Gawker recently published a letter from Ray Jasper, a death row inmate who was convicted of killing a man named David Mendoza Alejandro. David’s brother, Steven, then published a response to Ray’s letter, which, as you can imagine, casts the contents of Ray’s letter in a decidedly less positive light.
As I was reading through Steven’s letter, several things jumped out at me. First, there was this passage, about when Steven testified at trial regarding his brother David:
After I was sworn in and sat in the chair, the prosecutor handed me a picture of David. It was a postmortem picture. It was a close up of David’s face from the neck up. His eyes still open. The gash from Jasper’s knife visible. I let out a gasp and when the Prosecutor asked me what the picture was of I told him, “it’s my brother, David.” Through tearful testimony, I tried my best to bring my brother back to life in that courtroom. When I got off the stand I reached for my father’s embrace and sobbed as I had never before and have not since.
This is a good example of how prosecutors manipulate the emotions of witnesses in order to inflame the jury. Here is a guy whose brother was recently killed, and the prosecutor, with zero scruples whatsoever, shows the witness a photograph of his brother’s freshly murdered corpse. The prosecutor then proceeds to ask him to talk about his brother while holding the same gruesome photo of his brother’s corpse in his hand. This is outrageous conduct by the prosecutor. There was absolutely no legally compelling reason whatsoever to show Steven a picture of his brother’s murdered corpse. But the prosecutor did it anyway. Because he knew it would upset Steven and make him an emotional mess on the stand. That of course, would make the jurors more likely to convict based on emotion, rather than the evidence.
Another part of the letter that jumped out at me was Steven’s vacillation over the death penalty. When the defense called him to the stand, they tried to get him to testify that he was opposed to the Death Penalty, but he refused to admit it, even though he actually does oppose the Death Penalty. David wrote the following after recounting his testimony:
After everything, I’m still opposed to the death penalty. I have no intention of witnessing Jasper’s execution but I have no intention of fighting to stop it either. Does this make me a hypocrite? Maybe, but that’s for me to live with. I harbor no illusions that Jasper’s ceasing to exist will ameliorate the pain I feel daily from the loss of David. The truth is I rarely think of Jasper or the other defendants. I think of David more. Those thoughts are more important to me than anything else. Certainly more important than any last statement from Ray Jasper. Though I purposefully skipped reading Jasper’s statement, I did read through the comments. I have to say to my fellow death penalty opponent friends: Keep up your fight. It is an honorable one. But do not use this man, Ray Jasper, as your spokesperson, as your example of why the death penalty should be abolished. The death penalty should be abolished because it is wrong to kill another human being. Not because a Medical Examiner said your knife wound did not cause immediate death. Ray Jasper is not worthy of your good and kind hearts. He has never accepted culpability or expressed remorse. He is responsible for viciously ending the life of “the nicest man he ever met.” Responsible for ending the life of the nicest man my family ever met, David Mendoza Alejandro.
As the family member of a murder victim, Steven Alejandro is certainly entitled to feel whatever way he feels about his brother’s death, and about Ray Jasper’s fate. But I think he’s making a categorical error in reasoning when he tells us that it’s wrong to kill another human being, and also says that Ray Jasper is not worthy of our good and kind hearts.
There are two types of arguments against the Death Penalty. One of them is procedural, and the other is ethical. The procedural argument against the Death Penalty is that human beings are flawed, and thus, so are human institutions. Even if we agree that some people deserve to die, the State is incapable of reliably making those determinations. So procedurally, the Death Penalty can never be effectively implemented without an intolerable risk of injustice.
The ethical argument against the Death Penalty is different. The ethical argument claims that even if we could reliably determine the guilt of persons accused of Capital Crimes, the Death Penalty should still be abolished, because all human beings have fundamental human dignity and inherent value. Nobody is capable of forfeiting their inherent value through their actions or omissions. As Steven Alejandro said in his letter, “The death penalty should be abolished because it is wrong to kill another human being,” i.e. it is wrong no matter what the circumstances. Even if the person you are killing has murdered someone you care about.
That’s the fundamental difference between someone who supports the Death Penalty, and someone who wants it abolished on ethical grounds. A person who wants the Death Penalty abolished needs to be able to look the killer of a loved one in the eye with a straight face, and say “you don’t deserve to die.” It is certainly difficult to maintain this conviction when faced with the violent loss of a loved one. And it is completely understandable that a person’s conviction might flag when a prosecutor is manipulating your emotions on the stand.
But it is wrong to say that you oppose the Death Penalty, while also stating that the people most likely to benefit from abolishing it (e.g. Ray Jasper) are not worth the good and kind heart of abolitionists. Ray Jasper is a far more realistic version of the type of people who will benefit most from Death Penalty abolition than the unspoken alternative Steven Alejandro has in mind. Indeed, Jasper does not seem to be the same selfish, violent 19-year old that participated in the robbery and murder of Steven Alejandro’s brother, demonstrating that even murderers are not beyond change and redemption. But even if this wasn’t true, Jasper would still be an acceptable spokesperson for Death Penalty abolition. If the ethical argument against the Death Penalty doesn’t hold up in Ray Jasper’s case, then it really doesn’t hold up at all.
“The International Center for Prison Studies estimates that America imprisons 716 people per 100,000 citizens (of any age). That’s significantly worse than Russia (484 prisoners per 100,000 citizens), China (121) and Iran (284). The only country that incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than we do is North Korea. The U.S. is also the only developed country that executes prisoners – and our death penalty has a serious race problem: 42 percent of those on death row are black, compared to less than 15 percent of the overall population.”—Sean McElwee
Imagine you’re a young white guy facing capital murder charges where you can receive the death penalty… the victim in the case is a black man… when you go to trial and step into the courtroom… the judge is a black man… the two State prosecutors seeking the death penalty on you… are also black men… you couldn’t afford an attorney, so the Judge appointed you two defense lawyers who are also black men… you look in the jury box… there’s 8 more black people and 4 hispanics… the only white person in the courtroom is you… How would you feel facing the death penalty? Do you believe you’ll receive justice?
As outside of the box as that scene is, those were the exact circumstances of my trial. I was the only black person in the courtroom.
”—Ray Jasper, Texas death row inmate who will be executed this month.
One of the more frightening prospects about America’s wars overseas is how many war crimes are committed that we’ll never hear about. Here’s a veteran recalling his experiences overseas, from HONY:
"It took me getting into a lot of fights before I was diagnosed with PTSD. I have something called ‘hypervigilance.’ I get really nervous around people. Especially people from the Middle East."
"What were some traumatic things that happened to you?"
"I was in a vehicle when a mortar round exploded in front of us, and we fell into the crater and got trapped. There was a burning oil rig near us, so it was like being in a microwave. And we couldn’t get out. And I also saw a lot of hanky shit. Mostly from our side. Everyone was really revved up from 9/11. We did a lot of bad things. I saw decapitations, and that was our guys doing it.”
"We were supposed to bring POW’s back to the base. But instead we gave them a cigarette to calm them down, and told them to get on their knees. One of our guys was 240 lbs, and he’d taken this shovel we’d been issued, and he’d sharpened one of the sides until it was like an axe, and he could take off somebody’s head with two hits."
"How many times did you see that happen?"
When people are placed in inhumanly stressful situations, they can succumb to their darker influences and do terrible things. But whether you view the soldiers who commit these terrible acts as evil or victims of circumstance, it remains true that America’s political discourse sanitizes this reality with the language of patriotism. There is a brand of hero worship associated with soldiers that plays a role in covering these stories up. The idea that all soldiers are heroes makes it harder for us to acknowledge that some of our “heroes” are actually committing war crimes, and they should be held accountable, not praised for their service.
Yesterday I published an article on Rare about institutional racism, the drug war, Stand Your Ground laws, and liberty.
It got…mixed reviews, to put it mildly. While some decided it was the best thing since sliced bread, others were pretty convinced it was awful (one review simply said, “Absolutely terrible”) — sometimes because of genuine disagreement, and sometimes because perhaps I wasn’t as clear as I could have been.
Most of the Facebook discussion, of course, devolved into name-calling which had absolutely nothing to do with me or the topic at hand. My husband, meanwhile, drew me a diagram on an index card to explain what he thought was wrong with my argument (funnily, it was actually the most data-based critique I got).
But enough about that. The internet may be forever, but everyone on it has a very, very short memory (as long as you’re not running for President).
Since I’ve gotten a couple messages in the wake of that post asking about how I respond to criticism in general/articles which don’t go over well, this seems like a good time to re-share some comments I made just over a year ago in response to a question about dealing with disagreement in blogging:
1. Say what you think.
2. Make sure you say it sincerely, as graciously as possible, and with lots of good sources to back up your claims. If you use a cold tone or don’t document your facts well, you’re inviting criticism and disagreement. It’s fine to write forcefully and make a fierce argument, but don’t say or do anything you wouldn’t say or do in person. In short: Make your personality as a writer a complement to your ideas, not a distraction.
3. Always be open to the possibility that you are wrong or haven’t heard all sides of the story. Just today I posted a correction from another blogger to a post I made which didn’t present an accurate picture in its first version.
4. If people respond to your opinions, that’s great! That means you’ve expressed yourself clearly and strongly enough to spark conversation. Read the responses as much as possible.
5. But here’s the thing: Not all responses are equal. Regardless of whether the person responding agrees with you or not, their input may or may not be any good. If another blogger responds with thoughtful criticisms of your arguments, you might want to take the time to reply. You don’t have to if you don’t have time or are feeling sick that day or just don’t feel like it, but it’s good if you do.
However, if someone responds with little more than curses and name calling, I’d advise ignoring it. If they are particularly crude or do this sort of thing repeatedly, you can even block them—and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Because let’s be realistic: Other bloggers with whom you actually want to build an online relationship—bloggers whose opinions are respected and valued, even where they’re not shared—are not going to be the ones replying to you with a stream of pointless, misspelled profanity. They’re just not, and you don’t need to spend time feeling bad about yourself or your opinions because someone got angry and couldn’t be bothered to engage you in actual dialogue.
The good news is that after a while, if you consistently focus on being polite, firm, and dedicated to the issues rather than attacking other people, you won’t get much of the bad kind of negative feedback at all.
6. Talk to the bloggers who you would like to have talking to you, and build yourself a friendly community. Share posts from writers you like, and—and this is crucial if they have big follower counts—add your own commentary. This will help them become familiar with you. If you don’t add commentary, you’re just one in the line of dozens of reblogs and you won’t be noticed.
In fact, reblogging with commentary is maybe a good way to start building confidence about posting (to circle back to your original question). It’s kind of a lower pressure situation, I think, than originating posts.
Also, use tagging to your advantage. If you want to say something against gun control, for instance, tag it “libertarian” or “Second Amendment,” not “gun nuts” or “progressive.” You’re going to draw a different crowd depending on the tags you use, and it’s ok to play it safe while you’re just getting started.
At any rate, hopefully this is helpful. Best of luck!
To this I’d make one addition: If you’re publishing for an audience which isn’t ”your” audience — followers who have gotten to know you over the years and are willing to assume the best even if they disagree with a particular post — feel free to skip the latter half of #4. It will take some willpower, but just don’t read the comments section. I promise it’s the best choice.
LTMC: I concur with the addition. If you try to respond to every negative critique of things that you’ve written, you’ll drive yourself crazy. You’ll also get nothing done. I’ve definitely had the experience of sitting down to write a lengthy response to someone’s critique of my ideas, and then an hour later, I think, “what the hell am I doing?” And I close the computer and walked out into the sunshine.
Basically, anyone who gets a decent size readership on the internet is gonna occasionally catch flak for what they write. Sometimes you just have to be confident that your take is more persuasive and give yourself a break. Being judicious about when to respond to criticism is definitely a very important skill for people who write. Sometimes it’s worth the effort. Other times, simply letting it be and moving on is usually better for your mental health and productivity.
What did you mean, that "works of Ayn Rand" are "not technically libertarian"? Or were you referring exclusively to Orwell in that remark?
Ayn Rand was personally extremely clear that she was not a libertarian. For example, she said:
[Libertarians] are not defenders of capitalism. They’re a group of publicity seekers who rush into politics prematurely, because they allegedly want to educate people through a political campaign, which can’t be done. Further, their leadership consists of men of every persuasion, from religious conservatives to anarchists. Most of them are my enemies: they spend their time denouncing me, while plagiarizing my ideas. Now it’s a bad sign for an allegedly pro-capitalist party to start by stealing ideas.
[L]ibertarians are a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people: they plagiarize my ideas when that fits their purpose, and denounce me in a more vicious manner than any communist publication when that fits their purpose. They’re lower than any pragmatists, and what they hold against Objectivism is morality. They want an amoral political program.
So, out of respect to Rand’s own wishes and my personal emphasis on noninterventionist foreign policy as a key part of libertarianism, I don’t refer to Rand and Objectivism as “libertarian.” Liberty-friendly, yes (and of course all my love to my Objectivist followers), but not libertarian.
“The Supreme Court cannot allow a rule that forces capital defense attorneys to become agents of the state—and consultants about which lethal injection procedures are better than others—to the detriment of their clients.”—
Andrew Cohen, discussing a recent 8th Circuit decision that forces defense attorneys to propose “alternative” executions for clients when they challenge an existing execution method as Cruel & Unusual. He adds:
The best answer here, naturally, is the simplest one. Make the injection process more transparent, and give attorneys access to the information they seek, so that they can challenge state action based upon facts and evidence and not merely by allegation.
Here’s an interesting case. Meagan Simmons was arrested in 2010 on DUI charges. It’s not clear from media reports whether she plead guilty or went to trial. Nonetheless, a judgment of conviction was entered against her, and she was given probation. Afterwards, she was sent on her way.
What makes this otherwise unremarkable case unique is that Simmons’ face quickly became an internet sensation after someone found her face in a public arrest records database. Simmons is a fairly attractive woman. Whoever saw her mugshot thought her photo was remarkable (mugshots are usually very unflattering), and posted it on the internet. Her mugshot went viral, becoming a meme known as the "Attractive Convict."
Now, thousands of people across the country know that Meagan Simmons was arrested for DUI—not exactly a flattering resume builder. What should have been a routine criminal proceeding became a publicity nightmare because the public has direct access to the arrest records database in her home town.
Simmons originally took her newfound celebrity with good humor. She was flattered by the positive attention, notwithstanding the dubious context. But she recently decided that she’d had enough after a website called InstantCheckmate (which aggregates public arrest record data) used her mugshot in an advertisement. She is now suing for wrongful appropriation of her likeness.
This case conjures up a couple issues. The first is the way in which the “Attractive convict” meme sheds light on the sociology of crime. We all have this image of a “criminal” as a mean, dirty, anti-social, violent, ugly creature. The stigma attached to criminality has been morphed into a cultural boogeyman of sorts. In the mythology of criminal justice, the “mugshot” is the penultimate photographic translation of what “crime” looks like. So when people suddenly see an attractive person in a mug shot, it shocks their expectations. A conventionally attractive woman like Meagan Simmons bears no resemblance to the abstract dirty image of the “criminal” that society attributes to people accused of violating the law.
But the second and more important issue is the way in which public arrest records damage the presumption of innocence. Making these photos available before a person has been found guilty of anything is damaging to their reputation. Often these photos remain in the public domain even after a person is acquitted or charges dropped. A college student named Lewis Little recently discovered this after he was mistakenly arrested after he reported seeing a dead body in the street. A local news station reports at the link above: ”The stigma continues for Little. All he just has to do is search for his name on the Internet, where his mug shot and numerous stories about his arrest show up.” It doesn’t matter that he was innocent and the charges were dropped a month later. His mugshot and the bad press are still in the ether.
You could argue that Little’s case is different than Simmons, because Simmons was actually convicted. But most media outlets are not reporting the specific details of her case. We don’t know, for example, if she decided to take a plea in exchange for a more lenient sentence, despite any flaws in the Government’s case. The criminal justice system is set up to encourage people to plead guilty, even if they are innocent.
Furthermore, Simmons is now being stalked and harassed by people around the globe. As a mother, she now has to worry about her children’s safety. By making the details of her case public, the State is de facto subjecting her to a punishment that no law provides for, and no law enforcement official could otherwise legally subject her to.
As I write this, Meagan Simmons’ mugshot is still easy to find on public arrest databases. Lewis Little’s mugshot is still around too. While it is important for Government documents to be available to the public, this is one case where the Government’s “open access” policy is doing a lot of harm to a vulnerable class of citizens. It should bother us that we live in a country where the Government doesn’t want us to know whether it is spying on us illegally, but the Government has no problem immediately releasing your face to the public after you’ve been arrested.
At the very least, arrest records should be sealed until a judgment of conviction is entered. Given the nature of the internet, there’s no “unreleasing” a person’s mugshot or arrest records after it’s been released to the public. If the presumption of innocence means anything, it means not having to worry about getting your name dragged around in the mud because of the Government’s misplaced priorities.
“Our grievous error was in allowing the narcotics addict to be pushed out of society and relegated to the criminal community. He isn’t a criminal. He never has been. And nobody looked on him as such until the furious blitzkrieg launched around 1918 in connection with the enforcement of the Harrison Act. […] All the billions our society has spent enforcing criminal measures against the addict have had the sole practical result of protecting the [drug dealer’s] market, artificially inflating his prices, and keeping his profits fantastically high. No other nation hounds its addicts as we do, and no other nation faces anything remotely resembling our problem.”—Rufus King, Chairman of the American Bar Association, from 62 YALE Law Journal, Pages 784-7 (1953).
So this is pretty dumb. Breitbart.com is pretty clearly trying to suggest here that Sarah Palin was saying some sort of foreign policy sooth when she suggested that Russia would invade the Ukraine if Obama was elected. A few questions for the editorial staff:
The U.S. Government has already denounced Russia’s invasion of Crimea. What would a McCain-Palin administration have done differently? Impose economic sanctions? Go the U.N. Security Council? U.S. trade with Russia only accounts for about $26 billion dollars in imports, with a trade deficit in Russia’s favor of about $15.8 billion. That’s less than 1% of Russia’s GDP. And neither the U.N. Security Council nor the General Assembly are ever going to approve sanctions against Russia. So what’s the alternative? Bomb Moscow?
Russia is taking advantage of political instability in the Ukraine that occurred after the current President abused his authority. What policies could an American President realistically have enacted to prevent this situation from occurring? Should we station American troops on the Ukrainian border and start another Cold War? What if the Ukrainian public refused to allow U.S. troops in their borders?
If the McCain-Palin ticket was elected, what would the administration have done differently to prevent this situation from occurring? Threaten to invade Russia?
In reality, Palin’s comments are just an example of the old saying that even a broken clock is right twice a day. Which is, of course, not due to any particular virtue of the clock, or the insight of the clockmaker. Palin was rightfully mocked for saying this because the implied causes and effects of her statement don’t bear any relation to reality. It would be like me predicting in 2000 that the financial markets would suffer a catastrophic crash if George W. Bush was elected—despite the fact that there’s no evidence that the markets wouldn’t have crashed under Al Gore or John Kerry. It’s not genuine insight. It’s coincidence parading as wisdom.
"Void For Vagueness:" The Importance Of Clarity In The Law
In 1972, the United States Supreme Court decided a case called Papachristou v. Jacksonville, which struck down a vagrancy ordinance in the city of Jacksonville, which prohibited numerous vaguely-defined activities that were difficult to separate from ordinary, innocent conduct. The Court summarized them thusly:
The Jacksonville ordinance makes criminal activities which by modern standards are normally innocent. "Nightwalking" is one. Florida construes the ordinance not to make criminal one night’s wandering, Johnson v. State, 202 So.2d, at 855, only the “habitual” wanderer or, as the ordinance describes it, “common night walkers.” We know, however, from experience that sleepless people often walk at night, perhaps hopeful that sleep-inducing relaxation will result.
Luis Munoz-Marin, former Governor of Puerto Rico, commented once that "loafing" was a national virtue in his Commonwealth and that it should be encouraged. It is, however, a crime in Jacksonville.
"[P]ersons able to work but habitually living upon the earnings of their wives or minor children" - like habitually living “without visible means of support” - might implicate unemployed pillars of the community who have married rich wives.
"[P]ersons able to work but habitually living upon the earnings of their wives or minor children" may also embrace unemployed people out of the labor market, by reason of a recession or disemployed by reason of technological or so-called structural displacements.
Persons “wandering or strolling” from place to place … "without any lawful purpose or object" may be a trap for innocent acts. Persons “neglecting all lawful business and habitually spending their time by frequenting … places where alcoholic beverages are sold or served” would literally embrace many members of golf clubs and city clubs.
The Court struck these ordinances down as Unconstitutional on the basis that they were “void for vagueness.” The Court reasoned that:
[The ordinance] fails to give a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice that his contemplated conduct is forbidden by the statute, it encourages arbitrary and erratic arrests and convictions, it makes criminal activities that by modern standards are normally innocent, and it places almost unfettered discretion in the hands of the police.
This concept of “void for vagueness” was recently conjured up by a California Appellate Court, who overturned a traffic ticket for a man that was reading Google Maps while stopped at a traffic light:
The 5th District Court of Appeal reversed the case of a Fresno man who was ticketed in January 2012 for looking at a map on his iPhone 4 while stuck in traffic. The driver, Steven Spriggs, challenged the $165 fine.
Spriggs said he wasn’t looking for a free pass, however:
But Spriggs said he’s no champion of those who think they can get away with cruising down the road while staring at their phone or engaging in other such dangerous behavior. Spriggs would like the law that ensnared him to be rewritten so officers can do their job unencumbered.
The danger of vague laws is not simply that they give officers unfettered discretion. These laws are also difficult for police to enforce, because it’s difficult for police to meaningfully determine what is lawful or unlawful conduct under a vague statute. The end result is that officers either don’t bother to enforce it because they literally don’t know how, or they enforce it overzealously, to the detriment of the public at large.
"Distracted Driving" laws fit this description. They are notoriously difficult to enforce, because they require officers to apprehend conduct that is usually taking place in a fast-moving vehicle, where lawful conduct can easily be confused with unlawful conduct. What constitutes reasonable suspicion here? A glowing screen in the driver’s area? Looking down at one’s lap? How does one distinguish these from ordinary, lawful conduct?
And now that this Court has ruled “looking at Google Maps” permissible, how do police differentiate between a person looking at Google Maps, and a person who is doing…some other distracting thing on their phone? The exception swallows the rule and makes it even more unenforceable than it was before.
The moral of the story is that laws have limits. There are certain types of potentially injurious conduct that criminal laws can’t efficiently reach because it is difficult to write laws that are specific enough for police to meaningfully enforce them without becoming arbitrary or capricious. ”Distracted Driving” is one of them. Unless we give law enforcement officials unfettered discretion to pull over, stop, and charge whomever they choose while enforcing these laws, there’s no way to efficiently prohibit this type of conduct. I’m sure that California legislators will try again, but I highly doubt they will succeed the second time around. I have yet to a statute of this nature that wasn’t somehow problematic.
LTMC: Another example of how the War on Drugs creates incentives for public officials to engage in corruption. From the article:
In another incident the same month, the indictment says, the officers took marijuana [seized during investigations]. Vargas is accused of delivering the pot to two informants and asking them to sell it and split the proceeds with him, Furminger and Robles.
This type of behavior isextremelycommonamongpolice who deal with drug crimes. These officers know that the problem they are policing (drug trafficking) is intractable. So after years of frustration, they figure they might as well get something out of this pointless venture known as drug enforcement. They’ve been staring into the abyss for so long that it started staring back into them.
In 2006, Kelly Vosgien pled guilty to three counts of rape, three counts of sodomy, one count of sexual abuse and three counts of compelling prostitution. The Oregon state court gave him a sentence of 55 years. These charges were brought against Vosgien after he traded cigarettes and money to his daughter and her friend in return for sex. Both girls were minors at the time.
The case had seemingly been put to rest until 2013, when Vosgien applied for habeas relief, claiming “actual innocence” with regard to his previous convictions, paying special attention to the charges of compelling prostitution. Vosgien missed the one-year filing deadline for habeas, but as is common and often imperative with retrials, the appeal was allowed to proceed.
Habeas petitions filed in federal court for relief from state judgments are known as a collateral attack on a state judgment. The one-year deadline on Habeas petitions is the result of a “tough on crime” bill known as the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. This act made it more difficult for incarcerated prisoners to file Habeas petitions by adding a handful of onerous new requirements for courts to grant relief, and placing a 1-year deadline on filing, running from the date a person is taken into custody. The AEDPA also created an "exhaustion" requirement that requires state prisoners to “exhaust” all state judicial remedies before filing for Habeas relief in federal court. As the name implies, this bill was passed to make it less difficult for the state to kill people after they’ve been sentenced to death. Courts however, may hear late petitions if the petitioner can demonstrate “actual innocence” under a case called Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298 (1995).
Vosgien appealed his case to the Ninth Circuit, who granted his application in part:
The court’s decision, filed February 13, reversed the ruling of the district court in part by throwing out the three counts of compelling prostitution. The argument that got Vosgien off the hook was based on a 2010 case, State v. Vargas-Torres, which narrowed the legal definition of “compelling prostitution” in Oregon. The court determined such a charge now requires that goods be traded for sex through a third party. Since Kelly Vosgien procured the sexual favors only for himself, these three counts will be stricken from his sentence.
Vosgien’s counsel also argued that if the court found their client innocent of the prostituting charges, the rest of the charges should be challenged as well. The Ninth Circuit soundly rejected this claim.
Gold thinks this result, despite doing nothing to change Vosgien’s 55-year sentence, is a failure of the system:
The additional outrage is that the two young women, their friends and their families must contend with Vosgien’s crimes once more. “Even if this doesn’t affect the case, how does it affect the children, who are now adults, that this is back in the headlines?” Wilkinson asked. “It just makes them relive the case again and again. Just that he got away with a piece of that case, I really do think there’s a symbolic element.”
The decision is being remanded to the previous court, but Wilkinson claims that, “based on this [most recent] opinion the charges will likely remain dropped.”
“It’s very offensive,” Wilkinson said. “You look at this case and think why would anyone want to lessen the conviction?”
Good question. The person asking it is John Wilkinson, a former prosecutor from Virginia. If Gold wanted an answer to this question, she could have easily asked the people who defend these cases, and she would’ve gotten a host of answers. Getting these charges reduced is about more than creating a windfall for a man who was convicted of sex offenses. One of the answers to this question is actually contained in the article itself:
Wilkinson said that overcharging defendants, especially in cases of violence against children, is common, and that from time to time some charges are bound to be dropped in the sentencing process.
“By analogy,” Wilkinson said, “cases we frequently charge every single charge we can is child pornography. There will be hundreds of counts because they charge for every image found in the defendant’s possession. You want to give them everything you’ve got when we’re dealing with violence against children, and it’s the same thing here now.”
In other words, prosecutors in Vosgien’s case knew that some of these charges would get dropped on appeal. It is commonplace for prosecutors to throw the kitchen sink at Defendants, knowing that they can’t make every charge stick. And in fact, that is what happened here: Oregon prosecutors admitted on appealthat Vosgien could not have been guilty of “compelling prostitution” under Oregon law:
In State v. Vargas-Torres, 242 P.3d 619, 623 (Or. Ct. App. 2010), the Oregon Court of Appeals interpreted the State’s compelling prostitution statute, Or. Rev. Stat. § 167.017, as applying only to defendants who induce someone to “engage in prostitution with others.” The charges against Vosgien, however, were that he bribed his daughter in order to procure sexual favors for himself. Respondent concedes that Vosgien cannot, as a legal matter, have committed the crime of compelling prostitution based on the facts under which he was convicted.
And that’s the problem with allowing sympathy for crime victims to control legal outcomes. Gold makes no attempt to understand why it might be bad to let prosecutors get away with overcharging Defendants with crimes they didn’t actually commit. Her article headline even suggests that the Court of Appeals “softened” Vosgien’s sentence. They did no such thing. He is still serving 55 years in prison. Playing to peoples’ emotions in cases like this can and often does lead to manifestly unjust results—like a journalist advocating for a man to be convicted of violating laws he did not actually break.
There is an old saying in the legal world: “Bad facts make bad law.” Kelly Vosgien is not a sympathetic individual. But the precedent set in his case will be used by future prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges to adjudicate cases that may not be anywhere near as clean-cut as this case was. This creates the potential for slow creep of criminal statutes that wind up embracing conduct they were never intended to embrace—all because nobody cared to speak up when the law was being twisted to ensure maximum punishment for someone like Kelly Vosgien.
This is why Gold’s failure to analyze this case beyond the stories of the victims is problematic. Criminal Justice is not a zero sum game. Using state power to punish people for their bad acts has profound implications, and the potential for abuse and over-reaching is huge. To borrow one of my favorite Paine quotes:
An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to misapply even the best of laws. He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates his duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.
It is dangerous to all of us when we don’t bother to speak up for the worst of us when the Government oversteps its authority in a criminal prosecution. Ensuring that victims are properly cared for matters. But getting the law right matters too. For everybody, not just Kelly Vosgien or his victims.
“Every public defender is going to make mistakes, and those mistakes are going to take a terrible, inexcusable, and unforgivable toll on the lives of the clients you love. It’s just going to happen. You will err, and someone will go to jail because of it. Somehow, to survive in the work, you need to find a way to forgive the unforgivable, to accept and acknowledge that you’ve screwed up, and to recognize the price of that screwup without becoming so paralyzed that you can no longer do the work. As bad as you may think you are, clients need you—they are desperate for decent lawyers. Don’t be your own worst enemy. Forgive yourself—or you’ll burn out in two years.”—David Feige, Indefensible, at 254.
“91 of the 97 members of Congress who signed a letter in 2011 supporting the Comcast NBC merger received contributions during that same election cycle from the company’s political action committee or executives.”—
It’s amazing to me how authorities are praising themselves for doing something that they readily admit will have little impact on the problem they are trying to combat:
When it finally ended last year, Operation Dark Water, as the investigation was known, was heralded as a milestone in the fight against the global drug trade. Police officers seized 750 pounds of cocaine and caught four cartel members, including a first cousin to its infamous kingpin, Joaquín (El Chapo) Guzmán Loera.
But for the Sinaloa cartel, a criminal multinational corporation handling billions of dollars, the arrests proved only a minor setback, authorities acknowledged. The cartel has established channels of cooperation with so many European criminal groups, including Sicily’s Cosa Nostra and street gangs in Budapest, that business there continues to boom.
On Saturday, Mexican and American authorities struck even deeper, capturing Mr. Guzmán in a predawn raid on a seaside condominium in the Mexican city of Mazatlán. Governments around the world are hailing the capture as a landmark in the fight against organized crime. Yet many authorities agree that the arrest will probably not bring an end to the cartel’s activities, much less make a lasting dent in the availability of illegal drugs.
El Chapo is a scary man. But he will be replaced by another scary man who will take over the business and its profits. Even if the government destroyed the entire cartel, another cartel would absorb its market-share. The U.S. Government has cooperated with the Sinaloa Cartel for 12 years in exchange for information on rival cartels. Those cartels still exist. And so will Sinaloa after Chapo is gone.
What drug warriors fail to recognize is that all of these organizations plan for this. They all know that at any time, someone could be arrested or killed. These are multi-billion dollar organizations. Like any large company, they have business models. They have hierarchies. They have contingency plans. You don’t get rich breaking the law for a living without planning ahead for what happens if you get arrested.
Furthermore, the profits of this industry are high enough that even if a plan wasn’t in place, and these organizations collapsed, someone would reinvent them. The profits to be made from drug trafficking are absolutely outrageous, comprising up to 7.6% of all global trade. Private interests in the West stand to profit handsomely from the drug trade, which (like any business) has contingent services that need to be provided (such as banking). And since they know they’re doing is illegal, traffickers are willing to pay handsomely for that service.
There is a reason the mob no longer gets rich off of bootlegging. There is a reason why we don’t have gang violence over alcohol. There is a reason why Anheiser-Busch doesn’t bring M-16’s with its delivery trucks when it supplies its product to local grocery stores, beverage centers, and convenience stores: Because their product is legal for consenting adults to purchase and consume. And any disputes over their product can thus be solved in the courts.
Drug traffickers, however, cannot resolve their commercial disputes in the courts. So instead, the drug marketplace is regulated by violence. Terrible, horrible violence that has left countless thousands of victims in its wake. Violence that would stop if their products were legalized, destroying traffickers’ profit margin and making their service obsolete.
But instead, governments will continue to use brute force, trying to muscle their way out of the problem—the metaphorical equivalent of using a small bucket to bail water out of a sinking ship. When we should have the sense by now to know that we don’t belong in this particular lake to begin with.
This is probably one of the most dangerous Supreme Court opinions the Roberts Court has ever released. Under Kaley v. United States, any prosecutor who can gin up a probable cause determination from a Grand Jury may freeze your assets—including money set aside for legal defense—and prevent you from hiring the attorney of your choice. And they may do so without granting you an opportunity to contest the Government’s probable cause determination at a hearing.
The Court has previously held that the Government can freeze assets set aside for legal defense. But it has never held that the Government can do so without at least providing a hearing for the aggrieved Defendant to challenge the probable cause determination underlying the asset forfeiture. Under Kaley v. United States, the Government can now use federal forfeiture statutes as a weapon against Defendants who seek private counsel, and they have absolutely zero recourse.
Consider the implications of this decision. People who cannot afford private counsel are usually assigned a public defender. For much of the past year, the Federal public defender system has been facing a budget crisis. Muchhasbeenwritten about the lengths that Federal public defender’s offices have had to go to in order to keep their offices running. Federal public defenders are an extremely talented and dedicated group (I am proud to have worked in a Federal Defender’s Office while I was in law school). But there are not enough of them to go around, and they lack the resources of the United States Attorney’s Office.
So imagine a USAO prosecutor knows that the local Federal public defender’s office in his district is understaffed. He knows that staff attorneys in the public defender’s office are being furloughed, and thus has less time to work on their cases. That USAO prosecutor can now use federal forfeiture statutes to force a criminal Defendant to abandon their private attorney, and instead be assigned a public defender who has less time to work on the Defendant’s case.
This power could also be abused in other ways. Suppose that the prosecutor knows that the private lawyer representing the Defendant has a long-standing relationship with the Defendant. The private attorney knows the details of the Defendant’s personal and professional life, making it easier to represent the Defendant effectively. The prosecutor can neutralize these advantages by freezing the Defendant’s assets and forcing the Defendant to go with a public defender instead—one who is completely unfamiliar with the facts surrounding the Defendant’s personal and professional life. This is obviously detrimental to the Defendant for equally obvious reasons.
A private criminal defense attorney with more time to work on a client’s case is, ceteris paribus, in a better position than a public defender who is being furloughed. A private attorney who knows the intimate details of a client’s personal and professional life is often better equipped to represent that client in court. But Kaley v. United States allows the Government to manipulate the system to force criminal Defendants to accept legal counsel who may not be able to represent them as well, and it gives the Defendant zero opportunity to challenge the prosecutor’s decision. It is totally unreviewable. All they need is a probable cause determination—the second lowest evidence standard in criminal law. With this decision, federal prosecutors are given a weapon of unbelievable power that can and will be used to force Defendants to take pleas and accept potentially substandard representation.
The Court’s majority opinion tries to give cold comfort to the reader by stating that Congress can easily remedy this situation by amending the forfeiture statute. But the question here is not what Congress can or should do. The question is whether the present statute deprives someone of a fundamental Constitutional right. We are not asking what the Government can or should do, but what it can’t or must do. It is cold comfort to know that the Constitution allows the Government to effectively choose the Defendant’s attorney for them with zero recourse.
Justice Roberts, with whom I rarely agree, shocked me by dissenting in this case. He seems to understand that this case is not simply about fundamental fairness or preserving the presumption of innocence, but about an enormous imbalance of power between the Government and criminal Defendants that has now been made even deeper :
The issues presented here implicate some of the most fundamental precepts underlying the American criminal justice system. A person accused by the United States of committing a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But he faces a foe of powerful might and vast resources, intent on seeing him behind bars. That individual has the right to choose the advocate he believes will most ably defend his liberty at trial.
Federal prosecutors, when they rise in court, represent the people of the United States. But so do defense lawyers—one at a time. In my view, the Court’s opinion pays insufficient respect to the importance of an independent bar as a check on prosecutorial abuse and government overreaching. Granting the Government the power to take away a defendant’s chosen advocate strikes at the heart of that significant role.
“Jon Stewart is very, very afraid of of us, apparently. Several emailers have written to inform me that Stewart did a small hit/smear job on Judge Andrew Napolitano on The Daily Show last night. The ‘hit’ was about how the Judge [said] that the U.S. probably could have ended slavery the same way that New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and all the other Northern states did, as well as the British empire, Spanish empire, the French, Danes, Dutch, Swedes, and others during the nineteenth century, namely, peacefully. (See Jim Powell, Greatest Emancipations: How the West Ended Slavery; and Joanne Pope Melish, Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and Race in New England, 1780-1860). No, no, said Stewart and pals, 750,000 dead Americans , more than double that number maimed for life, and the total destruction of the voluntary union of the founders was the only way to go. Southerners, six percent of whom owned slaves, ‘were willing to die to preserve slavery’ announced the renowned historian Jon Stewart. The Great Oz (er, I mean, The Great Abe) did what was necessary said the great historical sage and his cast of clowns.”—
[T]here are two apparent rudiments to this war. One is Slavery and the other is State Rights. But the latter is only a cover for the former. If Slavery were out of the way there would be no trouble from State Rights.
Scholars today are mostly of one mind about why South Carolina seceded and what caused the war. But Americans, even a century and a half later, still deeply disagree with each other and historians, many of them embracing a Civil War story about self-government and “states’ rights” that reveals more about America in 2010 than what actually occurred in the 1860s.
There are other reasons to hate Abraham Lincoln—like the suppression of freedom of the press and the suspension of Habeas Corpus. I would definitely agree that he gets more credit than he deserves. But Napolitano completely butchered the facts on this one. I’m sure there’s a more resilient case to be made that the civil war was unnecessary. But Napolitano failed to make it.
“As sites of governmental authority, prisons destabilize Weber’s definition of the state as the monopolist of violence. In prisons, the monopoly is suspended: anybody is free to commit rape and be reasonably assured that no state official will notice or care (barring those instances when the management knowingly encourages rape, unleashing favored inmates on troublemakers as a strategy for administrative control). The prison staff is above the law; the prison inmates, below it. Far from embodying the model of Bentham/Foucault’s panopticon— that is, one of total surveillance—America’s prisons are its blind spots, places where complaints cannot be heard and abuses cannot be seen. Though important symbols of bureaucratic authority, they are spaces that lie beyond our system of bureaucratic oversight. As far as the outside world is concerned, every American prison functions as a black site.”—Christopher Glazek
According to the Times, the new Pentagon spending proposals, which have been endorsed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will ensure that the U.S. is capable of defending itself while being too small to engage in long-term foreign occupations like those in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The proposal, described by several Pentagon officials on the condition of anonymity in advance of its release on Monday, takes into account the fiscal reality of government austerity and the political reality of a president who pledged to end two costly and exhausting land wars. A result, the officials argue, will be a military capable of defeating any adversary, but too small for protracted foreign occupations.
Of course, one shouldn’t mistake this language for the idea that the U.S. will be withdrawing from foreign missions overseas. We wouldn’t want Iran to think it was sovereign over its own borders or anything. But it’s a good step in the right direction.
Israelis do not acknowledge that foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority – mainly by the EU – helps Israel maintain its rule over the Palestinians, as well as to keep Israeli citizens’ high standards of living. Since 1994 the international community has donated more than $30 billion to the PA as humanitarian relief and emergency assistance, most of it after the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000. The huge sum helps the PA to survive the present, but due to Israeli restrictions it cannot use it for capacity and infrastructure buildings. Without this aid Israel would have to take on the daily life needs of more than 4 million Palestinians.Donor assistance in maintaining basic services and meeting humanitarian needs of the occupied Palestinian population has freed Israel from these responsibilities, and allowed it to avoid making hard political decisions regarding its legal, moral and political responsibilities toward the Palestinians. In other words, donor countries indirectly facilitate Israel’s rule over all of historical Palestine. Israel can expand settlements, prevent any Palestinian economic recovery, seize Palestinian land, cut the Palestinian territories to disconnected areas, increase socio-economic fragmentation to avoid the foundation of a viable Palestinian state, and in 2000-2003 it was able to carry out destructive army operations inside Palestinian cities, all while donors foot the bill for reconstruction and emergency aid.
Klein’s argument raises the prospect of “benign neglect.” Should foreign governments concerned with the plight of the Palestinians stop foreign aid to Palestine in order to force Israel to make difficult political decisions it has been able to put off for some time? Is doing so worth the inevitable human cost in Palestine? Or perhaps more importantly, would it be worth the human cost not to? Perhaps there’s a third way. But if foreign aid if actually enabling the Occupation, then foreign powers who claim to be serious about peace between Israel and Palestine have some hard choices to make in the future.
“"I’ll waive motions!" [the Public Defender] declares—averting a disaster that a less-alert lawyer might have fallen for. Motions—for discovery, suppression of evidence, or for almost any other relief in a case—are the bread and butter of most lawyers. At big law firms many so-called litigators never set foot in a courtroom; they’re considered litigators mostly because they negotiate with opposing counsel and file a bunch of motions. But motions practice in the Bronx is usually a futile endeavor, and strange as it may seem, in many cases involving incarcerated clients charged with misdemeanors, just chucking the entire exercise is actually the smart move—not because it’s futile, but because it’s time consuming, and time is something that indigent, incarcerated clients can ill afford. Like so much else in Bronx criminal practice, the decision about when to give up motions is about poverty and power.”—David Feige, Indefensible, at 184.
“Once an arrest has been made [in a domestic violence case], it can be very difficult to get an assistant district attorney to let go. Many domestic violence prosecutors simply won’t dismiss cases even when the complainant wants to, and they will often resort to threats in an attempt to force the alleged victim to go forward. Once of their favorite tactics is threatening to take the kids away if a woman doesn’t agree to cooperate with the prosecution. Mercifully, my client’s children are all grown up and out of the house, so neither he nor his wife have to worry—at least about that.”—David Feige, Indefensible, at 181.
“The details of how we have been waging our war on terror are appalling, and Scahill’s film paints a picture of callousness and ineptitude that shocked me. Having seen it, I am embarrassed to have been so trusting and complacent with respect to my government’s use of force.”—Sam Harris
This is a unanimous pro-defense ruling from New York’s highest court. This is like finding a unicorn in the gumdrop forest. It involves the admission of a coerced confession into evidence during a murder trial:
Detectives threatened to arrest Mr. Thomas’s wife if he did not take responsibility for the baby’s death. They repeatedly told him he would not be charged with a crime if he confessed to abusing his son. Finally, they told Mr. Thomas that his son’s survival depended on his remembering what he might have done to cause a brain injury, even though the baby was already brain-dead.
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, writing for the seven-member Court of Appeals, said those techniques, taken together, amounted to psychological coercion that violated Mr. Thomas’s constitutional rights.
“What transpired during defendant’s interrogation was not consonant with, and indeed completely undermined, defendant’s right not to incriminate himself — to remain silent,” the judge wrote.
The court stopped short of setting down a hard and fast rule about when police trickery crosses the line into coercion, saying only that “in extreme forms, it may be.”
Still, the ruling is an important guidepost for the police and judges in a rapidly evolving debate over false confessions, interrogation techniques and the taping of police interviews, experts on criminal procedure and false confessions said.
“What this decision does is give courts guidance on what constitutes an involuntary confession,” said Dorothy Heyl, a lawyer at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy who represented the Innocence Network.
Art Glass, the acting district attorney in Rensselaer County, where Mr. Thomas was prosecuted, said the ruling was likely to force police departments to be more careful during interviews.
“The court didn’t provide any bright-line rule or set down any clear boundaries you can’t cross,” Mr. Glass said. “I think what it tells them is to be cautious, more cautious than they have been.”
Mr. Thomas was convicted in 2009 of murdering his son, Matthew, and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, a decision upheld at the Appellate Division. The strongest evidence against Mr. Thomas, 31, was his confession that, days earlier, he had thrown the child forcefully down onto his bed.
That admission came after *nine and a half hours of interrogation,* when a police sergeant, Adam Mason, told Mr. Thomas that doctors needed to know what had happened in order to save the baby’s life. At the time, the child had already been declared brain-dead.
Emphasis added. Yet another example of why it is never a good idea to talk to the police. They can lie, cheat, and steal their way to a conviction. You cannot trust a single thing they tell you. Every question they ask is geared towards building a case against you. That’s it. Adrian P. Thomas found that out the hard way. And he’s been sitting in a jail cell since 2009 for his mistake.
What's Happening In Ukraine Is Not A Fascist Revolution
I’ve seen some rumblings on Tumblr about Ultra-Right wing parties dominating the Ukrainian protests in Kiev. It seems like this is an area that could use some sunlight.
Despite what a well-timed photograph might suggest, the majority of the protesters are not fascists, just like the majority of Occupy protesters were not violent Anarchists. To wit, there have been numerous reports of scuffles between violent and non-violent protesters in Kiev, the latter of which are trying to keep the violence from getting out of control.
What is happening in Kiev is not a Fascist Revolution. The gravamen of the dispute concerns the President’s unilateral decision to reject an economic accord with the EU in favor of stronger ties with Russia:
The protests broke out after President Yanukovych’s government rejected a far-reaching accord with the European Union in November 2013 in favour of stronger ties with Russia. Thousands of people, outraged that a long-standing aspiration for integration with Europe had been ditched overnight, poured into central Kiev for peaceful protests. They have occupied Independence Square, known as Maidan, ever since.
The final straw was a package of laws rushed through the Ukrainian Parliament in January that limited the right to protest, and made slander a criminal offense—a move which potentially makes any negative journalistic coverage of the Ukrainian Government a crime. The protesters (rightly) view the actions of the President as an unconscionable exercise of power that will lead to a less free society, both economically and socially.
In addition to all of this, the current President of the Ukraine has also essentially seized power as a dictator and refused to accept Constitutional reforms that would limit his power. His Government’s response to the protests has been ruthless:
The protesters were losing hope in this protracted struggle where they saw no willingness on the side of President Yanukovych to really compromise. So far, none of their demands have been really met. The president has in fact done the opposite. He tried to install new laws, he put people in jail, his government tortured activists and it has harassed people. The protesters simply do not believe there can be any decent negotiation from the president’s side.
Doctors on the ground have reported that Government forces are not simply controlling crowds, but shooting to kill:
a doctor volunteering to treat protesters, Olga Bogomolets, accused government forces of shooting to kill, saying she had treated 13 people she believed had been targeted by “professional snipers.”
"They were shot directly to their hearts, their brain and to their neck," she said. "They didn’t give any chance to doctors, for us, to save lives."
With all this being said, it is true that a Right-wing ultra-nationalist party known as Svoboda has taken a substantial role in opposition Ukrainian politics, and hence, the protests (alongside a couple smaller parties that have joined in, including a small fringe party known as Right Sector). A good summary can be found here:
Among other things, Svoboda seeks to end all immigration and ensure that all civil service jobs are filled by ethnic Ukrainians. The Nation, a leftist American publication, reported that Svoboda also seeks to ban abortions, abolish gun control, “ban the Communist ideology,” and prohibit the adoption of Ukrainian children by foreigners. In addition, Svoboda reportedly supports nuclear power (in the homeland of Chernobyl) and reinstatement of the death penalty.
Svoboda has representation in the Ukrainian parliament—36 seats in a 450-member legislature. But their politics are actually antithetical to the EU accord whose rejection triggered these protests:
The bitter irony of the current protests in Kiev is that while groups like Svoboda are adamantly opposed to the pro-Russian policies of Yanukovych, they also find the “pro-European,” pro-democracy stance of most other Euromaidan protesters anathema. Yury Noyevy, a member of Svoboda’s political council, even revealed that the party’s pro-EU stance is only temporary, a device to break off from Russia. “The participation of Ukrainian nationalism and Svoboda in the process of EU integration is a means to break our ties with Russia,” Noyevy said.
So like many political revolutions, the politics of the Ukrainian opposition are complicated. But the groups who are more predisposed to violence are getting a disproportionate amount of media coverage. This was true even of the American Revolution, when the majority of American colonists did not even participate in the war. As the old saying goes in journalism, "if it bleeds, it leads."
Does any of this mean the United States get involved? No. The law of unintended consequences is nowhere more prevalent than in the geopolitics of old Soviet republics. Official, materialsupport for the protesters invites another Cold War with Russia. But that doesn’t mean the cause of the protesters isn’t a just one. The fact that Right-wing Extremists see this as an opportunity to seize power doesn’t suddenly make the protests invalid. If anything, it was the looming threat of Fascism from an overbearing government that ignited the protests to begin with. It is absolutely concerning that hardcore Right-wing groups in Ukraine are trying to use the protest as a way to seize Government control and consolidate power. But that doesn’t undermine the legitimate grievances which triggered these protests to begin with.
Update: opposition leaders have signed a deal to end the crisis, which has not sit well with the ultra-Right Wing parties that are supposedly dominating the protests. Demonstrating further that Right-wing Extremists represent a violent, loud minority in Ukraine.
“It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, “whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,” and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.”—John Adams
Two suspects have been released from a southern Indiana jail following a prosecutor’s decision to dismiss 63 cases after the arresting officer in those cases was himself arrested on felony charges.
Madison police Officer Josh Abbott, 32, was being held on $50,000 cash bond Wednesday in Jefferson County jail in the Ohio River city of Madison. He was arrested last week on felony domestic violence charges, including one count alleging that he pointed a gun at his girlfriend.
LTMC: This case brings a couple things to mind:
1) This is what a good prosecutor does when they know they can’t prove someone guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You drop the case. You don’t shrug your shoulders and “throw it to the jury,” knowing full well that most juries don’t take burdens of proof seriously.
2) It should scare people that a police officer’s testimony is enough to convict someone of a crime. Imagine if any one of your neighbors could subject you to arrest and conviction simply by signing a deposition and testifying against you in court. Judges know that this is a travesty, but they also don’t want to discourage police officers from stopping crimes in progress simply because the officer won’t be able to get corroborating proof (how do you prove someone ran a stop sign if you were the only one there to see it?). This is part of the reason that judges in bench trials will uncritically accept police testimony unless there is an obvious and glaring reason to doubt their testimony (such as a surveillance video that indicates they are lying). The system would collapse if police officers weren’t allowed to convict with their word alone. This certainly means that a lot more of guilty people get punished, but it also means a lot more innocent people get found guilty of crimes they didn’t commit. And if Blackstone’s Ratio still means anything, that’s the wrong result.