Worth the Read (WTR) for 23 September 2018

Frederic Bloom, Character Flaws.  89 U. COLORADO L. REV. 1101 (2018).

Character evidence doctrine is infected by error. It is riddled with a set of pervasive mistakes and misconceptions—a group of gaffes and glitches involving Rule 404(b)’s “other purposes” (like intent, absence of accident, and plan) that might be called “character flaws.” This Essay identifies and investigates those flaws through the lens of a single, sensational case: United States v. Henthorn. By itself, Henthorn is a tale worth telling—an astonishing story of danger and deceit, malice and murder. But Henthorn is more than just a stunning story. It is also an example and an opportunity, a chance to consider character flaws in evidence law more broadly and an occasion to remedy them too. This Essay makes use of that occasion. It critically examines Henthorn: the arguments offered, the tactics deployed, the opinions written, the evidence used. And it frames Henthorn as a window into contemporary character flaws more broadly, hoping to prompt an overdue conversation, both in the courtroom and in the classroom, about the flaws that now infect character evidence.

Heather Ellis Cucolo and Michael L. Perlin, “The Strings in the Books Ain’t Pulled and Persuaded”: How the Use of Improper Statistics and Unverified Data Corrupts the Judicial Process in Sex Offender Cases.

Timothy C. Harker, Faithful Execution: The Persistent Myth of Widespread Prosecutorial Misconduct.  85 TENN. L. REV. 847 (2018).

Professors, politicians, activists, journalists, and bloggers alike stand ready to denounce prosecutorial misconduct—the more egregious the misconduct, the more vociferous the denunciation, and rightly so. Ordinarily, such public denunciation would have a salubrious effect. Unfortunately, this remedial process has been hijacked by those who insist that prosecutorial misconduct is widespread and has infected all facets of the criminal justice system, to the detriment of defendants and the consternation of the public.  Their vitriol precludes a dispassionate evaluation of the criminal justice system generally and prosecutorial misconduct specifically.  This article demonstrates that, contrary to expectations, prosecutorial misconduct occurs with reassuring infrequency. The article also proffers a few explanations for the persistence of the myth that prosecutorial misconduct is endemic, discusses various problems related to the criminal justice system that are improperly attributed to prosecutors, and evaluates a few well-intentioned but misguided proposals intended to remedy prosecutorial misconduct.

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