Washington and Lee Law professor J.D. King has published a new article in the Georgia Law Review, entitled “The Meaning of a Misdemeanor in a Post-Ferguson World: Evaluating the Reliability of Prior Conviction Evidence.”
King, a noted scholar and clinician in criminal law and procedure, argues that trial judges for low-level offenses often fail to consider a defendant’s criminal history properly in determining an appropriate punishment, due to bias, inaccuracies, and other systemic shortcomings.
“Misdemeanor courts lack many of the procedural safeguards that are thought to ensure accuracy and reliability,” King writes. “As with other stages of the criminal justice system, people of color and poor people are disproportionately burdened with the inaccuracies of the misdemeanor system.”
King proposes a framework in which defendants can challenge the use of prior conviction evidence in the sentencing context, and suggests that courts and legislatures consider categorical exemptions from the use of prior misdemeanor convictions in imposing sentences.
The article can be downloaded free of charge in the W&L Law Scholarly Commons digital scholarship repository.
J.D. King is Clinical Professor of Law, Director of Experiential Education, and Director of the Criminal Justice Clinic at W&L. His scholarship and teaching focus on criminal law and procedure, and the related areas of evidence, legal ethics, and professional responsibility.