Tag Archives | Justice

Obama’s Only Presidential Pardon This Year Was The Thanksgiving Turkey

ThinkProgress points out that Cobbler the turkey was the only recipient of a presidential mercy in 2012:

Although the Constitution confers on the president the power to “grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States,” a recent ProPublica report found that Obama had exercised that power more rarely than any president in modern history. As law professor Mark Osler explains, the framers intended a much more robust presidential use of the pardon power:

The founding fathers did not intend for the pardon power to fall into such disuse. Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist 74, argued that “the criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity, that without an easy access to exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt, justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel.”

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An Eye for an Eye? Jerry Sandusky, Male Survivors, and Prison Rape

Jamie Utt writes at Change From Within:

Trigger Warning: The following article has content that could prove triggering for survivors of sexual violence.

As the verdict was handed down that Jerry Sandusky, convicted child rapist and former Penn State football coach, would spend the rest of his life in prison, the twitterverse exploded!

(it’s notable that this came from a widely-followed sports reporter)

Now, I have to admit.  While I consider myself on the road to understanding peace through pacifism, few things make me want to inflict violence on another more than violence against children, particularly sexual violence.  It robs children of their innocence and scars them for life; any person that would inflict such violence on a child is seriously disturbed, and they deserve punishment.

But is wishing rape upon those who have committed atrocities the measure by which we should understand justice?

One of the great failures of our so-called “justice” system is that there are virtually no resources or effort put toward healing and rehabilitation. 

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Descendants Want Connecticut To Clear Names Of Women Executed For Witchcraft

More than three centuries later, Connecticut is the last state refusing to issue apology or posthumous pardons for those put to death during the time when laws based on the Bible held sway in America, Religion News Service writes:

At age 82, Bernice Mable Graham Telian doubts she’ll live long enough to see the name of her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother and 10 others hanged in colonial Connecticut for witchcraft cleared.

Telian was researching her family tree when she discovered that her seventh grandmother, Mary Barnes of Farmington, Conn., was sent to the gallows at the site of the old State House in Hartford in 1663. “You won’t find Mary’s grave. She and all these people who were hanged were dumped in a hole. They wanted them to be forgotten,” said Telian, a retired university administrator.

Connecticut was executing suspected witches some 40 years before the infamous (and better known) trials in Salem, Mass.

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Remember There’s No Such Thing As A Natural Disaster

Scottish radical geographer, professor, and author Neil Smith died at age 58 this past weekend. It’s worth revisiting his groundbreaking, established-wisdom-challenging work, including his well-known declaration post-Hurricane Katrina that there’s no such thing as a natural disaster:

It is generally accepted among environmental geographers that there is no such thing as a natural disaster. In every phase and aspect of a disaster – causes, vulnerability, preparedness, results and response, and reconstruction – the contours of disaster and the difference between who lives and who dies is to a greater or lesser extent a social calculus. Hurricane Katrina provides the most startling confirmation of that axiom.

The Bush administration…is happy to attribute the dismal record of death and destruction on the Gulf Coast – perhaps 1200 lives by the latest counts – to an act of nature. It has proven itself not just oblivious but ideologically opposed to mounting scientific evidence of global warming and the fact that rising sea-levels make cities such as New Orleans, Venice, or Dacca immediately vulnerable to future calamity.

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Dallas Cop Suspended for Trying to Confiscate Cyclist’s Helmet Camera

Via CopBlock: Well, this is an unexpected but welcome turn of events: Dallas Sheriff's Deputy James Westbrook has been suspended for 30 days without pay following his attempt to confiscate a motorcyclist's helmet camera. The deputy told cyclist Chris Moore that he was going to take his helmet cam as evidence proving that other cyclists were engaged in criminal behavior. Following Moore's refusal, Westbrook arrested him for an obstructed license plate, an offense that normally warrants a ticket. Here's Moore's video:
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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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24-Year Old Gets Three Life Sentences for Witnessing a Drug Deal

Via RT:
It’s been nearly 20 years since Clarence Aaron was put in jail for conspiring to distribute crack cocaine, and unless President Obama steps in, the 19-year veteran of the American prison system is expected to stay there for a while. A long while. Aaron wasn’t buying, selling or even touching coke when cops busted the then 23-year-old college student in 1993. Instead Aaron was simply a witness of a plotted crack transaction and associate of the buyer and seller, who, unlike him, pled guilty and gave law enforcement their full cooperation. But despite lacking any criminal record at all, however, Aaron was sentenced to serve three life sentences behind bars for his role in a would-be drug deal. Neither President Clinton nor George W. Bush offered a commutation to kill the lengthy sentence during their combined 16 years in office, and new evidence reveals that there may have been a reason for that. An investigation launched by the website ProPublica reveals that the Bush White House was never informed of the facts of the case accounted for in a confidential Justice Department review, and that only now are America’s leaders being brought up to snuff as far as what needs to be known in the case of Clarence Aaron...
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Lawrence Lessig Asks, What The Hell Is A Lawyer For?

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Photo: Joi Ito (CC)

If you’ve ever wondered, allow the freedom of information champion explain. Excerpted from his commencement speech at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School, via Lessig Blog:

There is no one in the criminal justice system who believes that system works well. There is no one in housing law who believes this is what law was meant to be. The disputes of ordinary people. The law of real people doesn’t work, even if the law of corporations does.

John Marshall — whose name this law school borrows — was not among the framers of our constitution. But among those framers, there were businessmen, farmers, scientists, physicians and some lawyers. No one could doubt the progress that business has made in the 225 years since our constitution was drafted. That progress is extraordinary. Likewise, the drafters would certainly be in awe of the progress in farming too. We could, if we chose, feed every human on the planet, three times over.

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Catholic Priests Oppose ‘Report Pedophilia’ Bill in Ireland

Claire O’Sullivan and Ann Cahill write in the Irish Examiner:

Justice Minister Alan Shatter reiterated that everyone, including priests, were obliged to report child sex abuse and other offences, including white collar crime, to the gardaí, even if they hear about it in the confessional.

The minister described the issue as a media obsession and said priests had been obliged to provide gardaí with information about a whole series of crimes since the 1998 Offences Against the State Amendment Act.

Nobody had raised any question about this or the 2011 Criminal Justice Act that placed the same obligation on the whole community, including priests, to assist gardaí with information.

The confessional was a diversion from the real issue, which had nothing to do with the confessional but with the fact that sexual abuse of children by clergy had been known about by religious orders and leaders as a result of parents, victims and others telling them, outside of the confessional.

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Forensic Evidence Is Foolproof on TV’s ‘CSI': What is the Reality?

SkullsLeah Bartos writes on ProPublica:

This is how I — a journalism graduate student with no background in forensics — became certified as a “Forensic Consultant” by one of the field’s largest professional groups.

One afternoon early last year, I punched in my credit card information, paid $495 to the American College of Forensic Examiners International Inc. and registered for an online course.

After about 90 minutes of video instruction, I took an exam on the institute’s web site, answering 100 multiple choice questions, aided by several ACFEI study packets. As soon as I finished the test, a screen popped up saying that I had passed, earning me an impressive-sounding credential that could help establish my qualifications to be an expert witness in criminal and civil trials.

For another $50, ACFEI mailed me a white lab coat after sending my certificate. For the last two years, ProPublica and PBS Frontline, in concert with other news organizations, have looked in-depth at death investigation in America, finding a pervasive lack of national standards that begins in the autopsy room and ends in court.

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