Category Archives: Justice Denied

The Conservative Double Whammy

For several weeks now, the American Legion has been running adds asking for donations – $20 a month – to help wounded veterans from the Iraq war. Nothing wrong with that but this: the core of their pitch is that “we” made promises to take care of them that “we” didn’t keep and now it’s time for “all of us” to step up and keep “our” word to those harmed when they were in “our” service.

The tone is one of finger-wagging accusation and “you oughta be ashamed of ourself” sadness that “we” let down “our” vets by cutting the medical benefits they were supposed to get. Sounds like AL is doing its patriotic duty toward our fighting men, doesn’t it? But here’s the rub: “we” didn’t cut those services. The people who did – Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress – were universally supported, financially and otherwise, by the same American Legion that is now tut-tutting at us for allowing it to happen. Continue reading

The Troy Davis Conundrum (Updated)

Thomas Nephew at newsrack thinks there may be more hope in the Supreme Court’s language than I do, and he has a point.

To repeat the charge to the district court, the Supreme Court ruling states that “[t]he District Court should receive testimony and make findings of fact as to whether evidence that could not have been obtained at the time of trial clearly establishes petitioner’s innocence(emphases added).

It seems to me this is a more hopeful situation than either Mick Arran or Robert (in another comment at the prior post) suppose it to be.  While the framing of the question would seem to turn the usual presumption of innocence on its head (as Robert notes), it at least doesn’t necessarily change the definition of legal innocence, which remains “guilt not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

On that score, Mick suggests that “[w]hether a new trial will be granted, then, rests on whether or not the judge will consider the recantation of potentially perjured testimony on the part of witnesses coerced by police to be “new evidence”.” But while Mick is right that “the only new evidence is that the old evidence was bogus,” … that might be good enough.  That’s because the Court didn’t actually ask for “new” evidence, it asked for evidence that couldn’t have been obtained at the time; absent mind reading skills, of course perjured testimony can’t be recognized as such at the time.

So it seems to me a district court may reasonably follow this decision’s instructions and find that seven of nine pillars of the prosecution’s case have been washed away, establishing reasonable doubt and legal innocence; the Court seems to emphasize that in this case, at least, it is incorrect to “[assume] as a matter of fact that petitioner Davis is guilty of the murder of Officer MacPhail … even though seven of the State’s key witnesses have recanted their trial testimony.” But enough of my Perry Mason impression.  For better informed analyses of the legal implications, see publius and Lee Kovarsky (at ‘Obsidian Wings’), bmaz (at ‘emptywheel’), Josh Patashnik at The New Republic, and/or Lyle Denniston (at ‘SCOTUSBlog’).

I’m not now saying – and wasn’t originally – that Thomas’ interpretation is inaccurate. It isn’t. But I should perhaps have made myself clearer for those living outside Georgia: it isn’t the legal meaning of the language I’m concerned with so much as I am concerned about the way it can be interpreted by people looking for an excuse to end this case.

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Troy Davis May Get New Trial

After several weeks of dicking around, the Supreme Court has sent Troy Davis’ case back to Georgia. Continue reading

“They’s Jist Niggahs And Who’s Gonna Lissen to a Niggah?”

I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t been looking in the right places or because there’s so much more of it around or because Barack Obama’s election made people – especially reporters and editors – braver about reporting this shit but there has been a mini-explosion of stories this week about racist cops, all of them ugly and all but one in the state of the union which I really wish we had let secede – Texas. Here are but three of them.

1. Take That, Granpaw

From The Field Negro comes a brutal and bewildering story out of Louisiana. You remember Louisiana, right? Jena? The nooses? The right-wing dismissing them as a “joke” or claiming racism doesn’t exist and it was all getting blown out of proportion? Well, this story from Homer may help put things in perspective.

An unarmed 73-yr-old man was murdered by a police officer in the man’s own backyard and the perp’s fellow officers covered up the crime in full view of the neighbors.

monroeHOMER, La.—On the last afternoon of his life, Bernard Monroe was hosting a cookout for family and friends in front of his dilapidated home on Adams Street in this small northern Louisiana town.

Throat cancer had robbed the 73-year-old retired electric utility worker of his voice years ago, but family members said Monroe was clearly enjoying the commotion of a dozen of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren cavorting around him in the dusty, grassless yard.

Then the Homer police showed up, two white officers whose arrival caused the participants at the black family gathering to quickly fall silent.

Within moments, Monroe lay dead, shot by one of the officers as his family looked on.

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Federal Court Hears Arguments for New Davis Trial

After a long, drawn-out battle with a state that was dead set against even considering the possibility that it had made a mistake, Troy Davis and his supporters won a major victory when they convinced a Federal court to hear arguments over whether there was enough evidence of a botched prosecution to justify a new trial. Today, that court heard those arguments.

Federal judges weighed Tuesday whether condemned inmate Troy Davis has presented enough evidence to stop his execution.Last month, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta halted Davis’s scheduled execution — the third time his life was spared shortly before he was to be put to death. The judges called their stay “conditional” and scheduled arguments on the appeal.

One judge, Joel Dubina of Montgomery, indicated Tuesday he did not think Davis’s claims are compelling enough to warrant a new court hearing. Another judge, Rosemary Barkett of Miami, said she would like to see Davis’s innocence claims fleshed out in court.

The third judge, Stanley Marcus of Miami, closely questioned lawyers as to whether Davis had cleared the enormously difficult legal thresholds needed to allow his appeal to go any further.

Sounds like a split court. Dubina, a Bush I appointee, thinks not. Barkett, a Clinton appointee, thinks yes. And nobody knows what Marcus, another Clintonite, thinks. He seems to be keying on technical aspects and they can go either way in a case like this.

Still, Troy Davis is still alive and his lawyers have a strong case to present to a Federal court that for once isn’t loaded down with W’s ultraconservative ideologues.

Davis deserves a new trial. The first one was a travesty that Georgia should be ashamed of.

Troy Davis Execution Date Set: BOYCOTT COCA COLA

As I noted elsewhere, the Bush/Reagan Supreme Court turned down Troy Davis’ appeal for a new trial and did so without comment, as if they didn’t need to explain why they’re allowing an execution to go forward in a case where the evidence was so insubstantial as to be non-existant and 4/5 of the witnesses recanted, claiming they’d been pressured by police and coached by prosecutors eager for a conviction.

Yesterday afternoon, Judge Penny Haas Freesemann rescheduled Davis’ execution date, setting it for the 27th of this month.

The State of Georgia is owed very little respect for the way this has been handled. Along with its other shameful acts – trying to bar the teaching of evolution in public school science classes, or allowing the GOP to steal both Senate seats as well as the governorship with doctored e-voting machines, slime campaigns, and vote caging, for examples – it is prepared to execute an almost certainly innocent man on skimpier evidence than would be required to make you pay a traffic fine.

The GOP has gone way too far, and killing a man to keep from embarrassing the cops who were played for suckers by Red Coles and the prosecutor who may have intimidated witnesses to get a conviction is a good place to get them to stop. We’ve had enough of this revenge crap, we’ve had enough of innocent people dying so the Pubs can claim they’re fighting crime – a bad, sick joke considering how many of them have been caught breaking the law, right up to the president.

I’ve been saying for a while that it’s time to fight back but it was TMiss who came up with a way to do it. Let Sonny Perdue and Coke know we’ll start a boycott of Coca Cola if Davis dies.

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Troy Davis Appeal Rejected by SCOTUS

It was never much of a chance, not with the robotic law-and-order types conservatives have been able to get assigned to the US Supreme Court filling up the seats, but it was a chance. If there was enough pressure, enough noise, enough people asking uncomfortable questions, maybe even Fat Tony Scalia might have reconsidered for the sake of his almost certainly unpleasant legacy the way he did over some labor law – which he hates – when a woman got screwed. Again.

But it wasn’t much of a chance and now it’s over. The Supreme Court has refused to hear Troy Davis’ appeal for a new trial.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for Troy Anthony Davis’ execution, declining to enter a contentious debate as to whether the condemned inmate was the real killer of a Savannah police officer in 1989.

The court, without explanation, refused to hear his appeal even though seven of nine key prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimony since the 1991 trial. Just three weeks ago, the high court had halted Davis’ execution with less than two hours to spare.

The family of the dead officer, Mark MacPhail, is thrilled. They want Davis dead whether he’s the right guy or not, mainly because they want their part of this ordeal to be over.

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Supreme Court Delays Decision on Troy Davis Appeal

The all-out efforts by activists from all over the country to win Troy Davis a new trial hit a stone wall in Georgia – which has done little it can be proud of throughout this episode – but may have frightened the bunnies of the Supreme Court into giving the case a harder look.

The SCOTUS promised two weeks ago that it would have a decision last week about whether it would hear the Davis appeal. It is now 2 weeks and the Court is still delaying its decision.

The U.S. Supreme Court apparently needs more time to look at an appeal from death-row inmate Troy Anthony Davis, whose claims of innocence have attracted international attention. The high court issued orders Monday addressing the appeals of numerous cases, but none as to whether it will accept or reject Davis’ appeal. Instead, the court, in a listing on its docket, said it will meet in a private conference on Friday to consider Davis’ appeal.

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The Aftermath of the Davis Stay

The front page story – top dead center – of the Savannah Morning News wasn’t about Troy Davis’ stay of execution but about how disappointed Officer MacPhail’s family are that the execution has been put off.

Tuesday’s last-minute stay of execution for murder convict Troy Anthony Davis has left the victim’s family disheartened but still hopeful justice will be served.

“It hurt, honestly,” said Mark Allen MacPhail Jr. “It’s a big disappointment.”

I can understand why they’d want it to be over after all this but don’t they even want to make sure it’s the right guy before they fry him?

The thirst for revenge – on anybody, doesn’t matter who – is the reason the law was developed as an objective force rather than a nemesis. The hopelessly misguided (or deliberately obstructionist and vindictive) movement to make the families of crime victims “part of the process” has injected an element of revenge into our judicial process that is poisoning criminal law. It is less and less about justice than it is about getting back at somebody for a wound.

Frontier justice is attractive in the movies but only because they’re NOT REAL. In the actual world, it’s the next thing to vigilantism and shouldn’t be encouraged.

Davis Execution Delayed

Five hours before Troy Davis was scheduled to die in the electric chair for a crime he almost certainly didn’t commit, the Supreme Court decided to consider whether or not to hear his plea for a new trial. A scant two hours before his execution time, the Justices ordered a stay until such time as they make that decision.

In its order, the U.S. Supreme Court said if the justices decline to accept Davis’ appeal, “this stay shall terminate immediately.” If the appeal is granted, the stay will remain in force until the high court issues its ultimate ruling on Davis’ appeal, the order said.

The decision is scheduled for Monday. As Thomas Nephew pointed out in his blog, newsrack, in turning down Davis’ appeals, the Georgia Board of Pardons and the State Supreme Court ignored some fairly heavy legal advice.

But the Georgia State Board of Appeals has already rejected a bid for clemency, unmoved by appeals from the pope, Jimmy Carter, and former FBI director William Sessions’s opinion that a closer look at the case is warranted.

The Georgia board can still change its mind; please urge them to do so here (Amnesty International USA).  Meanwhile, if you’re the praying sort, now’s the time to start.  Troy Davis’s execution is set for 7pm today.

The post was put up before the SCOTUS’ order, but the urgency isn the same. Troy Davis has one more week of life if the SCOTUS turns down his appeal. Click Thomas’ lionk and add your voice. We need everybody.

Troy Davis Clemency Denied

The one thing nearly everyone agrees on is that Troy Davis didn’t kill Savannah Police Officer Mark MacPhail.

On Sept 23, ten days from now, Troy Davis will die by lethal injection for the murder of Mark MacPhail.

If that doesn’t make any sense to you, consider it Georgia Justice.

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Why FISA Is Such a Bad Idea

 “Because I say so,” said the Red King.
For years I’ve been following and writing about the absurd paucity of evidence the Bush Administration considers sufficient to lock your ass up indefinitely. Ashcroft was forced to try two of his Gitmo defendants in Germany in front of a court not made up of Bush loyalists or conservative ideologues, andn the judge demanded access to the proof Ashcroft’s DoJ insisted was too sensitive to be made public. When the dossier was opened anyway, despite their protests, there was nothing in it but raw data – unsubstantiated romors, gossip, innuendo. What Ashcroft was protecting wasn’t sensitive information but his own butt, which has come to be known as a standard trait for Bushies.
Now the same damn thing has been repeated under Michael Mukasey.

In the first case to review the government’s secret evidence for holding a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a federal appeals court found that accusations against a Muslim from western China held for more than six years were based on bare and unverifiable claims. The unclassified parts of the decision were released on Monday.

With some derision for the Bush administration’s arguments, a three-judge panel said the government contended that its accusations against the detainee should be accepted as true because they had been repeated in at least three secret documents.
The court compared that to the absurd declaration of a character in the Lewis Carroll poem “The Hunting of the Snark”: “I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.”
 

 

This Administration appears to lie about everything, even the evidence – or lack of it – that it claims justifies holding men and even children in prisons withiout trial for 6 years. Like Ashcroft in Germany, the Bush Administration wasn’t refusing them their day in court because they were dangerous but because Bush didn'[t want us to know they weren’t, that the whole detainee thing had been a bust from the git-go. So why in heaven’s name should we believe them when they claim yet another detainee ought to be killed because he was behind the attack on the Cole?

 

 

A Pentagon official announced war crimes charges Monday against a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, suspected of helping to plan the attack on the Navy destroyer Cole in 2000 that killed 17 American sailors.

 

Military prosecutors said they were seeking the death penalty against the detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi who has long been described by American officials as Al Qaeda’s operations chief in the Persian Gulf and the primary planner of the October 2000 attack on the Cole.

Mr. Nashiri is one of three detainees who the C.I.A. has acknowledged were subjected to waterboarding, the interrogation technique that simulates drowning. Mr. Nashiri was interrogated in the agency’s secret prisons before he was transferred to Guantánamo in 2006.

(emphasis added)

There hasn’t been a shred of evidence, ever, that Nashiri weas guilty of anything except by the Bush Administration’s unsupported word for it – a word that is worth less than nothing considering its total lack of credibility. Yet the Bush lawyers are demanding the death penalty. For war crimes. Talk about the pot and the kettle.

If one word of that so-called “evidence” came from Nashiri’s being tortured, then legally it has to be thrown out. A co-erced confession IS NOT ADMISSIBLE, not in a civilian court. Maybe in the Kangaroo tribunals the Bushies have dreamed up, but nowhere else in the civilized world. If that’s how they came by it, it’s hopelessly tainted and so is their whole case. Not that they seem to care. They’re going ahead with the trial despite the CIA’s admission, and after all, what do they really have to fear in the way of consequences? Not much, it seems.

A federal appeals court on Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Syrian-born Canadian man who had accused the United States of violating the law and his civil rights after he was detained at Kennedy Airport and sent to Syria under what he claims was an act of “extraordinary rendition.”

The man, Maher Arar, tried to win civil damages from United States officials in his suit, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled that because he was never technically inside the United States, his claims could not be heard in the federal courts.

 

 

 

While stating that “threats to the nation’s security do not allow us to jettison principles of ‘simple justice and fair dealing,’ ” the majority opinion ruled nonetheless that Mr. Arar, who had been seized as he tried to change planes at Kennedy Airport while flying back to Canada from Switzerland, had no federal standing in his case and that the government did not violate the Torture Victim Protection Act by sending him abroad.

I can hear Lil Dick and Dave Addington chuckling over it now. They got away with it again – on a technicality. They arranged to keep their bloody hands clean even though they arranged for an innocent man to be tortured because technically he wasn’t in the US at the time theyn had him picked up. Giggle giggle. What fun. Put it over on us again, didn’t you?

FISA should never be passed if for no other reason than because the govt can’t be trusted to look at any interests but its own or nopt use its power – whatever powers we give it – to get what it wants. Our experience with Bush proves it’s a HORRENDOUSLY BAD IDEA TO GIVE ANY PRESIDENT THAT KIND OF POWER.

So why is our Democratic Congress giving it to them? Hmm?

Georgia Supreme Court Frees Genarlow Wilson

I’ve written extensively about the Genarlow Wilson case, more than once calling it a “travesty”. I’m not going to repeat all that here (click the link for the series if you want to know the background) but will simply note that after the Georgia AG refused to release Wilson when a superior court judge ordered him to, he insisted on taking the case all the way to the State Supreme Court rather than admit the local prosecutor, Eddie Barker, had fucked up royally. Barker threw a hissy fit when Wilson refused to plead guilty to a felony sex offense and threw the book at him. Genarlow’s been in jail ever since.

Today, the Georgia Supreme Court agreed with Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson (no relation) and ordered Generlow released, calling his 10-yr sentence “cruel and unusual”. Georgia AG Thurlow Baker (no relation to Eddie) has only one more option if he insists on pursuing the case – taking it to the SCOTUS. No word yet on whether AG Baker is prepared, finally, to let this absurd charge die the death it deserves and allow Wilson to go back to his life.

Parole Board Postpones Davis Case

The Georgia state parole board announced today that they’re putting off consideration of a clemency hearing for Troy Davis, convicted of killing a cop on eyewitness testimony that was questionable at best and coerced by angry police at worst. The postponement comes because on Friday, the Georgia Supreme Court agreed to hear Davis’ appeal for a new trial based on the recent recantation of witness’ testimony.

The hearing is now postponed until the board takes up the issue again. The 90-day stay of execution was also rescinded. In an order signed Monday, the board said its rules allow it to consider a clemency petition only when it appears all appeals through the courts have been exhausted.

On Friday, the state Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, agreed to consider Davis’ case. He is appealing a ruling in July by a Chatham County judge who denied his extraordinary motion for a new trial. The state Supreme Court will hear arguments on the appeal sometime this fall.

Frankly, what the Supreme Court should be considering is censure of the prosecutor who presented evidence from witnesses they had intimidated and then instructed in what to say. The story of this case is the story of a reversion by police to the bad old days when they used to routinely decide who was guilty and then manufacture the evidence to fit their conclusions. We thought we had moved past all that sort of “vigilante justice” and that police depts throughout the country had worked hard to bring more professionalism to their investigations.

In most places, that would seem to be the case, and perhaps it’s the case in Atlanta as well in a majority of instances. But in this case. they were investigating the death of one of their own. They were angry and determined to find a culprit, which is understandable, but in their eagerness they grabbed the wrong guy and fabricated a case against him.

It’s the prosecutor’s job to examine the evidence and its probable worth before trial. He clearly didn’t do that. He took the “evidence” at face value and may even have helped further intimidate the witnesses in order to get a quick verdict. That’s what created the travesty of justice that is the Troy Davis case, and at the very least he should be reprimanded.

Somehow I doubt he will be. Not in conservative Georgia. Not with a black defendant in a state whose legal motto seems to be “guilty until proven innocent”.

Parole board grants Davis 90-day stay

The Georgia State Parole Board granted Troy Davis a 90-day stay of execution after a commutation hearing on evidence suggesting very strongly that he’s innocent.

The state parole board on Tuesday temporarily halted the execution of convicted cop killer Troy Anthony Davis less than 24 hours before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection.

The board issued a 90-day stay of execution after a 9-hour closed-door clemency hearing where last-minute questions of his innocence were raised. The board did not release its vote.

Davis still faces execution unless the parole board commutes his sentence to life in prison, with or without parole, before the stay is up. Davis’ lawyers also have appealed his case before the Georgia Supreme Court, seeking a new trial.

So we have one rational move from the Georgia justice system. That’s one out of a dozen, not exactly a streak but something to build on, at least. Now the State Supreme Court needs to grant a new trial and the parole board needs to extend Davis’ SOE until that trial is over and a decision is reached.

Anyplace else (except Texas), we could assume a new trial and the PB’s extension, but this is Georgia, the home of conservative justice where everybody is guilty until and maybe even after he’s proved innocent, and we can’t assume they’ll be rational. Most of them haven’t been so far.

This is conservatism all over: they believe things that aren’t true, and when you prove they aren’t true, they just shut their eyes and yell louder, “I’m right! I’m right! I’m RIGHT!” like a little kid caught in a lie.

That’s bad enough. What’s worse is they’re perfectly willing to let other people die to protect them from having to admit a mistake.

Sound familiar? There’s a pattern here….