JRC Newsletter April 11, 2016

Vol. 7 #7 April 11, 2016

Re-sentencing Of Damon Calaway

The re-sentencing of Damon Calaway was held on Thursday, March 24, 2016 with Judge Jeanie Kunkle Vaudt presiding.  Daniel Voogt was the lawyer for the state and Erin Carr was the lawyer for Mr. Calaway. Calaway’s lawyer was not allowed to see him before the trial.  There were about 15 supporters of Mr. Calaway present.  One of the judge’s staff asked if the lawyers needed to speak to the judge in her chambers before the hearing began.

Apparently Mr. Calaway’s lawyer had requested that Mr. Calaway be allowed to retain an “expert witness” at the state’s expense.  This witness would be from a group of advocates that would gather information about the client as outlined in the Miller decision.  This was denied.    A packet containing letters of support and an e-mail from a counselor stating that he has reached the highest level was submitted.

The judge asked the lawyers to tell her what they felt she needed to do regarding the options. Mr. Carr spoke of Mr. Callaway’s childhood stating he had no role models; no one there to say what is right or wrong.  He got involved with gangs.  In prison he acted out in early years, but had no major reports since 2008.  He has been a leader in groups and has done volunteer work.  He is not the rare case that deserves Life without Parole.  He was recommending 50 years with parole and 25 years with parole running concurrently.

The lawyer for the state recommended LWOP.  He feels the decision of the jury can’t be disregarded.  This was a crime committed by a gang, but Mr. Calaway pulled the trigger.  “I don’t know what more rare and uncommon case would be found.”

Mr. Calaway was asked if he would like to make a statement. “I ask for forgiveness from everyone here who loves me, as they are serving life with me.”   He asked for forgiveness from the victims.  He asked for opportunity based, not on innocence or guilt, but on whether he has changed.  “I am not the boy who went to prison, prison saved my life.  I made the worst decision of my life.  I am not a violent person.”

The judge stated she would give her decision on Monday at 4:00 pm.  We all assembled on Monday at 4:00 pm and then were told that the court room was in use and to come back on Tuesday at 8:30 am.  On Tuesday, the judge re- sentenced Damon to “Life Without Parole.”  He has 30 days to appeal.  Needless to say, this was very hard for the family and friends to hear.

Jean Basinger, IC4JJ Focus Group

Board of Corrections Meeting

The Iowa Board of Corrections met in Davenport at the 7th Judicial District Department of Correctional Services on April Fool’s Day, April 1, at 9:00 am.  Everyone was welcomed by Waylyn McCullough, the district director, who mentioned that the 7th District is the smallest of the eight Community-Based Corrections in Iowa, and it is the only one without a prison.

Several things occurred at this meeting that might be considered odd to the frequent BOC attendee.  Oddity #1:  For the second meeting in a row, only four directors attended.

Oddity #2:  Department of Corrections Director Jerry Bartruff opened his remarks by informing those in attendance that the two fugitives from Newton had been apprehended.  However, he failed to mention that the state is appealing a district court ruling in Polk County in which Judge Scott Rosenberg ruled that “Iowa inmates have a right to a lawyer when fighting Department of Corrections (sic) decisions that can add time to their sentences.”  The district court decision was delivered in plenty of time for the Department to report its findings to the Board.  It is odd that this information was not shared with the Board.

Oddity #3:  The only handouts were the agenda and minutes from the previous meeting.

Oddity #4:  The entire meeting lasted fewer than 50 minutes.

Oddity #5:  Assistant Professor Steve Kalber, a psychiatric nurse and 9th year clinical professor at Saint Ambrose University in Davenport, presented a program that is a collaborative effort between St. Ambrose and the 7th Judicial District CBC.  Called “Health Coaching”, nursing students come into the District Offices on Main Street and meet with offenders.  The students discuss items such as physical health, mood, relationships, work, and short term goals with offenders.  The program itself is not odd at all, but Professor Kalber said that “knowledge doesn’t change behavior”.  That quote seems to contradict the DOC programs that rely heavily upon cognitive behavioral treatment, which are based on using knowledge to change adverse thinking and behavior.

Oddity #6:  Professor Kalber admitted that a few offenders just sit there with their arms folded and refuse to participate.  After the presentation, Board member Larry Kudje asked about confidentiality.  It was disclosed that offenders are told before meeting with a student that “interactions will be shared with probations officers”.  Perhaps that isn’t odd after all.

What wasn’t odd about the meeting was the appointment and approval of Kris Weitzell as the new warden at the Newton Correctional Facility.  Come to think of it, it was strange that Ms. Weitzell was approved without discussion by the Board.  But to his credit, Director Bartruff gave a lengthy introduction filled with praise and respect for Weitzell.  It left the Board with little room for discussion or further questions.

The next Board meeting will take place at the Anamosa State Penitentiary at 406 North High Street in Anamosa at 9:00 am on May 6th.

JRC’s Legislative Agenda for 2016

The following bills remain alive and are eligible for debate at any time from now through the end of the session:

HF 2399 – This bill enhances penalties and creates an unfair process for determining who will be sentenced to a term of incarceration and who will receive a sentence of probation.  A risk assessment is required to be performed on a defendant prior to sentencing.  We have always maintained that risk assessments are appropriate for the Parole Board, but their use as a sentencing factor is constitutionally questionable.   The bill allows the court to order electronic monitoring, so long as the defendant pays for the costs associated with the monitoring, installation, etc.  Electronic monitoring will allow authorities to determine where the abuser may be, but it will not provide information “to authorities” as to whether the victim is in the near vicinity.  Moreover, a Fiscal Note of March 7 states:

Minority Impact

One-third of Domestic Abuse-3rd convictions in FY 2015 were committed by African Americans. In year four of this bill’s effect, it is estimated that 71 additional inmates will be serving sentences. Of these 71, 23 (32.2%) are estimated to be African American. This will lead to a disproportionate minority impact, as African Americans currently make up 3.4% of Iowa’s population.

When a fiscal note shows the projections for potentially incarcerating a disproportionate number of minorities as high as this one, we question what alternatives have been initiated to reduce incidents of domestic abuse before attempting to enhance penalties.  Unfortunately, the legislative process becomes the first thought of change in too many cases.  It should be the ultimate last.  This is the second time this year a bill has had the momentum to become law with a heavy projection of increasing the disproportionate representation of African-Americans in prisons and jails in Iowa.  SF 2115 was signed into law by the governor earlier this month.  JRC “OPPOSES” this bill, as does the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence [ICADV] and the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault [CASA].  HF 2399 passed the House 86-12 on March 8.  It was amended by the Senate and passed 50-0 on April 6.  Please contact your representative and urge a “No” vote on this bill.

HF 2333 – This measure would change the process of how consent decrees in juvenile delinquency cases are created.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill. HF 2333 passed the House 96-0 on March 2.  It has been placed on the Senate’s Unfinished Business Calendar

The following bills have passed both chambers and await the governor’s attention:

SF2116 – This is a synthetic drugs bill.  JRC has been “UNDECIDED” on this bill.  SF 2116 passed the Senate on Feb. 22 by a vote of 49-0.  It passed the House 97-0 on March 30.  It awaits the governor’s signature.

SF 2185 – This bill extends the scope of criminal trespass to include trespass that violates a “person’s expectation of privacy”. JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill. Lacking a Fiscal Note, which would provide estimates on the number of convictions expected, we believe that the number of person charged and convicted of this crime to be very minimal. It passed the Senate 50-0 on Feb. 24. It was amended and passed the House 98-0 on March 29.  The amendment enhanced the penalty for “invasion of privacy” from a serious misdemeanor to an aggravated misdemeanor.  The Senate concurred with the House amendment and passed the bill for the second time by a vote of 50-0 on April 6.  It awaits the governor’s signature.

SF 2061 – This bill is a response to the Iowa Supreme Court case State v. Young, 863 N.W.2d 249 (2015)(Amended July 17, 2015.)  In Young, the Court held that “a misdemeanor defendant has a right to the assistance of counsel when the defendant faces the possibility of imprisonment.”  Like everyone else, JRC is “UNDECIDED” on the bill.  SF 2016 passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 22.  It was amended and passed the House 96-1 on March 15. Because it was amended, it was sent back to the Senate for its approval on the new language.  The Senate concurred in the House language and passed it for the final time 49-1 on April 6.  It now goes to the governor for his approval.

The following bills have passed both chambers and have been signed into law by the governor:

HF 2401 – This bill would prohibit anyone from opening a credit card account, or using an account in the name of a minor without the consent of the minor’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian.  JRC “OPPOSES” this bill.  We might understand the penalty of a class “C” felony if the credit limit is above $10,000, but really, what minor is going to be able to acquire credit in the amount of five figures.  What is egregious about this bill is that a class “D” felony is committed if the credit limit is below $10,000.  Lumping $9,990 and $25 with the same penalty is not equity in sentencing.  HF 2401 passed the House 96-1 on March 2; it passed the Senate 49-0 on March 16. Governor Branstad signed the bill on March 30.

SF 2059 – This is the Department of Corrections’ bill for 2015.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on this bill.  We should be opposed because a “Violators’ Program” is required by law and this bill changes the mandate to a suggestion.  SF 2059 passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 22.  It passed the House 95-0 on March 17.  It was signed by the governor on April 6.

SF 2115 – The legislation adds “jailers” to the list of professions that may be the subject of a charge of “interference with official acts”.  We “OPPOSED” this measure.  It disproportionately punishes the mentally ill and intoxicated.  Despite our opposition, the bill passed out of the Senate 49-0 on the 22nd. It passed the House 86-10 on March 15.  We requested a veto from the governor on March 21st.  The governor signed the bill into law on March 30.  There was no fiscal note for this year, but a previous year’s fiscal note with similar language had a Fiscal Note attached that projected a disproportionate minority impact: “approximately 20.8% of offenders may be Black or American Indian”.  The Fiscal Note also projected that “50% of defendants will be indigent”.  We fear these estimates are very conservative given that interference with official acts is used liberally.

HF 2385 – This bill makes illegal dumping a serious misdemeanor, as it passed the House.  Currently, the act of illegal dumping is subject to a civil fine of up to $1,000.  Other provisions in this bill (determining which entity receives money from the fines) place this legislation is precarious position.  JRC “OPPOSES” this legislation for a couple of reasons.  See Alice’s Restaurant JRC Newsletter, Vol. 7 #5. The bill passed the House by a vote of 71-26 on March 2.  The Senate amended the bill and passed it 47-0 on March 22.  Because it was amended, it was sent back to the House one more time with the Senate’s language, which is a substantial improvement.  It changes the criminal penalties back to the civil penalties that exist now.  The House concurred in the Senate amendment and passed it 94-2 on March 28.  The governor signed it into law on April 6.

House File 2271 – This is a bill that pertains to identity theft.  JRC is “UNDECIDED” on the bill.  We sense there may be unintended consequences with this bill in the future, but since we can’t specifically identify those circumstances, we have to declare as being undecided.  HF 2271 passed the House 96-0 on Feb. 24.  Passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 28.  Signed by the governor on March 11

SF 2288 – A bill relating to the confidentiality of juvenile court records in delinquency proceedings.  JRC has declared in “SUPPORT” of this bill.  It passed the Senate 48-0 on Feb. 25. It passed the House 97-1 on March 1.  Governor Branstad signed the bill in a ceremony in the 1st floor rotunda on Wednesday, March 9.

Find out who your legislators are here.

Selected links:

Federal Housing Officials Warn Against Blanket Bans of Ex-Offenders http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/04/nyregion/federal-housing-officials-warn-against-blanket-bans-of-ex-offenders.html?partner=rss&emc=rss By MIREYA NAVARRO The New York Times, APRIL 4, 2016.

$12M sought for wrongful jailing $12M sought for wrongful jailing on Page A1 of Friday, April 08, 2016 issue of Star Tribune