Law and Disorder Radio

Law and Disorder May 15, 2017

Silk Road, Kingpin Charge and Ross Ulbricht

In 2015 a jury found that then 29-year-old Ross Ulbricht had created and run an anonymous digital black market for drugs called Silk Road. The case was a high profile one, and Ulbricht had come to be known by some as the face of the Dark Web. He was convicted on seven charges—including a “kingpin” charge—and Judge Katherine Forrest  imposed two life sentences and 40 years without possibility of parole. Prosecutors had not even sought such a long sentence.

In a 2016 appeal, defense attorneys outlined a litany of improprieties and abuses in the investigation and trial. Perhaps most serious was that the court procluded information about two corrupt federal agents investigating Silk Road who are now both serving prison sentences for corruption.

The defense team maintains that the convictions for Ulbricht should be vacated and that a new trial should be ordered or that he receive re-sentencing before a different judge.

A new book by Nick Bilton called  “American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind Silk Road” has received glowing reviews but presents what the Ulbricht family, his legal team, and supporters describe as a fictionalized version of the government’s narrative of the case, It is said that in many instances the author relied on claims that were not charged in trial.

Guest – Ross’s mother, Lyn Ulbricht. Lyn is working to help her son and directs those who want to learn more about her son’s case to the site Free Ross Ulbricht.

 

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Williams v. Pennsylvania: Mumia Abu-Jamal

In  2016 the Supreme Court in Williams v. Pennsylvania held that a prosecutor involved in seeking the death penalty should recuse himself if asked to judge an appeal in the capital case. Two months later, Mumia Abu-Jamal filed an appeal based on that decision, calling into direct question the validity of his criminal conviction, and the denial of his appeals. Ronald Castille, the same prosecutor in the Williams case, was a senior district attorney while Mumia’s case was being tried. He was also the District Attorney of Philadelphia during Mumia’s direct appeals. While serving on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Castille rejected a recusal motion filed by Mumia’s defense.

On April 24, Mumia’s 63rd birthday, his lawyers were back in court arguing that a Motion for Discovery should be granted to determine the particulars of Castille’s personal involvement in Mumia’s prosecution and appeals.

Judge Leon Tucker ruled in favor of Mumia’s demand for discover and for the DA’s files. The records must be turned over to Mumia’s attorneys by May 30, 2017.

Guest – Attorney Judy Ritter, Professor of Law and Director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at Widener’s Delaware campus. She argued in 2011 before the Third Circuit that the instructions given to the sentencing jurors were unconstitutional. The so-called Mills claim argument succeeded and Mumia, as our listeners know, no longer faces a sentence of death.

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Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted

Capital punishment has made news headlines over the past few months, as the state of Arkansas rushed to execute six men in a span of several days. For many years, the issue of state sanctioned killings has not received much attention. News of exonerations of innocent men and women are rare.

A new book, Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted, presents the true stories of 15 exonerees who were wrongfully convicted and thrown into the complex criminal justice system before being among the few to be exonerated.

Edited by Leslie Klinger and Laura Caldwell, the book is unusual in that each exoneree is paired with a high-profile mystery and thriller writer (including Lee Child, Sara Paretsky, Laurie King, Brad Parks and others) to present their narratives. Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project and author Scott Turow also provide commentary.

The book also includes a letter from playwright Arthur Miller, believed to be the first and only unpublished piece since his death. Kirkus Reviews called the compilation “a unique collection of 15 wrongful conviction sagas bound to shake faith in the American criminal justice system.”

Guest – Attorney and author Leslie Klinger, co-editor of Anatomy of Innocence and widely considered to be one of the world’s foremost authorities on Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, H. P. Lovecraft, and 19th-century genre fiction.

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