Crime

In an 8-1 decision in Kansas v. Carr, the United States Supreme Court reversed the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling overturning a jury’s death sentence for the Carr brothers and Sidney Gleason in an unrelated murder. Reginald and Jonathan Carr were convicted of killing four people in the “Wichita Massacre”; one intended victim survived because her hair clip deflected the bullet.  

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In Hurst v. Florida the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that Florida’s death penalty sentencing scheme is unconstitutional because it allows the judge, instead of requiring the jury, to impose the death sentence.

In 2000 in Apprendi v. New Jersey the Court held that any factual determination that exposes a defendant to a punishment greater than that authorized by a jury’s guilty verdict must be determined by the jury. In Ring v. Arizona (2002) the Court held that Arizona’s capital sentencing scheme violated Apprendi because it allowed the judge to find facts necessary to impose the death sentence.

Florida’s scheme worked similar to Arizona’s. A jury verdict for first-degree murder would result in life in prison without parole unless a judge finds facts supporting a death sentence. But in Florida, unlike Arizona, the jury attends the sentencing evidentiary hearing and renders an “advisory verdict.” The jury does not have to specify any factual basis for its recommendation but the judge must give it “great weight.”

All 50 states have adopted implied consent laws requiring motorists as a condition of driving in the state to consent to a blood alcohol content (BAC) test if they are suspected of drunk-driving.

The Supreme Court will decide whether state statutes criminalizing a person’s refusal to take a chemical BAC test where police have not obtained a warrant are unconstitutional. Thirteen states criminalize the refusal to take a warrantless BAC test. 

In Missouri v. McNeely (2013) the Supreme Court held that police generally have to obtain a warrant to conduct a BAC. So the argument goes, it is unconstitutional to criminalize the refusal to take a BAC test if a warrant was required to conduct the test but not obtained.

The three decisions that the Supreme Court has agreed to review all upheld the state statutes.

CSG Director of Federal Affairs Andy Karellas outlines the top five issues in international policy for 2016, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), export promotion and economic development, global cybersecurity, attracting foreign investment, and global humanitarian crisis.

As the world becomes more interconnected, state leaders continue to play a larger role in international affairs – both by identifying opportunities to grow their economy through international trade and monitoring the geopolitics to ensure the health and safety of their citizens. In Washington, DC, states will be watching Congress to see if they act on President Obama’s top priority on his trade agenda – the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, or the TPP. The TPP agreement between 11 nations would be one of the largest agreements on history, covering over 800 million consumers and 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. It is important that state leaders review and understand the proposed agreement and voice their thoughts with Congress and federal agencies.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, The Council of State Governments will work with States and with their federal counterparts—at the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of State—to combat human trafficking; and

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that The Council of State Governments requests that the Congress and the Executive Branch work with state and local governments to facilitate a better understanding of the roles and capabilities of governmental entities in protecting networks against possible cyber-attacks and explore how sharing information between states and the federal government – both before and after a breach – can help prevent future attacks or assist in the response to a previous attack.

In October, the Senate passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015, or CISA, 74-21. The bill is essentially an information-sharing bill, designed to allow companies that are hit by a hacker to share information—called “cyber threat indicators”—with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS. DHS can then put out an alert, share suspicious code and warn other firms about the threat.

The House passed its own version of the bill—Protecting Cyber Networks Act—back in April.

It’s not a matter of whether or not a cybersecurity breach—affecting either a private or public institution—will happen, but when. Experts warn that both the frequency of cybersecurity threats and their level of sophistication will continue to increase, and state leaders need to know what they are facing. This session explored what state leaders need to know about cybersecurity threats to make informed decisions, anticipate challenges, share information, and define roles and responsibilities.

The Act amends the Government Code to codify the structure and duties of the currently existing Texas border prosecution unit and update policies and procedures relating to the unit. The Act requires the governor to establish the border prosecution unit within the criminal justice division of the governor's office to provide the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the house of representatives, and members of the legislature with information regarding border crime.

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