John A. Steakely

Attorney John Steakley is a 1996 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law. He began his career as the Special Prosecutor for Drug Crimes for a multi-county, multi-agency drug task force in Tennessee, where he represented the State of Tennessee in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases in a 5-county judicial district.

Did the US Supreme Court Ignite a Rash of No-Knock Raids?

Did the US Supreme Court Ignite a Rash of No-Knock Raids?

Prior to 2006, if the police raided your home they had to prove that the raid was executed in the proper manner.  If it wasn't, then the evidence they found might not be admissible in court. 

In 2006, the United States Supreme Court issued Hudson v. Michigan.  In that case, a regular search warrant for Hudson's home was executed as  'no-knock" warrant.  The question for the court was whether the police could still use what they found, even though they did not execute the warrant properly.  The Supreme Court ruled that they could. 

After that opinion, I wondered why any police force anywhere would bother knocking ever again.  There's no benefit to police by knocking, and now the Supreme Court has said that even if the police do not knock, they still get to use what they find to convict the homeowner.

Since Hudson, it seems like we have seen a rash of botched no-knock raids that have resulted in innocent people getting shot and/or disfigured.  I wonder whether the Supreme Court opened the door to this or whether other forces were at play.  Or both. 

Your thoughts?

And no discussion of no-knock raids would be complete without Lindy's somber "No Knock Raid."

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FBI To Finally Start Recording Interrogations

Most people are shocked to learn that the FBI has until this year refused to record investigations.  By not recording investigations, a jury will hear only the FBI agent's summary of what was said, not what was actually said, and that is how the FBI liked it. 

But things change.  The FBI says they will now start recording interrogations "when possible."   Now if only state and local law enforcement would follow suit, we would all be better off.

More here, and here.

Forbes has a long piece here.

MORE:

Don't Talk To The Police - EVER!

False Confessions Plague Criminal Justice System With Wrongful Convictions and Wrongful "Guilty" Pleas

Famous False Confession Cases

Top Ten Ways to Damage Your Criminal Case

List of False Confession News

Why Do Innocent People Confess?

Another Top 10 Reasons to Remain SILENT

False Allegations, Arrests, Confessions and Convictions

 

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How A Marietta Lawyer Blew Open a GM Scandal

"Although attorneys are often justly lampooned, litigation has been more effective at shaping responsible business practices than government. It’s why trucks beep when they back up and farm machinery comes equipped with safety guards, why asbestos no longer poisons homes, schools and workplaces, and fast-food restaurants, aware of their super-sized liability, convinced meat packagers to clean up processing plants. When juries speak, Corporate America listens."

http://pando.com/2014/10/18/gms-hit-and-run-how-a-lawyer-mechanic-and-engineer-blew-the-lid-off-the-worst-auto-scandal-in-history/

 

 

 

 

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Georgia Taxpayers Cough Up $700,000 For Police Mischief

Georgia taxpayers will be shelling out almost three-quarters of a million dollars for the wrongful arrests (malicious prosecution) of some Morrow restaurant workers, reports the Fulton Daily Report. And it's not the first time that this officer has cost the taxpayers to open their wallets:

The city of Morrow has paid $700,000 to settle a malicious prosecution suit stemming from a midnight police raid during which a restaurant manager and her fiancé, an attorney, were handcuffed and jailed for nearly three days after being charged with nearly two dozen code violations.

The citations were all eventually dismissed but the raid, part of an alleged "campaign of harassment" against Cheerleaders Sports Café, was successful: The club never reopened following the arrests.

The settlement, reached late last year, was the last of three involving a now-departed police detective whose flawed arrests cost the city's insurer at least $950,000. One of the other two cases settled for $250,000, and another case—in which the insurer represented the officer, not the city—settled confidentially.

Police generally enjoy something called "qualified immunity" which means they are personally immune from most suits.  When they have to pay, it's not the police officers themselves that pay up; it's the taxpayer.  Thus, police have little personal incentive to behave.  They have "no skin in the game," to put it another way.  Some sort of limited liability for wrongdoing - even if capped at a single year's salary - would probably work to reduce problems like this case and save taxpayers millions of dollars.

At least one federal circuit has stepped in the right direction.

More mischief:

Cops Raid Home; Find Fruit

 

 

 

 

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List of False Confession News

Here is a great collection of recent news, articles and examples of false confessions, which continue to plague the system. 

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/the-confessions/false-confessions-and-interrogations/

Here are some earlier posts on the issue:

Famous False Confession Cases

False Confessions Plague Criminal Justice System With Wrongful Convictions and Wrongful "Guilty" Pleas

The Sad Case of Lester Eugene Siler

Top Five Reasons To Say NO To A Police Search

FBI To Finally Start Recording Interrogations

Why Do Innocent People Confess?

Another Top 10 Reasons to Remain SILENT

False Allegations, Arrests, Confessions and Convictions

 

 

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No Incarceration = No Lawyer = Debtor Prison

No Incarceration = No Lawyer = Debtor Prison

It seems that North Carolina has may try to save money by reclassifying certain crimes to carry no jail time and thus carry no entitlement to a taxpayer-funded attorney

Earlier this month, in an attempt to cut $2 million from its budget, North Carolina eliminated access to public counsel for thousands of poor criminal defendants each year. That’s not what the new law says: Tucked inside the state’s new budget, it reclassifies more than a dozen crimes into misdemeanors that cannot result in jail time. This is part of a pattern. Over the past two decades, swelling caseloads and fiscal belt-tightening have led several states, including Virginia and Minnesota, to create classes of crimes that can only be punished with a fine. In other states, the same thing happens case by case in the courtroom, where judges and prosecutors routinely declare they will not pursue jail time for minor infractions.

What’s not to like, if you’re caught with a small amount of drugs or driving without a license? The problem is that, left to fend for themselves in the courtroom, most defendants lack the basic legal skills to argue their innocence or reduce their punishment, and they’re often not told of the lifelong consequences that even minor convictions can carry. In an era when getting marked as criminal is often the severest punishment in itself, it makes increasingly little sense for only those facing incarceration to have a right to counsel.

The significance of petty convictions has changed a great deal since 1979, when the Supreme Court solidified this standard. Over the past three decades, the Internet has made criminal records available at a click, while public and private institutions have created myriad new restrictions on those with past convictions. More than ever, people with a record of misdemeanors, as well as felonies, are excluded from employment opportunities, student loans, food stamp eligibility, and professional licensing. A guilty plea to one of North Carolina’s new array of misdemeanors can enhance punishments for subsequent convictions. Also, an immigrant who racks up three or more misdemeanors can be deported. The same can happen with any one misdemeanor involving what the government deems “moral turpitude,” such as prostitution, selling drugs, or even writing a bad check.

Even before North Carolina’s new law took effect, judges commonly waived appointed counsel on small yet criminal marijuana charges, according to Matthew Suczynski, a criminal defense lawyer. “Most people being charged with marijuana possession are African-Americans, when they’re 17, 18 years old,” Suczynski told me. “Once they get convicted and have that mark against them, it’s nearly impossible to overcome. Those records are out there forever. It’s a system that just runs people over.”

More than 80 percent of defendants across the country are considered poor enough to be eligible for free defense counsel. At least 90 percent of all defendants will plead guilty to the charges they face. Research shows that defendants who don’t have lawyers are even more likely to simply enter a guilty plea, pay a fine, and be done with the process. That makes it cheaper for courts to run efficiently. The price, though, is often a clear understanding of the ramifications of pleading guilty.

In response, the effort is to reclassify crimes as not carrying incarceration so they defendants are not entitled to attorneys:

These efforts ease the caseloads of overburdened public defenders, allowing them to devote more time to the cases that do land in court. Last year the Brennan Center found that, on average, public defenders often spend a scanty total of six minutes with their clients at arraignment. By focusing on just one crime—driving with a suspended license—Boruchowitz says that Spokane’s diversion program reduced public defender caseloads by a third. That sounds a lot better than saddling poor defendants with consequences they’ve had no help thinking through.

Six minutes at arraignment?  If that's not enough to send someone running to hire a private attorney, I don't know what is.

Coincidentally, a recent and relevant Georgia case on this issue is the Ham v. State, 307 Ga.App. 485 (2010) holding that people have a right to an attorney in traffic cases because in traffic cases people can be sentenced to incarceration: 

In Jones [Jones v. Wharton, 253 Ga. 82,  316 S.E.2d 749 (1984)], the Supreme Court held that under Argersinger v. Hamlin, 407 U.S. 25,  92 S.Ct. 2006,  32 L.Ed.2d 530 (1972), regardless of whether the charges are felony or misdemeanor charges, when an accused is put on trial and faces a term of imprisonment, he is constitutionally guaranteed the right to counsel. Id. The accused may make a knowing and intelligent waiver of this right, but we may not presume such a waiver from a silent record.

 Ham v. State., 307 Ga.App. 485, 705 S.E.2d 301 (Ga. App., 2010)

Ham prevailed because there was no record of what happened in traffic court, so the appellate court had no choice but to give him the benefit of the doubt.

But this all raises another question.  Without incarceration, what are these places supposed to do when people don't pay?  Apparently, this

[P]eople struggling to pay overdue fines and fees associated with court costs for even the simplest traffic infractions are being thrown in jail across the United States.

Critics are calling the practice the new "debtors' prison" -- referring to the jails that flourished in the U.S. and Western Europe over 150 years ago. Before the time of bankruptcy laws and social safety nets, poor folks and ruined business owners were locked up until their debts were paid off.

Reforms eventually outlawed the practice. But groups like the Brennan Center for Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union say it's been reborn in local courts which may not be aware it's against the law to send indigent people to jail over unpaid fines and fees -- or they just haven't been called on it until now.

Opponents say that the use of incarceration to collect fines and fees costs more than it collects.

"It's a waste of taxpayer resources, and it undermines the integrity of the justice system," Carl Takei, staff attorney for the ACLU's National Prison Project, told FoxNews.com.

"The problem is it's not actually much of a money-making proposition ... to throw people in jail for fines and fees when they can't afford it. If counties weren't spending the money jailing people for not paying debts, they could be spending the money in other ways."

. . .

Fines are the court-imposed payments linked to a conviction -- whether it be for a minor traffic violation like driving without a license or a small drug offense, all the way up to felony. Fees are all those extras tacked on by the court to fund administrative services. These vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, with some courts imposing more than others.

As states and counties grapple with shrinking budgets and yearly shortfalls, new fees are often imposed to make up the difference, though they can be quite overwhelming to individuals passing through the system -- 80 percent of whom qualify as indigent (impoverished and unable to pay), according to the Brennan Center. Florida, for example, has added 20 new fees since 1996, according to the center. North Carolina imposes late fees on debt not paid and surcharges on payment plans.

 . . .

At the very least, according to the high court, the courts must inquire and assess whether a person is indigent and might benefit from an alternative method of payment, like community service, before sentencing.

"Even though a lot of jurisdictions do have statutes on the books that allow judges to waive fines and fees, it doesn't always happen," explained Lauren Brooke-Eisen, counsel for the Brennan Center's Justice Program.

Much of the time, probation or the conviction itself will hinder individuals from finding employment (Brennan estimates that some 60 percent are still unemployed a year after leaving jail). But another incarceration over debt could either ruin the job they managed to get or make it even harder to find one.

To try to make it more efficient, municipalities are turning to private probation companies:

Many jurisdictions have taken to hiring private collection/probation companies to go after debtors, giving them the authority to revoke probation and incarcerate if they can't pay. Research into the practice has found that private companies impose their own additional surcharges. Some 15 private companies have emerged to run these services in the South, including the popular Judicial Correction Services (JCS).

In 2012, Circuit Judge Hub Harrington at Harpersville Municipal Court in Alabama shut down what he called the "debtors' prison" process there, echoing complaints that private companies are only in it for the money. He cited JCS in part for sending indigent people to jail. Calling it a "judicially sanctioned extortion racket," Harrington said many defendants were locked up on bogus failure-to-appear warrants, and slapped with more fines and fees as a result.

Repeated calls to JCS in Alabama and Georgia were not returned.

I happen to be good friends with a JCS probation officer.  Nice guy. 

Defenders of the collection programs say the money is owed to the state and it's the government's right to go after it. "When, and only when, an individual is convicted of a crime, there are required fees and court costs," Pamela Dembe, president of the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, which oversees Philadelphia, said in a statement to reporters in May. An earlier review by the courts found an estimated 400,000 residents owed the city money. "If the defendant doesn't pay, law-abiding taxpayers must pay these costs."

The ultimate power of the state over the citizenry is physical force.  "It's all physical in the end", some say.  There has never been a civilized society in the history of mankind that didn't eventually use force to compel its most misbehaving members to either behave in a certain way or be segregated from the rest of society. 

For the guy who owes the city $100 and simply refuses to pay, what's the solution?  Ask him nicely?  Beg him?  Say "pretty please"?  At some point the state will incarcerate that person to make the point to other people that if they don't pay they will be incarcerated too.  It isn't about money.  It's about setting an example for everyone else out there. 

I think it's a little misleading to compare the cost of incarceration to only the money collected from the incarcerated people.  You have to compare the cost of incarceration to ALL the money collected because that money was collected under the believable threat of incarceration.  Keeping that threat believable isn't cheap, but it's an effective tool for collecting fines and fees from everyone else. 

 

 

 

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South Georgia Public Defender Office Sued

A lawsuit filed in January alleges that a public defender office in southern Georgia doesn't properly represent their clients, reports the AJC

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A South Georgia public defender office lets juveniles go unrepresented and processes adults through the courts in assembly-line fashion, a lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges.

The lawsuit targets the defender office for the four-county Cordele Judicial Circuit. It contends the office is so grossly underfunded and severely understaffed it cannot provide effective representation for indigent people accused of crimes.

“The right to counsel — essential for fair trials, equal justice, reliable verdicts and just sentences — is routinely violated or reduced to a hollow formality in the Cordele Judicial Circuit,” the suit alleges.

Gov. Nathan Deal, the head of the state’s public defender system, judges, prosecutors and commissioners from Ben Hill, Crisp, Dooly and Wilcox counties are among the defendants in the case. The suit seeks class-action status on behalf of other juvenile and adult defendants prosecuted in the circuit under similar circumstances.

The suit was filed by mothers of four juvenile defendants and by four adult defendants prosecuted in the Cordele circuit. They are represented by lawyers from the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta and by the Washington firm Arnold & Porter.

This echoes what United States Attorney General Eric Holder said in 2012:

"Across the country, public defender offices and other indigent defense providers are underfunded and understaffed.    Too often, when legal representation is available to the poor, it’s rendered less effective by insufficient resources, overwhelming caseloads, and inadequate oversight.

As a result, too many defendants are left to languish in jail for weeks, or even months, before counsel is appointed.    Too many children and adults enter the criminal justice system with nowhere to turn for guidance – and little understanding of their rights, the charges against them, or the potential sentences – and collateral consequences – that they face.    Some are even encouraged to waive their right to counsel altogether."

 Related:

Philadelphia Abandons Government-Run Public Defense?

Gideon Has Failed, Says NPR

Fifty Years Later, And It Still Doesn't Work

Fifty Years After Gideon v. Wainwright . . .

Despite the "True Believers," The Public Defender System is Broken

Indigent Defense Horror Stories

 

 

 

 

 

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Mass Man Arrested for Recording a Cop From His Own Porch

Mass Man Arrested for Recording a Cop From His Own Porch

Police in Massachusetts are at it again

FALL RIVER (CBS) – A Fall River man says he was recording a police officer who was out of control, but instead, he was arrested and his cell phone was seized.

Now the video he recorded is gone. Police say he erased it, even though they were the ones holding the phone.

Imagine that. 

George Thompson says last January he was just sitting on his front porch, watching a Fall River police officer working a paid detail. Thompson says the officer was on his phone and was swearing very loud.

That’s when Thompson pulled out his phone. Thompson says Officer Tom Barboza then rushed him and arrested him, charging him with unlawful wiretapping.

Note:  "sitting on front porch."  This guy is on his own property, not in public.  He's not interfering with anything or anyone.  But apparently, Officer Barboza didn't want to be recorded talking however he was talking to whoever he was talking to.

But in Massachusetts it’s perfectly legal to record video and audio of a public official, including police, as long as they are performing their duties and the recording isn’t hidden.

Even that is Constitutionally questionable.  If the person doing the recording is also the suspect being questioned, they may very well have a Due Process Right to record police, even secretly. 

“I think we all have our basic rights and I think people should not record others secretly or surreptitiously,” Fall River Police Chief Daniel Racine told WPRI.

Oh really?  Because police do that to people all the time.  That's why police departments are full of special interrogation rooms with hidden cameras. 

Thompson claims that two days after his arrest, his phone, which was locked up at the police station, somehow had all of the video erased.

Funny how that happens.

“If a Fall River police officer erased that video, he’s fired,” Chief Racine said. “And I would suspect the district attorney would take out charges.”

George Thompson is not buying it. “They’re investigating themselves and there’s a code of blue and everybody knows that,” Thompson says.

Nothing will happen.  There's no evidence who did or didn't erase the video and no one will confess to anything.  It's too bad that Mr. Thompson wasn't using my iphone app or the ACLU app or Eye Got You Covered.  If so, the video would be stored away safely out of police reach.

 

More:

http://baystateexaminer.com/man-sues-fall-river-police-officer-arrested-video-recording/

 

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Know Your Place, Citizen

Law enforcement is quick to post mugshots of people they arrest, even when those people are later found not guilty. But what happens when an arrestee posts a picture of the officer?  Well, that gets removed by court order.  Know your place, Citizen.   While the ACLU hypocritically refuses to advocate the Second Amendment, at least they will still fight for the First Amendment.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/03/31/you-cant-put-a-video-of-me-online-im-a-police-officer/

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Forsyth County Forfeits an Entire House

Forsyth County Forfeits an Entire House

Drug forfeitures are usually relatively small.  The police might forfeit the cash someone has in their wallet or automobile or the automobile itself, but rarely do you see an entire house forfeited without a fight.  But that's apparently exactly what happened in Forsyth County:

The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office is now the owner of a single-family home in west Forsyth, whose former residents the agency described as repeat drug offenders.

According to the sheriff’s office, Forsyth County Superior Court awarded it the two-story, 2,500-square-foot home in Sawnee View Farms on Oct. 29.

The house, which has a basement and sits on a half-acre lot, has been valued at about $258,000, according to county tax records.

The sheriff’s office believes this is the first time in recent memory that a house has been given to the county based on criminal activity.

But there is a catch: 

Despite the sheriff’s office taking ownership of the home, the agency still must undergo legal eviction proceedings to expel the people living in what he characterized as a “transient drug house.”

The home will eventually be put on the market, hopefully with an agent, but Piper said the sale will yield little, if any, profit.

The agency must first pay of the liens and mortgages against the property, which total about half the value of the house, he said. They will also pay the costs of the required legal proceedings.

Any remaining money would be handled through the legal guidelines of drug seizure funds.

The home was awarded to the sheriff’s office in a consent judgment, which states Wheeler agreed to forfeit the property.

That's highly unusual, which makes me think there is more to this story than meets the eye.  I can imagine what that might be, but it wouldn't be appropriate for me to speculate.

 

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Illinois Supreme Court Overturns Ban on Recording Public Officials

 

"The case involved Annabel Melongo, who was arrested for recording three telephone conversations with an assistant administrator at the Cook County Court Reporter's Office.  . . . . She was charged with six counts of eavesdropping in 2010 and spent 20 months in jail because she could not make bail. Her 2011 trial ended with a hung jury."

Kudos to the defendant for fighting back. 

 

 

 http://reason.com/blog/2014/03/20/illinois-supreme-court-unanimously-overt

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Sex Offender Registers His Registerers

A convicted sex offender forced to join a sex offender registry is fighting back by creating his own registry, reports the Washington Post:

If nothing else, Dennis Sobin is not your typical ex-con.

At first glance, he looks like the model returning citizen: After serving more than a decade in prison, Sobin, 70, returned to the District, started a gallery for prison art and ran for mayor. 

His nonprofit organizations have received grants from George Soros’s Open Society Institute and the National Endowment for the Arts and, in 2010, he appeared on the cover of the Washington City Paper .

But Sobin is also sex offender. A former pornographer who’s appeared on “The Sally Jesse Raphael Show” and “Geraldo,” Sobin was convicted of sexual performance using a minor in 1992 in Florida.

So, every 90 days, Sobin must report to D.C.’s Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), and his photo appears on D.C.’s public registry.

Sobin thinks it’s unfair. So, for his latest act, Sobin has decided to protest his treatment by creating his own online data base and registering the people who monitor him at the sex offender registry.

Now, in an unusual case that will be heard on Tuesday, a D.C. Superior Court judge will decide whether a court employee can file a civil protection order to prevent Sobin from posting her photo on his anti-registry registry, www.idiotsregistry.info , and distributing her photograph on fliers.

“Here at www.IdiotsRegistry.info you will find the names of politicians and public figures who have encouraged the creation of, or have refused to denounce, government registration websites that target citizens for harassment,” Sobin’s site reads. “In the tradition of Nazi registration of Jews and Gypsies and the Salem lists of alleged witches, modern government registries are unfair and un-American.”

So basically Sobin is calling out the government employees and naming names.  Bad names. 

“Face of Evil: ‘Registry Specialist’ Stephanie Gray shoots icy stare,” Sobin posted under a photo of Gray. “Gray requested and received a transfer due to the guilt she felt in her loathsome job.”

Gray sued. 

“He writes derogatory information about me,” Gray wrote in her request for a protection order. “I have been move[d] from the Sex Offender Registry and he continues to trash the bldg. where I am with pictures he has taken of me without me knowing.”

I fail to see the problem.  As far back as the founding of this country, the Founding Fathers disparaged the hell out of each other.  A quick internet search will reveal the legendary back-and-forth between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  ("A mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father," the Adams campaign wrote of Jefferson.)

I'm sure Ms. Gray loves her cushy government job, but as a public servant in the public eye, her activities are more open to public scrutiny than a person in non-government employment.  If we can't use the First Amendment to call out public employees, what good is it?

Related: 

 F*ck The Police, She Said

The Bird is Free Speech

 

 

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War on Drugs Claims Another Officer's Life

War on Drugs Claims Another Officer's Life

In Ogden, Utah, the War on Drugs has claimed the life of another officer.  

The tip about the marijuana plants came from an ex-girlfriend of Stewart's named Stacy Wilson. They had dated for about a year and a half but broke up in the summer of 2010. Erna Stewart introduced them. "I still feel guilty about that," she says. "He caught her cheating on him, they broke up, and it ended really badly. She was angry with him. He was heartbroken. She tried to get him fired from his job. She really had it out for him."

. . .

According to police documents, Wilson called the tip line in November 2010, two months before the raid, and spoke with Officer Jason Vanderwarf. Vanderwarf visited Stewart's house three times, but no one answered. After finding what he described as signs of a marijuana grow, however, he filed an affidavit to get the warrant.

That appears to be the extent of the investigation. The police never ran a background check on Wilson to assess her credibility. In fact, after their initial conversation, Vanderwarf said that he was "unable to contact her." He later told investigators that "She kinda fell off the face of the earth."

While there has been outrage over the death of the officer and the wounding of five others, there is also outrage over the use of military-style, life-or-death tactics employed in response to a victimless, non-violent crime such as growing marijuana. 

In the months following the raid, a number of other controversial police actions hit the news. Police in Salt Lake City broke into the home of a 76-year-old woman during a mistaken drug raid. A SWAT team in Ogden went to the wrong address in search of a man who had gone AWOL from the Army and ended up pointing its guns at an innocent family of four. Two narcotics detectives shot and killed a young woman in a suburb of Salt Lake City as she sat in her car.

Together, these incidents have spawned a budding police reform movement in Utah. At the head of it, Stewart's family members have been joined by a political odd couple: Jesse Fruhwirth, a longtime progressive activist rabble-rouser, and Connor Boyack, a wonky libertarian with a background in Republican politics. And independently, in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, the police chief and lead prosecutor have already begun to adopt some unconventional, reform-minded approaches to crime and punishment.

In the Ken Burns documentary "Prohibition", Burns interviews the son of a law enforcement officer shot and killed in an alcohol raid during Prohibition, just a few years before alcohol was re-legalized.  I would wager that years from now, the loved ones of this officer will look back and question why officers were expected to risk their lives over something like marijuana prohibition.  Applying a cost-benefit analysis, I question whether it is worth it.

This is one of a six-part series on the Utah movement to reform aggressive police tactics in drug cases.  

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New York Public Defender's "Persistent Failure"

In New York, a trial is pending regarding the state's "persistent failure" to provide adequate representation through the public defender system. 

The case was first filed in 2007, and seeks to remedy a "persistent failure" to deliver meaningful counsel to the poor by forcing a state takeover since New York's system places the responsibility of providing public defense on the counties.

. . .

After six years of back and forth, state Supreme Court Justice Eugene Devine wrote in a decision on Monday that the court "has observed that the reputation of the public defense system in this State has deteriorated" and that "there are substantial issues of fact to be resolved at trial." The trial is scheduled for March 17.

Corey Stoughton, lead attorney for the plaintiffs and a lawyer with the New York Civil Liberties Union, said this case would be the first time an entire state's system of indigent defense would be put on trial.

She said there have been similar court cases in a number of states, including Montana, Michigan and Georgia, though all have settled.

. . .

"The ultimate relief we're seeking is for the state to live up to its responsibility," Stoughton said. The U.S. Supreme Court began the right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment in 1963.

This doesn't shock me, nor should it shock anyone who works in the system.  It is always in your best interest to hire your own attorney rather than take your chances with whatever lawyer the government assigns to you.

Original source here.

Related:

Gideon Has Failed, Says NPR

Fifty Years Later, And It Still Doesn't Work

Fifty Years After Gideon v. Wainwright . . .

Despite the "True Believers," The Public Defender System is Broken

Indigent Defense Horror Stories

Most Would Not Trust A Public Defender

 

AG Holder Says Public Defenders Rendered "Less Effective" by Shortages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Alpharetta Pol Beats DUI

An Alpharetta official has beaten a DUI, reports the AJC

ALPHARETTA, Ga. —
An Alpharetta city councilman has been acquitted on charges he drove drunk with his son in his car.
 
Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik was the only reporter in the courtroom Friday when Judge Patsy Porter handed down her decision. 
 
She ruled the officer who arrested Michael Cross didn’t have probable cause because he didn’t witness Cross driving erratically and because he detained Cross first, then asked questions later.
  

But here is the important part: 

Martin said Cross refused to take a breath test or submit to a state-issued blood test, but that he believed Cross’ “manifestations” were consistent with someone driving under the influence.

The government does everything it can to convince you and me to take these tests, even threatening to suspend our driver's license when we don't.  But when a cop, or attorney, or politician get accused of DUI, they usually refuse the tests.  So should you.

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Popular Mechanics' "Top Ten Tips to Avoid Speeding Tickets"

Popular Mechanics' "Top Ten Tips to Avoid Speeding Tickets"

Popular Mechanics magazine has posted their "Top Ten Tips to Avoid Speeding Tickets."  Of course, my favorite is #4:

Keep quiet. Diamond says to present your license and registration and insurance card, and that's it. "You don't have to answer [anything] else—you have to say you're asserting your right to stay silent, or 'Please speak to my lawyer.' Do it in a polite way, nice and respectful. Antagonists get the most tickets. There are no warnings for a**holes." 

It's good reading and generally good advice.    Enjoy.

Top Ten Ways to Damage Your Criminal Case

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Do Homeless People Have The Same 2nd Amendment Rights As Homeowners?

Do Homeless People Have The Same 2nd Amendment Rights As Homeowners?

Recent 2nd Amendment cases have focused on citizens' right to keep firearms in their homes.  But what if you don't have a home?  Do you still have 2nd Amendment rights?

If you don't have a home, you still have your other rights (free speech, free expression, free press, religion, etc), but what about firearms?  Does the 2nd Amendment apply to a person or to that person's residence?  Is the 2nd Amendment limited only to those citizens wealthy enough to own a home?  Why should homeless people be denied the Constitutional right to defend themselves as is enjoyed by homeowners?

A Boston case may answer the question: 

http://www.wtsp.com/story/news/2014/11/28/homeless-womans-stun-gun-spurs-2nd-amendment-case/19639585/

So there are two questions here.  First, does the Second Amendment cover stun guns?  Most people think of firearms when they think of the Second Amendment, but the Amendment says "arms" not "firearms."  That means the Amendment covers all sorts of arms, possibly including stun guns.

The second issue is whether a right to keep "arms" in your "home" confers to homeless people the right to keep arms on their person (since they have no home). 

Noticeably absent here is the ACLU.  They claim to be the defender of the Bill of Rights and are frequent advocates for the homeless, but when it comes to the Second Amendment, the ACLU wants to pretend it doesn't exist.  Why?

Considering how the Supreme Court has dodged the issue of Second Amendment jurisprudence for almost a century, it's an exciting time for court watchers.  A 200+ year old right is being defined as we go. 

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More People Are Recording The Police

More People Are Recording The Police

Recording police-citizen encouters favor the people who play by the rules and disfavors those who don't.  There are plenty of good police officers who have nothing to fear because they carry out their job with professionalism.  But then there are the ones that prefer to not be recorded because they fear being held accountable.  Those are probably the ones who need recorded the most.

For example, would you expect police harassment for washing your car in your driveway?  Most people wouldn't.  Most people wouldn't even believe it possible, but thanks to modern technology we see that it is

In the movies, when police come calling, the ordinary citizen has two options: quake or pull out a gun.

In recent time, however, people have realized that they have a third, quite potent option: the cell phone.

They know that if they can film the experience, disbelief will have to be suspended, because the evidence is all too clear.

The latest example of a seemingly innocent man encountering a peculiar visit from a policeman comes from Long Island.

What the filmed evidence seems to show is a policeman wandering onto the man's private driveway and suggesting that it's illegal to wash his car there.

This is a subject I've addressed before.  I think you can record the police in any public space so long as you don't interfere with their job.  I also think that you have a Constitutional right to record your conversations even in a private place when you are the suspect.   Read more below:

Recording Conversations in Georgia

Will They Ever Learn? (Cont'd)

$25,000 For Woman Arrrested For Recording Police

Mistrial for Cop Accused of Recording Judge in Maryland

County Pays $645,549 To ACLU For Unconstitutional Prosecutions

Half of Americans Now Have Smartphones

CopBlock.org Founder Adam Mueller Appeals Convictions

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NC Court of Appeals Allows Arrest by HOA

I have previously noted the quasi-law-enforcement entities that are private homeowner association (HOA) security forces.  Now it seems the NC Appeals Court has weighed in on the issue, but on the side of the HOA: 

Rental cops hired by homeowners associations (HOA) can conduct traffic stops that would be unconstitutional if performed by an actual police officer, according to a ruling handed down last week by the North Carolina Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel took up the case of Frederick Lloyd Weaver Jr, who was stopped on April 20, 2012 by an armed security guard employed by Metro Special Police and Security Services. The HOA for the Carleton Place townhomes near the University of North Carolina at Wilmington contracted with Metro for security services.

North Carolina allows armed guards to wear police-like uniforms with badges, carry guns and drive cars with flashing red and white light bars. Qualifying for the security guard position requires four hours of classroom instruction and a day on the range.

Four hours in the classroom and a day at the range certainly doesn't compare to what a real police officer has to go through.

I stand by my earlier post that blurring the lines between who is and isn't endowed with state authority is a bad idea that will cause all sorts of problems.  Citizens need to know who is and isn't an officer, who does and doesn't have arrest powers, and who can and can't pull them over.  To blur those lines causes confusion and will encourage abuse. 

Hopefully, the NC Supreme Court will overrule this decision.

 

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"War on Drugs" Employs Forced Colonoscopy and Enema

"War on Drugs" Employs Forced Colonoscopy and Enema

These New Mexico officers really dig for the truth.  

David Eckert, 54, spent more than 12 hours in custody last January at a police station and local hospital after being pulled over for a traffic violation. Yet he was never charged, nor did authorities find illicit substances on him.

. . . 

After Eckert was pulled over, a Deming police officer said that he saw Eckert "was avoiding eye contact with me," his "left hand began to shake," and he stood "erect (with) his legs together," the affidavit stated.

Eckert was told he could go home after a third officer issued him a traffic citation. But before he did, Eckert voluntarily consented to a search of him and his vehicle, the affidavit states. A K-9 dog subsequently hit on a spot in the Dodge's driver's seat, though no drugs were found.


. . . 

Eckert was then put in "investigative detention" and transported around 2 p.m. to the Deming Police Department.

Sometime after that, a judge signed off a search warrant "to include but not limited to his anal cavity."

The next stop was Gila Regional Medical Center, where the lawsuit states "no drugs were found" in "an x-ray and two digital searches of his rectum by two different doctors." One doctor at this time found nothing unusual in his stool.

Three enemas were conducted on Eckert after 10:20 p.m. A chest X-ray followed, succeeded by a colonoscopy around 1:25 a.m.

After all this, "no drugs were found in or on Plaintiff's person."

I wonder how much taxpayer dollars were spent here to go after an amount of drugs no larger than will fit in the human colon.  That's going to be at most a misdemeanor amount of marijuana or a few grams of cocaine, methamphetamine or heroin.  Was it worth it?

Additionally, never, ever, ever consent to a search.  It can't help and it can only hurt.  Never do it.

Here's another take.  

Read More:

 $teakley's Golden Rules

Cops Raid Home; Find Fruit

Gwinnett Marijuana Grow House Searched, Bananas Found

TN Lawmakers Investigating "Policing for Profit"

How a Single Oxycontin Pill Nearly Ruined One Man's Life

Top Ten Ways to Damage Your Criminal Case

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