Year: 2009

DC Officer Charged with Murder in Robbery Gone Awry


DC police officer Reginald Jones (in red) was arraigned in Superior Court yesterday evening on a murder charge for his part in a robbery in which two men were shot and one died.

Officer Jones was in his patrol car, acting as a look-out, while several men attempted to rob a drug dealer. In an ensuing scuffle one of the robbers was shot and killed by his own son, Arvel Crawford (also pictured), who also took part in the robbery.

WaPo  story here.

Posted in Courtroom Tagged with: ,

DNA Clears Prisoner After 27 Years


While Donald Gates, convicted of the 1981 rape and murder of a university student, waited in an Arizona prison lawyers in a DC courtroom were asking a judge to release him.

Gates’ conviction was based largely on the testimony of an FBI forensic analyst whose work has been discredited.

Pictured are Judge Fred Ugast, the original trial judge, at the lectern is Sandra Levick from the Public Defender Service, and Assistant U.S.Attorney Joan Draper.

WaPo story here.

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Supreme Court Hears Honest Services


Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben faced an uphill battle yesterday as the Justices questioned the vagueness of the Honest Services Act that makes it a crime to “deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.”

In response to Justice Scalia’s  aggressive grilling Dreeben said, “I think we would all agree, Justice Scalia, that had Congress taken
your counsel, I would not be here today defending what the Congress
attempted to do.”

WaPo story here.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with:



Sicopata, spanish for psycho, is the nickname Josue Pena, 26, went by in the DC Columbia Heights neighborhood where 9-year-old Oscar Fuentes died last Saturday evening.

Pena, shown here at his arraignment in courtroom C-10 of DC Superior Court yesterday, is accused of firing through a door the shot that killed the young boy.

Relatives of the boy had ducked into the apartment where Oscar lived with his mother and grandmother as Pena persued them in a robbery attempt.  Oscar was tying to look through the peephole when the bullet pierced the locked door.

WaPo story here.

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Jefferson Sentenced


Former congressman William Jefferson stood with his attorney, Robert Trout, his clasped hands resting on the lectern, as Judge Ellis sentenced him to 13 years in prison. Jefferson, 62, infamous for the $90,000. in cold cash found in his freezer made no statement.

WaPo story here.

Posted in Congress, Courtroom Tagged with: ,

Life-Without-Parole for Juveniles?


In 2005 the Supreme Court banned the death penalty for youthful offenders under the age of 18.  Today the court was asked to establish a similar bar to sentencing non-homicide juvenile offenders to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Pictured is attorney Bryan Stevenson arguing in the second of the two Florida cases, Sullivan v. Florida.

Dahlia Lithwick has story here.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with:

1 Hearing, 39 Defendants


Thirty-nine names were on the docket for yesterday’s status hearing in the DC Taxicab Commission bribery case. One or two may have been home with the flu, but it was still quite a crowd.

Short WaPo story here.

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Pity the Immigrant


Shanika Robinson, shown above with her brother Leon, agreed to marry Shahabuddin Rana in exchange for monthly payments of $500.  The immigration scam turned deadly when Rana’s brother, after learning that Robinson was having sexual affairs with other men, refused to continue paying.

On August 18 Shahabuddin was found dead in the DC pizzeria that he owned with his brother.  Shanika, her brother and another man are accused of beating Shahbuddin to death and attempting to set the body on fire.

Yesterday’s preliminary hearing will resume on Friday.

WaPo story here.

Posted in Courtroom Tagged with: ,

Justices Question Animal Cruelty Law


Ten years ago Congress passed a law banning video and other depictions of animal cruelty, but the Supreme Court is likely to decide that the law is too broad and vague.


Justice Alito was the only Justice who seemed inclined to support the law. In response to a lawyer’s argument that historically depictions of animal cruelty have been under the umbrella of the First Amendment, he suggested that technology may have removed some of that protection.

Justice Alito: Well, isn’t that due to changes in technology?  Before people could watch videos at home, this sort of thing would be very difficult.


Attorney Patricia Millett: This covers photographs, . . . .  I’m not sure it wouldn’t cover sketch artists or a hieroglyphic, for all I know.

Justice Alito: And is there – – – in the real world is there a market for sketches of dog fights?


WaPo story here.

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A Wink and a Nod Plea Deal

Sentenced to life without parole for the 1997 killing of a DC police officer, Donovan Strickland claims that he was promised a reduced sentence in exchange for his guilty plea.  Under Maryland law, convicts have a right to ask a judge to reduce their sentence and in 2005 the trial judge in this case, Richard H. Sothoron Jr, presided over a hearing to reconsider the sentence.  The courtroom was packed with police officers, including the Chief and his command staff, opposing any reduction in Strickland’s sentence.
At the hearing Strickland’s trial attorney, Michael Blumenthal, said that Judge Sothoron
had promised to reduce the sentence to life and suspend all but 50 years. The matter was turned over to the Chief Administrative Judge who assigned the case to Circuit Court Judge Michael P. Whalen. After working it’s way through the appeals courts a sentencing reconsideration hearing was finally held in Judge Whalen’s courtroom yesterday.
Strickland’s attorney again testified to the “wink and a nod” promise made by the judge. Again the courtroom was packed with DC police officers including Chief Cathy Lanier, pictured above center foreground.
Donovan Strickland, took the stand to say that his understanding when he agreed to the plea was that with good behavior his sentenced would later be reduced and he could be eligible for parole in 25-30 years.
Judge Sothoron testified “There was nothing discussed beforehand that is not reflected in the record,”  and “the record speaks for itself”. Although he did admit that he was  “inclined to favor a reconsideration of the sentence,” at the time a plea deal was accepted.
The hearing was continued until next Thursday, but before recessing for the day the Judge heard statements fromStrickland091002_bro
Donovan Strickland’s brother,
and from Oliver Smith, the father of slain officer Oliver Smith Jr.

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