Category: law and order

Ubiquitous Crime is the New Normal

| July 21, 2014 | 1 Reply

I was called to jury duty this week in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis. This happens every 2 years for me; this was my fifth or sixth time. Although I’ve sat through voir dire several times, I’ve never been chosen. This probably has to do with the fact that I’m a lawyer. Today’s case was a criminal case, and I come with special baggage, since I was a prosecutor for the state of Missouri for four years, after working for the state juvenile court two years before that. This is the kind of background a defense attorney would rather not deal with, so I was not chosen to hear the case.

In today’s proceeding, the defendant was charged with the sexual assault of several teenage girls, while using a gun. These were very serious charges, indeed.

The reason I’m writing this post is that I was overwhelmed with the amount of serious crime that has touched the lives of the 75 people on the jury panel. Ubiquitous crime appears to be the new normal.

We were only asked about two types of crimes, gun violence and sexual offenses, but it seemed as though most of the prospective jurors were victims or at least their close friends and families were victims of these types of crimes. About 20 jurors discussed their encounters with sexual predators. About half of the 20 approached the judge to discuss their experiences in private—you could tell from their faces that these were, and still are, emotionally wrenching experiences. Many of the jurors openly discussed their experiences in front of the full courtroom. The victims includes young and old, men and women. Two men on the panel stated that when they were children they had been sexually violated by babysitters. Several of the jurors had difficulty speaking of the incidents, because they were overcome by emotion. More than a few prospective jurors stated that they would be unable to sit in judgment of today’s defendant because of the continuing emotional impact based on their own history.

[More . . . ]

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Chris Hedges on the NDAA

| May 29, 2014 | 1 Reply

From Truthdig:

The U.S. Supreme Court decision to refuse to hear our case concerning Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which permits the military to seize U.S. citizens and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers without due process, means that this provision will continue to be law. It means the nation has entered a post-constitutional era. It means that extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil by our government is legal. It means that the courts, like the legislative and executive branches of government, exclusively serve corporate power—one of the core definitions of fascism. It means that the internal mechanisms of state are so corrupted and subservient to corporate power that there is no hope of reform or protection for citizens under our most basic constitutional rights. It means that the consent of the governed—a poll by OpenCongress.com showed that this provision had a 98 percent disapproval rating—is a cruel joke. And it means that if we do not rapidly build militant mass movements to overthrow corporate tyranny, including breaking the back of the two-party duopoly that is the mask of corporate power, we will lose our liberty.

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Lee Camp Discusses the Shocking Truth about Black People

| November 17, 2013 | Reply

Lee Camp hits a homerun in this Moment of Clarity. There IS a shocking truth about black people that we urgently need to discuss.

Speaking of Lee Camp, he’s on a roll:

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Grass roots effort versus payday loan industry money.

| August 2, 2013 | Reply

Last year my law partner John Campbell and I (we are two of the three attorneys at Campbell Law) donated our time and energy to serve as legal counsel to more than 118,000 Missouri citizens who sought enact a new law to cap the interest rates of payday loans (often 400% to 500% interest per year). What is it like to gather voter signatures when hundreds of thousands of dollars in industry money is pushing back? This excellent article by Propublica details the obstructionist tactic called “blocking” and the misleading ads sponsored by the payday loan industry.

What else can happen as part of a hotly contest ballot initiative? Notice the article’s description of the incident where someone broke into the car of a petitioner and stole 5,000 voter signatures. PayDayLoanShark

Most people I know are shocked to learn that payday loans carry such high interest rates. If Missouri voters were really allowed to vote on this issue, I do believe that they would overwhelmingly cap interest rates at 36 percent. Last year’s battle was between grass roots supported interest rate caps versus immense amounts of industry money funding an AstroTurf movement. The issue never came to a vote last year–the signature collection efforts barely fell short.

In 2014, we are looking to try once again to cap these predatory loans that are deceptive and dangerous products for most of those who fall prey to using them.

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The lesson of the sentence Bradley Manning is about to receive

| July 31, 2013 | Reply

Michael Moore sets the stage. Here’s the beginning of his long list:

Manning now faces a potential maximum sentence of 136 years in jail. When his sentence is announced tomorrow, we’ll all get a good idea of how seriously the U.S. military takes different crimes. When you hear about how long Manning – now 25 years old – will be in prison, compare it to sentences received by other soldiers:

Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the senior military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib and the senior officer present the night of the murder of Iraqi prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi, received no jail time. But he was reprimanded and fined $8,000. (Pappas was heard to say about al-Jamadi, “I’m not going down for this alone.”)

Sgt. Sabrina Harman, the woman famously seen giving a thumbs-up next to al-Jamadi’s body and in another photo smiling next to naked, hooded Iraqis stacked on each other in Abu Ghraib, was sentenced to six months for maltreating detainees…

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Brazilian police officer refuses to obey orders out of conscience

| June 27, 2013 | Reply
Brazilian police officer refuses to obey orders out of conscience

Amazing footage from Brazil, where the police where gearing up to confront protesters:

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Private prison system explodes

| May 28, 2013 | Reply

Now we have a powerful new industry, full of wealth, ready to buy politicians, in order to convince them to keep the prisons filled with non-violent drug offenders. The numbers presented by AlterNet are shocking:

From 1999-2010, the total U.S. prison population rose 18 percent, an increase largely reflected by the “drug war” and stringent sentencing guidelines, such as three strikes laws and mandatory minimum sentences.

However, total private prison populations exploded fivefold during this same time period, with federal private prison populations rising by 784 percent (as seen in the chart below complied by The Sentencing Project).

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Common Sense, Grammar, and Original Intent

| April 8, 2013 | 1 Reply
Common Sense, Grammar, and Original Intent

According to recent polls, a growing number of Americans believe that the Second Amendment was put in the Bill of Rights in order to guarantee that our government will not impose any kind of tyranny upon us. That an armed populace is a bulwark against government oppression. [More . . . ]

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China hesitates to employ rough justice drone attack

| April 6, 2013 | Reply

Glen Greenwald reports that when the Chinese government sought out the murderer of 13 Chinese citizens, the use of drones was not an option:

What kind of weak, soft, overly legalistic government worries about trivial concerns like international law and “sovereignty issues” when it comes to drone-killing heinous murderers for whom capture is difficult? Why not just shoot Hellfire missiles wherever you think he might be hiding in weaker countries and kill him and anyone who happens to be near him? Or if you are able to find him, at least just riddle his skull with bullets, dump his corpse into the ocean, and then chant nationalistic slogans in the street and at your political conventions. Who would ever want to give a trial to such a heinous and savage foreign killer of your citizens, particularly if it means risking the lives of your soldiers to apprehend him? What China did instead was conduct what the NYT this morning calls a “methodical and unyielding” law enforcement investigation over the course of six months.

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