling of Strickland v. Washington, giving the states a mandate to follow if Strickland is invoked. In this presentation the facts of Lafer v. Cooper will be discussed, as well as the delving into the decision of the court and the dissenting opinion of several of the justices. In addition, the possible policy implications and the ramifications of this case’s decision on future court decisions regarding ineffective counsel will be examined.

United States Supreme Court Case Missouri v. Frye by Alison Wassall

In the case of Missouri v. Galin E. Frye, Frye was charged with a felony carrying a four year maximum prison term for driving with a revoked license on four separate occasions under Missouri law. Frye, unbeknownst to him, had been given two plea bargain deals by the prosecutor to his attorney that would reduce his sentence if he would plead guilty to his crimes. This would have allowed him to plead guilty for his crimes but only serve a ninety day sentence. His counsel did not communicate these offers to Frye and he was sentenced to a three year prison term for a class D felony. After conviction, Frye went back to the court to seek relief and was denied but the Missouri Appellate Court reversed his conviction. Strickland v. Washington 466 U.S. 668 stated that there are certain guidelines that must be followed to prove a Sixth Amendment violation. The case proceeded to the United Stated Supreme Court which ruled on March 21, 2012, that Galin E. Frye’s case would be vacated and remanded since his constitutional rights were violated. This presentation will discuss the fundamentals of plea bargaining as well as the rights given to defendants under the Sixth Amendment.

Analysis of the Brown v. Plata Case ​and Its Effect on the Status Quo of Judicial Decision Making: An Examination of the Three Branches of Government: The Judiciary, the Judiciary, and the Judiciary by Kristian Kaskla

The Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Plata has set a new precedent in the field of criminal law and has further expanded the power of the judiciary. The Brown v. Plata case was a United States Supreme Court decision which ordered a reduction in the population size of California’s prisons. The effects of the case are wide reaching, from the criminal justice system to the judiciary as a whole. This case indicates an expanding role of the judiciary in bureaucratic decision making. It appears the courts have been consistently increasing their power and their range of jurisdiction. The legislative branches have been compliant with these changes as they are often unwilling to make difficult decisions, leaving them to the courts instead. The decisions made in Brown v. Plata had a direct impact on California’s government. If the courts can make decisions entirely overriding the power of state governments, questions arise as to what, and if anything, can check the power of the courts. This presentation will be divided into two main sections; first the facts of the case will be outlined as well as the logic, and illogical thought, that the judges utilized to come to their decision. Once the case itself is examined the possible ramifications of the case will be discussed.

Graham v. Florida and Evo​lving Standards of Decency: The Supreme Court’s Approach to Constitutional Punishment for Juvenile Offenders in Felony Crimes by Rebecca Sturgis

Is a life sentence without the possibility of parole for a non-homicidal crime a constitutional violation of a juvenile’s Eighth Amendment rights? Yes, according to the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2010 case, Graham v. Florida. The Eighth Amendment protects citizens from cruel and unusual punishments. Since this amendment, like others, is subject to ambiguity and state-to-state interpretation, the Supreme Court continues to define it by ruling on different cases. Although the topic of sentencing juveniles has come before the Supreme Court in cases such as Roper v. Simmons (2005), in which the Supreme Court ruled juveniles cannot face the death penalty, there are still issues being raised. In this case, Graham v. Florida, a 17 year old boy was found guilty of multiple felonies and sentenced to 12 months jail time and probation. However, while on probation he committed more felonies and was then sentenced to life in prison. Since Florida does not have a parole system this meant he had no chance of getting out. The justices came to a 6-3 ruling supporting the petitioner. Will juveniles become less deterred from crime? Will parole boards now examine juveniles on their schedule different or does this ruling simply reiterate a societal viewpoint that is already in place? My presentation will discuss the deeper facts of this case, but most importantly the impact because this ruling from the high court has an inevitable effect downward on all citizens as it becomes real practice in the system.


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