Friday, October 14, 2016

Too Broken to Fix: An In-Depth Look at America's Outlier Death Penalty Counties
"A new report from the Fair Punishment Project at Harvard Law School offers an in-depth look at how the death penalty is operating in the small handful of counties across the country that are still using it. Of the 3,143 county or county equivalents in the United States, only 16—or one half of one percent—imposed five or more death sentences between 2010 and 2015. Part I of the report, titled Too Broken to Fix: An In-depth Look at America’s Outlier Death Penalty Countiesexamined 10 years of court opinions and records from eight of these 16 “outlier counties,” including Caddo Parish (LA), Clark (NV), Duval (FL), Harris (TX), Maricopa (AZ), Mobile (AL), Kern (CA) and Riverside (CA). The report also analyzed all of the new death sentences handed down in these counties since 2010. Click here to read the report."

View Part II
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram Sent Feeds that Helped Police Track Minorities in Ferguson and Baltimore, Report Says
"A powerful surveillance program that police used for tracking racially charged protests in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., relied on special feeds of user data provided by Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, according to an ACLU report.

The companies provided the data — often including the locations, photos and other information posted publicly by users — to Geofeedia, a Chicago-based company that says it analyzes social media posts to deliver real-time surveillance information to help 500 law enforcement agencies track and respond to crime. The social media companies cut off Geofeedia’s access to the streams of user data in recent weeks after the ACLU discovered them and alerted the companies about looming public exposure.

The popularity of Geofeedia and similar programs highlights how the rise of social media has given governments worldwide powerful new ways to monitor crime and civil unrest. Authorities often target such surveillance at minority groups or others seeking to publicly air political grievances, potentially chilling free speech, said the ACLU’s California affiliate, which unearthed Geofeedia’s relationship with social media companies through a public records request of dozens of law enforcement agencies."

CRS Report on "The Advocacy of Terrorism on the Internet: Freedom of Speech Issues and Material Support Statutes"
"This report discusses relevant precedent concerning the extent to which advocacy of terrorism may be restricted in a manner consistent with the First Amendment's Freedom of Speech Clause.  The report also discusses the potential application of the federal ban on the provision of material support to foreign terrorist organizations (PTOs) to the advocacy of terrorism, including as it relates to the dissemination of such advocacy via online services like Twitter or Facebook."

ATF Drug Stings Targeted Minorities, Report Finds
"A new report has found 'strong, consistent and statistically significant' evidence that federal gun agents singled out minorities for controversial drug stings in Chicago.

The stings had been a centerpiece of efforts by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to target violent crime. Agents lured suspects with the promise of a huge payday for robbing a drug “stash house” that did not actually exist, then left them facing long prison sentences for plotting to resell the imaginary drugs."

View the Report
A Wake-up Call on the Junk Science Infesting our Courtrooms
"On the popular television show 'CSI,' forensic evidence was portrayed as glitzy, high-tech — and virtually infallible. Unfortunately, this depiction is often a far cry from reality. This week, a significant report issued by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) persuasively explains that expert evidence based on a number of forensic methods — such as bite mark analysis, firearms identification, footwear analysis and microscopic hair comparisons — lacks adequate scientific validation. Quite simply, these techniques have not yet been proved to be reliable forms of legal proof.

The report is a much-needed wake-up call to all who care about the integrity of the criminal-justice system. It builds upon mounting evidence that certain types of 'forensic feature-comparison methods' may not be as reliable as they have long appeared. A recent, unprecedented joint study by the Innocence Project and the FBI looked at decades of testimony by hair examiners in criminal cases — and found flaws in the testimony an astonishing 95 percent of the time. In a number of serious felonies, DNA testing has revealed that bite-mark evidence underpinning convictions was simply incorrect. More generally, faulty forensic evidence has been found in roughly half of all cases in which post-conviction DNA testing has led to exoneration.

What is noteworthy about the new report is that it is written solely by eminent scientists who carefully assess forensic methods according to appropriate scientific standards. The report finds that many forensic techniques do not yet pass scientific muster. This strongly implies these techniques are not ready for use in the courtroom either."

View the Report
"No Life for a Child": A Roadmap to End Immigration Detention of Children and Family Separation
"Canada should urgently implement alternatives to detaining children rather than housing them in immigration detention facilities or separating them from their detained parents, the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program (IHRP) said in a report released today. In failing to do so, Canada is violating its international legal obligations....

The 70-page report, “‘No Life for a Child’: A Roadmap to End Immigration Detention of Children and Family Separation,” uncovers the deficient legal underpinnings and detrimental practical implications of Canadian immigration detention for children. The report makes 11 recommendations to ensure that Canada complies with its international human rights obligations, and analyzes various international models of alternatives to detention and family separation. The report concludes that children and families with children should be released from detention outright or given access to community-based alternatives to detention, such as reporting obligations, financial deposits, guarantors, and electronic monitoring."

The Rise and Fall of Community Policing in Chicago
"Community policing has long been a matter of life and death in Chicago. When it's worked, researchers have found that communities of color report less fear of crime and better relations with the police, which can translate into improved crime prevention and fewer shootings. And in a year when shootings have skyrocketed and community trust of the police has been severely damaged by the release of a series of videos capturing police shootings, it's been touted by politicians as a powerful crime-fighting strategy.

'Chicago is where the whole idea of community policing began,' Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a speech on police accountability on December 9, 2015, just two weeks after the release of the Laquan McDonald video rocked the city and sparked a crisis in police-community relations. 'It remains the best and most comprehensive approach we have in changing the everyday conditions that breed crime and violence and then breed mistrust.'

But nine months after that speech, an analysis by City Bureau and the Reader finds CAPS in crisis. Chicago's once-trailblazing community policing program has been hollowed out by years of budget cuts and restructuring. Stretched thin, the police department no longer has the money necessary to reach out to the community and quickly follow up on citizen complaints... CAPS today is an uneven patchwork of programs around the city. The result has been the destruction of the trust and goodwill the police department had built in the early years of CAPS."

Rape, Murder, Famine - and $2.1 Million for K Street PR
"By almost any objective measure, the fledgling nation of South Sudan is an unmitigated disaster — reeling from a violent power struggle that’s left an estimated 50,000 people dead just in the past three years. Last week, as the country turned five, renewed factional violence reportedly killed as many as 270 more and displaced thousands before leaders agreed to a ceasefire on Monday.

While opposition forces are responsible for some of the historical bloodshed, South Sudanese government forces 'bore the greatest responsibility' for human rights violations in 2015, according to a United Nations report. Those government forces have raped and murdered civilians, recruited child soldiers and looted civilian property.

Meanwhile, more than 5 million people in South Sudan are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the World Food Programme’s estimate, and many of them face “unprecedented levels of food insecurity,” say U.N. agencies. One in five South Sudanese have fled their homes, according to international development organization Mercy Corps.

But while the South Sudanese government largely claims it doesn’t have enough money to fix these problems, the struggling government was able to spend $2.1 million on Washington, D.C., lobbying and public relations firms from 2014 through the end of 2015 — $2.1 million to buff up its image, keep U.S. aid flowing and stave off harsher U.S.-backed sanctions in response to its atrocities."