Tag Archive: Criminal Justice

Sep 29 2017

The Russian Connection: Put the Fox in Charge

Back in October of 2016 the FBI and computer experts were looking at a Russian bank’s servers examining if there was a connection between the bank and the Trump organization. It appeared that Alpha Bank was using a secret server to interact with the Trump Tower during the campaign. The investigation was dismissed by some …

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Sep 14 2015

Criminal Justice System: Arrested Development

Most people never expect to get arrested but many who do are poor and cannot afford a lawyer to represent them, so they are provided with a public defenders. Sounds fair but is it? According to John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” it is far from fair or adequate.

John Oliver: If you’re forced to rely on “hideously broken” public defender system, “you’re f*cked”

By Scott Eric Kaufman, Salon

On “Last Week Tonight” Sunday, host John Oliver discussed the plight of those forced to rely on “the attorneys provided for you” if you can’t afford one – public defenders – and how the poor are being “charged for access to a hideously broken system.” [..]

Oliver later discussed the ordeal of a Floridian who was arrested on a traffic violation and racked up over $600 in court fees in order plead “no contest.” “They may as well as charged him an irony fee,” Oliver said, “because as it turns out, being poor in Florida is really fucking expensive.”

Arrested? John Oliver Has A Warning You Have To Hear

Ed Mazza, Huffington Post

Public defenders are so overworked that they often handle hundreds of cases — or in Fresno County, California, they handle up to 1,000 felony cases a year when state guidelines say they should only have 150.

And in New Orleans, some public defenders get an average of seven minutes to prepare a case. [..]

It’s so bad that New Orleans is turning to crowdfunding to make up its budget shortfall, Oliver said, and many states now even charge people for access to a public defender.

“We have a system where conceivably, if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you, provided that you pay that attorney, which is absurd,” Oliver said. “You can’t tell people something’s free and then charge them for it. This is the American judicial system — not Candy Crush.”

Jul 22 2015

The Ugly Truth About the US Criminal Justice System

With the latest incident in Waller County, Texas that ended in the suspicious death of Chicago civil rights activist Sandra Bland three days after she was arrested for a minor traffic infraction, the discussion of racism and brutality by officers in police departments across the United States has again been raised. The account of Ms. Bland’s arrest and death are being questioned by the family, civil rights groups and the media.

Footage has emerged of police allegedly slamming the head of a woman to the ground as she was arrested just days before she committed suicide in jail.

Sandra Bland, a Chicago civil rights activist, was found dead in her cell at Waller County Jail in Texas.

She had been booked three days earlier on grounds of assaulting a public servant after the fraught arrest by the side of a highway, during which she angrily accused officers of harming her.

An autopsy performed a day later classified her death as suicide by hanging – though friends and family have said there is no way Bland would have killed herself.

Bland was part of the ‪#‎BlackLiveMatter movement and posted videos about civil rights and racism on social media.

In an effort to quell the public outcries for more thorough investigation, Texas authorities released the police car dash-cam video. However, this raised even more questions since the video not only contradicts arresting officer Brian Encina’s written account of the traffic stop and the events that led up to Ms. Bland’s arrest, the video also appears to have been edited which the Texas Department of Public Safety is denying.

In the video, which is more than 52 minutes long, there are several spots in which cars and people disappear and reappear. When it released the video, the Public Safety Department did not mention any editing. The audio ends more than a minute before the video images do.

One of the more conspicuous anomalies comes 25 minutes and five seconds into the video, when a man walks from a truck off screen and then reappears suddenly at the spot where he began walking. The image flutters for a moment before resuming.

There are no breaks in the audio during this time. People are heard talking through the video gaps.

In another spot at 32 minutes and 37 seconds, a white car appears on the right side of the screen and then disappears. A moment later, what appears to be the same car comes back into the frame and turns left. During this time, Encinia is talking about what occurred during the arrest. There are no breaks in his speech.

What look like the same cars keep appearing in the same locations, following their same paths, beginning at 33 minutes and 4 seconds.

Again, the audio continues uninterrupted.

The glitches in the video sparked a wave of skepticism and questions in social media, with many critics arguing that the evidence had been edited.

Ed. Note: The original video in the article was disabled by the user, presumably the Texas Department of Public Safety, who said that a new video would be posted later. This a full, unedited copy of the one that was originally posted.

One of those critics is “Selma” director Ava DuVernay who said in a tweet

Racism and brutality are ingrained and systemic in many police departments. Worst of all it is condoned and covered-up by those who are charged with oversight of these departments. The host of MSNBC’s “All In” Chris Hayes discussed the problems encountered by former Chicago Independent Police Review Authority Investigator Lorenzo Davis, who was fired from his job for refusing orders to reverse his findings of unjustified shootings by Chicago police officers.

After being confronted on stage at NetRoots Nation in Phoenix, Arizona by “BlackLivesMatters protestors, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called for major police reforms after he watched the dash-cam video. While much racism is rooted in economic issues, it is also systemic in our society and the heritage of white supremacy. The battle for equality for blacks and other oppressed minorities is far from over in this country. “BlackLivesMatter. Let’s start making it matter to the criminal justice system and hold these officers of the law accountable for the laws they break.

Feb 10 2015

Brooklyn DA Gets It Right: Update

Up date: 2/11/2015 15:00 EDT

From the NYT:

A New York City police officer was arraigned Wednesday afternoon in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn on several felony charges, including second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man in an East New York housing project.

The officer, Peter Liang, appeared in a suit and tie and stood silently as a prosecutor read the charges against him in the death of the man, Akai Gurley: the top charge of manslaughter as well as criminally negligent homicide and second-degree assault, both felonies, and misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment and two counts of official misconduct. [..]

He pleaded not guilty before Justice Daniel Chun of Brooklyn and was released on his own recognizance.

It has been reported that a New York City police officer has been indicted in the shooting a young black man in a Brooklyn housing project stairwell on November 20 of last year. According to three sources close to the grand jury proceeding, rookie Police Officer Peter Liang, 27 will be charged in the death of 28-year-old Akai Gurley inside the darkened stairwell of the Pink Houses in East New York, Brooklyn. There was no comment from the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson. An official statement on the charges is expected Wednesday.

On the night of Nov. 20, Gurley and his girlfriend, 28-year-old Melissa Butler, left Butler’s seventh-floor apartment inside the Louis Pink housing projects. The pair tried to take the elevator but it wasn’t working, so they entered the building’s stairwell.

The building’s superintendent had requested that the New York City Housing Authority fix the lights in the stairwell months earlier, but when Gurley and Butler entered, it was still dark.

Just as they entered stairwell, two first-year police officers — Liang and his partner, Shaun Landau — entered from the eighth floor. The two cops were conducting a “vertical patrol,” in which officers walk the stairs of public housing buildings in order to prevent crime.

According to multiple reports, Liang was carrying his gun in one hand and a flashlight in another, when he opened the door to the stairwell. At that moment, a bullet was fired from Liang’s gun, striking Gurley in the chest. Gurley managed to get down two flights of stairs before collapsing on the fifth floor, where a neighbor called 911 and Butler tried to administer first aid.

Gurley — a father of a 2-year-old daughter, and who had been planning on surprising his mother in Florida for Thanksgiving the following weekend — was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The indictment comes after grand juries in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, a borough of New York City, voted not to charge the white police officers who killed two black men, Michael Brown, 18 and Eric Garner, 42, that raised serious questions about the grand jury system, and the relationship of local district attorneys with the police.

This could not have been an easy case for DA Thompson but, it will now be decided in a public trial before a jury if Off. Laing should be held responsible for Mr. Gurley’s death.