"The thing I regret most that I cannot change -- except by what I do now -- was drafting the death penalty initiative."
"The way I look at it, what I created can and may already have resulted in the [execution] of an innocent person." Donald Heller is partly responsible for turning California's death row into the most populous and expensive in the nation. So why'd the lawyer known as "Mad Dog" change his mind?
"There are no national standards or regulations regarding forensic pathology and practices vary widely from place to place."
The Hardest Cases: When Children Die, Justice Can Be Elusive A joint investigation by PBS Frontline, ProPublica and NPR has found that medical examiners and coroners have repeatedly mishandled cases of infant and child deaths, helping to put innocent people behind bars. (Via. (Article contains descriptions of children that have been killed by abuse. May be disturbing / triggering to some readers.) [more inside]
Two weeks ago, the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted 4-3 [video] to reinstate the controversial anti-union Budget Repair Bill, which a district judge had declared void due to a law requiring 24 hours' public notice of meetings. The Supreme Court's deliberations were heated. The liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley now says that after she asked conservative Justice David Prosser to leave her office, he put his hands around her neck in a choke-hold. Justice Prosser denies the allegation. [more inside]
An image showing disparity in sentencing appears in a tweet by Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow and raises questions of its validity. Paul R. Allen is clearly a real case and Roy Brown an actual criminal but what do the differences in their sentencing say about the state of justice in America? [more inside]
"Davis didn’t have time to ponder their motives. The intersection of Jail and Ferozepur roads was packed with cars, bicycles, rickshaws, and pedestrians; the motorcycle pulled around his car and stopped just ahead of it. Shamshad, on the back of the bike, turned. He raised his pistol. He cocked it." [Black Ops and Blood Money] (previously and previouslier)
How “secure” do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and, on hearing sounds indicative of things moving, forcibly enter and search for evidence of unlawful activity?Supreme Court OKs More Warrantless Searches [more inside]
Sean Power had his laptop stolen five days ago. Last night, while in Canada, preyproject tracking software alerted him to his laptop's location and he put out a call on Twitter for help in getting it back. Twitter user @neilreese and a Girl in a Purple Sarong jumped into action. Here's the chronological summary of Tweets and events, as well as Nick Reese's account of a wild night in which justice was served.
Guy Rundle teases out the meanings of the bin Laden assassination, in contrast to the Eichmann trial.
Remove the scourge of conflict - "Taming mass violence is the theme of the World Bank's latest World Development Report, which focuses on 'conflict, security and development' [pdf] ... Mass violence destroys all hopes of progress. We should make a huge effort to eliminate this scourge. It seems feasible. It is desirable. So try."
Zoopreme Court Ever wanted to remember all the justices of the Supreme Court, past and present? Well it's a whole lot easier if they are animals. Dan Schofield and Alice DuBois are illustrating all 112 justices as various critters, as well as several landmark cases.
The chances that a powerful person will make an error are much greater than those of a weak person. Scott Horton translates Benjamin Constant, references Robespierre, and offers insight on modern efforts to preclude meaningful trials in federal court. [more inside]
Ira Glass does an atypical bit of investigative reporting about an especially punitive drug court in rural Georgia. [more inside]
“More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began.” [more inside]
Betty Anne Waters's brother Kenny was sent to prison for first degree murder and armed robbery in 1982. Over the next 16 years, Betty Anne got her GED, college degree, and law degree, all in an effort to prove Kenny was innocent. With the assistance of the Innocence Project, Betty Anne was able to use DNA evidence to show Kenny was innocent. [more inside]
How two American kids became big-time weapons traders - "Working with nothing but an Internet connection, a couple of cellphones and a steady supply of weed, the two friends — one with a few college credits, the other a high school dropout — had beaten out Fortune 500 giants like General Dynamics to score the huge arms contract. With a single deal, two stoners from Miami Beach had turned themselves into the least likely merchants of death in history." (via; previously on arms contractors)
"At a hearing of the Lahore Sessions Court convened for security reasons at the Kot Lakhpat Jail today, CIA contractor Raymond A. Davis was arraigned on double homicide charges and then quickly acquitted and released. Attorneys for Davis and the victims' families announced that they had entered into an agreement in which Davis offered compensation to the families -- $1.4 million total -- and they forgave him." [more inside]
IL Gov. Pat Quinn—formerly a strong supporter of capital punishment—today signed into law the abolition of the death penalty in Illinois. This comes eleven years after Gov. George Ryan—also a former supporter of capital punishment—signed a moratorium on the death penalty, commuting the sentences of 167 death row inmates to life (including ten men who had made false confessions under torture directed by police commander Jon Burge [previously here and here]). Between 1977 and 1999, Illinois executed 12 inmates, while freeing 13 innocent men from Death Row. [more inside]
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives deliberately allowed assault rifles to be smuggled into Mexico, so they could be tracked. The weapons were then used in a spree of murders, including that of US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. The operation was called "Fast and Furious". The Mexican government was apparently unaware of the operation, and is investigating. The ATF is going to have a review of whether their strategy supports "the goals of ATF to stem the illegal flow of firearms to Mexico".
Blunt Assessment: The Need for Legal Weed in Philadelphia. To many inside the criminal justice and pro-legalization arenas, the racial disparity in Philadelphia's pot arrests is nothing short of an ongoing conspiracy. Offenders caught possessing 30 grams or less get to make a deal: Agree to pay a $200 fine and attend a three-hour treatment class and avoid going to trial and risking jail time.
Tim DeChristopher goes on trial in a Salt Lake City District Court today [Case No. 2:09-CR-183], facing a ten year sentence and/or $750 000 fines. His crime? Intentionally making false bids on fossil fuel leases. His supporters include Dr James Hansen and Bill McKibben. (previously)
What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love. -MLK (SLYT)
Sotomayor, Kagan shift Supreme Court debates to the left. The liberal wing is no longer drowned out by Scalia and his fellow conservatives during oral arguments.
I’ve spent the better part of the week serving as the foreman for a jury in a criminal case. As they tell you, you’re not allowed to talk about it with anyone, not even your fellow jurors, during the trial. As they also tell you, once the trial is over you can talk about anything you want. So, here goes.
A DNA test has proven that a man was executed for murder by the State of Texas on the basis of false forensic evidence. [more inside]
“But Gitmo, a ‘betrayal of American values’? Would that it were! Alas, for nearly every grisly tabloid feature of the Khadr case, you can find an easy analog in our everyday criminal justice system. In a sense, much of our War on Terror has proven a slightly spicier version of our ‘normal’ way of doing criminal justice. Using the case of Omar Khadr, let's take this step by step.”
On 12 February 2009, soldiers from the ADF 1st Commando regiment crept through the dark near the village of Surkh Morghab, in southern Afghanistan. What happened next will be closely scrutinised, however grenades were used and five children were killed. [more inside]
Why do people confess to crimes they don't commit? UVA Law Professor Brandon Garrett has been researching the contamination effect in interrogation. Modern interrogation practices are informed by the (copyrighted) Reid Technique. John R. Reid and Associates, Inc. responds to critics.
A series of powerful, prescient and englightening essays from the author of 'The Great War for Civilisation' and award winning journalist Robert Fisk on so called 'Honour' killings from this weeks Indy. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Concluding Part 5.
Judge Rules "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Is Unconstitutional - Judge Virginia A. Phillips of Federal District Court struck down President Clinton's Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy in an opinion (Scribd) issued late Thursday, ruling on the constitutionality of a complaint brought by the Log Cabin Republicans (PDF). President Obama's Justice Department has until a September 23 deadline to submit objections to the court regarding Judge Phillips's permanent injunction, which is uncertain given Obama's previous support of his Department of Justice defending the legality of DADT, despite his opposition to DADT in principle.
What do bottles of water used to torture people have in common with bottles of water provided to those in danger of dying of thirst? Jay Bybee. Guess which ones he likes. Scott Horton discusses the case of Walt Stanton and Jay Bybee's curious flexibility over bottled water's proper use. [more inside]
Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck gave an interview today describing the complexities of DNA evidence and why it is so pivotal in many appeals. What we hear referred to as "DNA evidence" can really mean any number of things: a restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis that focuses on enzyme restriction sites; using a polymerase chain reaction to amplify a segment of DNA; or a short tandem repeat analysis, looking at small segments of repeated DNA in an individual's genome. These tests, he believes, must be done whenever possible-- because more and more, they are proving people innocent. [more inside]
Alan Jacobs laments the Hobbesian reality that is modern Internet discourse in his article "The Online State of Nature" at Big Questions Online.
A now-famous cartoon on the xkcd “webcomics” site shows a stick figure typing away at his computer keyboard as a voice from outside the frame says, “Are you coming to bed?” The figure replies: “I can’t. This is important. . . . Someone is wrong on the Internet.” I have thought a lot about why people get so hostile online, and I have come to believe it is primarily because we live in a society with a hypertrophied sense of justice and an atrophied sense of humility and charity, to put the matter in terms of the classic virtues.
The Smoking Gun has come into possession of an unusual RFP from the DEA: they want 'Ebonics experts' to help decipher wiretaps.
With a ruling scheduled today on Prop 8 — the California ballot measure that took away the right to marry from same-sex couples — Dave Fleischer has an in-depth analysis of all of the polling data on Prop 8, and his findings include some counter-intuitive numbers, like that the confusing wording actually ended up helping the No vote more than the Yes.
Too many laws, too many prisoners - Never in the civilised world have so many been locked up for so little. [previously] (via nc)
Living with the Enemy. "Applying the ideas of Holocaust survivor Jean Améry to present day Rwanda, our author argues that reconciliation after genocide is just another form of torture."
It took a few decades, but today a federal jury has found former Chicago police commander Jon Burge guilty on all counts of perjury and obstruction of justice in covering up his knowledge of and participation in the systematic torture of suspects in the 1980s. (Previously.) [more inside]
At last, the moment has arrived. At this writing, the trial of Carol Burdick, who says she was evicted from her apartment for putting a Peeps display over her door to celebrate Easter 2009, is underway. [more inside]
Norway's penal system has gathered some attention recently, as the new Halden prison just opened. The $217 million facility will house 252 prisoners, some long-term and some short. The new prison is notable for, among other things, use of armoured glass instead of bars on windows, natural lighting and single-inmate cells with private showers, TVs and access to a gym and a sound studio. There was also an art budget, and Norwegian street artist Dolk was commisioned to decorate some of the walls. The Norwegian penal system is similar to the other Scandinavian countries', with no death penalty, and a "life" sentence of 21 years. In Norway there are no privately run incarceration facilities, and the opening of the rather plush-seeming Halden prison spurred some discussion, but garnered no big controversy. [more inside]
Elena Kagan will be officially nominated to replace John Paul Stevens today, ending weeks of speculation and controversy as to who would replace the retiring Supreme Court Justice. Significant criticism has hounded Kagan throughout the nomination process, as she has never tried a case in court (much like Earl Warren). Many worry that her notable statements and writings do not provide a clear progressive record; some go so far as to claim she is Obama's Harriet Miers.
Feel like dancing or going to the club? Tecno / Dirty Electronic. Justice : “The style has been thought of as having some heavy metal influence and combines cut-up bass lines with a compressed and distorted synth sound.” Hope you enjoy your daily dose of music. Justice 1 2 | Steve Aoki 1 2 | Crookers 1 2 3 | MSTRKRFT 1 2 3 | Bloody Beetroots 1 2 [more inside]
A year ago, Aaron Vargas walked into Darrell McNeil's trailer and shot him in the chest with a .44 caliber black powder revolver. For the next half hour, Vargas prevented McNeil's bewildered and horrified wife from calling the police while he watched McNeil die. Jury selection for Vargas's trial begins April 12th; the D.A. is seeking 50 years to life. Meanwhile, the citizens of Vargas's and McNeil's hometown - including McNeil's daughter, son, stepson, and aforementioned widow - have rallied together in support of justice for the victim. But he's not who you might think. (Some links may be NSFW.)
What drives somebody to hunger strike? The hunger strike as a method of protest has been employed for a very long time indeed. The first thing I think of when the words "hunger strike" are mentioned is the story of Bobby Sands, despite the fact I was too young to know what was going on at the time. Is it fitting that the bizarre actions of a huge food company has inspired another hunger strike? [more inside]
Arms dealers affiliated with 22 companies, including one with a former Joint Chief of Staff on its board of directors, have been indicted for soliciting kickbacks on multimillion dollar deals to supply munitions to representatives of a fictitious African government. [more inside]
The first criminal trial without a jury to take place in England and Wales in more than 400 years begins tomorrow. [more inside]
A new study of death penalty deterrence by researchers from Sam Houston State University and Duke University suggests that there is a decline in murders in the month of or after executions. Meanwhile, Kenneth Mosley became the 448th inmate executed in Texas since 1982 on January 7th, 2010. (Last link: previously, previously and previously)
Where does the food in your bodega — or the corner grocer, the local minimart — come from? [...] How come it's easier to find fresh fruits and vegetables in Brooklyn Heights than in the South Bronx? What's the connection between the incidence of diabetes and the food market supply chain?The Center for Urban Pedagogy and Designer Observer's 30-minute video Bodega Down Bronx looks into the urban grocery gap, and is freely available to stream. [more inside]
New WM3 Defense Letter Imprisoned since 1993, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. filed new appeals in Oct. 2007 - previously - only to have them thrown out less than a year later. But a recent article in the Arkansas Law Review, which came on the heels of support from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Northwestern University School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Conviction, has the Arkansas Supreme Court reconsidering the appeals. Meanwhile, Terry Hobbs, stepfather of one of the victims, had his lawsuit against the Dixie Chicks tossed out earlier this month. [more inside]