Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Crime Wave Crests on Rosarito Beach, Baja California.

Surfers talk endlessly about big waves. That is to say, their size, their intensity, their roll. And crime waves are no exception.

Baja California's surfers along Rosarito Beach, have been rehashing a series of recent armed attacks on foreigners, many of whom had been frequenting the beaches here just south of Tijuana for years.

"It's all we talk about," said Doug Wampler, 55, who has surfed Baja's waves since 1967.

Pat Weber, 47, who runs the San Diego Surfing Academy, was attacked by two armed men in ski masks while camping with his girlfriend on Oct. 23 on a remote bluff near here. They fired shots at his camper to get them out, then put a gun to his head, sexually assaulted his girlfriend and made away with his laptop, camera equipment and cash.

Shaken, Weber, who estimates that he has brought 130 groups to Baja beaches on surfing trips over the years, has vowed never to return to Baja, where he said he had been surfing since 1984. The worst he had to put up with previously, he said, were occasional encounters with police officers demanding bribes.

"It's the end of an era for me," he said. "No more Mexico."

A month earlier, on Labor Day, three surfers from San Diego said they were pulled over near Tijuana by a car with flashing lights. The attackers — who might have been lawmen, outlaws or, as is sometimes the case in Mexico, both — stole the surfers' car at gunpoint, they said.

"I'm never going back," said one of the victims, Roger. He said he was made to kneel down and then a gun was put to his head. "It's just unbelievable how bad it is down there," he said.

In another robbery, on Sept. 16, three surfers, who were camping in the same area where Weber was attacked, reported being held up by two armed men.

"Until authorities get a handle on the situation, we urge anyone planning or considering a trip to Baja to be aware of these recent events, be careful and be safe," the San Diego chapter of the Surfrider Foundation told members recently.

"It could happen to anyone," said Brian Ramirez, 37, of Mission Viejo, California. But he said the waves were still worth the risks.

Wampler said that surfers are targets because they are becoming more prosperous, driving luxury vehicles and carrying wads of cash. "The surfing population is aging and they have gobs of money now," he said.

Just how high the crime rate has risen is a subject of debate. Mexican officials call the recent crimes isolated incidents. A spokesman for the American Consulate in Tijuana told a local newspaper, "We're still establishing whether or not this is a trend."

But most officials acknowledge that the high-profile crimes have at least created a perception problem. "Security for tourists is one of my main concerns," said Hugo Torres, the newly elected mayor of Rosarito and a prominent hotelier, who acknowledges a surge in crime but dismisses reports of a Wild West atmosphere in Baja as overblown.

Earlier this year, President Felipe Calderón sent troops to Baja California as part of his nationwide crackdown on the narcotics cartels that control huge swaths of the countryside. Getting to some surf stops still requires passing camouflage-clad soldiers, who search cars for guns and drugs.

"We need a safe zone from Tijuana all the way down to Ensenada," said Torres, who as a mayor has little ability to quell the problem without federal aid. "We need tourist police who speak English and a 24-hour ombudsman to help tourists."

Torres, who surfs, said he values the long connection Baja California has had with surfers. "The surfers have been visiting us for more than 50 years," he said. "Surfers may be only 5 to 7 percent of our total visitors, but just about everybody who comes down here knows a surfer or has been one or likes to see them in the waves."

Surfers have not been the only targets. Recent foreign victims have included fishermen and the crew for a participant in a road rally. Then there are the many residents whose encounters with criminals never make the papers.

We have chaos here," said Nancy Conroy, editor of the Gringo Gazette, a local newspaper geared toward expatriates. "It's very dangerous."

When Conroy's paper reports crimes, she said she is criticized by those building and selling the luxury condominiums along the coast. Too negative, they say, and not representative of the tranquil lives most expatriates live in Baja.

Conroy said that an e-mail message circulated among the developers suggesting that one of the recent attacks was made up to scare surfers away from Baja and keep the crowds down. That message appears to be false, according to interviews, although that has not stopped many from believing it.

"If one of them was fabricated maybe all these stories were," said Gabriel Robles, president of the Association of Tourist Developers of Baja California, who forwarded the e-mail message to his members. "One gets reports of a lot of stuff, but I can't say how much of it happened. I'm not a cop."

Robles said he was not trying to play down the crime problem. "Our point is that the authorities need to resolve it," he said. "No one is trying to avoid it or pretend it's not true."

Weber, who reported his run-in with Baja's criminal elements to the Ensenada police, said he was saving some evidence for those who doubt his story. He will replace his motor home's shattered window but fill the bullet hole that pierced the vehicle with a wine cork, he said.

"It will be a reminder of what happened," he said, "and a reminder that I'm lucky to be alive."

Monday, December 17, 2007

Good-Bye to Ole Sparkie in New Jersey.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed into law a measure repealing New Jersey’s death penalty on 17 December 2007, making NewJersey the first state in a generation to abolish capital punishment and ending what he called “state-endorsed killing,” and said that New Jersey could serve as a model for other states.
He also issued an order commuting the sentences of the eight men on New Jersey’ death row to life in prison with no possibility of parole, ensuring that they will stay behind bars for the rest of their lives.
He said. “I believe society first must determine if its endorsement of violence begets violence, and if violence undermines our commitment to the sanctity of life.”
In 1982, six years after the United States Supreme Court allowed states to start executing prisoners again, New Jersey re-established its death penalty. It switched its method of execution to lethal injection and built a new execution chamber at the New Jersey State Prison here, where death row is housed.
While juries have sentenced more than four dozen people to death since then, the vast majority of those sentences were overturned on appeal. And even if the state had wanted to follow through with an execution, it would not have been able to.
A state appeals court ruled in 2004 that New Jersey’s procedures for administering the death penalty were unconstitutional. The state rewrote the procedures but never finalized them, and they expired in 2005.
The process of abolishing the death penalty moved forward at an unusually fast pace. A bill replacing capital punishment with life in prison with no chance of parole first passed a Senate committee in May, but did not advance any further until this month. Leaders of both chambers in state Legislature made the bill a top priority of the current legislative session, and vowed after the November elections to vote on the issue before the end of the year.
No criminal has been executed in New Jersey since 1963, so the fact that Gov. Jon Corzine has just signed a bill abolishing the state's death penalty might seem symbolic. But in a country where capital punishment exists mainly as a symbol, that's precisely the point.
Critics of capital punishment hope that New Jersey's step — becoming the first state in modern times to repeal its death penalty — is a sign of things to come. Until Monday's signing, the Garden State was one of five states where capital punishment remained on the books but has been unused for decades. Another five states have each executed only one prisoner during the past 40 years.
Early this year, a commission appointed by the New Jersey legislature concluded that capital punishment — which requires a more elaborate process at trial and in appeals — costs too much, financially and emotionally, to maintain it as an empty gesture. One study considered by the commission estimated that New Jersey communities and courts had spent a quarter of a billion dollars above and beyond the cost of non-capital murder trials to try to satisfy the exacting standards for death penalty cases established by U.S. Supreme Court and interpreted by skeptical lower courts. A more conservative estimate put the excess cost at $1 million per inmate. A life sentence without possibility of parole can accomplish as much, the commission decided, but without the added burdens.
One member of the panel, James Abbott, chief of police in West Orange, N.J., said the emptiness of a penalty that is so rarely imposed persuaded him to go along with the group's finding that New Jersey's death penalty served no purpose. Of the 60 death sentences recommended by New Jersey juries under the current law, 57 have been reversed on appeal. "If I were ever to be killed in the line of duty, I would never, ever want my wife and three daughters to suffer the way these families suffer with this arduous and never-ending court process," Abbott said.
In states like Maryland, New Mexico and South Dakota, legislative efforts to repeal the death penalty — once considered hopeless — now appear to be within a few votes of success. Blue-ribbon committees similar to the one in New Jersey have been appointed in places like Illinois, Tennessee, Maryland and Florida.
All this comes against a backdrop of declining use of the death penalty nationwide. The number of death sentences and the number of executions have both fallen dramatically since the turn of the century — though America's courts continue to pronounce doom in far more cases than doom is delivered. Fewer than 3% of death row prisoners are executed in any given year.
The long-range hope of death penalty opponents — and the reason why death penalty supporters were lobbying to save New Jersey's unused death penalty right up to the final vote — is that a trend toward abolition in the states might build into a Supreme Court ban on all capital punishment. No one believes such a step is imminent, but in recent years the high court has cited changes in state laws to justify bans on capital punishment for juveniles and mentally retarded prisoners. In those cases, the justices looked to state legislatures as harbingers of society's "evolving standards of decency," and leveraged the actions of a relatively small number of states into rulings that bind the entire country.

For the first time in the modern history of the death penalty, in 2007 more than 60 percent of all American executions took place in Texas. Some have attributed that fact to the female judges that were appointed by President George Bush when he was governor of Texas. They tend to be more hardline, and try to be tougher on crime than their male counter-parts.

Over the past three decades, the proportion of executions nationwide performed in Texas has held relatively steady, averaging 37 percent. Only once before, in 1986, has the state accounted for even a slight majority of the executions, and that was in a year with 18 executions nationwide.

But in 2007, enthusiasm for executions outside of Texas dropped sharply. Of the 42 executions this year, 26 were in Texas. The remaining 16 were spread across nine other states, none of which executed more than three people. Many legal experts say the trend will probably continue.

David Dow, a law professor at the University of Houston who has represented death-row inmates, said the day was not far off when essentially all executions in the United States would take place in Texas.
"The reason that Texas will end up monopolizing executions," he said, "is because every other state will eliminate it de jure, as New Jersey did, or de facto, as other states have."

Charles Rosenthal Jr., the district attorney of Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston and has accounted for 100 executions since 1976, said the Texas capital justice system was working properly.

The pace of executions in Texas, he said, "has to do with how many people are in the pipeline when certain rulings come down."

The rate at which Texas sentences people to death is not especially high given its murder rate. But once a death sentence is issued there, prosecutors, state and U.S. courts, the pardon board and the governor are united in moving the process along, said Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

"There's almost an aggressiveness about carrying out executions," said Dieter, whose organization opposes capital punishment.

Outside Texas, even supporters of the death penalty say they detect a change in public attitudes about executions in light of the time and expense of capital litigation, the possibility of wrongful convictions and the remote chance that someone sent to death row will actually be executed.

"Any sane prosecutor who is involved in capital litigation will really be ambivalent about it," said Joshua Marquis, the district attorney in Clatsop County, Oregon, and a vice president of the National District Attorneys Association. He said the families of murder victims suffer needless anguish during what can be decades of litigation and multiple retrials.

"We're seeing fewer executions," Marquis added. "We're seeing fewer people sentenced to death. People really do question capital punishment. The whole idea of exoneration has really penetrated popular culture."

As a consequence, Dieter said, "we're simply not regularly using the death penalty as a country."


Overview of the Commission and its Work
The New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission was created in 2006 by the New Jersey Legislature (P.L.2005, c.321)
The commission is charged with studying all aspects of the death penalty as currently administered in the State of New Jersey, including but not limited to the following issues:
(1) whether the death penalty rationally serves a legitimate penological intent such as deterrence;
(2) whether there is a significant difference between the cost of the death penalty from indictment to execution and the cost of life in prison without parole; in considering the overall cost of the death penalty in New Jersey, the cost of all the capital trials that result in life sentences as well as the death sentences that are reversed on appeal must be factored into the equation;
(3) whether the death penalty is consistent with evolving standards of decency;
(4) whether the selection of defendants in New Jersey for capital trials is arbitrary, unfair, or discriminatory in any way and there is unfair, arbitrary, or discriminatory variability in the sentencing phase or at any stage of the process;
(5) whether there is a significant difference in the crimes of those selected for the punishment of death as opposed to those who receive life in prison;
(6) whether the penological interest in executing some of those guilty of murder is sufficiently compelling that the risk of an irreversible mistake is acceptable; and
(7) whether alternatives to the death penalty exist that would sufficiently ensure public safety and address other legitimate social and penological interests, including the interests of families of victims.
The commission must report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature, along with any legislation it desires to recommend for adoption by the Legislature, no later than November 15, 2006.

Moratorium on Executions
Beginning on January 12, 2006 (the effective date of P.L.2005, c.321), if a defendant has been sentenced to death that sentence will not be carried out prior to 60 days after the issuance of the commission's report and recommendations.
Commission Members
The Commission consists of thirteen members. Currently the members are:

Reverend M. William Howard, Jr., Chairman
(Appointed by the Governor)
James P. Abbott
Chief of Police, West Orange
(Appointed by the President of the Senate)
Hon. James H. Coleman, Jr.
Former Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court
(Appointed by the Governor)
Edward J. DeFazio
Hudson County Prosecutor
(County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey)
Hon. Stuart Rabner
Attorney General of the State of New Jersey
Kathleen M. Garcia
New Jersey Crime Victims’ Law Center Representative
(Appointed by the Governor)
Kevin Haverty
(Appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly)
Eddie Hicks
Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation Representative
(Appointed by the Governor)
Thomas F. Kelaher
Ocean County Prosecutor
(Appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly)
Hon. John F. Russo
(Appointed by the President of the Senate)
Rabbi Robert Scheinberg
(Appointed by the Governor)
Yvonne Smith Segars
New Jersey Public Defender
Miles S. Winder III
New Jersey State Bar Association Representative
New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission Report - January 2007

When in Gregg v. Georgia the Supreme Court gave its seal of approval to capital punishment, this endorsement was premised on the promise that capital punishment would be administered with fairness and justice. Instead, the promise has become a cruel and empty mockery. If not remedied, the scandalous state of our present system of capital punishment will cast a pall of shame over our society for years to come. We cannot let it continue. -Justice Thurgood Marshall, 1990

The Philadelphia Story

More than half of the death sentences rendered in Pennsylvania are cases from Philadelphia, a city with only 14% of the state's population. Philadelphia's District Attorney, Lynne Abraham, has been called "The Deadliest D.A." in a 1995 New York Times article. Eighty-three percent of those on death row from Philadelphia are African-American. But raw numbers of racial disproportion do not tell the whole story. In order to determine for certain whether race is a decisive factor, researchers must examine the outcomes in cases of similar severity with defendants of similar criminal backgrounds.

This examination requires a statistical analysis which takes into account such factors as multiple victims, the deliberate infliction of pain, and the background of the accused. The ultimate question is: "Among similar cases, is race a factor in whether death sentences are imposed against Black defendants?"

Such a study was recently conducted in Philadelphia. The results are dramatic, particularly for a state outside of the deep south, a region where racial disparities in the criminal justice system have a long history. The researchers examined a large sample of the murders which were eligible for the death penalty in the state between 1983 and 1993. The researchers found that, even after controlling for case differences, Blacks in Philadelphia were substantially more likely to get the death penalty than other defendants who committed similar murders. Black defendants faced odds of receiving a death sentence that were 3.9 times higher than other similarly situated defendants.

The researchers used a variety of analytical tools to compare and validate their findings. They consistently found substantial race-of-defendant disparities. The results of this bias against Black defendants in Philadelphia is estimated to be an excess of 38% in death sentences for Black defendants compared to all other defendants for similar crimes.

The results of two new studies underscore the continuing injustice of racism in the application of the death penalty. A new study documents the infectious presence of racism in the death penalty, and demonstrates that this problem has not slackened with time, nor is it restricted to a single region of the country. Another study identifies one of the potential causes for this continuing crisis: those who are making the critical death penalty decisions in this country are almost exclusively white.

From the days of slavery in which Black people were considered property, through the years of lynchings and Jim Crow laws, capital punishment has always been deeply affected by race. Unfortunately, the days of racial bias in the death penalty are not a remnant of the past.

Two of the country's foremost researchers on race and capital punishment, law professor David Baldus and statistician George Woodworth, along with colleagues in Philadelphia, have conducted a careful analysis of race and the death penalty in Philadelphia which reveals that the odds of receiving a death sentence are nearly four times (3.9) higher if the defendant is Black. These results were obtained after analyzing and controlling for case differences such as the severity of the crime and the background of the defendant. The data were subjected to various forms of analysis, but the conclusion was clear: Blacks were being sentenced to death far in excess of other defendants for similar crimes.

A second study by Professor Jeffrey Pokorak and researchers at St. Mary's University Law School in Texas provides part of the explanation for why the application of the death penalty remains racially skewed. Their study found that the key decision makers in death cases around the country are almost exclusively white men. Of the chief District Attorneys in counties using the death penalty in the United States, nearly 98% are white and only 1% are African-American.

These new empirical studies underscore a persistent pattern of racial disparities which has appeared throughout the country over the past twenty years. Examinations of the relationship between race and the death penalty, with varying levels of thoroughness and sophistication, have now been conducted in every major death penalty state. In 96% of these reviews, there was a pattern of either race-of-victim or race-of-defendant discrimination, or both. The gravity of the close connection between race and the death penalty is shown when compared to studies in other fields. Race is more likely to affect death sentencing than smoking affects the likelihood of dying from heart disease. The latter evidence has produced enormous changes in law and societal practice, while racism in the death penalty has been largely ignored.

Despite overwhelming evidence of discrimination, the response of the courts has been to deny relief on the grounds that patterns of racial disparities are insufficient to prove racial bias in individual cases. With the single exception of Kentucky which recently passed a version of the Racial Justice Act, legislatures have turned their back on corrective measures. Despite the prior example of legislation in response to similar discrimination in such areas as employment and housing, legislatures on both the federal and state level have failed to pass civil rights laws regarding the death penalty for fear of stopping capital punishment entirely. And so, the sore festers even as executions accelerate and appeals are curtailed.

The human cost of this racial injustice is incalculable. The decisions about who lives and who dies are being made along racial lines by a nearly all white group of prosecutors. The death penalty presents a stark symbol of the effects of racial discrimination. In individual cases, this racism is reflected in ethnic slurs hurled at black defendants by the prosecution and even by the defense. It results in black jurors being systematically barred from service, and in the devoting of more resources to white victims of homicide at the expense of Black victims. And it results in a death penalty in which blacks are frequently put to death for murdering whites, but whites are almost never executed for murdering blacks. Such a system of injustice is not merely unfair and unconstitutional--it tears at the very principles to which this country struggles to adhere.

The Sounds of Racism

Blatant racism is seen and heard too often in courtrooms around the country. In death penalty cases, the use of derogatory slurs kindles the flames of prejudice and allows the jury to judge harshly those they wish to scapegoat for the problem of crime. A few examples illustrate the intensity of this racism:

¥ "One of you two is gonna hang for this. Since you're the "N-word", you're elected." These words were spoken by a Texas police officer to Clarence Brandley, who was charged with the murder of a white high school girl. Brandley was later exonerated in 1990 after ten years on death row.

¥ In preparing for the penalty phase of an African-American defendant's trial, a white judge in Florida said in open court: "Since the "N-word" mom and dad are here anyway, why don't we go ahead and do the penalty phase today instead of having to subpoena them back at cost to the state."Anthony Peek was sentenced to death and the sentence was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court in 1986 reviewing his claim of racial bias.

¥ A prosecutor in Alabama gave as his reason for striking several potential jurors the fact that they were affiliated with Alabama State University -- a predominantly Black institution. This pretext was considered race neutral by the reviewing court.

¥ During the 1997 election campaign for Philadelphia's District Attorney, it was revealed that one of the candidates had produced, as an Assistant D.A., a training video for new prosecutors in which he instructed them about whom to exclude from the jury, noting that "young Black women are very bad" on the jury for a prosecutor, and that "Blacks from low-income areas are less likely to convict." The training tape also instructed the new recruits on how to hide the racial motivation for their jury strikes.

¥ In Missouri, Judge Earl Blackwell issued a signed press release about his judicial election announcing his new affiliation with the Republican Party while presiding over a death penalty case against an unemployed African-American defendant. The press release stated, in part: "[T]he Democrat party places far too much emphasis on representing minorities . . . people who dont' (sic) want to work, and people with a skin that's any color but white . . . ." The judge denied a motion to recuse himself from the trial. The defendant, Brian Kinder, was convicted and sentenced to death, and Missouri's Supreme Court affirmed in 1996.8

These examples are symbolic of a more systemic racism, and they provide a sense of how damaging racial prejudice and insensitivity can be when someone is facing execution. Empirical studies which provide the national evidence of racism in capital punishment are critical to understanding that this problem goes far beyond individual examples of prejudice.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Right to Refuse Medical Treatment, a Deadly Choice.

A few hours after a Mount Vernon judge ruled that a 14-year-old Jehovah's Witness sick with leukemia had the right to refuse a blood transfusion, even though that refusal might kill him, the boy died in a Seattle hospital.

Dennis Lindberg of Mount Vernon died shortly before 9 p.m. Wednesday in his bed at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, the boy's biological father, Dennis Lindberg said.

Hospital spokeswoman Teri Thomas said she could not confirm or deny anything about the case at the request of the boy's legal guardian, who is an aunt.

Earlier on 28 November, Skagit County Superior Court Judge John Meyer denied a motion by the state to force the boy to have a blood transfusion. The judge said the eighth-grader knows "he's basically giving himself a death sentence."

Doctors diagnosed the boy with leukemia in early November and began treating him with chemotherapy at Children's Hospital, but stopped a week ago because his blood count was too low, the Skagit Valley Herald reported. The boy refused the transfusion on religious grounds.

However, his birth parents, Lindberg Sr. and Rachel Wherry, who do not have custody and flew from Boise, Idaho, to be at the hearing, believed their son should have had the transfusion and suggested he had been unduly influenced by his legal guardian, his aunt Dianna Mincin, who is also a Jehovah's Witness.

Mincin has declined to talk about the case.

The boy's father said the ruling shocked him but after visiting his son later in the day Wednesday, he decided not to appeal. He said doctors told him Wednesday evening, 28 November that the boy, unconscious since Tuesday, had likely suffered brain damage.

Several friends of Lindberg and of his parents attended the hearing, and some ran out crying when the judge announced his decision.

"Dennis does present himself as a very mature man. But he really is just a child trying to please the adults around him," said Jan Curry, whose daughter, Morgan, is his friend.

With the transfusions and other treatment, the boy had been give a 70 percent chance of surviving the next five years, the judge said in court, based on what the boy's doctors told him.

Still, the judge said his decision was based strictly on facts.

"I don't believe Dennis' decision is the result of any coercion. He is mature and understands the consequences of his decision," Meyer said during the hearing. "I don't think Dennis is trying to commit suicide. This isn't something Dennis just came upon, and he believes with the transfusion he would be unclean and unworthy."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Oral Arguments In Cadet Webster Smith Case 16 Jan 2008.

The U.S. Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals has scheduled oral arguments in the Case of The Appeal of the Court-martial Conviction of Cadet Webster Smith for January 16, 2008 in Arlington, Virginia.
A legal brief filed by his lawyers claims the convictions should be thrown out because the defense team was not allowed to fully cross-examine one of his accusers during Smith's court martial. They say that meant the jury didn't hear testimony that the accuser, a female cadet, Shelly Raudenbush, had once had consensual sex with a Coast Guard enlisted man and then called it sexual assault.

"The excluded cross-examination would have devastated (the accuser's) credibility, on which the government's case depended completely, making it all but certain that the outcome in this pure credibility contest would have been different," according to the brief.

Lt. Cmdr. Patrick M. Flynn, the government's lawyer for the appeal, said 27 November that the jury "heard enough" and the trial judge was within his rights to impose reasonable limits on the cross-examination.
"They didn't need to hear the additional details the defense is arguing they should have been allowed to hear."
The defense also is asking the court to set aside Smith's convictions on two lesser charges of failing to obey an order and abandoning watch.

Lawyers from the WilmerHale law firm for former Coast Guard cadet Webster Smith also contend in their legal brief “The excluded cross-examination would have devastated Shelly Raudenbush's(the accuser's) credibility, on which the government's case depended completely, making it all but certain that the outcome in this pure credibility contest would have been different."
The convictions on the three charges were based on the testimony of the female cadet, who said Smith coerced her by threatening to reveal a secret she had confided in him. That secret was about the past relationship.
Besides the question of whether the military judge abused his discretion, oral arguments will focus on whether Smith's conviction for sodomy was constitutional and whether the government proved the extortion charge.
Smith's lawyers argue that Smith engaged in private, consensual sexual activity with another adult and should not be punished.

Smith's lawyers said the evidence does not prove the extortion charge because prosecutors did not demonstrate a direct link between the female cadet's presumption of a threat and a sexual encounter, which occurred a few hours apart. She said Smith told her he needed more “motivation” to keep her secret, according to the records.

Criminal sanctions cannot be based on the subjective perceptions of the recipient of a communication, perceptions that the communicator plainly cannot control,” Smith's lawyers argued in the records.
The court may hear arguments about the failing to obey an order and abandoning watch charges or issue a ruling based on the briefs filed by both sides.

The defense also is asking the court to set aside Smith's convictions on two lesser charges of failing to obey an order and abandoning watch.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces

450 E Street, Northwest

Washington, D.C. 20442-0001


United States v. Webster M. Smith, No. 08-0719/CG

(Appellee) (Appellant)

Counsel for Appellant: Ronald C. Machen, Esq.

Counsel for Appellee: LT Emily P. Reuter, USCG

Case Summary: GCM conviction of going from place of duty, attempting to disobey an order, sodomy, extortion, and indecent assault. Granted issue questions whether the military judge violated Appellant’s constitutional right to confront his accusers by limiting his cross-examination of [SR], the government’s only witness, on three of the five charges.

NOTE: Counsel for each side will be allotted 20 minutes to present oral argument in this case.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Judge Gets The Boot For Jailing Innocent Spectators.

A judge in Niagara Falls, New York, has apologized for jailing nearly four dozen people over a ringing mobile phone in his courtroom, his attorney said Wednesday.

In removing City Court Judge Robert Restaino from office Tuesday, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct called his decision to lock up 46 people after no one claimed ownership of the phone "a gross deviation from the proper role of a judge."

But Restaino's lawyer, Terrence Connors, said Wednesday the judge "profoundly apologizes for his actions" during the March 2005 hearing and will appeal the panel's ruling.

"It is our hope that the Court of Appeals will measure those few hours against a decade of exemplary conduct on the bench," Connors said in a written statement.

But the commission found Restaino's conduct so egregious that his 11 years of service and clean record did not matter.

"We conclude that respondent's behavior ... warrants the sanction of removal, notwithstanding his previously unblemished record on the bench and the testimony as to his character and reputation," the panel ruled.

According to the commission report, Restaino was presiding over a domestic-violence case when a ringing mobile phone interrupted proceedings. When no one took responsibility for the ringing phone, Restaino ordered that court security officers search for the device.

About 70 defendants were in the courtroom that day to take part in a monitoring program for domestic violence offenders. When no one admitted to owning the phone, Restaino heard the remaining cases and then recalled the cases of defendants who had already been released to question them about the phone, according to the commission report.

After all the defendants denied having the phone or knowing who it belonged to, Restaino sent 46 people to jail. Fourteen who were unable to make bail were handcuffed and jailed for several hours.

According to the report, Restaino decided to release defendants only after learning reporters were inquiring about their incarceration

Public Schools to Teach Immorality.

Righteousness exalth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. (Prov.14:34)
A concerned California grandmother is urging all parents to boycott the public schools in her state. Her action is in response to recent legislation that introduced forced sexual indoctrination into the government-run schools. The two bills, signed into law last month by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, have been roundly criticized by family advocates across the country.

Joy Stutz, a grandmother from Southern California, is deeply grieved about two laws passed in California that have been criticized for mandating homosexual indoctrination of all children -- without parental consent and without an opt-out provision. Senate Bill 777 mandates positive portrayal about homosexual and alternative sexual lifestyles in instruction and activities in public schools. Assembly Bill 394 orders "anti-harassment" training for students, parents, and teachers including publications, handouts, and classroom curriculum.
In response, Stutz is calling for all parents to boycott the public schools and keep their children home tomorrow and Thursday (November 28-29) as a sign of solidarity against the pro-homosexual measures.
"What [passage of the bills] effectively did was open the door wide [so] that the children in the public schools -- all public schools in California -- will be indoctrinated with the homosexual agenda, beginning with age five on up," she explains.
The result, she says, will be that the "color" of the schools will undergo tremendous change. "Because they will no longer be able to have a reference of 'mommy and daddy' as being a normal family," she laments. "It will now be taught that it is perfectly normal to have two mommies or two daddies."
Stutz hopes a mass boycott will get the attention of state officials. She says parents cannot give up the right to raise their children in the right way. "If this law stands, we must pull our children out of public schools," she asserts. The Golden State grandmother says the only way for loving, responsible parents to protect their own children is to flee to the sanctuary of home schools and private schools.

SB 777 and AB 394 are set to take effect on January 1, 2008. Petitions are circulating throughout the state to prevent implementation of SB 777 and have a statewide referendum on the law.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Only An Unseaworthy Ship Will Sink.

The M/S Explorer, a Canadian cruise ship, sank after it hit an iceberg in Antarctic waters, 23 Nov 2007. A Norwegian cruise ship rescued everyone aboard.
Someone is not being completely honest about this cruise ship. A hole the size of a fist will not sink a ship, not even the worse rust bucket. This was a Liberian registered vessel. That means it was registered under a flag of opportunity to avoid safety inspections and compliance with the Coast Guard's safety regulations.
Also, ships are deliberately compartmentalized to prevent them from sinking until more than one-third of the living spaces are completely flooded. Did this ship have water tight compartments? Did it have a double bottomed hull?
My ship, USCGC Glacier (WAGB-4) was punctured while I was onboard but not on watch by the underwater projection of an iceberg which was more than 2 miles away on the surface. It ripped open a fuel tank and we lost over 10,000 gallons of fuel. And it flooded an engine room. We had free-communications with the sea; but, we dogged the hatch to that compartment and experienced no danger of capsizing or sinking. Ships are designed that way. It is hard to sink a ship. A hole the size of a fist would not sink a ship. Even if you do not seal off the compartment, a standard bilge pump could easily pump out the volume of sea water entering through the fist size hole.
Was the M/S Explorer equipprd with bilge pumps? Were they working? What was the pumping capacity of one of the bilge pumps? Even the smallest bilge pump would be capable of pumping out the amount of sea water that could be expected to enter the ship through a hole the size of a man's fist.
Moreover, most ships have double bottoms. The iceberg would have to be shaped like a battering ram to penetrate both bulkheads and flood the compartment. Even then, because of the compartmentilization of the ship she would not sink. Even if disabled, and badly listing to one side, the ship would stay afloat indefinitely. It would not sink.


M/V Explorer launched 1969.
Sank in Antarctica 23 Nov 2007.
About 2400hrs (Midnight) 22 Nov M/V Explorer hit an iceberg or bergie bit causing fist-sized hole in hull.
About 0015 hrs 23 Nov ship hit an ice floe causing a crack in the hull spanning several compartments. This was the second collision. This was most likely a stress fracture. If you apply pressure on an area of the hull under great stress, it will crack like an egg shell. In such a case the hull and the bulkheads will open up like a ripe watermellon.

About 0030 hrs M/V Explorer made International Distress Call. (MayDay, MayDay) An Argentine Rescue and Command Center picked up the distress call amid reports the ship was taking on water despite efforts to use onboard pumps. (This was according to Capt. Juan Pablo Panichini, an Argentine navy spokesman.)

0230 hrs Flooding shorts-out all electrical power.
0300 hrs 23 Nov Captain, Bengt Witman, gives order to abandon ship. All 91 passengers take to life boats, and 13 Officers remain onboard with the Capt.
0500 hrs Captain and 13 officers abandon ship.
1100 hrs M/V Nordnorge begins rescuing passengers from the water.
Water temperature is 33 Degrees (Fahrenheit), or 2 Degrees (Centigrade). Water freezes at 32 Degrees Fahrenheit.
2000 hrs (800 PM) 23 November 2007 M/V Explorer sinks beneath the frigid waters with thousands of gallons of fuel and oil. The first Antarctic ecological tragedy.

The Guardian reported that inspections this year found 11 deficiencies
in the ship, including missing search-and-rescue plans and
lifeboat-maintenance problems. Lloyd's List reported the Explorer had
five deficiencies in its last inspection in May, including watertight
doors that were not as required.

The M/S Explorer sank in a matter of hours. That can mean only one thing. The ship was not seaworthy. It was unsafe and had no business carrying passengers for hire. It was a liability.
Someone is trying to limit their liability with these false stories about a hole the size of a fist, and othersuch nonsense.
The Norwegian vessel, Nordnorge, picked up 154 people - all the passengers and crew of the cruise ship M.S. Explorer. It supposedly hit an ice floe before dawn on Friday and immediately began taking on water. There were 13 American tourists onboard. Incidents of this nature are sure to become more common in the Arctic as global warming makes the Northwest Passage more accessible.

An order to abandon ship was sounded after the Canadian ship began listing sharply, and everyone boarded lifeboats and inflatable rafts.

The captain of the Norwegian ship said the passengers and crew were cold and wet but in good condition despite spending four hours in icy, windswept seas off the South Shetland Islands. By Friday evening, several hours after the rescue operation was complete, the stricken Explorer disappeared beneath the Antarctic waves.

The rescue ship landed the Explorer's crew and passengers on nearby King George Island, despite delays caused by high winds and seas. They are staying at Chilean and Uruguayan military stations on the island, and will be flown to Punta Arenas on the Chilean mainland as soon as weather conditions permit.

A Canadian adventure company owned the sunken vessel, which had been on a 19-day tour of the Antarctic and the Falklands.

Passengers came from more than a dozen countries, including Britain, the Netherlands, the United States, Canada and Australia.

Less than a year ago, M.S. Nordnorge was involved in another Antarctic rescue. The Norwegian cruise ship evacuated 294 passengers after another ship from the same cruise company, M.S. Nordkapp, ran aground on a remote Antarctic island. The Nordkapp was later refloated.

The British luxury passenger liner Titanic sank on April 14-15, 1912, en route to New York City from Southampton, Eng., during its maiden voyage. The vessel sank with a loss of about 1,500 lives at a point about 400 miles (640 km) south of Newfoundland.

The great ship, at that time the largest and most luxurious afloat, was designed and built by William Pirrie's Belfast firm Harland and Wolff to service the highly competitive Atlantic Ferry route. It had a double-bottomed hull that was divided into 16 presumably watertight compartments. Because four of these could be flooded without endangering the liner's buoyancy, it was considered unsinkable. Shortly before midnight on April 14, the ship collided with an iceberg; five of its watertight compartments were ruptured, causing the ship to sink at 2:20 AM April 15. Inquiries held in the United States and Great Britain alleged that the Leyland liner Californian, which was less than 20 miles (32 km) away all night, could have aided the stricken vessel had its radio operator been on duty and thereby received the Titanic's distress signals. Only the arrival of the Cunard liner Carpathia 1 hour and 20 minutes after the Titanic went down prevented further loss of life in the icy waters.

Many of those who perished on the ship came from prominent American, British, and European families. Among the dead were the noted British journalist William Thomas Stead and heirs to the Straus and Astor fortunes. The glamour associated with the ship, its maiden voyage, and its notable passengers magnified the tragedy of its sinking in the popular mind. Legends arose almost immediately around the night's events, those who had died, and those who had survived. Heroes and heroines, such as American Molly Brown, were identified and celebrated by the press. The disaster and the mythology that has surrounded it have continued to fascinate millions.

As a result of the disaster, the first International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea was called in London in 1913. The convention drew up rules requiring that every ship have lifeboat space for each person embarked (the Titanic had only 1,178 boat spaces for the 2,224 persons aboard); that lifeboat drills be held during each voyage; and, because the Californian had not heard the distress signals of the Titanic, that ships maintain a 24-hour radio watch. The International Ice Patrol also was established to warn ships of icebergs in the North Atlantic shipping lanes.

On Sept. 1, 1985, the wreck of the Titanic was found lying upright in two pieces on the ocean floor at a depth of about 4,000 m (about 13,000 feet). The ship, located at about 41° 46' N 50° 14' W, was subsequently explored several times by manned and unmanned submersibles under the direction of American and French scientists. The expeditions found no sign of the long gash previously thought to have been ripped in the ship's hull by the iceberg. The scientists posited instead that the collision's impact had produced a series of thin gashes as well as brittle fracturing and separation of seams in the adjacent hull plates, thus allowing water to flood in and sink the ship. In subsequent years marine salvagers raised small artifacts and even a 20-ton piece of the hull from the wreckage.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Vaccinate Your Kids or Go To Jail.

The Right to Refuse Vaccination is one of the biggest health freedom issues that we have today. When we give government the power to make medical decisions for us, we, in essence, accept that the state owns our bodies.
More than 2,000 Prince George's County students in Maryland have not gotten their state-mandated shots. On November 14, an ultimatum was issued to some of those parents: Come to court, get the shots, or else.

Some students have missed as much as a month and a half of school because they haven't gotten the required immunizations-- for chickenpox and hepatitis B. So now the school system says it's time to get tough and take those parents to court.

Free clinics, free shots, door-to-door visits, and countless letters. Still more than 2,300 Prince George's county students don't have their required immunizations. This Saturday, more than 1600 students and their parents have been ordered to appear in circuit court for the children to be immunized. Health workers will be on hand to give the shots immediately.

The problem is a new law that took effect last year requiring students in the fifth through 10th grade to also have the chicken pox and hepatitis b vaccine. Parents who don't show up or fail to comply-- could be fined up to $50 and get up to 10 days in jail. Although getting students vaccinated by "court order" may seem unusual, the law is on the school district's side.

Mary Kivlighan with the University of Maryland's School of Public Health says-- the Supreme Court weighed in on this very issue more than 100 years ago with smallpox. The school district does grant exemptions for religious purposes or other medical reasons but only if parents apply. Going to court was a last resort. Jehovah's Witnesses have consistently resisted laws requiring undesired medical procedures.

Most of these mandatory laws contain an "opt out" provision that will exempt anyone who has a deep seated religious conviction against the mandatory requirement. If the tenets of your faith prohobit you from complying with the law, you might be excused from complying, if you say, "it is against my religion".

Hepatitis b vaccine requires three shots over six months. One of the problems has been that students get one shot but don't get the others, therefore, they're not in compliance.
This push for vaccination is completely out of control. Mandates and requirements are put into place by uninformed and under-educated State legislators who are sold a bill of goods by smiling pharmaceutical lobbyists pedaling their poisons. Parents do not have an opportunity to vote on the necessity of mandates; they are shoved down their throats. They pay taxes to get their children into schools. Then they are required to inject their children with substances that could maim or kill them in order to be in "compliance."
The vaccines that are being required in Prince George's County -- for chickenpox, a benign short-term illness and for hepatitis b, a disease of drug-using homosexual adults -- are not necessary for the health of these children. Do parents know what is in these vaccines? The chickenpox vaccine is made from aborted fetal cells and contains sucrose, hydrolyzed gelatin, salt, MSG (0.5 mg), sodium phosphate dibasic, potassium phosphate monobasic, potassium chloride, trace EDTA, neomycin and serum from cows. The hepatitis b vaccines contains aluminum and yeast.
The parents of these children need to ban together and revolt. Protest, march in the street, pay the fine and spend the time in jail on principle alone. When will this stop? When will we wake up and JUST SAY NO to mandatory injections?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

All Justice and No Mercy!

Saudi Arabia defended on Tuesday a court's decision to sentence a woman who was gang-raped to 200 lashes of the whip, after the United States described the verdict as "astonishing".

The 19-year-old woman from the town of Qatif in the Eastern Province and an unrelated male companion were abducted and raped by seven men in 2006.

Ruling according to Saudi Arabia's strict reading of the law, a court had originally sentenced the woman to 90 lashes and the rapists to jail terms of between 10 months and five years. It blamed the woman for being alone with an unrelated man.

Last week the Supreme Judicial Council increased the sentence to 200 lashes and six months in prison and ordered the rapists to serve between two and nine years in jail.

The ruling provoked rare criticism from the United States, which is trying to persuade Saudi Arabia to attend a Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland next week.

A State Department spokesman told reporters on Monday that "most (people) would find this relatively astonishing that something like this happens".

The court also took the unusual step of initiating disciplinary procedures against her lawyer, Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem, forcibly removing him from the case for having talked about it to the media.

"The Ministry of Justice welcomes constructive criticism ... The system allows appeals without resort to the media," said Tuesday's statement issued on the official news agency SPA.

It berated media for not specifying that three judges, not one, issued the recent ruling and reiterated that the "charges were proven" against the woman.

It also repeated the judges' attack against Lahem last week, saying he had "spoken insolently about the judicial system and challenged laws and regulations".

Lahem was not available for comment.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has called on King Abdullah, who last month announced plans to overhaul the system, to drop all charges against the woman.

A series of erratic verdicts have focused attention on the Saudi legal system, which is dominated by clerics. Personal status law remains uncodified and the system does not recognize the concept of precedent.

On 19 December 2007 we learned that Saudi King Abdullah had pardoned the young woman known as "Qatif Girl" -- who was gang-raped and then sentenced to 200 lashes and six months imprisonment for "improper mingling".

With something less than gratitude -- how does one feel grateful for mercy when none should have been required in the first place? -- Westerners are nonetheless relieved. It is quite possible that the first lady Laura Bush's October journey to Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries to promote breast cancer awareness, research and treatment may have had a little something to do with the King assuming the Mercy Seat.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Barry Bonds Black Home Run King Indicted.

Barry Bonds Black Home Run King Indicted. He has more to worry about now than an asterisk beside his name in the record books. Just three months ago, the Black Super Star from San Francisco Giants angrily defended himself against steroid allegations on the night he surpassed Hank Aaron to become baseball's home run king.
"This record is not tainted at all," Bonds declared. "At all. Period."
Barry Bonds has never been identified by Major League Baseball as testing positive for steroids. His personal trainer Greg Anderson has spent most of the 2007 in jail for refusing to testify against his longtime friend. His attorney, Mark Geragos, said the trainer didn't cooperate with the grand jury at all.
This indictment came out of left field," Geragos said. "Frankly, I'm aghast. It looks like the government misled me and Greg as well, saying this case couldn't go forward without him."
Bonds is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Dec. 7.
Government lawyers didn't notify Bonds of the impending indictment, a courtesy typically extended to white collar defendants so they can prepare for the public announcement.
"I'm surprised," said one of his lawyers, John Burris, who was notified of the indictment by The Associated Press. "But there's been an effort to get Barry for a long time. I'm curious what evidence they have now they didn't have before."
Defense attorney Mike Rains said he spoke briefly with Bonds but did not describe his reaction. At an evening news conference, he read a statement accusing federal prosecutors of "unethical misconduct" and declined to take questions.
"Every American should worry about a Justice Department that doesn't know if waterboarding is torture and can't tell the difference between prosecution on the one hand and persecution on the other," Rains said.
The indictment charges Bonds with lying when he said he didn't knowingly take steroids given to him by Anderson. Bonds is also charged with lying that Anderson never injected him with steroids.
"Greg wouldn't do that," Bonds testified in December 2003 when asked if Anderson ever gave him any drugs that needed to be injected. "He knows I'm against that stuff."
Prosecutors promised Bonds they wouldn't charge him with any drug-related counts if he testified truthfully. But according to the indictment, Bonds repeatedly denied taking any steroids or performance-enhancing drugs despite evidence to the contrary.
On Thursday,15 November 2007, his very freedom was put in jeopardy when a federal grand jury indicted him on five felony counts of perjury and obstruction of justice, charges that could result in a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison if he's convicted.
I am appalled at the federal indictment of Barry Bonds on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. Of course, lying to federal authorities is wrong and poisonous to the criminal justice system, if Barry lied.
I admire tenacious no-holds-barred prosecutors -- when they go after violent thugs, mobsters and would-be terrorists. The U.S. Department of Justice, however, has gone overboard in wielding its awesome might for years -- acting on a tip received in August 2002 -- to prolong a case it could have wrapped up long ago. The feds have crossed the line from closing a righteous case to prosecutorial overkill.
The charges against Bonds concern grand-jury testimony four years ago, on Dec. 4, 2003. Under grant of immunity (unless he lied), Bonds asserted that he never knowingly used banned steroids. He said he thought his personal trainer was treating him with flaxseed oil and arthritis balm.
And I wonder why the feds have put so much energy into this case, when there are so many truly dangerous criminals out there.
Why did the U.S. attorney take another four years to indict? If their case is so strong, what were they waiting for?
If they consider perjury to be a threat to the system, why wait years to go after a man whom so many observers believe lied to a grand jury? Doesn't that undermine the system's credibility, too?
Joe Russoniello was nominated to become Northern California's U.S. attorney on Thursday. Attorney General Michael Mukasey assumed his post this month. I agree with Debra J Saunders. They've both inherited this headache.
The indictment culminated a four-year investigation into steroid use by elite athletes.
Bonds and his lawyers long have accused the government of targeting a high-profile, unpopular player merely for political gain while pondering if the investigation was racially motivated.
Charges of leaks to the media and unethical legal behavior flew from both camps as the investigation dragged on and questions mounted about the government's intentions.
The 10-page indictment mainly consists of excerpts from Bonds' December 2003 testimony before a grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO. It cites 19 occasions in which Bonds allegedly lied under oath.
Bonds, who surpassed Aaron's career home run mark of 755 on Aug. 7, finished the season with 762. A seven-time NL MVP, he also holds the season record with 73 home runs in 2001.
He is a free agent after being told late in the season that the San Francisco Giants didn't want him back next year.

Asked directly if Anderson supplied him with steroids, Bonds answered: "Not that I know of." Bonds even denied taking steroids when he was shown documents revealing a positive steroids test for a player named Barry B.
"I've never seen these documents," Bonds said. "I've never seen these papers."
The indictment does not explain where prosecutors obtained those results, but may have been seized when federal agents raided BALCO in September 2003.
At the end of the 2003 season, Bonds said, Anderson rubbed some cream on his arm that the trainer said would help him recover. Anderson also gave him something he called "flax seed oil," Bonds said.
Bonds then testified that prior to the 2003 season, he never took anything supplied by Anderson — which the indictment alleges was a lie because the doping calendars seized from Anderson's house were dated 2001.
Bonds has long been shadowed by allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs. The son of former big league star Bobby Bonds, Barry broke into the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986 as a lithe, base-stealing outfielder.
By the late 1990s, he'd bulked up to more than 240 pounds — his head, in particular, becoming noticeably bigger. His physical growth was accompanied by a remarkable power surge.
Bonds is by far the highest-profile figure caught up in the steroids probe, which also ensnared track star Marion Jones. She pleaded guilty in October to lying to federal investigators about using steroids and faces up to six months in prison.
Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who is investigating drug use in baseball, declined to comment, but the Giants, the players' union, even the White House called it a sad day for baseball.
"These are serious charges," the Giants said. "Now that the judicial process has begun, we look forward to this matter being resolved in a court of law."
In Washington, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said: "The president is very disappointed to hear this. As this case is now in the criminal justice system, we will refrain from any further specific comments about it. But clearly this is a sad day for baseball."
Commissioner Bud Selig withheld judgment, saying, "I take this indictment very seriously and will follow its progress closely."

Rare Robbery Case Renders Cries of Racism.

In Lakeport, California three young Black men break into a white man's home in rural Northern California. The homeowner shoots two of them dead — but it's the surviving Black man who is charged with murder.
Was it self-defense or murder? Was deadly force reasonable or unreasonable under the circumstances? Was the shooter a drug dealer? Had the three youths bought drugs from him before? Why did they go to his house looking to score some drugs? At what point did they disengage and flee for their lives? Why did he have to shoot two of them when he had already killed one? Was he really trying to kill all three fleeing youths? How many slugs did he pump into the backs of the two that he hit with his unsteady aim while under the influence of drugs? All reasonable questions that the prosecutor must have asked and answered before deciding to charge the fleeing unarmed Black youth with two counts of first degree murder!Renato Hughes Jr., 22, was charged by prosecutors in this overwhelmingly white county under a rarely invoked legal doctrine that could make him solely responsible for all the bloodshed. This has brought cries of racism from civil rights groups.
District Attorney Jon Hopkins said that Hughes was responsible for "setting the whole thing in motion by his actions and the actions of his accomplices." Three young Black men broke into the Clearlake house of Shannon Edwards demanding marijuana and brutally beat his stepson. Two of the Black men, Rashad Williams, 21, and Christian Foster, 22, were shot in the back. Hughes fled.
Tests showed that Shannon Edmonds, the white homeowner, had marijuana and prescription medication in his system the night of the shooting. Edmonds had a prescription for both the pot and the medication to treat depression.
Hughes, the surviving Black man, was charged with first-degree murder under California's Provocative Act doctrine, versions of which have been on the books in many states for generations but are rarely used.
Hughes' mother, San Francisco schoolteacher Judy Hughes, said she believes the group didn't intend to rob the family, just buy marijuana. She called the case against her son a "legal lynching." "Only God knows what happened in that house," she said. "But this I know: My son did not murder his childhood friends."
The Provocative Act doctrine does not require prosecutors to prove the accused intended to kill. Instead, "they have to show that it was reasonably foreseeable that the criminal enterprise could trigger a fatal response from the homeowner," said Brian Getz, a San Francisco defense attorney unconnected to the case.
The NAACP complained that prosecutors came down too hard on Hughes, who also faces robbery, burglary and assault charges. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.
The Rev. Amos Brown, head of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP and pastor at Hughes' church, said the case demonstrates the legal system is racist in remote Lake County, aspiring wine country 100 miles north of San Francisco. The sparsely populated county of 13,000 people is 91 percent white and 2 percent Black.
Brown and other NAACP officials are asking why the homeowner is walking free. Tests showed that Shannon Edmonds, the white homeowner, had marijuana and prescription medication in his system the night of the shooting. Edmonds had a prescription for both the pot and the medication to treat depression.
"This man had no business killing these boys," Brown said. "They were shot in the back. They had fled."On Thursday, a judge granted a defense motion for a change of venue. The defense had argued that he would not be able to get a fair trial because of extensive local media coverage and the unlikelihood that Hughes could get a jury of his peers in the county. A new location for the trial will be selected Dec. 14.
The district attorney said that race played no part in the charges against Hughes and that the white homeowner was spared prosecution because of evidence he was defending himself and his family, who were asleep when the assailants barged in at 4 a.m.
"I didn't do anything wrong. All I did was defend my family and my children's lives," said Edmonds, 33. "I'm sad the kids are dead, I didn't mean to kill them."
He added: "Race has nothing to do with it other than this was a gang of black people who thought they were going to beat up this white family."
California's Provocative Act doctrine has primarily been used to charge people whose actions led to shooting deaths.
However, in one notable case in Southern California in 1999, a man who robbed a family at gunpoint in their home was convicted of murder because a police officer pursuing him in a car chase slammed into another driver in an intersection, killing her.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Don’t ask; Don’t tell; and Don’t speak.

Don’t ask; Don’t tell; and Don’t speak.
New Federal Hate Crimes Legislation.
Act Up and Shout Out under the protection of laws.
Last spring, a move to change hate crimes to include special protection for gays, lesbians, and a litany of other groups began to suddenly build steam. The Congress took HR 1592 from subcommittee to law vote in less than three weeks. Many Christians were not aware as the law was being rushed through Congress and passed in early May. Congressional offices refused to talk realistically about the legislations – calling major Christian ministries (Concerned Women for America, Traditional Values Coalition, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, High Impact Leadership Coalition and a host of other organizations) “alarmists” and “liars.”
Although similar laws are being enforced around the world with a disturbing anti-Christian bias, voters were told they had nothing to fear. Yet, the bias has already begun in America. In Philadelphia (in 2004) an incident occurred during a legally arranged, protest rally at a gay convention. A 75-year old grandmother of three was arrested, jailed, and charged under existing state hate crimes law for attempting to share the gospel of Jesus Christ concerning people who burn with lust for same sex partners..
Ironically, the rally did not result in any gays being hurt, wounded, or even intimidated by their actions. If anything, law enforcement officials were the ones who sent the citizens of their state a clear message – “Gays can protest, intimidate and harass anyone anywhere- but Christians had better not speak.”
First, it was the civil rights movement, then the feminist movement, then the gay liberation movement. Gays used to be called homosexual, but then they decided to pick a positive-sounding name like "gay." Suddenly the meaning of the term "gay" was entirely appropriated by homosexuals. Gays went from being defined by their enemies to defining themselves in a favorable way. First, they came out of the closet. Then they formed lobbying groups and "rights" groups. Then, Affirmative Action for gays. Now, hate crimes laws to keep Christians from quoting the Bible in public. An Annual Parade, complete with Act Up dancers and Shout Out floats. What next, Gay History Month?
ENDA (The Employment Non Discrimination Act)
Despite the efforts of many Christian organizations, Congress passed HR 3685 in late October 2007. In concept, ENDA sounds like a positive step to end discrimination in the workplace. However, this legislation has five problems:
1. ENDA would overturn the historical basis of protected class status by adding “actual or perceived sexual orientation.”
2. ENDA expands civil rights protections on the vague basis of perception.
3. ENDA infringes on the religious liberties of Christian lay people.
4. ENDA puts the integrity of Christian ministries in jeopardy.
5. ENDA is a direct attack on the freedom of religion guaranteed in the First Amendment.
This bill can still be stopped in the Senate if concerned citizens hurry to respond.
Now, what concerned patriots can do to make a difference. Four things come to mind.
1. Join millions of other Christians this Thanksgiving season in praying five minutes a day for our nation.
2. Contact the office of the President and ask him to keep his promise to veto both the Hate Crimes and the ENDA legislation.
3. In the 2008 election, let’s vote for candidates that hold our values in every office – from president, to congressmen, and down to school board members.
4. Finally, keep the faith!
(Excerpted from Henry R. Jackson Jr.)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Here a Noose, There a Noose..

ONE NIGHT IN JULY, A SECOND-YEAR COAST Guard cadet found a noose among his personal belongings when he returned to his berth after a stint on watch aboard the barque Eagle.
A noose. The 19-year-old engineering student put it in his pocket and went about his business, taking solace in the knowledge that he was on the fifth week of a six-week cruise.
The next morning, though, found him hurt and angry. The cadet, who is Black, reported the finding to his commander, Capt. J. Christopher Sinnett. It is important to note that the cadet was at first willing to have his name attached to this story. But again, after overnight consideration, requested to have his privacy. Ultimately, that it happened at all is far more import than to whom it happened.
Sinnett investigated the incident, but found no culprit. Of course, no one admitted to it. And, for that matter, exactly what was it? Was it a poorly thought-out prank, intended to amuse? Or was it a racist act intended to intimidate and humiliate?
Sinnett said that he was, in polite terms, very upset, as were many of the cadet's friends, classmates and shipmates of varied backgrounds and cultures. They were disturbed that one of their own would be subjected to such a gesture, and that one of their own would so egregiously violate the oft-repeated code of “honor, respect and devotion to duty.”
Sinnett said he made it quite clear in an address to everyone on board that the incident was unacceptable behavior.
So what to do next? There's no one to punish. Well, you educate. Ken Hunter, the academy's civil rights officer, was notified immediately. He put together an impromptu race relations training for all of the cadets on campus and anyone who interacts with them. Unlike the academy's standard annual sensitivity training, these sessions included discussion, photographs and anecdotes on the historical derogatory symbolism of the noose.
“When you first hear about things like this, you wonder, 'Do people get it?'” Hunter said. “Then you wonder, 'Was it was a joke, or was it race motivated?' And, 'Aren't we past this?'”
Aboard ship, Sinnett convened focus groups, comprised of 10 to 15 cadets each, to talk about what was done and all of its ramifications.
“It is a problem. We looked at it as a problem and we talked about it like a problem,” he said. “The feedback was astounding. Unfortunately, there were no indications as to who did it or why, but there was a lot of positive feedback from the crew and the cadets. Many of them had a lot to say, and I think it sent a strong message to whomever did it.”
“Honestly, I think it was an inappropriate joke,” the cadet said. He said only the perpetrator knows if the act was one of bigotry.
Frankly, I find it difficult to perceive the cowardly act as having anything other than purposeful racist motivations. That perception was fortified Friday evening when academy spokesman David French told me that during the course of the training, a noose was also surreptitiously delivered to a white female who was conducting part of the training.
Generally speaking, friends of differing cultural persuasions care enough and know enough to never assume they have the privilege of making off-color jokes or comments. I can't believe that was the case here.
Incidents like this beg intense public reaction, especially on a campus where, among the minority staff and personnel, there is a feeling that the leadership on campus is insensitive to racial matters. They believe the academy would prefer such incidents remain out of the pubic eye.
Their perception is bolstered by the fact that this incident only came to light more than two months after it happened, and certainly through no effort of the academy, but rather from people who felt it was intentionally being kept quiet.
Does it beg a protest led by Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the NAACP, such as is ongoing in the noose-related incident in Jena, La.? I think not. But should the public that the Coast Guard is bound to serve and protect, especially the local public, know that such things go on in our local Homeland Security college? Absolutely.
Much to its credit, the academy was quite forthcoming in response to my inquiries. Most important, the offended cadet is satisfied with the academy's response, and the opportunity he had to address his classmates and crewmates aboard the Eagle.
“I confronted everyone the next day at quarters,” he said. “I said what I needed to say. I think what I said will have the most impact on the person who might have felt that way. Or the person who played an inappropriate joke knows it and won't do it again, whichever it was.
“But, whatever it was, now I've put it behind me and moved on.”
The young man is a credit to the academy. He is even more so to his family and his culture.
(This is the opinion of Chuck Potter.)

This gives an indication of the environment and the atmosphere at the Academy that gave rise to the things that happened to Webster Smith. The Academy is pretty much a closed society. Attitudes and actions start at the top of the chain of command and run down hill. The senior officers set the tone, and the lower ranking officers and cadets take their clues from them. The senior officers gave the impression that they wanted to scape-goat African American cadets to make political points with Congressman Shays and the Militant women's organizations to show how they were protecting the young white female cadets.
What they did to Webster Smith signaled to the cadets that they could engage in some subtle racially intimidating behavior. Also, if they were caught the punishment would be lax or little at all. They started to roll a snowball down a mountain, and now it is picking up momentum. They unleashed a whirl wind. Who knows where it will end? One thing is sure, Van Sice and Wisniewski opened up a Pandora's Box.
This did not happen over night. It has been brewing. What happened to Webster Smith was not an abberation. It was in keeping with the decisions and signals from the Superintendent and the Commandant of Cadets.
The correct decision in the Formal Complaint of Racial Discrimination could put the brakes on this trend, and might even stop it all together. It would show some of the lesser bigots that their pranks or intimidating acts will not be tolerated by the larger society outside of the Academy grounds.
The Rule of Law still prevails in this country. Most people would do the right thing for the right reason, if they were allowed to do so.

What's done in the dark, will soon come to light.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Army private at Fort Campbell guilty of rape-murder.

Army Pfc. Jesse Spielman, 22, was found guily by a military jury on 3 August of conspiracy to commit rape, rape, housebreaking with intent to commit rape and four counts of felony murder according to the AP.

Spielman, of Chambersburg, Pa., was charged in connection with the March 12, 2006, slaying of the girl and the killings of her family. The attack took place in Mahmoudiya, a village about 20 miles south of Baghdad.

Military prosecutors did not say Spielman took part in the rape or murders, but alleged he went to the house knowing what the others intended to do and served as a lookout. Spielman had pleaded guilty on 30 July to lesser charges of conspiracy to obstructing justice, arson, wrongfully touching a corpse and drinking.

The judge scheduled a sentencing hearing for Saturday morning, 4 August. Spielman faces a mandatory life sentence. The jury will decide if he will be eligible for parole.

Spielman's grandmother, Nancy Hess, collapsed outside the courtroom after the verdict was read and prosecutor Maj. William Fischbach ran to her side and called 911.

Spielman's sister, Paige Gerlach, screamed: "I hate the government. You people put him (in Iraq) and now, this happened."Defense attorneys left the courthouse immediately following the verdict and could not immediately be reached for comment.

Prosecutors rested their case Thursday when a fellow soldier's recanting of a story that Spielman acted as a lookout during the attack last year.

Spc. James Barker, who has admitted his own role in the assault, said in earlier testimony that he had allowed investigators to draft sworn statements for him that implicated Spielman in the crime.

Barker testified Wednesday, ! August, that several portions of the document were untrue, including references to Spielman's role in the conspiracy to attack the family and his knowledge of plans to rape the girl.

Another soldier convicted in the attack, Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, testified that Spielman stood guard as his fellow soldiers raped the girl. Cortez said Spielman was within a few feet of the others as they held down the screaming girl but did nothing to stop them.

Barker, Cortez and another soldier, Pfc. Bryan L. Howard, pleaded guilty for their roles in the slayings and received sentences of five to 100 years under plea agreements with prosecutors.

Steven D. Green, who was discharged from the Army before being charged, faces a possible death sentence when he is tried in federal court in Kentucky. He has pleaded not guilty to charges that include murder and sexual assault.

Barker and Cortez have given investigators conflicting statements about whether Spielman knew of the plan to rape the girl and was present when they discussed it over swigs from bottles of whiskey and gin mixed with energy drinks, according to testimony.

During their courts-martial, Barker and Cortez testified they took turns raping the girl while Green shot and killed her mother, father and younger sister. Green shot the girl in the head after raping her, they said.

The girl's body was set on fire with kerosene to destroy the evidence, according to previous testimony.

Fort Campbell is a sprawling military post on the Kentucky-Tennessee border.

FBI Raid Violated US Constitution.

The FBI violated the Constitution when agents raided U.S. Rep. William Jefferson's office last year and viewed legislative documents in a corruption investigation, a federal appeals court ruled # August, according to the AP.

The court ordered the Justice Department to return any legislative documents it seized from the Louisiana Democrat's office on Capitol Hill. The court did not order the return of all the documents seized in the raid and did not say whether prosecutors could use any of the records against Jefferson in their bribery case.

Jefferson argued that the first-of-its-kind raid trampled congressional independence. The Constitution prohibits the executive branch from using its law enforcement powers to interfere with the lawmaking process. The Justice Department said that declaring the search unconstitutional would essentially prohibit the FBI from ever looking at a lawmaker's documents.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected that claim. The court held that, while the search itself was constitutional, FBI agents crossed the line when they viewed every record in the office without giving Jefferson the chance to argue that some documents involved legislative business.

"The review of the Congressman's paper files when the search was executed exposed legislative material to the Executive" and violated the Constitution, the court wrote. "The Congressman is entitled to the return of documents that the court determines to be privileged."

The raid was part of a 16-month international bribery investigation of Jefferson, who allegedly accepted $100,000 from a telecommunications businessman, $90,000 of which was later recovered in a freezer in the congressman's Washington home.

Jefferson pleaded not guilty in June to charges of soliciting more than $500,000 in bribes while using his office to broker business deals in Africa. The Justice Department said it built that case without using the disputed documents from the raid.

The court did not rule whether, because portions of the search were illegal, prosecutors should be barred from using any of the records in their case against Jefferson. That will be decided by the federal judge in Virginia who is presiding over the criminal case."Today's opinion underscores the fact that the Department of Justice is required to follow the law, and that it is bound to abide by the Constitution," defense attorney Robert Trout, said, promising more legal challenges to "overreaching by the government in this case."
The Court said the Constitution insists that lawmakers must be free from any intrusion into their congressional duties. Such intrusion, even by a filter team, "may therefore chill the exchange of views with respect to legislative activity," the court held.

The case has cut across political party lines. Former House Speakers Newt Gingrich, a Republican, and Thomas Foley, a Democrat, filed legal documents opposing the raid, along with former House Minority Leader Bob Michel, a Republican.

Conservative groups Judicial Watch and the Washington Legal Foundation were joined by the liberal Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in supporting the legality of the raid.

Following his indictment, Jefferson's supporters accused the Bush administration of targeting Black Democrats to shift attention from the legal troubles of Republican congressmen.

"We are confident that as this case moves forward, and when all of the facts are known, we will prevail again and clear Congressman Jefferson's name," Trout said Friday.

Jefferson was re-elected to a ninth term in 2006. His win complicated things for Democratic leaders who promised to run the most ethical Congress in history.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., stripped Jefferson of his seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee and placed him instead on the Small Business Committee.
The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit judges who considered the case were Chief Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg, Judge Karen Lecraft Henderson and Judge Judith W. Rogers.

Ginsburg and Rogers served in the Justice Department and Henderson served as deputy South Carolina attorney general. None of the judges served in the legislative branch, though Rogers was counsel to a congressional commission formed to review Washington's municipal structure. Ginsburg and Henderson were appointed by Republican presidents, Rogers by a Democrat.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Woman Killed By Family Because She Loved Wrong Man.

Banaz Mahmod loved not less but last.LONDON (Reuters) - A Kurdish woman was brutally raped, stamped on and strangled by members of her family and their friends in an "honor killing" carried out at her London home because she had fallen in love with the wrong man.

(What kind of an animal could do something like this to another human being; or, worse still, to his own daughter? Are these the people who are in competition with us for the Moral Highground in this world?)

Banaz Mahmod, 20, was subjected to the 2-1/2 hour ordeal before she was garroted with a bootlace. Her body was stuffed into a suitcase and taken about 100 miles to Birmingham where it was buried in the back garden of a house.

Her badly decomposed body was found in April 2006, three months after the killing.

Last month a jury found her father Mahmod Mahmod, 52, and his brother Ari Mahmod, 51, guilty of murder after a three-month trial. Their associate Mohamad Hama, 30, had earlier admitted killing her.

On Thursday at a pre-sentence hearing for Hama, the Old Bailey heard details about Banaz's last moments.

Prosecutors said the three convicted men, along with two other suspects who are still at large, had carried out the killing fearing that the authorities were closing in on them.

They believed Banaz had brought shame on the family by leaving her husband, an Iraqi Kurd she had been forced to marry at 17, and falling in love with Rahmat Suleimani, an Iranian Kurd.

Her former unnamed partner had raped her as well as repeatedly beating her, the court heard.

Hama, who prosecutors said had been a ringleader in the murder, was caught by listening devices talking to a friend in prison about the murder.

In the recordings, transcripts of which were relayed to the court, Hama and his friend are hearing laughing as he described how she was killed with Banaz's uncle "supervising".

"I was kicking and stamping on her neck to get the soul out. I saw her stark naked, only wearing pants or underwear," Hama is recorded as saying.

His lawyers say there is no evidence to support the prosecution's claims.

The decision to kill her came after a meeting on January 23 -- the day before she was murdered -- when the family decided to take action before the police could foil their attempts, said prosecutor Victor Temple.

Hama is due to be sentenced on Friday with Mahmod Mahmod and his brother, Ari.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Woman Who Killed Purse Snatcher Faces Charges.

Dutch woman who killed thief to be tried; but was it murder? Or accidental homocide? Or justifiable homocide? Should she be prosecuted for trying to retrieve her purse from a purse snatcher? Did the thief get what he deserved? Did he intend the natural consequences of his acts? Was injury or death an anticipated consequence of his actions? Did he assume the risks?

A woman who fatally crushed a teenager with her car after he snatched her purse will be prosecuted, authorities said Friday, 27 July.

The early 2005 incident assumed national importance and inflamed tensions with the country's Moroccan community. The 19-year-old man came from a Moroccan family and the filmmaker Theo van Gogh had been murdered by a Muslim radical just two months earlier.

Some sympathized with the driver, believing she justifiably chased the thief and killed him accidentally. But many in Amsterdam's Moroccan community said the incident reflected Dutch disdain for them.

The story had many complexities, including the youth's criminal background and the driver's record of reckless driving.

The woman, identified as Germaine C., 45, was in her car when the teenager, identified as Ali el Bejjati, grabbed her purse from the back seat and then hopped on a scooter driven by a friend, prosecutors said Friday.

The woman chased them with her car in reverse and hit the scooter, pinning the thief against a tree. He died on the spot. His accomplice fled on foot.

The woman was arrested, interrogated and released several days later.

The prosecution said in a statement that formal charges would be filed later, adding they could range from vehicular homicide to reckless driving.

The national broadcaster, NOS news, reported that the woman had told police she wanted only to "bump" the scooter. It also reported she had previously been cited for driving in reverse on a freeway.

El Bejjati had been convicted before of purse theft and was awaiting trial on armed robbery charges when he died.
Dutch woman who killed thief to be tried By TOBY STERLING, Associated Press Writer
Fri Jul 27, 7:47 PM ET

A woman who fatally crushed a teenager with her car after he snatched her purse will be prosecuted, authorities said Friday.

The early 2005 incident assumed national importance and inflamed tensions with the country's Moroccan community. The 19-year-old man came from a Moroccan family and the filmmaker Theo van Gogh had been murdered by a Muslim radical just two months earlier.

Some sympathized with the driver, believing she justifiably chased the thief and killed him accidentally. But many in Amsterdam's Moroccan community said the incident reflected Dutch disdain for them.

The story had many complexities, including the youth's criminal background and the driver's record of reckless driving.

The woman, identified as Germaine C., 45, was in her car when the teenager, identified as Ali el Bejjati, grabbed her purse from the back seat and then hopped on a scooter driven by a friend, prosecutors said Friday.

The woman chased them with her car in reverse and hit the scooter, pinning the thief against a tree. He died on the spot. His accomplice fled on foot.

The woman was arrested, interrogated and released several days later.

The prosecution said in a statement that formal charges would be filed later, adding they could range from vehicular homicide to reckless driving.

The national broadcaster, NOS news, reported that the woman had told police she wanted only to "bump" the scooter. It also reported she had previously been cited for driving in reverse on a freeway.

El Bejjati had been convicted before of purse theft and was awaiting trial on armed robbery charges when he died.