Category Archives: Justice Denied

Georgia Will Kill Innocent Man Tomorrow

It seems that Georgia’s whole justice system is a travesty equal to if not surpassing the abortion of what’s laughingly called “justice” in Texas. Not content with throwing a 17-yr-old in jail for 10 years for having consensual sex with a 16-yr-old girl that she initiated, convicting him under a statute that was meant for career sex offenders, tomorrow it plans to execute a man for a crime it’s patently obvious to everyone he didn’t commit. And there’s one thing Genarlow Wilson and Troy Davis have in common that won’t surprise you: they’re both black.

Troy Davis was convicted of killing a police officer in 1989 on the basis of testimony from the man who was probably the actual killer and from eyewitnesses who now say they were browbeat by police when they tried to tell the truth.

Key witnesses have [said] that police prodded them to implicate Davis. The affidavit from Darrell Collins, the friend who was with Davis that night, was typical.

“I told them it was Red and not Troy who was messing with that man, but they didn’t want to hear that,” Collins, who was 16 at the time, said in his 2002 statement. “The detectives told me, ‘Fine, have it your way. Kiss your life goodbye because you’re going to jail.’ After a couple of hours of the detectives yelling at me and threatening me, I finally broke down and told them what they wanted to hear.”

Seven of the nine witnesses at Davis’ trial tell similar stories and have recanted their original statements, now admitting that it was Sylvester “Red” Coles who fought with and then killed Officer Mark MacPhail. State AG Thurlow Baker’s office investigated the shooting (because a cop was the victim) and came to the same conclusion.

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Genarlow Wilson 6: DA McDade Releases Sex Tape

mcdade This story just gets weirder and weirder. On Tuesday, Douglas County DA David McDade, the birdbrain who’s responsible for letting County Prosecutor Eddie Barker try Genarlow as a sex offender because he didn’t like Genarlow’s attitude and has been trying to cover his ass ever since, making things infinitely worse in the process, released the videotape someone made at the party of the girl in question going down on Wilson.

Now, before we go all boggly at the notion that a Georgia District Attorney would make public the tape of a sex act by two teenagers, let’s first note that the tape is evidence in an on-going case. The legality of doing such a thing a week before a scheduled hearing in front of the Georgia State Supreme Court on whether or not Judge Thomas Wilson’s order to free Genarlow is legally valid (State AG Thurlow Baker is trying to protect McDade and Barker by arguing that the judge had no right to make such a decision), is highly questionable if not downright illegal. The only possible motivation for it is as an attempt to prejudice public opinion and possibly the court’s judgment. Apparently McDade knows that in Georgia, judges on the Supreme Court can be swayed by porno.

In any reasonable state – any state driven by law rather than racism, puritanical sex-hysteria, and prosecutorial hissy fits, that is – McDade would right now be walking the streets without a job at the very least, or possibly in jail.

Not in Georgia.

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Genarlow Wilson 5: Hearings Moved Up

Two weeks ago, after Georgia AG Thurlow Baker appealed a judge’s order to release Genarlow Wilson, Al Sharpton decided to get involved. A few days after that, a Superior Court judge denied Wilson’s (and Baker’s) request for an expedited bond hearing and a speedy appeal hearing. A few days after that (last Thursday), Sharpton organized a rally in front of the Douglas County courthouse.

Longtime civil rights activist Al Sharpton headlined an energetic rally at the Douglas County courthouse Thursday in support of Genarlow Wilson, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for engaging in oral sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17.

“Ten years in jail is not a correction,” Sharpton, a onetime Democratic presidential candidate, told a crowd of elected officials, clergy and other supporters that county authorities estimated at more than 250. “It is wicked… It is immoral… And it is illegal.”

Wilson’s mother, Juannessa Bennett, stood by Sharpton’s side as he spoke at the entrance to the county courthouse, where Wilson stood trial.

“The case of Genarlow Wilson … is a national issue,” Sharpton said, “because if they can establish a precedent in Georgia, it will be a precedent that we will have to live with in California, New York, Oregon and everywhere.”

“And as long as they can lock up her son,” he added about Bennett, “they can lock up your son.”

Douglas County District Attorney David McDade, whose office originally prosecuted Wilson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

I’m not surprised. McDade is one of the two nitwits who created this situation and he’s been hiding from the press ever since. Sharpton’s rally may not have had any effect on him, but it had an effect on somebody. Today the State Supreme Court reversed itself and voted to hold both the appeals hearing and the bond hearing two months earlier than expected.

 A hearing is now set in Genarlow Wilson’s case for July 20 at 10 a.m. In voting today, the court reversed an earlier decision to deny a speedier process, a ruling that would have delayed a hearing on the appeal until October.

Attorney General Thurbert Baker is appealing a Monroe County Superior Court judge’s decision to reduce Wilson’s felony conviction to a misdemeanor and free him from prison. Baker said the judge overstepped his authority when he granted Wilson’s habeas corpus last month. Wilson’s attorney is arguing his 10-year prison sentence is cruel and unusual punishment.

The court also decided to hold an expedited hearing on a Douglas County Superior Court judge’s decision to deny bond for Wilson pending Baker’s appeal.

Well, it’s a step in the right direction.

Bush “Commutes” Libby’s Sentence to Zero (2 Updates)

As predicted by almost everyone, including me, Scooter will not spend a single day in jail.

President Bush commuted the sentence of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby yesterday, sparing Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff 2 1/2 years in prison after a federal appeals court had refused to let Libby remain free while he appeals his conviction for lying to federal investigators.

Bush, who for months had sidestepped calls from conservatives to come to Libby’s aid, broke his silence early yesterday evening, touching off an immediate uproar from Democrats who accused the White House of circumventing the rule of law to protect one of its own.

The president announced his decision in a written statement that laid out the factors he had weighed. Bush said he decided to “respect” the jury’s verdict that Libby was guilty of four felonies for lying about his role in the leak of a covert CIA officer’s identity. But the president said Libby’s “exceptional public service” and prior lack of a criminal record led him to conclude that the 30-month sentence handed down by a judge last month was “excessive.”

“Excessive”. For protecting the people who blew an undercover agent’s status and career by lying and destroying evidence, 2 1/2 yrs – out in a year or so on parole – was “excessive”. And this from the man who laughed about signing death sentences in Texas – 152 of them – the leader of a so-called “law-and-order” party.

Zero jail time and two years’ probation for the man who covered up for traitors. I guess we know now that to Bush and the rest of the GOP, “law and order” is just the title of a tv show.

Douglas A. Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University who is an expert on federal criminal sentencing policies, said it is “hypocritical and appalling from a president whose Justice Department is always fighting” attempts by judges and lawmakers to lower the punishment called for under federal sentencing guidelines. Berman said Bush’s message amounted to “My friend Scooter shouldn’t have to serve 30 months in prison because I don’t want him to.”

That about sums it up.

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Genarlow Wilson 4: Bond Hearing Canceled

Apparently Georgia wants to be Texas when it grows up. The sequence of events in the Genarlow Wilson travesty gets more nonsensical by the day.

  1. A Douglas County Superior Court judge throws out Wilson’s sentence and orders him released.
  2. The State AG, falsely claiming that he has no choice, holds up the release and files an appeal.
  3. In a transparent bid to lower the level of anger that is aimed at him for this action, he asks for the hearing process to be expedited so it can be held at the earliest possible date. That request is denied.
  4. A different Douglas County Superior Court judge then cancels the bond hearing altogether because, he says, Georgia law doesn’t allow child molesters out on bail.

Dr. Francys Johnson, the NAACP’s Southeast Regional Director, put it in a nutshell: “The NAACP is convinced that justice has taken a summer vacation in Georgia.”

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Genarlow Wilson 3: A NY Group Offers $1M Bond

An ad hoc group of eleven NYC businessmen is offering to put up as much as a million dollars to get Wilson out of jail on bond.

A New York City investment fund manager and 10 other businesspeople are offering to put up $1 million in bond money to release Genarlow Wilson from prison pending the appeal in his child molestation case, Wilson’s attorney announced this afternoon.

Whitney Tilson, the founder of T2 Partners and the Tilson Mutual Funds, and the 10 other unnamed contributors are ready to wire the money on Wilson’s behalf on 24 hours notice, said Wilson’s attorney, B.J. Bernstein.

“The goal of this bond is to help a young man in Georgia get his life back,” Tilson, also a founding member of Teach for America, said in a prepared statement Bernstein’s office distributed today.

Basically, Tilson and his group are giving Georgia yet another chance to do the right thing and not be stoopid and/or contemptibly mean assholes. This case has already gone far beyond where it should have – and would have if Wilson was white.

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Genarlow Wilson 2: Release Delayed, AG to Appeal (2 Updates)

I said yesterday that we hadn’t heard from Georgia’s Atty General. Well, now we have and with true Southern Justice-style stubbornness, he’s going to drag his state through even more mud and make them look even more like revenge-hopped hicks than they do now.

Wilson, now 21, learned Monday that his more than two years in prison were apparently coming to an end with the order by Monroe County Superior Court Judge Thomas H. Wilson. Within hours, however, state Attorney General Thurbert Baker filed notice that he would appeal the ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court, arguing the judge had overstepped his authority.

Determined not to be outdone in the Stoopidity Dept, the prosecutor is fighting bail and prison officials want to check back with the original court before they do anything.

That set Wilson’s attorneys scrambling to free him on bond from the Burruss Correctional Training Center in Forsyth. But a prosecutor in the case would not immediately agree to a bond arrangement, Wilson’s attorneys said. And state prison officials said they would not release Wilson until they receive guidance from Baker’s office or the court where he was originally sentenced in Douglas County.

The twists and turns in the legal case sent Wilson’s attorneys and family through several emotional highs and lows Monday. Wilson’s mother, Juannessa Bennett, praised the judge’s ruling, calling it a “miracle.” But by afternoon, she was too worn out to speak, said a spokeswoman for her son’s attorneys.

Call this “Travesty Cubed”. Georgia “legal” authorities (I have to put that in quotes now because they’re obviously less concerned with the law than they are with making sure they don’t have to admit a mistake) seem hell-bent on persecuting Genarlow to protect the reputation of an autocratic prosecutor who got pissy when Wilson wouldn’t subordinate his rights to a power play. They think if they can drag this thing out, everybody will forget about prosecutor Eddie Barker’s hissy-fit and there won’t be any political blowback.

Hopefully, they’re wrong. Because what they’ve just done takes a legal mistake into the realm of outright racism. Would they be doing this dance if Genarlow was white? Hell no, and everybody knows it. If he was white he would most likely never have been prosecuted in the first place. He would have been placed on probation and sent home.

And that’s what this most recent nitwittery is going to force people to acknowledge, people who were otherwise willing to put this down to arrogance, political ass-covering, and dumb legal inflexibility. Fighting both the judge’s decision and bail for Wilson virtually proves that Georgia’s legal system remains a racist backwater with a double-standard, one for whites and another for everybody else.

Update 6/13/07: Thanks to a racist legal system and a state AG willing to cover for a prosecutor’s inexcusable tantrum, Wilson will now spend at least another month in prison until yet another judge can hold a hearing to decide whether he should be granted bail.

You know, Georgia reminds me of that kid in every class who says and does stupid things because getting some attention for moronic behaviour is better than getting none at all.

Then again, maybe all the stereotypes are, you know, true.

Update 2, 6/15/07: This is just pathetic. Georgia’s AG is taking some well-deserved flak over his appeal of this case and is trying to cover his ass.

The 10-year prison sentence imposed on Genarlow Wilson for receiving oral sex from a 15-year-old girl when he was 17 is “harsh,” but his punishment must stand to protect the law and keep more than 1,000 child molesters behind bars, Attorney General Thurbert Baker declared Thursday.

“As attorney general, I took an oath to uphold the laws of this state,” Baker said during news conference he called to explain why he is appealing a judge’s order to free Wilson. “And in taking that oath I don’t have the luxury of taking the law into my own hands, or picking which cases to defend.”

Of course he does. All prosecutors make those decisions a hundred times a day. Who’s he think he’s kidding?

Genarlow Wilson Ordered Freed

Back in January, I wrote a post called “Southern Justice: Travesty Squared in Georgia” about a black teenager named Genarlow Wilson who was given an incredibly harsh sentence for a technical infraction of the law because a prosecutor got pissy when Wilson wouldn’t accept a plea bargain arrangement and forced him to go to trial. Voices were raised in Genarlow’s defense, including ESPN’s (Wilson was a well-known high school athlete). One commenter wrote:

It’s disgusting. I can not see any way, shape or form that the interests of the state of Georgia are served by throwing away Genarlow’s youth and opportunity to become a vibrant contributor to the state. All his situation does is reinforce some unfortunate stereotypes that the state is backward and misgoverned. No one with a conscience can look at this case and conclude that justice has been served.

Well, today a judge ordered Genarlow Wilson be freed.

A judge today ordered that Genarlow Wilson be freed from prison, where he has spent more than two years for receiving consensual oral sex from a 15-year-old girl when he was 17.

Monroe County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson also amended Wilson’s felony conviction to a misdemeanor without the requirement that he register as a sex offender.

Wilson’s lawyer, B.J. Bernstein, appealed to a judge Wednesday to free him from prison, arguing that his 10-year prison sentence and inclusion on the state’s sex offender registry is grossly disproportionate and violates the Constitution.

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Clintonite Appeals Court Judge Upholds Reaganite Judge in CIA Kidnapping Case

US District Court Judge TS Ellis III, who recently dismissed the corruption suit against Custer Battles on the fairly specious grounds that the CPA was not a “US govt entity” without explaining how it could rationally be considered anything else, last year dismissed Khaled Al-Masri’s lawsuit against the CIA for kidnapping and torture on the dubious grounds that “state secrets” might be “exposed” by a public trial. Al-Masri appealed that decision and yesterday the Fourth Circuit, led by Clinton appointee Robert B King, upheld Ellis’ ruling.

In May 2006, Judge T. S. Ellis III, of the Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va., dismissed the suit under the so-called state secrets privilege. The privilege can require courts to limit or dismiss suits that might disclose information harmful to national security. The decision yesterday, by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, affirmed that ruling.

“We recognize the gravity of our conclusions that el-Masri must be denied a judicial forum for his complaint,” Judge Robert B. King wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel of the court. “The inquiry is a difficult one, for its pits the judiciary’s search for truth against the executive’s duty to maintain the nation’s security.”

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Mr. Masri, said there was enough public information about his ordeal to allow his suit to be adjudicated without endangering national security. The appeals court disagreed, saying that Mr. Masri could not win his case without exposing “how the C.I.A. organizes, staffs and supervises its most sensitive intelligence operations.”

Furthermore, the court continued, the defendants “could not properly defend themselves without using privileged evidence.”

King’s argument is tantamount to giving the CIA carte-blanche to do anything it wants to do anywhere in the world without either oversight or accountability and – as the Church Committee proved thirty years ago – there is no such immunity from prosecution enshrined in either US law or international law, nor was it ever the intent of Congress to give the Company such blanket immunity. Continue reading

Guantanamo Detainees Lose Appeal

Just last week, a Reaganite judge dismissed the case for corruption against Scott Custer and Mike Battles on very dubious but Bush Administration-approved grounds. Today, the DC Court of Appeals rejected a petition by lawyers representing the Gitmo detainees to “challenge their imprisonment”, a ruling that basically gives Bush the power to continue with his de facto suspension of habeus corpus rights.

In its 2 to 1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld one of the central components of the Military Commissions Act, the law enacted last year by a then-Republican-controlled Congress that stripped Guantanamo detainees of their right to such habeas corpus petitions. Lawyers have filed the petitions on behalf of virtually all of the nearly 400 detainees still at Guantanamo, challenging President Bush’s right to hold them indefinitely without charges. Yesterday’s ruling effectively dismisses the cases.

The lawyers are going to appeal to the SCOTUS, and Dem Senators Patrick Leahy (along with Repub Arlen Specter) and Chris Dodd are already moving to overturn the suspension (Dodd introduced his bill last week), but until all that happens, the Gitmo defendants remain in a legal limbo where they have no rights of any kind except those granted by the military courts – which don’t seem inclined to grant very many.

The two appellate judges who upheld the administration’s position are – no surprise here – conservative Republicans. Another non-surprise: their lockstep parroting of Bush Administration arguments. Continue reading

Case Against Custer Battles Dismissed by Reaganite Judge

(cont’d from previous post)

Which brings us to Custer Battles.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, a Republican and Reagan appointee with a history we’ll get to a bit later, dismissed outright the case against Scott Custer and Mike Battles. In order to understand what level of judicial abortion this is, you first have to know a little about the case. Sydney Blumenthal explains.

Providing private military forces, or mercenaries, became a booming business overnight. One 33-year-old named Michael Battles, a one-time minor CIA employee and failed Republican candidate for Congress but with political connections to the White House, partnered with a former army ranger named Scott Custer to form a new security firm called Custer Battles. They had no experience in the field at all. “For us the fear and disorder offered real promise”, Battles explained. Their contacts won them a lucrative contract to guard the Baghdad airport.

Custer Battles became a front for an Enron-like scheme involving shell companies in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere that issued false invoices and engaged in other frauds. By the time the Pentagon eventually barred the company from further work for “seriously improper conduct”, it had raked in $100 million in federal contracts.

Scott Custer and Mike Battles walked into Iraq’s Green Zone to find themselves in the middle of what Blumenthal calls “neocon paradise”:

Hiring for the CPA staff was handled by the White House liaison at the Pentagon, James O’Beirne, who is also the husband of rightwing pundit Kate O’Beirne. He requested résumés from Republican congressional offices, activist groups and think-tanks. “They had to have the right political credentials”, said Frederick Smith, the CPA’s deputy director in Washington.

Senior civil servants were systematically denied positions. Applicants were questioned on their ideological loyalty and positions on issues like abortion. A youthful contingent, whose résumés had been stored in the Heritage Foundation’s computer file, was promptly hired and ran rampant in the green zone as the “brat pack”.

Bremer declared a flat tax, a constant Republican dream that could never be passed at home by Congress. He promulgated wholesale privatisation of state-owned industries, which created instant mass unemployment, without acknowledging any consequences. Peter McPherson, a former Reagan administration official close to Dick Cheney, was flown in to run the Iraqi economy. He stated his belief that looting was accelerating the process of privatisation – “privatisation that occurs sort of naturally.”

In this free-for-all atmosphere, there wasn’t much coming from the PTB at the CPA to discourage the boys from helping themselves. After all, everyone else was. Continue reading

Southern Justice: Travesty Squared in Georgia

You’ve probably heard about this case but it’s new to me.

Genarlow Wilson is standing on a threshold all right, at the end of the last hall of Burruss Correctional Training Center, an hour and a half south of Atlanta. He’s just a few feet from the mechanical door that closes with a goosebump-raising whurr and clang. Three and a half years after he received that letter, he’s wearing a blue jacket with big, white block letters. They read: STATE PRISONER.

He’s 20 now. Just two years into a 10-year sentence without possibility of parole, he peers through the thick glass and bars, trying to catch a glimpse of freedom. Outside, guard towers and rolls of coiled barbed wire remind him of who he is.

Once, he was the homecoming king at Douglas County High. Now he’s Georgia inmate No. 1187055, convicted of aggravated child molestation.

When he was a senior in high school, he received oral sex from a 10th grader. He was 17. She was 15. Everyone, including the girl and the prosecution, agreed she initiated the act. But because of an archaic Georgia law, it was a misdemeanor for teenagers less than three years apart to have sexual intercourse, but a felony for the same kids to have oral sex.

Afterward, the state legislature changed the law to include an oral sex clause, but that doesn’t help Wilson. In yet another baffling twist, the law was written to not apply to cases retroactively, though another legislative solution might be in the works. The case has drawn national condemnation, from the “Free Genarlow Wilson Now” editorial in The New York Times to a feature on Mark Cuban’s HDNet.

“It’s disgusting,” Cuban wrote to ESPN in an e-mail. “I can not see any way, shape or form that the interests of the state of Georgia are served by throwing away Genarlow’s youth and opportunity to become a vibrant contributor to the state. All his situation does is reinforce some unfortunate stereotypes that the state is backward and misgoverned. No one with a conscience can look at this case and conclude that justice has been served.”

It’s not the stereotype that’s unfortunate, Mr Cuban, it’s the accuracy of it. Continue reading

Another One Bites the Dust

The “imminent” heart attack that kept Augustus Pinochet out of courtrooms for the past 11 years or so finally arrived yesterday.

Gen. Augusto Pinochet, 91, the former Chilean dictator whose government murdered and tortured thousands during his repressive 17-year rule, died yesterday at a Santiago military hospital of complications from a heart attack, leaving incomplete numerous court cases that had sought to bring him to justice.

Pinochet assumed power on Sept. 11, 1973, in a bloody coup supported by the United States that toppled the elected government of Salvador Allende, a Marxist who had pledged to lead his country “down the democratic road to socialism.”

First as head of a four-man military junta and then as president, Pinochet served until 1990, leaving a legacy of abuse that took successive governments years to catalogue. According to a government report that included testimony from more than 30,000 people, his government killed at least 3,197 people and tortured about 29,000. Two-thirds of the cases listed in the report happened in 1973.

An austere figure who claimed to be guided by “the spiritual force of God as a believer,” Pinochet regarded himself as a soldier rather than a politician. With his stern visage and fondness for military uniforms and dark glasses, he seemed to personify implacable authority. He was both an opponent of communism and a critic of “orthodox democracy,” which he said was “too easy to infiltrate and destroy.”

Conservatives will be mourning the death of their friend and ally, especially President Bush, who was a follower of Pinochet and borrowed many of The General’s ideas for his own domestic agenda – the privatization of Social Security, the usefulness of torture and secret prisons, and of course the trick of governing outside the law through executive fiat, to name a few.

Yes, they’ll be missing him, alright. Gus was one of them: a gun-slinging toy soldier with a mean streak, an authoritarian’s will-to-power , an oil-tanker’s worth of arrogance, 3 healthy dollops of conservative Xtian self-righteousness, a talent for vicious brutality, a penchant for kissing US corporate asses, and the ability to nurse a hubristic vision of himself as some sort of twisted, anti-democratic icon that “God” had chosen to show the rest of us how it’s done.

As for everybody else, we’re wicked pissed this butcher got off so light.

Army May Courtmartial Abu Ghraib Whistleblower

Sgt Sam Provance blew the Abu Ghraib situation wide open when he gave interviews to the American press after lodging his charges with military investigators. Provance, reassigned to Heidelberg, Germany, is apparently about to be courtmartialed by the Army–for not blowing his whistle soon enough.

When asked why he chose to jeopardize his career, Provance said: “I started getting bothered because innocent people were being held and they were getting lost in the system, and the military wanted to keep it secret. The abuse was being done by more than just a few bad apples. I don’t think military investigators had any interest in finding out how many people were involved.”Military investigators asked Provance why he failed to disclose what he knew after he arrived at Abu Ghraib last fall. [MajGen George] Fay, Provance said, told him, “You could have busted this thing wide open” if he had alerted officials earlier. The Army has informed Provance that he could face charges for not quickly divulging abuse allegations.

“I didn’t come forward earlier because I didn’t see anything,” Provance said. “It was just things I had heard. If somebody denied it, I’d have looked pretty stupid. I’d be the boy who cried wolf.”

The threatened courtmartial is nothing more than a blatant attempt by the Army to punish the messenger while appearing to be concerned with ‘justice’. It doesn’t seem like the storm has taught them very much. BAU for the Army.