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Showing posts from January, 2010

Constitutionality of 'Jessica's Law' questioned

Treating sex predators differently from other violent offenders may violate equal protection guarantees, the California Supreme Court says.By Maura Dolan

The California Supreme Court ruled 5 to 2 Thursday that a 2006 ballot initiative that permitted the state to lock up sexually violent predators indefinitely may violate constitutional guarantees of equal protection.

The ruling, written by Justice Carlos R. Moreno, did not strike down the measure, Proposition 83, also known as "Jessica's Law."

Instead, the court said a fact-finding hearing must be held to determine whether valid reasons exist for treating sex predators differently from others subject to civil confinement, such as mentally disordered offenders.

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Tiller's Killer Puts Abortion on Trial

BySharon LernerThe murder trial of Scott Roeder, confessed killer of abortion provider George Tiller, is being conducted as a case of savior against savior, which is in fact the title of the GQ piece detailing the events of May 31, 2009, the day Roeder shot Tiller in church. The piece begins on a disturbingly even-handed note: "Both men believed they were doing right..." And, though the judge has ruled that the jury will not be able to consider the killing either manslaughter or second-degree murder, the trial, which began last week in Wichita, Kansas, has unfortunately headed in a similar direction, with Roeder testifying today about his antiabortion beliefs, his religious awakening while watching The 700 Club on TV and his frustration with the legal system--as if any of this could way justify killing.

Perhaps Tiller, a family physician who ran an abortion clinic and one of the few doctors in the country to openly perform the procedure in the third trimester, did have some o…

Rightwing lawlessness revealed, again

byKai Wrighton 01/27/2010 @ 09:09amHere's a bizarre trait a friend of mine likes to point out about America's privileged class: The accusations too many of its denizens hurl down at poorer, usually darker people say more about themselves than anything else. Those raging against the entitlement programs that form our social safety net are some of the most entitled, underserving people in our society. People obsessed with perversion are among the most morally depraved you'll meet. And those who see crime and fraud lurking around every corner rarely have much respect for the rule of law. Which brings us to James O'Keefe. O'Keefe, you'll recall, was the "investigative journalist" who posed as a pimp, alongside his faux-hooker friend, to make a celebrated gotcha video revealing ACORN's purported crimes. Now comes this news: The FBI arrested O'Keefe and three co-conspirators on Monday for posing as telephone workers, seemingly in order to bug the …

The “school to prison pipeline” must end

By Michelle Chen, January 25, 2010 We need to stop militarizing our schools.Across the country, school administrators are making cops and metal detectors as much a part of the school day as teachers and textbooks. So-called zero-tolerance disciplinary policies are transforming the campus into hostile territory, alienating communities and pushing vulnerable students to give up on their education.The coercive climate extends beyond school grounds.To children in poor communities of color, the school day is too often an extension of the crisis engulfing their neighborhoods, where violence, police abuse, drugs and joblessness loom over their streets and homes.Read on...

New RCMP watchdog is toothless

Patronage appointment is patronizing to Canadians
Gary MasonGive Ian McPhail marks for honesty anyway. When the newly appointed watchdog of the RCMP was asked by The Globe and Mail's Colin Freeze what he knew about the federal civilian oversight body he was taking over, he said our reporter likely knew more about the agency's background than he did. The Prime Minister's Office must have loved reading that. Mr. McPhail's new job as chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP is one of the most cynical and discouraging appointments this government has made in the past four years. The only qualification that the man seems to have for the job is the past work that he has done for the Conservative Party.
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13 Activists, 9 from Minnesota, Arrested in Front of The White House for Protesting US Militarism

WASHINGTON - January 26 - The Twin Cities Campaign for Peace, Women Against Military Madness, and other Minnestoan peace groups, aligned with the Peaceable Assembly Campaign, organized a civil disobedience action today, in Washington, D.C. 13 nonviolent activists were arrested in front of the White House protesting US militarism. Beginning at 10:30 a.m., over thirty participants read names of 77 Minnesotans killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with the names of Iraqis and Afghans killed in the U.S. wars. After each name was read, a bell was rung and the participants said “We Remember You.” A banner that read, “Occupation” was pelted with shoes inscribed with anti war slogans. Finally, the 13 walked onto the sidewalk and laid down in remembrance of the war dead. Father William Pickard anointed the “dead” with olive oil.
The Washington D.C. Park Police arrested all 13 lying on the pavement. Vickie Andrews, John Braun, Marie Braun, Lori Blanding, Ward Brennan, Stephen…

Pennsylvania Leads Nation in Per Capita Rate of Black Homicide Victimization

State's Black Homicide Victimization Rate of 36.36 Per 100,000 is Nearly Seven Times National Overall Homicide Rate of 5.30 per 100,000
WASHINGTON - January 26 - Pennsylvania leads the nation in the rate of black homicide victimization according to a new analysis of unpublished Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) data released today by the Violence Policy Center (VPC). The annual study, "Black Homicide Victimization in the United States: An Analysis of 2007 Homicide Data," ( uses 2007 data--the most recent data available from the FBI--and ranks the 50 states according to their black homicide victimization rates. The study found overwhelmingly that firearms, usually handguns, were the weapon of choice in the homicides. This is the fourth year that the VPC has issued the report and the third time in fo…

ACLU Issues Report On Obama Administration's Civil Liberties Record

January 19, 2010 First Year Saw Civil Rights Advances And End Of Torture But Continuation Of Overbroad Domestic Surveillance PracticesNEW YORK – The Obama administration's record on restoring civil liberties during its first year in office is mixed, according to a new report analyzing the administration's performance released today by the American Civil Liberties Union. Of a set of 145 detailed recommendations the ACLU made to the new president upon his election, the administration has acted on just over one-third of them.

"Starting with bold executive orders to end torture and close the prison at Guantánamo, and continuing with positive actions in areas like open government and civil rights, the Obama administration has made some significant strides toward restoring civil liberties and the rule of law," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "But in other areas, the administration has fallen short by allowing some of the Bush administration's…

Texas Sends Mentally Retarded Prisoners to Death Row Using Junk Science

By Renée Feltz, Texas Observer. Posted January 21, 2010.

Despite a U.S. Supreme Court ban, Texas still sends mentally retarded people to the execution chamber. Now, one Mexican immigrant's case could change this.

Floresbinda Plata hadn't seen a doctor during her entire pregnancy in the desolate village of Angoa in Michoacan, Mexico. But after four hours of painful labor, she sought help at the nearest clinic, an hour away by dirt road. After Plata arrived, Dr. Luis Zapien recalls, "We pulled [the baby] out and he was born completely flaccid and purple."

Floresbinda heard the doctor say that her son was dead before he untwined the umbilical cord that was wrapped twice around the baby's neck and began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. After several minutes, though, her son began breathing. But the lack of oxygen had already damaged his brain. A nurse checked off a simple behavioral checklist -- did he cry, did he respond appropriately? -- and gave him two points out …

States rethink 'adult time for adult crime'

By Stephanie Chen, CNN

(CNN) -- A year ago, Maydellyn Lamourt watched her 16-year-old son's dreams fall apart.The outgoing sophomore who enjoyed playing sports was charged and sentenced as an adult in Connecticut for third-degree assault.The crime: He and a friend stole a pack of gum from another teen.Because he entered the adult penal system, the teen's prospects of joining the Marines are dim. His troubles have landed him in an alternative high school.If Lamourt's son had committed the crime this month, his situation would be different. His record would have been sealed in the juvenile system.Earlier this month, Connecticut raised from 16 to 17 the age at which a juvenile is automatically prosecuted as an adult. The change comes at a time when the "adult time for adult crime" mentality is being re-examined in several states and challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court.Read on...

Campaign finance ruling reflects Supreme Court's growing audacity

By Michael Waldman Friday, January 22, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Thursday upended a century's worth of campaign finance law. An immediate question raised by the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision is whether this will flood elections with suddenly legal corporate money. Less understood but deeply significant is what this shows about the court and its relationship to the Obama administration and Congress.

This far-reaching ruling augurs a significant power struggle. For the first time since 1937, an increasingly conservative federal judiciary faces a progressive and activist Congress and president. Until now, it was unclear how the justices would accommodate the new political alignment. The Citizens United decision suggests an assertive court, eager to overturn precedent, looming as a challenge to President Obama's agenda.

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Too Terrible To Be True?

Why aren't we talking about the new accusations of murder at Gitmo?
By Dahlia Lithwick

Guantanamo Bay military prison

Some torture stories are just too horrible to contemplate, while others are too complicated to understand. But Scott Horton's devastating new exposé of the possible murders of three prisoners at Guantanamo in 2006 is neither: It's simply too terrible to allow to be true. Which is why it has been mostly ignored this week in the mainstream American media and paid little attention by the usual crew of torture apologists on the right. The fact that three Guantanamo prisoners—none of whom had any links to terrorism and two of whom had already been cleared for release—may have been killed there and the deaths covered up, should be front-page news. That brand-new evidence of this possible atrocity from military guards was given only the most cursory investigation by the Obama administration should warrant some kind of blowback. But changing what we allow ourselves to…

The Bush-Packed Supreme Court Thinks Corporations Are People Too

By Scott Klinger, AlterNet. Posted January 22, 2010.

Corporations now have all the privileges of citizenship, without any of the responsibilities.

This week's Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case removes all limits on large corporations to finance and influence federal elections. In its ruling the court reverses a decades-old ruling barring companies from using their general funds to fund political campaigns, and guts pieces of the popular McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation. In so doing the Court implicitly embraces a 125 year-old precedent in the case of Santa Clara v. Santa Fe, where the Court first developed the legal doctrine of corporate personhood, explicitly granting corporations the same political and civil rights granted to human beings (historian Thom Hartmann discovered that the principle originated with a corrupt court clerk who added it to the case summary, rather than with the court itself).But what if we accept corporate personhood as t…

Centre of Criminology Blog named a top 50 forensic science tech blog

Top 50 Blogs for Forensic Science Technicians

Forensic science includes a number of interesting parts from a variety of disciplines. In fact, in order to be a good forensic science technician, it can help to have a basic understanding of a few different areas of science, as well as a working knowledge of criminal justice policy and procedure. Here are 50 top blogs for forensic science technicians:General Forensics BlogsIf you want a basic overview of forensics, these blogs can give you a great look at what the world is like when you are a forensic science technician.

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John Ll. Edwards Lecture

Judges, Masters, Diviners: Slaves’ Experience of Criminal Justice in Colonial Suriname”

January 25, 2010 at 4:30 pm Reception to Follow

Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto 14 Queen's Park Crescent West Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 3K9 Event Contact: Brendan Heath:

Natalie Zemon Davis
Professor Emerita of History at Princeton University
Adjunct Professor of History and Professor of Medieval Studies, University of Toronto

Natalie Zemon Davis is one of the world’s most influential historians. Her work has profoundly shaped how scholars use legal and other sources to shed light on power and inequality in everyday life. Her 1975 book Society and Culture in Early Modern France pioneered the study of ‘everyday life’, and took the then radical step of considering gender as a central analytical category. The 1983 book The return of Martin Guerre, released at the same time as the film, was a case study about an impostor whose identity came under legal scrutiny. How …

National Survey Indicates One in Four Girls Aged 12-17 Were Involved in Serious Fights or Attacks in the Past Year

Prevalence of violent acts differs by family income, school attendance, and levels of substance use

A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that, in the past year, one quarter (26.7 percent) of adolescent girls participated in a serious fight at school or work, group-against-group fight, or an attack on others with the intent to inflict serious harm.“These findings are alarming,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “We need to do a better job reaching girls at risk and teaching them how to resolve problems without resorting to violence.”When combined, 2006 to 2008 data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows that 18.6 percent of adolescent females got into a serious fight at school or work in the past year, 14.1 percent participated in a group-against-group fight, and 5.7 percent attacked others with the intent to seriously hurt them; one quarter (26.7 percent) of adolescent females engaged in at lea…

Moral Bankruptcy: Why Are We Letting Wall Street Off So Easy?

by Joseph E. Stiglitz

It is said that a near-death experience forces one to reevaluate priorities and values. The global economy has just escaped a near-death experience. The crisis exposed the flaws in the prevailing economic model, but it also exposed flaws in our society. Much has been written about the foolishness of the risks that the financial sector undertook, the devastation that its institutions have brought to the economy, and the fiscal deficits that have resulted. Too little has been written about the underlying moral deficit that has been exposed-a deficit that is larger, and harder to correct. One of the lessons of this crisis is that there is a need for collective action, that there is a role for government. But there are others. We allowed markets to blindly shape our economy, but in doing so, they also shaped our society. We should take this opportunity to ask: Are we sure that the way that they have been molding us is what we want?We have created a society in which m…

iSchool Colloquium: Critical Reflections on the Growth of CCTV in the UK

The next talk in the iSchool series will feature guest speaker, Professor Clive Norris, from the Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield, in the UK.His talk will outline the growth of CCTV as the primary crime prevention strategy of successive governments, and consider the evaluation evidence as to its effectiveness as a means of crime prevention and detection. The talk will then reflect the implications of the shift from face to face policing to camera mediated policing strategies for our understanding of policing and social control.Please join us on Wednesday, January 20th, at noon, in Room 728, 140 St. George Street, at the Faculty of Information, Claude Bissell building.

About Professor Clive Norris

Professor of Sociology and Head of Department
Department of Sociological Studies, University of SheffieldFor the last decade, his research has involved documenting and analysing the increased use of surveillance in contemporary society. In particular it ha…

Justice Denied: Eight Years and Counting

By Suzanne Ito Monday Jan 11, 2010 7:00pm

Eight years ago today, a Department of Defense C-141 transport plane carrying 20 prisoners arrived in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. On that day, January 11, 2002, the naval base began operating as a detention center for men captured in President Bush's so-called "war on terror."Since that day, nearly 800 prisoners, men as old as 98 and boys as young as 13, have passed through Gitmo. The notorious prison camp has seared into the mind of the world images of hooded, goggled, orange-jumpsuit-clad prisoners shackled in cages. Guantánamo has become synonymous with torture and abuse. Its very existence is a symbol of disregard for the rule of law.Read on...

Ontario to appoint Crown to prosecute OPP chief

Shannon Kari, National Post Published: Tuesday, January 12, 2010OPP Chief Julian Fantino is facing a criminal charge of attempting to influence municipal officials as a result of an email he sent in 2007 to a councillor in Haldimand County in Southern Ontario, ... The Ontario government is going ahead with plans to appoint one of its own Crown attorneys to prosecute Julian Fantino, even though it tried to stop criminal charges against the Commissioner of the OPP from going ahead.A provincial Crown will first address the matter in court on Friday morning.Read on...

Detaining children in Britain: No place for the innocent

What kind of country drags vulnerable children from their beds at daybreak, puts them behind bars and fills them with terror? Paul Vallely meets a family who have endured this horror – in Britain. And they're not alone

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Reuters Corridor of power: Europe's largest detention centre for immigrants, Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre, where the Mansours were taken

The thundering knock came early in the morning. It was 6.30am. Without waiting for an answer the security chain across the door was smashed from its fittings. Feet thundered up the staircase. The five children, all under the age of 10, were alarmed to be woken from their sleep by the dozen burly strangers who burst into their bedrooms, switched on the lights and shouted at them to get up. This is not a police state. It is Manchester in supposedly civilised Britain in the 21st century. There is a clue to what this is about in the names of the children: Nardin, who is …

Did a Court Just Deal a Fatal Blow to Tasers for Police?

By Raj Jayadev and Aram James, New America Media.

The ruling may signal the end of Tasers for law enforcement agencies who are now more vulnerable to civil and criminal action then ever before.

In what is being heralded as a landmark decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently declared that police officers could be held liable for using a Taser without proper cause. And in making their determination, the court also set new legal parameters on how law enforcement is to use Tasers, stating, "The objective facts must indicate that the suspect poses an immediate threat to the officer or a member of the public." The federal finding substantially changes the landscape of Taser usage, and may signal the end of Tasers for law enforcement agencies who are now more vulnerable to civil and criminal action then ever before.

The decision, which has already caused law enforcement agencies to re-evaluate their Taser policies, stems from a case involving…

Group Gives Up Death Penalty Work


Last fall, the American Law Institute, which created the intellectual framework for the modern capital justice system almost 50 years ago, pronounced its project a failure and walked away from it.There were other important death penalty developments last year: the number of death sentences continued to fall, Ohio switched to a single chemical for lethal injections and New Mexico repealed its death penalty entirely. But not one of them was as significant as the institute’s move, which represents a tectonic shift in legal theory.Read on...

Bradley Birkenfeld: UBS Informant To Begin Prison Sentence Friday

Updated: 01- 5-10 10:30 AM

UBS Informant Bradley Birkenfeld, Convicted Of Fraud, Will Start His Prison Sentence On Frida

MIAMI (CURT ANDERSON -- AP) -- A federal judge refused Monday to postpone prison or consider a lighter sentence for a former Swiss banker-turned-informant who helped launch a massive U.S. tax evasion investigation into banking giant UBS AG.The decision by U.S. District Judge William Zloch means Bradley Birkenfeld must report to prison Friday to begin a sentence of three years and four months, which is longer than what prosecutors had sought. Zloch also refused to schedule a hearing on whether to reconsider the sentence. Birkenfeld pleaded guilty last year to a fraud conspiracy charge.Prosecutors credit Birkenfeld, 44, with exposing wrongdoing at UBS and leading investigators to thousands of suspected American tax cheaters who hid assets in the Swiss bank's accounts. But they also said Birkenfeld failed to disclose his own crimes, including his work for a C…

New scanners break child porn laws

Alan Travis, home affairs editor

A 12-month trial at Manchester airport of full body scanners only went ahead last month after under-18s were exempted. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty ImagesThe rapid introduction of full body scanners at British airports threatens to breach child protection laws which ban the creation of indecent images of children, the Guardian has learned.Privacy campaigners claim the images created by the machines are so graphic they amount to "virtual strip-searching" and have called for safeguards to protect the privacy of passengers involved.Ministers now face having to exempt under 18s from the scans or face the delays of introducing new legislation to ensure airport security staff do not commit offences under child pornography laws.Read on...

Right-Wing 'Experts' Justify Profiling, Body Scanners with Familiar Paranoid Rhetoric

By Gavin Dahl, Raw Story. Posted January 4, 2010.

A retired general makes egregious claims that that "in the next 30-100 days," there is "very high probability a US airliner will come down."

In the wake of the failed Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound flight, a large number of so-called experts have raised the ire of civil libertarians in their pursuit of increasingly draconian security measures.Appearing on Fox News Saturday, a retired U.S. general called for "very serious, harsh profiling," singling out in particular all 18-28 year old Muslim men, calling for them to be "strip searched" at airports.As new TSA regulations take effect, passengers flying into the country from abroad will be subject to random screening or so-called "threat-based" screens.Read on...

Legal Abortion Is a Fundamental Right -- Why Do We Often Forget That?

By Frances Kissling, The Women's Media Center. Posted January 3, 2010.

It's time to demand that the promise of Roe becomes a reality for women whose choices are already limited by poverty, joblessness and marginalization.

The debate about abortion coverage in health insurance reform is the latest disappointing moment in the efforts of feminists to ensure that the social transformation Roe promised women was equally available to all women, including those who were dependent on the government for health care. To hear President Obama call the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal Medicaid funds for abortion, an “American tradition” is only the most recent of many misstatements about what a fundamental right entails. It seems that prochoice legislators, following the president’s lead, now explicitly consider that throwing women who cannot afford to pay for their own abortions under the bus is a reasonable compromise between those who favor and those who oppose lega…

Prisons and Budgets

The United States, which has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, has about one-quarter of its prisoners. But the relentless rise in the nation’s prison population has suddenly slowed as many states discover that it is simply too expensive to overincarcerate.

Between 1987 and 2007 the prison population nearly tripled, from 585,000 to almost 1.6 million. Much of that increase occurred in states — many with falling crime rates — that had adopted overly harsh punishment policies, such as the “three strikes and you’re out” rule and drug laws requiring that nonviolent drug offenders be locked away.

Read on...

This is another New York Times editorial from Jan. 3rd. Here is a link to the Michigan report that is referenced in the editorial. Tom

Tasers and Liability

A federal appeals court in California has sent a strong warning to law enforcement officials that should make them rethink the all-too-common use of Tasers. It ruled last week that a police officer can be held liable for delivering a high-level electric shock to an unarmed person who poses no immediate threat.

Carl Bryan, 21, was driving to his parents’ home in Southern California when he was stopped for speeding. On the same trip, he was pulled over for not wearing a seat belt. Angry at facing a second traffic citation, he hit the steering wheel and yelled expletives to himself. He then stepped out of the car. There is some disagreement over what happened next — the officer said Mr. Bryan took “one step” toward him, while Mr. Bryan said he did not take any. It is undisputed that Mr. Bryan, who was not armed, did not verbally threaten the officer and was not attempting to flee.

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This is a Jan. 4 New York Times editorial. Tom