Law Quarterly

The Case For Killer Rhymes

Nov
28

Rap and hip-hop’s association with violent and graphic images has always been contentious. Geraldo Rivera’s now-infamous comment “Hip-Hop has done more damage to black and brown people than racism in the last 10 years” is a clear indication of the thoughts of some towards these genres of music(1).

In a 1996 study performed by Carrie Fried at Indiana University, the lyrics of a song were presented to two groups of subjects as excerpts from a rap song and then as excerpts from a country song(2). When presented as a rap, subjects argued the lyrics were objectionable and merited some form of government regulation. When told excerpts were taken from a country song, the reception was less critical. Fried also noted the same phenomenon was apparent when subjects were told the lyrics were from a black singer versus a white singer.

(more…)

The Legality of a Sex Offender’s Facebook

Nov
28

Lester Packingham, a 21 year old college student, was convicted of taking “indecent liberties” with a minor in 2002. In line with North Carolina Law, he served a sentence of 10-12 months and then a 24 month supervision period upon release (1). Flash forward to 2010, where he posted a status on his Facebook that was thanking God in reference to a parking ticket that he was able to get dismissed. Despite the fact that his conviction had no special stipulations, he was arrested after posting that status due to North Carolina’s sex offender laws that prohibit previously convicted offenders from accessing social media websites altogether. Packingham argued that it violated his First Amendment rights. /Packingham v. North Carolina/ (2017) made its way to the Supreme Court and established important precedents for future sex offender cases, as well as questioned the validity of previous cases in dealing with sex offenses. It also brings up a much larger question: to what extent should previous sex offenses limit the rights of those that have been released?

(more…)

Rules, Logic, and the Legal System

Nov
28

Law can be seen as a tool used to organize society. The law is made of two distinct parts: norms that guide behavior to how we believe it should be and rules that enforce the integrity of law. The strict application of rules is known as deduction. This is widely found in civil law systems, where law is not as likely to be contested over. Generalizations are made, and these generalizations fit into a generic form as a type of syllogism or formal construction. Take, for example, a rule that “Contractors with permission to personal information are required to disclose it to the government.” Contractor A does not have permission and so by a simple conditional formulation, Contractor A is not subject to disclose anything. Notice that the concept of permission is left intentionally vague here, something we will expand on later. The statement is true merely by logical construction, and truth is only preserved by negation because the choices are binary. As a result, the solution to this generic case is the only one in an ideal legal system, and therefore objective. (more…)

Near Perfect Surveillance

Nov
28

On June 22, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States decided the case of /Carpenter v. United States/. The issue at hand was whether the government has permission to obtain cell phone data—specifically location data—from a third-party provider in the course of a criminal investigation without obtaining a warrant (1). The Court ruled in favor of the petitioner, Timothy Carpenter, ruling that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when the government gained access to his cell phone location data without a warrant. The ruling established for the first time that the government, in order to obtain cell phone location records from a third party, must act under a warrant based upon probable cause. Widely seen as a landmark ruling, the Court’s decision in /Carpenter/ provided a needed update to its interpretation of the Fourth Amendment and the right to privacy in the digital age.

(more…)

Double Jeopardy

Nov
28

In November of 2015 an Alabama motorist named Terance Gamble was pulled over by a police officer for a faulty headlight on his car and, after a search, the officer discovered a firearm in the vehicle. Under Federal and Alabama law it is illegal for a convicted felon to own firearms so Gamble, who was convicted of robbery in 2008, was sentenced to one year in prison for this charge by the state of Alabama. Concurrently with his prosecution by the State of Alabama, the U.S. federal government also charged Gamble with the same offense.(1) This second charge has sparked a highly controversial debate which has now made itself all the way up to the Supreme Court.

(more…)

The Value and Role of Supreme Court Dissents

Sep
27

In a time in American political and legal life, when the deep and often long-lasting impact of the Supreme Court is at the nexus of contentious, and even vitriolic, debate over core Constitutional issues, the nature and history of Supreme Court dissents is worthy of consideration. Dissenting opinions can be minority views that, through the power of their reasoning and arguments, lay the groundwork for later majority opinions and new legal precedent. Historically, this has given rise to the best and most influential dissents (more…)

Lethal Expression: Free Speech and Encouraging Suicide

Sep
27

The American political experiment was designed to promote free expression and “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”– going so far as to etch these ideas into its founding documents. While scarcely anyone objects to the core of these principles, disagreement looms at the edges. When these values appear to collide, which prevails? Are acts of free expression–exercises in liberty–that appear to incentivize, encourage or valorize the termination of one’s life and the discontinuation of one’s pursuit of happiness afforded constitutional protection? (more…)

50th Anniversary of the 1968 Democratic Convention Brings Changes to the Democratic Party

Sep
27

“The whole world is watching. The whole world is watching,” chanted anti-war protesters on the streets of Chicago as they marched with the spirit of anti-war sentiment in their hearts.1 Chicago police, armed with tear gas and clubs, did everything in their power to prevent the protesters from interrupting the 1968 Democratic National Convention. It was a battle of old and new, establishment and anti-establishment. Within the convention, a split in the Democratic party over their platform on the Vietnam War matched the ferocity of the protesters outside. This August 26th marked the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, and we are once again reminded of this battle. (more…)

The Legality of Venereal Diseases: To Protect or Be Served

Sep
27

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sexually transmitted diseases in the United States are on the rise, breaking 2016’s record with 2.3 million cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia diagnosed in 2017. This is in formation with what is now a four year-long steady increase of diagnosed STDs.[1] Before the 1970s, STDs were commonly referred to as ‘venereal disease’ or ‘VD’. The colloquial name change came with the destigmatization of casual sex, which subsequently resulted in an increase of individuals with such diseases. However, ‘disease’ does not accurately represent subclinical symptoms. Thus, sexually transmitted infections or ‘STIs’ became the more familiar term in the 1980s. STIs include genital herpes and trichomoniasis.[2] (more…)

Mental Disability and Capital Punishment

Sep
27

Thirty-three years ago, in 1985, Vernon Madison shot and killed a police officer, and shot and injured his girlfriend while on parole. Madison had three trials, arguing during the first two that he was mentally ill and in the third that he was acting in self-defense and thus should be considered not guilty. He was sentenced in 1994 after a jury recommended life without parole. In January of 2018, Madison was set to be executed. He was evaluated and it was determined that he understood enough to know what he was being executed for. Madison filed a petition, arguing that he was not competent enough but did not receive an answer until the day of his scheduled execution. He ate two oranges as his last meal and did not have any final words. Half an hour prior to the execution, however, Justice Clarence Thomas put a stay on his execution. (more…)