Tag Archives | Justice

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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Why Couldn’t Congressman Bobby Rush Wear a Hoodie in Congress? (Video)

Bobby Rush HoodieThe ONLY person to beat Barack Obama in an election. Reports Peter Grier in Christian Science Monitor:
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.”
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What to Do When the Police Lie

CourthouseJohn Dwyer writes at the Good Men Project:

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.

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Obama’s Crackdown On Military Whistleblowers

Free Bradley billboardWhen it comes to abuses, the government is using severe punishment of high-profile whistleblowers as a method of encouraging silence, TomDispatch writes:

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.

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Why Do People Defend Unjust, Inept, and Corrupt Systems?

Corrupt Legislation

Detail from Corrupt Legislation. Mural by Elihu Vedder (1896).

Via ScienceDaily:

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 …

Read more here.… Read the rest

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Who Will Protect the Protectors?

“What bullsh*t, Liam.  If your lot really thought they [i.e., the police] were part of the “99%”, you’d be doing something to protect them, too,” Sorcha Nic Congail

Well, it has to be admitted that my cousin Sorcha has a point. A powerful point. Not the sort of thing that I would have been inclined to explore on my own unbidden. But that’s what friends are for, I guess. To prod you along some paths you would never have even considered, left to your own devices.

Here’s where the hole ugly mess began:

Photo, allegedly of the dog Parrot moments before being shot to death by police.

I received a copy of this photo last weekend from an FB friend and as a dog lover was immediately horrified.  As a kid I grew up with dogs — lots of dogs.  Probably the best, most loving and loyal animals on earth. I’d long ago come to see dogs as man’s natural companion and most trusted comrade.… Read the rest

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Was 14-Year-Old Executed By South Carolina Innocent?

George-Junius-Stinney-Jr-commonsThe saddest part is that I’m not 100 percent certain that something like this could never happen again today. Raw Story writes:

Over 67 years after 14-year-old George Junius Stinney Jr. was put to death by the state of South Carolina, he may soon be cleared of the crime that people familiar with the case say he never could have committed.

A lawyer and an activist both told Raw Story recently that new evidence will show that the black boy could not have possibly murdered two white girls, 11-year-old Betty June Binnicker and seven-year-old Mary Emma Thames.

Stinney, the youngest person to receive the death penalty in the last 100 years, was executed on June 16, 1944. At five feet one inch and only 95 pounds, the straps of the electric chair did not fit the boy. His feet could not touch the floor. As he was hit with the first 2,400-volt surge of electricity, the mask covering his face slipped off, “revealing his wide-open, tearful eyes and saliva coming from his mouth.”

Less than three months earlier, Stinney, who had no previous history of violence, had been accused of the crime after he admitted speaking to the girls when they stopped by a field in Alcolu where he was grazing his cow to ask where they could find maypops, a type of flower.

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Troy Davis Executed in Georgia

Troy DavisReports the AP via CBS News:

Georgia executed Troy Davis on Wednesday night for the murder of an off-duty police officer, a crime he denied committing right to the end as supporters around the world mourned and declared that an innocent man was put to death.

Defiant to the end, he told relatives of Mark MacPhail that his 1989 slaying was not his fault. “I did not have a gun,” he insisted. “For those about to take my life,” he told prison officials, “may God have mercy on your souls. May God bless your souls.”

Davis was declared dead at 11:08 ET. The lethal injection began about 15 minutes earlier, after the Supreme Court rejected an 11th-hour request for a stay. The court did not comment on its order, which came about four hours after it received the request and more than three hours after the planned execution time.

Though Davis’ attorneys said seven of nine key witnesses against him disputed all or parts of their testimony, state and federal judges repeatedly ruled against granting him a new trial.

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