Make A Difference
So many say “why bother, there’s nothing I can do!”
Well, I sure hope one of those is not you!
For you can be far, far more influential than you think,
All you need do is share some well-thought-out-ink!
These kinds of cases not only cost you, the taxpayers, billions of dollars needlessly every year. They cost us the loss of confidence in our police in many, many communities. It is not just the cost of any ultimate settlement or jury award; who do you think pays for the lawyers for the wrongdoers, the judges … the clerks, etc. and all involved in the process with thousands of such “excessive force” cases filed every year? YOU DO!
The neglect of our mentally ill alone in this country costs us $444 billion every year!
Why were the officers not prosecuted? I have been writing about these abuses for six years now, and they will not stop until the wrongdoers are prosecuted and imprisoned! READ Why only PROSECUTION and IMPRISONMENT Will Stop Prison Abuse and Police Abuse! Demand It!! How to Avoid the Deaths of More Prison Guards!
Excerpts from the Article:
A mentally ill man whose flesh was seared from his body after California police held him against 170-degree pavement until his skin literally cooked away is now suing for $26 million. James Bradford Nelson suffered extensive burns when multiple officers with the Citrus Heights Police Department pinned him to the ground in front of a Kentucky Fried Chicken on June 23, 2017.
Eight officers initially responded to a call complaining about a shirtless man behaving strangely, according to The Sacramento Bee. At least two of those officers ultimately held Nelson down against the pavement in excess of five minutes. Temperatures outside were over 100 degrees that day and the National Weather Service notes that human skin is “instantly destroyed” at 162 degrees.
Nelson’s complaint notes: During this time on the ground Nelson was screaming and yelling in excruciating pain. However, the officers forced his head down onto the hot pavement, leaning onto it with such force that Nelson could not move it for relief, exposing the right side of his face and neck to the scorching heat of the concrete. Roughly 20 minutes later, Nelson was placed inside of an ambulance–unconscious due to the severity of the third-degree burns spanning the entirety of his chest and abdomen as well as large sections of his face and neck.
Nelson’s claim also notes that he suffers from a host of mental health issues, including paranoid schizophrenia, and that such issues are “exacerbated in extreme conditions of weather.” A video of Nelson’s actions leading up to the incident shows him inside the KFC acting oddly before taking a swing at an employee. He was ultimately charged with a parole violation over his behavior.
The claim also notes that Nelson spent weeks in the UC Davis intenstive care burn unit where he went through skin-grafting procedures and had to receive liver and kidney failure treatment because of his injuries. In the end, Nelson was left with massive physical scars, post traumatic stress disorder and permanent disabilities, according to the claim.
Citrus Heights Police Chief Ronald Lawrence declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said the case is “something that will involve the judicial system, and will not be resolved in the court of public opinion.” The claim filed against the City of Citrus Heights notes that Nelson’s medical bills as of last month had reached $1.8 million. The action also asserts an additional $25 million claim for “general damages” and an as-yet-unspecified demand for punitive damages against the officers who took part in the removal of Nelson’s flesh.
Why ‘Drug-Free Zones’ In Tennessee Are Getting A Bipartisan Second Look – These “Zones” are Absurd – kra
These “drug free school zones” never have worked. In fact, like many of our “war on drugs” laws, they have caused much injustice. Just read about some of the cases highlighted in this article!
The War on Drugs was the catalyst for a number of new laws aimed at curbing the illegal sale and use of narcotics across the U.S. “Drug-free school zones” were born from this movement and adopted widely in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the goal of protecting innocent children from predatory drug dealers who might seek them out in public places. But decades later, state lawmakers, including some in Tennessee, are finding that while those laws were created with good intentions, they are not being used to prosecute criminals preying on children. Rather, the statutes have levied long sentences on non-violent drug offenders.
Among them is Sara Moore, who is currently serving eight years at a Tennessee prison. She was arrested after selling two grams of meth inside her East Tennessee home to a police informant on four occasions. Buel Moore remembers the day he found his 26-year-old daughter could face 41 years behind bars because she lived near a school.
Joi Davis, a Nashville teacher whose husband, Terrance, is serving a 22-year sentence, and Buel Moore, whose daughter Sara was sentenced to an eight year term, speak about their loved ones’ cases at a Families Against Mandatory Minimums-organized forum in Nashville on February 5, 2018. “That was the first time we realized there was such a law and she fell under that,” he said in Nashville this week at a forum for Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “A ‘drug-free school zone’ — well, the way it’s worded, no one is against protecting kids, and I wouldn’t have been either. But what I didn’t realize is had she [Sara] lived just a little farther outside the thousand-foot perimeter, which was an arbitrary number set when the law was first drafted, she would have fell under a whole different set of sentencing rules.”
Moore’s parents say she suffered from some mental health issues and was a recovering addict. When she was in high school, she had been part of the Junior Navy ROTC program and dreamed of becoming a military officer. Now in her 20s, she had recently left a live-in rehab facility and with the support of her parents was back on her own. When she relapsed, she began selling methamphetamine to finance her own habit.
Because mandatory minimums are triggered in drug-free zone cases, judges have no discretion to take special factors into account — like addiction, mental health problems, age or even a history of abuse.
Drug-free zones aren’t just in proximity to a school. Tennessee’s law passed in 1995 covers a thousand-foot radius around daycares, libraries, recreation centers and parks. Buying, selling, or simply possessing drugs in these areas — even if just walking or driving by — leads to severe terms without the possibility of parole. These sentences can often be longer than those handed down for violent felonies, including rape and aggravated assault.
Harris is from Memphis, where almost 40 percent of the city is a drug-free zone. Nashville isn’t far behind at 27 percent, according to an article by Reason, which crunched the numbers for Tennessee.
Fewer than 500 people currently behind bars in the state have been sentenced under the law — but not for selling drugs to children. They were selling out of their homes, had drugs in their car when they were pulled over or were set up in a drug-free zone by undercover police officers. Most wouldn’t have known they were in a school zone at all.
Though the number is small, Harris points out that thousands of other non-violent offenders have been compelled to take unfavorable plea bargains because they fear the long, mandatory sentences. The Memphis Democrat hopes to work with Republicans on a reform bill. Already some, like Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, say they plan to support it, though they anticipate some push back from district attorneys.
“It’s going to be hard for the DAs and the prosecutors,” Roberts says. “This is a great tool in their toolbox. They like having that big hammer. And if we come back and tell them we’re going to give them a smaller hammer they’ll probably push back on it. But I think at this point the data is pretty clear that it’s time to revisit [the law].
THE newsletter for Pot news: Politic, Health & Science. Business, Culture, Criminal Justice, and much more. There are more than 80 articles, but constraints on my time allow me to highlight only one:
Driving and Cannabis Hit the Skids. Should people under age 21 be tested for driving under the influence of cannabis? I say NO! Read related articles on my website to see that the myths about driving under the influence of Pot overwhelm the facts.
California’s legal cannabis market is an infinitely complex map of regulations, priorities, business, and politics. As the layout of the industry continues to take shape, one area that has yet to receive much clarity is the law with regard to driving under the influence of marijuana.
The latest figure to weigh in is Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo. On Feb. 16, Hill introduced SB 1273, a law that would empower the state’s law enforcement to test any driver under 21 for cannabis in their system. If the test returns a detectable amount of THC, their license would be automatically suspended for one year.
Cannabis advocacy group Cal NORML was quick to condemn the proposed legislation. “SB 1273 will do nothing to make the roads safer or reduce youth drug abuse,” said Cal NORML Director Dale Gieringer in a statement. “What it will do is encourage police to indiscriminately drug test young people for no good reason and take their licenses without any evidence of impairment or dangerous driving.”
One key issue is that unlike alcohol, there are numerous instances in which it’s legal for individuals in California under the age of 21 to have medically administered THC in their systems. The 21-years-or-older cut-off was created as part of the implementation of Proposition 64, and mirrors the age restrictions that were in place for the medical-marijuana industry that preceded the adult-use market.
However, cannabis has been proven to significantly alleviate symptoms of ailments like cancer or Crohn’s disease. Patients using cannabis for treatment may be old enough to legally drive, but not yet 21. It seems SB 1273 is setting up this specific subset as targets in an ill-advised effort to prevent underage cannabis consumption when, in some cases, it may be perfectly legal.
Furthermore, tolerance levels have been proven to vary wildly between individuals. While one person may have what could be considered a “significant” percentage of THC in their system by general standards, that level may be the bare minimum required for any effect to take place. It seems ludicrous that politicians would attempt to impose such imprecise rules on cannabis when no equivalent rule for prescription opioids — which again affect each person at a different rate — are not currently governed by similar legislation.
Beyond all that, there’s an even greater problem: how to test for THC levels in the first place. At present, the options for ascertaining one’s THC level include skin patch tests, saliva tests, and oral swabs — all of which are unproven and unreliable. As NPR noted in a report published in July 2017, “Despite the increasingly legal use of cannabis in many states, cops still don’t have the equivalent of a reliable alcohol breathalyzer or blood test — a chemically based way of estimating what the drug is doing in the brain.”
The cannabis equivalent of a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration has also not yet been universally defined. Colorado law has the limit set at five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. In Nevada, it’s two nanograms. California has yet to establish its own threshold, thus entrusting the process to individual discretion and tests. Unfortunately, these tests still fail to account for the fact that peak THC levels usually occur in the blood between 20 and 40 minutes after inhalation — meaning one may no longer be feeling the effects of marijuana at the time that it is most heavily concentrated in their bloodstream.
Update of 3/15/18: http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/florida-shooting-nra-sues-as-florida-enacts-gun-control-law-with-letter-to-the-editor-kra/ I just about fell out of my chair when a Pulitzer Prize winning author called me a minute ago and said: “Great letter, Mr. Abraham!” He now calls me ken. 🙂 Send one like it out where YOU live!
First, we must applaud the work of the Florida legislature and Governor Scott for signing the legislation. It is a good start. I dare predict that the lawsuit recently filed by the NRA, challenging the law, will fail. I suggest that you ask legislators in your state to enact a similar law, and to ban the sale of assault rifles to civilians! Much to his credit, Governor John Carney of Delaware already has requested that the legislature bad assault weapons.
Excerpts from the Article:
Governor Rick Scott, a staunch ally of the gun lobby, enacted the bill, which the NRA says violates the constitution.
What’s in the new law?
It raises the minimum age for buying rifles from 18 to 21 in the state – although 18, 19 and 20-year-old police officers and members of the security forces will still be able to buy rifles and shotguns.
It bans bump stocks – devices that raise the firing speed of semi-automatic rifles.
It introduces a three-day waiting period on all gun purchases (previously this only applied when people bought handguns).
It makes it easier for police to confiscate weapons and ammunition from people who are deemed to pose a threat of violent behaviour (a measure that has been proposed by five other states in the last month, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence).
It allows school staff to carry guns, with the agreement of their school district authorities and sheriff’s department. This is already allowed in the states of Wyoming, South Dakota, Tennessee, Georgia, Kansas and Texas.
Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, signed the bill into law on Friday, after lawmakers at the Florida state level voted in its favour. As he signed it, he said he was an NRA member, and that some members would agree with the new law while others would not. “It’s an example to the entire country that government can and has, moved fast,” he said. Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi said the changes were “the right thing to do”.
The NRA is asking a judge to block the age restriction and prevent the state of Florida from enforcing the new law. People aged 18 are considered adults “for almost all purposes and certainly for the purposes of the exercise of fundamental constitutional rights”, the lawsuit says.
The complaint says the law violates the second amendment of the US constitution, which protects the right to bear arms. It also argues the bill breaches the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause by banning law-abiding citizens between 18-21 from buying guns.
A former student with a history of mental health issues is accused of killing 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on 14 February in the second-deadliest US school shooting ever. Media captionStudents have been lobbying for greater gun control
The bill’s passage by a Republican-controlled legislature in a state where the NRA wields considerable influence is seen as a testament to an impassioned pro-gun control campaign launched by young survivors of the shooting and parents of the victims.
REVISED 3/15/18 and sent out again:
Letter to the Editor or Op Ed submissions – Sensible Progress! – 3/15/18
From coast to shining coast, hundreds of thousands of students left their classrooms for 17 minutes (one for each Parkland casualty) to demand reform of our gun laws. Delaware should join the chorus of states listening to their pleas, and revise our nearly “anything goes” (especially at trade shows) gun laws. Will it take another 17, or more, dead people in a school to prompt needed changes? No; as the students say. “enough is enough”!
We should applaud the Florida politicians responsible for passing the recently enacted gun law legislation, and the students who drove them to do it. It is a good start in the right direction. It raises the minimum age for buying rifles from 18 to 21 in the state – although 18, 19 and 20-year-old police officers and members of the security forces will still be able to buy rifles and shotguns. It bans bump stocks – devices that raise the firing speed of semi-automatic rifles. It introduces a three-day waiting period on all gun purchases (previously this only applied when people bought handguns). It makes it easier for police to confiscate weapons and ammunition from people who are deemed to pose a threat of violent behavior (a measure that has been proposed by five other states in the last month, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence). It allows school staff to carry guns, with the agreement of their school district authorities and sheriff’s department. This is already allowed in the states of Wyoming, South Dakota, Tennessee, Georgia, Kansas and Texas.
The students and others affected by the awful massacre in Parkland, FL, have ignited a flame for much-needed gun law reforms which will not die out any time soon. By the way, contrary to what the NRA says, the U S Supreme Court never has ruled that a civilian has a constitutional right to own an assault rifle, and I don’t think they ever will.
I dare predict that the lawsuit recently filed by the NRA, challenging the Florida law, will fail. I suggest that you ask legislators in your state to enact a similar law, and to ban the sale of assault rifles to civilians! Much to his credit, Governor John Carney of Delaware already has requested that the legislature bad assault weapons.
To see facts about gun violence in America as it affects our children, and realize how badly change is needed, read http://www.invisiblechildren.org/2018/02/23/arming-teachersshooting-students-advocating-for-less-violence-and-a-more-civil-society/?gclid=CjwKCAjws6jVBRBZEiwAkIfZ2sFw9lIu_HjQ8YnsoyWeXuaTUgeSOKdds2mMcYzVVh-cseJY4eZpWxoC6p0QAvD_BwE , or just look into the eyes of the mother of a child gunned down in school.
Ken Abraham, former Deputy Attorney General, founder of Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE, Dover, DE 302-423-4067
Letter to the Editor or Op Ed submissions – Good for Florida! – 3/10/18
We should applaud the Florida politicians responsible for passing the recently enacted gun law legislation, and the students who drove them to do it. It is a good start in the right direction.
It raises the minimum age for buying rifles from 18 to 21 in the state – although 18, 19 and 20-year-old police officers and members of the security forces will still be able to buy rifles and shotguns. It bans bump stocks – devices that raise the firing speed of semi-automatic rifles. It introduces a three-day waiting period on all gun purchases (previously this only applied when people bought handguns). It makes it easier for police to confiscate weapons and ammunition from people who are deemed to pose a threat of violent behavior (a measure that has been proposed by five other states in the last month, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence). It allows school staff to carry guns, with the agreement of their school district authorities and sheriff’s department. This is already allowed in the states of Wyoming, South Dakota, Tennessee, Georgia, Kansas and Texas.
The students and others affected by the awful massacre in Parkland, FL, have ignited a flame for much-needed gun law reforms which will not die out any time soon. By the way, contrary to what the NRA says, the U S Supreme Court has never ruled that a civilian has a constitutional right to an assault rifle, and I don’t think they ever will.
I dare predict that the lawsuit recently filed by the NRA, challenging the law, will fail. I suggest that you ask legislators in your state to enact a similar law, and to ban the sale of assault rifles to civilians! Much to his credit, Governor John Carney of Delaware already has requested that the legislature bad assault weapons.
Ken Abraham, former Deputy Attorney General, founder of Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE, Dover, DE 302-423-4067
I get lots of letters published, and ghost write for others. The keys to getting your Letter published are:
1. Keep it to 250 words or fewer.
2. Do not make it about “poor little old me”. Describe the problem as one which not only affects the individual, but is a senseless or ineffective measure, policy, or law which also harms communities and society. For example, with reentry, the obstacles make it unnecessarily difficult for the individual, but also harm society by making it hard to become productive, spending money and paying taxes in the community, and they cause increased recidivism = increased crime.
3. Speak from your heart.
4. Google any facts you are not sure about.
5. Do not name-call.
Do what works: Write that Letter! 🙂
Letter to Editor – sign name, town, state, and your phone number (they often call to verify that you sent it), and “Member of Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE” if you like – shows you are part of a large group.
Send the email to yourself, and put on the “bcc” bar the email addresses for Letters to the Editor for the top ten newspapers in your state and several national ones – The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, U S A Today (google the Letter to Editor email addresses). Any questions, CALL me at 302-423-4067! 🙂
Need a Letter on some criminal justice issue and not a great letter writer? NO EXCUSE! Email me a rough draft and call me and I’ll polish it up! firstname.lastname@example.org .
Governor Carney Signs Rep. J. Johnson Bill to Reduce Aesthetics Licensing Barriers – Good News, but this is more Baby Steps! kra
They are listening to some of what we have been saying! But the devil is in the details, and this Bill does not do nearly enough. It is baby steps where bold strides are called for. It does make positive changes, but they should eliminate this obstacle altogether. All states, obviously, should do more of this. The move greatly increases job opportunities.
Governor John Carney signed legislation Thursday that would help improve employment and training opportunities for Delawareans with criminal histories seeking cosmetology and barbering licensure. Sponsored by Rep. J.J. Johnson, House Bill 97 removes licensing roadblocks so a criminal history will not stand in the way of an individual pursuing and applying for an aesthetics license to practice cosmetology, barbering, electrology or nail technology.
“Delawareans who have served their time deserve a second chance, an opportunity to contribute, and reach their full potential,” said Governor Carney. “This legislation will help those with criminal histories improve their lives, while strengthening our communities.hank you to Representative Johnson and Senator Henry for their leadership on this issue.”
Championed by Rep. Johnson, the legislation gives the Board of Cosmetology and Barbering discretion to grant waivers for certain felony convictions when assessing licensure applicants if up to three years have elapsed since their sentence. Previously, the waiting period was five years.
“After an individual has paid his or her debt to society, all they want is to be able to begin to rebuild their lives. Stable employment and training opportunities are critical to that rehabilitation,” said Representative Johnson, who chairs the House Corrections Committee. “This legislation removes barriers so that individuals will not be defined by their past and will be able to pursue licensing opportunities to put them on a sustainable path forward.”
Under the bill, the board is also precluded from taking into account an applicant’s criminal conviction if more than 10 years have passed since the date of the sentence and there have been no other convictions during that time.
“We spend a lot of time in Dover making sure that the state government isn’t placing overly burdensome or harmful regulations on our economy or our neighborhoods. Shouldn’t we do the same to help former inmates contribute to both?” said Senate Majority Leader Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington. “Ex-offenders already face a steep climb upon release, and failure often means returning to prison, so I couldn’t be more proud to join my friend Rep. Johnson in opening up an avenue to self-sustainability and success for these Delawareans.”
For questions about licensing, contact the Division of Professional Regulation at email@example.com or 302-744-4500. Visit the division’s website www.dpr.delaware.gov for more information.
Those with common sense, and those who know any of the many people who have been harmed and hindered by these registries, know what a huge, needless problem they are!
Some courts have ruled that the many unfair burdens are “administrative”, not punitive. Others, including courts in PA and CO, have ruled that they are indeed punitive. NARSOL, the ACLU, and others are pushing to get such a decision from the U S Supreme Court [they avoided the issue the last time it was presented. 🙁 ]
Excerpts from the Article:
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that at least 95 percent of all state prisoners will be released from prison at some point. However, convicted sex-offenders almost exclusively face the vengeful, additional punishment of registration under the Sex Offender Registry and Notification Act (SORNA).
Generally, under SORNA, an individual who is required to register as a sex offender must register at least once a year; report any change of address within as little as three days; produce vehicle information, a recent photograph and a DNA sample; and abide by stringent residency restrictions, which can force individuals out of urban areas, away from family and into unemployment.
SORNA violates our nation’s founding documents by singling out a specific category of offenders for unfair, unconstitutional punishment. While the Department of Justice cites public safety as its rationale for continuing to enforce the overreaching requirements of SORNA, the program has metastasized, defacing some of our most treasured rights: the right to due process, the right to be free from double jeopardy and the right to avoid cruel and unusual punishment.
The right to due process can be found in the Fifth and 14th Amendments of our Constitution. Due process is commonly understood to include the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial and the right to counsel — ideas that ensure a defendant is treated as fairly as possible in our adversarial criminal justice system. It can be “gauged by its aim to safeguard both private and public rights against unfairness.”
Despite what some courts have found, the current requirements of SORNA violate due process, specifically the tenet of presumption of innocence, or the idea that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Each state differs in how it implements SORNA, so an individual’s length of registration varies by state. For example, all sex offenders in California and South Carolina register for life, regardless of the crimes committed. By demanding post-detention reporting for up to a lifetime, the court is presuming that an individual has the propensity to commit a certain type of crime in the future and therefore must be scrupulously supervised.
Courts have addressed this concern when the individual required to report is a minor. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state’s version of SORNA violates juvenile offenders’ due process rights because the requirements of satisfying SORNA assume that a juvenile will commit some sex offense in the future without giving him or her the opportunity to challenge that assumption. Equity demands assigning this same ruling to adult reporting requirements.
Another element of due process known as “double jeopardy” appears in the Fifth Amendment and protects an individual from being prosecuted for the same offense twice. It also bars multiple punishments for the same crime. Individuals convicted of crimes who have faced incarceration and then must begin sex registry-reporting are certainly being punished repeatedly. SORNA requirements punish ex-offenders by inflicting upon them tangible, secondary punishments, like the inability to qualify for housing and increased difficulties securing employment. These secondary punishments effectively banish ex-offenders to a modern leper colony by not only removing re-entry resources but also by affirmatively ostracizing those attempting to rebuild a life after incarceration.
In addition to violating double jeopardy, repeated punishments violate the Eighth Amendment by imposing cruel and unusual punishment. The government is prohibited from imposing a criminal sentence that is either vindictive or far too harsh for the crime committed. Incarceration is intended to be a punishment and a deterrence, so any subsequent punishment can only be vindictive. After incarceration, an ex-offender’s privacy is significantly diminished by the requirement to report one’s name, address, photo, employment status and provide a DNA sample.
Last fall, a federal judge found that the Colorado sex offender registry’s punitive impact outweighed any value it might have had in protecting the public and concluded that registration violates the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. As the judge specifically stated, “This ongoing imposition of a known and uncontrollable risk of public abuse of information from the sex offender registry, in the absence of any link to an objective risk to the public posed by each individual sex offender, has resulted in and continues to threaten [sex offenders] with punishment disproportionate to the offenses they committed.”
As Clarence Darrow famously said, “You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can only be free if I am free.” Protecting the constitutional rights of everyone, even those convicted of sex offenses, is of the upmost importance for protecting our freedom. Therefore, both legislators — by way of developing and amending laws — and judges — via hearing arguments and creating case law — must re-examine SORNA in order to preserve liberty and uphold the Constitution.
I just got a call from someone with a huge problem because they did not keep a copy of a document they filed in court.
I must have told inmates 1,000s of times: “NEVER file anything in court without keeping a copy!” In Court, Board of Pardons, anything important!
Yes, they really are that uninformed (most would say dumb)… many, many of them. “NEVER file anything in court without keeping a copy!”
There is no guarantee, of course that you will keep them; malicious guards stole my only copies of many legal papers I filed. Read It’s not about What They Did to Me -Prison Abuse paragraph #7.
Just this week I have received two calls, one from AZ and the other from PA, about this very problem.
Once again, it is hard to believe so many attorneys are so stupid/incompetent, but they are. As a criminal defendant, before trial, as part of “discovery”, you can request that the state provide you a copy of any written or recorded statements by or images of the defendant. It is criminal law 101 that any defense attorney routinely request this in every case, but a surprising number do not. ASK your attorney to do so!I remember well the DUI trial I had as a prosecutor against a guy named Shackleford. It was his 4th or 5th DUI and I would not let him plead to anything less. He hired two of the “best” attorneys: Harold and Jay Schmittinger. The trial took a week, and Shackleford took the stand to testify that he was not intoxicated. He must have paid his attorneys a fortune to have them both there for a week, and they flew in an “expert”* from NJ to (unsuccessfully) challenge the breath analysis machine. I had a video of Mr. Shackleford stumbling all over the place, slurring his words, at the State Police office. Because the idiot attorneys had not requested it, they were more than a little surprised when I called the trooper to testify and to show that video [end of case!]. Harold jumped up and objected, telling the judge I had “sandbagged” him. When I told the judge that that, “although it is law school 101 to request such items”, the defense had never requested it, the judge looked at Schmittinger in disbelief and asked “is that right?”. Harold turned beet red and said yes. He hated me from that day on, for making him look like a fool. Ask me if I care.
*READ Beware of “Expert” Witnesses! A funny true story about “experts”:
I think the ACLU is quite likely to win this one. Earlier cases state that courts must consider one’s ability to pay. “Requiring indigent people to pay court costs without considering their ability to pay violates the U.S. Constitution, and is cruel and unnecessary,” said ACLU of Ohio staff attorney Elizabeth Bonham. “Mr. Dunson is barely able to meet his basic needs in prison as it is, including food and medical care. And the State is garnishing his meager commissary account, ensuring he remains destitute.”
Our entire criminal justice system targets the poor.
Yesterday, February 6, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the American Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief in the Ohio Supreme Court in support of James Dunson, an Ohio state prisoner who the Montgomery County Court imposed a debt he cannot pay, to recoup the cost of exercising his constitutional right to a jury trial.
“Requiring indigent people to pay court costs without considering their ability to pay violates the U.S. Constitution, and is cruel and unnecessary,” said ACLU of Ohio staff attorney Elizabeth Bonham. “Mr. Dunson is barely able to meet his basic needs in prison as it is, including food and medical care. And the State is garnishing his meager commissary account, ensuring he remains destitute,” she continued.
Mr. Dunson works full time as a prison laborer, but at the cents-per-hour prison earning rate, he saves less than $40 monthly. The Montgomery County Court garnishes Mr. Dunson’s commissary account every single month, taking away virtually all of these earnings. It leaves Mr. Dunson unable to pay for basic necessities like medical co-pays, and personal hygiene items, and unable to save anything for his future when he is released from prison.
“Saddling the people we incarcerate with unreasonable debt creates a barrier to reentry and makes life in Ohio’s prisons even more inhumane,” said Bonham. “The State locked Mr. Dunson up and now is additionally—and unconstitutionally—extracting wealth from him and his family. This case highlights how our society creates conditions that keep people like Mr. Dunson in continuous cycles of poverty and incarceration.”
The amicus brief was submitted on behalf of the ACLU of Ohio, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Read the Whole Story: