Category Archives: Juvenile Justice

Minnesota Criminal Records Could Soon Move Online

The Minnesota Supreme Court appears poised to move forward with a plan to put the majority of court records online.

Currently, if you want to view a person’s criminal complaints or pending lawsuits, you have to go down to the courthouse, and you typically have to pay money to get a printout of the document. The Minnesota Supreme Court wants to move these documents online in hopes of making past criminal convictions more transparent.

The move to put criminal cases online wouldn’t be revolutionary, as many states have already made these records accessible online. One such state is Wisconsin, who has a relatively easy and extensive database of statewide circuit court cases.

Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea said the court will issue its decision “in due course,” but also noted the law should aspire for openness and transparency.

Not All Agree

Not surprisingly, not everyone is on board with making past convictions available online. Joshua Esmay, director of public policy and advocacy for the Council of Crime and Justice, said that the online records would make it more difficult for people to put a past mistake behind them.

“The vast majority of people make mistakes,” Esmay said. “We don’t need to know constantly about them.”

Esmay’s group runs a monthly “expungement seminar” where they teach individuals how to erase or seal evidence of past criminal convictions. He says about 40 people show up each month in an effort to erase the “collateral consequences” of the past.

“The real point is, we don’t know how it will be used,” Esmay said of the proposed online database.

That said, Esmay understands that keeping all the information hidden can be just as damaging as having it out in the open. Esmay noted that if the Minnesota Supreme Court plans to go forward with their proposal, he hopes they’ll ensure the public can get the full picture of a past incident, and not just an abbreviated record. That way prospective employers or landlords can fully understand an incident instead of making a decision based on limited information and half-truths.

It seems likely that the Minnesota Supreme Court will move forward with online court access in the near future, especially since the state has already passed the Ban the Box law, which helps protect applicants from being denied an interview because of a past conviction.

Related source: Star-Tribune

Extra DUI Patrols Planned For St. Patty’s Day Across Minnesota

The Minnesota State Patrol has announced that they will be conducting extra DUI patrols tonight and into tomorrow morning in an effort to keep the roads safe over the St. Patty’s Day holiday.

Saint Patrick’s Day is one of the more dangerous days of the year for drivers, especially at night. The Minnesota State Patrol said that they arrested 106 individuals in Minnesota on St. Patrick’s Day last year, and they hope the announcement of extra patrols will lead people to make better decisions.

No Reason To Drive

If you plan on ringing in the holiday with a few green beers, make sure you plan ahead and have a sober ride home.

In fact, to ensure revelers get home safe, Miller Lite has partnered up with the Metro Transit system to give free rides to inebriated passengers who make a smart decision. According to their press release, passengers can ride for free on St. Patrick’s Day on all Metro Transit routes from 6 p.m. through 3 a.m tomorrow morning. The free-ride services are also available on routes operated by the Metropolitan Council, Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, SouthWest Transit and Anoka County Traveler.

If you’re planning on heading out on the town tonight, take a look at this interactive trip planner so you know which buses are in your area, and when they arrive.

With all that said, if you do end up in trouble on St. Patrick’s Day, whether be for DUI, assault or underage drinking, please reach out to legal counsel. You’re already facing an uphill battle when you go to court on your own, and it’s going to be even tougher to defend yourself when the judge sees that date of the incident was St. Patrick’s Day. We are working around the clock tonight, and we’ll work hard to get you out of jail and out of a conviction. If you need assistance on St. Patrick’s Day, give Appelman Law Firm a call at (952) 224-2277.

Related source: Metro Transit


Madison Killing Echoes Ferguson Case

An unarmed black teenager was fatally shot by a white police officer in Madison, Wisconsin on Friday, sparking comparisons of the events in Ferguson.

According to the police report, Officer Matt Kenny, a 12-year department veteran responded to a call about a man jumping in and out of traffic and who assaulted a pedestrian. Kenny located the suspect, later identified as 19-year-old Tony Terrell Robinson. Before Kenny could approach Robinson, the suspect entered a nearby apartment. Kenny approached the apartment and said that he heard a disturbance coming from inside the home. Kenny forced his way into the apartment and a scuffle ensued. During the altercation, Kenny drew his weapon and fired at Robinson, fatally wounding him.

“The officer did draw his revolver and shot the suspect,” said Madison Police Chief Mike Koval in a press release. Chief Koval noted that Kenny immediately began administering CPR after he shot the suspect.

Quick Notes About The Case

Although details about the shooting are scant, here’s what else we know:

  • Officer Kenny was involved in another fatal shooting eight years years ago in what police described as a “suicide by cop” altercation.
  • Robinson had been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and ADHD.
  • Robinson pleaded guilty to being a party to an armed robbery in 2014 and was still under police supervision at the time of the incident.

Protests Planned

The shooting came on the heels of the US Justice Department’s announcement that Officer Darren Wilson would not be charged in the shooting of Michael Brown. Protesters took to the streets to rally against the shooting on Saturday and Sunday, and more protests are planned for Monday and throughout the week. Police noted that the demonstrations were non-violent, and none of the protesters were arrested.

Chief Koval went as far as to say that the protests were an “appropriate” response, but he also urged protesters to use restraint and patience while the department investigates the incident.

Not all protesters are content with Chief Koval’s response. The Young, Gifted and Black Coalition in Madison demanded that the city pay for Robinson’s funeral costs and for any expenses related to the family’s healing process. They also asked that Kenny be “held accountable for the murder of Tony Robinson.”

Robinson’s mother said her son closely followed the events in Ferguson.

“My son was so into watching everything that happened in Ferguson,” she said. “He was one of the people that spoke out about this constantly. To turn around and have him die of the same things that he was so fearful of — it’s not fair.”

Related source: ABC, Yahoo, USA Today

Justice Department Clears Darren Wilson in Ferguson Shooting

The United States Justice Department won’t prosecute former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for his actions taken during the fatal altercation with 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Although they won’t pursue charges, the Justice Department did issue a scathing report criticizing the city and the law enforcement’s handling of the situation. In the report, the Justice Department said the city and Ferguson police exhibited racial bias and unconstitutional practices,  The report said the city and its officers created an environment that thrived on the systematic mistreatment of minorities. This type of environment was created through numerous activities, including:

  • Disproportionate searches and seizures
  • Excessive force against minorities
  • Disproportionate fines against minorities for petty offenses
  •  Frequent trading of racist emails and jokes

Attorney General Eric Holder said that bringing these faults to the surface is only the beginning. Now it’s up local leaders to create change.

“Now that our investigation has reached its conclusion, it is time for Ferguson’s leaders to take immediate, wholesale and structural corrective action,” said Holder.

Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing the Brown family, said he was disappointed with the ruling.

“I really was hoping they would have come up with better findings because this whole thing just does not add up,” he said. “Everything just doesn’t make sense.”

Wilson Cleared

Despite the condemning report, the Justice Department decided not to pursue charges against Darren Wilson, noting that there was not sufficient evidence to disprove that Wilson feared for his life nor was their reliable testimony that proved Brown had his hands raised at the time of the shooting.

The Justice Department concluded that Wilson did not commit a federal rights violation because he didn’t willfully violate Brown’s civil rights through the use of excessive force. This ruling isn’t unusual, as decisions made in the heat of the moment in a life threatening situation typically favor the officer, not the other party.

Hopefully the Ferguson police department will institute numerous systematic changes, and although it won’t bring their son back, hopefully the Brown family can find some peace out of this terrible situation.

Related source: Yahoo, AP

How Police Get You To Confess To A Crime You Didn’t Commit

You’ve all seen the way Hollywood portrays interrogations on television. A dark room, spotlight on the accused, maybe a little good cop-bad cop action. Now, that’s not exactly how interrogations go down in the real world, but police officers are very good at getting people to admit to things or to implicate themselves during these sessions. Don’t think you’d crack under the pressure? Check out this study out of the United Kingdom that may prove otherwise.

According to the study, by using a combination of misinformation, encouragement and three hours of discussion, 70 percent of people admitted to a crime they didn’t commit. More interestingly, not only did the participants admit to a crime they didn’t commit, they claimed to recall full-blown, detailed experiences from events that never occurred.

False Confession Study

Concocting a false confession is no easy task. Researchers in this study tried to get college-aged students to cop to a crime they didn’t commit by sprinkling the truth into a false narrative. For example, the team of scientists did a little background research on their subjects prior to questioning in order to learn some facts about the participants. Surprisingly, the only facts they learned about the participants were the name of their best friend and where they grew up. Also, for the sake of transparency, it’s worth noting that police obtained these details from a parent or guardian, not the participants.

Once researchers had a few details, they went to work on the participants. The teams conducted three 45-minute interviews with the students, during which the participants shared details about a true experience, and heard a tale from the interviewer about a fabricated event, which had true details sprinkled in (like their best friend’s name or the town they grew up in).

After nearly three hours of feeding the students the verified information, the interviewer created a fabricated event to suggest that the student had committed a crime in the past. After being told so many true details, many of the students believed that they had in fact were criminals, even though the event never occurred. One student even told the interviewers what weapon she used, what started the fight and what she was eating for dinner the night the cops came to her door, even though nothing like that ever took place.

In the end, 70 percent of the non-criminals copped to criminal acts. Lead researcher Julia Shaw said the results were “definitely unexpected.” Shaw originally suspected her team could convince about 1 in 3 students to falsely confess.

Elizabeth Loftus, a cognitive psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, says memory is a lot like a Wikipedia page. Memories can be altered or edited depending on the narrative being fed, and once your brain believes it to be true, your mind fills in any gaps to complete the story.

“When the patchwork of memory gets stitched together and internalized, truth and fiction become indistinguishable,” said Loftus.

That’s why it’s so important that you express your right to remain silent and to retain legal counsel. If you don’t, you might end up copping to a crime you didn’t commit.

Related source: NPR

Preliminary Hearing Scheduled in Slender Man Stabbing

Two Wisconsin teens accused of stabbing a classmate to appease a fictional horror character will find out this week if they’ll be tried on attempted homicide charges.

The “Slender Man” case has garnered national attention for its absurdity and for the ages of those involved. Prosecutors allege that the two Waukesha girls planned to kill another girl in hopes of gaining favor with a fictional character known as Slender Man.

For those of you not up to date on your internet-born fantastical horror entities, Slender Man “came to life” as part of an online contest where users used their photoshop skills to create images that appeared to capture supernatural events on film. Eric Knudson edited a few photos to show a a tall, faceless stranger in the background, and he accompanied the images with text that made it look like the creature was associated with the disappearance of children. The fictional character eventually went viral, and people from all over the web created fan-fiction stories to help the legend of Slender Man grow.

The problem, though, is that the two 12-year-olds at the center of the case had a difficult time separating reality from fantasy. Prosecutors allege they lured another 12-year-girl into a park and stabbed her 19 times. Amazingly, the after the pair left the 12-year-old to die, she was able to crawl to a sidewalk and flag down a passing bicyclist. The biker called 911, and paramedics were able to save the girl’s life. She was released form the hospital a little over one week after the attack.

As you might guess, questions about the girls’ mental state arose. After hearing from mental health experts, a judge ruled that both girls were competent enough to stand trial. Now that competence has been established, a judge will rule if there’s enough evidence to move forward with a trial.

Based on the preliminary evidence, it seems likely that the court will move forward with a trial. Prosecutors are pursuing first-degree attempted homicide charges against the girls, which carries a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison.

The Importance of Pre-Trial

As we mentioned, it seems likely that the case will head to trial, but the pre-trial proceedings are actually a pivotal part of a defense attorney’s strategy. Criminal defense attorneys use this time to determine how the prosecution plans to attack their defendant’s credibility.

Avery Appelman, a criminal defense attorney in Minneapolis, said pre-trial hearings allow lawyers to get in the mind of their opposition.

“If you have a sense of how the other side is going to attack your defendant, you can begin to plan a better defensive strategy,” said Appelman. “Additionally, if a prosecution’s witness says something during pre-trial that you can use to strengthen your case, you can ensure you have a line of questions ready for cross examination.”

We’ll keep tabs on the Slender Man case as it moves forward.

Minnesota May Lower Legal Drinking Age

If Rep. Phyllis Kahn gets her way, you may soon be seeing a younger crowd in the bar on the weekends.

Kahn has been trying for years to get the drinking age lowered, but this year she’s got a few aces up her sleeve. First, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the federal government can no longer withhold funding from states who go against federal recommendations. Before this change, the government could withhold 10 percent of federal highway funding to states who lowered the drinking age from 21.

Kahn’s second play is attacking the current law on two fronts. She has proposed two new laws in the event that the first proposal is seen as too lenient. Her two proposals include:

  • Allowing people who are at least 18 years old to drink in bars and restaurants, but not allowing them to purchase alcohol at liquor stores; or
  • Letting people who are at least 18 years old drink in bars or restaurants when accompanied by their parents.

Kahn believes moving towards a more European-style approach will help curb underage binge drinking.

“It’s a very good way to deal with the serious problem of binge drinking, particularly on college campuses,” said Kahn.

18-year-old Andrew Deziel, of Bloomington, agrees with Kahn, saying you are allowed to make many bigger life decisions before you’re legally allowed to buy a beer.

“If you can go and die for your country but you can’t have a beer, I can’t understand that.”

Not All On Board

As we mentioned above, this isn’t the first time Kahn has tried to pass legislation to lower the drinking age, so it’s no surprise that she has some opposition. Governor Mark Dayton has spoke out against lowering the drinking age in the past and there’s little evidence that he’s changed his stance. In fact, Dayton already mentioned that he’s not persuaded by what he called, the “Phyllis Kahn special.”

“I think we are better off staying where we are,” Dayton said. “I haven’t talked to any of the legislators about it, I don’t have an etched-in-concrete position, but this debate has been going on appropriately for many years now, and the middle ground comes down to: It should be 21, where it is now.”

Rep. Joe Atkins of Inver Grove Heights agreed, saying he hasn’t heard much support for the change from fellow legislators.

“The only place I’ve heard about it is here at the Capitol,” Atkins said. He added that lower the age would be “a difficult lift.”

Related source: Pioneer Press.

Minnesota Could Soon Change Fireworks Law

Minnesotans looking to ring in the 4th of July or a birthday party with some fireworks may soon be able to purchase bigger fireworks without needing to trek over to Wisconsin.

A new bill introduced by four Republican senators and one Democrat would allow Minnesotans to purchase “aerial and audible” fireworks in state. Currently the state allows the sale of spark-spraying fireworks, but it’s illegal to purchase fireworks that shoot up in the air. Bill SF 465 is attempting to change that.

Firework sales have been a hot topic of late. A bill legalizing mortars and other flying fireworks was passed in 2012, but Governor Mark Dayton vetoed the bill, claiming the law did not adequately address certain safety precautions. Governor Dayton hasn’t announced that he’s changed his position on the sale of fireworks, but SF 465 is hoping some of the clauses satisfy Dayton’s outlook on firework safety. According to the bill:

  • Exploding fireworks would only be available for purchase between June 1 and July 7.
  • Cities would not be able to ban the sale of fireworks, but cities would be able to pass ordinances banning people from igniting the fireworks they purchased.

It seems likely that a compromise over audible and aerial fireworks will be accepted in the near future. The current law is keeping money out of local firework businesses’ pockets, as determined revelers have no qualms about traveling over to Wisconsin to pick up their heavy duty fireworks. Additionally, with the cover of night and the myriad of fireworks that are launched on 4th of July weekend, law enforcement have a tough time policing those who currently shoot off illegal fireworks unless they are clearly putting people or property in danger with their aerial display.

For a state that recently legalized medical marijuana and gay marriage, a compromise over fireworks should be a lot easier to hammer out, logistically speaking. Hopefully we’ll be able to ring in our nation’s independence with more than a few sparklers in a few months.

Related source: Citypages

Warm Spell May Be To Blame In Campus Crime Uptick

The University of Minnesota has seen a rash of violent crimes over the past week, and campus officials believe the warm winter weather may be contributing to spike in crime.

University police issued three crime alerts last weekend for incidents that took place Friday, Saturday and Sunday. All three victims were robbed by a group of thieves.

University of Minnesota Police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said criminals venture outdoors when the weather warms up.

“Typically, it is very cold this time of the year,” he said. “It was a bit warmer last weekend, so that could have had an impact on the suspects going out and looking to create crime.”

Three Separate Thefts

The first instance that prompted a campus crime alert occurred Friday. According to the police report, an unidentified individual was robbed on campus near Williamson Hall. Three suspects were arrested in connection with the robbery, but as of posting the police did not have even evidence to charge them with a crime.

The second incident occurred Saturday at 6:30 a.m. near the intersection of 15th and Como. Logan Brion, a University of Minnesota-Morris student, was robbed while in town visiting a friend. According to Brion, he was walking down the street when he noticed three men were following him. Brion decided to run, but the suspects caught up to him and began to punch and kick him. The criminals demanded his wallet and became enraged when Brion told them he didn’t have it with him.

“One of them threatened to shoot me with a gun and said he was going to kill me if I didn’t comply with them,” Brion said. “I didn’t provoke them or anything, they could’ve gotten everything they wanted without violence.”

The suspects made off with Brion’s iPhone, winter coat and drawstring bag.

Although Brion noted that he was able to track the iPhone to a housing project near the Cedar-Riverside area, the suspects still remain at large.

“There is nothing like this in Morris,” Brion said.

The final incident that spurred a crime alert happened Sunday morning in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood. Rory Traut was walking near Van Cleve Park when four masked men approached him and demanded his personal items. Three of the men took his iPhone, phone charger and wallet while a fourth held a gun to Traut’s neck.

“I’m from a small town — it makes me a little more nervous about going to Dinkytown or Minneapolis,” Traut said.

The items were later recovered by police, but fingerprint testing proved inconclusive. The police are classifying the case as an ongoing incident.

Related source: MN Daily

Five Facts About Police Body Cameras

Police body cameras are popping up across Minnesota and the United States, but not a lot is known about the technology. Today, we share five facts about police body cameras.

1. Becoming the norm – As we mentioned above, an increasing amount of police precincts are adopting the body cameras. Michael White, a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, estimated that 25 percent of police departments are using the technology or are planning on instituting the cameras in the near future. White believes that figure will jump to 33 percent or even as high as 50 percent within the next year.

2. The cameras are costly – Your Canon Rebel may have only cost $80, but police body cameras have a much larger price tag. Research conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum found that agencies spent between $120 and $2,000 for each camera. For example, the Mesa Police Department just spent $67,000 on 50 new cameras. There are also additional fees for video storage and expert analysis.

3.  No long term studies – Because of their relatively recent inception, there really aren’t any long term studies on the effectiveness of the body cameras. A short term study in California found that allegations of police misconduct and false claims dropped in the months after the department adopted the cameras, but not much is known about their long term effectiveness.  Researchers also want to determine how effective the video evidence is in the court of law, in terms of guilty verdicts.

4. Some disagreement over recording procedures – Since the cameras don’t constantly record, there has been some debate over when they should be turned on. Some departments want their officers to turn on their cameras during every encounter, while some officers think they should only be recording when a citation or arrest is likely. The American Civil Liberties Union believes all encounters should be recorded in order to avoid any possible tampering.

5. Minnesota ahead of the curve – While some departments are discussing the cameras, many Minnesota precincts are early adopters. Departments in Burnsville, Duluth, Gilbert, Farmington and Minneapolis have all begun outfitting their officers with cameras. Assuming the cameras are successful in reducing false claims and instances of police brutality, it seems likely that more Minnesota cities will join the movement.

Related source: AZ Central