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DeVos Plans to Dismantle Standards for Campus Sexual Assault Investigations

Donald Trump's new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced plans to rescind a six-year-old policy issued by Barack Obama's administration that advised colleges and universities on how to handle sexual assault allegations on campus. "Washington has burdened schools with increasingly elaborate and confusing guidelines that even lawyers find difficult to understand and navigate," DeVos told a crowd at George Mason University. "That's why we must do better, because the current approach isn't working." But DeVos wasn't as clear about what the new approach would look like as she was about rebuking the old approach. So where does that leave victims, alleged abusers, and schools trying to meet their legal obligations? Out With the Old In 2011, Obama's Department of Education issued what is known as a "Dear Colleague" letter, addressing the requirements of colleges and universities under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 in regards to sexual violence on campus. Schools must "take immediate and effective steps to end sexual harassment and sexual violence," including a prompt investigation of any incident the school knows of or reasonably should know of, and apply a "preponderance of evidence" standard to determinations based on sexual harassment allegations. According to DeVos, this system "has failed too many students." "Survivors, victims of a lack of due process, and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved," she said, adding, "That's why we must do better, because the current approach isn't working." In With What Now? What the new approach will be, however, isn't immediately clear. DeVos announced plans to "launch a transparent notice-and-comment process" to formulate new guidance on sexual assault investigations, presumably to standardize procedural elements and protections across all schools. One of the issues that many, including the American Bar Association, have highlighted in prior critiques is the lack of due process protections for both victims and accusers in on-campus hearings, along with the lack of uniformity in schools' reporting, investigating, punishment, and appeals processes. "We can do a better job of making sure the handling of complaints is fair and accurate," DeVos promised, but how that job will be done remains to be seen. Related Resources: DeVos Announces Plan to Revamp Obama Administration Guidance on Campus Sex Assault Investigations (ABA Journal) Columbia Settles Title IX Lawsuit Filed by Student Accused of Rape (FindLaw's Decided) University May Raise Tuition to Fund Sexual Assault Investigations (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Are Schools Using Student Privacy Laws to Cover up Crimes? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Is Police Body Cam Footage Public Record?

Over the past few years, more and more police departments have adopted the use of officer body cams. The devices attach to an officer's uniform and record what the officers do while on duty. However, there is no uniform law of the land when it comes to the public's right to access the footage from the body cams. Depending on the local jurisdiction, or state, different standards are used for the release of the footage. Some will only allow the footage to be released publicly as part of a criminal or civil trial (as the law requires the disclosure then), while others allow the recordings to be released on YouTube (after private and identifying information is edited out). Video for the People, Not of the People The purpose of police body cams is to engender the public's trust. The idea is essentially that officers will be less likely to not follow the rules, and will be more likely to do everything exactly by the book, if there is a video record of all their actions. These cams can also provide evidence of corrupt police practices, at least when the corrupt officers are not selectively recording with their body cams. The recordings are not just of public civil servants (police officers), but the individuals they encounter are, naturally, caught on camera too. This complicates public disclosure as private individuals have privacy rights, even when they are out in public. Those privacy rights can be violated by allowing the public unfettered access to the footage. A simple example involves a traffic stop. If an officer is not careful when handling a pulled over driver's documents, or the footage is not redacted/edited before it is released publicly, a person's driver's license number, address, height, birth date, and (alleged) weight, could all be captured by a body cam. Who's Watching? Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of police body cam footage, it would likely be impractical, or a drain on police resources, for all of it to be reviewed. Instead, generally, departments review the footage when necessary to review high profile incidents, arrests that lead to prosecutions, or sometimes when officers need help to remember what happened for their reports. Also, when complaints against officers are made by the public, or other officers, the body cam footage can be reviewed. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Police Body Cameras: What Defendants, Victims Need to Know (FindLaw Blotter) Body Cams Embraced, But Who Will Have Access to Footage? (FindLaw's California Case Law) How Does the iPhone's New 'Cop Button' Work? (FindLaw Blotter)
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Defense Secretary Puts President Trump’s Transgender Ban on Hold

In the wake of President Donald Trump's proclamation that openly transgender individuals be discharged from the military, in addition to the lawsuits, there has been some pushback from an unexpected source: the Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis. After sources reported that the general was appalled by the president's proclamation, soon after, he came out with a plan that effectively puts the ban on hold. While socially, and politically, transgender rights are a polarizing and controversial issue, it may not be possible to read anything more than prudence into Mattis's actions. Making a sweeping change like this to the military requires careful planning and assessment. What's Mattis's Hold Up? The general, reportedly, has instituted the hold on implementing the newest ban in order to study the effects and strategically plan how to actually do it (and potentially even whether to do it at all). Although the president, in a series of Tweets, claimed to have met with his generals prior to implementing the ban, no general has corroborated this claim. As such, not only was the general caught off guard, but the new policy's effects had not been studied prior to the implementation. While it may be too soon for those on either side of this issue to celebrate, LGBT advocates are pleased that there is at least some relief from the abruptly announced policy that would have uprooted many people's lives. Constitutional Challenges and Civil Rights Laws The lawsuit by the ACLU that challenges the transgender military ban argues that there is no military basis for the ban. According to the ACLU's complaint, "The Trump Administration has provided no evidence that this pronouncement was based on any analysis of the actual cost and disruption allegedly caused by allowing men and women who are transgender to serve openly."The Trump administration also faces a lawsuit from Lambda Legal that challenges the constitutionality of the transgender ban. Lambda Legal's lawsuit alleges "the Ban and the current accessions bar violate the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Fifth Amendment and the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment," and "are unsupported by any compelling, important, or even rational justification."Although the new administration has taken a position that transgender individuals should not be protected under civil rights laws, there has been a steady trend in the law to protect transgender individuals. The number of states, and even federal courts, that have recognized transgender individuals as belonging to a protected class, and thus protected by civil rights laws, keeps growing. Related Resources: Trump Administration Rescinds Guidance on Bathroom Use for Transgender Students (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) The Rise of Anti-Anti-Discrimination Laws (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) California's Gender Neutral Bathroom Bill (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Here's the Latest on Trump Immigration Reform Efforts (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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How Does the iPhone’s New ‘Cop Button’ Work?

Cell phones have been the new frontier in search and seizure law, and for a while they've been giving fits to law enforcement and the courts. Can customs search your cloud data at the border? Can the feds force tech companies to provide access to phone data? Can a warrant give police access to everyone's phone at a given location? Can police 3-D print a finger to unlock a phone? Wait, what? It may seem weird, but courts actually treat passcodes and fingerprints differently when it comes to unlocking phones, and more and more people are becoming aware that their phones are actually less secure (from law enforcement anyway) with fingerprint access. So, naturally, Apple came up with a fix for that -- the "cop button." Physical Evidence and Metaphysical Contents More accurately, as the Verge describes, it's like a cop sequence of taps. Apple's upcoming iOS11 for the iPhone will let users tap the power button five times for emergencies. This then allows someone to dial 911 while also disabling the phone's Touch ID feature until they enter a passcode. Essentially, Apple is giving iPhone users "a far more discreet way of locking out a phone." Those who haven't been following recent search and seizure case law may be asking themselves why locking out a phone would be useful, or having a passcode accessible phone would be any more secure from police searches than a fingerprint accessible phone. As we mentioned above, courts, and thus law enforcement, treat them very differently. Combinations and codes, to an individual, have generally been considered the "contents of his own mind," and therefore beyond the government's power to compel production. Whereas keys and fingerprints are physical evidence, which "may be extracted from a defendant against his will." FaceTime? There's another reason this distinction may matter, and why the "cop button" may be necessary in the near feature. Apparently, iOS 11 will also introduce face unlocking on the next iPhone. Giving law enforcement another piece of physical evidence that grants them access phone, and giving users another reason to have a way to disable that access. Different jurisdictions have been treating cell phones -- and the ways in which law enforcement may force people to unlock them -- in different ways. To find out the law where you live, contact a local criminal defense attorney. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Can the Feds Force You to Unlock Your Phone With Your Fingerprint? (FindLaw Blotter) Florida Judge: Give Up Your Smartphone Passcode or Go to Jail (FindLaw Blotter) Are Warrantless Cell Phone Searches Legal? (FindLaw Blotter)
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ACLU, Lambda Legal Sue Trump Over Transgender Military Ban

Over the course of three tweets last month, President Donald Trump expressed his intent to ban transgender people from serving in the military. The White House made that intent official on Friday, issuing a Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security "prohibit[ing] openly transgender individuals from accession into the United States military and authoriz[ing] the discharge of such individuals. And it didn't take long for the lawsuits to follow. Both the ACLU and Lambda Legal have sued Donald Trump and his Secretary of Defense James Mattis, claiming the ban is unconstitutional and "compromises the safety and security of our country." Animus Trump's memo reverses Obama-era guidance allowing transgender individuals to openly serve in the military and allowing defense funds to cover sex-reassignment surgery. The ban would remain in place "until such time as a sufficient basis exists upon which to conclude that terminating that policy and practice would not have the negative effects discussed above." In the memo, Trumps says, "The Secretary of Defense ... may advise me at any time, in writing, that a change to this policy is warranted," but that recommendation for change must be something that "I find convincing." The ACLU claims there is no military basis for the ban: The Trump Administration has provided no evidence that this pronouncement was based on any analysis of the actual cost and disruption allegedly caused by allowing men and women who are transgender to serve openly. News reports indicate that the Secretary of Defense and other military officials were surprised by President Trump's announcement and that his actual motivations were purely political, reflecting a desire to accommodate legislators and advisers who bear animus and moral disapproval toward men and women who are transgender, with a goal of gaining votes for a spending bill that included money to build a border wall with Mexico. Amicus The claims may bear some truth. Mattis was reportedly caught off guard by Trump's tweets, and sources say he was "appalled." Lambda Legal's suit alleges "the Ban and the current accessions bar violate the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Fifth Amendment and the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment," and "are unsupported by any compelling, important, or even rational justification." This is not the first time Trump has been sued over an executive order or memo -- there are now at least three lawsuits regarding the transgender military ban alone -- and will likely not be the last. Related Resources: Find Civil Rights Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Military Transgender Ban to Begin Within 6 Months, Memo Says (The New York Times) Transgender Service Members Sue Trump Over Military Ban Tweets (FindLaw's Courtside) Trump Administration Rescinds Guidance on Bathroom Use for Transgender Students (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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$417M Judgment Against Johnson & Johnson in Latest Talc-Cancer Verdict

At this point, there have been so many lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson over its talc and baby powder products, and judgments against the company based on cancer caused by those products, it's becoming hard to keep track of them all. Luckily, Bloomberg did the work for us: J&J is facing "5,500 claims in U.S. courts, [and] has lost four previous jury verdicts in St. Louis for a total of $300 million." And you can add another verdict to that list, this one coming in California. A Los Angeles jury awarded Eva Echeverria $417 million after finding J&J liable for not warning about the cancer risk in its baby powder products. Problem All Over the Country "J&J needs to see they not only have verdicts against them in St. Louis, they now also have them in Los Angeles," Echeverria's attorney Mark Robinson said. "There's a problem all over the country with women using talcum powder on daily basis for 10, 20, 30, 40 years." The 62-year-old woman began using the talcum powder products when she was 11 and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. Of the total award, the jury charged Johnson & Johnson with $347 million in punitive damages. While J&J has and continues to defend the safety of its Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talc-based products, various lawsuits have cited studies linking talc to ovarian cancer and accused the company of failing to adequately warn customers of the risk. Denying the Obvious Most damning of the allegations against J&J revolve around what the company knew and when. According to one lawsuit, the Cancer Prevention Coalition notified Johnson & Johnson's CEO in 1994 that studies showed using talcum powder in the genital area posed "a serious risk of ovarian cancer." And the AP has reported on an internal memo in 1997 from a Johnson & Johnson medical consultant said "anybody who denies" the risk of using hygienic talc and ovarian cancer is "denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary." The latest judgment against J&J may be the latest and one of the largest, but it's far from the first and likely far from the last as well. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Talcum Powder Lawsuit: When to Sue J&J for Wrongful Death (FindLaw's Injured) Can Using Talcum and Baby Powder Really Cause Cancer? (FindLaw's Injured) Talcum Powder May Increase Ovarian Cancer Risk in African American Women (FindLaw's Injured)
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ACLU Settles Lawsuit Against CIA Torture Psychologists

Much was made of the 'enhanced interrogation techniques' employed by the U.S. military and contractors in terrorism investigations. Often considered torture, the interrogation program was at the center of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit filed against the alleged architects of that program, on behalf two men subjected to those techniques and the family of one man who froze to death in a CIA prison. In what the ACLU says is a first for lawsuits involving CIA torture, the two defendants in the case, psychologists James Mitchell and John "Bruce" Jessen, have agreed to settle the lawsuit, for an undisclosed amount. Enhanced Interrogation "Government officials and contractors are on notice that they cannot hide from accountability for torture," said director of the ACLU National Security Project Hina Shamsi in the wake of the settlement. "Our clients' groundbreaking case has changed the legal landscape. It showed that the courts are fully capable of handling lawsuits involving abuses committed in the name of national security." Due to issues of immunity and fears of classified information being made public, the case was set to be the first of its kind to go to trial, perhaps because the Justice Department did not try to block it. Although both Mitchell and Jessen continue to claim that the abuse suffered by Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and Gul Rahman, and Rahman's death, all occurred without their knowledge. But in an earlier ruling in the case, the court found "The evidence would support a finding Defendants designed the [enhanced interrogation techniques] to be used on detainees, and thus they clearly had knowledge they would be so used." Brutal and Ineffective Those techniques embodied an effort to a state of "learned helplessness" in captives that would remove any resistance to interrogation. According to Dr. Jessen's deposition in the case, he and Dr. Mitchell were tasked with coming up with those techniques, which included sensory and sleep deprivation, shackling for hours in uncomfortable positions, and waterboarding. "Jim and I went into a cubicle," he said. "He sat down at a typewriter and together we wrote out a list." The interrogation techniques developed by the doctors were ultimately found to be brutal and ineffective, but caused lasting pain and suffering to those subjected to them. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Police and School Sued After Interrogated Teen Commits Suicide (FindLaw's Injured) What You Need to Know About Suing the Police (FindLaw's Injured) Chiquita Terrorism Lawsuit: Murder, Torture (FindLaw's Injured)
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Are Programmers Liable If Hackers Misuse Software?

In 2012, Taylor Huddleston created what is known as a remote management tool, a piece of software that allows users to remotely log keystrokes, download stored passwords, turn on the web cam, access files, and watch a computer screen in real time. Designed, he says, to help low-income users who couldn't afford more expensive remote-access programs monitor online activity for safety reasons, NanoCore was going to be Huddleston's ticket out of a trailer he lived in on his mother's property and into a real house. And it worked -- Huddlestone sold NanoCore and another piece of software called Net Seal and was able to buy a $60,000 home. But FBI agents and police raided that home last December, and are now charging Huddlestone conspiracy and aiding and abetting computer intrusions, for all the times hackers used NanoCore to commit crimes. Illegal IT So should Huddlestone be criminally liable if he didn't intend his software to be used for hacking? His attorney, Travis Morrissey, likens the case to firearms manufacturers: "Everybody seems to acknowledge that this software product had a legitimate purpose," he told the Daily Beast. "It's like saying that if someone buys a handgun and uses it to rob a liquor store, that the handgun manufacturer is complicit." Thus far, courts haven't held firearms makers liable for criminal acts committed with their products, but computer crimes laws are written a bit differently. One factor might be where Huddlestone chose to market his software: HackForums.net. As the Daily Beast points out: It would soon become clear that it was a terrible place to launch a legitimate remote administration tool. There aren't a lot of corporate procurement officers on HackForums. Instead, many of Huddleston's new customers had purely illicit uses for a slick remote access tool. Illegal Intent? Huddlestone quickly found out what his buyers were using the software tool for, and, to his credit, attempted to curb illegal activity using NanoCore: In short order, Huddleston found himself routinely admonishing people not to use his software for crime. "NanoCore does not permit illegal use," he wrote in one post. In another, "NanoCore is NOT malware. It is intended to be used legitimately and I don't want to see words like 'slave' and 'infect.'" Huddleston backed his words with action. Whenever he saw evidence that a particular buyer was using the product to hack, he'd log in to Net Seal and disable that user's copy, cutting the hacker off from his infected slaves. But these efforts may not be enough. By then the cat was out of the bag and hackers were trading in copies of NanoCore that bypassed Huddlestone's disabling efforts. Now, he's looking at jail time for making a product he thought would help people. Related Resources: Browse Criminal Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Programmer Faces Federal Charges for Creating Software Used by Hackers (ABA Journal) What Are the Criminal Penalties for Hacking? (FindLaw Blotter) When Is Computer Hacking a Crime? (FindLaw Blotter)
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Teens Charged in Sexual Assault Live-Streamed on Facebook

No matter how many stories get written about criminal activity streamed on Facebook Live, criminals don't cease to record their crimes for prosecutorial prosperity and the crimes themselves don't get any less heinous. A 14-year old girl in Chicago was lured into a home and raped by as many as six men, one of whom broadcast the sexual assault live on Facebook. The Chicago Tribune notes it's at least the fourth crime in the city captured on Facebook Live since the end of October 2016. Two teens are in custody thus far, and the victim and her family have been moved following threats and online bullying after reporting the crime. Facebook Crime According to the Tribune, the girl was attacked on her way home from church, and not found until two days later. A relative was told the assault was on Facebook, and Chicago activist Andrew Holmes was able to forward the video of the sexual assault to police. The girl's mother was then able to identify her daughter from screen shots of the video. Two boys, one 14 and the other 15, are now in custody facing charges relating to the rape and the posting of the video. Both have been charged as juveniles with aggravated criminal sexual assault, manufacture of child pornography, and dissemination of child pornography, though it is unclear if either was the one who initiated the broadcast of the assault. Social Media Cycle of Trauma Police say their investigation has been hampered by the victim's trauma and harassment of her and her family. Chicago Police Cmdr. Brendan Deenihan described the difficulty at a news conference over the weekend: "She's just having such a difficult time even communicating what occurred to her. We obviously have a video of the incident, so we have verifiable objective evidence of what occurred to this young lady, but she's just having a very difficult time ... On top of it, there's constant social media ... bullying (of the girl), making fun of what occurred. This is just a very traumatic incident." The social media bullying has manifested in real life as well. The victim's mother told the Tribune that after word of the attack got out, people began harassing the family at home, ringing the doorbell and appearing at the house in a threatening manner. Police were also frustrated with the lack of response from the estimated 40 people who viewed the livestream of the assault, none of whom called 911. Deenihan says authorities are exploring what criminal charges may be available against those who watched the video, but proving exactly who did watch the video may be impossible. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) 2 Teens Arrested in Chicago Sex Assault Streamed Online (CNN) Police Officer Who Killed Philando Castile Charged With Manslaughter (FindLaw Blotter) Prostitutes Use Facebook to Drum Up Business (FindLaw Blotter)
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No Criminal Charges After Inmate Was Boiled to Death in Florida Prison

There was no question that Darren Rainey died in the showers of the Dade Correctional Institution in 2012. What was unanswered was whether the officers who locked Rainey for two hours in showers that could run as hot at 160 degrees were criminally liable for his death. That answer came last month, when the state attorney for Miami-Dade County released an "In Custody Death Investigation Close-Out Memo" that attributed Rainey's death to schizophrenia, heart disease, and "confinement inside the shower room." Yet the state attorney declined to press criminal charges against the officers or the prison, saying instead that "the evidence does not show that Rainey's well-being was grossly disregarded by the correctional staff." Deadly Disregard The details of Rainey's death are as grisly as they are tragic. Rainey, schizophrenic and heavily medicated, was a resident of Dade's "Temporary Transitional Unit" which houses mentally disabled inmates. According to the report, corrections officers Roland Clarke and Cornelius Thompson took Rainey to the showers after he defecated in his cell and smearing the feces on himself and the cell. Determining what exactly happened from there depends on whom you believe. Harold Hempstead, an inmate whose cell was below the shower, said he heard much of the incident, including Rainey screaming, "I can't take it anymore!" Another inmate said he heard guards sarcastically ask Rainey "Is it hot enough?" Rainey allegedly screamed, kicked the door, and begged to be let out, before he was found unresponsive almost two hours after he was locked in. A later investigation found that the water temperature, which could only be controlled from a closet outside the showers, could reach as high as 160 degrees. Mark Joiner, another former inmate at Dade, said guards ordered him to clean pieces of skin that had peeled off Rainey's body from the shower floor. And nurses allegedly said Rainey's body "was covered in burns so severe that his skin came off at the touch," according to the New Yorker. Charging Accounts The Close-Out Memo, on the other hand gave the benefit of the doubt to Thompson and Clarke, who told detectives he made sure the water wasn't too hot. And although a preliminary medical report detailed "visible trauma ... throughout the decedents' body," the final autopsy, not completed until 2016 and yet to be released found no trauma and "no thermal injuries (burns) of any kind on his body." In the end, the state attorney cited a lack of sufficient and consistent evidence in deciding not to criminally charge any of the officers involved in Rainey's death. Related Resources: No Justice for Inmate Darren Rainey (Miami Herald) $8.3M Jail Death Settlement Sets Record in Calif. (FindLaw's Decided) NYC Inmate 'Baked to Death' in Hot Jail Cell: Report (FindLaw's Injured) Inmate Wrongful Deaths: Suing for Neglect or Abuse in Jail or Prison (FindLaw's Injured)
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