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APA in the news:

Philly D.A. receives Innovative Community Engagement Award by APA

Philadelphia’s top law enforcer was expected to be the recipient Wednesday of an award showcasing the public servant’s work in community prosecution.  The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, in conjunction with Target, was planning to hand out this year’s Innovative Community Engagement Award to Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams.  The award recognizes outstanding leaders in community prosecution.  “Like so many of my colleagues around the country, I recognize that community-based prosecution is the linchpin for improving public safety and fostering good community relations,” Williams said in a statement released by his office.  The award was scheduled to be given out in conjunction with a conference in the City of Brotherly Love this week that brought together national experts on crime reduction tactics who are looking at ways to make neighborhoods safer across the country.

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Implement alternatives to jail

I applaud the comments of Judge Evenson, District Attorney Calkins and Human Services Director Orth in support of the Justice Continuum effort, approved unanimously by the Sauk County Board on Aug 20, 2013. It is an idea whose time has definitely arrived.  A large number of organizations associated with the criminal justice system have expressed support for evidence-based treatment, diversions, and alternatives  to costly incarceration to improve public safety and reduce costs. The list of these organizations include, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Conference of State Court Administrators, the Conference of Chief Justices, The National Association of Counties, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the American Council of Chief Defenders (a part of the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association), the American Jail Association, the American Probation and Parole Association, the American Bar Association, and the Nation Judicial College.

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The Independent

Now that George Zimmerman has been cleared of all charges in the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, he intends to reclaim the gun he used to shoot dead the unarmed 17-year-old.  According to his lawyer, Mark O’Mara, Mr Zimmerman needs a firearm to protect himself now “even more” than before. Speaking to ABC News on Sunday, O’Mara said Mr Zimmerman, 29, “feels, truly in his heart, that if he did not have that weapon [on the night of the shooting] he might not be here”.  At the heart of the debate surrounding the case was Florida’s so-called Stand Your Ground law, which allowed Mr Zimmerman not simply to carry that gun and use it, but to escape being charged until six weeks after the killing – and only then due to a public outcry.

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George Zimmerman Trial: Opening statements launch Monday

(CBS) SANFORD, Fla. -Opening statements are scheduled to start today in the case of George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watch volunteer accused of murder in the shooting death of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin last year.  The high-profile, racially-charged case has drawn the national and international spotlight, and for six jurors and four alternates chosen Thursday, sequestration began this weekend. The jurors will be allowed limited contact with friends, family, and the outside world. However, they will have monitored entertainment and won't be exposed to media reports on the case for the duration of the trial.
CBS News

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George Zimmerman Trial: Will Zimmerman's call to dispatchers boost the prosecution's case?

(CBS) -- The significance of George Zimmerman's February 26, 2012 call to non-emergency dispatchers, placed in the minutes before he shot and killed unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin, is likely to be a key issue at the former neighborhood watch captain's upcoming trial. But whether the call will be a boon for prosecutors continues to be a subject of debate.  Some experts say the call, in which Zimmerman says he is following Martin in a Sanford, Fla. gated townhome community, could be crucial to prosecutors who are attempting to refute his claim that he killed the teen in self- defense. But an attorney for the 29-year-old former neighborhood watch captain said in a recent television interview that there's "no evidence" that Zimmerman continued to pursue the teen after a dispatcher told him to stop.  - CBS News

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A Prosecutor's Call: Justice for all

As Congress begins debating immigration reform measures, prosecutors across the country are striving to pursue justice and provide for safer communities. We strive for case outcomes that reflect a balance of punishment, compassion and concern for victims and community, including for offenders who are not citizens of the United States. Individuals who are not citizens oftentimes face immigration penalties that are not conducive to these outcomes.  The current immigration system fails to provide clear guidelines for prosecutors and judges who are attempting to provide a holistic approach to law enforcement.  -The Hill

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Saving Jodi Arias: Will her stated preference for death affect her defense?

If a jury that reconvenes Wednesday rules that convicted killer Jodi Arias murdered her lover Travis Alexander in a cruel manner, her defense team will be tasked with demonstrating that Arias is not the "worst of the worst" in order to save her from a death sentence.  There's just one problem - Arias has said she wants to die.   - CBS News

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The fear factor

THIS IS GOING to surprise almost all of you. America is nearly as safe as your mother's arms. Violent crime has dropped by 50 percent since 1993, and gun homicide is down the same - 3.2 gun deaths per 100,000 Americans in 2011, contrasted with 6.6 in 1993, according to FBI statistics. There were actually more gun suicides (18,735) than homicides (11,493) in 2009, the last year reported.  We are living in the safest times since the 1960s - and the plummeting gun-murder rate happened without new federal gun-control laws.  This is not to argue against them: As a gun owner, I strongly supported the criminal-background check. These are facts, whether you find them convenient or not. A recent Pew Research poll found that only 12 percent of Americans think gun violence has decreased.  - Philadelphia Daily News

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APA President David LaBahn Statement on Manchin-Toomey Amendment

"Congress needs to act to close the many loopholes that currently exist in the criminal background check system, including background checks at gun shows and making the straw purchase of a firearm illegal under federal law,” said LaBahn. “Prosecutors across the country are looking to Congress to strengthen our ability to prosecute those who obtain firearms illegally and this bipartisan solution from Senators Manchin and Toomey is a step in that direction.”

Federal prosecutor quits racketeering case, as Texas DA murders spark security fears

The murders of two prosecutors in Kaufman County, Texas, apparently has prompted a federal prosecutor to withdraw from a major racketeering case in Houston, the latest sign that attacks on lawmen are having a chilling effect on the judicial system. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hileman sent defense attorneys an email Tuesday saying he was withdrawing from the case against the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas due to safety concerns. “I understand why someone would want to step back, and it makes sense to me, especially people who have families,” defense attorney Richard Ely, who is representing one of the defendants in the case, said. “Jay is a friend of mine, and this was a personal decision.”  -Fox News

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Bipartisan plan on gun trafficking

On Christmas Eve - just 10 days after the massacre at Sandy Hook - a convicted felon named William Spengler, who served 17 years in prison for killing his 92-year-old grandmother with a hammer, sat down in his home in Webster, N.Y., and wrote a note vowing to torch his neighborhood and "do what I like doing best, killing people."  Since Spengler was prohibited from buying guns himself, he reportedly asked a neighbor to buy them for him. He went with her to a gun store and picked out a 12-gauge shotgun and a Bushmaster rifle.  Then, after setting fire to his own house and several others, Spengler ambushed the first responders by spraying them with bullets.  Spengler murdered 19-year-old Tomasz Kaczowka, a young firefighter in training, and his mentor, Lt. Mike Chiapperini, a 25-year veteran, husband and father of three who was recently named Firefighter of the Year. Spengler also shot and injured firefighters Joseph Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino.  The families of these heroes will never understand why they were struck down with bullets while trying to rescue someone from a fire. Just as incomprehensible is why anyone would buy guns for this convicted madman.  -Politico

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The path forward on gun violence

The human carnage attributable to gun violence in America is undeniable. Our shared experience with the Virginia Tech shootings, the Aurora, Colo., theater massacre and the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn., have most Americans shouting "Enough!" Perhaps the political inertia that has long stalled intelligent legislation to curb gun violence can finally be overcome. Perhaps the political calculus regarding gun safety laws has at last changed from "How can I possibly vote to support such legislation?" to "How can I not support such legislation?"  Since 1994, the conventional wisdom has been that acting to restrict gun rights can put a politician on a fast track to a new career. That's part of the reason why Congress and the Maryland General Assembly allowed their assault weapons bans to expire in 2004 and 2006, respectively, and why weak gun controls are treated like an untouchable third rail in swing states such as Virginia. After the horror of Newtown, however, many people are asking if progress is again possible.  One should be careful not to underestimate the power of the opposition. It's true that the National Rifle Association (NRA) poured money into last year's election only to see President Obama - and many other NRA targets - prevail. But rumors of the NRA's demise are greatly exaggerated. It remains a potent force, with strong grass-roots organizations across the country and big campaign coffers that it will continue to use in state and federal elections. Calls for leaders to show "political courage" in the face of this strength are not enough. Unless we create a counterweight, gun rights advocates trying to ride out outrage over Newtown may succeed.  We need grass-roots organizers, big-city mayors, police and prosecutors to ally with politically moderate gun owners and groups such as the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence to provide support to officials who want to enact rational gun laws. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Tom Menino continue to show leadership on this issue. Groups such as the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and the National District Attorney's Association could provide a similar voice for prosecutors who understand how rational gun laws and access to gun data could be useful in prosecuting gun criminals locally. - The Washington Post

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