Thursday, May 31, 2012

Citizens United Attacks From Justice Stevens Continue

A day after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, retired Justice John Paul Stevens on Wednesday night backed President Barack Obama's suggestion during his 2010 State of the Union address that the Citizens United decision could lead to "foreign entities" bankrolling American elections.

He urged the U.S. Supreme Court to explicitly explain why the president's words were "not true," as Justice Samuel Alito famously mouthed on camera, breaking the justices' usual stoic appearance during the president's annual speech.

Stevens has been a trenchant critic of Citizens United since the court decided the case in January 2010. On the day the opinion was announced, he spent 20 minutes reading from the bench a summary of his 90-page dissent. Stumbling over some words that day convinced Stevens, now 92, to retire, but he continued to condemn the ruling in speeches, writings and even on the Colbert Report.

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America's Spy State: How the Telecoms Sell Out Your Privacy

Your seemingly private information is a public commodity, subject to the dictates of the security state and market opportunists. 

You need to know one simple truth: you have no privacy with regard to your electronic communications.

Nothing you do online, via a wireline telephone or over a wireless device is outside the reach of government security agencies and private corporations. Your ostensible personal communication -- whether a phone call, an email, a search, visiting a website, a credit card purchase, a 140 character Tweet, a movie download or a Facebook friending -- is a public commodity, subject to the dictates of the security state and market opportunists.

Corporate surveillance has begun to raise consumer, Congressional and regulatory concerns – a major case, Amnesty v. Clapper, is now before the Supreme Court. One can only wonder why it is not an issue in this year’s election?

Corporate spying takes a variety of forms. GPS tracking over a wireless device is widespread. Google’s efforts to commercialize its users’ keystrokes resulted in a $25,000 fine from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Potentially more consequential, a growing chorus of criticism over its recently introduced data-harvesting program seems to have contributed to a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation of Google; the FTC retained Beth Wilkinson, a high-powered outside counsel, to oversee a possible anti-trust prosecution of the company. On March 1st, Google introduced a new program that collects user data from its 60 services. Google stores “cookies” (i.e., code that compiles a record of an individual’s web browsing history) on a growing number of communications devices, whether a home PC, tablet, smartphone and a growing number of TV sets. These cookies track every website a person visits or function s/he uses. As the New York Times wrote, “The case has the potential to be the biggest showdown between regulators and Silicon Valley since the government took on Microsoft 14 years ago.

"Imprisonment and Crime: Can both Be Reduced?"

Save the Jury

How to amend the Constitution to make the criminal justice system more fair.

Over the next few weeks, some of Slate’s favorite legal eagles will propose their favorite Constitutional amendments, in the service of our effort, with Me the People author Kevin Bleyer, to rewrite the founding document. Here’s the first crack from NYU law professor Rachel Barkow, for the benefit of another group we think of fondly—accused criminals.
Trial by Jury (Article III and the Sixth Amendment)
Defendants who wish to invoke their right to trial at the moment face an often-exorbitant price.  That’s because prosecutors often charge them with crimes that impose stiff sentences (and often mandatory ones). If they plea bargain, the sentence comes down, but if they gamble and go to trial, they usually do much more time. 
The Supreme Court has prohibited unconstitutional conditions in virtually every other context.  The state is not allowed to condition welfare benefits or permits on the relinquishment of constitutionally protected property rights or First Amendment rights, for example. But the court has taken a different path when it comes to the right to a jury trial. In this context, the court has allowed the state to condition the benefit of a lesser sentence on the relinquishment of the right to a jury trial. And it has done so for the sake of expediency.

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For over 25 years much of the controversy and debate around federal sentencing policy has focused on mandatory minimum sentences. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 and the 1988 Omnibus Anti-Abuse Act established harsh mandatory punishments for drug and firearm offenses (including the infamous 100:1 crack/powder cocaine ratio).1 The establishment of these laws corresponds with the nearly 800% increase in federal incarceration since 1980. Until recently, limited information was available regarding the full impact of these sentencing policies.
Under a statutory directive, the United States Sentencing Commission (the Commission) in October 2011 submitted to Congress its second report in 20 years assessing the impact of federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws. The report concludes:
“Certain mandatory minimum provisions apply too broadly, are set too high, or both, to warrant the prescribed minimum penalty… This has led to inconsistencies in application of certain mandatory minimum penalties…”2
This paper highlights important findings in the Commission’s report and its recommendations for reform.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Capital Punishment’s Latest Folly

The history of capital punishment in this country has had many horrifying turnings, few more macabre than a warning from states employing lethal injection that a federal court ruling has left them facing a shortage of the imported drug they rely on to kill death-row felons.

The scarcity arose after the one domestic manufacturer stopped making sodium thiopental in 2010. In March, Judge Richard Leon of Federal District Court in Washington blocked the importation of the drug, ruling the Food and Drug Administration had not approved it for “safety and effectiveness,” as required for imports. The F.D.A.’s position was that reviewing such a drug designed for death “clearly falls outside of F.D.A.’s explicit public health role.” 

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Editorial from the NY Times. Made my head spin.  Tom

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Suppress the Vote!

Ohio Republicans want to disqualify voters’ ballots for the mistakes poll workers make.

So much ink has been spilled on how vote suppression will affect the 2012 presidential election, one hesitates to write another word. Ari Berman has done terrific work uncovering the ways in which the new voting laws have aimed at suppressing the votes of elderly, minority, student, and other voters—particularly in swing states—who tend to vote for Democratic candidates. Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice has an indispensible primer on the 22 new laws and two executive actions that will severely restrict voting in 17 states in November. These laws, often modeled on draft legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a consortium of conservative state legislators, will have the effect of disenfranchising millions of voters, all in order to address a vote fraud “epidemic” that should be filed somewhere between the Loch Ness Monster and the Tooth Fairy in the annals of modern fairy tales. As Weiser notes, none of this is casual or accidental: “If you want to find another period in which this many new laws were passed restricting voting, you have to go back more than a century—to the post-Reconstruction era, when Southern states passed a host of Jim Crow voting laws and Northern states targeted immigrants and the poor.”

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Unabomber Pens Prison Update For Harvard Classmates

Ted Kaczynski lists his eight life sentences under "awards" in the alumni bulletin.


106884092 Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, in 1958

When Harvard's class of 1962 meets this week for its 50th reunion, the group's most (in)famous member won't be on hand. But those who do show, and even those who don't, won't have to wonder what happened to that young man named Ted who lived down the hall.

Ted Kaczynski, better known to the nation as the Unabomber, didn't miss the chance to use a recent school alumni bulletin to update his fellow alumni on what he's been up to in the five decades since he graduated,

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Economic unity beats out crime as hot issue, poll finds

More Canadians see strengthening the country’s economic unity as the top priority for government compared with a year ago, according to a poll ranking voter attitudes toward Conservative priorities.
The Nanos Survey poll asked 1,000 Canadians earlier this month which issue they considered the most important out of five listed on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s website as long-term priorities. The poll suggests Canadians have become less interested in cracking down on crime, asserting Arctic sovereignty and rebuilding the Canadian Forces.

Nearly 40 per cent of those surveyed this year said economic unity was their top priority, compared with close to 26 per cent last year, when the same poll question was asked soon after the Conservatives won their majority.
In Ontario, 46 per cent of respondents picked economic unity as the most important priority, more than any other province. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said earlier this year that the province has “no one to blame but themselves” for heading into deficits for six more years.

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400 arrested as Montreal police kettle demonstrators

A peaceful evening march that began with people banging pots and pans in support of protesting students ended in the early morning hours with police kettling demonstrators and arresting 400 of them after officers were pelted with projectiles.

Montreal wasn’t the only city to have roundups Wednesday night. There were also mass arrests at student protests in Quebec City and Sherbrooke.

Kettling is a police tactic widely used in Europe where riot cops surround demonstrators and limit or cut off their exits. It has been widely criticized because it often results in the scooping up of innocent bystanders as well as rowdies. A recent report by Ontario’s police watchdog blasted Toronto police for their use of kettling during the G20 summit two years ago, saying they violated civil rights, detained people illegally and used excessive force.

The Montreal demonstration was the 30th since the student protest against tuition fee increases began more than three months ago.

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Kettling gets condemed in Toronto, and a couple of days later Quebec Police go nuts with it?  Tom

US war veterans tossing medals back at Nato was a heroic act

Nato summit leaders should have been forced to watch the moving protest of the former troops chucking their medals away

"No amount of medals, ribbons, or flags can cover the amount of human suffering caused by this war."
"I have only one word, and it is shame."
"This is for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan."
"Mostly, I'm sorry. I'm sorry to all of you. I am sorry…"
In the shadow of the Nato summit, under the watchful eyes of a phalanx of full-black-clad riot police, dozens of former servicemen and women in uniform, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, threw away their medals, with apologies. It was one of the most moving experiences many of us had witnessed in our lives. It is hard to describe in words. I couldn't get the lump out of my throat. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a woman next to me crying. Their words, their voices, crackling under the emotion of their courageous act, breaking under the weight of the pain, the trauma, their anger, sadness, and hope – theirs was a heroic and beautiful act, a moving ceremony. It was a privilege to be there with these women and men who served in our wars.

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Welcome, Nato, to Chicago's police state

The Nato summit will come and go, but Mayor Emanuel has authorised a 'new normal' of militarised social control in Chicago

With Nato delegates arriving Saturday night, the City of Chicago has been turned into a police state. Courtesy of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who several months ago began implementing new draconian anti-protest measures, Chicago has gone on security lockdown. Starting early Friday night, 18 May 2012, the Chicago Police Department began shutting down – prohibiting cars, bikes, and pedestrians – miles and miles of highways and roads in the heart of Chicago to create a security perimeter around downtown and McCormick Place (where the Nato summit is being held).
Eight-foot tall, anti-scale security fencing went up all over that perimeter and downtown, including Grant Park; and the Chicago police – as well as myriad other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI and the US secret service – were out in force on riot-geared horses, bikes, and patrols – batons at the ready. Philadelphia Police Department is sending over reinforcements to help out; Chicago has also asked for recruits from police departments in Milwaukee and Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC. Meanwhile, F-16 warplanes "screamed through the skies as part of a pre-summit defense exercise" and helicopters hovered incessantly.

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Here's a link to some pictures from the Guardian's Facebook page. Tom 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

New Research Suggests Tasers Can Be Lethal

Questions about the safety of taser stun guns used by police forces across the globe have been raging ever since the supposedly non-lethal weapons first came into use over a decade ago.

Amnesty International, the company’s most vocal critic, has compiled figures indicating that at least 500 people in the USA have died since 2001 after being shocked with Tasers, and according to more conservative, but no less shocking, figures published by the US Justice Department, 184 people have died since 1986 after being stunned by a taser.

Taser International, the company that manufactures the 50,000 volt devices, has vehemently contested that the weapons are unsafe and has fought back in court when people say otherwise. Often the blame will fall back upon the victim’s drug abuse, weak heart or propensity to die suddenly from the debatable medical term known as ‘excited delirium’ – which Amnesty cites as a cause of death in 111 of 334 cases it has documented.

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Report critical of G20 tactics, Chief Blair defensive

It was a defensive Chief Bill Blair who met reporters in the atrium of Toronto police headquarters on Wednesday. A scathing report on police conduct during the G20 protests in 2010 had just been released. It found that disorganized, poorly trained police had often trampled on the rights of protesters and sometimes resorted to excessive force.

Did the chief care to apologize? Would he acknowledge that police sometimes acted outside the law? Did he have any sense of regret?

No, no and no. “Generally – I think overwhelmingly – the rights of our citizens were protected that weekend,” he said. Asked if he agreed with the report's finding that police had acted unlawfully on several occasions during the G20, he replied: “No. That has not been proven at all.”

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Recent issues of the Canadian Jounal of Law and Society.

Here are the table of contents for two recent issues of the Canadian Journal of Law and Society. The first issue focuses on issues of access to government information. "Accessing data and information from government sources has become increasingly difficult for many sociolegal and criminological researchers in many parts of the world. An important special collection of articles examines both the challenges facing researchers and some of the strategies, such as freedom-of-information requests, that are being explored to surmount these challenges."

The link to the table of contents is here:

The second issue discusses Truth and Reconciliation Commissions.
"Since the world-renowned South African 'Truth and Reconciliation Commission', many countries have used special commissions to deal with the fallout of civil conflicts and collective injustices. Canada has set up a 'Truth and Reconciliation Commission' for aboriginal Canadians who were forced into residential schools in the recent past. But unlike the South Africa model, this commission is part of the settlement of a collective lawsuit. A set of papers critically examines some features of this process and draws comparisons to other commissions in Canada and in other countries. The articles are complemented by a reflective comment on the loss and recovery of one's native tongue by an aboriginal artist."

The table of contents is here:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

G20 report blasts police for excessive force, civil rights violations

Police violated civil rights, detained people illegally and used excessive force during the G20 summit two years ago, a new report concludes.

The report by Ontario’s independent police watchdog also blasts the temporary detention centre that Toronto police set up for its poor planning, design and operation that saw people detained illegally.

The Office of the Independent Police Review Director found police breached several constitutional rights during the tumultuous event, in which more than 1,100 people were arrested, most to be released without charge.

“Some police officers ignored basic rights citizens have under the Charter and overstepped their authority when they stopped and searched people arbitrarily and without legal justification,” the report states.

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So who is going to jail? Who is resigning in shame?  Tom

Fear of a black mask

The federal Conservatives have developed a reflexive tic. They seem to awake in the morning, read something in the news that annoys them, and gather to push through a quick law banning or punishing it.
They discover Clifford Olsen is receiving pension-plan payments, so they ban the practice. They're upset that a Chinese grocer is arrested after chasing off a persistent thief, so they change the law on citizen's arrest. Intent on helping police track down crooks, they introduce a law empowering police to spy on almost anyone for anything - then accuse anyone who criticizes the law as a would be child-pornographer. They find out that some prisoners are earning a pittance in prison from doing menial work, so they slap a tax on it. And they call all of it getting "tough on crime" and "standing up for victims."
As previous experience has illustrated, this often blows up on the Tories, and they have to backtrack. Just this week, Immigration Minister Jason Kenny amended a bill that would have allowed some refugees to be detained for a year without a review by the Immigration and Refugee Board.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Can You Call a 9-Year-Old a Psychopath?

One day last summer, Anne and her husband, Miguel, took their 9-year-old son, Michael, to a Florida elementary school for the first day of what the family chose to call “summer camp.” For years, Anne and Miguel have struggled to understand their eldest son, an elegant boy with high-planed cheeks, wide eyes and curly light brown hair, whose periodic rages alternate with moments of chilly detachment. Michael’s eight-week program was, in reality, a highly structured psychological study — less summer camp than camp of last resort.

Michael’s problems started, according to his mother, around age 3, shortly after his brother Allan was born. At the time, she said, Michael was mostly just acting “like a brat,” but his behavior soon escalated to throwing tantrums during which he would scream and shriek inconsolably. These weren’t ordinary toddler’s fits. “It wasn’t, ‘I’m tired’ or ‘I’m frustrated’ — the normal things kids do,” Anne remembered. “His behavior was really out there. And it would happen for hours and hours each day, no matter what we did.” For several years, Michael screamed every time his parents told him to put on his shoes or perform other ordinary tasks, like retrieving one of his toys from the living room. “Going somewhere, staying somewhere — anything would set him off,” Miguel said. These furies lasted well beyond toddlerhood. At 8, Michael would still fly into a rage when Anne or Miguel tried to get him ready for school, punching the wall and kicking holes in the door. Left unwatched, he would cut up his trousers with scissors or methodically pull his hair out. He would also vent his anger by slamming the toilet seat down again and again until it broke.

When Anne and Miguel first took Michael to see a therapist, he was given a diagnosis of “firstborn syndrome”: acting out because he resented his new sibling. While both parents acknowledged that Michael was deeply hostile to the new baby, sibling rivalry didn’t seem sufficient to explain his consistently extreme behavior. 

Courts turn to video-conference testimony to cut costs

Faced with increasing costs and delays associated with hearing cases, a growing number of judges are trying to drag the court system into the electronic age, including using video links to allow witnesses to testify from afar.

Legal traditionalists are aghast at the prospect of cross-examining witnesses via video, but others believe the new moves will enhance justice and keep the courts credible and accessible.

“The legal system is going to be exposed to ridicule if we don’t move forward with innovative ways of taking evidence,” said Brian Gover, a veteran Toronto lawyer at Stockwoods LLP. “One of the great issues for us in a time of austerity is going to be cost control and delivering justice in an efficient way. Technology has provided an answer to the problem.”

Two recent rulings broke new ground, opening the door to testimony by Skype and teleconferencing.

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Report exonerates RCMP for actions during violence-marred G20 summit

The RCMP abandoned its policy of allowing protesters to peacefully disperse when it assisted the municipal Toronto police force in three “kettling” incidents during the G20 summit in June 2010, a watchdog report says. RCMP officers on the ground during the summit expressed concerns about using the “kettling” tactic — forcibly boxing in protesters — but relented because they were officially under the command of other police forces.

Other than that criticism, however, the report from the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP nearly completely exonerates the force’s actions during the summit, for which more than two dozen complaints were filed. The national force acted in a “reasonable and appropriate” manner during the violence-marred summit, the report said.

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How the Toews-sponsored Internet surveillance bill quietly died

The Internet surveillance legislation sponsored by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has disappeared down a dark legislative hole. For all intents and purposes, the bill is dead.

If the Harper government still wants to pass a law that would make it easier for police to track people who use the web to commit crimes, it will have to start from scratch.

That new bill, if there is one, will probably be shepherded by a different minister. That’s how much damage this botched legislation inflicted on the government and on Mr. Toews.

Bill C-30, also known as the lawful access legislation, would allow police to compel Internet service providers to cough up identifying information about anyone using the Internet.

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Tale of Two Cities: NYPD's Racist Arrests Create Class War in New York

For the NYPD's stats to add up, they'd have to have stopped every young, black man living in the city once--and then some.

 This Saturday, May 12, in New York City, an alliance of more than 100 community activists, mothers, city councilmembers and religious leaders marched from Foley Square to One Police Plaza, demanding an end to police tactics they say have resulted in two New Yorks -- or as the action was appropriately titled, “A Tale of Two Cities.

-New York, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), the Drug Policy Alliance, and other groups organized the event to demand an end to the racial segregation they say Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly actively enforce. The demonstration hinged tightly on the power of a united New York. Nine white New Yorkers attempted civil disobedience at the police headquarters, but were (ironically) not arrested.
Fearing for their children’s futures, many mothers in the crowd considered the action -- a day before Mother’s Day -- a timely mechanism to defend their children from injustice at the hands of the NYPD.

Carlos De Luna Execution: Texas Put To Death An Innocent Man, Columbia University Team Says

One of the strongest arguments against the death penalty is the frightening chance of executing an innocent person. Columbia University law professor James Liebman said he and a team of students have proven that Texas gave a lethal injection to the wrong man.

Carlos De Luna was executed in 1989 for stabbing to death a gas station clerk in Corpus Christi six years earlier. It was a ghastly crime. The trial attracted local attention, but not from concern that a guiltless man would be punished while the killer went free.

De Luna, an eighth grade dropout, maintained that he was innocent from the moment cops put him in the back seat of a patrol car until the day he died. Today, 29 years after De Luna was arrested, Liebman and his team published a mammoth report in the Human Rights Law Review that concludes De Luna paid with his life for a crime he likely did not commit. Shoddy police work, the prosecution's failure to pursue another suspect, and a weak defense combined to send De Luna to death row, they argued.

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Louisiana is the world's prison capital

Louisiana is the world's prison capital. The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana's incarceration rate is nearly triple Iran's, seven times China's and 10 times Germany's.

The hidden engine behind the state's well-oiled prison machine is cold, hard cash. A majority of Louisiana inmates are housed in for-profit facilities, which must be supplied with a constant influx of human beings or a $182 million industry will go bankrupt.

Several homegrown private prison companies command a slice of the market. But in a uniquely Louisiana twist, most prison entrepreneurs are rural sheriffs, who hold tremendous sway in remote parishes like Madison, Avoyelles, East Carroll and Concordia. A good portion of Louisiana law enforcement is financed with dollars legally skimmed off the top of prison operations.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Unbelievable Brutality Unleashed on Kids in For-Profit Prisons

Privatization of the youth prison industry handed soaring profits to GEO, but a history of brutal injustice to its incarcerated youth and their families.

Michael McIntosh couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He had come to visit his son at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility near Jackson, Miss., only to be turned away. His son wasn’t there.

“I said, ‘Well, where is he?’ They said, ‘We don’t know.’”
Thus began a search for his son Mike that lasted more than six weeks. Desperate for answers, he repeatedly called the prison and the Mississippi Department of Corrections. “I was running out of options. Nobody would give me an answer, from the warden all the way to the commissioner.”
Finally, a nurse at the prison gave him a clue: Check the area hospitals.
After more frantic phone calls, he found Mike in a hospital in Greenwood, hours away. He was shocked at what he saw. His son could barely move, let alone sit up. He couldn’t see or talk or use his right arm. “He’s got this baseball-size knot on the back of his head,” McIntosh said. “He’s got cuts all over him, bruises. He has stab wounds. The teeth in the front are broken. He’s scared out of his mind. He doesn’t have a clue where he’s at – or why.”

The Poverty of Domestic Violence

More women are turning to shelters, and the jobs crisis is part of the problem.

In late April, the Police Executive Research Forum released a new survey finding that police officers are encountering more cases of domestic violence as the economy continues to struggle. In 2010, 40 percent of the agencies in the survey reported an increase in domestic violence calls; this year, that number has risen to 56 percent. Numbers from women’s shelters, released by the Mary Kay Foundation, are even more alarming. 78 percent of shelters have seen a rise in the numbers of women seeking help, and 58 percent report that the abuse they are seeing has become more violent.

These numbers seem shocking, but in fact, we’ve known about the connection between abuse, economic stress and poverty for a very long time. But it’s rarely covered by media. I’d argue that this is in part because doing so requires us to stop adhering to prescribed boundaries – “economic issues” versus “women’s issues,” psychology versus politics – and to start making connections.

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Courts examine whether jurors are violated during selection

A series of cases occupying the country’s highest courts has cast a spotlight on Crown attempts to probe the personal backgrounds of prospective jurors, potentially undermining the sanctity of the jury system.

With the Supreme Court of Canada still deliberating over three cases involving such jury vetting, the Ontario Court of Appeal has wrapped up a week of appeals that also included a look into whether the jury system treats aboriginals unfairly.

The most contentious case involves a 2007 murder trial in Barrie, Ont., where the Crown was privy to private, background information about the mental health, age and driving records of many of the 280 citizens in the jury pool. The defendant, Clare Alexander Spiers, is appealing his conviction on the basis that the background checks stacked the odds against him.

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Gun registry: Vic Toews orders RCMP to flag efforts to track long-gun sales

The federal public safety minister has fired off a rocket to RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, ordering him to flag any efforts by provinces to track long-gun sales.
In a letter sent Tuesday to the top Mountie, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews threatened unspecified “legislative and regulatory measures” against defiant provincial firearms officers who engage in what he calls “unauthorized data collection.”
Although the RCMP’s operations are supposed to be at arms-length from the public safety minister’s office, Toews clearly instructs Paulson in writing about what he expects of the RCMP.
The RCMP is in charge of administering the firearms program, which includes gun-owner licensing and the collection of data on restricted and prohibited weapons. It also maintains — until a Quebec court challenge is decided — the data previously collected under the defunct long-gun registry.

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Mentally ill female prisoners treated cruelly, inhumanly, report finds

Canada’s treatment of mentally ill female prisoners amounts to “cruel and inhuman” punishment, a new report finds.
“It is shocking to see the extent of human rights abuses against women at home,” said Renu Mandhane, director of the International Human Rights Program at University of Toronto, which published the report.
“I think, with the Ashley Smith story and the ongoing inquest, everyone assumed that no one is currently in that situation,” said Mandhane, who co-chairs the Advocacy Committee of Human Rights Watch Canada.
“The fact is there are still women imprisoned who are subject to long periods of segregation and uses of force despite their mental health status. That is quite disturbing.”

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Here is the report.  Tom

Monday, May 7, 2012

Is the NYPD Out of Control? New Lawsuit Takes on Bloomberg's 'Private Army

Rodriguez v. Winski calls for the creation of an independent federal position to oversee the NYPD.

When Mayor Michael Bloomberg referred to the NYPD as his “private army” and the “seventh largest standing army in the world,” he managed to provoke scorn from all but his most slavish admirers. Though his description was wildly inaccurate regarding the size of the department, his overall Putin-esque characterization of the cops as a extra-municipal tool to be deployed at his whim struck many as remarkably and accidentally honest.
Bloomberg does deserve some credit for managing to hoodwink a large number of New Yorkers into believing he's some sort of benevolent technocrat instead of the corporate oligarch he so clearly is. But when it comes to handling Occupy, Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly – and the NYPD at large – are facing a new level of resistance.

Fifteen plaintiffs, including five elected officials, members of the press, an Iraq war veteran, and Occupy Wall Street activists are suing the city in federal court, alleging gross misconduct ranging from false arrest and imprisonment to possible conspiracy between the police department and JPMorgan Chase to chill citizen's rights to peaceably assemble. The suit is known as Rodriguez v. Winski and calls for, among other measures, the creation of an independent federal position to oversee the NYPD. The department is out of control, the suit alleges, and is incapable of holding itself accountable. 


5 Wildly Destructive Myths About Crime and Race

A lot of stereotypes about African-Americans and crime are plain wrong -- and very harmful.

In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death, we’ve seen a lot of discussion of the larger societal issues that play into how and when people are perceived as criminals. There were hoodies, there were marches, and there were frank talks from parent to child about how to minimize the danger of being a young person of color. On the other side, there were justifications of George Zimmerman’s actions: a smear campaign against Martin’s character, and plenty of writers explaining that statistically, blacks are simply more dangerous to be around.
That framing ignores the realities behind the numbers. Here are five myths about crime and people of color.


Ottawa cops to begin collecting race-based data

OTTAWA - A settlement between the city's police service and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) means Ottawa cops will collect race-based data on traffic stops by its officers. This follows a human rights complaint by resident Chad Aiken, who was pulled over in his mother's Mercedes-Benz in 2005. Aiken was 18 at the time, and alleged he was stopped because he was African-Canadian. A partial settlement in his case was reached in 2010, but a new settlement reached two weeks ago requires officers to collect race-based data for two years. "Our goal was to seek public interest remedies, so we advocated for data collection and are very pleased that the Ottawa Police Services have agreed to do that," said Barbara Hall, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

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Immigration, Demographic Change and Racial Justice

Philip Kasinitz, professor of sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, talks with Vera director Michael Jacobson about his research on immigrants and their children. Drawing on data from a major study of the children of immigrants in New York, Professor Kasinitz will discuss the implications of growing diversity for social policy as well as for strategies to promote racial equality. This podcast is part of the 2011-2012 Neil A. Weiner Research Speaker Series. Professor Kasinitz is the author of Caribbean New York: Black Immigrants and the Politics of Race (Cornell University Press, 1992), the editor of Metropolis: Center and Symbol of Our Time (New York University Press, 1995), co-editor (with Mary C. Waters and John H. Mollenkopf) of Becoming New Yorkers: Ethnographies of the New Second Generation (Russell Sage Foundation 2004), and co-author (with Waters, Mollenkopf, and Jennifer Holdaway) of the award-winning Inheriting the City: The Children of Immigrants Come of Age (Harvard University Press 2008).

Ruffians, Pickpockets, and Jewel Fences

What was crime-fighting actually like in Sherlock Holmes-era London?

With the second season of Sherlock debuting this Sunday on PBS, here's an old-fashioned Edwardian mystery to warm up with: You are a police detective sent to the lair of "Kemmy" Grizzard, a notorious London jewel fence. He is known to have a stolen diamond necklace for sale on the premises. Inside, you find Kemmy and three likely buyers calmly sitting down in the dining room to a soup course.  There is nothing incriminating in their pockets, and upon informing Kemmy that you will search the home from top to bottom, his response is ingratiatingly polite: Gentlemen, search wherever you like.
The house is turned upside down for four hours; nothing is found, and you leave in defeat. So where did the necklace go? The solution is almost as simple as Poe's purloined letter:

The Chief-Inspector and his men went away. Without saying a word to the other men, Kemmy went on with his dinner, he drank the now-cold soup, and then from the bottom of the plate, took out the diamond necklace. It was washed, and auctioned."
It's a lapse worthy of Sherlock Holmes' hapless Scotland Yard foil, the dogged but unimaginative Inspector Lestrade. But unlike Holmes or Lestrade, Kemmy Grizzard was real—and his home at 73 Parkholme Road  still stands today. The story comes from George Cornish's memoir Cornish of Scotland Yard (1935), which is part of a genre of long-forgotten Yard tell-alls that flourished as a group of old-timers retired in the 1930s. They offer a fascinating, almost wistful glimpse into a gaslit era of crime—the real-life London most of us only know from the fictional tales of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Read on...


Friday, May 4, 2012

Three Pennsylvania Cops Suspended For Tasing Handcuffed Teenager

This may not be the first case in the country, but it's the first time that I know of that a police officer is being disciplined for misusing a Taser. This is a small, gritty town on the Philadelphia border that's seen quite a few ups and downs over the past several decades, and in the past, has had a lot of problems with their police force:
The acting head of the Colwyn Borough Police Department was suspended today while borough and county officials investigate an incident involving a juvenile who was Tasered while handcuffed in a holding cell at the department.
Deputy Chief Wendell Reed is the second person to be suspended for the April 24 incident, said Mayor Daniel Rutland. The officer who allegedly administered the shock, Cpl. Trevor Parham, was suspended earlier this week and a third officer who was allegedly present when it occurred is expected to be suspended as well, according to sources and Rutland.

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Conrad Black: Views on improving prison system

Prison made Conrad Black a “better man,” said Judge Amy St. Eve upon sending him back in for another eight months.
By his own account the former media baron and member of the House of Lords was made “a humbler, more sensitive person” by his stay as inmate No. 18330-424.
And like Martha Stewart and Jonathan Aitken (a British cabinet minister imprisoned for perjury in 1999) before him, Black has become a passionate advocate for prison reform.
While his “victory lap” in a Miami prison ends Friday, here are some of his suggestions for improving the U.S. and Canadian prison system for those friends he leaves behind.
Scrap federal mandatory minimum sentencing:

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Conrad Black released from prison, arrives in Toronto

Conrad Black, right, and his wife Barbara Amiel Black watch their two dogs as he arrives at his Bridle Path residence in Toronto.
Conrad Black, right, and his wife Barbara Amiel Black watch their two dogs as he arrives at his Bridle Path residence in Toronto.

Conrad Black arrived back in Canada early Friday afternoon, just hours after he had been released from a U.S. federal prison.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations effected the return of Mr. Conrad Black to Canada,” immigration spokesman Nestor Yglesias told the Toronto Star.
Black went straight to his Bridle Path home, where he exchanged a kiss with his wife, Barbara Amiel Black, and played with his dogs before ducking inside through the back entrance.
Amiel arrived in a car with him at their home.
Black had been released from prison in Miami Friday morning and was immediately taken into custody by ICE authorities while they arranged his deportation to Canada.
“He has been released and he is in ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement) custody,” spokesman Nestor Yglesias told the Toronto Star through the morning. “I can’t tell you more than that.”

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Anyone have an opinion on this?   Tom

John Beattie's newest book.

Congratulations to John Beattie on the publication of his new book The First English Detectives: The Bow Street Runners and the Policing of London, 1750-1840/. Published by Oxford University Press, the book represents the first comprehensive study of the Bow Street Runners from their establishment by Henry Fielding in the middle of the eighteenth century and subsequent development over the following decades into a stable group of officers who were, as John argues, detectives in all but name. A second theme in the book concerns attitudes and ideas about the policing of London more broadly, particularly from the 1780s when the detective and prosecutorial work of the runners came to be

The present book represents John's major work over the past decade and follows on from his earlier book /Policing and Prosecution in London, 1660-1750: Urban Crime and the
Limits of Terror /which was also published by Oxford University Press.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

MAP: What's Happening Where on Occupy May Day

Locate the latest developments, actions, and police responses to May Day activists.

Journalists from over 25 leading independent media outlets report on May Day actions nationwide. Welcome to media for the 99%.
On May 1, immigration, labor, and occupy activists across the country will take to the streets to attempt a general strike in protest of anti-immigration legislation, economic inequality, and unfair labor practices.

 Read on...

May Day: Occupy Movement Heads Back to the Streets

'With our collective power we are beginning to build the world we want to see.'

"No Work – No School – No Housework – No Shopping." So goes the call for today's general strike by occupy activists, social justice groups, and advocates for a more equitable and fair economy. Spearheaded by the original Occupy Wall Street group in New York City and taken up by hundreds of affiliated activists – including labor, student, and housing groups  across the nation, the day will mark the largest push so far this year to bring large numbers of people back into the street to rally against the devastating impacts of an economy based on greed and a democracy ruled by corporate dollars.

"We celebrate a holiday for the 99%," reads the announcement released by Occupy Wall Street in New York along with a schedule of events. "Today, we come together across lines of race, class, gender, and religion to challenge the systems that create these divisions. New Yorkers join with millions throughout the world — workers, students, immigrants, professionals, houseworkers. We take to the streets to join in a General Strike against a system which does not work for us. With our collective power we are beginning to build the world we want to see. Another world is possible!"
May 1st -- also known as International Workers Day or simply 'May Day' -- has a long history as a day of action for international labor and has been used more recently by immigration rights activists in the United States to herald their cause. Though some have framed the day as a "make or break" day for the Occupy movement, others are quick to point out that one day cannot -- and should not -- be the measure of a movement.

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Gun Stores Can’t Get Guns Fast Enough To Keep Up With Demand From Anti-Obama Paranoia

Last year, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre made the odd claim that President Obama intentionally avoided gun regulation during his entire first term as part of a “massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment in our country.” While LaPierre’s claim that Obama is simply waiting for a second term so that he can “get busy dismantling and destroying our firearms’ freedom” is more than a little implausible, it’s also proved to be a bonanza for the gun industry. Thanks to gun owners who share LaPierre’s paranoia, gun manufacturers literally cannot produce guns fast enough to keep up with demand:

Royal Oak-based Target Sports normally sells about 10 guns a day, but that has increased to 30 a day this year, owner Ray Jihad said.
He’d be selling even more, if he could get them.
“I don’t have any Rugers. There are a few models we sell a lot of, but I can’t even get them,” he said. Southport, Conn.-based Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc., which makes rifles and handguns, has been so swamped with orders that it has stopped taking new requests until the end of May. . . .

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Police who lie: Attorney general orders probe of police deception

Ontario’s chief prosecutor will probe the issue of police officers who are found by judges to have lied in court.
Attorney General John Gerretsen made the announcement Monday following a Toronto Star investigation that found more than 100 cases of police deception in Ontario and across the country.
“The most important thing is that people tell the truth in court. The question really becomes: if a judge makes a serious comment (about an officer’s testimony) what should happen?” said Gerretsen.

James Cornish, chief prosecutor for Ontario, has been asked to look into the matter and report back by early summer. Cornish formerly headed the Special Investigations Unit, the province’s police watchdog.
“We should do whatever we can at our level of the administration of justice to make sure that people have faith and belief in the system. And if there are areas in which we can improve that, we should do so,” Gerretsen said.

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Here are two previous stories in this series:

Police who lie: For hollering at police, a man was beaten and Tasered

 Police who lie: National police body says justice system needs to act over lies

Graphic: The death penalty around the world

Death by hanging was the penalty for murder in Canada between 1892 and 1961. In 1966, the government passed a bill that limited capital punishment
to the killing of on-duty police officers and prison guards. In 1976, the House of Commons abolished capital punishment and replaced it with a
mandatory life sentence of 25 years for those convicted of first-degree murder. Here is how the rest of the planet punishes capital crimes.

Read on...