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Law and Disorder December 11, 2017


CCR: Current Supreme Court Dockets

We are currently living through an attack on every aspect of American democracy. This phenomena predated the Trump presidency and has been qualitatively accelerated by it.

This across-the-board constriction of the power and rule of the American people, to the extent that it had existed, has encompassed the suppression of voting rights; an attack on public education; the growth of enormous income inequality; the unimpeded influence of money in elections; the threat and constriction of the right of women to control their own bodies; the attack on peoples’ rights to build and join effective unions; the refusal to close the offshore prison of Guantánamo and the refusal to prosecute illegal torturers; the attack and net neutrality and access to the internet; the increase by the state of the surveillance of American citizens; the militarization of the police; encouragement of racism; the banning of Muslims; suppression of the right to demonstrate; and the growth in executive authority.

Guest – Attorney Baher Azmy, the Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. The CCR was founded in 1966 to advance the goals of the civil rights movement. Michael Ratner, our co-host and founder of Law And Disorder Radio, was its president emeritus at the time of his passing in May of last year.

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Lawyers You’ll Like: Alison McCrary

As part of our Lawyers You’ll Like series, today we are joined by Alison McCrary. Alison is a social justice attorney, a Catholic nun, president of the Louisiana Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, and a Spiritual Advisor on Louisiana’s death row. She is the former Program Director for the Community-Police Mediation at the New Orleans Office of the Independent Police Monitor where she created a national model for improving community-police relationships, taught at the New Orleans Police Academy, and helped develop similar programs in cities across the nation.

As a 2010 Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowship in New Orleans, Alison challenged and helped reform policing practices and policies to transform relationships between police officers and the bearers of New Orleans’ indigenous cultural traditions. Alison has served as a National Lawyers Guild legal observer trainer and the New Orleans Legal Observer® Program Coordinator.

Before law school, she worked at the Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana providing litigation support on death penalty cases and at the United Nations in New York monitoring the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolutions.

Guest – Attorney Alison McCrary. In New Orleans, Alison worked, clerked, and/or volunteered at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, the Louisiana Voters’ Rights Network, Equity and Inclusion Campaign for the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, Orleans Parish Public Defenders Office, Louisiana’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Loyola University’s Community Justice Clinic. Nationally, Alison coordinates and provides legal support for social justice movements such as the School of the Americas Watch. She received her J.D. from Loyola University’s College of Law in New Orleans and her B.A. in English at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

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Law and Disorder November 20, 2017


Law and Disorder Editorials:

  • FDA Approves Digital Pill by Heidi Boghosian

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Release Aging People in Prison Campaign

The number of persons 50 years and older in New York State has risen more than 98% since 2000; it now exceeds 10,000—nearly 20% of the total incarcerated population. This reflects a national crisis in the prison system and the extension of a culture of revenge and punishment into all areas of our society.

The organization Release Aging People in Prison, or RAPP, works to end mass incarceration and promote racial justice by getting elderly and infirm people out of prison.

Led by Mujahid Farid, a 2013 Soros Justice Fellow who was incarcerated for 33 years in New York before his release in 2011, RAPP focuses on aging people in prison, many of whom are long-termers convicted of serious crimes. Many of these human beings have transformed their lives and developed skills and abilities they lacked before incarceration. They could be released from prison with little or no threat to public safety. Yet many are denied release, often for political reasons, and they needlessly remain imprisoned into old age. These elders could return to their communities if current mechanisms such as parole and compassionate release were correctly utilized. We also support legislation in New York to correct the parole system and increase the number of releases.

Guest – Mujahid Farid co-founded the Prisoners AIDS Counseling and Education program and helped design prison-based sociology and theology courses that allowed others to earn college-credited in prison. He also earned four college degrees and other certifications while incarcerated, including his paralegal certificate, NYS Department of Labor Certificate in Human Development Counseling, and NYC Department of Health Certificate in HIV/AIDS Counseling.

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Guest – David George, Associate Director of RAPP. In the last few years Dave has organized with and on behalf of currently and formerly incarcerated people, including at the Osborne Association and Correctional Association of New York.

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Perpetual Line Up: Unregulated Police Face Recognition In America

The presence of surveillance cameras across the United States has enabled targeted facial recognition surveillance at essentially any place and any time. Each day law enforcement puts in place more and more cameras, including CCTV cameras, police body cameras, and cameras on drones and other aircraft. The FBI’s Next Generation Biometric Identification Database and its facial recognition unit, FACE Services, can search for and identify nearly 64 million Americans, either from its own databases or through access to state DMV databases of driving license photos.

It’s likely that government agencies will soon be able to pinpoint your location and even with whom you’ve been, just by typing your name into a computer.

The release of Apple’s IPhone X has drawn scrutiny to this technology. Despite civil liberties and privacy concerns, there are few limits on facial recognition technology. In March 2017 Congress held a hearing to discuss the risks of facial recognition surveillance. There is concern that facial recognition can be used to get around existing legal protections against location tracking, opening the door to unprecedented government monitoring an logging of personal associations, including protected First Amendment-related activities. Knowledge of individual’s political, religious and associational activities could lead the way to bias, persecution and abuse.

As with many technological advances, there are benefits, too. Facial recognition can assist in locating missing persons or for other public safety purposes.

Guest – Clare Garvie, Clare is a Law Fellow at the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology. Her research with the Center is on face recognition use by law enforcement and the disparate impact of payday lending on vulnerable communities. She worked on the Center’s 2016 report on facial recognition technology.

Law and Disorder October 23, 2017


Updates:

  • Co-host Attorney Heidi Boghosian Discusses Robert “Sugar Bear” Lark Case
  • Government Targeting Black Resistance Groups

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Victory In Al Shimari v CACI

President Trump told us during the campaign that he was in favor of torture because “it works.“ The Center for Constitutional Rights recently won a significant round in a case against a private military contractor, CACI who had tortured three of its clients at the infamous Abu Graib prison in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.

When he was president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner maintained that if the torturers were not  prosecuted, the practice of torture would be repeated. In fact none of the architects were held accountable in court. That is why the this recent procedural victory by CCR, in the case of Al Shimari is so important.

Guest – Attorney Katherine Gallagher is a Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. She works on universal jurisdiction and international criminal law cases involving U.S. and foreign officials and torture and other war crimes, and cases involving private military corporations and torture at Abu Ghraib. Her major cases include Al Shimari v. CACI, the international U.S. torture accountability cases, and Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) v. Vatican, seeking accountability for the crimes against humanity of sexual violence by clergy and cover-up.

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International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms: North Korea

Not since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, 55 years ago, has the prospect of nuclear war seemed so frightening. President Donald Trump, who alone can commence a nuclear attack, has threatened North Korea with “fire and fury.“ North Korea has a population of 25 million people.

Gabriel Sherman writing recently in the magazine Vanity Fair said that the situation with Trump has gotten so out of control that Trump’s Chief of Staff, General John Kelly, and his Secretary of Defense, General Jim Mattis, have discussed ways to stop Trump should he order a nuclear attack.

Obviously, the solution to winding down the escalating confrontation needs to be one of diplomacy. But when Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, the chief diplomat in America, attempted to do just that President Trump said publicly that “you are wasting your time.“

Guest – Peter Weiss, distinguished international lawyer and President Emeritus of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms and its US affiliate, the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy. He helped draft their October 10th, 2017 statement North Korea: Solution or Disaster. Peter Weiss was a founder of the Center for Constitutional Rights and its former Vice President.

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Law and Disorder September 25, 2017


35th Anniversary of Palestinian Mass Slaughter in Lebanon Refugee Camps

This month marks the 35th anniversary of the mass slaughter of civilian Palestinians by Lebanese fascists in their Lebanon refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. The Palestinians who lived in the camps had been driven out of their villages in the Galilee by Israel. They had lived there for hundreds of years until the Zionist colonialists expelled them in 1948. The Israeli Army aided in the 1982 slaughter. The 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which preceded the massacre, was given the greenlight by the United States. Up to 1982, the Palestine Liberation Organization, known as the PLO, had its headquarters in Beruit, Lebanon. This Israeli Army invaded Lebanon and succeeded in driving the PLO out. The United States gave written commitments to the PLO about protecting the civilian population in order to secure the PLO’s evacuation from Beruit the month before the slaughter at Sabra and Shatila camps.

Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon falsely asserted that there were 2000 terrorists in the camps. US Envoy to Lebanon Morris Draper did not dispute this falsehood. Sharon told Draper that ” We will kill them. They will not be left there. You are not going to save them.” Sharon sent Lebonese fascists into the refugee camps. They silently killed hundreds of Palestinians and Lebanese, mostly women and children and old men, using knives and bayonets. The Israeli Army lit up the killing fields with flares. There was such a worldwide outcry that Israel was forced to set up a commission of inquiry. That commission found that Sharon bore “personal responsibility” for the massacre and recommended that he be dismissed from his post as Defense Minister.

The blowback from these events in Lebanon 35 years ago still echo today in the wars America is conducting in Syria and Iraq.

Guest – Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University. He is the author of “Under Siege: PLO Decision Making During the 1982 War”. and most recently “Brokers of Deceit: How the US Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East.” Professor Khalidi recently had an article on the Sabra and Shatila massacre in The Nation magazine.

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Community Votes

The Queensbridge House public housing project in Long Island City Queens is the largest such complex in the country. With more than 7,000 residents, it’s a community with little faith in civic engagement. Like other public housing communities, and low-income neighborhoods in general, poor people vote at considerably lower rates than wealthier ones. Many feel apathetic, that the system is rigged, and that their votes don’t matter.

One nonprofit in NYC is using innovative partnerships with community-based social service organizations to conduct nonpartisan voter mobilization so more underrepresented citizens participate in our democracy.

Community Votes is trying to change the culture and mindset of large nonprofit social service agencies so they integrate into their day-to-day operations civic engagement activities. These activities include promoting awareness of elections and issues and encouraging voting and other participation in federal, state, and city policy making. A few years ago Community Votes partnered with the Jacob Riis Neighborhood Settlement, a longtime provider of social services in the Queensbridge Houses, to engage in personalized messaging to mobilize voters. The results were a considerably higher rate of voter turnout in the 2014 midterm elections.

Guest – Louisa Hackett is the director of Community Votes. Louisa founded Community Votes in 2013. Through her work at Community Resource Exchange providing consulting services to New York City nonprofit organizations, she recognized the assets direct service organizations have to turn more citizens into voters.

 

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Law and Disorder September 4, 2017


U.S. Antiwar Leaders Call for Actions to Oppose the Escalation of the Afghanistan War During the Week of the 16th Anniversary of the Invasion, October 2 – 8.

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Confederate Monuments and The Meaning of the Civil War

The American Civil War fought from 1861 to 1865 killed more Americans than all other wars combined. 600,000 Americans died in a war that was fought over whether slavery was to be abolished in the United States. The Confederate General, Robert E Lee, had only an 1100 acre plantation in Virginia and 60 slaves. The value of a slave was about $30,000 in today’s dollar. Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, owned a 1400 acre cotton plantation in Mississippi.

The institution of slavery was enormously profitable and led to the establishment of America as a leading capitalist power in the world. Slavery was supported in the south not just by the slave owners themselves but by many white persons who by virtue of their skin color saw themselves as superior to blacks. It was widely believed that black people were inferior to white people, both intellectually and morally. Lincoln issued the revolutionary Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, freeing southern slaves. They began taking up arms and fighting against the slaveowners. In the wake of the Civil War biracial democratic institutions were established in the south. This was overthrown shortly thereafter when the Northern capitalists and politician made a deal with the ex-slave owners in the south. Union troops which were supporting the black population were withdrawn.

Thereafter a system of Jim Crowe segregation was instituted and blacks were nearly reenslaved and used as landless sharecroppers or prison laborers. Segregation was reestablished and enforced by massive terror by whites against blacks. The Ku Klux Klan was founded and thousands of lynchings were undertaken, carried out before the white public who assembled in crowds for the event.

Statues of southern generals like Robert E Lee and monuments to the confederacy were erected, not after the Civil War, but many years later to reinforce Jim Crowe and combat the civil rights movement.

Guest – Bruce Carlin Levine – Civil War historian and University of Illinois Professor Emeritus. His latest book titled “Fall of the House of Dixie” is widely appreciated as one of the best books on the Civil war. “Bruce Levine has taught history at the University of California and the University of Illinois. He has written four books on the Civil War, including The Fall of the House of Dixie (Random House, 2005). He’s now writing a book for Simon & Schuster about the radical Republican leader during the Civil War era, Thaddeus Stevens.”

 

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Joe Aripao, Sheriff of Maricopa County Pardoned By President Trump

Last week President Trump pardoned, without him even requesting it, the infamous Joe Aripao, Sheriff of Maricopa County, which includes the heavily Latino community of Phoenix. Arizona. Sheriff Joe was in office for 26 years. Observers have called it a “reign of terror.”

He himself called his jail a “concentration camp.” He kept prisoners outside in tents with temperatures ranging from 40° to over 100°. Prisoners died at an alarming rate, often without explanation. He paraded hundreds of Hispanic prisoners in chains dressed in black and white stripes through the streets of Phoenix. Another time he force them to wear pink underwear.

He was pardoned by President Trump, who praised him lavishly, after a federal judge found him in contempt of court for ordering his department to arrest people soley because they looked Latino and ignoring a court order to stop. Arpaio was about to be sentenced when Trump stepped in and overrode the judge.

Guest – Professor Ellen Yaroshefsky, she teaches ethics at the law school at Hofstra University. She is a former staff attorney and later board member at the Center for Constitution Rights and a leader of the National Lawyers Guild.

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Law and Disorder August 28, 2017


 

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America

The spectacle of President Donald Trump and the palace intrigue in the White House has served daily to distract people from the political strategy and accomplishments of the radical right, which is taking over the Republican Party.

Over time, the GOP has been transformed into operation conducting a concerted effort to curb democratic rule in favor of capitalist interests in every branch of government, whatever the consequences. It is marching ever closer to the ultimate goal of reshaping the Constitution to protect monied interests. This gradual take over of a major political party happened steadily, over several decades, and often in plain sight.

Duke University Professor Nancy MacLean exposes the architecture of this change and it’s ultimate aim. She has written that “both my research and my observations as a citizen lead me to believe American democracy is in peril”.

Guest – Professor Nancy MacLean, whose new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, has been described by Publishers Weekly as “a thoroughly researched and gripping narrative… [and] a feat of American intellectual and political history.” Booklist called it “perhaps the best explanation to date of the roots of the political divide that threatens to irrevocably alter American government.” The author of four other books, including Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace (2006) called by the Chicago Tribune “contemporary history at its best,” and Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan, named a New York Times “noteworthy” book of 1994, MacLean is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy.

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lordsofsecrecy report1a

Senate Intelligence Committee Torture Report: Attorney Scott Horton

Guantanamo suicides, CIA interrogation techniques, CIA ordered physicians who violate the Hippocratic oath, are topics of some recent articles by returning guest attorney Scott Horton. Last month, he was on Democracy Now to debate former CIA General Counsel John Rizzo on the question of declassifying a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report about the agency’s secret detention and interrogation programs. His book Lords of Secrecy The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Foreign Policy will be published January 2015.

Attorney Scott Horton:

  • I think the results flow directly from the media coverage (ABC poll on Torture report)
  • Now major publications and broadcasters that hedged using the word torture have stopped doing that. There are only a handful of media sources that won’t do it. NPR being one of them.
  • The media also presents roughly twice as much time devoted to people justifying the use of torture techniques to those criticizing it.
  • Barack Obama who should lead the push back has gone completely silent. It’s beyond silent he talked about “tortured some folks” making it very casual, and then he said the torturers were patriots.
  • I thought it was electrifying reading. 90 percent of it I’ve heard about before and still when you read them in this clinical, plain, highly factual style and things were developed with a continuous flow with lots of background in decision making in Washington at the top and how all this effected what happened on the ground.
  • As a consumer of Congressional reports this probably the single most impressive Congressional oversight report I’ve ever seen.
  • It’s an excellent example of what the oversight committee should be doing all the time.
  • They’re doing this with respect to a program which was essentially or very largely wrapped up by October 2006.
  • We’re talking about 8 1/2 years ago.
  • They’re only able to do this kind of review in any depth when its historical, not when its real time oversight, that’s disappointing.
  • One thing that emerges from looking at these reports and the military reports is that there is a huge black hole which has never been fully developed and explored and that’s JSOC, its the military intelligence side.
  • That escaped review within the DOD process and it escaped review in CIA process and its clear that there’s a huge amount there.
  • I certainly don’t expect prosecutions to emerge for the next couple of years in the United States, but I see a process setting in that may eventually lead to prosecutions.
  • On the one hand we’re seeing a dangerous deterioration in relations with Russia, is an aggressor, which has seized territory in the heart of Europe, is waging a thinly veiled war on one of its neighbors. That is very unnerving to the major NATO powers.
  • On the other hand there’s never been a period in the history of the alliance when there is so much upset at the United States.
  • That’s come largely from the rise of the surveillance state and the role of the NSA.
  • I was looking at this report, and we know that in 2006, there was an internal review that led the CIA to conclude that these interrogation techniques were ineffective and the CIA internally decided to seek a large part of the authority for EIT’s and operation of black sites rescinded.
  • Another thing that’s very important here from this report, it tells us that Michael Hayden, George Tenant, Porter Goss and other very senior people at the CIA repeatedly intervened to block any form of punishment of people who are involved with torture and running the black sites.
  • That’s important because of the legal document Command Responsibility. The law says when command authority makes a decision not to prosecute and immunize people involved with torture and abuse, that results in the culpability of these crimes migrating up the chain of command.
  • I interviewed CIA agents who were involved in this program, and they told me they’ve all been brought out by legal counsels office and told – they may not leave the country.
  • That means you’ve got roughly 150 CIA agents, including many people near the top of the agency who can’t travel right now.
  • Lords of Secrecy The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Foreign Policy

Guest – Scott Horton, human rights lawyer and contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine. Scott’s column – No Comment. He graduated Texas Law School in Austin with a JD and was a partner in a large New York law firm, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler. His new book Lords of Secrecy The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Foreign Policy.

Law and Disorder July 3, 2017


 

Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party Victory

One of the bright and hopeful developments in world politics was the wide support that Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the British Labor Party got in that country’s recent elections. Corbyn ran on an unabashedly left platform. His party recruited tens of thousands of young people before and after the election. Although the conservative Government of Prime Minister Teresa May is still in power this is not likely to last long. To speak with us today about these developments in Great Britain and their relevance to the United States where we saw a similar phenomenon with the rise of Bernie Sanders, is Colin Robinson.

Guest – Colin Robinson is from Liverpool England and he lives in New York City. He’s the publisher of OR Books. Colin Robinson worked as a senior editor at Scribner and was previously managing director of Verso Books and publisher of The New Press. Among the authors he has published are Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, Mike Davis, Norman Finkelstein, Eduardo Galeano, Eric Hobsbawm, Lewis Lapham, Mike Marqusee, Rigoberta Menchú, Matt Taibbi and Jann Wenner.

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Raymond Nat Turner

Poem: Low Regard

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SCOTUS on CCR CASE

Just a few weeks ago the Supreme Court reversed a federal appeals court ruling that former high-level Bush administration officials may be sued for their roles in the post-9/11 profiling and abuse of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian men.

After the 9/11 attacks, hundreds of non-citizens were rounded up solely on the basis of their race, religion, ethnicity, and immigration status. They were held in extremely restrictive confinement and physically and psychologically abused. The Court held that high-level government officials who implement and create clearly unconstitutional policies alleged to be based on national security are nonetheless shielded from liability.

However, the Court did allow plaintiffs the chance to prove their case against Warden Dennis Hasty, finding that complaint’s allegations, “plausibly show the warden’s deliberate indifference” to the abuse plaintiffs suffered while they were held at the MDC. The claims against the Warden will be sent back to the lower courts for an opportunity to show that prison administrators are not entitled to the same immunity given to high-level officials in this case.

Guest – Senior Managing Attorney Shane Kadilal from the Center for Constitutional Rights. His cases there include challenges to the indefinite detention of men at Guantánamo and domestic immigration sweeps. He has been counsel in major CCR cases challenging the material support statute, the low rate of African-American firefighter hiring in New York City, and the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program.

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Law and Disorder May 15, 2017


Silk Road, Kingpin Charge and Ross Ulbricht

In 2015 a jury found that then 29-year-old Ross Ulbricht had created and run an anonymous digital black market for drugs called Silk Road. The case was a high profile one, and Ulbricht had come to be known by some as the face of the Dark Web. He was convicted on seven charges—including a “kingpin” charge—and Judge Katherine Forrest  imposed two life sentences and 40 years without possibility of parole. Prosecutors had not even sought such a long sentence.

In a 2016 appeal, defense attorneys outlined a litany of improprieties and abuses in the investigation and trial. Perhaps most serious was that the court procluded information about two corrupt federal agents investigating Silk Road who are now both serving prison sentences for corruption.

The defense team maintains that the convictions for Ulbricht should be vacated and that a new trial should be ordered or that he receive re-sentencing before a different judge.

A new book by Nick Bilton called  “American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind Silk Road” has received glowing reviews but presents what the Ulbricht family, his legal team, and supporters describe as a fictionalized version of the government’s narrative of the case, It is said that in many instances the author relied on claims that were not charged in trial.

Guest – Ross’s mother, Lyn Ulbricht. Lyn is working to help her son and directs those who want to learn more about her son’s case to the site Free Ross Ulbricht.

 

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Williams v. Pennsylvania: Mumia Abu-Jamal

In  2016 the Supreme Court in Williams v. Pennsylvania held that a prosecutor involved in seeking the death penalty should recuse himself if asked to judge an appeal in the capital case. Two months later, Mumia Abu-Jamal filed an appeal based on that decision, calling into direct question the validity of his criminal conviction, and the denial of his appeals. Ronald Castille, the same prosecutor in the Williams case, was a senior district attorney while Mumia’s case was being tried. He was also the District Attorney of Philadelphia during Mumia’s direct appeals. While serving on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Castille rejected a recusal motion filed by Mumia’s defense.

On April 24, Mumia’s 63rd birthday, his lawyers were back in court arguing that a Motion for Discovery should be granted to determine the particulars of Castille’s personal involvement in Mumia’s prosecution and appeals.

Judge Leon Tucker ruled in favor of Mumia’s demand for discover and for the DA’s files. The records must be turned over to Mumia’s attorneys by May 30, 2017.

Guest – Attorney Judy Ritter, Professor of Law and Director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at Widener’s Delaware campus. She argued in 2011 before the Third Circuit that the instructions given to the sentencing jurors were unconstitutional. The so-called Mills claim argument succeeded and Mumia, as our listeners know, no longer faces a sentence of death.

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Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted

Capital punishment has made news headlines over the past few months, as the state of Arkansas rushed to execute six men in a span of several days. For many years, the issue of state sanctioned killings has not received much attention. News of exonerations of innocent men and women are rare.

A new book, Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted, presents the true stories of 15 exonerees who were wrongfully convicted and thrown into the complex criminal justice system before being among the few to be exonerated.

Edited by Leslie Klinger and Laura Caldwell, the book is unusual in that each exoneree is paired with a high-profile mystery and thriller writer (including Lee Child, Sara Paretsky, Laurie King, Brad Parks and others) to present their narratives. Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project and author Scott Turow also provide commentary.

The book also includes a letter from playwright Arthur Miller, believed to be the first and only unpublished piece since his death. Kirkus Reviews called the compilation “a unique collection of 15 wrongful conviction sagas bound to shake faith in the American criminal justice system.”

Guest – Attorney and author Leslie Klinger, co-editor of Anatomy of Innocence and widely considered to be one of the world’s foremost authorities on Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, H. P. Lovecraft, and 19th-century genre fiction.

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Law and Disorder April 17, 2017


Update:

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US Bombs Syria

Donald Trump made two important promises during his presidential campaign: he vowed to not get involved in the Syrian Civil War where jihadist groups have been trying to overthrow the government of Assad for six years and the second promise he made during his campaign was to better relations with Russia which is a supporter of Assad and a strategic ally. Syria borders Russia to the south and has a warm water Mediterranean port.

Both these promises were broken on April 4, 2017 when President Trump illegally ordered the bombing by 54 Tomahawk missiles of the Shayrat Air Base in eastern Syria. The missile strike violated the United Nations charter, the convention against the use of chemical warfare, and United States law called the War Powers Act, not to mention Article 2 of the US Constitution. In support of his unilateral decision to bomb a sovereign nation with whom the United States is not at war,  President Trump claimed that he was motivated by learning of the horrible death of several children in the farm village of Khan Shaykhun.  The children died of an alleged poison gas attack which Trump claimed was carried out by the Assad government, which denies the charge. Without an impartial objective investigation required by The Chemical Weapons Convention,without going to the United Nations Security Council, and without any evidence, President Trump claimed that sarin, a poisonous nerve gas, was used by the Assad government.

Trump’s former critics who sprung to his defense included Hillary Clinton, Senate Minority Leader Democrat Chuck Schumer, and Republican leaders John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the entire mass media including the New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, and CNN.  Television reporter Brian Wilson use the word “beautiful” three times to describe the tomahawk missile explosions. Why did Trump reversed his position of not getting involved in the Syrian civil war? Why did he all the sudden take on Russia, to whom he had pledged better relations?

Guest – Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at IPS, working as a writer, activist and analyst on Middle East and UN issues. She is also a fellow of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. In 2001 she helped found and remains active with the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. She works with many anti-war organizations, and writes and speaks widely across the U.S. and around the world as part of the global peace movement. She has served as an informal adviser to several top UN officials on Middle East and UN democratization issues.

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A Chicago Cop is Accused of Framing 51 People For Murder

Fifty years ago the great comedian Lenny Bruce used to crack that “Chicago is so corrupt it’s thrilling.” It has become known as “the conviction capital of the USA.” Today retired Chicago detective is accused of framing at least 51 people for murder, most of them from Humboldt Park in Chicago, a working class predominately Puerto Rican neighborhood. He was on the force from the 1980s through the early 2000’s. Guevara’s alleged misconduct sent 48 men and one woman to be sentenced to a total of more than 2300 years in prison. Three were acquitted. Five received life sentences. Three were sentenced to death, but spared when in 2003 Governor George Ryan, disturbed by a rash of wrongful convictions, commuted all of the death sentences to life in prison or less. Two men died behind bars.The initial work in uncovering Guevara’s misconduct fell by default to a group of women, mostly working class mothers, aunts, and sisters with limited English and limited familiarity with the law.

As investigative reporter Melissa Segura has written in BuzzFeed, “armed with nothing more than dining room tables full of transcripts, police  reports, and post it notes, marking the cracks in cases against their love ones, together they identified patterns running through Guevara’s cases.” They achieved some victories.  They gave information to civil rights attorneys at the Loevy and Loevy Chicago law firm which helped free Juan Johnson who later went on to receive a record $21 million and a judgment against the city of Chicago because of Guevara’s misconduct. So far six men have had their convictions overturned, 12 others have been released, 29 say they were framed remade in prison. Detective Guevara’s Witnesses by Melissa Segura

Guest – Attorney Tara Thompson is the founder of the Exoneration Project at Loevy and Loevy. Following law school Tara worked as an associate in Mayer Brown’s Chicago office, where she represented clients in a variety of litigation matters, including a significant commitment to pro bono representation. She left Mayer Brown in 2006 to clerk for Judge Elaine Bucklo of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. After completing her clerkship, she joined Loevy & Loevy in 2007.

Guest – Attorney Anand Swaminathan, is litigating the civil damage cases arising from the work of Guevara’s frame ups and which have demonstrated a pattern and practice of police misconduct. Since joining the firm, Anand has worked on a broad range of constitutional and civil rights cases, including wrongful convictions, the denial of medical care to inmates and detainees in jails and prisons, and retaliation for exercising free speech rights. Anand also works extensively on False Claims Act litigation, in which he represents whistle-blowers alleging military and other government contractor fraud, Medicare and Medicaid fraud, construction/contractor (MBE/DBE) fraud, bid-rigging, and tax fraud. Anand also represents whistleblowers in financial fraud cases under the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, and in complex fraud cases under other federal and state statutes.

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Carl Messineo Consent Decrees and Policing in the U.S.

During the Obama administration, the Justice Department has sought to reform police practices considered discriminatory by using a statutory tool little known by the public and even less well understood. So-called “consent decrees” were established after the Los Angeles Rodney King riots, and allow the Department’s Civil Rights Division to sue local police forces that have been found to have “a pattern and practice” of using excessive force or violating individuals’ rights.

The DOJ launches an investigation into a police department’s operations, frequently after a high-profile incident – such as the 2014 shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and Laquan McDonald in Chicago. If the feds find that the departments operate with an ongoing pattern of abuse, they sue, in essence forcing the law enforcement groups to settle the cases and undergo a change to their culture to a degree deemed sufficient by the court and the DOJ.

Some of the more recent agreements, like those with the Baltimore and Ferguson Police Departments, are better known to the public, but others are not and many haven’t yet seen a resolution. Out of 19 investigations carried out since 2010, six are considered “ongoing.”

Jeff Sessions said in 2008 that “One of the most dangerous, and rarely discussed, exercises of raw power is the issuance of expansive court decrees. Consent decrees have a profound effect on our legal system as they constitute an end run around the democratic process.” The new Attorney General has threatened to do away with them.

Guest – Attorney Carl Messineo, co-founder of The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, a nonprofit progressive legal organization based in Washington DC. The organization focuses on cases regarding free speech and dissent, domestic spying and surveillance, police misconduct, government transparency, and educating the public about their rights. In the “Founders Message,” the organization states, “As we look to the future, the Partnership will continue to be at the forefront of legal struggle, using the law to defend and create room for the peoples’ movement for progressive social change.”

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Law and Disorder April 3, 2017


Trial Judge Rules Against 69 Year Old Palestinian Activist Rasmea Odeh

In 1969, when she was a 21 year old college student in Ramallah in the Israeli occupied territories on the West Bank,  Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian woman, was arrested for killing two Israeli University students with a bomb placed in a supermarket.  She confessed to the crime and served 10 years in prison, getting out in a prisoner swap. She came to United States 20 years ago, obtained citizenship, and settled in Chicago as a community organizer of immigrant Arab women.  Odeh was criminally charged two years ago by the federal government with “unlawful procurement of naturalization.” In her application, she omitted mention of the crime for which she was convicted in Israel. In her defense, she said that she could not remember, that she had post traumatic stress disorder as a result of being tortured in jail for 25 days and forced to sign a false confession. Her expert witness was not allowed to testify as to the PSTD and the torture.  The trial judge’s ruling on this was overturned by a Federal Court of Appeals. Last week she agreed to a plea arrangement where she would be stripped of her citizenship and deported rather than face a 5 to 7 year prison sentence and indefinite detention by ICE. She is 69 years old and does not know where she will be sent inasmuch as she cannot go home.

Guest – Attorney Michael Deutsch  had represented Rasmea Odeh. He is a partner at the Peoples Law Office in Chicago and a former legal director at the  Center for Constitutional Rights. After clerking for United States Court of Appeals Judge Otto Kerner, Mr. Deutsch went into private practice, joining People’s Law Office in 1970 where he has represented political activists and victims of police and government civil rights violations. His advocacy has taken him all around the world, including to hearings in the United Nations. He has tried many civil and criminal cases in federal and state courts, and has written and argued numerous appeals, including several in the United States Supreme Court.

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New York City Titanpointe National Security Agency Protest

There is a massive 550 foot tall gray granite and cement NSA spying hub hidden in plain sight in a windowless skyscraper in downtown Manhattan. At noon on April 15 an action is planned by a group called the Quiet American. It is an arts and politics journal based in Ridgewood, Queens, New York. They will perform a rite of exorcism on the building in order to, as their press release states, “to metaphysically purge the edifice of the data it hoards and to invoke a less maniacal version of citizen-government relations.”

The building is located at 33 Thomas Street where the action will take place. It is a windowless monolith that people say is “creepy as hell” and “a monument to the bottomless fear that locks us in permanent war”. The building was designed to withstand a nuclear assault and sustain its employees working there for two weeks.

Guest –  Eli Smith, a musician and activist from Brooklyn, who has helped organize the event. Eli Smith is also a folklorist and music producer who organizes the annual “Brooklyn Folk Festival”, a huge weekend music gathering now in its ninth year, and coming up at the end of April.

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Lawsuit Forces EPA Head To Release More Emails Exposing Fossil Fuel Ties

Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, was recently sued by the Center for Media and Democracy to force the release of emails exposing ties with fossil fuel backers and the Oklahoma Office of Attorney General.

The suit, filed on behalf of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), seeks an emergency injunction to prevent Pruitt from destroying any documents relevant to the group’s open records requests before his confirmation hearing. Since 2015, CMD filed seven records requests with Pruitt’s office seeking communications with Koch Industries and other coal, oil, and gas corporations as well as the corporate-funded Republican Attorney General’s Association.

Pruitt has yet to turn over a single document, despite acknowledging that his office has 3,000 emails and other documents relevant to CMD’s initial request. The Oklahoma Open Records Act provides that “the people are vested with the inherent right to know and be fully informed about their government . . . so they may efficiently and intelligently exercise their inherent political power.”

The act also mandates that a public body “must provide prompt, reasonable access to its records.” With Pruitt seeking confirmation to become EPA administrator, these public records are essential for the U.S. Senate to do its job.

“There is no valid legal justification for the emails we received last night not being released prior to Pruitt’s confirmation vote other than to evade public scrutiny,” said Arn Pearson, general counsel for CMD. “There are hundreds of emails between the AG’s office, Devon Energy, and other polluters that Senators should have been permitted to review prior to their vote to assess Pruitt’s ties to the fossil fuel industry.”

Guest – Arn Pearson, General Counsel and Policy Advisor from the Center for Media and Democracy. He previously served as the Vice President for Policy and Litigation at Common Cause. Arn has worked for more than 20 years developing federal and state policy and legal strategies around campaign finance reform, government ethics, corporate accountability, and tax reform.

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