Saturday, June 27, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
May 24 was the first time in 16 years that David Oropeza celebrated his birthday out of prison walls. He turned 35.
During his young adult years, David was in and out of prison. But two weeks ago, his eyes were wet with happiness as more than 50 parishioners of American Martyrs Church in Manhattan Beach sang "Happy Birthday."
Although spending all those years in prison, David was blessed with freedom, unlike thousands of other young men and women who, as teenagers, have been sentenced to life without a possibility of parole.
Last month's meeting at American Martyrs was held as part of the Juvenile Justice Sabbath, sponsored by Faith Communities for Families and Children (FCFC), a coalition of faith-based organizations, to raise awareness about the increasing numbers of youth who are treated like adults and are incarcerated and sentenced for life without parole in United States prisons.
The U.S. is the only country in the world where this is happening, according to advocates. They are hoping that state legislators will soon discuss and approve the Fair Sentencing for Youth Act SB399, which would allow the review of cases and resentencing of youth who have been incarcerated for more than 10 years and were sentenced to life without parole before the age of 18.
Some 2,574 inmates in the U.S. were sentenced to life without parole for crimes committed before the age of 18, according to Human Rights Watch, as reported recently in the Los Angeles Times. In California there are 250 such cases.
According to FCFC, in 2009 it is projected that California will spend more than 20 times as much per youth in state juvenile facilities than per public school students. In the U.S. about 200,000 youth under age 18 are tried in adult courts.
The Children's Defense Fund, in its report "Cradle to Prison Pipeline," reported an estimated 15,240 youth detained in juvenile correctional facilities in California in 2006. More than 75 percent of these have inadequately-addressed learning disabilities and mental health issues.
A multi-faith issue
During the Juvenile Justice Sabbath, spiritual leaders from about 200 Los Angeles synagogues, mosques, and Catholic churches addressed their congregations about this issue, which affects the entire society directly or indirectly.
"Our children are a priceless gift," Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, told about 300 men and women during his May 22 sermon at the Culver City Mosque.
"My love for my children should be the same for all children. This is the universality bestowed upon us. We should defend and honor the sanctity of our children at any time," he continued.
After providing statistics of children in the U.S. living in poverty, abused and neglected by society, lacking healthcare benefits, lacking the appropriate education and living under the basic nutrition standards, Syed asked the Muslim community to question themselves about where their priorities lie as part of this society.
There are "ethical disparities," he told them after mentioning there are a large number of youth incarcerated for life without parole in the prison system.
"In Wall Street no one has gone to jail, but a child goes because of lack of understanding," he said. He urged the congregation to check the FCFC's Web site to get informed about the issue, to visit and volunteer at places where they can become big brothers or big sisters for at-risk children, and to call their legislators to support the approval of SB399.
"Everyone should get a second chance," he affirmed.
Halima Shad said she was shocked after hearing her spiritual leader. She admitted that she had ignored the entire situation. She recently arrived to the U.S. from Germany, after marrying her American husband. She believes that instead of punishment, these teenagers should receive psychological treatment.
"What they are doing," she said, "is not justice."
"Children are innocent and they need to be protected," Syed told The Tidings after delivering his message.
'It's first about compassion'
"Jesus preached the good news for wholeness and joy," Jesuit Father Greg Boyle, told American Martyrs parishioners during his May 24 evening homily, one of the many homilies that closed the Juvenile Justice Sabbath weekend.
The founder of nonprofit Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention program in the U.S, told the packed church there is little possibility of change or justice when people separate from each other due to differences of skin color, or socioeconomic status.
At the same time, though, "God can't take his eyes off his kids," Father Boyle said. "God thinks we are great and reminds us we belong to each other."
After celebrating Mass, he and three former gang members addressed the group of parishioners at the church's O'Donnell Hall.
"If we don't believe that redemption is possible…. That's what Jesus is about," Father Boyle said. "It's not even about second chances, but it's first about compassion, standing in the right place with the poor, with the demonized."
He said everyone is called to work with gangs standing in awe rather than judgment and he stressed the importance of connecting. "If there is no connection, no kinship, it simply won't matter," he said.
"I'm blessed to speak here," said 21-year-old Treybon Thomas, who was locked up at the California Youth Authority at the age of 16. He addressed the parishioners together with Alicia Ruiz, 21, and Oropeza. The three advocated for teenagers who like them were raised in violent and emotionally unhealthy environments.
They are now under the wing of Homeboy Industries, learning to live a healthy lifestyle surrounded by family members, ex-gang members and the community.
The three of them said no change of life can happen inside any detention facility where teenagers are living with adults who take advantage of them.
"When you see them (gang members) on the street, they are scared of you as you are of them," Oropeza told the parishioners. He urged them to reach out to at-risk teenagers. "Don't judge a book by its cover. It sounds like cliche, but it is life today," he said.
He shared how he felt angry after a daughter was killed in a shooting between gangs, "but everybody deserves a chance, even those who killed my daughter," he said.
Acceptance, connection and recognition, were the words used by the three former gang members when asked by a parishioner what are the kind of words someone could use to make a neglected teenager change his/her mind.
"I would say talk with me not to me," said Oropeza. "It's simple as asking, 'How are you? How can I help you? What is your name?'" said the father of five whose wife, Cristina Villalba, works at Homeboy Industries' Homegirl Café.
Oropeza and Villalba are now fulfilling their roles as parents, teaching love to their children, something they lacked in their own youth. Cristina's mother died from an overdose and her husband's father also used drugs.
"My parents never told me they loved me and they did not care if I went to school or not," said Villalba.
"I want to show a better example and break that cycle that runs in our families," Oropeza added.
Javier Stauring, FCFC's director, urged the parishioners to seek information. "The more educated on this issue," he said," the better it is."
For more information about juvenile restorative justice and about the Faith Communities for Families and Children, go to www.fcfcla.org. For more information on SB399, go to www.fairsentencingforyouth.org.
Friday, June 19, 2009
by Jeff Gerritt
The Detroit Free Press
Friday, June 19, 2009
Michigan has outlawed second chances for some juveniles, garnering international shame for imposing the maximum adult penalty -- life without parole -- for children as young as 14.
The time is right to end this unreasonable and inhuman law that, in effect, declares young people beyond redemption. Michigan's budget crisis is driving a series of overdue reforms in the state's bloated prison system, including closing prisons and reducing the number of inmates by 3,500 this year. The state could release at least some of its 346 juvenile lifers, saving millions of dollars a year. As Michigan Department of Corrections Director Patricia Caruso has said, we must recognize the difference between those we fear and those we are simply mad at.
Arguments made by some Michigan prosecutors that they use the juvenile lifer law judiciously and with discretion -- even if true -- are off point. Many prosecutors, hunting for votes, have not exercised restraint or judgment. The only way to keep some of them from unnecessarily throwing away the keys on a juvenile offender is to change the law.
Discretion in sentencing
This issue is about a lot more than money. There are serious moral and constitutional problems with sentencing juveniles to mandatory life sentences. That's why Congress convened a hearing last week on legislation to eliminate life-without-parole sentences for juveniles, and the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up two Florida cases challenging such sentences.
Michigan, too, is re-examining juvenile lifer laws that impose one-size-fits-all justice. Bills in the state House and Senate would eliminate mandatory life sentences for juveniles and restore parole eligibility to those serving such sentences.
I hope Michigan legislators have the stuff to bring juvenile laws in line with science, legal traditions and plain common sense. So far, it doesn't look good.
The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by state Rep. Mark Meadows, D-East Lansing, has already tacked on some debilitating amendments to the bills, including lowering the applicable age to 16 and under and increasing the minimum time served from 10 to 15 years. Excluding 17-year-olds, even though they are minors, would erase the possibility of parole for 129 of Michigan's 346 juvenile lifers.
The House committee might also, for the first time, require that prosecutors, judges and victims' families approve a parole hearing. If that happens, we might as well stick with what we have. Would any Michigan prosecutor running for re-election ever OK a hearing for anyone convicted of a homicide?
On the Senate side, State Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, who heads the Judiciary Committee, would not commit even to giving the juvenile lifers bills a hearing when I talked to him last week. When corrections and criminal justice reform is dominating the public debate, no state legislator should prevent a hearing on an issue that the nation's highest court and governing body are taking on.
A chance for parole
These bills would not, as Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy wrote in the Free Press last week, unleash violent criminals. In fact, they would not, by themselves, release one juvenile lifer. They would only give them a chance at parole after serving 10 or 15 years, and some have already served decades.
Michigan's Parole Board is one of America's toughest. Few juvenile offenders would get released after their first hearing. Still, offering some hope of freedom would provide a powerful incentive for prisoners to act right and change. Without hope, people become dangerous, or spiritually dead.
Moreover, to paint all juvenile lifers as crazed killers is the kind of demagoguery that made America the world's leading incarcerator. Many juvenile lifers in Michigan didn't do the killing but were convicted for aiding and abetting. The case of Henry Hill Jr., whom I profiled last month, is typical. Hill, 45, of Saginaw, was running from the scene of a fight when his cousin shot and killed an 18-year-old. At 16, Hill was sentenced to mandatory life, and he has already served nearly 30 years in prison.
Hill told me he deserved to be punished harshly for his involvement in a crime that led to murder. But, three decades later, to throw away the keys on this mature, educated and spiritual man is irrational and inhuman.
The immaturity factor
Science has proved what all parents already know: Juvenile brains are more impulsive and unstable than those of adults. They don't have the same rights as adults, nor should they suffer the same penalities. That's why a conservative U.S. Supreme Court threw out the death penalty for juveniles and now could strike down life without parole.
People, especially young people, can change and contribute to society. But hundreds of juvenile offenders in Michigan prisons won't get that chance unless legislators and Gov. Jennifer Granholm lift the state's barbaric ban on second chances.
JEFF GERRITT is a Free Press editorial writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-222-6585.
Friday, June 12, 2009
by Michael Novinson
Friday, June 12, 2009
Washington, D.C. - infoZine - Two middle-aged women, both victimized by the murder of a loved one, sat side-by-side during Tuesday's meeting of the House Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee.
But as for the issue at hand - ending the sentencing of juveniles to life without parole - the women's views are miles apart.
To the left sat Linda L. White, whose 26-year-old daughter was found dead in 1986 following a sexual assault by two 15-year-old boys. To the right sat Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, whose brother-in-law, sister and their unborn child were murdered in 1990 by a 17-year-old boy for the "thrill" of it.
White, who lives near Houston, became a death educator and grief counselor after her daughter was murdered and attended a meditated dialogue with Gary Brown, one of her daughter's murderers, in the early 2000's.
"Gary is proof that young people, even those who have done horrible things, can be reformed," said White, who is a member of the Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation.
Bishop-Jenkins, who lives near Chicago, also became an advocate for violence prevention. But her experience did little to brighten her perception of the prospects for reconciliation in most murder cases. In 2007, she co-founded the National Organization of Victims of "Juvenile Lifers" to protect victims' rights.
Personal coping mechanisms, experience with the criminal justice system and a broader sociopolitical worldview have combined to give the victims of the most heinous crimes dramatically different views on H.R. Bill 2289, the Juvenile Justice Accountability and Improvement Act of 2009.
This bill, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., would require states to grant parole hearings for youth murderers who are serving a life sentence during their first 15 years of incarceration and every three years thereafter. Any state that did not comply would be denied some federal anti-crime funding.
It is legal to sentences juveniles to life without parole in 44 states. But the use of such laws occurs in very concentrated areas - of the 2,574 youths currently serving life without parole, 44 percent reside in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Louisiana.
These states often require that first-degree murder and some other cases be transferred out of juvenile courts. Other states review a juvenile defendant's competency or capacity for rehabilitation before transferring a case. Twenty-eight states mandate sentencing offenders under age 18 to life without parole for certain crimes.
Proponents of H.R. 2289 rely on statistics to demonstrate the injustice of these sentences.
"The U.S. is the only nation on Earth to sentence its youth to die in prison," Scott said during the hearing.
Behavioral research by psychologists such as Laurence Steinberg of Temple University has found that the brain systems responsible for self-control do not fully develop until a person is in their early 20s. He argued in a written statement that youth offenders should not be punished as harshly as adults for comparable crimes. The bill's supporters argue that youths who commit crimes are more likely to be rehabilitated than adults and re-enter society as contributing members.
Opponents such as Bishop-Jenkins argue that H.R. 2289 would transfer the life sentence from the offenders to the victims by forcing them to regularly re-engage during parole hearings with the person who murdered their family member.
"To reopen this pain every three years, for the rest of our lives, and perhaps those of our children, is quite literally torture," she said.
Most legal and congressional opposition focuses on the federal government overreaching into state criminal justice systems. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said the bill violates the principles of federalism that are at the heart of the American judicial system. Other Republican members of Congress at the hearing agreed.
"It's the federal government deciding that states don't matter," said Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif. "Maybe there are some changes that need to be made in individual states, but this is overwhelmingly over-the-top."
Indeed, some states have reconsidered their policy on this issue. Colorado and Kentucky recently banned sentencing youths to life without parole. And in Louisiana - which has 335 inmates sentenced as juveniles to life - the state House of Representatives proposed a bill that would enable a meaningful review of cases involving juvenile offenders.
Bishop-Jenkins dismisses White's situation as not representative of most juvenile murder cases. Yet even though the two women don't see eye-to-eye on H.R. 2289, both want the criminal justice system reformed.
Bishop-Jenkins said courts should have the discretion to transfer juvenile offenders to the adult system. That would reduce the number of juvenile life-without-parole sentences without subjecting victims such as herself to the trauma of constant parole hearings.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
by Sen. Liz Brater
The Detroit Free Press
June 11, 2009
There are more than 350 people in the Michigan prison system who were under age 18 when sentenced to spend the rest of their life in prison without the possibility of parole. Many of them were abused or neglected as children. Many had emotional disorders. Many committed crimes with older codefendants who received lesser sentences.
The United States stands alone in the industrialized world in allowing children to be sentenced to life without parole. Michigan ranks third among states that sentence children to life, just behind Pennsylvania and Louisiana.
A package of bills that I have introduced in the Michigan Senate (a similar, pared-down package has received hearings in the House) would prohibit sentencing a juvenile to life without parole. These bills do not release a single felon. They allow those who were already sentenced to life in prison without parole to go before the Parole Board to have their case reviewed after 10 years.
According to National Institute of Mental Health studies, the brain of an adolescent continues to develop through age 25. The area governing reasoning, advanced thought and impulse control matures last, often causing youths to make decisions based on impulse and emotion, rather than logic. The acknowledgement of this difference in maturity, understanding and logic is what led us to have a juvenile justice system to begin with.
There is no question that some of these children have committed heinous crimes. Each case needs careful review, and the safety of the public must be paramount. But how many of these crimes could have been prevented if an adequate mental health system were in place? We have heard numerous stories of parents recognizing that their child needed help, turning to the mental health system, and failing to get access to care.
Michigan law allows children to be tried as adults, with no minimum age. The prosecutor, rather than the judge, determines which youths will be tried as adults. Prosecutors are not the right people to make this decision. They like to run for re-election showing that they are "tough on crime." We need to revisit these laws also, and we should repeal them.
Prosecutors also argue that this sentence prevents the practice of adults sending teens to execute crimes, knowing that they will do little time. If children are being used in this way, let's prosecute and punish the adults exploiting them.
As a society, we have failed these kids. There are many early childhood education programs, including the Perry School in Ypsilanti, that are nationally recognized to reduce the chance that a child will end up in the criminal justice system in his or her teen years. These programs cost $10,600 per child, versus the $30,000 a year we spend per inmate. Similarly, community mental health care, at $8,000-$11,000 a year per client, depending on the county, is much more economical than prison.
This approach is not only more humane, it is also more cost effective for the taxpayers.Liz Brater is a Democrat who represents Ann Arbor in the Michigan Senate.
Yesterday, I had an experience several others here have already been through-- offering invited testimony before a congressional committee. In my case, it was at a hearing on H.R. 2289, which involved eliminating the sentence of life without parole for juveniles. I found the whole thing fascinating, as did two of my students who helped me prepare and attended the hearing. Though I have argued in many courtrooms, I am not sure I have ever appeared in a room quite so intimidating as that one (the hearing room for the House Judiciary Committee). The gallery was full, with people standing along the back wall at times, and the Representatives sat in tiers above us, in front of a line of aides who would pass them notes.
For those of us involved in policy work, it struck me as the most direct and efficient form of scholarship possible-- to present your case to the lawmakers, and answer their questions. This is especially true relative to the more traditional route, which involves spending months writing an article, more months waiting for it to appear, and then hoping a decision-maker might read it. The best method, of course, would be to combine the two by testifying in support of your scholarly research, and that is exactly the approach of some of the most effective witnesses before Congress.
Such testimony is not considered a form of scholarship in some places, but if what we care about is using our minds to improve the law, that orthodoxy should change.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
On June 9, 2009, the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security (a division of the House Judiciary Committee) held a hearing to evaluate the Juvenile Justice Accountability and Improvement Act of 2009. Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), the chairman of the subcommittee and the sponsor of this piece of legislation, conducted the hearing and was the lone Democrat in attendance for the entire hearing. Other subcommittee members in attendance included, Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Ted Poe (R-TX), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), and Daniel Lungren (R-CA). Democrat Mike Quigley was in attendance for part of the hearing but missed the questioning of the witnesses.
The Subcommittee met to evaluate H.R. 2289, a bill that would establish an opportunity for parole or similar release for child offenders sentenced to life in prison with out the possibility of parole. In 39 states in the country, and under federal law, teens who are too young to vote, buy cigarettes, or serve on the juries they appear before, can be tried as adults and convicted to juvenile life without parole (JLWOP). There are currently 2,484 persons in the U.S. serving sentences of life without parole for crimes committed as minors, while there are no youth serving JLWOP anywhere else in the world.
The Subcommittee called various individuals to testify, either in favor of ending juvenile life without parole sentences or against H.R. 2289, which would affect sentences currently being served across the country. The speakers included the following:
- Mark Osler – Law Professor, BaylorLaw School in Texas
- Linda White – Former Board Member of the Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, Texas
- Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins – Co-Founder National Organization of Victims of “Juvenile Lifers”, IL
- Anita Colon – Pennsylvania State Coordinator for the National Campaign for Fair Sentencing for Children
- James Fox – District Attorney in San Mateo County, California
- Marc Mauer – Executive Director of Sentencing Project in Washington, DC
Congressmen Gohmert, Lungren, Goodlatte, and Poe spoke out against the Act because of the effect it would have on a state’s exclusive control of sentencing. In some states, life without parole is mandatory for certain crimes, and this legislation would infringe upon the ability of those states to retain control over sentencing of offenders in their jurisdiction. Congressman Gohmert expressed that, though he personally finds it repugnant to sentence a juvenile to life without parole, it should be left to the states to make this decision.
The witnesses testifying varied in their opinions of H.R. 2289. Mark Osler, a former prosecutor, spoke on behalf of the merits of the bill and emphasized the importance of striking a balance between retributive justice and mercy. Linda White, the mother of a child killed and sexually assaulted by two fifteen-year-old boys, agreed with Osler. She testified that life without parole is too harsh a sentence for juveniles, and young people should be held accountable in a way that reflects age and the ability to change.
Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins told the story of her sister, who was killed by a juvenile currently serving a sentence of life without parole. She testified about the loss of evidence and inability to find witnesses for parole hearings if sentences change as a result of the bill. Additionally, she spoke of the need for victim notification, the traumatizing effect of parole hearings, and the notion that a “one size fits all” mandate would not work for sentencing across all states. After debating the merits of the bill with Chairman Scott, Bishop-Jenkins conceded that she would support the bill if it were prospective only, and focused on requiring states to eliminate mandatory transfers.
The Subcommittee did not reach a consensus on H.R. 2289 by the end of the hearing, with Chairman Scott maintaining his support of legislation to end juvenile life without parole sentences, and Congressmen Gohmert, Poe, Goodlatte, and Lungren keeping their position that sentencing decisions should be left to the states.
By: Ashlee Richman
(CJS Summer Intern Law Student from The Washington College of Law at American University)
You can view a video of the hearing which lasts an hour and twenty-seven minutes at: http://judiciary.edgeboss.net/real/judiciary/crime/crime060909.smi. You will need to download a free version of RealPlayer to view the video if you do not already have the program downloaded. You can download RealPlayer from http://tinyurl.com/o5zbvf.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Baylor Law Professor Provides Expert Testimony Before Congress June 9
Baylor University News
June 4, 2009
Jill Scoggins, Assistant Vice President, Media Communications
Office-254.710.1964 or Cell-254.652.9765
Follow us on Twitter: BaylorUMediaCom
WASHINGTON (June 4, 2009) - As the U.S. House Judiciary Committee holds hearings on proposed legislation to revise sentencing rules for children who are convicted of crimes for which they receive life without parole, the select list of invited experts providing testimony includes a Baylor University Law School professor.
On Tuesday, June 9, Mark Osler will testify before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, discussing why H.R. 2289, the Juvenile Justice Accountability and Improvement Act of 2009, should be enacted into law. Sponsored by Rep. Robert Scott of Virginia and co-sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the bill calls for regularly scheduled parole review for child offenders sentenced to life.
Currently, the United States is one of only two countries in the world known to sentence offenders under aged 18 to life without parole. More than 2,500 youth offenders are currently serving such sentences in the U.S., and the estimated rate at which the sentence of life without parole is imposed on children nationwide remains at least three times higher today than it was 15 years ago. Black children are 10 times more likely to receive a life-without-parole sentence than white children.
"More than half of the juveniles who receive life without parole are first-time offenders, and many are in prison for crimes short of murder," Osler says. "Interestingly, the only other country which hasn't signed a convention outlawing such sentences is Somalia. So, it's us and the country that supports pirates. Is that really the kind of company the United States wants to keep?"
Historically, courts in the United States have recognized the undeniable differences between adult and youth offenders, and Osler says life with no chance of parole denies those differences.
"I'm a former prosecuting attorney, so I believe in punishment," Osler says. "Justice is never achieved without punishment.
"At the same time, there must be a balance between justice and mercy. Cases where child offenders are sentenced to life with no possibility of parole completely push mercy out of the picture."
Life without parole also removes a chance for redemption, Osler says. "Redemption also must be a possibility in sentencing. As a Christian, I see the person - the offender - separate from the evil he or she may commit. As a legal professional, I know very well that rehabilitation can fail, and can be very expensive. However, adults - particularly those of us who are people of faith - have an obligation to try to rehabilitate children who have committed crimes.
"All children deserve a chance to grow into productive adults - even those who have committed a crime as a child."
Recent Baylor Law School graduate Kaye Johnson and current second-year Baylor Law student Chris Rusek will make the trip from Waco, Texas, to Washington with Osler. The two received some real-world experience in working with Osler on the research for his testimony.
"Scholarship must relate to teaching, and vice versa," says Osler. "I always include students in the work I perform outside the classroom to show them the real impact the legal profession has on our world."
Osler will testify at 2:30 p.m., June 9, in room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Additional information on the hearing can be found on the House Judiciary Committee web site.
About Mark Osler, J.D.
Mark Osler is a professor of law at Baylor Law School in Waco, Texas. A graduate of Yale Law School and a former federal prosecutor, he is an expert on sentencing whose work has consistently confronted problems in the federal sentencing guidelines. Most recently, as lead counsel, he won the case of Spears v. United States (2009) in the U.S. Supreme Court, where the Court held that sentencing judges can categorically reject the 100:1 ratio between crack and powder cocaine in the federal sentencing guidelines. Justice John Paul Stevens quoted Osler in the seminal case of United States v. Booker (2005), which struck down the mandatory guidelines. As an appellate attorney, Osler has briefed or argued cases in six federal courts of appeal and in the Supreme Court. He serves as the head of the Association of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools, and often lectures on issues relating to sentencing, ethics and faith and the law. His work on one case is portrayed in the Samuel Goldwyn Film, "American Violet," where the character of "Professor Joe Fischer" is based on Osler's role in working with a former student to address suspect practices by a District Attorney. His book, Jesus on Death Row, (Abingdon Press, 2009) challenges the death penalty based on the experience of Christ as a criminal defendant. He has also authored more than 20 academic articles, and has been interviewed as a sentencing expert on NPR's "Morning Edition" and ABC's "Good Morning America." Prior to joining Baylor in 2000, Osler clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Jan E. DuBois in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, was an associate with the law firm Dykema Gossett in Detroit, and served five years as Assistant United States Attorney in Detroit.