Analysis and Commentary on Criminal Procedure

Are Long Death Penalty Delays Unconstitutional?

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf considers whether long delays in carrying out capital punishment render the practice unconstitutional. Dorf responds specifically to an argument put forth by the late Justice Scalia that execution delays are chiefly the result of the extensive procedures that the Court’s liberals have required for carrying out an execution.

The Second Circuit Honors the Threshold of the Home in a Fourth Amendment Opinion

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holding that when police are outside the threshold of a home arresting a suspect who is inside the threshold, it is a “home arrest” requiring a warrant. Colb explains why the decision is significant in protecting the home as a space where a person can feel the highest degree of privacy and comfort, free from unreasonable government intrusions.

The Bottoson Effect

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies discusses the problem of states executing death row inmates under laws subsequently found to be unconstitutional, as has happened in Texas and in Florida, and likely in many other cases. Margulies laments that the United States continues to experiment with capital punishment when experience demonstrates the procedures for imposing this irreversible sentence are rife with problems.

Bill Cosby and the Rule Against Character Evidence

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses the role of Pennsylvania Rule of Evidence 404 in the criminal trial against Bill Cosby. Colb argues that the rule against character evidence serves a specific purpose in “whodunit” cases (where the perpetrator is unknown) but that it may serve a different purpose in “what was done” cases, such as the present case against Cosby.

Insight From Oregon

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies explains how the peaceful protesters at a federal facility in Oregon could advance the cause for criminal justice reform. Margulies reminds us that that the triggering event for the protest was an order by a federal judge that two ranchers serve a prison sentence mandated by federal statute that was far longer than the judge considered fair.

Delayed Trials for Fairer Outcomes?

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses a proposal by Adam Benforado, author of Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Justice, that one way to improve the criminal justice system would be to conduct and record trials outside of the jury’s presence, then to show edited versions of the recordings to juries after all of the evidence has been presented. Colb explains how this proposal could potentially improve the system and addresses some potential obstacles to its implementation.

The Shrinking Fourth Amendment: Heien v. North Carolina

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses the potential downsides of the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding earlier this year in Heien v. North Carolina, in which the Court held that a police officer could, consistent with the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizures, stop a driver for a behavior that the officer mistakenly but reasonably believes is illegal.

How Breast Exams Are Like Dog Sniffs

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb compares medical screening tests with dog sniffs for narcotics with respect to their propensity to yield Type I errors—also known as false positives. In particular, Colb references Justice Souter’s dissenting opinion in Illinois v. Caballes, in which he opined that the possibility that dogs would incorrectly indicate the presence of narcotics and lead to an invasive search meant that such dog sniffs constitute searches for Fourth Amendment purposes.

What Will the Supreme Court Say About Searches of Hotel Guest Records?

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court recently granted review to decide whether a Los Angeles municipal code violates the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. Colb argues that, much like general warrants of old, the provision in question empowers police to perform unreasonable searches in blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately... more