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Top Crime Polls of 2012

A Look Back at the Results of the Top Crime Polls of 2012


Each week polltakers for the Crime and Punishment site cast their votes on a variety of crime issues. Here are the results for the top polls of 2012. All of the polls listed are still open if you would like to cast your vote.

Note: If you are interested in becoming a polltaker for the Crime and Punishment About.com website, visit the weekly blog and let your voice be heard. New polls are generally posted each Friday.

1. A New Trial for Scott Peterson?

In 2004 convicted killer Scott Peterson was sent to death row after being found guilty of murdering his wife Laci and their unborn child Connor, on December 24, 2002.

Now, eight years later, Peterson's lawyer Cliff Gardner, has filed an automatic appeal with the California Supreme Court alleging that Peterson was deprived of an honest and fair trial due to massive pre-trial publicity, wrong evidentiary rulings and jury misconduct.

After reviewing some of the specifics surrounding the appeal, 62% of the Crime and Punishment polltakers voted that Peterson does not deserve a new trial, the State got it right during the first trial and that Peterson is guilty.

2. Testing Welfare Recipients for Illegal Drug Use

A discussion of whether or not welfare recipients should be tested for illegal drugs was re-ignited in February 2012, after Pennsylvania passed a bill that required it.

Currently there are 37 states with laws permitting drug testing for individuals who receive money from the government.

There are solid arguments for and against such laws, however, 56% of the Crime and Punishment polltakers agreed with testing all welfare recipients because it would help curtail welfare abuse.

3. Andrea Yates Asks To Go To Church

Andrea Yates
In 2001, the world was shocked by the confession of Houston mother, Andrea Yates, who called police to report that she had drowned her five children in the bathtub. What appeared as an open and shut case with her conviction in 2002 for capital murder, later took a surprise turn as more details about her tormented life surfaced.

In 2006, she was acquitted of capital murder charges and found not guilty by reason of insanity. A look into her past exposed her long battle with mental illness, which was mostly untreated.

In 2012, her name once again appeared in the headlines, when her attorney, George Parnham, told reporters that a church had agreed that Yates was welcomed to attend its services. Parnham was seeking approval for her to get a two-hour-a-week therapeutic pass to attend the church services.

When polltakers were asked if Yates should get the pass, 56% voted no.

4. Was Casey's Computer Hacked?

Casey Anthony
Mug Shot
One of the first Crime and Punishment polls in 2012 referenced a YouTube video of Casey Anthony speaking into the cam on her computer in what was described as her personal video diary. Up until then Anthony had seemingly gone into hiding after being found not guilty of murdering her 3-year-old daughter, Caylee.

Anthony insisted that her computer had been hacked. Some believed that she was responsible for uploading the video for attention.

We asked polltakers what they thought and 82% voted that her computer was not hacked.

5. The Judge and the Ponytail

The year 2012 seemed to be the year of questionable punishments handed down by judges, but one that sparked a lot of discussion centered around a 13-year-old girl who was given the choice to cut off her ponytail in exchange for 150 hour reduction in her sentence of 276 hours of community service.

The girl and her friend were found guilty of cutting several inches of hair off a 3-year-old girl while at McDonalds.

This blatant "eye for an eye" sentence was criticized by some, but 81% of the poll voters on the Crime and Punishment site were all for it.

6. DNA Collection Laws

Michael Strock
There is no debating that the collection of DNA from convicted criminals has become a powerful tool in the building of databases used by law enforcement to help solve crimes. But what about the collection of DNA from those individuals who have only been arrested, but not convicted of a crime?

We asked poll voters if such laws were in violation of the right to privacy and a surprising 58% voted no.

7. Equally Responsible?

Erin Brown and Trevor Bradshaw
Mug Shots
Most people will agree that a person who drives drunk should be held accountable for whatever mayhem they cause while doing so, but this case takes the accountability factor to another level.

In this incident, a young woman felt that she was too drunk to drive so she handed her keys to her boyfriend who was also too drunk to drive. The boyfriend ended up running over and killing two pedestrians, then took off before authorities arrived.

Both the drunk driver and the drunk woman who gave him the keys were arrested and charged with vehicular homicide. Prosecutors felt the woman was just as responsible as the driver because she knew that he was drunk when she gave him the keys to drive.

When poll voters were asked if the woman should had been charged with vehicular homicide, 49% of the voters said yes, 44% said no and 6% were undecided.

8. An Honest Mistake

Laws do not often allow for honest mistakes, but that is what courts of law are for, unless you are dealing with mandatory sentencing as in the case of jeweler Ryan Jerome, 28, who was visiting New York City. The third-generation Marine brought $15,000 worth of jewelry to the city to sell and an Indiana-registered .45-caliber Ruger to protect the goods.

When visiting the Empire State Building, he turned the Ruger over to security guards and was promptly arrested on a gun-possession charge. He faced the possibility of a mandatory three and a half year prison sentence.

When polltakers were asked if Jerome should be sent to prison, a resounding 93% said no. Luckily, prosecutors agreed and offered Jerome a plea deal, which included 10 days of community service to be served near his home in Indiana and a $1,000 fine.

9. The Trayvon Martin Shooting - Race or Gun Issue?

Bill Cosby
Getty Images
One of the most controversial crime cases in 2012 was the Feb. 26 shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. Most everyone familiar with the case has an opinion on what motivated the shooting, including comedian Bill Cosby.

Weeks after the shooting happened, Cosby told Candy Crowley, news anchor for CNN, that he believed it was guns, not race, that instigated the incident.

When poll voters were asked what they thought was the main issue, 32% said it was guns, 31% said it was racism and 30% did not feel it was guns or race.

10. Prosecutorial Misconduct?

George Zimmerman
The Trayvon Martin shooting continued to lead the crime news headlines on and off throughout 2012. One of the most surprising reports was in reference to a photo of George Zimmerman that was taken by authorities shortly after he shot Martin.

What was released to Zimmerman's attorney and the news agencies was a black and white photocopy of the original photo, which showed a facial shot of Zimmerman with what appeared to be a slight swelling around the nose.

It was not until late October that Zimmerman's lawyers were able to obtain the original photograph, which shows Zimmerman with a bloody face and an apparent broken nose.

Florida discovery rules require that original photos, not photocopies of the originals, be turned over. When polltakers were asked if the prosecutor’s failure to produce the original photo until months after Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder was prosecutorial misconduct, 81% agreed that it was.
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