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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 149075 Find in a Library
Title: Of Gangs and Guilt
Journal: Los Angeles Lawyer  Volume:3  Issue:9  Dated:(December 1980)  Pages:43-47
Author(s): H J Schwab
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 5
Type: Survey
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article analyzes the utilization of gang membership as proof of crime, the limitations on the use of such evidence, and the way this evidence is presented in California courts.
Abstract: California courts have found consistently that freedom of religion and of organization membership are rights that deserve respect, but that may not be perverted for criminal purposes. From the early 20th Century, courts ruled that membership in such organizations as labor unions or motorcycle gangs could be used to prove a defendant's identity and motive. In the trials of Charles Manson and his "family," the lifestyle and religion of this bizarre organization became crucial in showing the pattern of planned criminal activity; similarly in the trial against members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, the nature, philosophy, aims, and activities of this terrorist organization became closely linked to the murder of an Oakland School Superintendent. In later cases, the courts limited the use of gang membership as evidence by requiring that the membership must be directly related to the defendant's identity and motivation. Recently, several rulings established that even expert testimony can be used to present the social customs and practices of organizations to the court. Thus, the doctrine of utilization of organizational membership as proof of criminal involvement has become an important new area in the California law of evidence.
Main Term(s): Gangs
Index Term(s): Character testimony; Expert witnesses; Rules of evidence
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