Author archives

Ken Strutin (JD, MLS) is an experienced law librarian, criminal defense attorney, and well-known writer and speaker. He is the author of The Insider's Guide: Criminal Justice Resources on the Internet, and has lectured extensively about the benefits of using the Internet for legal research at national and local CLE training programs. Mr. Strutin also wrote ALI-ABA's Practice Checklist Manual on Representing Criminal Defendants, and co-authored the award winning Legal Research Methodology computer tutorial, published by the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI). He has contributed chapters to several books and written many articles concerning knowledge management, legal research and criminal law. Mr. Strutin has taught courses in Advanced Legal Research and Law Office Management. He is also listed in Who's Who in American Law. Currently, Mr. Strutin is the Director of Legal Information Services at the New York State Defenders Association and writes a column for the New York Law Journal.

DNA Evidence: Brave New World, Same Old Problems

Criminal law expert Ken Strutin guides us through the critical facets that comprise the backbone of investigative forensics in the 21st Century – the database. Ken states that of all information gathering techniques, genetic databanking has become the holy grail of prosecutions and the last resort for exonerations. It is both the cause of and solution to many problems in the administration of justice. Thus, DNA forensics highlights the longstanding tension between scientific understanding and legal reasoning. While DNA’s scientific reputation is very near to magic, its forensic applications are subject to the faults and limitations of every kind of evidence offered as proof in a court of law. Ken’s article collects research on the law and science of genetic evidence at the pre-conviction stage. It focuses on the role of DNA in identification, investigation and prosecution of crime, social and privacy issues, and to some degree exculpation or evidence of third party culpability.

Subjects: Criminal Law, Features, Legal Research

Big Data, Little Privacy: Tracking the Usual Suspects

In his article, Ken Strutin examines how the 21st century use of watch lists might or might not resemble the labeling of the McCarthy period, and how the experience of that era might inform an evaluation of present-day designation of the dangerous. After first describing the two labeling mechanisms, it compares them along several axes, finding that watch listing has both repeated some 1950s failings and moved on to develop some new ones of its own. In particular, because they are compiled and used in an opaque and completely one-sided process, watch lists run a substantial risk of incorrectly including many people who pose no threat.

Subjects: Features

Negotiating Justice: The New Constitutional Spectrum of Plea Bargaining

Ken Strutin focuses on the impact of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Missouri v. Frye and Lafler v. Cooper, and the upcoming appeal in Burt v. Titlow in regard to placing plea bargaining front and center on the national stage. As a result, they have divided practitioners and scholars into two camps: (1) those who consider the rulings to be a new statement in the law of plea bargaining and right to effective assistance of counsel; and (2) those who believe they are only a restatement of established principles. These cases have generated interest in the centrality and regulation of plea bargaining, the ethics and effectiveness of defense counsel as negotiator, the oversight of prosecutors regarding charging decisions, sentence recommendations and pre-trial discovery, and the scope of federal habeas corpus review and remedies. Ken’s article is a comprehensive annotated guide to high court opinions, scholarship and commentary regarding the themes addressed by the Supreme Court in Lafler and Frye as well as their implications for the administration of criminal justice.

Subjects: Constitutional Law, Court Resources, Criminal Law, Features, Legal Research, Supreme Court, United States Law

Canine Assisted Investigation in the Borderlands of Privacy

Ken Strutin brings attention and focus to the fact that dog detection at airports for contraband, in traffic stops for narcotics, at fire scenes for accelerants and at suspect lineups are playing an increasingly important role in criminal investigations. At the same time, Ken documents that the thresholds of olfactory detection continue to test the limits of privacy, probable cause and due process. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court decided two cases involving animal assisted investigation. The fallout from these decisions will add to the evolving body of case law in federal and state courts as they continue to sort out the constitutional limits of this type of investigation.

Subjects: Court Resources, Courts & Technology, Cyberlaw Legislation, Privacy

Post-Conviction Representation, Pro Se Practice and Access to the Courts

After the first criminal appeal, there is no constitutional right to counsel. Thus, the convicted and imprisoned pursuing discretionary appeals and habeas corpus relief must research, investigate and litigate as their own attorney. Law librarian, criminal defense attorney, and well-known writer and speaker Ken Strutin’s guide documents a body of law that has developed defining the spectrum between full-blown post-conviction representation and the impact of the conditions of confinement on pro se litigants.

Subjects: Court Resources, Criminal Law, Features, Legal Profession, Legal Research

Arson and the Science of Fire

Ken Strutin’s expert commentary focuses on the duality of fire as both a science and a set of actions and behaviors initiated by individuals and groups. Strutin documents how these factors relate to the complexities of criminal prosecutions in this arena, and how assumptions about the former have led to misjudgments about the latter. Further, he examines how progress in the understanding of how fires begin and spread has called into question the integrity of arson convictions. His guide is a collection of selected research publications, web resources and case studies as well as scholarly legal articles and scientific reports on arson investigation and fire science.

Subjects: Criminal Law, Features, Legal Research

Mass Incarceration and the “Degree of Civilization”

Ken Strutin – law librarian, criminal defense attorney, and well-known writer and speaker, documents the preeminence of the United States as the world leader in incarceration. He states that incarceration is when a person loses their freedom pending trial or by serving a sentence – and mass incarceration is when millions of people are imprisoned and kept there based on a generation of tough on crime policies. The number of persons behind bars, which is higher in the United States than anywhere in the world, creates a ripple effect throughout the criminal justice system and society at large. This fact has inspired intense study of this punishment by many academic disciplines, public interest institutions and government agencies. His article focuses on selected recent and notable publications from these sources along with a list of current awareness sites.

Subjects: Criminal Law, Ethics, Features, Legal Research

Clemency Clinics: A Blueprint for Justice

Ken Strutin’s article presents a significant collection of expertly selected resources on clemency and other established post-conviction projects. It also includes general resources that can be used in the process of starting up a clemency clinic or a project in a law school, bar association, law firm, university, college or any entity interested in undertaking a role in arena of work. Ken documents how innocence projects and law clinics are good models for clemency projects because they pursue claims frequently raised in pardons. He also identifies how schools of journalism, paralegal and legal assistant programs, and private law firms, defense providers, individual attorneys and not-for-profits spearheaded by those directly affected, have embraced a mission to address injustice in their particular ways.

Subjects: Criminal Law, Features, Legal Research

Veterans in the Criminal Justice System: Defending Conditions of the Mind

Ken Strutin’s guide includes key recent and notable cases, surveys, studies, guides, web resources and directories for legal research specific to veterans’ deployed to war who subsequently developed mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD).

Subjects: Criminal Law, Features, Human Rights, Legal Research, Surveys

Animal Rights in the Human Legal System

The struggle for human rights has gone on for ages, but the story of animal rights has only begun to be told. Ken Strutin’s guide is a compilation of new and notable legal resources on animal rights and welfare. Its jurisprudence takes into account the various roles that society has assigned to animals, e.g., companion, servant or object, as well the implications of their participation or use in different sectors of modern life. Some of the key legal areas of confluence include: (1) animal rescue; (2) protective legislation; (3) law enforcement and forensics; (4) elder care and end of life issues; (5) abuse registries; (6) environmental hazards; (7) witness assistants; and (8) development of advanced degrees and specialization in animal law.

Subjects: Ethics, Legal Ethics, Legal Research
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