Recently in Law & Justice Category
Another action by President Obama that I approve of: reduced sentencing for non-violent offenders. In general I think we'd benefit greatly by ending prohibition on most drugs, but this is certainly a step in the right direction. Drug prohibition is really seeking to solve two linked but separate problems: drug addition, and drug violence. Unfortunately prohibition exacerbates violence by creating a black market for drugs.
"A vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities," Holder plans to say Monday, according to excerpts of his remarks that were provided to The Washington Post. "However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem rather than alleviate it."
Holder is calling for a change in Justice Department policies to reserve the most severe penalties for drug offenses for serious, high-level or violent drug traffickers. He has directed his 94 U.S. attorneys across the country to develop specific, locally tailored guidelines for determining when federal charges should be filed and when they should not.
"Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no good law enforcement reason," Holder plans to say. "We cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation."
I haven't written much about the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin. Relying only on media reports a few things seemed obvious to me from the beginning and the verdict pretty much vindicates all my prior beliefs.
1. There's no dispute that Zimmerman killed Martin, but nothing about the sequence of events lines up with the criteria for murder (or manslaughter). For one thing, a man intent on murder wouldn't have called the police right beforehand.
2. Zimmerman was foolish to get out of his car to pursue or observe someone he thought was dangerous. Martin didn't have criminal intentions, but if Zimmerman had been right then it probably would have been Zimmerman who was killed. Unless you believe that someone is in immediate danger it is foolish to endanger yourself.
3. Based on the injuries and witness reports it seems obvious that Martin initiated the physical confrontation. Zimmerman had injuries consistent with being beaten as he and other witnesses described; the only wound on Martin was the fatal gunshot.
4. Despite the foolishness of his pursuit, Zimmerman had as much of a right to be walking around the neighborhood as Martin did and did not provoke the assault.
5. Race was not really a factor in the event, but race has been injected into the situation by the media and others who benefit from sensationalizing tragedy.
6. "Not guilty" is the right verdict. Martin's death was tragic and avoidable, and both his actions and Zimmerman's contributed to it.
Finally, consider the very similar case of Roderick Scott, a black man with a handgun permit who killed Christopher Cervini, a white teenager, in self-defense in 2009.
Cervini's family members say justice wasn't served. They say Christopher was murdered in cold blood, that he'd never been in trouble and Scott acted as judge, jury and executioner.
"The message is that we can all go out and get guns and feel anybody that we feel is threatening us and lie about the fact," said Jim Cervini, Christopher's father. "My son never threatened anybody. He was a gentle child, his nature was gentle, he was a good person and he was never, ever arrested for anything, and has never been in trouble. He was 16 years and four months old, and he was slaughtered."
Scott says he acted in self defense when he confronted Cervini and two others saying they were stealing from neighbors cars. He told them he had a gun and ordered them to freeze and wait for police.
Scott says he shot Cervini twice when the victim charged toward him yelling he was going to get Scott.
"How can this happen to a beautiful, sweet child like that?" asked Cervini's aunt Carol Cervini. "All he wanted to do was go home. And then for them to say, he was saying, 'Please don't kill me. I'm just a kid,' and he just kept on shooting him."
The federal government refuses to categorize the 2009 Ft. Hood massacre as a "terrorist attack", because obviously President Obama solved our terrorism problems and we don't have "terrorist attacks" anymore. What's in a name?
The Department of Defense confirms to NBC 5 Investigates that accused Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan has now been paid more than $278,000 since the Nov. 5, 2009 shooting that left 13 dead 32 injured. The Army said under the Military Code of Justice, Hasan's salary cannot be suspended unless he is proven guilty. ...
The Army has not classified the wounds of the Ft. Hood victims as "combat related" and declines to label the shooting a "terrorist attack",
The "combat related" designation is an important one, for without it Burnett and other shooting victims are not given combat-related pay, they are not eligible for Purple Heart retirement or medical benefits given to other soldiers wounded either at war or during the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon.
As a result, Burnett, his wife Torey, and the families of other Fort Hood victims miss out on thousands of dollars of potential benefits and pay every year.
President Obama's political fortunes are clearly more important than the truth, and who really cares about the follow-on injustices that only affect little people? Hasan is "assumed innocent" of this alleged "workplace violence", so why shouldn't he keep getting paid? His victims weren't killed or injured in a "combat zone", so why should they get any special benefits?
I was surprised to read that the Senate will actually hold a vote on a bill that would force states to reciprocate recognition of concealed carry permits.
In a climactic day, the Senate planned to hold eight other votes Wednesday besides the one on background checks, all of them amendments to a broad gun control measure.
They included Democratic proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, which are expected to lose; a Republican proposal requiring states to honor other states' permits allowing concealed weapons, which faces a close vote; and a GOP substitute for the overall gun measure.
If this bill passes the Senate it would certainly pass the House and would be a major civil rights victory. States like California, New York, and Illinois would finally be required to fully recognize the self-defense rights of their citizens.
If Kermit Gosnell had killed hundreds of dogs or murdered children at school with a gun then you know this would be national news. But since these murders lie so closely to legal abortion the Gosnell murder trial is being buried by the media.
The grand jury report in the case of Kermit Gosnell, 72, is among the most horrifying I've read. "This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy - and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors," it states. "The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels - and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths."
Charged with seven counts of first-degree murder, Gosnell is now standing trial in a Philadelphia courtroom. An NBC affiliate's coverage includes testimony as grisly as you'd expect. "An unlicensed medical school graduate delivered graphic testimony about the chaos at a Philadelphia clinic where he helped perform late-term abortions," the channel reports. "Stephen Massof described how he snipped the spinal cords of babies, calling it, 'literally a beheading. It is separating the brain from the body.' He testified that at times, when women were given medicine to speed up their deliveries, 'it would rain fetuses. Fetuses and blood all over the place.'"
Why does the left not care about these murdered children? Because what Gosnell did is basically the same thing that Planned Parenthood and every other abortion provider does every day.
From the grand jury report:
When you perform late-term "abortions" by inducing labor, you get babies. Live, breathing, squirming babies. By 24 weeks, most babies born prematurely will survive if they receive appropriate medical care. But that was not what the Women's Medical Society was about. Gosnell had a simple solution for the unwanted babies he delivered: he killed them. He didn't call it that. He called it "ensuring fetal demise." The way he ensured fetal demise was by sticking scissors into the back of the baby's neck and cutting the spinal cord. He called that "snipping."
Over the years, there were hundreds of "snippings." Sometimes, if Gosnell was unavailable, the "snipping" was done by one of his fake doctors, or even by one of the administrative staff.
But all the employees of the Women's Medical Society knew. Everyone there acted as if it wasn't murder at all. Most of these acts cannot be prosecuted, because Gosnell destroyed the files. Among the relatively few cases that could be specifically documented, one was Baby Boy A. His 17-year-old mother was almost 30 weeks pregnant -- seven and a half months -- when labor was induced. An employee estimated his birth weight as approaching six pounds. He was breathing and moving when Gosnell severed his spine and put the body in a plastic shoebox for disposal. The doctor joked that this baby was so big he could "walk me to the bus stop." Another, Baby Boy B, whose body was found at the clinic frozen in a one-gallon spring-water bottle, was at least 28 weeks of gestational age when he was killed. Baby C was moving and breathing for 20 minutes before an assistant came in and cut the spinal cord, just the way she had seen Gosnell do it so many times. And these were not even the worst cases.
How can these atrocities be allowed in the United States of America? Only under the cover of legalized abortion. It's inhuman and repugnant to God and man.
Glenn Reynolds outlines the legalities of asteroid mining.
Asteroids are certainly available, and they're valuable. More than 750,000 asteroids measure at least 1 kilometer across, and millions of smaller objects are scattered throughout the solar system, mostly in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Even a comparatively small asteroid is potentially quite valuable, both on Earth and in space.
A 79-foot-wide M-type (metallic) asteroid could hold 33,000 tons of extractable metals, including $50 million in platinum alone. A 23-foot-diameter C-type (carbonaceous) asteroid can hold 24,000 gallons of water, useful for generating fuel and oxygen. Even 1 gallon of water, at 8.33 pounds per, can cost tens of thousands of dollars to launch into Earth orbit. Prices will probably come down now that SpaceX and other private launch companies are in the game. But the numbers would need to improve a lot for water launched from Earth to compete with water that's already floating in space.
Larger asteroids could be worth as much as the GDP of a superpower. Asteroid 1986 DA is a metallic asteroid made up of iron, nickel, gold, and platinum. Estimates of its value range between $6 and $7 trillion. Something that size won't be retrieved anytime soon, but the figure gives some idea of just how much wealth is out there.
Ok, so that's just a quote about how valuable asteroids are. If you're interested in the existing legal issues go read the article, but the bottom line is that anything you can move is up for grabs.
It has more than two weeks since journalist David Gregory brandished an illegal high-capacity magazine on television and he has yet to face arrest or criminal charges.
It's been more than a week since police in Washington, D.C., opened an investigation into NBC's David Gregory's possession of a "high-capacity magazine" that's prohibited in the District on on national TV. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier's spokesman refused Monday to respond to whether Mr. Gregory had even been interviewed yet. This is a rather curious departure for a city that has been ruthless in enforcing this particular firearms statute against law-abiding citizens who made an honest mistake. ...
NBC asked the police in advance for permission to bring the contraband into Washington for the interview with National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre, but it was not granted.
David Gregory knowingly broke the (stupid, bad) law and he should be punished just as harshly as any other offender. Yes, of course Gregory had no intention to commit a violent act, but neither do other upright citizens who frequently have their Second Amendment rights infringed by our government. Gregory created a spectacle in order to advocate for harsher restrictions on civil rights, and there's no reason he shouldn't be made to suffer the consequences that he advocates for others.
If the authorities continue to refuse to arrest and prosecute Gregory it will be a horrible miscarriage of justice. I look forward to the resolution of this situation because every other citizen will have the right to whatever remedy Gregory and his well-heeled lawyers achieve for the television star.
I'll give up my guns not one second sooner than all the leftists calling for gun bans give up their armed security, body guards, Secret Service, Capitol Police, doorman buildings, walled compounds, and armored limousines.
Glenn Reynolds points out that "gun-free zones" only disarm law-abiding citizens.
One of the interesting characteristics of mass shootings is that they generally occur in places where firearms are banned: malls, schools, etc. That was the finding of a famous 1999 study by John Lott of the University of Maryland and William Landes of the University of Chicago, and it appears to have been borne out by experience since then as well.
In a way, this is no surprise. If there's someone present with a gun when a mass shooting begins, the shooter is likely to be shot himself. And, in fact, many mass shootings -- from the high school shooting by Luke Woodham in Pearl, Miss., to the New Life Church shooting in Colorado Springs, Colo., where an armed volunteer shot the attacker -- have been terminated when someone retrieved a gun from a car or elsewhere and confronted the shooter.
Policies making areas "gun free" provide a sense of safety to those who engage in magical thinking, but in practice, of course, killers aren't stopped by gun-free zones. As always, it's the honest people -- the very ones you want to be armed -- who tend to obey the law.
One of the best ways to protect society is to put more guns into the hands of law-abiding adults.
I agree with Glenn Reynolds who writes:
The video shows numerous union representatives engaging in violent, illegal conduct. Their faces are clearly identifiable. I hope they will be prosecuted, and sued.
James O'Keefe captures video of a paid Obama campaign staffer assisting an undercover "volunteer" to vote twice. The gold is at the end:
The new O'Keefe video raises the question - how many other undercover videographers have penetrated the Obama campaign? O'Keefe obviously reached the heart of one operation. Who knows how many more Obama campaign offices are full of "volunteers" on the lookout for criminal behavior by other Obama campaign staffers?
O'Keefe provides a clue and taunts journalists, daring them to call this an "isolated incident."
(HT: J. Christian Adams.)
City police officers believe in-car cameras are being used against them, and they are trying to find ways to avoid driving cars equipped with them, according to union grievances.
Emails dated April 13 from Capt. Mary Edwards-Fears to superiors and underlings reveal officers' concerns that cameras -- installed in about half of the city's 300 patrol division cars -- make police vulnerable to second-guessing.
"We are missing critical evidence for our cases when we allow them to avoid using vehicles with cameras in them, for fear of being caught in a compromising position," Edwards-Fears wrote. "Your job as managers in the business is to assist your officers in following the rules and regulations, not assisting them in circumventing them."
Some police officers don't like to think of the public as their boss, but rather as their inferiors. It doesn't seem like a winning argument for police to argue against patrol car cameras by complaining that the cameras catch too much bad behavior by police officers. It's good to see that the police management isn't giving in to the complaints.
Jon Corzine is getting away with stealing $1.6 billion because of his political connections. Meanwhile a man goes to federal prison for whistling at a whale.
John Hinderaker proposes an alternative to Obama's "Buffett Rule": how about the "Geithner Rule"?
President Obama has now admitted that the "Buffett Rule," formerly the centerpiece of his re-election campaign, is a silly gimmick that will raise hardly any money for the treasury. (Actually, it might cost the federal government money, as increases in the capital gains rate have been known to do.) So how about if, instead, we start talking about the Geithner Rule, which is: everyone pays what he owes under existing laws? ...
Most tax evaders don't wind up in prison. In fact, some wind up working for the government. Take Tim Geithner. Geithner, Obama's Secretary of the Treasury, is a tax cheat. When he worked for the International Monetary Fund, the fund did not pay withholding taxes on his income, but rather paid Geithner a specifically-designated additional amount which Geithner was supposed to use to pay self-employment taxes. Geithner kept that money, but didn't pay the taxes. Byron York explains: ...
Short version: The International Monetary Fund paid Geithner money to reimburse him for taxes he was supposed to pay. Geithner took the reimbursement but never paid the tax.
When the IRS audited Geithner, he paid what he owed for 2003 and 2004. But he didn't pay what he owed for 2001 and 2002. Why? Because the statute of limitations had run on those years, so the IRS couldn't sue him to collect the money or charge him criminally for failing to pay it. Only when he was nominated as Secretary of the Treasury did Geithner go back and pay what he owed for 2001 and 2002.
If it bothers you that our Treasury Secretary is a tax cheat then buy a TAX CHEAT! stamp and stamp it over his name on your currency.
Tim Lynch explains that stand-your-ground laws are an important protection for crime victims but are not a license to provoke a fight and then kill the other person without repercussion.
With respect to incidents outside the home, the Stand Your Ground statutes clarify the law for innocent persons by dispensing with any legal obligation to retreat, hence the name, "Stand Your Ground." What has been overlooked is the fact that the statute only applies to a person under "attack." Again, the rationale is that it is bad enough for an innocent person to find himself under attack by a criminal, but to then have to worry about whether the law requires a retreat is simply too much to ask. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once observed, "detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife." The Florida law says that if you are under attack, retreat if you like, but be assured that you may also stand your ground and fight back if that seems to be the best option. ...
When Zimmerman made the fateful decision to disregard the police dispatcher's statement to await the arrival of the police and not to follow his "suspect," he was acting outside and beyond the Stand Your Ground law. Other legal principles enter the picture and those principles run against Zimmerman. By following Martin, Zimmerman's actions set up the perilous confrontation. Consequently, he will likely be seen as an aggressor in the eyes of the law. Even if Martin threw the first punch, that punch will likely be considered the result of Zimmerman's provocation. Since Martin was unarmed, a gunshot in response to non-deadly force (fisticuffs) will probably be deemed beyond the bounds of normal self-defense. (The Florida legal system will have to consider all of the available evidence and ultimately determine Zimmerman's legal responsibility.)
I don't know what facts will be presented to a jury, but I bet this will be a complicated case for them to work out. If Zimmerman provoked the fight and then shot Martin when when Zimmerman started losing, then the shooting was not self-defense. But Martin might also have been in the wrong if his actions escalated from self-defense to delivering a beating to a prone/pinned Zimmerman. There's no reason why both men can't be guilty.
After two years of immense prosperity, the last year has been a disaster for the Somali pirates. For example, in the last eight months, only six ships have been captured, compared to 36 ships in the same eight month period a year ago. Pirate income is down 80 percent and expenses are up. Pirates have to spend more time at sea looking for a potential target, and when they find one, they either fail in their boarding efforts (because of armed guards, or better defense and more alert crews) or find anti-piracy patrol warships and armed helicopters showing up. Unlike in the past, the patrol now takes away the pirates weapons and equipment, sinks their mother ships and dumps the pirates back on a beach. The pirates claim that some members of the anti-piracy patrol simply kill pirates they encounter on the high seas (some nations have admitted doing this, at least once, in the past). But no one does this as official policy, and the rules are still basically "catch and release." The big change is that the patrol has become much better at detecting pirates, on captured fishing ships, and shutting these pirates down. Often the pirates bring along the crew of the fishing ships, to help with the deception. But the patrol knows which fishing ships have "disappeared" and quickly identify those missing ships they encounter, and usually find pirates in charge. The anti-piracy patrol also has maritime reconnaissance aircraft that seek to spot mother ships as they leave pirate bases on the north Somali coast, and direct a warship to intercept and shut down those pirates. The pirates have been losing a lot of equipment, and time, and money needed to pay for it.
I don't like the idea that there's a "tolerable" level of piracy, but that seems to be the most pragmatic course available.
The bottom line is that the pirate attacks, even if they took two or three times as many ships in their peak year, would not have a meaningful economic impact on world shipping. Total cost to shipping companies (ransoms, extra fuel, security equipment and services) is over $10 billion a year. For example, the international anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden costs $500 million a year, a fraction of a percent of the defense budgets of the nations involved. Politicians and bureaucrats can stand that kind of pain, and will likely do so and refrain from doing anything bold in Somalia.
Decisively dealing with pirates would necessarily harm civilians as well, and no one wants to get branded as a war criminal. So, the piracy continues.
President Obama said it was "unprecedented" and "extraordinary" for the Supreme Court to overturn a law passed by Congress, and now the Fifth Circuit is asking him to explain his position on the power of judicial review.
Here's a bit of transcript from this morning's oral argument in Physicians Hospital of America v. Sebelius, a case involving a challenge to the Affordable Care Act:Judge Jerry E. Smith: Does the Department of Justice recognize that federal courts have the authority in appropriate circumstances to strike federal statutes because of one or more constitutional infirmities?
Dana Lydia Kaersvang (DOJ Attorney): Yes, your honor. Of course, there would need to be a severability analysis, but yes.
Smith: I'm referring to statements by the President in the past few days to the effect...that it is somehow inappropriate for what he termed "unelected" judges to strike acts of Congress that have enjoyed - he was referring, of course, to Obamacare - what he termed broad consensus in majorities in both houses of Congress.
That has troubled a number of people who have read it as somehow a challenge to the federal courts or to their authority or to the appropriateness of the concept of judicial review. And that's not a small matter. So I want to be sure that you're telling us that the attorney general and the Department of Justice do recognize the authority of the federal courts through unelected judges to strike acts of Congress or portions thereof in appropriate cases.
Kaersvang: Marbury v. Madison is the law, your honor, but it would not make sense in this circumstance to strike down this statute, because there's no -
Smith: I would like to have from you by noon on Thursday...a letter stating what is the position of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice, in regard to the recent statements by the President, stating specifically and in detail in reference to those statements what the authority is of the federal courts in this regard in terms of judicial review. That letter needs to be at least three pages single spaced, no less, and it needs to be specific. It needs to make specific reference to the President's statements and again to the position of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice.
Aside from my belief that much of what President Obama says is useless and information-free, it's great to see a politician actually held to account for the dumb things he said. I wonder if the DOJ will actually fulfill this order or ignore it?
Defendants are routinely threatened with extreme sentences to coerce them into pleading guilty to lesser offenses -- this coercion is the primary way that prosecutors bypass Constitutional protections and speed defendants into prison.
But in this era of mass incarceration -- when our nation's prison population has quintupled in a few decades partly as a result of the war on drugs and the "get tough" movement -- these rights are, for the overwhelming majority of people hauled into courtrooms across America, theoretical. More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury. Most people charged with crimes forfeit their constitutional rights and plead guilty.
"The truth is that government officials have deliberately engineered the system to assure that the jury trial system established by the Constitution is seldom used," said Timothy Lynch, director of the criminal justice project at the libertarian Cato Institute. In other words: the system is rigged.
In the race to incarcerate, politicians champion stiff sentences for nearly all crimes, including harsh mandatory minimum sentences and three-strikes laws; the result is a dramatic power shift, from judges to prosecutors.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1978 that threatening someone with life imprisonment for a minor crime in an effort to induce him to forfeit a jury trial did not violate his Sixth Amendment right to trial. Thirteen years later, in Harmelin v. Michigan, the court ruled that life imprisonment for a first-time drug offense did not violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The problem isn't really with prosecutors though -- our legislators have given them an impossible task. We have way too many laws, and far too many people in prison.
It appears that the Internal Revenue Service -- headed up by notorious tax cheat Tim Geithner -- is attempting to stifle right-wing groups who apply for non-profit status by requesting insane document dumps. What is the IRS demanding?
A hard copy printout of the website - A PDF file emailed to the IRS will not suffice (and this is the high-tech Administration)
List all Social Media outlets being used (Facebook, Twitter, etc) and include hard copy printouts of every posting
A narrative description of every activity of your organization since June 30, 2010 (filing date) - And they do not want a mere description of the event, but full details - including; who conducted it, their qualifications, who was allowed to take part in the activities and how they were selected, was there a fee? (how much)
The IRS also wants to know about the members of the group and their roles and more, asking specifically for the "name, address, and corporate federal ID of all organizations that are members of our organization"
Public events are also under scrutiny with the IRS demanding to know the time, location and content schedule of each event.
Copies of any and all handouts must be included.
Names and credentials of all instructors and copies of any workshop materials used.
All speakers must be identified and copies of every speech must be included.
The government has no legitimate need for this information, and it seems clear that the the nearly simultaneous identical requests that went out to a bunch of right-wing groups is an attempt to squash these groups under the guise of tax enforcement. Shameful.