Tag Archives | Court

A Washington D.C. Court Gutted Net Neutrality Yesterday

admin-ajax.phpFree market enterprise means that internet telecoms are free to choose what they do and don’t want to allow you to see. The Los Angeles Times writes:

Today’s ruling from a Washington appeals court striking down the FCC’s rules protecting the open net was worse than the most dire forecasts. It was “even more emphatic and disastrous than anyone expected,” in the words of one veteran advocate for network neutrality.

The Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit thoroughly eviscerated the Federal Communications Commission’s attempt to prevent Internet service providers from playing favorites among websites.

“AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast will be able to deliver some sites and services more quickly and reliably than others for any reason,” telecommunications lawyer Marvin Ammori (he’s the man quoted above) observed even before the ruling came down.”

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“My Brain Made Me Do It” Neuroscience Defense Increasingly Used In U.S. Criminal Courts

killerCan someone be punished for what their brain made them do? The Guardian on a growing trend in legal defense:

Criminal courts in the United States are facing a surge in the number of defendants arguing that their brains were to blame for their crimes and relying on questionable scans and other controversial, unproven neuroscience, a legal expert who has advised the president has warned.

Nita Farahany, a professor of law who sits on Barack Obama’s bioethics advisory panel, told a Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego that those on trial were mounting ever more sophisticated defences that drew on neurological evidence in an effort to show they were not fully responsible for murderous or other criminal actions.

“What is novel is the use by criminal defendants to say, essentially, that my brain made me do it,” Farahany said following an analysis of more than 1,500 judicial opinions from 2005 to 2012.

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Florida Man Cites “Bush Doctrine” As Legal Defense In Killing Of Neighbors

bush doctrine

Give this man the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Via Gawker:

A Florida man who shot three of his neighbors killing two of them has cited the state’s infamous Stand Your Ground law in his defense, but with a twist: William T. Woodward insists the “Bush Doctrine” of preventive war gives him the right to murder his neighbors before they murder him.

An ongoing dispute between Woodward and his neighbors, Gary Lee Hembree, Roger Picior, and Bruce Timothy Blake, culminated in a Labor Day shooting that left Hembree and Picior dead and Blake badly wounded.

Lawyers for Woodward, 44, have asked the court to dismiss the first-degree murder charges against his client, saying Woodward’s neighbors had verbally harassed him in the hours leading up to the shooting, and could even be heard saying “we’re going to get him, all three of us.”

In their argument, the attorneys mentioned the “Bush Doctrine” as a justification for preemptive attack in the face of a potential threat.

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Florida Mom Received Twenty-Year Sentence For Firing Warning Shots To Abusive Husband

firing warning shotsFrom one year ago, a case that has been compared and contrasted with George Zimmerman’s in regards to notions of “self defense” and “Stand Your Ground” in the Florida legal system. Reported by CBS News:

A Florida woman who fired warning shots against her allegedly abusive husband has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville had said the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law should apply to her because she was defending herself against her allegedly abusive husband when she fired warning shots inside her home in August 2010. She told police it was to escape a brutal beating by her husband, against whom she had already taken out a protective order.

Under Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing requirements Alexander couldn’t receive a lesser sentence, even though she has never been in trouble with the law before.

According to a sworn deposition, Marissa Alexander’s husband, Rico Gray, said that he and Alexander began fighting after he found text messages to Alexander’s first husband on her phone.

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Atheist Monument Erected At Florida Courthouse

atheist monumentThe organization American Atheists had sued to have the Ten Commandments removed from the front of the county courthouse in Stark, Florida. But instead, in a historic turn of events, it was told that it could have its own monument. Via the Washington Post:

A group of atheists unveiled a monument to their nonbelief in God on Saturday to sit alongside a granite slab that lists the Ten Commandments in front of the Bradford County courthouse.

As a small group of protesters blasted Christian country music and waved “Honk for Jesus” signs, the atheists celebrated what they believe is the first atheist monument allowed on government property in the United States.

The 1,500-pound granite bench bears quotes from Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Madalyn Murray O’Hair. It also has a list of gruesome Old Testament punishments for violating the Ten Commandments, including death and stoning.

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Aurora Shooter Could Be Given ‘Truth Serum’ To Establish His Insanity

Instances of the age-old sodium pentothal technique in the criminal justice system is exceedingly rare. Could its possible use to get inside the mind of this high-profile mass killer kick off a trend? Via the New York Times:

The defendant in the Aurora theater shooting can be given “truth serum” if he pleads not guilty by reason of insanity, the judge in the case said Monday. James E. Holmes also could be given a polygraph examination as part of an evaluation to determine if he was legally insane at the time of the July 20 shootings.

Judge William Sylvester approved the use of a “narcoanalytic interview,” a decades-old process in which patients are given drugs to reduce their inhibitions. The prospect of such an interview alarmed defense lawyers, who filed documents opposing the technique. Mr. Holmes, 25, is charged with killing 12 people and wounding 70 at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

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Audio Recording Of Bradley Manning Speaking At Military Tribunal Leaked

Despite a strict ban on recordings and transcripts at the secretive proceedings, the Freedom of Press Foundation has gotten a hold of a covertly-made tape of Manning’s full speech to the court explaining his motivation for leaking classified government materials. He remarks:

“I am the type of person who likes to know how things work. And, as an analyst, this means I always want to figure out the truth. Unlike other analysts within the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, I was not satisfied with just scratching the surface and producing canned or cookie cutter assessments. I wanted to know why something was the way it was, and what we could to correct or mitigate a situation.”

“I began to become depressed with the situation that we [the U.S. military] found ourselves increasingly mired in year after year…we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists…[I wanted] society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.”

“I knew that if I continued to assist the Baghdad Federal Police in identifying the political opponents of Prime Minister al-Maliki, those people would be arrested and in the custody of the Special Unit of the Baghdad Federal Police and very likely tortured and not seen again for a very long time – if ever.”

“I read more of the diplomatic cables published on the Department of State Net Centric Diplomacy.

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Why Police Officers Lie Under Oath

Police lie in court with impunity, yet juries almost always take their word over defendants’.  The New York Times writes:

In this era of mass incarceration, the police shouldn’t be trusted any more than any other witness, perhaps less so.

That may sound harsh, but numerous law enforcement officials have put the matter more bluntly. Peter Keane, a former San Francisco Police commissioner, wrote an article in The San Francisco Chronicle decrying a police culture that treats lying as the norm:

“Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath…it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America.”

The New York City Police Department is not exempt from this critique. In 2011, hundreds of drug cases were dismissed after several police officers were accused of mishandling evidence.

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Putting Animals On Trial For Their Crimes

May we hold animals accountable for their actions in a court of law? Via Maisonneuve, Drew Nelles on the surprisingly widespread historical practice, including the lynching of an elephant, the excommunication of a swarm of locusts, and much more:

“If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten,” reads Exodus 21:28. Note that the ox is executed by stoning, much like an adulterer or Sabbath-breaker would have been.

Exodus 21:28 is a biblical law like any other, and as with similar Old Testament passages about slavery and sodomy, these few short words inspired hundreds of years of human behaviour that now appear horrifying. In Medieval Europe, they gave rise to the animal trial: the practice of dragging a creature accused of committing a crime—like killing a child or destroying a crop—before an actual court of law, and subsequently executing, exiling or absolving it.

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Dog Helps Teenage Rape Victim Testify Sparking Debate Over Use Of Canines In Courtrooms

776px-FEMA_-_20641_-_Photograph_by_Robert_Kaufmann_taken_on_12-20-2005_in_LouisianaShould dogs be allowed in courtrooms to comfort the victims? The New York Times reports:

Rosie, the first judicially approved courtroom dog in New York, was in the witness box here nuzzling a 15-year-old girl who was testifying that her father had raped and impregnated her. Rosie sat by the teenager’s feet. At particularly bad moments, she leaned in.

When the trial ended in June with the father’s conviction, the teenager “was most grateful to Rosie above all,” said David A. Crenshaw, a psychologist who works with the teenager.

“She just kept hugging Rosie,” he continued.

Now an appeal planned by the defense lawyers is placing Rosie at the heart of a legal debate that will test whether there will be more Rosies in courtrooms in New York and, possibly, other states.

Rosie is a golden retriever therapy dog who specializes in comforting people when they are under stress. Both prosecutors and defense lawyers have described her as adorable, though she has been known to slobber.

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