My friend Kristin Froehlich, the sister of a murdered brother, sent in this Letter PUBLISHED today, 6/10/19 in The Delaware State News.
On May 30, New Hampshire became the 21st state to abolish the death penalty. As the sister of a murdered brother, I agree with the murder victims’ family members in New Hampshire who testified that the death penalty fails to provide for the needs of victims’ family members, often immersing them in more trauma. I affirm the law enforcement officers who testified that the death penalty fails as a public safety measure.
The news of New Hampshire’s repeal gives me hope after learning that some legislators in Delaware have introduced a bill (HB 165) to reinstate Delaware’s death penalty, which was declared unconstitutional by the Delaware Supreme Court in 2016.
Bringing it back will not change the fact that the death penalty fails as a deterrent to murder for both the public and public safety officials. Wilmington was called murder town USA and law enforcement officers were killed in Delaware while the death penalty was active. There are better ways to improve safety.
Ex-Cuyahoga County Jail medical supervisor files whistleblower lawsuit saying he was ousted for speaking out against jail conditions
These scumbag prison officials who so abuse their power MUST be prosecuted! READ
Excerpts from the Article:
A former Cuyahoga County Jail medical supervisor’s whistleblower lawsuit filed late Tuesday against Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish offers the clearest account of what happened at the jail in the days and months before a string of inmate deaths.
It also raises a previously undisclosed allegation that jail officials covered up the violent beating of an inmate at the hands of a corrections officer.
Former Interim Director of Ambulatory Care Gary Brack’s lawsuit says his firing at Budish’s request caused widespread fear of retaliation for anyone who sought to speak up about wrongdoing in the county. He also accuses Budish of allowing former jail director Ken Mills to act with impunity and push a cost-cutting agenda at the jail that fueled deteriorating conditions. His testimony came weeks before the first of eight inmates died in 2018.
The lawsuit centers around a May 22, 2018 Cuyahoga County Council Public Safety Committee meeting where Brack became the first jail employee to levy public criticism over the way the jail was run, and his subsequent firing. The lawsuit also provides a glimpse into what Brack might have told FBI agents and a Cuyahoga County grand jury that has so far handed up 10 indictments related to the jail, including one that accuses Mills of lying during the same meeting and later lying to investigators about his communication with a “high-ranking” county official.
Mills, Budish, MetroHealth CEO Dr. Akram Butros and Chief of Staff Jane Platten are defendants in the lawsuit, along with Cuyahoga County.
Brack is seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages for wrongful termination and conspiracy to deprive him of his First Amendment rights.
Mills pushed a cost-cutting agenda at the jail at Budish’s request that fueled deteriorating conditions and he often bragged at meetings that the jail was underbudget, the lawsuit says. “(Mills’) orders came straight from the top,” the lawsuit says. “He faithfully executed Budish’s mandate to cut costs at any cost and conceal the deadly consequences from the public.”
The understaffing led to an increase of repeated forced lockdowns of inmates, called red-zoning.
That caused between 100 and 200 inmates to live on lockdown under the supervision of only one officer. The lawsuit says Brack complained about the red-zoning to Mills after 30 inmates from the same locked-down cluster of cells reported having chest pains so they could get out of their cells. The inmates were locked down for nearly 24 consecutive hours, the lawsuit says.
In 2017, Mills ordered that jail medical personnel were no longer allowed to join jail officers in conducting rounds of inmates with mental illnesses who were being housed in isolation, according to the lawsuit. Brack told Mills that medical staffing is necessary to help address behavioral issues, but Mills said: “I run the jail,” according to the lawsuit. Mills in February 2018 also helped cover up a violent attack of an inmate by a jail guard, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit does not name the guards, nor the inmate who was attacked, but Chandra confirmed that it’s the same case that became the subject of an April 18 indictment.
Jail officer John Wilson was indicted on a felonious assault charge in the attack more than a year after the incident happened.
Castleberry and Wilson fought over a bologna sandwich. Wilson attacked Joshua Castleberry and knocked out two of his teeth, including one that became lodged in his nasal cavity, the indictment says.
Officers placed Castleberry in a restraint chair and placed a mask over his face in order to hide his injuries, according to the lawsuit. The guards refused to let nurses remove the mask. One nurse asked to do a medical evaluation but a jail officer replied: “He wants to hit one of my officers, he can sit the f–k there for hours,” according to the lawsuit. The nurse called Brack, who called a jail supervisor and demanded nurses have access to treat Castleberry. A half-hour later, the nurses were allowed to see Castleberry, who was rushed to MetroHealth for facial reconstruction surgery, according to the lawsuit.
Mills smiled at then-Warden Eric Ivey, who has since been indicted and accused of unrelated crimes, and told Tallman that he watched the surveillance video and determined the officer’s actions were appropriate. Tallman asked to watch the video, but Mills refused. “I already reviewed it— nothing was done wrong,” Mills replied, the lawsuit says. Cuyahoga County Sheriff Clifford Pinkney told Brack that he would examine the incident. When he did, the security and body camera videos had “disappeared,” the lawsuit says.
Pinkney testified in an October 2017 budget hearing in front of County Council about Mills’ plan to privatize nursing at the jail by switching contacts from MetroHealth to an Alabama-based company called NaphCare.
Corruption investigators later sought records relating to NaphCare during a Feb. 14, 2019 raid on Budish’s office, according to a copy of the search warrant previously obtained by cleveland.com. The next day, Budish and his former Chief-of-Staff Earl Leiken drove to MetroHealth, met with Boutros and demanded Brack’s ouster from the jail, according to the lawsuit and records obtained by cleveland.com. “Rather than address (Mills’) conduct at the jail, or any of the serious issues Nurse Brack aired, Budish retaliated for exposing his lieutenant’s malfeasance and embarrassing his administration,” the lawsuit says. Boutros complied, and Brack was removed from his job and placed on administrative leave.
Chandra on June 29, 2018 called MetroHealth and said Brack would have claims of workplace discrimination and other rights violated if they fired him, according to the lawsuit. MetroHealth attorney Laura McBride responded on July 10 that MetroHealth offered Brack two lower-level jobs that would allow him to remain employed with the hospital. Brack refused and was fired Aug. 29, 2018. His ouster caused employees to become “afraid to explain how the jail became one of the worst in the nation because they feared retaliation,” according to the lawsuit.
After the May 22 meeting, seven inmates died, leading to intense scrutiny of the jail. Budish asked the U.S. Marshals Service to conduct an inspection.
Mills resigned Nov. 14, a week before the marshals released their report that detailed “inhumane” conditions at the jail, including inmates with medical and mental illness didn’t get proper or consistent treatment, excessive use-of-force by guards and myriad of other issues.
The FBI began an investigation into possible civil rights abuses at the jail.
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office also pivoted its sprawling investigation into possible corruption in the county’s IT department to include the problems at the jail.
Mills was accused in a criminal indictment of lying during the May 22, 2018 meeting, and later lying to federal and county investigators about his communications with a “high-level Cuyahoga County official.” He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office took over the case, and nine others at the jail have since been indicted, including Ivey. He was accused of ordering officers body cameras shut off during an investigation into an inmate’s death.
The deaths prompted Cleveland Municipal Judge Michael Nelson to request that the county’s jail operate under a consent decree that would dictate mandatory reforms through an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the oversight of a federal judge. A civil lawsuit filed in December on behalf of inmates also calls for a similar agreement.
As usual, “follow the money”. It sure won’t happen in my lifetime, but because the Supreme Court did not understand the words : “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” the only solution is to ELIMINATE the 2d Amendment! That day just may come. We can be sure that the youth mobilized by so many school shootings will be out in force in 2020.
Excerpts from the Article:
Weeks after Delaware’s Democrat-controlled legislature opted not to vote on three gun control bills, many are still left wondering what happened.
Senate leadership, in defending their decision, has repeatedly cited a lack of support among Democrats. Some have said that the bills need to be amended before they are given a chance to become law.
But outside Dover, it’s a different story. Many pro-gun residents credit the decision to a multi-pronged attack from gun owners, gun businesses and union members.
It included a growing guns rights group on Facebook flexing its muscles, gun business owners getting more involved, and pro-gun union members threatening to pull campaign dollars from legislators who supported the bills, according to some gun rights advocates and union leaders.
“The union pressure is what finally sealed the deal,” said Mitch Denham, leader of the 20,000-strong Facebook group Delaware Gun Rights. “When you’re trying to get elected, it costs money to get elected. The person that writes the check, you kind of have to take care of sometimes.”
James Maravelias, president of the Delaware Building Construction Trades Council and head of the state AFL-CIO, witnessed the shift in his own ranks. He worries that union members will resist putting money toward upcoming campaigns for certain Democrats following the gun control debacle. Maravelias said he also fears his members will begin siding with Republican candidates in an effort to protect gun rights, even though the GOP is perceived as less friendly to labor.
“We side with the Democratic Party until our union membership says, ‘I don’t want that guy, I want the other guy,'” Maravelias said. “That’s what we’re facing right now.”
“It’s going to be a mess … if these things don’t just go away,” he added.
They probably won’t.
Gun control has been one of the most contentious topics in Dover, where the three gun control measures — a proposed assault weapons ban, high-capacity magazine ban and permit-to-purchase mandate — were expected to have a relatively smooth journey to becoming law.
Many gun owners and gun rights advocates credit the bills’ fate to several groups working in concert. “It just snowballed,” said Denham. “And it worked really, really well.”
The mobilization this year was partly a reaction to new bills, which were introduced on top of those that failed last session and were reintroduced. For many gun rights supporters, it seemed like evidence of a long-feared slippery slope that would lead to unconstitutionally strict gun control laws.
At the same time, many firearms dealers felt their business was increasingly threatened.
“One of the problems that gun activism has always had is that gun stores have been non-participatory in the past,” Denham said. “Now, they’re starting to participate.”
This year, that included white cards that were distributed at gun shops across Delaware. One was directed at any resident, and one was specifically directed at union members. The union one, printed in red on white, said, “As a member of local Union (fill in the blank), I will NOT vote for you, if you vote in favor of any of these 3 bills SB68 SB69 SB70.” It was in reference to the three gun control bills. “They had 5,000 cards printed up, and they were out of them in the first couple days,” said Denham. He and others advertised on social media about where to sign the cards.
Some gun shop owners, who know many of their customers to be union members, said that customers were enthusiastic about signing the cards. “I was surprised,” said Jim Beatty, whose gun shop in Bridgeville was one of the venues to hand out the cards. Normally, he said, people are hesitant to sign anything. “But we couldn’t even get them fast enough for people to sign them.”
Signatures weren’t the only ammo. The attack was also built around a tsunami of emails, letters and phone calls. Senate Majority Leader Nicole Poore, D-New Castle, who sits on the committee that stalled the three bills, said she knew about the cards but did not receive any after they were signed.
While labor unions push a jobs-focused agenda, the gun bills have started to take over the dialogue among their members, according to Maravelias. He said that union leaders need to pay more attention to their members who have shown an increased focus on gun control measures instead of labor issues.
“Most of the complaints are why we’re not getting involved,” Maravelias said. “I don’t know how we’re going to address it.”
These inconsistencies undermine what little faith is left in our courts. Personally, I do not think parents should be charged in these accidental infant/toddler deaths. Their addictions “hijacked their brains”* and the loss of the child is punishment enough.
- I have read many definitions of addiction, but “the drugs hijack your brain” by a psycho forensic evaluator in the PD’s office is excellent.
Excerpt from the Article:
Heather Carey was actively using the synthetic painkiller fentanyl when her 3-year-old son got his hands on her drugs and fatally overdosed. Carey didn’t know her son had ingested any of her fentanyl because she passed out in her bedroom on the night of Aug. 17 after using, according to court records.
It wasn’t until the following morning that she and her boyfriend found their son, Avery Santiago, cold and blue in their bed, court papers say.
Avery Santiago died from a fentanyl overdose in his Wilmington home in August 2018. His mother was charged with murder by abuse or neglect. It took nearly a month before Avery Santiago’s toxicology report revealed the toddler died from fentanyl. Nearly a month later, lab reports showed that Carey, whose blood was drawn at the time of her son’s death, had fentanyl in her system, too.
Wilmington police charged her with murder by abuse or neglect in October. Carey pleaded guilty to manslaughter earlier this year.
Court documents tell a tragic story of a mother addicted to drugs and unable to stop using, even while getting treatment at Brandywine Counseling and Community Services and even when it meant using in front of her toddler. “People are obviously using in front of their kids,” said Rosalie Morales, who oversees the panel reviews of child deaths and near deaths by the Child Protection Accountability Commission. “It’s this neglectful behavior that’s resulting in these kids getting their hands on this.”
Court records also shed light on the difficulties investigators face when determining blame and intention in cases that lead to overdose deaths of children, especially when all cases do not end in these charges.
Take Ronald Deptula, a 13-month-old toddler who died from acute morphine intoxication in January 2017. More than two years have passed since he overdosed in his home and no charges have been filed.
His grandparents can’t understand why, especially because Ronnie Deptula wasn’t prescribed morphine. John and Paulene Buchanan, who now have custody of Ronnie’s older sister, Libby, have little access to the answers they so desperately seek.
More: Children are overdosing, sometimes dying, on drugs every year in Delaware
Eighth Circuit Vacates Supervised Release Conditions Prohibiting Alcohol Consumption and Setting Curfew Not Contained in Plea Agreement
A small but meaningful victory for justice. It means that the higher court recognized the injustice and corrected it. NOTE: unfortunately, plea agreements only are enforceable in some Federal courts. In every state, on state charges (88% of the crimes in America) they are meaningless, just a suggestion to the judge. The judge still can sentence the defendant to any penalty up to the maximum allowed by law for the crime to which he/she pled.
Excerpts from the Article:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed and vacated a federal prisoner’s special conditions of supervised release prohibiting the consumption of alcohol and setting a curfew. Under a binding plea agreement, David Bell pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The plea agreement waived his appellate and post-conviction rights with exceptions that included the imposition of a sentence other than the one set out in the binding plea agreement. A presentence investigation report (“PSI”) noted that Bell “consumes alcohol occasionally, primarily on weekends” and uses marijuana “regularly.”
The court sentenced Bell to 15 months in prison and three years of supervised release, imposing special conditions of supervised release that were not provided for in the binding plea bargain agreement. Those special conditions included a requirement that Bell “not consume or possess alcoholic beverages or beer, including 3.2 percent beer at any time, and [that he] shall not be present in any establishment where alcoholic beverages are the primary items for sale” and that he be at his “place of residence between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., 7 days per week,” except when his work schedule determines otherwise.
In response to Bell’s objection to the special conditions, the judge said he was imposing them because, “I’ve had too many defendants that go out and get to drinking, then they get intoxicated and then they go out and violate their supervised release…. And the same reason I put that curfew on there…. [T]hey violate their probation, they’re out usually past midnight. They’re out on the prowl, and they get into trouble. They get drinking, then they’re out prowling the streets. Now there’s no indication you do that. But I’m going to leave it on there because I’m not even going to give you the chance to be tempted by it.”
Bell appealed the special conditions. The Eighth Circuit first determined that the waiver did not prevent the appeal because Bell was appealing special conditions that were not in the binding plea agreement. Thus, the appeal was of a sentence other than the one set out in the plea agreement.
Reviewing the special conditions for abuse of discretion, the appellate court noted that it had affirmed such special conditions when the defendant’s history and characteristics or crime support them. In this case, however, the trial court made no individualized finding that Bell was dependent on drugs and susceptible to cross-addiction to alcohol. In fact, the trial court stated that there was “no indication” that Bell engaged in excessive drinking or prowling the streets.
The PSI report noted that Bell used marijuana “regularly” but did not specify how often. The appellate court had previously held that drinking a beer or two a month and smoking marijuana once every other month did not constitute drug dependence.
Although hundreds of marijuana plants were found in Bell’s basement, they had only been connected to his intent to make money by distributing marijuana. No evidence of the frequency of his personal use was introduced in court.
The appellate court saw no reasonable probability that the curfew would have been imposed had there been an individualized assessment. Because there was no evidence that Bell was drug dependent or would prowl the streets and the court imposed the special conditions based upon its alleged general experience with other defendants, not findings specific to Bell, the Court vacated the special conditions. See: United States v. Bell, 915 F.3d 574 (8th Cir. 2019).
U.S. opens new mass facility in Texas for migrant children The federal government is opening a huge new facilities for migrant children and is considering housing children on military bases around the country.
More illegal crap from tRump against children. Below, I am seen speaking about the horrors of these detention facilities, 3 years ago! They are the worst prisons in America, and that is saying something!
Excerpts from the Article:
The federal government is opening a new mass facility to hold migrant children in Texas and considering detaining hundreds more youths on three military bases around the country, adding up to 3,000 new beds to the already overtaxed system.
The new emergency facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, will hold as many as 1,600 teens in a complex that once housed oil field workers on government-leased land near the border, said Mark Weber, a spokesman for Office of Refugee Resettlement.
The agency is also weighing using Army and Air Force bases in Georgia, Montana and Oklahoma to house an additional 1,400 kids in the coming weeks, amid the influx of children traveling to the U.S. alone. Most of the children crossed the border without their parents, escaping violence and corruption in Central America, and are held in government custody while authorities determine if they can be released to relatives or family friends.
All the new facilities will be considered temporary emergency shelters, so they won’t be subject to state child welfare licensing requirements, Weber said. In January, the government shut down an unlicensed detention camp in the Texas desert under political pressure, and another unlicensed facility called Homestead remains in operation in the Miami suburbs.
“It is our legal requirement to take care of these children so that they are not in Border Patrol facilities,” Weber said. “They will have the services that ORR always provides, which is food, shelter and water.”
Under fire for the death of two children who went through the agency’s network of shelters and facing lawsuits over the treatment of teens in its care, the agency says it must set up new facilities to accommodate new arrivals or risk running out of beds.
The announcement of the program’s expansion follows the government’s decision to scale back or cut paying for recreation, English-language courses and legal services for the more than 13,200 migrant toddlers, school-age children and teens in its custody.
The Health and Human Services department, which oversees the refugee office, notified shelters around the country last week that it was not going to reimburse them for teachers’ pay, legal services or recreational equipment, saying budget cuts were needed as record numbers of unaccompanied children arrive at the border, largely from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. In May, border agents apprehended 11,507 children traveling alone.
Attorneys said the move violates a legal settlement known as the Flores agreement that requires the government to provide education and recreational activities to migrant children in its care. Last week, attorneys filed a motion claiming that the government also was violating the decades-old settlement by keeping kids at Homestead for months in some cases, instead of releasing them within 20 days.
“If they are going to open the program up in these numbers and they can’t even manage the influx facility that they have in a humane way, then compounding that is going to be disastrous,” said Holly Cooper, an attorney at the Immigration Law Clinic at University of California, Davis who represents detained youth.
Advocates have slammed the move as punitive, saying such services are typically available to adult prisoners.
“ORR’s cancelling of these services will inflict further harm on children, many of whom continue to languish for months without being placed safely and expeditiously into a sponsor’s care. That is not only unacceptable, it could be in violation of the law,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee with oversight on the agency’s budget.
Although racism is rampant in our criminal justice system, 74% of Americans answer NO when asked whether there is racism in the system. This is why we must continue to fight for right and spread the word!
See related articles with many more statistics.
Excerpts from the Article:
A new report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission reveals that the length of a defendant’s prison sentence increasingly depends on the whims of the judge. For example, in Philadelphia, some of the judges ordered sentences 63 percent longer than their colleagues for identical crimes. Doug Berman, a sentencing law expert and professor at The Ohio State University Moritz School of Law, said, “Certain judges are the ‘hang ‘em high’ type, and others are the ‘cry me a river type.’”
The growing discrepancies in sentences follow the landmark decision of United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), wherein the Supreme Court struck down laws that required federal district judges to impose sentences within a range of preset guidelines.
The study compared over 140,000 cases from 13 years across 30 U.S. cities. Of the 30 cities studied, 25 saw spreads grow after Booker. The study raises complicated issues. The fact that a prison sentence could vary by decades on what is basically the flip of a coin is anathema in a justice system that claims it is “blind” and offers “equal protection.” Yet many attorneys and criminal-justice reformers say the former system of preset sentence lengths was profoundly unjust, especially when it required long, draconian sentences.
“I think their discretion is good and important and useful because when judges are pigeonholed that takes their power and humanity away,” said NiaLena Caravasos, a Philadelphia-area defense attorney. Yet some judges appear to be lacking in humanity because there is now much racial disparity in sentencing. White men are far more likely to be sentenced to terms below the guidelines, while black men are sentenced according to the guidelines.
These criminal charges are flimsy. I would bet I could get him acquitted at trial. Call him a coward? OK. But the criminal charges probably will not stick. He is a scapegoat.
Excerpts from the Article:
As bullets ricocheted and bodies fell in the hallways and classrooms at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year, Deputy Scot Peterson was outside the building. Instead of storming in after the 19-year-old gunman, he retreated to a position of safety.
For more than a year after the February 2018 attack in Parkland, Fla., grieving parents have demanded that Mr. Peterson — along with the gunman who killed 17 and injured 17 — be held accountable in what would prove to be one of the nation’s worst school shootings. On Tuesday, law enforcement responded with a sweeping list of charges that resulted in Mr. Peterson’s arrest. His alleged crime: failing to protect the students.
America’s long history of mass shootings have brought a variety of responses: Calls for tighter gun laws, civil lawsuits against companies that manufacture guns and firearm components, collective mourning. But Tuesday’s charges represented a highly unusual case of a lawman arrested for failing to save lives.
“I have no comment except to say rot in hell,” Fred Guttenberg, who emerged as an outspoken gun control activist after his daughter, Jaime, died in the attack, wrote on Twitter. “You could have saved some of the 17,” Mr. Guttenberg added, addressing Mr. Peterson. “You could have saved my daughter. You did not and then you lied about it and you deserve the misery coming your way.”
Mr. Peterson, 56, who had been suspended in the immediate aftermath of the attack and later resigned, faces 11 charges of neglect of a child, culpable negligence and perjury. He was booked into the Broward County jail with a bond of $102,000. The 15-month investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that led to the charges, found that the former Broward County sheriff’s deputy, assigned as a school resource officer to Stoneman Douglas High, “did absolutely nothing to mitigate” the shooting, the department’s commissioner, Rick Swearingen, said in a statement. “There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives,” he said.
Officials determined that Mr. Peterson, as well as Sgt. Brian Miller, who was terminated on Tuesday but not charged, “neglected their duties.” Mr. Peterson was taken into custody after an administrative discipline hearing.
The charges were an unusual instance of law enforcement officers being held criminally liable for not protecting the public.
Civil lawsuits have become par for the course following mass shootings in the United States. Families of the victims and survivors themselves use litigation to hold institutions, both public and private, responsible for not keeping people safe, as well as to push for policy changes or to collect compensation for emotional and physical trauma or death. But experts say that criminally charging a law enforcement officer for allegedly being negligent in his response to a mass shooting is new ground.
“This is the first time I have seen somebody so charged like this,” said Clinton R. Van Zandt, a former profiler with the F.B.I. and an expert on mass shootings. “I think that every police officer, sheriff and F.B.I. agent understands that you have to go to the threat and stop it and that we are no longer going to wait for SWAT or set up perimeters.”
The Department of Law Enforcement said its inquiry showed that Mr. Peterson did not investigate the source of the gunshots, retreated during the shooting while victims were still under attack and directed other law enforcement officers to remain 500 feet away from the building.
One student, Arman Borghei, told investigators that during the shooting, he looked out a third-floor window and saw Mr. Peterson standing on the side of the 1200 building “with his gun drawn not really doing anything.” Since he was first interviewed by Broward detectives two days after the killings, Mr. Peterson has said he did respond, by alerting the police, locking the school down and evacuating children in the courtyard. “There wasn’t even time to think,” Mr. Peterson told The Washington Post. “It just happened and I started reacting.”
He said he has run the shooting over and over in his head. “It was my job, and I didn’t find him,” he said of the gunman.
Meanwhile, four officers from the nearby Coral Springs Police Department arrived and entered the building where the shooting was occurring, the investigation showed.
Jeff Bell, the president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, expressed concern about the decision to charge Mr. Peterson, who was not a member of his organization. He argued that prosecutors had adopted a sweeping interpretation of the state’s negligence law that could put other officers at risk of charges in the future.
“I am worried that state attorneys and political officers can start to weaponize criminal charges against law enforcement if you don’t meet their threshold for what you do or should not do,” said Mr. Bell, who said he and others were still disappointed by Mr. Peterson’s response to the shooting.
Mr. Van Zandt said prosecutors appeared to be sending a message to the community that “we hear you are disappointed, and we will let the criminal justice system determine whether he made significant mistakes, whether perhaps he was a coward or not, or whether he acted properly with the information that he had.”
A lawyer for Mr. Peterson, Joseph A. DiRuzzo III, said Tuesday that the former deputy’s team would fight “these spurious charges that lack basis in fact and law.” He complained that the prosecution appeared to be “nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt at politically motivated retribution against Mr. Peterson.”
“Today the individuals who have made this charging decision have taken the easy way out and blamed Mr. Peterson for the actions on February 14, 2018, when there has only ever been one person to blame — Nikolas Cruz,” Mr. DiRuzzo wrote in an open letter to “the South Florida community and the American public.”
Constitutional law, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, does not generally give people a right to expect the police to protect them against harm.
States can create obligations for the police under certain circumstances — for example, a crossing guard who is assigned to keep children from getting run over. But those would be civil liabilities, said Darren L. Hutchinson, a professor at the University of Florida School of Law, not criminal ones.
Professor Hutchinson noted that the criminal statutes under which Mr. Peterson was charged for his behavior during the shooting, neglect of a child and culpable negligence, were not specifically drafted for law enforcement officers and are usually applied to parents. “Normally we don’t think of police officers as caregivers for children,” he said.
The culpable negligence charge would require proof of behavior so reckless, like driving down a crowded sidewalk, that it could be inferred that the accused intended harm, Professor Hutchinson said. “Under a civil standard that’s a very tough load, and now they’re turning to the criminal standard, which is somewhat tougher, because they have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.
“It wasn’t his fault,” said Mr. Bishop, who will be a senior in the fall. “Who am I to place blame on anyone besides the one person who should be held accountable?”
The Parkland shooting has become woven into the fabric of Florida politics. Most national attention on the tragedy focused on the movement against gun violence launched by Stoneman Douglas High students. But parents of the dead — and the elected officials who joined forces with them — were a force in the halls of power in Fort Lauderdale and Tallahassee, relentlessly seeking answers and accountability, not least from the sheriff’s department.
The state attorney who filed the charges on Tuesday, Michael J. Satz, announced earlier in the day that he would not seek re-election next year. First elected in 1976, Mr. Satz said skipping a campaign for a new term would allow him to focus on the coming death penalty trial of Nikolas Cruz, the suspect in the Parkland killings.
Issues raised by the shooting are expected to continue to demand attention in Tallahassee, and not only on matters of gun policy and funding for safer schools. Also pending is how the state might compensate the victims’ families — an issue the families have already taken to court, claiming negligence by the school district and sheriff’s office.
I explain that the reason I have always been so successful – and still am – is preparation. The problem with the P Ds is that they don’ have time to fart, much less be well prepared. Their case loads often are four times the maximum recommended!
Excerpts from the Article:
On May 8, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) elevated the crisis of federal and state governments’ disregard for protecting the right to counsel for people charged with crimes. She did so by introducing the Ensuring Quality Access to Legal Defense Act (EQUAL Defense Act) a bill that uses federal money – $250 million dollars annually for five years – to incentivize pay parity between public defenders and prosecutors, ensure manageable defender caseloads, and reauthorize the student loan repayment program benefitting public defenders. That such a bill is necessary speaks to the deleterious state of public defense in our country, which is underfunded and creates an unlevel playing field for public defenders against prosecutors.
Therefore the EQUAL Defense Act would be a step forward in our nation living up to the Constitution’s principles of fairness and integrity in which the Sixth Amendment’s affirmative guarantee of the right to counsel is rooted. More than 50 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the importance of ensuring counsel for people accused of crimes regardless of wealth. The Court held that, “in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person [haled] into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for [them].” Twenty years after that, the Court said that not just any counsel would do, but that counsel must be “effective.”
However, people of modest means – disproportionately Black or Brown – are sold short in jurisdictions where public defender systems are chronically underfunded. This failure t leads to crushing caseloads, scarce investigatory and expert resources, and insufficient time to meet with clients, review evidence, file motions, or prepare for trial. Such neglect in turn causes an array of harms, including wrongful conviction and incarceration, needless pretrial detention, coerced pleas, harsh sentences, and lifelong collateral consequences. Without proper resources, public defense is no defense at all.
For example, in Fresno, CA, public defenders were handling a minimum of 418 felony cases and 1,375 misdemeanor cases per year — national standards set maximum felony and misdemeanor caseloads at 150 and 400, respectively, and experts advise that even those are too high and fail to account for the added complexities of today’s expansive punishment system. Because of budget shortages, defenders in parishes in Louisiana, including Orleans Parish, have had to put indigent defendants – including those in pretrial detention – on waiting lists for representation.
The Missouri State Public Defender office fell short of the constitutionally acceptable minimum number of work hours in 97 percent of the 80,000 cases they handled. In Kentucky, half of 1 percent of the state’s budget went to public defender services in 2015, and almost every public defender had caseloads exceeding the national standard.
This constitutional crisis reaches from Oregon to Maine, Alabama to Nevada. But what should be expected when data shows that state and county governments devote to public defense just 2.5% of the approximately $200 billion spent on criminal justice?
But fast forward to the Trump Administration, and the Dept. of Justice shuttered the Access to Justice Office. And while Congress celebrated enactment of the First Step Act, the law did nothing to increase protection of the right to counsel.
For systemic change to be long-lasting, federal and state governments must work in concert. Every state has a constitutional obligation to ensure that low-income people have lawyers in criminal cases, yet many states have been abdicating their responsibilities for years. In response, the ACLU has sued localities, prompting some reform. But to address the failures and harms to people who cannot afford counsel, filing lawsuits is not enough.
States should provide adequate funding for public defense and public defense commissions to create caseload standards, enforce those standards, and ensure adequate training. Where institutional public defenders are absent, states must prohibit the use of flat-fee contracts for defending attorneys and establish proper compensation. Finally, states and Congress should establish Public Defenders General to advocate for public defense resources and administer grant programs for localities seeking to improve public defense.
The urgent need to ensure robust public defense systems extends beyond guaranteeing a fair legal process. America warehouses over two million people behind bars. If low-income people caught in the carceral system do not have zealous advocates, they will continue to be overcriminalized, overincarcerated, and deprived of their rights. Without functioning public defense systems, we cannot meaningfully reduce the staggering number of people held in pretrial detention, wrongful convictions, or abusive prosecutorial practices.
PLEADING GUILTY TO GET OUT OF JAIL The criminalization of poverty in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, has led to a staggering increase in incarcerated people, all at a huge cost for defendants and taxpayers alike.
This article caught the eye of my friend and great attorney, Stephen Hampton, Esq. because he has family in Franklin County and spent some of his youth there. I can tell you that this phenomenon is an all too common tragic consequence of our screwed up criminal justice system all over the country!
As this article reminds us, this not only ruining the lives of those directly affected, it is costing YOU, the taxpayer, millions of dollars.
See related articles or google: “How many innocent or untried people plead guilty just to get out of prison?”! Thanks for sending it, Steve!
Excerpts from the Article:
Tiana Lescalleet was camping near Washington Township, Pennsylvania, on April 25, 2016, when probation and parole officers arrived to arrest a man she was with. He was wanted on a parole warrant, but the interaction also resulted in Lescalleet being taken into custody.
While her friend was being arrested, officers found numerous pieces of jewelry in his pants pockets that Officer Stephen Shannon determined were stolen a few days earlier from Lescalleet’s mother’s home in Maryland, according to an affidavit that Shannon signed. Drug paraphernalia, including a “glass smoking device,” a spoon with “burnt residue,” and syringes were found inside the tent along with two cellophane packets that contained drugs, Shannon wrote. He then arrested and charged Lescalleet and her friend Travis Kint Jr. with misdemeanor counts of receiving stolen property, possession of drug paraphernalia, and drug possession.
Though Lescalleet, 28, had no criminal record, Magisterial District Judge Glenn Manns set her bail at $75,000, and she was remanded to Franklin County Jail. Because she was unable to purchase her freedom, Lescalleet had two options: plead guilty and hopefully get released because she was facing low-level offenses, or remain in jail and fight the charges. She spent the next month in jail before pleading guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia. On May 25, 2016, Lescalleet was released and sentenced to six months’ probation.
Her probation ended more than two years ago, but she still owes more than $670 in fines and fees. In 2018, her case was turned over to a debt collection agency, which will affect Lescalleet’s creditworthiness for years to come.
On any given day, approximately 500,000 people sit in county jails pretrial across the United States, most because they are unable to pay bail.
In 2016, Lescalleet was one of more than 100 people held in Franklin County Jail who were found not guilty, had their cases dismissed, or entered a guilty plea and got released on a non-incarceration sentence. The Appeal collected and reviewed more than 2,200 criminal dockets filed in the county by scraping dockets filed in the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania. The review includes all of the criminal cases filed in the county that were not expunged before the review.
In more than 75 percent of the cases, the person charged faced no more than a misdemeanor as the lead charge. The average case lasted 30 days before the defendant was released. What’s more, those cases in which the individual did not pay bail have cost the county the equivalent of more than 8,000 bed days at the jail, or an average of roughly $71 per person, per day.
“We’ve created a machinery that churns out low-level convictions based not on individual guilt or culpability, but on an individual’s ability to pay,” Alexandra Natapoff, professor of law at the University of California, Irvine and author of “Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal,” told The Appeal.
Natapoff described the combination of prosecution of misdemeanor level offenses and unreasonably high bail amounts as the “criminalization of poverty,” lamenting “a now-infamous phenomenon of people pleading guilty merely to get out of jail.”
On any given day, approximately 500,000 people sit in county jails pretrial across the United States, most because they are unable to pay bail. A 2018 study of defendants in Philadelphia and Miami-Dade counties by researchers at Princeton, Stanford, and Harvard universities reports that people being held for an inability to pay bail earned roughly $4,500 a year on average.
The researchers found that less than half of the people who were required to pay bail were able to do so within three days—yielding negative impacts on their cases, such as a higher likelihood of guilty pleas, and on their post-release lives, such as a loss of employment and a greater likelihood of committing a new crime. The authors also found that, compared to defendants who were held for three days or more pretrial, people who were able to post bail within three days were nearly 25 percent less likely to be found guilty or plead guilty. People who were able to post bail were also nearly 25 percent more likely to find gainful employment afterward.
In Franklin County, the criminalization of poor people also costs taxpayers. Between 2009 and 2019, the county jail’s operations budget increased more than 40 percent to nearly $13 million per year, which is paid almost exclusively through tax revenue. In that time, the jail’s population has also swelled. In 2009, an average of 297 people per day were held there, according to data compiled by the Vera Institute. About 94 of those people were being held pretrial. By 2015, those numbers rose to 394 and 175. In April, roughly 500 people were being held, and 200 of those were awaiting a trial or sentencing each day. And yet, the number of reported crimes, criminal case filings, and people receiving a jail sentence—all of which are factors that could cause a rise in incarceration—have remained largely flat. The jail incarceration rate in Franklin County is now more than double that of neighboring Cumberland County and higher than the state average.
Franklin is a rural county in south-central Pennsylvania, on the border with Maryland, that has about 150,000 residents with a median household income of roughly $58,000. More than a quarter of all households earn less than $35,000 and a little more than 10 percent of the population lives at or below the federal poverty line. The county jail has a rated capacity of a little more than 300 people, which this year forced officials to send an average of 24 people each month to other jails to reduce overcrowding. As a result, the county must pay a daily rate of $55 to $65 per person to use other county jails, costing more than $170,000 through the first four months of this year alone.
“The heart of the reform, the heart of the change, would require the misdemeanor system to stop criminalizing poverty,” Natapoff said. “To stop conditioning incarceration and punishment on an individual’s ability to pay.”
The Whole Story: