Tag Archives | Justice
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:
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“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.
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...
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:
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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.
Claire O’Sullivan and Ann Cahill write in the Irish Examiner:
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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.
Leah Bartos writes on ProPublica:
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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.
Hoodies on the House floor are verboten, apparently. Rep. Bobby Rush (D) of Illinois was scolded and escorted from the chamber of the House of Representatives on Wednesday morning, when he attempted to give a speech on the need for a full investigation of the Trayvon Martin shooting while wearing sunglasses and a gray hooded sweat shirt. “Racial profiling has to stop, Mr. Speaker,” said Representative Rush while doffing his suit jacket to reveal his hoodie garb. “Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.”
John Dwyer writes at the Good Men Project:
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The façade of the courthouse is made entirely of windows. The only entrance is a revolving door, of course, and everywhere you look is steel and glass.
Irony doesn’t exist, for legal reasons.
My brother is 45 minutes early for his court date. He tells me this will be a “discovery,” and we both have no clue what exactly this will entail. His lawyer is 5 minutes late and arrives without any explanations.
Earlier, my brother, Mike, commiserated with his friend and fellow defendant, “We paid fifteen hundred bucks. You would expect this guy to be on time.”
“Yeah,” his buddy agrees, “I want my money back.”
Fifteen hundred dollars seemed like a cheap price to pay for justice to me. I wanted to say that if that’s all it costs, then they’re getting away with highway robbery, and cheaply. Only, they never robbed anyone and they certainly never assaulted a cop.
When it comes to abuses, the government is using severe punishment of high-profile whistleblowers as a method of encouraging silence, TomDispatch writes:
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On January 23rd, the Obama administration charged former CIA officer John Kiriakou under the Espionage Act for disclosing classified information to journalists about the waterboarding of al-Qaeda suspects. His is just the latest prosecution in an unprecedented assault on government whistleblowers and leakers of every sort.
The Obama administration has already charged more people—six—under the Espionage Act for alleged mishandling of classified information than all past presidencies combined. (Prior to Obama, there were only three such cases in American history.)
By now, there can be little doubt that government retaliation against whistleblowers is not an isolated event, nor even an agency-by-agency practice. The number of cases in play suggests an organized strategy to deprive Americans of knowledge of the more disreputable things that their government does. How it plays out in court and elsewhere will significantly affect our democracy.
Why do we stick up for a system or institution we live in — a government, company, or marriage — even when anyone else can see it is failing miserably? Why do we resist change even when the system is corrupt or unjust?
A new article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science, illuminates the conditions under which we’re motivated to defend the status quo — a process called “system justification.”System justification isn’t the same as acquiescence, explains Aaron C. Kay, a psychologist at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, who co-authored the paper with University of Waterloo graduate student Justin Friesen. “It’s pro-active. When someone comes to justify the status quo, they also come to see it as what should be.”
Reviewing laboratory and cross-national studies, the paper illuminates four situations that foster system justification: system threat, system dependence, system inescapability, and low personal control …