Showing posts with label Injustice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Injustice. Show all posts

October 23, 2019

A Mob Lynching 4 Young Blacks in 1946. Questions Jury Secrecy




                         Image result for a mob lynching black in 1946

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA — A historian's quest for the truth about a gruesome mob lynching of two black couples is prompting a U.S. appeals court to consider whether federal judges can order grand jury records unsealed in decades-old cases with historical significance.
The young black sharecroppers were being driven along a rural road in the summer of 1946 when they were stopped by a white mob beside the Apalachee River, just over 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Atlanta. The mob dragged them out, led them to the riverbank and shot them multiple times. For months the FBI investigated and more than 100 people reportedly testified before a grand jury, but no one was ever indicted in the deaths of Roger and Dorothy Malcom and George and Mae Murray Dorsey at Moore's Ford Bridge in Walton County.
Historian Anthony Pitch wrote a book about the killings — "The Last Lynching: How a Gruesome Mass Murder Rocked a Small Georgia Town" — and continued his research after its 2016 publication. He learned transcripts from the grand jury proceedings, thought to have been destroyed, were stored by the National Archives.
Image: A bridge that spans the Apalachee River at Moore's Ford Road where in 1946 two young black couples were stopped by a white mob who dragged them to the riverbank and shot them multiple times
A bridge that spans the Apalachee River at Moore's Ford Road wherein 1946 two young black couples were stopped by a white mob who dragged them to the riverbank and shot them multiple times in Monroe, Ga. 
Heeding Pitch's request, a federal judge in 2017 ordered the records unsealed. But the U.S. Department of Justice appealed, arguing grand jury proceedings are secret and should remain sealed.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in February ruled 2-1 to uphold the lower court's order. But the full court voted to rehear the case, and is set to hear oral arguments Tuesday.
Pitch, 80, died just two weeks after the announcement the case would be reheard. His wife, Marion Pitch, has taken her husband's place in the case. Pitch's family also approached Laura Wexler, who wrote another book about the lynching, for help completing his work, and she joined the case.
In 1946, Roger Malcom, 24, was jailed after stabbing and gravely injuring a white man during an argument. A white farmer, Loy Harrison, paid $600 to bail Malcom out on July 25 of that year. Harrison later said he was ambushed by a mob as he drove the four home. Harrison, who is identified in an FBI report as a former Ku Klux Klansman and well-known bootlegger, wasn't hurt. He told authorities he didn't recognize anyone in the mob.
The investigation has been reopened and closed several times since a grand jury failed to indict anyone in December 1946. Students, researchers, and activists have all tried to crack the case.
Rules governing grand jury secrecy include exceptions when records may be released. A 1984 ruling in the 11th Circuit, which set binding precedent, says judges may order their disclosure in "exceptional circumstances." The historical significance in this case qualifies, Judge Charles Wilson wrote in the panel's majority opinion. He added that enough time has passed that witnesses, suspects or their immediate family members likely aren't alive to be intimidated, persecuted or arrested.
Concurring, Judge Adalberto Jordan agreed that the lower court's ruling should be upheld because of the binding precedent. But Jordan said he would have decided the 1984 case differently. Allowing judges to use inherent authority to go beyond the defined exceptions to grand jury secrecy seems too open-ended, he wrote. 
U.S. District Judge James Graham of Ohio, also serving on the panel, dissented. He argued that "judges should not be so bold as to grant themselves the authority to decide that the historical significance exception should exist and what the criteria should be." He also worried people alive today could see their reputations harmed if the records reveal their relative "was a suspect, a witness who equivocated or was uncooperative, a member of the grand jury which refused to indict or a person whose name was identified as a Klan member."
The full 12-judge appeals court is scheduled to hear Tuesday's arguments. Specifically, the judges asked the lawyers whether they should overturn the 1984 precedent. Additionally, they asked, if federal judges can grant disclosures beyond the defined exceptions, is "historical significance" an adequate reason?
Pitch's lawyer, Joseph Bell, argued in a court filing that the 1984 precedent shouldn't be overruled because it acknowledges the need for "exceptional circumstances."
"The historical importance and age of the case, lack of indictment after over seventy years, and fact that other historically significant grand jury records have been released all support the release of the records," Bell wrote
Justice Department lawyer Bradley Hinshelwood countered that Pitch's arguments would allow federal judges to circumvent rules set by Congress and the Supreme Court about the disclosure of grand jury materials.
The rules governing grand jury secrecy provide a "meticulously crafted list of permissible disclosures," Hinshelwood wrote. Even if judges did have the authority to establish other exceptions, it wouldn't extend to historical interest.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 30 news organizations, including The Associated Press, submitted a brief in support of Pitch that was rejected by the court without explanation.

October 12, 2019

No Justice But Only Elections As Gay Prison Officer had to Settle Lawsuit



 Notice Justice is made of gold



LANSING — Elections have consequences.
And Thursday's settlement of a federal lawsuit brought by a former Michigan corrections officer, who is gay, demonstrates that.
Ashley Menchaca, who worked at Woodland Center Correctional Facility in Whitmore Lake, alleged she was subjected to a range of verbal taunts and harassment, assigned one of the worst jobs in the prison, and subjected to a series of investigations for alleged rules violations that were either unfounded or arose from selective or retaliatory enforcement.
As demonstrated by this week’s oral arguments in the Supreme Court of the United States, federal civil rights laws do not offer explicit protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Last September, former Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, moved to dismiss that portion of Menchaca’s lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Corrections, arguing no such legal protections exist. 
But in March of this year, before the judge had ruled on Schuette's motion, new Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, ordered the motion withdrawn.
The legal move by Nessel — Michigan's first openly gay attorney general — was consistent with an executive directive issued in January by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Whitmer, who like Nessel took office on Jan. 1, embraced a ruling by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission that said the ban on discrimination on the basis of "sex" set out in the state Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act also bars state employees from being discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Whitmer's move went beyond actions taken by her predecessor, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.
On Thursday, Menchaca, who resigned her job in May 2017 over the alleged harassment, settled her suit for $135,000.
Menchaca's settlement is at the low end of the range of five other 2019 settlements or judgments reported on by the Free Press arising from lawsuits against the Corrections Department.
Andrew Laurila, Menchaca's attorney, said the relatively small amount of the settlement had less to do with the unsettled state of the law regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation and more to do with how difficult it is to prove "constructive dismissal" when an employee resigns due to discrimination, harassment and retaliation, rather than getting fired.
A captain who allegedly made disparaging remarks about LGBT people ordered that the cushioned chair Menchaca and other officers used while working the gate be replaced with a hard stool -- but only when Menchaca was on duty -- the suit alleged.
"This made the plaintiff's shift unbearable as the stool was uncomfortable to sit in and the plaintiff was required to sit in it for long periods of time with no back support," the suit alleged.
"During other individuals' shifts ... they would roll back out the cushioned chair, thus making the plaintiff the only individual required to sit on the stool."
Working the gate, which meant long hours in the same spot and complications getting relief for restroom breaks, is considered a punishment post in the prison system, the suit alleged.
Menchaca filed a formal complaint about the captain in April 2017.
However, "when Ashley complained about some of these acts of bullying, it escalated," Laurila said. With the vast number of work rules in the state prison system, "you can write someone up for almost anything."
Kelly Rossman-McKinney, a spokesman for Nessel, said discrimination based on sexual orientation was not the only allegation Menchaca made against the department, so removing the legal challenge to that count alone did not mean Menchaca would prevail in the case.
In fact, the Attorney General's Office under Nessel continued to fight the case, based on both the law and the alleged facts. The office argued in a July motion for summary judgment that Menchaca could not show she had been "constructively discharged," and couldn't show a causal connection between the alleged discrimination and the alleged retaliation, among other defenses the office argued against the suit.
Thursday's settlement arose from talks with a court-appointed conciliator, Laurila said.
"We consider the cost of litigating in settling any case," Rossman-McKinney said.
"Both this department and the MDOC denounce discrimination," she said.
By Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or pegan@freepress.com. 

November 6, 2017

Warm Sands Sex Case Judge Would Not Touch An Envelope from Gay Man:U know where's been


{There is "homophobic" and there is "rabidly anti gay" This judge was the latter, surrounded by cops who belonged to the same club}
Judge  David B. Downing is an Anti gay Judge who ruled on gay defendants
An Indio judge who upheld charges in the Warm Sands sex sting case six years ago despite strong evidence that Palm Springs police discriminated against gay men is now accused of making an alarmingly homophobic statement while being secretly recorded in another case.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge David B. Downing, who is now retired, allegedly said he would not touch the motions of a gay, HIV-positive murder suspect because they came in envelopes that had been licked closed.

“Lord knows where his tongue has been,” Downing said, according to sworn declarations by convicted murderer Kaushal Niroula and his co-defendant Daniel Garcia, the latter of whom made secret recordings of Downing in 2012.

Those recordings, first reported by The Desert Sun this week, now threaten to undo Niroula’s conviction, potentially leading to new trials in the murder case. The recordings also casts a shadow over the Warm Sands prosecution, Downing’s highest-profile case, which involved more than a dozen gay defendants, three gay attorneys and allegations of systematic police discrimination against gay men. 

In the Warm Sands case, defense attorneys presented evidence that Palm Springs police officers had exclusively targeted gay men in an undercover 2009 public sex sting. Police leaders were also caught on tape using slurs and calling the suspects “filthy,” and defense attorneys eventually proved that the police department had never arrested a straight person for the same behavior. 
Regardless, Downing ruled that the case wasn’t discriminatory, allowing prosecution to continue.

“I was always perplexed, because the hearing went so well, I thought he would rule in our favor,” said attorney Bruce Nickerson, an expert on lewd conduct law who worked on the Warm Sands case. “But he didn’t. I was never sure why. Now, I think it’s clear.”

Nickerson was one of three Warm Sands attorneys who spoke to The Desert Sun over the past week, reacting to how the secret recordings from Niroula’s trial reflected on the sex sting case. Each attorney expressed mixed feelings about the judge – who they recalled as outwardly professional, fair and open-minded – but said they remained puzzled by his decision to uphold the Warm Sands charges.

“I was certainly baffled by the ruling. I still am,” said defense attorney Joe Rhea. “I thought it was just a bang-up motion, and there was never a clear reason for denying it.”

A little more than a year after the Warm Sands decision, Downing allegedly made his “tongue” comment behind closed doors. The statement was captured by a laptop that one of the murder suspects had left recording in the courtroom even when the case was on a break. Official court transcripts show that the murder suspects later confronted Downing with the recordings, at which point he defended the statements and never denied them. When reached by The Desert Sun earlier this month, Downing said he could not remember if he made the “tongue” comment or not.

If he did say it, the comments are undoubtedly offensive, said Mark Foster, a retired defense attorney who also worked the Warm Sands case. Even more worrisome was the idea that any judge would not read a defendant’s motion, regardless of reason, Foster said.

The comment was so wholly terrible, Foster said, he had to believe Downing just made “a bad joke.”

“I was openly gay in the courtroom, and he treated me fairly,” Foster said. “But I don’t know what darkness lurks in men’s hearts… He might be a raging homophobe, he might not have a homophobic bone in his body. I just don’t know.”

The sex sting occurred in June of 2009, when the Palm Springs Police Department decided to crack down on public sex in the Warm Sands neighborhood, a well-known gay hookup scene. For four nights, on a city block surrounded by gay resorts, undercover cops approached men on the street and encouraged them to expose their genitals. If they did, the men were arrested.

When the sting was over, 14 men – all gay – were charged with misdemeanor crimes. Prosecutors sought to add each of them to a sex offender registry

But the case quickly became a massive embarrassment for local law enforcement, drawing widespread criticism for what appeared to be blatant discrimination. Condemnation of the case grew in 2011, when defense attorneys revealed that Palm Springs police had never arrested any heterosexual couples for the same crimes, despite prior complaints of straight people having sex in public places.  

Video footage of the sting also exposed that one of the leaders of the operation, Sgt. Bryan Anderson, had used a gay slur while watching the sting from inside a police vehicle. Additionally, Police Chief David Dominguez resigned after it was revealed he referred to the gay men as “some filthy (expletives)” during the sting.

All of this was presented to Downing during an eight-day court hearing in February 2011. Defense attorneys never denied what their clients had done, but insisted they had been entrapped by a police department that had exclusively targeted homosexuals. Judge Downing ruled otherwise.

"These … men were not arrested for being gay,” he said from the bench, before upholding the charges and allowing prosecutions to continue. “These men were arrested for having sex in public.”

Four defendants later appealed this ruling, but the decision was upheld. To this day, defense attorneys insist that Downing missed the entire point of the discrimination argument – If the suspects had been straight, but done the same thing, they would have never been arrested in the first place.

“They were only punished because they were having gay sex,” Foster said. “That was the whole point. If they were males having sex with females, no one would have launched a sting operation. We established that in court.” 

Although Downing’s ruling kept the Warm Sands case alive, the hearing had been embarrassing enough that law enforcement lost their lust for harsh punishment. Prosecutors decided to offer lighter plea deals – without registry as a sex offender – and most of the defendants accepted. A majority pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and were sentenced to probation. A few have since returned to court and had their convictions reversed. One defendant is still arguing in court to have his whole case sealed.

“The Warms Sands case has changed Palm Springs,” Rhea said. “Law enforcement has acted very differently after this. I haven’t seen a coordinated sting like this since Warm Sands.” 'd die.

To date, only one Warm Sands defendant has had their case completely erased.

That defendant was represented by Nickerson, the lewd conduct law expert, who expressed both the strongest criticism and highest praise of Judge Downing. Two years after the Warm Sands decision, Nickerson came back to the judge’s courtroom seeking one of the most coveted rulings in criminal law.

Nickerson asked for his client to be issued a “finding of factual innocence,” which is a court document that says a defendant is actually innocent instead of just not guilty. Downing appeared as if he was going to deny the request, Nickerson said, but then the judge surprised him again.

The defendant’s innocence was confirmed, allowing him to get a job as a teacher.

If Downing was homophobic, he must have looked past his prejudice on that day, Nickerson said.

“It was heartwarming for me,” Nickerson said. “Whatever Downing may have thought of my client, he put it aside and ruled strictly on the law on that motion."

, The Desert Sun
Public Safety Reporter Brett Kelman can be reached at 760 778 4642 or at brett.kelman@desertsun.com. You can follow him on Twitter @TDSbrettkelman. 

April 25, 2017

J.Sessions Went Far out with NYC Comment, Now He sees the Parrots from the Pigeons






Attorney General Jeff Sessions went to a place he probably shouldn’t have gone, and after he received an overflowing bucket-load of clap back for it, he’s already trying to make it better.
On Friday, Sessions issued a letter to nine jurisdictions. He warned that any refusal to cooperate with (or hindering of) federal immigration officials would result in the loss of federal grant money. That wasn’t ground-breaking news to many of these cities, as the removal of grants has been mentioned by President Trump and Sessions in the past. What did upset New York City, however, was one line that has everyone noticed, from Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough to New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, who demanded an apology from the Attorney General, according to the New York Post
“New York continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city’s ‘soft on crime’ stance.”
As you might have expected, Mayor de Blasio was not pleased with Sessions referring to his city or its police department as “soft,” and he let it be known that the falling crime rate in New York speaks for itself
“We did not become the safest big city in America by being … soft on crime … This is an insult. Look our police officers in the eye and tell them you believe they are soft on crime.”
Scarborough weighed in on the topic during his Monday morning show, saying Sessions should apologize. He wondered aloud if the new Attorney General has any real idea of what is going on in America’s biggest city:
“He needs to apologize to the NYPD rank and file. Has he ever been to New York City? I’m just curious. You don’t talk about the NYPD that way … it makes me mad.”
While Sessions hasn’t taken the step of apologizing for his “soft” comments just yet, he’s already back peddling away from them at a rate that could get him drafted as a first-round cornerback in this week’s NFL Draft. Speaking with ABC News, Sessions was suddenly in the mood to shower the NYPD with glowing praise:
“For four decades, New York has been a fabulous city for law enforcement,” Sessions told ABC’s “This Week.” “They have developed some of the best techniques ever. They are so far ahead of many other cities. I think we all should study the tactics that have been developed.”
If all the backtracking doesn’t make everyone forgive Sessions for this comments about the NYPD, he could always just say he was joking. That tactic didn’t work for Sessions last week when he defended how he referred to Hawaii as being “an island in the Pacific,” but maybe it will take here.

April 18, 2017

Federal Judge Resigns After Sentencing a Young Man to Life







No longer bound by ethics rules that keep judges silent, Sharp in an exclusive interview Saturday with The Tennessean denounced mandatory minimum sentences.
 
Kevin H. Sharp served as a federal judge in Nashville for 6 years. He was nominated by Barack Obama.
He'll work in private practice, handling employment and civil rights cases.
As a lawyer, he can be an advocate and said he hopes to level the playing field for minorities.
In an exclusive interview, he revealed he hopes to advocate for one man in particular: Chris Young.
 
Kevin H. Sharp sent Chris Young to prison for life and he thought it was wrong.

"Each defendant is supposed to be treated as an individual," Sharp said at the sentencing hearing in 2014. "I don't think that's happening here."

But there are duties that come with a black robe and gavel, chief among them following the laws of the United States no matter your personal opinion. And as a federal judge, Sharp had to impose mandatory minimum terms. That meant Young, a repeat drug offender, would never go home to Clarksville.

Young, now 28, is at a federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky.

Sharp, now 54, is starting a new job and still thinking of Young.

The former chief U.S. District judge in Middle Tennessee resigned his post Friday, ending a lifetime appointment after six years. On Monday, he'll begin work at Sanford Heisler, expanding the respected civil rights and employment law firm into Music City while also expanding its title: Sanford Heisler Sharp.

In an exclusive interview on Saturday, Sharp talked about his tenure on the bench and his decision to leave it. No longer bound by ethics rules that keep judges silent, he denounced mandatory minimum sentences and previewed the topics he'll attack at the civil rights firm.

Those coalesce with Young. Talking about the case brought tears to Sharp's eyes and emotion choked his speech.

"If there was any way I could have not given him life in prison I would have done it," he said. "What they did was wrong, they deserved some time in prison, but not life."

Read a transcript of the sentencing at the end of this story.

'What we do kind of defines who we are'

Some of Sharp's motivation to move jobs was rooted in his path to becoming a lawyer more than 20 years ago. The Memphis native held odd jobs after high school: as an airport baggage handler, at a car wash — and even carrying a baseball bat around a gas station making sure self-service customers paid.

"I’d go hey, you pay for that? I thought, this is not really a career."

He enlisted in U.S. Navy. He was stationed in Hawaii, Alaska, the Philippines, Japan and Thailand. Despite the cultural differences, there was a common thread.

“I realized that, what we do kind of defines who we are," he said. "People meet me and they go, 'Nice to meet you Kevin, what do you do?'

"All this stuff gets layered on there. They make stereotypical decisions about who you are and what you’re like."

Whether those assumptions are right or wrong, Sharp said he grew to believe that a person's opportunity to work needed to be protected, which attracted him to employment law.

"African Americans, women, ethnic minorities, religious minorities don’t have the same opportunities," he said. “That to me is something that’s important, making sure the playing field gets leveled.” 

Money$ Makes the World go around $

Sharp went to Vanderbilt Law School and then into private practice. President Barack Obama nominated him for the Nashville judgeship six years  ago.

Work on the bench was intellectually challenging, and fun, he said. But Sharp saw that cases presenting significant issues came along unpredictably, and he couldn't choose the issues. One example: The legal challenge to a private probation company in Rutherford County, in which several probationers said they were being punished because they couldn't pay. In one hearing, Rutherford County General Sessions Judge Ben McFarlin Jr. testified.

"Money makes the world go 'round," McFarlin testified.

"I thought, Oh my God, no," Sharp recalled his reaction in court that day. "Money is not what makes the justice system go round.

"That’s not just morally wrong, it’s illegal. It’s unconstitutional.” 

But in other high-profile cases his hands were tied by the law, and rulings countered what Sharp personally believed. He named specifically a case brought by a family against Nashville schools alleging discrimination in the district's rezoning plan. In 2012, Sharp ruled that although the effect of the district policy was segregation, the plaintiff did not prove the intent was discrimination.

"The proof wasn’t there and the law wasn’t on their side," he said. "If I was director of schools, I’d go, scrap this."

"As a lawyer I can be more proactive," he said. "I can say things I want to say. I can take cases I want to take. I can advocate for positions that I want to advocate for — as opposed to waiting as a judge, do I get that case or not?"

A sticking point during Sharp's time on the bench were criminal cases, colloquially known as "drugs and guns" cases, that required mandatory minimum sentences.

"The drugs-and-guns cases, you say it like that and it sounds like they’re all dangerous," he said. "Most of them are not. They’re just kids who lack any opportunities and any supervision, lack education and have ended up doing what appears to be at the time the path of least resistance to make a living."

'Maybe somebody can fix this'

Young's was a drugs-and-guns case. He was charged in December 2010, one of 32 people — some of them gang members — who federal prosecutors said were involved in drug trafficking in Clarksville. Court documents say federal agents believed Young was buying crack cocaine from a leader of the ring at a gas station. He was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and crack cocaine and other counts.

Young had two prior drug-dealing convictions, and his new charges triggered a provision of federal law requiring a mandatory life term if found guilty. Young and two others went to trial in August 2013 and were found guilty. About a year later, Sharp sentenced Young to life in prison.

At the hearing, Young described his upbringing: His mother was a drug addict, he said, and at times their house had no lights nor water. When he was old enough to get a job, he worked at a funeral home, but he felt a growing divide between himself and others in his neighborhood who dealt drugs, pulling him that way.

Hallie McFadden, a lawyer who defended Young, said each time she saw Sharp after the sentencing he asked about Young.

"I'm heartsick to see him go," she said of Sharp, "especially with the prospect of someone far less caring taking the seat."

Jim Thomas, a Nashville lawyer who later represented Young during his appeals and has had other cases in Sharp's courtroom, said Sharp was a "very capable and fair minded judge." That was exemplified in Sharp's words at Young's sentencing, according to Thomas.

"Maybe somebody can fix this," Sharp told Young.

Maybe that somebody is Sharp.

Sharp says he will work to get Young's sentence commuted, meaning Young would be released from prison. It could take years, leaving Young behind bars for a decade.

This story is coming from
Federal judge forced to sentence defendant to life because of mandatory minimums is stepping down and speaking out

November 18, 2016

Fed Court Blocks Release of Brendan Dassey





A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that a Wisconsin man whose case was chronicled in the true crime docuseries "Making a Murderer" must remain in prison — even after his murder conviction was overturned this summer. 


Brendan Dassey's release from prison was blocked Thursday afternoon by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit while prosecutors appeal the decision to overturn his conviction. 
Dassey, 27, was sentenced to life in prison in 2007 for the rape and murder of 25-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. A 16-year-old at the time of that 2005 murder, Dassey was accused of helping his uncle, Steven Avery, in the killing. Avery was tried separately and also sentenced to life in prison. He is appealing his case. 
Dassey's conviction was overturned in August after a judge ruled that prosecutors had coerced the teen into confessing that he had helped his uncle kill Halbach. 
U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin wrote at the time that investigators made repeated claims to Dassey that they already knew what occurred the night of the murder and falsely promised him that he had nothing to worry about.  The Wisconsin Justice Department then filed an emergency motion with the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to block his release. 
A three-judge panel from the appeals court ruled Thursday to keep Dassey behind bars.


November 14, 2016

“Making a Murderer” Sees Light Outside of Jail





On Monday, a judge ordered that Dassey be released immediately while an appeal is pending that seeks to keep him behind bars. Though he'll be freed from prison, the ruling comes with a number of stipulations: Dassey can only travel within the district of Wisconsin's Eastern court, he can't get a passport, and he's not allowed to possess a gun or any controlled substance. He's also been ordered not to have any contact with his uncle, Making a Murderer subject Steven Avery, or the family of Teresa Halbach, the woman he was convicted of helping to kill.
 
In August, a federal judge made the ruling that Dassey's confession to helping his uncle with the crime was coerced by police. Dassey, who was 16 years old at the time, can be seen on tape recordings on the Netflix series being promised by police that "you don't have to worry about things" and things would be "OK" if he told them about the murder, which the judge says constitutes an unfair promise of leniency.

Wisconsin's attorney general has since appealed the judge's ruling and seeks to overturn it and keep Dassey in prison, where he's been for more than a decade. He says that Dassey voluntarily answered police questions after being informed of his rights and that he supplied details about the murder in response to open-ended questions, which isn't what the documentary shows.

As the appeal works its way through the courts, Dassey has remained in prison, despite his conviction being overturned.


November 1, 2016

A Top Cop and Prosecutor Too





Beyond the precedent that the Justice Department, particularly the FBI, bends over backward not to interfere in a presidential election, there is yet another precedent, this one established during the Monica Lewinsky investigation: A holder of high office, under pressure from both Congress and the press, can lose his mind. The mind in question belonged to Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel, who back in the winter of 1997 signaled he had had more than enough of Bill Clinton, sex that wasn’t sex, a dress no longer suitable for a casual date, and other such matters and was quitting. He would repair to Pepperdine University, about as far from Washington as is continentally possible, and become dean of its law school. Then all hell broke loose.

Republican members of Congress denounced Starr for cutting and running. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), a member of the all-important Judiciary Committee, asked Starr to reconsider. William Safire, then the biggest gun on the New York Times’s op-ed page, was less judicious. His column was titled “The Big Flinch.” He called Starr a wimp who had brought “shame on the legal profession” — as if such a thing were possible. It seemed it was, and Starr retracted his resignation, stayed in Washington, hounded Clinton into impeachment and, in general, soiled a promising legal career that once had him on some shortlists for the Supreme Court.

I tell you this sad tale of opportunity missed just to illustrate how political pressure and the braying of the media can addle the minds of otherwise smart people. This is what happened to Ken Starr, and it seems to have happened to James B. Comey, the director of the FBI, although maybe not for much longer. Twice now, he has lost his bearings, stepped out of his role as top cop and decided he was prosecutor instead. In July, he announced that the FBI had concluded its investigation into the Hillary Clinton email server and found nothing worth prosecuting. He did find that her handling of her emails had been “extremely careless,” which was true, but was the sort of judgment that pundits like me get to make, not lofty FBI directors whose personal — even professional — opinions should be saved for their memoirs.

For recommending against indictment, Comey was vilified by the right, particularly by Donald Trump. Others had a different criticism: Comey should have said nothing at all. The decision to prosecute is made by the Justice Department, not the FBI, and it was not his place to chastise Clinton, who, if I may be permitted an observation, certainly deserved it. Now Comey has announced that the investigation that seemed closed remains open. He announced this less than two weeks before Election Day, virtually reviving a dormant Trump campaign. “Bigger than Watergate,” Trump observed.

What’s going on? We don’t know. An astounding 650,000 emails were found by the FBI on the laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner, the now-estranged (and always strange) husband of Huma Abedin, Clinton’s No. 1 aide. This could be a device that Weiner allegedly used to send filthy pictures of himself to women both young and old, one purportedly a mere 15. It’s possible the emails are duplicates of what the FBI has already seen on Clinton’s private server or — G-men beware — maybe half a million Weiner selfies. (You cannot out-weird this story.)

From the very start, I’ve felt that this whole business of Clinton’s email server has been ridiculously hyped. She shouldn’t have done it. Granted. She’s hiding something. Granted. She’s even hiding that she’s hiding something. But she didn’t commit treason, and the nation’s security has not been endangered as far as we know, and all this mucking around in the personal emails of public figures has gone too far. If there’s no crime, let’s move on. The threat is not Clinton and her BlackBerry, but the Russians and their military-industrial-hacking complex.

But Comey, buffeted from both sides and possessed of a fiery moralism, has now possibly thrown the election into doubt. What’s this all about, Jim? We — the voters — need to know. (Actually, I can’t imagine learning anything that would get me to vote for Trump.) Still, some voters are undecided. Both candidates have the negative ratings of bill collectors. Now that Comey has broken established practice and intruded into the elections, he needs to say why — what did his agents glimpse in that laptop that made him throw both judgment and precedent to the wind? It better be good or else he should do what Starr in the end didn’t: quit.


September 10, 2016

Federal Judge Overturns the Dassey Case of "Making a Murderer”

June 30, 2016

Special: Attacks on LGBT People Rarely Prosecuted as Hate Crimes


Image result for gay hate crime not prosecuted

                                                                                     
                                                                       









Dionte Greene, a 22-year-old black gay male, was looking for a hook-up. He reached out to an 18-year-old stranger on Facebook.

“I’m not interested in smoking weed with you, Travone,” Greene wrote to the teenager, Travone Shaw, in their first exchange. “I just find you attractive and I want to have a sexual encounter with you.”

“I ain’t gay,” Shaw replied, according to court documents. “Bro, stop in boxing me.”

But hours later, Shaw contacted Greene twice and invited him to get high on marijuana. “You going to come over tonight when you get off of work?” Shaw asked.

Just after midnight on Oct. 31, 2014, Greene drove to meet the younger man. Three and a half hours later, police discovered Greene’s body in his idling gold Dodge Stratus, with a single bullet in the right side of his head.

Shaw was convicted last month of involuntary manslaughter and stealing in connection to Greene’s death. He faces up to 29 years in prison. But in the view of this city’s LGBT community, law enforcement should have prosecuted the killing as a hate crime.

Greene’s family and friends say Shaw and an accomplice lured, robbed and killed Greene because he was gay. Shaw posted anti-homosexual slurs on his Facebook profile nine times in the eight months before the killing.

Law enforcement officials said they did investigate the killing as a hate crime. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Kansas City said, “The investigation did not turn out sufficient evidence to support (hate crimes) charges.” The FBI declined to comment on its investigation.

Local officials said they too would struggle to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that anti-gay bias was the motive at the moment of Greene’s murder. They also said a hate crimes murder conviction does not bring additional jail time in Missouri.

State prosecutors charged Shaw with murder, but no hate crime.

"After sitting at the trial, I don’t think those two people were just there to steal his phone,” said Melissa Brown, a local LBGT advocate. She cited Shaw’s use of the prospect of sex to lure Greene to the meeting and his anti-gay slurs on Facebook.

Shaw’s lawyer, Paige Bremer, did not respond to a request to comment.

The handling of Greene’s death is one of three killings of LGBT people in Kansas City since 2010 that, advocates say, should have been pursued much more vigorously as hate crimes. They say there are unresolved questions about whether the three – all of whom were black or Latino – were attacked because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or race.

The massacre of 49 people in an Orlando, Florida, gay bar by a self-professed jihadist has put a spotlight on hate crimes against LGBT people. As the murder cases in Kansas City show, America’s system for punishing bias crimes is filled with limits and inconsistencies.

Seven years after landmark federal legislation recognized attacks on LGBT people as hate crimes, no comprehensive nationwide system exists for tracking bias crimes. And while 30 states have enacted similar laws, criminologists say many of them are poorly written and make convictions difficult.

No comprehensive, nationwide programs exist to train police and prosecutors in how to properly investigate hate crimes. And members of the LGBT community said police frequently react with indifference or hostility when hate crimes are reported.

Prosecutors say proving a hate crime can be difficult and can weaken their overall argument to a jury. But some criminologists say prosecutors have a duty to pursue hate crimes convictions nevertheless, because bias attacks terrorize entire communities, not just individuals.

“It is important to charge, even if you’re not going to get a few more years, because you’re telling the community you will not tolerate this,” said Jack McDevitt, a professor at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, who studies hate crimes. “But many prosecutors will not take that risk.”

LGBT activists say violence against the community is increasing, particularly against transgender women of color. Twenty-four LGBT or HIV-positive people were murdered in the United States in 2015 because of their sexual orientation, according to an annual survey conducted by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, an LGBT advocacy group.

Legal scholars said many state statutes were written quickly when politicians were under pressure to act on the issue. The result is a hodgepodge of standards of proof and sentences that confuse juries and judges.

In Delaware, the minimum sentence for defendants convicted of committing a bias-motivated murder is doubled, but many other states provide no such enhancement. In Iowa, meanwhile, attacking someone because of their “political affiliation” is a hate crime. In Louisiana, attacking a police officer is a hate crime. Last year, New Jersey’s State Supreme Court threw out part of its hate crimes law because the standard of proof was too vague.

"The criminal codes vary the same way vegetable soup does from region to region,” said Peter Joy, head of Washington University’s Criminal Justice Clinic in St. Louis, Missouri. “Everyone throws in their own ingredients and comes up with their own recipe.”

Created by the 1968 Civil Rights Act and expanded by Congress in 1994 and 2009, hate crimes laws are designed to add additional punishments to crimes motivated by bias against the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, disability, gender or sexual orientation.

During its first five years, the administration of President Barack Obama charged 50 percent more people with federal hate crimes than were charged during the administration of President George W. Bush, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice said. But the number of cases is still small.

Over the last seven years, the Obama Justice Department has brought 33 federal hate crimes cases under the 2009 Shepard/Byrd Act, the spokesman said. Eleven involved discrimination based on sexual orientation. Nine of the 13 defendants in those cases were convicted, with one case pending.

On a state and local level, there is no system that reliably tracks the number of hate crimes reported or prosecuted. An FBI hate crimes database, derived from voluntary reporting by police departments, lists 1,178 reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation in 2014.

But a Justice Department survey of crime victims that same year found 50 times that number - 59,000 people - who said they were victims of hate crimes based on sexual orientation. About half of all the victims surveyed said they did not report the attack to police.

“We don’t believe in police,” said Arianna Lint, a Peruvian transgender woman who runs TransLatina, a support group for transgender women of color in South Florida. “In small towns, they call us ‘freaks’ and ‘it.’ ”

DISTRUST IN SOUTH FLORIDA

In interviews in the Miami area after the Orlando killings, 10 transgender women told Reuters that they and others in their community are reluctant to report bias crimes because of a mistrust of the police.

Among them is Payton Hale, 26. Hale, who is transgender, said she was leaving a bar in Hollywood, Florida, with a friend in the early hours one night in July 2015 when a group of people started to yell slurs at her - “faggot,” “queer” and “tranny.”

As Hale got into her car, a woman from the group ran across the street and began hitting and scratching her, Hale said. A male joined the assault, punching Hale several times in the face.

Hale blacked out. When she regained consciousness, she was covered in blood. The attack left Hale with a fractured nose and three damaged front teeth, hospital and dental records reviewed by Reuters show.

Hale and her friend said the two police officers who responded to the crime failed to pursue the attackers. The perpetrators, they said, were still across the street when police arrived minutes after the attack. Hale’s friend, Pettus “Karma” Deerman, videotaped the interaction with the police.

“This is the cops standing here not doing any fucking thing,” Deerman says in the footage. “They wanted to go ahead and sit here and question us because we’re transgendered. They weren’t worried about the people who victimized my friend right here.”

The police report describing the incident paints a different picture. The officers wrote that Hale was “extremely uncooperative." They also said she did not give a clear description of the assailants.

In the footage, Deerman describes the female attacker as wearing “a white and black dress” and having “dark hair” and mentions a male attacker. Hale also tells the officers she was attacked because she was transgender.

In the section of the report that requires police to say whether the officer suspects the crime was “hate / bias motivated,” the officer wrote “unknown.”

A spokesperson for the Hollywood Police Department cited the police report, which says the officers checked the area for “a male suspect in a white dress,” a different description than the one Deerman gives them in the video. The spokesperson said the officers needed more evidence to declare the case a suspected hate crime.

McDevitt, the Northeastern University professor who studies hate crimes, said he has found bias among police officers toward transgender people.

“The transgender community is probably where the gay community was in the 1980s,” he said, referring to police bias. “Police are not in many cases receptive. They blame the victim for being transgender and somehow deserving of being attacked.”

Hale said her encounter made her lose faith in the police.

“I’m afraid that I could be murdered and the police would literally just kind of brush me away from them,” Hale said in an interview, “like it’d be no big deal.”

A HATE CRIME OR A ROBBERY?

In Kansas City, the handling of the recent string of murders has unsettled many LGBT people interviewed by Reuters.

On the night he died, Greene told a friend he was going to meet someone to have sex. Before leaving his house, Greene traded texts with Shaw, or his accomplice, that police later said “were in reference to performing sexual acts.”

As Greene drove to meet the men who would kill him, he called his best friend and kept him on the phone. Greene thought the 18-year-old was cute, but was nervous about encountering two strangers.

Greene parked on a deserted street and wondered if it was the right address when two men approached the car. Greene kept his cell phone on, so his friend could listen. It was 12:45 a.m.

Greene’s voice grew tense, the friend later testified, as Greene, Shaw and Shaw’s friend drove off looking for marijuana. At 1:05 a.m., Greene’s phone cut off.

Law enforcement officials said Kansas City police deemed the killing “a robbery gone bad” because Greene’s cell phone was missing.

During Shaw’s trial, prosecutors argued that Shaw and his friend used Greene’s homosexuality to lure him to the meeting where he was killed. Shaw’s lawyer argued that he was an unwitting accomplice who had no idea his friend planned to rob Greene at gunpoint.

Shaw was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and robbery in May but acquitted of murder. He faces anywhere from probation to 29 years in prison when he is sentenced next month. His friend, who has pleaded not guilty, will be tried for murder in October.

Michael Mansur, a spokesman for the state prosecutor’s office in Kansas City, said he could not comment on a pending case. But he said the office took hate crime allegations very seriously.

“We do look to see whether evidence supports filing a hate crime,” he said in an email.

Another case that members of the LGBT community in Kansas City say should have been prosecuted as a hate crime is the Christmas Eve 2011 murder of Darnell “Dee Dee” Pearson, a transgender woman. Pearson’s killer, Kenyan Jones, shot Pearson after paying her for sex and then learning Pearson was transgender, according to court records.

Jones obtained a gun, hunted down Pearson and shot her at point blank range, the court records said. Convicted of murder but not a hate crime, Jones was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Law enforcement officials said the evidence in the case did not merit a hate crimes prosecution. Friends of Pearson, however, believe she was targeted because she was transgender.

Police are also investigating whether a third killing in Kansas City is a hate crime, as members of the LGBT community contend. Last August, a transgender woman named Tamara Dominguez was run over twice by a truck in a parking lot.

Kansas City law enforcement officials say the safety of the LGBT community is a top priority. After the killings in Orlando, the rainbow flag flew at half staff above the Kansas City state courthouse.

The city, whose population is 69 percent white and 30 percent black, has its first African American police chief. The force includes a diversity unit and a liaison to the LBGT community.

On crime reports, police are required to check a box to indicate whether they believe bias may have played a role. The Kansas City Anti-Violence Program, a local LGBT advocacy group, conducts sensitivity training for local police.

In an interview, Kansas City Police Department spokeswoman Kari Thompson said police comprehensively investigate all attacks against the LGBT community.

"We approach it according to the law. That’s how you are able to convict: by the law and based on facts, not assumptions,” she said. “We have to make sure we are doing everything the right way."

Star Palmer, a friend of Greene and local LGBT advocate, sees it differently.

“Why is it so hard to prove a hate crime is a hate crime?” she asked.

                 Zachary Crockett; data via NCAVP hate crime reports (1996-2014)
Ned Parker and Mimi Dwyer/REUTERS

(Reporting By Ned Parker and Mimi Dwyer; edited by David Rohde.)
 (This June 29 Special Report corrects size of increase in number of people charged with federal hate crimes in paragraph 24, adds that 33 prosecutions in past seven years were under the Shepard/Byrd Act in paragraph 25)

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