Friday 21 April 2023

Life sentence for repeated drunk driver

Christopher Stanford, a 50-year-old man from Texas, has been handed a life sentence after his ninth conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI). Stanford opted for a jury to decide his sentence following his guilty plea to the latest DWI charge. His eight previous DWI convictions spanned four other counties within the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, resulting in four prison sentences.

The jury deemed Stanford a habitual offender, significantly influencing their decision to impose a life sentence. Parker County District Attorney Jeff Swain justified the sentence, stating that Stanford would continue to pose a danger to communities if not incarcerated. Stanford's most recent offence involved running a red light and causing a traffic accident with minor injuries to a family before attempting to flee the scene.

Found hiding in vegetation, Stanford demonstrated difficulty standing and aggressive behaviour, including headbutting an emergency worker. He refused a roadside sobriety test but consented to a blood test after his arrest, revealing an alcohol concentration of 0.267, over three times Texas' legal limit of 0.08. The jury took 90 minutes to decide on a life sentence after Stanford testified that he was "very unlucky," which the Assistant District Attorney regarded as a lack of personal insight and concern for others' safety on the roads.

Stanford will be eligible for parole once his time served and good time credit reaches 15 years. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles will have the authority to release him from prison. 


Wednesday 19 April 2023

Do Irish Judges Rely on Wikipedia? New Study Strongly Disputes Previous Findings

High Court judges in Ireland have welcomed new research, co-authored by Mr Justice Richard Humphreys, which strongly contradicts a previous study which had claimed that Wikipedia influences judicial decision-making in the country. 

Last year, a paper claimed that the creation of a Wikipedia article on a Supreme Court case led to a 25% increase in its citations in subsequent Irish court cases, and identified an alleged "textual similarity" between the Wikipedia articles and the judgments. Judges strongly questioned these findings at the time.

Mr Justice Humphreys and a team of current and former judicial assistants have conducted new research, which they claim exposes flaws in the original study. 

A summary article has been published in the Irish Law Times, and the full paper submitted to the Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Jurisprudence. 

Mr Justice Humphreys stated that what he saw as the original paper's issues stem from both a flawed experiment and flawed speculation as to the meaning of the results. He asserted that public trust in the legal system should not be undermined by what he termed to be poor research. 

The president and other judges of the High Court have welcomed the new findings.


Shifting Sands: When Political Speech Meets Election Interference

A federal grand jury in Tampa, Florida, recently returned a superseding indictment charging four US citizens and three Russian nationals with working on behalf of the Russian government, and in conjunction with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), to conduct a multi-year foreign malign influence campaign in the United States. The Russian defendants are accused of recruiting, funding, and directing US political groups to act as unregistered illegal agents of the Russian government, sow discord, and spread pro-Russian propaganda. Indicted intelligence officers are also alleged to have covertly funded and directed candidates for local office in the US.

Authorities assert that these actions aimed to divide Americans and interfere in elections in the US. The Department of Justice has stated it will not hesitate to expose and prosecute those who sow discord and corrupt US elections in service of hostile foreign interests, regardless of whether they are US citizens or foreign individuals abroad.

The indictment alleges that the defendants conspired to directly and substantially influence democratic elections in the US by clandestinely funding and directing the political campaign of a particular candidate for local office in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 2019. Ionov and Popov are alleged to have planned to extend their election interference plot beyond the 2019 local election cycle in St. Petersburg, and subsequently discussed that the “USA Presidential election” was the FSB’s “main topic of the year.”

Ionov is alleged to have engaged in a years-long foreign malign influence campaign targeting the United States, recruiting members of political groups within the country to participate in the influence campaign and act as agents of Russia in the US. These groups include the African People’s Socialist Party and the Uhuru Movement (APSP) in Florida, Black Hammer in Georgia, and a political group in California.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald commented on the case, expressing concerns about implications of the indictment on freedom of speech and a potential effect on political activism. He alleged that American black leftist groups and activists were being charged with felonies in the cases, for posting memes and other political content against the war in Ukraine, allegedly on behalf of Russia.

Greenwald showcased a video of a Ukraine peace rally, featuring Omali Yeshitela, a leader of one of the groups.

Across the aisle, a recent conviction of a Donald Trump supporter for tweets made during the 2016 election, along with the current indictments on the left, suggest sanctions for certain political speech and expression, such as memes and tweets, may become more common.


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