Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Broken Beyond Repair

Damon Winter/The New York Times

Bob Herbert

You can only hope that you will be as sharp and intellectually focused as former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens when you’re 90 years old.

In a provocative essay in The New York Review of Books, the former justice, who once supported the death penalty, offers some welcome insight into why he now opposes this ultimate criminal sanction and believes it to be unconstitutional.

As Adam Liptak noted in The Times on Sunday, Justice Stevens had once thought the death penalty could be administered rationally and fairly but has come to the conclusion “that personnel changes on the court, coupled with ‘regrettable judicial activism,’ had created a system of capital punishment that is shot through with racism, skewed toward conviction, infected with politics and tinged with hysteria.”

Read on...

This is from the New York Times. Tom

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Protecting California's prisoners

The Supreme Court should uphold a judicial panel's order that the state reduce its prison population

Ordinarily, states rely on courts and prisons to protect the citizenry from criminals, but California seems determined to turn that convention on its head: Here, we need courts to protect criminals from the state's voters.

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider Tuesday whether to overturn an order by a panel of three federal judges that the state reduce its prison population to 137.5% of capacity within two years, which would mean trimming the inmate count by about 25% from its current average of 165,000. The judges determined that medical care for inmates was so bad that it violated the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment, and cited overcrowding as a primary cause. California has appealed the order and is being joined by 18 other states, which are worried that their own prison systems might not pass federal muster.

To understand how California found itself in a position in which it must build more prisons, release 40,000 inmates or transfer them to other states, or some combination, it's helpful to examine the results of a recent Times/USC poll. Asked how they would close the state's $25-billion budget gap, voters strongly rejected tax hikes yet offered few suggestions on what spending programs to cut — with one exception. More than 70% wanted to cut the prison system's budget. Meanwhile, voters here have a long history of supporting tough-on-crime measures, which helped boost the prison population to unsustainable numbers.

Read on...

I don't think you could come up with a punishment that this U.S. Supreme Court would find cruel and unusual. Tom

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Robert Latimer granted full parole: lawyer

Robert Latimer walks on his farm in 2001 before being sentenced to  life with no change of parole for 10 years. On Nov. 29, 2010, he was  granted full parole.

Robert Latimer walks on his farm in 2001 before being sentenced to life with no change of parole for 10 years. On Nov. 29, 2010, he was granted full parole.

VICTORIA—Robert Latimer, the Saskatchewan farmer who killed his severely disabled daughter, has been granted full parole and will be home by Christmas, says his lawyer.

Jason Gratl says Latimer was granted full parole as of Dec. 6 at a hearing on Thursday.

Gratl says Latimer does not want to discuss the conditions of his release or his current emotional state.

The 57-year-old farmer was convicted of second-degree murder and given a life sentence for the 1993 death of his severely disabled daughter, Tracy.

Read on...

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Blair blasts SIU over findings of ‘probable’ excessive force

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair is lashing out at the Special Investigations Unit for saying excessive force was probably used by officers in two cases during G20 protests.

The two cases are among six investigated by the police watchdog, which then decided not to pursue charges because the officers in question could not be identified.

At the centre of Blair’s grievances, a YouTube video the SIU used as corroborating evidence of excessive force against a civilian.

Blair said the video had been “tampered with.” He said the tape had been “forensically examined” over the weekend and that it was edited in a way that offered no explanation for why force was used.

Read on...

Crimbrary applied its own forensic analysis to the video above and Crimbrary can confirm that the police officers in the video were edited into the scene by Ray Harryhausen's ghost. For more of Harryhausen's work see here. Tom

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

New Briefing Paper: Deterrence – Effects of Certainty vs. Severity

We are pleased to let you know of our new publication, Deterrence in Criminal Justice: Evaluating Certainty versus Severity of Punishment by Valerie Wright, Ph.D. The report addresses a key concern for policy makers regarding whether deterrence is better achieved by increasing the likelihood of apprehension or increasing the severity of sanctions.

Overall, the report concludes that:

• Enhancing the certainty of punishment is far more likely to produce deterrent effects than increasing the severity of punishment.

• Particularly at high levels of incarceration, there is no significant public safety benefit to increasing the severity of sentences by imposing longer prison terms.

• Policies such as “three strikes and you’re out” and mandatory minimum sentences only burden state budgets without increasing public safety.

• Evidence-based approaches would require increasing the certainty of punishment by improving the likelihood of detection.

Read on...

This is from the Sentencing Project. Tom

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Your Future President - Palin's Turkey Pardon Fiasco

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President Obama Pardons a Turkey

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Tasering The Frogs

by digby

Many of you will probably recall that story of the police who tasered the 86 year old bedridden woman, but it appears they've filed the lawsuit and the details are just ... awful:
Hearing the 911 call made by her grandson, Lonnie Tinsley, he said he was unsure what medication his grandmother had taken and that he feared she “wanted to end her life.” He requested that an emergency medical technician come to her apartment to evaluate her.

Yet according the lawsuit (PDF) that was filed in an Oklahoma federal court, it was not the paramedics or an ambulance that responded. Instead, “as many as 10 El Reno police” arrived and “pushed their way through the door.” The grandmother, Lona Varner, who was lying in bed hooked up to an oxygen machine, responded by telling police to get out of her home.

Police admitted tasering the suicidal 86-yr-old woman in her-hospital type bed to incapacitate her after she told the police to get out. According to The Oklahoman, Officer Duran wrote in a police report that Lona Varner pulled a kitchen knife from under her pillow and threatened to kill him. The officer added she raised the knife above her head and said, “If you come any closer, you’re getting the knife.” The cop allegedly tried talking to her to calm her down but “nothing would work.”

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Criminal profiling vs. racial profiling

LAPD officers will utilize crime data, including ethnicity, to identify possible suspects. But there is no place for racial profiling in law enforcement.

Wes Bausmith / Los Angeles Times

I was accused of racial profiling on the first traffic stop I made as a rookie LAPD officer in 1998. I had spotted a reckless driver speeding through the streets of Van Nuys in a large pickup truck, so I flipped on my lights and took up the chase. The driver eventually pulled over, but as I walked up to his car, he began shouting at me, accusing me of having stopped him because he was black.

I could not sleep that night. A liberal academic before becoming a police officer, I had joined the Los Angeles Police Department hoping to make a difference. Yet here I was, on my first traffic stop, being accused of racism.

I thought of that incident again last week, when the LAPD was accused yet again of not adequately guarding against racial profiling by its officers. This time, it was the Department of Justice making the claim. As evidence, the agency cited a recording of two officers seemingly endorsing the practice in a conversation with a supervisor. One of the men said that he "couldn't do [his] job without racially profiling."

Read on...

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Different Legal System for the Rich: Imagine Getting Off Easy for Hit-and-Run Because You Run a Hedge Fund

It's not just the recession that's killing the middle class -- it's how the legal system is being used to establish a two-tiered society.
Our lopsided wealth distribution makes the U.S. look more like a banana republic than one of the richest, most highly developed nations in the world. But having a small, wealthy elite living it up among a nation of struggling workers doesn't make a country a banana republic. In a true plutocracy, you also need a bifurcated legal system, with one philosophy of justice for the wealthy and another for the little guy.

While that’s the case to (greatly) varying degrees in every justice system in human history, in a banana republic that class divide is systemic -- it’s baked into the cake. And that may be exactly what’s developing, gradually, in the United States.

Recently, a modest crime that made big headlines provided an eye-opening anecdote. In July, Dr. Steven Milo, a surgeon, was riding his bicycle on a Colorado road when he was struck from behind by a Mercedes. According to the Vail Daily, Milo “suffered spinal cord injuries, bleeding from his brain and damage to his knee and scapula,” causing “disabling spinal headaches” and requiring “multiple surgeries for a herniated disc and plastic surgery to fix the scars he suffered in the accident.” His attorney said Milo “will have lifetime pain.”

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law

by Laura Sullivan

Glenn Nichols, city manager of Benson, Ariz.
Laura Sullivan/NPR

Glenn Nichols, city manager of Benson, Ariz., says two men came to the city last year "talking about building a facility to hold women and children that were illegals."


October 28, 2010

Last year, two men showed up in Benson, Ariz., a small desert town 60 miles from the Mexico border, offering a deal.

Glenn Nichols, the Benson city manager, remembers the pitch.

"The gentleman that's the main thrust of this thing has a huge turquoise ring on his finger," Nichols said. "He's a great big huge guy and I equated him to a car salesman."

What he was selling was a prison for women and children who were illegal immigrants.

"They talk [about] how positive this was going to be for the community," Nichols said, "the amount of money that we would realize from each prisoner on a daily rate."

But Nichols wasn't buying. He asked them how would they possibly keep a prison full for years — decades even — with illegal immigrants?

"They talked like they didn't have any doubt they could fill it," Nichols said.

That's because prison companies like this one had a plan — a new business model to lock up illegal immigrants. And the plan became Arizona's immigration law.

Behind-The-Scenes Effort To Draft, Pass The Law

Read on...

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The Bizarre Tale of Graft and Sleazy Political Opportunism That Brought Us the 'Porno Scanners'

How we got to the point of full body scans, the massive personal intrusion that represents, and the tens of millions spent for machines that irradiate us.

How did we get to the point of full body scans at airports, the massive personal intrusion that represents, and the tens of millions spent for machines that irradiate us as a consequence of merely flying from here to there?

The proximate cause is the attempted bombing of a December 25, 2009 Northwest airlines flight. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, an engineering student, attempted to mix, then detonate a bomb as Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam made its descent to Detroit's Metropolitan Airport. Mr. Abdulmutallab somehow got on the flight with the chemicals undetected, hidden in his underwear. (Image)

There was furor followed by calls for tighter airport security. Specifically, Michael Chertoff, former Bush Homeland Security chief, claimed full body scanners were the solution. One thing led to another and here we are today. Full body scanners are in 68 airports and planned for 1,000 across the United States by the end of 2011. Those who refuse the full body scans will be subject to "pat-downs, which include searches of passengers' genital areas."

The Missing Link

Right after the Christmas 2009 bombing attempt, two United States citizens, frequent world travelers, spoke up about what they'd both witnessed prior to the flight departing from Amsterdam's Schiphol International Airport. Kurt Haskell and his wife Lori, attorneys from Taylor, Michigan, were sitting near the ticket counter waiting to board Flight 253. They saw two men approached the counter and speak with the agent on duty. One of the men was later identified as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who would later haplessly try to blow up the Northwest flight. The other was a well dressed man in his 50s (the sharp dressed man) who they took to be an Indian national:

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Toronto shut out of G8, G20 spending spree

The federal government showered $50 million on the Muskoka region to compensate residents for the “inconveniences” of hosting world leaders while Toronto — which suffered security headaches, protests and property damage — was shut out of any cash.

Bruce Campion-Smith and Les Whittington

Federal officials confirmed Thursday that much of the funding of a generous G8 “legacy infrastructure fund” was never meant for the summit but rather as payback to people in the Parry Sound-Muskoka region — a riding held by Industry Minister Tony Clement.

As Toronto cleaned up shattered glass from downtown streets and tallied up its lost business, residents across Muskoka were enjoying new sidewalks, bandshells, public washrooms, bridges and a resurfaced airport runway, all courtesy of the summit “slush” fund, opposition MPs charged Thursday.

And they questioned why Toronto — which played host to the larger G20 meeting in June and was ground zero for the protesters — has been denied similar largesse.

“The restaurant owners and the guys that got their windows smashed want some help for these things and I’m not sure they’re going to get it,” said NDP MP Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre).

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Toronto is getting some half priced sound cannons. Tom

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Taibbi: How Can We Expect Wall St. Thieves to Stop Stealing Unless We Throw Them in Prison?

With financial fraud now so sophisticated and pervasive, we clearly need zero-tolerance solutions to change Wall Street's culture.

Often, the most provocative ideas arise after swigs of whiskey. This is especially true when a Rolling Stone reporter is around -- and, as I recently learned, it's all but guaranteed when that Rolling Stoner is Matt Taibbi, aka the heir to the magazine's gonzo throne.

I had the chance to hang with Taibbi last week after he spoke to a Denver audience about his new book, "Griftopia," which argues that Wall Street's bubble-bailout cycle has been one of the greatest -- and least prosecuted -- crimes in history. His presentation was serendipitously timed, coming the same week as a local Bonfire of the Vanities-esque scandal was underscoring the speculator class's privilege. In Colorado's own Bonfire of the Rockies, a local prosecutor had just reduced hit-and-run charges against a fund manager because the prosecutor said a felony would have "serious job implications" for the Sherman McCoy in question.

Over drinks in my living room, Taibbi and I pondered the financial Masters of the Universe and their maddening infallibility. I asked him why they never fear facing legal consequences. Do they believe they're untouchable? Or do they know law enforcement won't pursue them?

"They're not afraid because other than Bernie Madoff, when was the last time someone on Wall Street faced any real punishment?" he responded. "Sure, a few go to jail once in a while, but they're usually out in a few months and then on the speaking circuit. That's not exactly a deterrent against bad behavior that's making you millions."

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10 Ways to Outfox Cops That Are Abusing Their Powers to Trick You

What few people understand, but police know all too well, is that your constitutional rights only apply if you understand and assert them.
As a 33-year law enforcement veteran and former training commander with the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department, I know how easy it is to intimidate citizens into answering incriminating questions or letting me search through their belongings. This reality might make things easier for police looking to make an easy arrest, but it doesn't always serve the interests of justice. That's why I believe all citizens should understand how to protect their constitutional rights and make smart decisions when dealing with officers of the law.

Unfortunately, this important information has remained largely unavailable to the public, despite growing concerns about police misconduct and the excesses of the war on drugs. For this reason, I agreed to serve as a technical consultant for the important new film, 10 Rules for Dealing with Police. The 40-minute docudrama aims to educate the public about basic legal and practical survival strategies for handling even the scariest police encounters. It was produced by the civil liberties group Flex Your Rights and is narrated by former federal judge and acclaimed Baltimore trial lawyer William "Billy" Murphy, Jr.

Read on...

You can check out some video excerpts from this docudrama at the library's Facebook page. Remember this is a U.S. story. For Ontario see the Law Union of Ontario's Post G20 Action Guide. Tom

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Injustice Speaks. A Series of Dialogues on Issues of Injustice

Injustice Speaks: AIDWYC hosts a series of dialogues on issues of injustice

Join us on December 1st for a fundraising cocktail engagement featuring Omar Khadr's Canadian lawyer, Dennis Edney.

AIDWYC launches the fundraising speaker series 'Injustice Speaks'. Coinciding with our recent announcement of AIDWYC's charitable status, and designed to foster financial support for our organization and a dialogue on wrongful convictions and other human injustices, 'Injustice Speaks' will feature of-the-moment, in-the-trenches personalities and experts who fight injustice.

Our first 'Injustice Speaks' keynote, Canadian defence lawyer Dennis Edney, has spent the last 8 years defending Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen who in July 2002 was accused of killing U.S. soldier Sergeant Christopher Speer in a firefight in Afghanistan and was sent to Guantanamo Bay detention centre. At the time of his arrest Khadr was 15 years old. His status as an alleged "child soldier" and the only Western citizen still remaining at Guantanamo Bay have led many to cry injustice and demand his repatriation to Canada.

In his own words Dennis Edney will explain why he thinks his client, caught in the crossfire of the War on Terror, has been a victim of a grave miscarriage of justice. AIDWYC is proud to foster a dialogue on the issue of injustice and welcomes Dennis Edney's contribution to the conversation.

Date & Time: December 1st, 2010, 5:00 - 7:00PM
Location: Arcadian Court, 401 Bay Street, The Simpson Tower, 8th Floor, Toronto
Price: $100 (Prices include hors d'oeuvres and wine)
A limited number of student tickets are available at the Student Rate: $35
Reserved seating is available for purchases of ten or more tickets.
Payment Methods: Cheque or Credit Card

For more information on this event please contact AIDWYC at contact@aidwyc.org or 416-504-7500 x221

Read on...

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Cameras, sound cannons among G20 equipment Toronto police aim to keep

ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY


Toronto police want to keep 52 of the 77 surveillance cameras they temporarily purchased for the G20 summit, more than tripling the force’s stock of CCTV equipment.

They would buy them back at half price from the federal government, which is footing the bill for G20 security.

The police also plan to buy back 400 of 5,200 sets of tactical safety gear, including helmets, gas masks and eye shields, as well as the three sound-cannon LRADs police acquired leading up to the summit.

The extra surveillance cameras, which would bring the Toronto Police Service’s total to 76 cameras, are needed in the city’s expanding entertainment district, said Police Chief Bill Blair. While he wouldn’t name specific areas he’d like to see the new cameras set up, he said areas of the city’s burgeoning, westward-expanding club district would be among the top on his list.

Read on...

Sound cannons and more surveillance equipment. I thought the police only needed that to combat the Black Block, not the citizens of Toronto. Do the police get to determine this stuff on their own? Have the police proven themselves responsible enough to handle a weapon like the sound cannon? Tom

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Anti-G20 protester launches constitutional challenge

Montreal activist Jaggi Singh has launched a constitutional  challenge against his bail conditions.

Montreal activist Jaggi Singh has launched a constitutional challenge against his bail conditions.

By Antonia Zerbisias

Montreal’s Jaggi Singh, one of dozens of community organizers arrested even before last summer’s G20 protests began, has launched a constitutional challenge against his bail conditions.

Although most of his co-accused have had similar restrictions imposed on their actions and movements, Singh, a noted anti-globalization and social justice activist, is the first to take the constitutional route.

He is to appear Wednesday in Ontario Superior Court, with the support of PEN Canada which is intervening in his case, citing that Singh’s right to freedom of expression has been violated.

Read on...


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Monday, November 15, 2010

G20 Trials and the War on Activism

by Naomi Klein

The following speech was made by Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein at the telethon held to raise funds the legal costs of G20 protesters. The telethon took place in Toronto on Nov. 11 and rabble.ca carried it live. It can be viewed here.

So we are here to raise money.

But more fundamentally, we are here because we know what happened in this city during the G20 and the wrong people are on trial for it.

There are police officers that should be facing charges for assault and harassment -- and so should any supervisors who enabled or covered over those abuses.

So far no one in authority has paid any price for what happened.

According to the Parliamentary Committee underway in Ottawa, the worst crime the cops committed was taking off their name tags.

And let's not forget that our outgoing city council -- lest we get too nostalgic given the incoming city council -- unanimously passed a motion to "commend the outstanding work of Chief Bill Blair, the Toronto Police Service and the police officers working during the G20 summit in Toronto."

Read on...

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Does the Justice System Actually Dispense Justice?

Or Does it Serve the Powers-That-Be, Like the Other Branches of Government?

In 2000, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg did something unprecedented. In her dissenting opinion in the Bush v. Gore case (which threw the election to Bush), Ginsburg ended her opinion with the words "I dissent".

Believe it or not, this is a big deal. The standard etiquette for a judge - especially a supreme court justice - writing a dissenting opinion is to end with the phrase, "I respectfully dissent". By leaving out the word "respectfully", Ginsburg dropped normal judicial etiquette to protest an unconstitutional decision, more or less quietly declaring that a coup had occurred.

Supreme court justice Antonin Scalia said that he doesn't care what the legislature intended when it passes a law. This is contrary to hundreds of years of American law, as legislative intent is supposed to be examined whenever legislation is ambiguous, or does not appear to directly or adequately address a particular issue, or when there appears to have been a legislative drafting error.

Scalia also went duck-hunting with Dick Cheney, even though the judicial and executive branches are supposed to keep their distance as part of the separation of powers.

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The Interrogation of Omar Khadr Pt. 1

Here is the link to a trailer for a documentary "You Don't Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantanamo." The Criminology Library is ordering a copy of this documentary.
The Previous post has Part 2 of the Interrogation of Omar Khadr. The absence of a public protest against the treatment of Khadr shows how effective the war on terror has been used to silence protest, indoctrinate the public, and push a warmongering agenda.

The Interrogation of Omar Khadr Pt. 2

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Friday, November 12, 2010

The 10 Best Political Cult Horror Films Ever

Social commentary shows up in the unlikeliest places. Here, our list for the most awesome films that double as political allegory.

November 12, 2010

In a new book about John Carpenter's Orwellian masterpiece, They Live, author Jonathan Lethem does some well-deserved justice to the film -- if it’s not the best-ever social commentary out there, it’s at least one of the most fun to watch. But They Live is far from the only movie to shed light on society’s woes. Directors have a long tradition of using horror as an allegory for what we most fear. Here are 10 awesome films that analogize, encapsulate -- and, in some instances, predicted -- true-life political nightmares.

1. Night of the Living Dead (1968). A classic among classics, George Romero’s debut feature not only influenced every quality cult/B-movie to come, he developed a template for political commentary in horror films that both he and his disciples follow to this day. Released in 1968, its slow pacing set the tone for the paranoia that gripped the nation the following year and never left, and the utter humanness of the voracious zombies was a reminder of humankind’s capacity for horrific acts.

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I tend to avoid gory horror films but I'm surprised I've only seen Night of the Living Dead in this list. What have you seen? Tom

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Bush's Waterboarding Admission Prompts Calls For Criminal Probe

WASHINGTON -- The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday joined a growing chorus in the human rights community calling for a special prosecutor to investigate whether former president George W. Bush violated federal statutes prohibiting torture.

In his new memoir and ensuing book tour, Bush has repeatedly admitted that he directly authorized the waterboarding of three terror suspects. Use of the waterboard, which creates the sensation of drowning, has been an iconic and almost universally condemned form of torture since the time of the Spanish Inquisition.

Except for a brief period during which a handful of Bush administration lawyers insisted that the exigencies of interrogating terror suspects justified its use, waterboarding has always been considered illegal by the Justice Department. It is also a clear violation of international torture conventions.

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George boasts about being a war criminal and the mainstream media yawns. The U.S. has become inured to crimes by the elites going unpunished. Canada too, where the cover-up of war crimes in Afghanistan seems effortless. Tom

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G20 summit unmarred by violent rallies

By Park Si-soo

No violent demonstration were reported during the G20 Seoul Summit, which ended Friday, allowing police who have been on high alert for weeks to heave a sigh of relief.

The only large-scale rally, led by the militant Korean Confederation of Trade Union, held at Seoul Station Plaza, Thursday, ended without major clashes. Around 100 anti-G20 activists from 80 civic groups from around the world took part in the protest.

Hundreds of riot police in protective gear surrounded the crowd to keep them from marching toward the summit venue, with water cannons and tear gas at the ready in case violence broke out.

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Guess the Black Block couldn't make it. Probably still in detention in Toronto. Tom

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Eight Myths of Justice

Innocent Americans are routinely convicted and incarcerated. The new book False Justice explains how.

In the 2006 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Kansas v. March, Justice David Souter and Justice Antonin Scalia conducted a public debate within their opposing written opinions. Discussing the fates of death row prisoners, Souter opined that in such high stakes cases, innocent men and women are too often found guilty. The “unusually high incidence of false conviction” is probably caused by “the combined difficulty of investigating without help from the victim, intense pressure to get convictions in homicide cases, and the corresponding incentive for the guilty to free the innocent,” Souter wrote.

Scalia countered that wrongful convictions are rare in capital cases because they “are given especially close scrutiny at every level, which is why in most cases many years elapse before the sentence is executed.”

Read on...

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thousands Protest in Seoul Before G20 Summit

[Protesters raise their anti-G20 banners during a rally ahead of  the G20 Seoul Summit, scheduled on November 11-12, in front of the Seoul  railway station November 6, 2010. (REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak)]Protesters raise their anti-G20 banners during a rally ahead of the G20 Seoul Summit, scheduled on November 11-12, in front of the Seoul railway station November 6, 2010. (REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak)

SEOUL, South Korea -- Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Seoul on Sunday in a largely peaceful protest against this week's G20 summit as the city went on heightened alert for the meeting of world leaders.

Authorities ramped up security at the weekend in preparation for the arrival of 10,000 participants, including 32 heads of government and leaders of international organizations, for the summit on Thursday and Friday.

South Korea is concerned about the risk of violent anti-capitalist protests -- a common feature of summits involving the world's leading economies -- and anxious its rival North Korea may try to stage an incident to embarrass it.

Security forces have been put on high alert, anti-aircraft missiles are at the ready, shipping and air routes are under heightened surveillance and airport screening has increased.

Read on...

This should be interesting. It is a never ending story. Will the public have a right to protest in Seoul? Will the police behave themselves? Stay tuned. Tom

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The Prison Boom Comes Home to Roost

by James Carroll

Will the fiscal collapse that has laid bare gross inequalities in the US economic system lead to meaningful reforms toward a more just society? One answer is suggested by the bursting of what might be called the “other housing bubble,’’ for these two years have also brought to crisis the three-decade-long frenzy of mass imprisonment. If there was a bailout for bankers, can there be one for inmates?

It is commonly observed now that, beginning about 1981, during the Reagan administration, the wealth of a tiny percentage of top-tier earners sky-rocketed, while the wages of the vast majority of Americans went flat. A rapid escalation in the illusory value of homeownership soon followed. But an unseen boom began then, too — in American rates of incarceration, the housing bubble in prisons. A recent issue of Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, lays it out. In 1975, there were fewer than 400,000 people locked up in the United States. By 2000, that had grown to 2 million, and by this year to nearly 2.5 million. As the social scientist Glenn C. Loury points out, with 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States imprisons 25 percent of all humans behind bars. This effectively created a vibrant shadow economy: American spending on the criminal justice system went from $33 billion in 1980 to $216 billion in 2010 — an increase of 660 percent. Criminal justice is the third largest employer in the country.

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National Lawyers Guild SF Bay Area Denounces Police Violence, Unlawful Arrests and Jailing of Peaceful Demonstrators After Mehserle Sentence

SAN FRANCISCO - November 8 - The National Lawyers Guild SF Bay Area ("NLG") denounces the violent, unnecessary, and wasteful Oakland Police response to peaceful protests on Friday evening, November 5. Police arrested at least one NLG Legal Observer along with approximately 150 demonstrators who were peacefully marching to the Fruitvale BART station, the site where Mehserle shot Oscar Grant in the back, killing him. The demonstrators were illegally jailed into the weekend.

NLG Legal Observers monitor police activity at public demonstrations to prevent police brutality and hold police accountable for misconduct. The NLG also provides legal support to those arrested in connection with First Amendment activity.

Hundreds of heavily armed police from at least seven different Bay Area law enforcement agencies swarmed through downtown Oakland and the Eastlake neighborhood Friday night. "The police surrounded the demonstrators, trapping and arresting numerous people who were doing nothing but protesting the unjust sentence, including one of our legal observers," explained NLG Executive Director Carlos Villarreal. "There has been a lot of media attention on a few incidents of property damage Friday night, but like we saw on July 8, the police action actually focused on shutting down the lawful political demonstration."

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This is the Security State Steve Built

Why the Tories keep whipping up fear of terrorists, criminals and peaceful protestors.

By Murray Dobbin,

natgray300px.jpg

Police apprehend G20 protestor Natalie Gray in Toronto. Photo: Natalie Gray.

For those considering issue triage -- picking five or six issues to focus on -- in the fight to rid the country of the current government, one area that is critical to the outcome is exposing the Harper government's construction of the national security state.

I am referring here to the commitment of the Harper government to implementing policies that increase the importance of a war-fighting military in Canadian society, its preoccupation with tough-on-crime legislation, its blank cheque to security operations like the one "protecting" the G20 summit, and its continued efforts to convince Canadians that they face the constant risk of terrorist attack.

The flip side of the coin: criminalizing dissent and trashing civil liberties so that opposition to this agenda can be kept to a minimum.

Life in the 'national security state'

Read on...

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Friday, November 5, 2010

UN human rights council urges US to end death penalty

American delegate says capital punishment is subject of vigorous debate and applied for in only the most serious crimes

Electric chair
More than 1,200 people have been put to death in the US, which has been urged to abolish the death penalty. Photograph: Tony Garcia


The US today faced an international clamour to abolish the death penalty during a debate at the UN human rights council in Geneva.

The council is gradually reviewing the performance of all 192 UN member states. The US took its moment in the spotlight seriously, sending a high-level delegation of around 30 officials led by Esther Brimmer, the assistant secretary of state for international organisation affairs.

The delegation was given a mostly warm welcome by delegates of the 47-member council, but was forced to listen to repeated calls for the US to put an end to the death penalty.

More than 1,200 men and women have been put to death in the US since executions resumed in 1977 after a decade without them, according to Amnesty International.

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From Iowa, a chilling message for judges

Marsha Ternus, David Baker and Michael Streit are three of the incumbents tossed out of office Tuesday by angry voters. They aren't corrupt or incompetent. They aren't even politicians. They're state Supreme Court justices, and the circumstances of their eviction should be deeply troubling to anyone who believes in the rule of law.

The judges' sin was that they did their jobs. They read the state constitution and interpreted its meaning without regard to politics, public opinion or the passions of the moment. That reading led them to invalidate an Iowa law limiting marriage to a man and woman.

Read on...

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Prop 19 Burnout: Why Did Pot Legalization Fail In California?


Attorney Omar Figueroa in a medical marijuana garden in Sonoma County, California.

On Tuesday, California residents voted down Proposition 19, the state's marijuana legalization ballot initiative, by a 54%-46% margin. A few months ago, statewide polling on the initiative found that Californians were in support of the measure significantly more than they were in opposition to it. As September survey results rolled in, however, findings began to suggest a stark shift in public opinion and the California legalization narrative was flipped on its head. In the final two months leading up to election day, opposition steadily increased in the polls while support markedly dwindled.

So what happened?

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Another Nobel Economist Says We Have to Prosecute Fraud Or Else the Economy Won't Recover

As economists such as William Black and James Galbraith have repeatedly said, we cannot solve the economic crisis unless we throw the criminals who committed fraud in jail.

And Nobel prize winning economist George Akerlof has demonstrated that failure to punish white collar criminals - and instead bailing them out- creates incentives for more economic crimes and further destruction of the economy in the future. See this, this and this.

Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz just agreed. As Stiglitz told Yahoo's Daily Finance on October 20th:

This is a really important point to understand from the point of view of our society. The legal system is supposed to be the codification of our norms and beliefs, things that we need to make our system work. If the legal system is seen as exploitative, then confidence in our whole system starts eroding. And that's really the problem that's going on.

Read on...

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Charges against G20 activist dropped

Julian Ichim, once considered by police to be a co-conspirator of G20 violence, had charges of counselling to commit mischief dropped by the Crown on Monday.

The 30-year-old anti poverty activist appeared in provincial court with many of the 19 people co-accused of organizing violence during the summit of world leaders in June.

More than half of the accused appeared in court Monday, while others were represented by their lawyers.

Ichim was originally one of the accused co-conspirators, since those charges were withdrawn he faces no further charges related to G20 violence.

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Crimbrary followed the adventures of this brave young man from Guelph throughout the G20 fiasco. Tom

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90 officers facing disciplinary action for hiding their identity at G20

Marianne Takacs and Kate Allen Staff Reporters

About 90 Toronto police officers are facing disciplinary action for removing the name badges from their uniforms during the G20 summit, Chief Bill Blair said Wednesday.

Blair was appearing in Ottawa before the House of Commons public safety committee to answer questions about summit security. He discussed the disciplinary action in response to MPs’ queries about accusations that a large group of officers deliberately tried to hide their identities from G20 protesters.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Treatment of female inmate ‘outrageous and barbaric,’ lawyer tells coroner’s hearing

Ashley Smith, pictured in an undated photo, took her own life in a  federal institution on October 19, 2007.

Ashley Smith, pictured in an undated photo, took her own life in a federal institution on October 19, 2007.

Diana Zlomislic Staff Reporter

The story of Ashley Smith is “the most outrageous and barbaric example of the mistreatment of a mentally ill person this country has ever witnessed,” her family’s lawyer told a coroner’s court on Monday.

“It took a long time to torture Ashley Smith and it will take a long time to explore the circumstances of her death,” Julian Falconer said.

Lawyers for Smith’s family and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies are in Toronto this week arguing that Deputy Chief Coroner Dr. Bonita Porter should broaden the scope of the inquest into the teen inmate’s death, which they say was brought on by brutal conditions of confinement and a series of illegal transfers within the “corrupt” federal prison

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Getting Teenagers Back to School

Rethinking New York States Reponse to Chronic Absence.

Nearly 40 percent of New York City high school students—about 124,000 teenagers—missed 20 or more days of school in the 2008–2009 school year.1 This policy brief looks at one response to the statewide problem of chronic school absence: reporting parents to the child protective system, which handles allegations of child abuse and neglect. Under New York State law, a parent or guardian who fails to ensure that his or her child attends school regularly can be found to have neglected the child. Although the term “educational neglect” is often associated with young children, more than 60 percent of the state’s educational-neglect allegations concern teenagers, particularly 15- and 16-year-olds (see Figure 1).

The child protective system is not well equipped to help teenagers improve their school attendance. Nonetheless, educational-neglect reports involving teens consume a large portion of the child protective system’s resources and are diverting the system’s attention from children with more serious safety and neglect issues. The most common responses to teenage chronic absence around the country are punitive, contrary to what adolescent development and school engagement research tell us about what motivates teens to go to school. This policy brief summarizes analyses that staff from the Vera Institute of Justice conducted

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This is a Vera Institute of Justice Policy Brief. Tom

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The Continuing Fiscal Crisis In Corrections. Setting a New Course

A Vera Institute of Justice report. October 2010.

The link will take you to a pdf of the full report. Tom

Frank Zimring. The Decline of Crime in New York City"

The Vera Institute of Justice's Neil A. Weiner Research Speaker Series Featuring Frank Zimring.