By: Victor Dura Re: NRA Crime Strike NRA CrimeStrike 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, VA 2
By: Victor Dura
Re: NRA Crime Strike
11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, VA 22030
* January 2, 1996 * 1-800-TOUGH-11 *
Silly Inmate Lawsuits: 1995's "Worst Legal News"
From a death row inmate suing prison officials for taking away an
electronic "Gameboy" to a California inmate suing over broken cookies
and soggy sandwiches, frivolous prison inmate lawsuits were rated Parade
Magazine's "Worst Legal News" of the past year. In a year that
included the "Trial of the Century," and several other significant legal
stories, the categorizing of frivolous lawsuits by state prison inmates
as the "worst" story from the legal front underscores the urgency in
reforming prisoner litigation. The National Association of Attorneys
General, who compiled Parade's Top Ten list of frivolous lawsuits,
estimates that the 39,000 inmate "civil rights" suits filed in 1994 cost
states more than $81 million to litigate.
Among the frivolous suits highlighted in Parade was a Florida suit
by an inmate who demanded Reeboks or Addidas high-top sneakers over
prison-issued brands; and a Mississippi prisoner who sued for not
receiving a scheduled parole hearing, though he was out on escape at the
time the hearing was to be held.
"1996 may finally see some much-needed and long-awaited legislation
that would institute controls on these lawsuits, hopefully curtailing
suits on the most insignificant and trivial issues being litigated
today," said Tanya K. Metaksa, NRA's chief lobbyist. Recently, Senate
Majority Leader Robert J. Dole and other senators introduced the
"Prisoner Litigation Reform Act." Among the bill's major provisions is
one that would require inmates who file frivolous lawsuits to pay the
full amount of their court costs. "If a law-abiding citizen is required
to pay the costs associated with a lawsuit, so too should a convicted
criminal. This isn't about punishment, it's about fairness," Senator
Dole said in a recent commentary.
1996: Crime-Fighting Tops State Agendas
Thirty-seven state legislatures convene in January, and crime
prevention measures are topping the state legislative agenda yet again.
Among initiatives already announced are prison construction measures in
New York, Iowa and Arizona; and juvenile justice reform in Virginia,
Mississippi and New York.
"1995 saw true progress on crime fighting," said Susan Misiora,
Manager of NRA CrimeStrike's State Legislative Affairs. "With some
crime rates decreasing, 1996 is a critical year. States must continue
passing the tough laws for these numbers to become trends rather than
mere bleeps on the radar screen."
SC Attorney General Calls For "Violent Crime Courts"
South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon has proposed a new
system of "Violent Crime Courts" to speed the criminal justice process
and ease backlogged state court dockets.
The state enacted some tough sentencing and parole reforms in 1995,
but is plagued by a violent crime rate that ranked second among the 50
states, according to 1994 FBI crime data.
"Swift and severe punishment for violent crime will send a message
to the innocent ones in our society that the system does indeed care
about them," Condon told Associated Press.
NRA CrimeStrike Director Elizabeth Swasey saw the concept of a
special docket to handle violent crimes as a "real boon for crime
victims. Dangerous defendants who are free on lengthy pre-trial release
often intimidate witnesses or commit other crimes, a problem that would
be lessened by this proposal."
Freed Stalker Murders Wife
An Alexandria, Va., man released on bail just two hours after his
arrest for stalking his estranged wife then tracked her down at work the
following day and killed her, authorities there say. The husband, Joe
Lucas Brown, 56, took his own life at the scene.
The dead woman told co-workers Brown had threatened to kill her,
according to press accounts.
A magistrate allowed Brown to go free for the Christmas holiday on
$500 bond about 2 a.m. on Dec. 24, shortly after he was arrested on his
wife's stalking complaint, said press reports. Brown, convicted of
assaulting wife Joyce Singleton, 47, two years earlier, confronted and
killed her as she arrived at her workplace in Crystal City shortly
before noon the same day.
"These folks should not be released like that," Kay Mixon,
chairwoman of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, told The
Washington Post, when told of the tragedy. "It doesn't matter if it's
Christmas Day or the Fourth of July. A batterer is a batterer, and they
need to be held responsible for their actions."
Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney John E. Kloch called the killing
a "criminal justice system's nightmare." Noting that Virginia law
prescribes only a six-month jail sentence and $1,000 fine for stalking,
only half the penalty for assault and battery, Kloch said stalkers
should be subject to harsher penalties. "The legal system is only
beginning to recognize domestic violence as a serious matter," he
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