We will begin this blog post with a fictional scenario. A person has been burglarizing and damaging property in your area. Through witness identification or some other means, the authorities believe you are the prime suspect. They bring you to the police station for interrogation.
When law enforcement officers investigate a crime, they rely on many resources to identify possible defendants. Forensic evidence (DNA material, fiber identification, etc.) is currently the most effective manner of identification, even though such technology is not yet 100% accurate. Another way law enforcement tries to pin down the allegedly guilty party involves eyewitness identification, often through a police lineup.
On March 2, Colorado authorities arraigned a 59-year-old man on murder and sexual assault charges stemming from a crime spree he allegedly committed in Arapahoe County 36 years ago. He was recently extradited to Colorado from Nevada to face the charges.
Attorneys and judges in Colorado may be able to take steps to reduce the likelihood that juries will reach verdicts based on implicit racial bias. According to a paper published in the Seattle Journal for Social Justice by an assistant federal public defender, one judge in Iowa does a PowerPoint presentation for potential jurors. The paper includes a number of other suggestions for addressing implicit racial bias. Although its focus is on the Latinx population, the techniques can apply to other populations as well.
A 35-year-old man who spent six years in prison after being convicted of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl will receive a new trial. He appeared at an arraignment hearing in a Colorado courtroom on Feb. 3 and will remain free until he appears in court again on a $25,000 bond. He would not have been eligible for parole until 2024 under the terms of his 2013 custodial sentence of 12 years to life.
When people in Colorado are arrested by the police, they should receive mandatory warnings that remind them of their right to protection from self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment. Called Miranda warnings, this list of rights is associated with a 1966 Supreme Court case that affirmed a person's right to be warned of their constitutional protections when taken into police custody. People arrested for criminal charges must be told that they have the right to remain silent, that their words could be used against them in court later, that they have the right to an attorney and that a lawyer will be appointed for those who cannot afford their own.
Colorado residents may be surprised to learn that a controversial technique considered to be even less reliable than polygraph testing is popular with law enforcement agencies across the country. Scientific Content Analysis, or SCAN, involves analyzing the written answers that criminal suspects provide to a series of questions, and even those who perform SCAN evaluations concede that their trust in the technique is based more on faith than on science.
Colorado residents may be interested to learn that racial disparities have narrowed in terms of incarceration across the United States. Still, blacks are more likely to be behind bars than whites, according to recent federal figures.
For people facing criminal charges in Colorado, the idea that the judge presiding over the case might be biased can be frightening. Judges are simply people, though, and they bring their biases into the courtroom more than those in the legal profession would like to admit. Indeed, research has shown that a person's belief in his or her objectivity might actually increase the likelihood of a biased outcome. A criminal defense lawyer might be able to overcome judicial or institutional bias on behalf of a client and get a fair trial.
When Colorado residents imagine community service sentencing, they may think of it as a beneficial program that helps people avoid jail time without paying costly fines that they cannot afford. However, one study indicates that community service can further entrench some of the very problems it is touted to alleviate. Most people who are sentenced to community service have low incomes, and they opt for community service because they cannot pay a fine and do not want to deal with extensive court debt that could spark later legal repercussions.