Don’t accuse me of utopianism. I don’t foresee a future of new human beings who consistently respect the rights of others. Rather, I’m drawing attention to the distinction between crime and tort — between offenses against the state (or society) and offenses against individual persons or their justly held property. We’re so used to this distinction, and the priority of the criminal law over tort law, that most of us don’t realize that things used to be different. At one time, an “offense” that was not an act of force against an individual was not an offense at all.
What happened? In England, the early kings recognized that the administration of justice could be a cash cow. So they grabbed on and never let go. As a result, the emphasis shifted to punishment (fines and imprisonment) and away from restitution (making victims or their heirs as whole as possible).
Liberty-minded people should regret this change. Yet again, the ruling elite exploited the people. It needed wealth to buy war materiel and allegiance, so it took it by force from the laboring masses, and corrupted the justice system in the process. …
The Huffington Post's Ryan Reilly notes that President Obama “has pardoned almost as many turkeys as drug offenders,” which is pretty appalling but actually understates how bad Obama’s clemency record is. All of the 11 drug offenders pardoned by Obama had completed their sentences years before, while the 10 turkeys he has pardoned (counting the two today) escaped their “sentences” entirely. Obama has not done anything comparable for any human beings, and he has shortened the sentence of exactly one drug offender, even though he and his attorney general concede that thousands are serving unfairly long prison terms.
If we limit the analysis to offenders whose punishments have been reduced by Obama, his ratio is 10 turkeys to one person. Another enlightening comparison: Attorney General Eric Holder’s recently announced change in charging practices, if fully implemented by federal prosecutors, could result in shorter sentences for about 500 drug offenders each year. That’s just 2 percent of all the federal drug offenders who are sentenced each year, but it is still 2,500 times as impressive as Obama’ commutation record.
Reilly also gives the president too much credit when he says “Obama has granted the fewest pardons of any modern president.” The truth is the Obama has pretty much the worst clemency record ever. He granted fewer pardons and commutations in his first term than any other president, except for George Washington (who probably did not have a lot of applications during the first few years of the nation’s existence) and two presidents, William Henry Harrison and James Garfield, who died shortly after taking office. This year he issued 17 additional pardons. But judging from numbers compiled by P.S. Ruckman Jr., a professor of political science at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois, that did not improve Obama’s standing. Compared to other presidents who served two terms, he is still doing abysmally bad. He makes Richard Nixon look like a softie.
In the wee hours of the morning on September 13th, Air Force Sgt. Matt Pinkerton and his wife were entertaining guests at their home when an acquaintance of Mrs. Pinkerton’s came knocking.
It was 2 AM. After being told to leave by Matt Pinkerton, who closed the door, Kendall Green decided that he’d kick it in and force his way into the home.
Matt Pinkerton, having armed himself with his Glock 17 9mm prior to approaching the door, then proceeded to discharge two rounds into Green.
Green was subsequently killed in an obvious act of self defense.
But the story didn’t end there, as it should have.
The district attorney’s office has now filed second degree murder charges against Sgt. Pinkerton.
You may be asking yourself under what pretext?
According to the DA, Pinkerton exhibited “bizarre behavior” by grabbing his weapon when an unexpected knock came to his door at 2AM that morning. And, because he failed to call 9-1-1 between the time Green kicked in his door and rushed him, he has now been charged with murder by the state.
Mike Pinkerton, one of the guests and brother of Matt, recalls the incident via Bullets First:
“He (Green) kept coming forward so Matt fired. He rocked backwards and took another step forward at which time Matt took his second shot. He stumbled backwards and fell out the door onto the porch.”
“When the shots were fired Jessica called 911. Matt spoke to the operator; he removed the clip from his gun and the bullet in the chamber. Police arrived within five minutes.”
So what did Matt do wrong when a crazed man broke in his front door at 2am and was after his wife? To me, nothing.
Yet according to the state of Maryland, Matt should have called 911 first and waited for the police.
That isn’t some glib, pro gun caricature of the how when seconds count cops are minutes away. This is the reason he is being charged with murder. It doesn’t help that on top of the lack of a Castle Doctrine Statute the Assistant State’s Attorney, Glen Neubauer, is an rabid anti gunner himself.
Besides maintaining the ridiculous notion that calling 911 while a crazed intruder just smashed his way into your house is the only legal option, Neubauer also claims that even the act of grabbing the gun in the first place is “bizarre behavior in itself.”
Read the full report at Bullets First
As an important note, Mrs. Pinkerton was in no way involved with Kendall Green and a long list of evidence suggests they were merely friends, until Green decided he wanted more out of the relationship, at which point Mrs. Pinkerton ended their interactions.
Thus, it should be obvious that Kendall Green was likely demonstrating irrational emotional and mental behavior the morning he kicked down her door and entered her home.
The Pinkertons have set up a Facebook page in an effort to bring awareness to Matt’s plight against an overzealous District Attorney, who himself is a staunch supporter of anti-gun laws.
Through no fault of his own, Matt Pinkerton is now facing the real possibility of being imprisoned for doing what any self respecting, individually responsible person would do – defending himself, his wife, his guests and his home.
His legal expenses have already exceeded $25,000, plus an additional $25,000 so that Sgt. Pinkerton could be released on bond while awaiting his trial. The family was forced to take out loans in order to make these payments.
So, not only is the State now threatening the freedom of a man who defended those he loved, they are impoverishing him and his family for no other reason than to make a political statement.
Report: Thousands of Nonviolent Americans Sentenced to Life in Prison Due to War on Drugs and Mandatory Minimums →
The ACLU released a new report this week examining the growing trend of judges sentencing nonviolent offenders to life in prison without parole. The ACLU found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the War on Drugs, mandatory minimums, and “tough-on-crime” policies are to blame.
The report, A Living Death: A Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenders, profiles 110 of the 3,278 inmates currently serving their life sentences for nonviolent crimes. Most of the offenders were charged with crimes like possession of small amounts of drugs or petty theft. …
In addition to the inmate profiles—which are a horribly depressing, but worthwhile read—the report discovered several interesting facts about life without parole (LWOP) in the US.
The Number of LWOP Sentences Has Been Growing For Decades
Offenders serving life without parole, whether violent or not, has been one of the most rapidly growing populations in the prison system. According to the report: “The number of people sentenced to LWOP quadrupled nationwide between 1992 and 2012, from 12,453 to 49,081.”
LWOP Is Due to the War on Drugs, Mandatory Minimums, and Other “Tough on Crime” Policies
Nearly 80 percent of non-violent LWOP offenses are for drug crimes. Among the cases the ACLU surveyed, 83 percent of offenders were placed there because of mandatory minimums or three-strike laws—in other words, the judges had no choice. As the ACLU said:
The prevalence of LWOP sentences for nonviolent offenses is a symptom of the relentless onslaught of more than four decades of the War on Drugs and “tough-on crime” policies, which drove the passage of unnecessarily harsh sentencing laws, including three-strikes provisions…and mandatory minimum sentences.
There Are Racial Disparities
Like most aspects of the criminal justice system, there are stark racial disparities in life without parole sentences. Sixty-five percent of LWOP inmates are black, while in some states the disparity is even higher. In Louisiana, 91 percent are black. In the federal system, blacks are 20 times more likely to be sentenced to LWOP than whites.
This Is A Uniquely American Problem
The US is part of the mere 20 percent of countries that even offer LWOP sentences. And of those countries, the vast majority “place stringent restrictions on where they can be issued and limit their use to crimes of murder.” As a result, the US’s LWOP prison population dwarfs that of other countries’. According to the University of San Francisco’s report on U.S. Sentencing Practices in a Global Context, the US’s LWOP population is 51 times greater than Australia’s and 173 times greater than England’s.
Last week, news wires, blogs and pundits lit up with the horrifying story of David Eckert, a New Mexico man who last January was subjected to a series of invasive and degrading drug search procedures after a traffic stop. The procedures, which included x-rays, digital anal penetration, enemas and a colonoscopy, were all performed without Eckert’s consent.
Eckert was pulled over by Deming, New Mexico Officer Bobby Orosco for making a rolling stop at a stop sign as he was leaving a Walmart parking lot. According to a subsequent search warrant, Orosco thought Eckert appeared nervous. A drug dog was called in, which alerted the officer to Eckert’s seat. The officer then claims he received a tip from another, unnamed officer that Eckert had previously hidden drugs in his anus. (Eckert apparently has a prior record.) Based on all of this, the police officers were able to get both Deputy District Attorney Daniel Dougherty and a local judge to sign off on all the humiliation that followed. (According to the original report, the hospital then sent him a bill for the “services,” and has since threatened to send a collection agency after him).
Days later, a second resident of New Mexico came forward with similar allegations. Timothy Young says that after a traffic stop in October 2012, he too was subjected to x-rays and a digital anal exam without his consent. New Mexico news station KBO-TV was first to report both incidents, which were performed by physicians at the Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City, New Mexico. In both cases, doctors and police failed to find any illegal drugs.
A third alleged victim has since come forward, although this woman says her anal and vaginal searches, x-rays and CAT scans came courtesy of federal border patrol agents, and without a warrant.
These incidents raise troubling questions about how the criminal justice system and medical establishment could allow for such extreme and invasive measures based on such little suspicion for nonviolent drug offenses. Oddly, according to constitutional scholars and medical ethicists I’ve consulted, the indignities imposed upon Eckert and Young were both illegal and unethical. And yet it also may be that (a) none of the law enforcement officials or medical personnel responsible for the violations are likely to be held accountable in any way, and (b) they could probably do it all again tomorrow, and still wouldn’t likely be held accountable. …
Some courts have determined that these were violations of rights — and perhaps more, or even the Supreme Court, will follow. But the bubble of infallibility we’ve built around the public officials we entrust to respect and protect our rights means that our rights can be horribly, egregiously and illegally violated … but the illegal part only really matters on paper. At worst, taxpayers will compensate the victims, but the violators will survive to violate another day. …
Take a few steps back, and it’s rather astonishing that we’re even discussing this. These men were sexually assaulted, and not really even under the color of law. If we’re actually discussing whether government actors can or should be held accountable for digitally penetrating a suspect’s anus, then subjecting him to multiple enemas, then forcibly sedating him and shoving a camera up his rectum, whether they should be able to legally require medical personnel to assist them, and all in pursuit of evidence of a nonviolent, consensual crime — we’re already far, far removed from a system that takes justice or constitutional rights very seriously.
Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs warns travellers that U.S. cops are on "unprecedented" killing spree →
A shocking report prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) for the Federal Assembly (FA) is urging a new law be passed giving to all Russians traveling to the United States a “warning” that American police officers have entered upon an “unprecedented killing spree” that in the past decade has seen nearly 5,000 innocent civilians gunned down without benefit of either charges being filed, or being convicted of a crime.
Two of the worst American cities for police abuse likely to be visited by Russian citizens, this report says, are Chicago, which was condemned by the United Nations for its practice of widespread police torture, and New York City whose government paid out over $1 billion between 2000-2010 in lawsuit claims related to police abuse, and last year, 2012, had to pay out another $131 million to settle civil rights and police abuse claims too.
Grimly to be noted, this report continues, are that the statistics for the nearly 5,000 people killed by American police officers in the past decade, including 587 killed in 2012 alone, may not even be the true total of these deaths as a study of killings by police from 1999 to 2002 in the Central Florida region found that US national databases included only one-fourth of the number of persons killed by police as reported in the local news media.
To the types of people being targeted by these US police “killing machines,” this report says, are many with disabilities and mental illness, including:
Down Syndrome patient Robert Ethan Saylor, 26, who was brutally straggled to death by 3 Maryland sheriff’s deputies on 12 January and whose last words were cries for his “mommy” to come help him.
To the “kill first” mentality of American police officers this report cites the 29 November 2012 public execution of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams by Cleveland Ohio police officers, who for daring to flee from police after a traffic stop were chased by 104 police officers for 25-minutes and then gunned down in a hail of 137 bullets.
Even though 63 of the 104 Cleveland police officers were suspended for the execution of Russell and Williams, this report says, no officers in the killing of Saylor or the shooting of Bennett have been charged.
In fact, this report states, the lack of American authorities holding their police officers responsible for killing of innocents is virtually unheard of in the United States and has caused this unprecedented “explosion” of police violence.
Equally to be blamed, this report continues, are America’s wars over the past 12-years that has filled its police departments with veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who have yet to acclimate to civilian life and are, in essence, still in “combat mode.”
Two of the many examples cited in this report of this “combat mode” mentality held by American police officers include:
Allen Hicks, in 2012, who was arrested by Tampa Florida police officers for “not following orders” and was thrown into a jail cell where he was later found to be having a stroke, and which a few months later he died from in hospital.
Elliott Williams, in 2011, who was arrested by Tulsa Oklahoma police officers on a minor charge and was left in his jail cell for 5 days until he died, all the while being neglected and his health ignored.
What’s even worse, this MFA report warns, is that this unprecedented “killing spree” US police officers are now on is only going to get worse as these once honored guardians of the peace have become more militarized.
And as further warned about the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): “American neighborhoods are increasingly being policed by cops armed with the weapons and tactics of war.”
To if the Obama regime will attempt to stop this police “killing spree,” this report concludes, it does not appear likely as President Obama has just nominated as his new Homeland Security Secretary former Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson, and who has said, “US citizens do not have immunity from assassination when they are at war with the United States.”
And to whom these Obama regime leaders feel they are “at war” with, the MFA says, was recently revealed in US Court documents relating to a lawsuit against the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which shockingly revealed that the invasive personal searches conducted by them upon their own citizens has nothing to do with preventing terrorism, but is, instead, designed to make these people as compliant to police authority as possible.
Note: this is a cross post from my legal blog, 10 Guilty Men.
The Sixth Circuit has issued a fascinating decision. In Schulz v. Gendregske, the Sixth Circuit held that “no clearly established law compels the conclusion that officers who neither arrested the plaintiff nor swore false statements in a warrant affidavit can be liable for false arrest.” In other words, the Sixth Circuit has held that it is not clearly established that police can’t suborn perjury without falling afoul of the Fourth Amendment. As a result, the errant officers were entitled to Qualified Immunity:
Here, no clearly established law compels the conclusion that officers who neither arrested the plaintiff nor swore false statements in a warrant affidavit can be liable for false arrest… . Thus, Gendregske is entitled to qualified immunity on Schulz’s false-arrest claim.
Gendregske and his partner McDowell were the two agents who investigated Schulz’s property. Gendregske was intimately involved in the initial investigation that led to the affidavit for a search warrant and subsequent arrest. In other words, either Gendregske or McDowell could have written the affidavit or applied for the arrest warrant.
Furthermore, Gendregske could have basically spoonfed relevant infomation to McDowell, while McDowell essentially served as a scrivener. In such a case, the practical wall of separation between both officers in terms of who is “making the false arrest” is tenuous, to say the least.
To the casual observer, this decision makes sense. How can you sue someone for false arrest that didn’t actually arrest you? Gendregske, the officer in question, isn’t the one who arrested Schulz. So why is she suing Gendregske for false arrest? It makes no sense! The glove doesn’t fit! Case closed!
But upon closer inspection, this decision borders on self parody. This case demonstrates, in plain English, the problem with Fourth Amendment case law as established by the precedents of the last 50 years. The following quote from the court’s decision drives home the point:
We have never held that an officer who is neither the arresting officer nor the proponent of the warrant can be liable for false arrest. See, e.g., Voyticky v. Vill. of Timberlake, Ohio, 412 F.3d
669, 677 (6th Cir. 2005) (“A false arrest claim under federal law requires a plaintiff to prove that the arresting officer lacked probable cause to arrest the plaintiff.”).
You see? So long as the officer who lied to get the arrest warrant is not the officer who actually arrests the defendant, the police are in the clear. Officer A can lie to get the arrest warrant, hand it off to officer B to make the arrest, and officer B has no liability for the arrest, because officer B’s reliance on the arrest warrant will be “objectively reasonable” so long as the warrant isn’t obviously defective on its face. And even bold-faced lies aren’t always obvious.
It is hornbook law that a person who aids or encourages another person to commit a crime has accomplice liability—meaning that he or she can be charged with the same crime, despite the fact that he or she did not actually commit the crime themselves. It is also hornbook law that if two or more people act to cause me injury, both of them will be liable to me for damages in Tort.
But according to the Sixth Circuit, neither of these analogous situations apply to the officers who “massaged” the facts of their supporting affidavit to the magistrate judge. So the conspirator may thus escape liability for the principal’s Constitutional violation—a result that could only happen in a case involving government officials. Qualified Immunity never seems to disappoint.
This is the direction that Fourth Amendment case law has been going in for some time. The turning point was United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984). In this case, the Court reasoned that the Exclusionary Rule did not apply in cases where officers reasonably rely in good faith on a search warrant that they later discover is defective. What constitutes reasonable reliance? Basically, as long as a warrant isn’t scribbled in crayon, you’re good:
“[S]earches pursuant to a warrant will rarely require any deep inquiry into reasonableness,” Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. at 267 (WHITE, J., concurring in judgment), for “a warrant issued by a magistrate normally suffices to establish” that a law enforcement officer has “acted in good faith in conducting the search.” United States v. Ross,456 U.S. 798, 823, n. 32 (1982).
But even despite all this, the Court adds:
Suppression therefore remains an appropriate remedy if the magistrate or judge in issuing a warrant was misled by information in an affidavit that the affiant knew was false or would have known was false except for his reckless disregard of the truth. Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978).
This is why the Sixth Circuit’s decision makes no sense. It is absolutely clearly established that the police can’t mislead a magistrate when submitting an affidavit for a warrant. Both of the officers in this case were involved in the investigation that led to the creation of an affidavit that laid the basis for Schulz’s arrest warrant. But since the law does not recognize the intimate relationship between the two officers involved in Schulz’s case, there is no “clearly established” claim for false arrest. The fact that this encourages police to engage in gamesmanship to dodge accountability for dishonest police work doesn’t matter.
But wait! Says the Sixth Circuit—you could have brought this as a malicious prosecution claim instead!
Schulz’s alleged facts might be a better fit with a malicious prosecution claim, as “existing cases do indicate that an officer may be responsible for commencing a criminal proceedings against a plaintiff, where the officer made, influenced, or participated in the decision to prosecute.” Sykes, 625 F.3d at 311 (internal quotation marks and alteration omitted). But Schulz did not sue Gendregske for malicious prosecution.
You see? Schulz simply brought the wrong cause of action. If only she had pled her legal theories correctly, everything would be hunky dorey.
This is good advice, but it’s also a cop-out. It’s good advice because it teaches the Plaintiff—or more specifically, her lawyers—to be more diligent about pleading every potential cause of action. But it’s a cop-out because the Fourth Amendment clearly does not condone police “massaging” the facts in an affidavit in order to get a magistrate to sign off on a probable cause determination. What the Sixth Circuit claims is not “clearly established” is actually a bedrock Constitutional principle. To claim otherwise is to say that police are allowed to play fast and loose with the facts when submitting warrant applications to the magistrate. No judge worth their salt would ever say that is ok. So why does the Sixth Circuit say it was ok here?
Because the logic of cases like United States v. Leon says they can. It’s not about keeping the police honest. It’s about making sure the criminal doesn’t go free because the constable has blundered. Under today’s Fourth Amendment, keeping police accountable is far less important than making sure that no bad deed goes unpunished. If the police start regularly violating our civil rights in the process, tough.
A properly functioning justice system places deference on protecting the innocent. It’s Blackstone’s formulation: better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.
What the courts have held here is the complete opposite. Here, innocents are merely collateral damage in the hunt to punish bad guys… unless the bad guys are part of the state apparatus itself.
The factors that allegedly justify police intrusion into David Eckert’s anus are:
- That his hands were shaking and he avoided eye contact during a traffic stop;
- He refused to consent to a search of his person;
- He stood erect with his legs together;
- No drugs were found in his car or in a pat-down of him (police pat-downs for weapons often turn up drugs, which mysteriously feel like dangerous weapons when touched by police, or which are immediately identifiable as drugs when touched by police);
- A drug dog (with no information given about the dog’s training or qualifications or success rate) “alerted” to his car seat (though no drugs were found in his car); and
- An unidentified Hidalgo County K-9 officer asserted, without any specificity, that Eckert had previously hidden drugs in his anus.
That’s all. It really comes down to three things: (1) subjective officer impressions that Eckert looked nervous, (2) a dog alerting on his seat, and (3) an unnamed cop making an unspecific claim that he had previously hidden drugs in his anus.
The first factor is smoke and mirrors. It is increasingly clear in America that a reasonable person should be fearful during an encounter with police, who can generally shoot you (or your dog) with probable impunity, and who, it appears, can arrange for you to be systematically anally raped if the mood strikes them. My hands would shake too.
The second factor — the dog alert — has its own problems, but at any rate does not connect drugs to Mr. Eckert’s anus. The third factor is effectively an anonymous tip. The affiant, Officer Chavez, does not identify the officer, explain the basis for the officer’s knowledge, or offer any details about the alleged instances in which drugs were found in Mr. Eckert’s anus. Anonymous tips must be corroborated to support probable cause, and this effectively anonymous tip isn’t.
Mr. Eckert asserts that drugs were never found in his anus by any law enforcement agency. If true, that suggests someone lied – the K-9 officer who allegedly told Officer Chavez that, or Officer Chavez. A warrant premised on material false information is invalid. In deciding whether false information was provided to the court to secure the warrant, consider this: the Hidalgo County K-9 officer’s report on the incident here doesn’t mention any such knowledge about Eckertand doesn’t say he conveyed any such information to Officer Chavez. Do you think that would have made it into his report if he had? …
Some people are citing this incident for the proposition that it is terrifying that police officers and doctors would break the law and violate a suspect’s rights. I submit there is something far more terrifyingabout it: the prospect that a court might find that Mr. Eckert’s rightsweren’t violatedat all, and that he has no recourse for a team of cops and doctors raping and torturing him.
What’s terrifying is that the warrant requirement is supposed to protect our rights from overzealous cops, but here a judge approved a warrant to probe a man anally premised on fluff an a tip from an anonymous cop.
What’s terrifying is that lawyers are supposed to guide cops in the law, but a Deputy DA approved this warrant.
What’s terrifying is that thought the warrant is extraordinarily flimsy, there’s a decent chance a judge might find it sufficient. That’s because the judiciary has been steadily ground down by decades of law-and-order thin-blue-line rhetoric and by the purported imperatives of the Great War on Drugs, and judges routinely shrug and accept transparently bogus police speculation and awful warrants.
What’s terrifying is that a judge who has bought the government’s narrative may, employing the balancing test Prof. Kerr talks about, decide that the amount of drugs that can be hidden in a man’s rectum justifies detaining him, X-raying him, repeatedly digitally probing him, and despite a total lack of indication he is carrying drugs, sedating him and subjecting him to a colonoscopy.
What’s terrifying is that the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is only as strong as judges allow it to be — and, by extension, only as strong as We the Peopleinsistthat it must be. We the People are easily frightened into agreeing that the promise of safety outweighs the Fourth Amendment. As Learned Hand said:
Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there, it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it.
I’m not afraid because police officers violated David Eckert’s constitutional rights by raping and torturing him because they thought he might have a trivial amount of drugs.
I’m afraid that they might not have violated his rights as defined by the courts, because we have allowed those rights to wither away out of fear and indifference.
The government will continue to act like that until we decide, collectively, that a government that would rape and torture a man to find a fistful of drugs is not worthy of our allegiance, obedience, or respect. The government will continue to act like that until we say “enough.”
This was rape, pure and simple. Anyone attempting to rape an innocent deserves to be stopped, with violent force if necessary. That is to say, if people were attempting to rape me or a loved one, it would be completely just and right to use force - even lethal force, if necessary - against said rapists in defense.
But here, the rapists are agents of the state. And the state claims a legal monopoly on force. We’ve seen countless videos of police scrums beating people to the shouts of “Stop resisting!” even when they are not actually resisting. Which means actual resistance, even justified resistance against rapists, would not fare very well.
But this will keep happening and escalating as long as the public allows it.
Since the billboard went up this month, District prosecutors have been worried that the message could sway their cases. In the past week alone, they have asked judges in three cases to ensure that jurors had neither seen nor been influenced by the billboard.
The billboard is part of a growing national campaign to encourage jurors who disagree with a law, or think a punishment is too harsh, to vote for acquittal. Kirsten Tynan of the Montana-based Fully Informed Jury Association, whose name and Web address is included on the billboard, said the nonprofit group generally challenges crimes it calls “victimless,” such as
vandalism by graffitior gun possession.
James Babb, a Philadelphia-based graphics artist who organized a fundraising campaign to put up the billboard, said he raised $3,000 in about a week through Facebook and other social-media sites. He said he is concerned about laws that he thinks are too restrictive.
“People are going to jail for weed,” Babb said. “Things are getting so weird. There needs to be this final safeguard to protect us from a tyrannical government.”
Prosecutors are clearly upset that their illegitimately claimed authority to harass and aggress against violators of victim-less crimes is being challenged.
The billboard reads:
No victim? No crime.
Know your rights!
- You may, and should, vote your conscience
- You cannot be forced to obey a “juror’s oath.”
- You have the right to “hang” the jury with your vote if you cannot agree with other jurors!
Good jurors nullify bad laws.
Google: “Jury Nullification”
I like it.
(Edit: Vandalism is not a victimless crime, particularly vandalism of non-government property.)
The high cost, frequent mistakes, and overwhelming power that capital punishment gives the state is not limited to Texas. Nationally, more than 140 people have been wrongfully convicted and released from death rows since 1976 while many others were most likely wrongfully executed. This program comes at a cost that greatly exceeds life-without-parole. Too often this increased cost is passed down to citizens in the form of additional taxation or public debt. …
The framework that governs the death penalty guarantees dysfunction. Elected prosecutors are given broad discretion to decide to seek a death sentence or not — regardless of the wishes of the victim or victim’s family members. Political, rather than moral or legal, considerations sometimes drive elected officials to pursue a death sentence. Even the juries are designed to support the death penalty. If a prosecutor seeks capital punishment, then a person who opposes the death penalty is generally not permitted to serve on that jury. If that alone isn’t problematic enough, the appeals process that is currently in place is there not to introduce new evidence but to ensure the convicted was given a fair initial trial. It remains incredibly difficult to introduce new evidence. This framework favors the death penalty and the will of the government over protecting the rights of the people.
The current system not only has permitted junk science to be used as evidence, but the government’s willingness to accept, use, and defend unscientific evidence and unreliable expert testimony is appalling. This has contributed to major failures and produced wrongful convictions. Even when it is known that much of the “forensic science” is more of an art than a science, juries have not been informed of the subjective nature.
The authority to put US citizens to death is an immense power enjoyed by American governments, and great power opens the door to great abuse. In an effort to prevent further failures and abuse, the government has implemented changes to the death penalty process, which make it exorbitantly expensive, to attempt to limit future catastrophes. Even with these changes, it is still a failure.
The death penalty’s inception may not be based on nefarious schemes and likely comes out of a desire to ensure justice and safety. However, the government’s monopoly on criminal justice proceedings and its insulation from responsibility when the system fails, are at the root of the system’s failures. If we wish to limit the power of the state, the state’s death penalty may be a good place to start.
As recently as five years ago, American corrections officials almost uniformly denied that rape in prison was a widespread problem. When we at Just Detention International—an organization aimed at preventing the sexual abuse of inmates—recounted stories of people we knew who had been raped in prison, we were told either that these men and women were exceptional cases, or simply that they were liars. But all this has changed. …
What we have now that we didn’t then is good data. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), an agency within the Justice Department, has conducted a series of studies of the problem based on anonymous surveys that, between them, have reached hundreds of thousands of inmates. Those who agreed to take the surveys, without being informed in advance of the subject, spent an average of thirty-five minutes responding to questions on a computer touchscreen, with synchronized audio instructions given through headsets. The officials in charge either positioned themselves so they couldn’t see the computer screens or left the room.
The consistency of the findings from these surveys is overwhelming. The same factors that put inmates at risk of sexual abuse show up again and again, as do the same patterns of abuse involving race and gender, inmates and guards. Prison officials used to say that inmates were fabricating their claims in order to cause trouble. But then why, for example, do whites keep reporting higher levels of inmate-on-inmate sexual abuse than blacks? Is there some cultural difference causing white inmates to invent more experiences of abuse (or else causing blacks to hide what they are suffering)? If so, then why do blacks keep reporting having been sexually abused by their guards at higher rates than whites? The more closely one looks at these studies, the more persuasive their findings become. Very few corrections professionals now publicly dispute them.
The BJS has just released a third edition of its National Inmate Survey (NIS), which covers prisons and jails, and a second edition of its National Survey of Youth in Custody (NSYC). These studies confirm some of the most important findings from earlier surveys—among others, the still poorly understood fact that an extraordinary number of female inmates and guards commit sexual violence. They also reveal new aspects of a variety of problems, including (1) the appalling (though, from state to state, dramatically uneven) prevalence of sexual misconduct by staff members in juvenile detention facilities; (2) the enormous and disproportionate number of mentally ill inmates who are abused sexually; and (3) the frequent occurrence of sexual assault in military detention facilities. …
The new studies confirm previous findings that most of those who commit sexual abuse in detention are corrections staff, not inmates. That is true in all types of detention facilities, but especially in juvenile facilities. The new studies also confirm that most victims are abused repeatedly during the course of a year. In juvenile facilities, victims of sexual misconduct by staff members were more likely to report eleven or more instances of abuse than a single, isolated occurrence. By far the two biggest risk factors for sexual abuse in all kinds of detention facilities are being “non-heterosexual,” as the BJS puts it, and having a history of sexual victimization that predates the inmate’s current incarceration.
As in previous studies, the rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual abuse reported by women were dramatically higher than the corresponding rates reported by men: among prisoners, 6.9 percent versus 1.7 percent. Men, on the other hand, reported higher rates than women of sexual misconduct by staff members (most of which is committed by staff of the opposite sex), and in juvenile detention, boys reported much higher rates of abuse by staff than girls did—most, again, committed by women.
In our experience, many people do not take sexual abuse committed by women as seriously as abuse committed by men. That includes many corrections officers. We have often heard staff members in women’s facilities refer dismissively to “cat fights” among the inmates and to the tendency of female inmates to replicate “family structures” inside prison. (In one such structure, for example, a woman assumes the role of “protective husband” in return for sexual favors.) But if such family structures involve sexual abuse, then this is a serious human rights issue. Rape by women is just as much of a violation as rape by men, and corrections authorities must start treating it accordingly.
"Why Are So Many Violent Criminals Walking Free?"
Yet another consequences of the failed War on Drugs.
Three federal judges overseeing California’s prison system granted the state a four-week extension to get the prison population down to 137.5% capacity. In 2011, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Brown v Plata that the “court-mandated population limit is necessary to remedy the violation of prisoners’ constitutional rights.” In the two years since the ruling, California has scrambled to figure out how to reduce the prison population from a high of 144,000 to a constitutionally acceptable figure of approximately 110,000 inmates. The prison population is currently around 120,000, not including over 8,500 in out-of-state contracted facilities or thousands of others working in fire camps. California now has until the end of January 2014 to meet the court order.
They could start by releasing everyone in prison for non-violent drug possession. Ending the war on drugs, “three strikes” laws, and mandatory minimums would certainly get the ball rolling.
But that presumes that (1) the rights of citizens and (2) saving taxpayer money are actual concerns. In truth, like all government action, the injustice system is catered to extend power and wealth to the state and its cronies. There are too many people getting rich off the system for change to be easy. Sure enough:
Instead of talking about sensible sentencing reform, California approved a $300 million spending bill to authorize the expansion of contract beds in and out-of-state to ease overcrowding.
You can always count on them to spin things in their favor. As with all failed government programs and policies - the solution is always to throw more money at it. Like Obama’s then-chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”
The 85 year old Irwin Schiff is currently being held as a political prisoner in federal prison. The government claims he was spreading false information (through books and video lectures) about the federal income tax, however, they would not allow him to enter his books or lectures into evidence. They claim he was knowingly violating the internal revenue code, however, when they hired a psychiatrist to evaluate him, their psychiatrist concluded he fully believed what he was doing was lawful. The government refused to let their own psychiatrist testify or their conclusions to be entered into evidence. They claim he was evading taxes or hiding income, despite the fact that he was open and honest with his income and all related issues, never attempting to hide income or lie about his income (unlike millions of us do every day), and in fact openly writing and speaking about his views. In fact, the specific legal arguments Schiff made were never refuted or responded to by the prosecution. They never proved his interpretation of the law to be incorrect, and they never proved that he knowingly violated the law.
The 9th circuit court has an atrocious record with regards to individual liberty and state power. I would be surprised if they released this innocent, non-violent 85-year-old from his unjust incarceration.
An unbelievably widespread practice of putting children in solitary confinement (regularly referred to as “protective custody”), often for minor offenses. Simply deplorable.
You should watch this. And it will anger you.
Despite the “reforms” that various governments attempt to make to prisons and guards, none will be as effective as rethinking what constitutes criminal behavior punishable by imprisonment and keeping children out of prison in the first place.
Note: there is a particularly horrific story at about 7 minutes in.