Every state should have such a law. There are many causes for wrongful convictions, but this is a big one.
Excerpts from the Article:
A new law enacted in Oklahoma will crack down on unreliable jailhouse informants who testify against others in exchange for lenience in their own cases and sometimes for other benefits.
The law was sponsored by Senator Julie Daniels and Representative Chris Kannady, making Oklahoma the third state to enact jailhouse informant laws. Maryland enacted a similar law in April, and Connecticut did so last year.
The leading cause of wrongful convictions has consistently been the use of eyewitness identification (which includes jailhouse informants) and false confessions. In John Grisham’s book The Innocent Man, he told the true story of the wrongful convictions of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz, who were wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of Debbie Sue Carter in Ada, Oklahoma, in 1982.
While Williamson was in jail for writing bad checks, a jailhouse informant told authorities that he confessed to Carter’s murder. Fritz also was implicated in the crime, and they were both convicted by jailhouse informant testimony. Williamson was sentenced to death; Fritz was sentenced to life in prison. That same jailhouse informant had been used multiple times in other cases to secure convictions and had received substantial benefits — none of which was ever disclosed to the defense.
Seventeen years later, DNA evidence cleared Williamson and Fritz of the crime and pointed to Glenn Gore, who had committed other crimes while the two men sat in prison for his rape and murder of Carter. “Two innocent men and my family were devastated by unreliable jailhouse witnesses,” Carter’s cousin Christy Sheppard said. “The new law can protect the next innocent man and deliver justice that crime victims deserve.”
The law will require district attorneys to (1) disclose to the defense any deals or benefits to jailhouse informants for their testimony, along with their complete criminal history and previous deals for snitching, (2) create a central database of jailhouse informants and this information, and (3) file an annual report on the data collected by the database.
“Oklahoma is taking another major step in preventing wrongful convictions,” Kannady said. “Addressing unreliable jailhouse informants, in addition [to] passing eyewitness identification and recording suspect interrogations reforms last year, will protect the innocent and improve public safety.”
“Lifting the secrecy around incentivized testimony will protect innocent Oklahomans and victims of jailhouse informants’ crimes,” Vicki Behenna, executive director of the Oklahoma Innocence Project, said. “Thanks to the leadership of Senator Daniels and Representative Kannady, this law promotes transparency to reveal the truth and prevent wrongful convictions.”
This Article was sent to me by my good friend and great lawyer, Steve Hampton. If you know anyone who got coronavirus in any prison in America, you should call Steve!
Here we see more bad cops, and the all too familiar attempts to lie about what really happened. They need to be PROSECUTED.
Excerpts from the Article:
The family of a 22-year-old San Francisco man who was shot and killed by a Vallejo officer at a local Walgreens in June has filed a federal lawsuit, alleging that the officer who fired the fatal shots was “trigger happy” and “murdered” the young man.
The suit, filed Thursday by the family of Sean Monterrosa, also alleges that Vallejo police Chief Shawny Williams bowed to the department’s union by changing the narrative of the shooting, first saying that Monterrosa was on his knees when he was shot, then saying that he was “crouching” and appeared to be firing.
Monterrosa was unarmed when a Vallejo officer — identified by sources as Det. Jarrett Tonn — fired five times through the windshield of a moving police truck, striking Monterrosa once in the upper neck. Police say Tonn mistook the handle of a hammer in Monterrosa’s sweater for a gun.
The suit names Tonn and the city of Vallejo as defendants, and seeks unspecified damages. It was filed by the law offices of John Burris, a Bay Area civil rights attorney who has several active lawsuits against the city over fatal police shootings.
The city has not yet responded to the suit, and public officials are generally dissuaded from commenting on active litigation.
Tonn, along with other officers, was responding to reports of looting at the Walgreens on Redwood Street in Vallejo on the night of June 2. As the officers drove up in an unmarked police truck, Monterrosa was one of several seen running from the pharmacy. Tonn fired an AR-15 five times through the windshield, his fourth shooting as a Vallejo police officer.
“Defendant Tonn has a shocking history of shooting his guns at civilians as a police officer, including two two shootings in a six-week span in 2017, and another shooting in 2015 where he fired his gun 18 times in two seconds at a person he claimed was ramming his vehicle with a stolen vehicle,” the suit says. Tonn had never killed anyone in the prior three shootings.
After a news conference in which he said Monterrosa was on his knees, Williams “revised his public statement to line up with the police union’s claims” that Monterrosa was “crouching” and appeared to be readying himself to fire, the suit alleges.
The shooting has led to protests and controversy from the beginning. Vallejo police delayed announcing that an officer had killed somebody for almost two days after the incident. Days later, the Vallejo police union filed for a restraining order to prevent police from confirming Tonn’s name, though it had already been widely reported.
Last month, Williams placed two lieutenants on leave — including police union president Mike Nichelini — and launched an investigation into the destruction of the windshield that Tonn fired through. The attorney for both officers called the personnel decision unfair to both officers and predicted they’d be cleared, though Williams asked the FBI to look into the matter and called it a potentially illegal destruction of evidence.
On top of that, Williams has launched an internal investigation after the news site Open Vallejo reported that a “secretive clique” of officers existed within the department, which would celebrate fatal police shootings by bending a tip of their badge. Nichelini has called the allegations inflammatory and “lies,” though Williams said in a news release that two sources within the department reported hearing of the practice.
The Whole Story:
They knew it was wrong; they did it anyway. Private prisons are the worst mistake since the beginning of the war on drugs. Obama saw this and was getting them out; tRump brought them back because they donated HUGE sums to his campaign.
Excerpts from the Article:
The operator of a privately run federal prison in Kansas and its phone provider have agreed to pay $3.7 million to settle a lawsuit filed by attorneys who alleged that calls with their clients at the facility were illegally recorded.
CoreCivic, which runs the Leavenworth Detention Center, and its phone provider, Securus Technologies, agreed to pay the money into a fund that will be distributed among attorneys who had in-person or phone communications intercepted.
A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri approved the agreement. The settlement comes a year after the companies agreed to pay $1.6 million to current and former detainees who made similar allegations.
CoreCivic told the newspaper in an email that the company maintains that there was no wrongdoing on the part of its company or its employees.
The attorneys for the plaintiffs and Securus Technologies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Attorneys who had their in-person clients visits or phone calls intercepted or recorded will be entitled to up to $10,000 in compensation under the terms of the settlement. Those who had both in person and phone communications intercepted will be entitled to up to $20,000.
David Johnson and Adam Crane, the named litigants who sued in 2016, will each be awarded $25,000. Just under $1.3 million will be set aside for attorneys fees.
The rest of the money will be donated to Legal Aid of Western Missouri and Kansas Legal Services.
Last year, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson held the U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas in contempt of court, finding it willfully violated court orders during an independent investigation of the systemic practice. The judge also found that some federal prosecutors improperly listened to recorded communications between inmates and their attorneys.
More than a hundred criminal defendants have filed petitions seeking to get their sentences vacated or indictments dismissed. Those proceedings are ongoing.
This article by Mr. Bethel is an interesting discussion of some of the issues involved with Black Lives Matter.
I don’t agree with some of what he says about the Constitution, and I shall ask him about that when (if) we meet. I am trying to track him down. He surely is spot on with this remark: “Black lives didn’t matter in the beginning, from 1619, through slavery, through the Jim Crow laws, and no, Black lives don’t matter to some people even in 2020.”
Excerpts from the Article:
Black Lives Matter doesn’t have anything to do with the disapproval rating of Donald Trump (Frank Daniels’ question “What is Black Lives Matter?” July 24). If anyone is a Marxist and an anarchist (yes, I do know the meanings), it’s Trump and his enablers in the Senate who have, time after time, turned a blind eye to his autocratic, demagogic, authoritarian way of ruining this country.
I have the utmost respect for you, Mr. Daniels, for serving your country as a retired colonel. What is disappointing to me is the fact that you still support this man after he’s used the military as a political stunt when he had them gas and clear out innocent protesters, just so he could do a photo op in front of a church. Trump has all but turned his back on not only the military itself by not taking the bounty attacks from Russia seriously, but he’s also turned his back on us as Americans during the coronavirus, by not listening to the scientists or anyone in his administration who repeatedly tried to warn him of the coming pandemic as many as a dozen times between January and February. Even some military retirees are now putting ads out against Trump to get him out of office. He is the most dangerous, incompetent, ignorant and worst president this country has ever had in the whole history of the United States of America — by far!
Black Lives Matter is not doing anything to Trump that he’s not already doing to himself. So, let’s not blame Trump’s ineptitude on Black Lives Matter. He has single-handedly destroyed the moral fabric of this country and distanced us from our allies while continuing to sow the seeds of racism and division.
Joe Biden will not destroy our neighborhoods and suburbs like Trump claims. The truth of the matter is that the president is losing suburban white voters. This is why he’s trying desperately to paint a picture of fear and trouble. However, that 2016 playbook of law and order and paranoia is not going to work on the majority of Americans who see Trump for what he really is: a shallow, weak and insecure man who has the attention span of a 3-year-old.
Trump has quit on this country at a time when we need real leadership. As of this writing, he still has no federal plan on how to combat the virus. Why doesn’t he attack the coronavirus like he attacked the peaceful protesters in Portland, Oregon, or in other cities? He is a coward who will not accept responsibility for anything and blames everything and everyone else for things that happened on his watch.
At least Joe Biden has some sense. He is compassionate, he listens, and he understands the needs of the American people! He will unify us, not tear us apart, unlike Trump, who only cares about Trump and what will be best for Trump.
He’s already trying to sow seeds of doubt about the election, due to increased mail-in ballots. Now he’s saying that he doesn’t know if he will accept the results if he loses. So we need to make sure that we see what he will do when he loses. We need to completely destroy him at the polls or by mail-in ballots, so that there is no doubt that he has to go!
Although I’m disappointed in the fact that a former military man like Mr. Daniels supports Trump, it doesn’t really surprise me. It doesn’t surprise me that the president still has his die-hard base standing by him no matter how racist and divisive he is. A lot of his base wants to go back to the “good old days” of the ’50s and ’60s, maybe even further.
Let’s journey back so we can see why we are where we are today in regard to Black Lives Matter. There’s a racial caste system that’s been going on since slavery, to Jim Crow, to mass incarceration today. The more times change, the more things stay the same for Black Americans. The structure and content of the original Constitution was to preserve slavery, while, at the same time, affording political and economic rights to whites, especially propertied whites. The Southern slaveholding colonies would agree to form a union only on the condition that the federal government would not interfere with the right to own slaves. Northern white elites were sympathetic to the demand for their property rights to be respected, so they wanted their property (slaves) protected. So, the Constitution was designed so the federal government would be weak, not only in its relationship to private property, but also in the relationship to the rights of states to conduct their own affairs. The language of the Constitution itself was deliberately colorblind. The words “Negro” or “slave” were never used. However, the document itself was designed for a compromise regarding the control of Blacks. Federalism (which is the division of power between the states and the federal government) was the device used to protect the institution of slavery and the political power of slaveholding states. Even identifying the winner of a presidential election (the Electoral College) was developed with the interest of slaveholders in mind.
Under the term of our country’s founding document, slaves (Blacks) were defined as three-fifths of a man, not a real, whole human being! I’m making a point as to why Black Lives Matter exists now. Black lives didn’t matter in the beginning, from 1619, through slavery, through the Jim Crow laws, and no, Black lives don’t matter to some people even in 2020.
Just take a look at all the Black men in some kind of prison system today. The war on drugs has put more Black people behind bars than for all other reasons combined. Drug arrests have tripled since 1980. More than 31 million people have been arrested for a drug offense, the majority of them Black. Once released from prison, they are reduced to not even second-class status, but a permanent underclass status in life. No really good job opportunities, no voting rights or housing assistance or any kind of government benefits. Let’s not even get into the countless acts of police brutality and violence against Blacks, which is one reason why Black Lives Matter formed. This is what it means to be Black in America.
Slavery defined what it meant to be Black (a slave), and Jim Crow defined what it meant to be Black (a second-class citizen). Today’s mass incarceration defines the meaning of Blackness in America: Black people, especially Black men, are seen as criminals. This is what it means to be Black in America.
The good news is that the majority of our country is made up of people who really want change. The majority of our country realizes that all lives will never really matter until Black lives do really matter.
Those “good old days” are gone, aren’t they, Mr. Daniels?
Francis A. Bethel III is a veteran of the U.S. Army and a Kraft Foods retiree after 32 years. He resides in Dover.
As I wrote several years ago: “Based on my vast, vast experience in criminal law, as a prosecutor, I would bet my life that tRump is fighting like hell on this BECAUSE his returns will reveal multiple crimes …. tax fraud, bank fraud, money laundering… AND we will see that when we finally DO she the sonofabitch’s returns! 🙂
I post anti Trump comments because all responsible citizens have a duty to do so! I shall give the nitwits who respond in his defense exactly the amount of my time they are worth: NONE.”
Excerpts from the Article:
A New York City prosecutor fighting to get President Donald Trump’s tax returns told a judge Monday he was justified in demanding them because of public reports of “extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. is seeking eight years of the Republican president’s personal and corporate tax records, but has disclosed little about what prompted him to request the records, other than part of the investigation related to payoffs to two women to keep them quiet about alleged affairs with Trump.
In a court filing Monday, attorneys for Vance, a Democrat, said the president wasn’t entitled to know the exact nature of the grand jury probe, which they called a “complex financial investigation.”
They noted, though, that at the time the subpoena for the tax filings was issued to Trump’s accountants, “there were public allegations of possible criminal activity” at the president’s company “dating back over a decade.”
They cited several newspaper articles, including one in which the Washington Post examined allegations that Trump had a practice of sending financial statements to potential business partners and banks that inflated the worth of his projects by claiming they were bigger or more potentially lucrative than they actually were.
Another article described congressional testimony by Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who said the president would overstate the value of his business interests to impress people or lenders, but then deflate the value of assets when trying to reduce his taxes.
The attorneys also cited reports of past non-criminal investigations by New York regulators into whether the conduct described by Cohen amounted to bank or insurance fraud.
“These reports describe transactions involving individual and corporate actors based in New York County, but whose conduct at times extended beyond New York’s borders. This possible criminal activity occurred within the applicable statutes of limitations, particularly if the transactions involved a continuing pattern of conduct,” the lawyers said.
Speaking to reporters later Monday, Trump called the district attorney’s investigation another attempt by Democrats to damage him.
The Supreme Court last month rejected claims by Trump’s lawyers that the president could not be criminally investigated while he was in office.
Vance’s lawyers urged U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero to swiftly reject Trump’s further arguments that the subpoenas were improper, saying the baseless claims were threatening the investigation. “Every day that goes by is another day Plaintiff effectively achieves the ‘temporary absolute immunity’ that was rejected by this Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court,” Vance’s lawyers said.
Vance sought the tax records in part for a probe of how Cohen arranged during the 2016 presidential race to keep the porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal from airing claims of extramarital affairs with Trump. Trump has denied the affairs.
Cohen is serving the last two years of a three-year prison sentence in home confinement after pleading guilty to campaign finance violations, lying to Congress and tax crimes. He said he plans to publish a book critical of the president before the November election.
If the court orders Trump’s accounting firm to give his tax returns to the grand jury, they could be used in any criminal inquiry, but would not be released publicly. Grand jury documents are secret in New York.
“Our girl”, Kathy Jennings, stays the course for real justice. I have known Kathy for more than 30 years, and she will do what she sets out to do!
Excerpts from the Article:
Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings insists her initiatives for criminal justice in Delaware are not designed to be for or against police officers throughout the state.
Rather, Ms. Jennings said her initiatives are designed to make the legal playing field more equal for everybody and were the result of long talks with a group of prosecutors in trying to create a fairer justice system for the state.
“When I was elected to be Delaware attorney general and came into office, my mission was crystal clear, and that was to make the criminal justice system fairer and more equal for everyone regardless of the size of their wallet, the color of their skin or the ZIP code where they live,” Ms. Jennings said.
“Voters across the state were demanding that the criminal justice system become a model system and not one that is fraught with racial injustice and injustice to low-income people, as well.”
Dover City Councilman Ralph Taylor heard her presentation recently and thought it would be a good idea to have her discuss criminal justice reform efforts during a virtual Council Committee of the Whole meeting July 28.
“I heard the presentation during the Racial Equality and Social Justice Collaborative meeting about two weeks ago, and I thought it was very informative,” Councilman Taylor said, “and in the wake of the civil unrest that we have been going through, I thought it important that these points, these initiatives, be brought before council and before our community for open discussion.”
Some of the highlights of Ms. Jennings’ 40-minute talk to Dover council members included:
• Adopting a statewide use-of-force standard for every police agency.
• The establishment of a statewide civilian review board.
• Reforming the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights.
• Banning the use of knee- and chokeholds.
• Expanding community policing.
• Mandatory and universal body cameras.
• Reforming probationer search programs.
• Making police disciplinary hearings more transparent.
Ms. Jennings’ proposed criminal justice reforms have been discussed since well before the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer during an arrest in Minneapolis on May 25, which sparked protests and demands for criminal justice change across the country.
“This is not a pro-police or antipolice issue. Quite frankly, this is a justice issue,” Ms. Jennings said. “I’ve heard many, many times over the past several months that there are no problems in policing in Delaware, and I do believe that the vast majority of police in our state are police officers because they want to help other people because they care deep in their hearts about the communities that they serve.
“But we know from past experiences and some pretty recent experiences that there are some officers that flagrantly disobey the law, who treat people unjustly. We cannot have that in our system and that’s how we end up as a community that doesn’t trust the police.”
She added, “It’s important to us that we are reforming a system to build community trust between police, between law enforcement and the people that they serve.” Ms. Jennings said that people suffering from addiction and mental illness should be diverted safely into treatment programs, rather than go directly to prison following an arrest.
“As a matter of police, in our office, we de-emphasize low-level drug crimes that have long been an entry point in our system for nonviolent offenders to go into prison and have disproportionately impacted Black people,” she said. “We are no longer seeking warrants because someone is unable to pay a fine or fee. That’s simply a hamster wheel of injustice where we are imprisoning poor people who can’t pay their fines and fees, taking them from their jobs and from their families.”
She added that Delaware has stopped a “three strikes and you’re out” program for those convicted of drug offenses and that has helped people receive treatment rather than extended prison time.
Gov. John Carney applauded Ms. Jennings’ work towards criminal justice reform.
“We have a responsibility to make sure Delaware’s criminal justice system is fair to all Delawareans,” Gov. Carney said in a statement. “We’ve been focused on helping all offenders in Delaware successfully reenter their communities once they have served their time.
“These policy changes at the Department of Justice represent another real step forward, by ensuring that our resources are focused on prosecuting crimes that represent the greatest threat to our communities. I want to thank Attorney General Kathy Jennings for her leadership on this issue and for all of her efforts to make Delaware’s criminal justice system more fair for all Delawareans.”
She said her office’s efforts have helped crime statistics decline within the state.
“In our own office, we have dramatically reduced the number of times when prosecutors seek habitual-offender status for nonviolent crimes, and those have been reduced by 90% during the first year of my administration,” said Ms. Jennings. “Crime overall continues to fall. I know in Wilmington and in Dover, there is a gun violence issue that dominates, and we are laser beam focused on gun violence.
“So, when I talk about the fact that crime overall continues to fall, I’m still cognizant of the fact that we need to prioritize the prosecution of gun violence, as well.”
Ms. Jennings said a lot of bipartisan work toward social justice reform has taken place with the leaders in the General Assembly, changing how the criminal justice system functions. However, she said there is a lot more difficult work that needs to be done.
“I think as human beings, we know that it’s quite easy for us to blame others and point a finger at other people and say, ‘You need to change,’ before we’ve really done a hard look inside our own shop and inside ourselves and say, ‘What are we doing that is furthering the system that is not fair for everyone?’” Ms. Jennings said.
“These are big changes that we are proposing. Not one of these changes is going to be easy, though I do believe we can reach a consensus. It only happens when we all work together to make change.”
Decisions like this not only undermine faith in the whole system; they WASTE your hard-earned money! “Mr. Bryant has already spent nearly 23 years in prison and is now over 60 years old,” she wrote. “If he lives another 20 years, Louisiana taxpayers will have paid almost one million dollars to punish Mr. Bryant for his failed effort to steal a set of hedge clippers.”
This sentence is so clearly insanely unfair! THIS too is one big reason that so many have little trust in the system … deeply damaging and profoundly pervasive attitude.
Excerpts from the Article:
More than two decades ago, police in Shreveport, La., stopped Fair Wayne Bryant on the side of the road for allegedly stealing a pair of hedge clippers. His vehicle looked like one that had been used in a recent home burglary, they told the Black 38-year-old moments before arresting him.
Bryant insisted the clippers police found in the van belonged to his wife, but he did make a confession to the officers: After his vehicle had broken down on an unfamiliar road, he had entered a carport in search of a tank of gas.
That disclosure would eventually land Bryant life in prison, a sentence that has effectively been rubber-stamped by the state’s highest legal authority.
Last week, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied a request from Bryant to hear a review of his life sentence. Six of the seven justices backed the decision, which was first reported by The Lens NOLA, a nonprofit news site based in New Orleans.
The lone Black judge on the bench was the only one to disagree. In a searing dissent, Chief Justice Bernette Johnson said Bryant’s sentence was only due to Louisiana’s harsh habitual offender laws, a “modern manifestation” of the “Pig Laws” designed to keep Black people in poverty during Reconstruction.
“Mr. Bryant has already spent nearly 23 years in prison and is now over 60 years old,” she wrote. “If he lives another 20 years, Louisiana taxpayers will have paid almost one million dollars to punish Mr. Bryant for his failed effort to steal a set of hedge clippers.”
The decision from the state Supreme Court gives Bryant few, if any, options for recourse to leave Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, the country’s largest maximum-security prison, which is also the site of a former slave plantation.
In her dissent, Johnson — the court’s first Black chief justice — drew a straight line from slavery to the laws that she said enabled Louisiana prosecutors to send Bryant to Angola for the rest of his life.
In the years following Reconstruction, she wrote, Southern states introduced extreme sentences for petty theft, such as stealing cattle and swine, that criminalized recently freed African Americans who were still struggling to come out of poverty. Much like Black Codes before them, they allowed states to sentence people to forced labor. Under these laws, the Black prison population in the Deep South exploded starting in the 1870s. “Pig Laws were largely designed to re-enslave African Americans,” Johnson wrote. Those same laws, she argued, evolved into Louisiana’s habitual offender laws, which allows prosecutors to seek harsher sentences for lesser crimes if a defendant has previous convictions.
Those laws have drawn heavy scrutiny for allowing excessively harsh sentences and driving mass incarceration. Almost 80 percent of people incarcerated in Louisiana prisons under the habitual offender laws are Black, the Lens reported.
Bryant is one of them. He was first convicted in 1979, serving 10 years for the attempted armed robbery of a cabdriver. Johnson pointed out the rest of his three convictions were nonviolent: possessing some stolen goods from a Radio Shack; trying to forge a $150 check, and then in 1992 breaking into a home and stealing personal property, for which he served another four years in prison.
When a jury convicted him of attempted simple burglary five years later over the hedge clippers, prosecutors invoked the habitual offender laws to obtain a sentence of life without parole. Because Bryant had four prior felony convictions, the sentence was legal at the time under Louisiana statutes, they said.
In 2000, Louisiana’s 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal said a life sentence was an appropriate punishment because Bryant had already spent so long in prison as an adult. The “litany of convictions and the brevity of the periods during which defendant was not in custody for a new offense,” that court wrote, “is ample support for the sentence imposed in this case.”
Following two appeals, Bryant was given the possibility of parole. He argued he had received an illegal sentence and should have been appointed a lawyer during a resentencing hearing. But his motions were denied by higher courts — and last week, the Louisiana Supreme Court agreed.
Except for Johnson, who argued the sentence constituted a cruel and excessively harsh punishment.
“This man’s life sentence for a failed attempt to steal a set of hedge clippers,” she wrote, “is grossly out of proportion to the crime and serves no legitimate penal purpose.”
The Loser in Chief has lost another court case. This decision is a victory for transparency in government, and for Congressional oversight.
A federal appeals court on Friday upheld the House’s subpoena of former White House counsel Don McGahn, ruling that Congress has the right to enforce its subpoenas in court.
The 7-2 decision from the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses an earlier ruling from a divided three-judge panel that declared that congressional subpoenas were essentially unenforceable.
“The Constitution charges Congress with certain responsibilities, including to legislate, to conduct oversight of the federal government, and, when necessary, to impeach and remove a President or other Executive Branch official from office,” Judge Judith Rogers wrote in the majority opinion. “Possession of relevant information is an essential precondition to the effective discharge of all of those duties.”
Although the ruling is a clear victory for congressional Democrats, it does not mean that McGahn will be sitting for testimony anytime soon. The majority decision did not address the Trump administration’s claim that White House officials are immune to congressional subpoena, so even if McGahn does not appeal the ruling, the two sides will still have more to litigate before the D.C. Circuit.
Kerri Kupec, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, didn’t say whether the administration would appeal the ruling.
The circuit court on Friday also ruled that the House has standing to sue Trump over his diversion of Pentagon funds to border wall construction.
The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed McGahn last year as part of an effort to follow up on the former special counsel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. That investigation eventually morphed into President Trump’s impeachment by the House and acquittal by the Senate.
Trump directed McGahn, his former legal adviser, not to comply with the subpoena, and the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel said the president and his inner circle were immune from congressional subpoenas.
The House sued in federal court to get the subpoena enforced and a district court judge sided against the president in November, ruling that the president and his close advisers have no such immunity from congressional subpoenas. McGahn, represented by the Department of Justice, appealed the decision and a three-judge D.C. Circuit panel ruled 2-1 that the House had no standing to sue.
The House then asked the full D.C. Circuit to rehear the case, arguing that the panel’s decision would seriously damage Congress’s ability to conduct oversight of the executive branch.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) applauded the ruling, saying that it “strikes a blow against the wall of impunity that President Trump has tried to build for himself.”
“Today’s decision is a profound victory for the rule of law and our constitutional system of government,” Nadler said in a statement. “The court rejected President Trump’s sweeping claim that Committees of the House have no standing before the courts to seek redress of the institutional injury caused when lawfully issued subpoenas are ignored. Today’s decision confirms the Judiciary’s ability to resolve these disputes.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also praised the ruling, calling it “a victory for the rule of law and Congressional oversight.”
“The Court reaffirmed our Constitution’s system of checks and balances and rejected the President’s outrageous claim that Congress cannot enforce its subpoenas,” she said. “The House will continue to pursue justice until Don McGahn and all Administration officials comply with our rightfully-issued subpoenas. We remain committed to our oversight responsibilities and to our nation’s fundamental principle that no one is above the law – not even the President.”
The ruling, which can be appealed to the Supreme Court, affirms that Congress has the power to investigate the president and his branch of government and holds that the authority is especially important during impeachment proceedings.
“To level the grave accusation that a President may have committed ‘Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,’ the House must be appropriately informed,” Rogers, who was appointed to the appeals court by former President Clinton, wrote in the opinion. “And it cannot fully inform itself without the power to compel the testimony of those who possess relevant or necessary information.”
All seven of the judges in the majority were appointed by Democratic presidents, and both dissenters were appointed by Republicans. Two judges, Gregory Katsas and Neomi Rao, both of whom were appointed by Trump and worked in his White House, recused themselves from the case.
The two judges who dissented — Thomas Griffith and Karen Henderson, both appointed by former President George H.W. Bush — argued in separate opinions that the courts should not be mediating disputes between Congress and the president. “The majority’s decision will compel us to referee an interminable series of interbranch disputes, politicizing the Judiciary by repeatedly forcing us to take sides between the branches,” Griffith wrote. “I cannot join the court’s expedition into an area where we do not belong and can do no good.”
While Friday’s ruling comes months after the conclusion of the impeachment process, it’s a blow to the Trump administration, which has repeatedly argued in an unprecedented number of court battles between the two branches that Congress is limited in the ways it can fight back against the president.
The administration has had a mixed record in its legal battles against efforts to investigate the president. In a 7-2 ruling last month, the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s argument that he has absolute immunity concerning a grand jury subpoena for his tax returns issued by the district attorney in Manhattan.
Though the high court ruled on the legal merits of those congressional subpoenas, it has yet to consider whether Congress actually has standing to enforce its investigative demands in the courts.
The system is sooooooo fucked up; this is one result. It is not an uncommon injustice, and all of it is due to our “war on drugs”! To learn how, READ How the war on drugs destroyed Justice.
Excerpts from the Article:
Issues facing exonerees and wrongfully convicted individuals have been recurring topics in CLN and PLN. Still, there’s another category of arguably similarly situated citizens that must also be paid some attention: Those who were wrongfully accused of crimes they did not commit.
Even though a great many of these innocents were cleared of culpability and released before trial and others prior to being indicted, consider those whose lives were temporarily disrupted. Some of these victimized citizens’ lives would be all but destroyed just by their accusation and arrest.
Brandon Gonzales, 23, was attending a homecoming party in October 2019 at a Greenville, Texas, event hall. He had left the event and was sitting in a car outside when gunfire erupted from within the venue. He was told by fleeing partygoers that someone was inside shooting a firearm. Two partiers were killed, and many others wounded. Gonzales left the area and went home, thankful that neither he nor any of his friends had been among the dead or wounded, resuming his former life … for a short while. Gonzales would fall victim to an all-too-real (and common) example of an erroneous eyewitness identification. Three days after leaving that party, he found himself under arrest at his job by a phalanx of Hunt County sheriff’s deputies. With more than one death at that party, capital murder was the charge in the state that leads the nation in death penalties assessed and executions carried out. Gonzales had good reason to worry about his future.
With a hurriedly assessed $1 million bond, the former automobile dealership employee could never in his wildest dreams have hoped to make, Gonzales spent nine days in jail, reading his Bible, praying for deliverance, and writing in his journal. Apparently his prayers would be granted.
The investigators looking to actually solve the case rather than just obtain a conviction had cleared him of any involvement, despite a flawed eyewitness statement.
Released from jail, Gonzales found himself facing an entirely new raft of problems. The New York Times had run the story of his capital murder arrest, even to the point of printing his mugshot. His story and booking photograph landed on the web. Gonzales soon found himself to be the object of a great deal of unwanted, unnecessary, and unhelpful attention. When he saw a bystander filming him at a local department store, he moved thousands of miles away to live with relatives in Florida, seeking a fresh start. Even after arriving in Florida, he remained haunted by his false arrest ordeal. After a Google search where his arrest, charge, and mugshot remain, employment door after employment door slammed firmly shut. One prospective employer recently suggested that Gonzales let some more time elapse before trying to find a job.
A bad eyewitness accusation and the cops’ rush to arrest are not an isolated or even rare occurrence. This is demonstrated by the recent release of a movie about Richard Jewell, a former security guard who found a bomb at the 1996 Olympic Games. He saved many lives yet wound up being falsely accused of planting the bomb himself. Because of that false accusation, Jewell’s life was effectively destroyed due to the false accusation against him.
Gonzales was also vilified. “This really, it ruined my life,” he told The Dallas Morning News. “Everything was going great. I got up to go to work every morning. I provided for my kids. Now it’s like, even though I was set free — they finally found out I was innocent — it’s still there.”
Gonzales credits friends, family, and lawyers for sticking with him. Exculpatory evidence and a contradictory timeline given by an unnamed witness bolstered his innocence. Gonzales, it was revealed, was on a FaceTime call with his girlfriend while the shooting was going on. Others saw him sitting in his vehicle outside the party site.
Who killed Byron Craven Jr. and Kevin Berry, and injured six others, remains a mystery. Who devastated Gonzales’ life isn’t.
More out of control prison abuse, which costs YOU taxpayers BILLIONS of dollars each year. All of it is PREVENTABLE!
There will be dozens of lawsuits as a result of this and YOU also pay for those.
Excerpts from the Article.
After what officials are calling coordinated fights, six Oklahoma prisons were placed on lockdown status for over a week. One prisoner died and 36 prisoners and several staff were injured in the melees.
The lockdowns began on September 15, 2019, after fights between gangs at prisons in Hominy, Sayre, Fort Supply, Lawton, and Stringtown occurred within 24 hours of altercations at Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center in Vinita.
“It has to be a coordinated effort,” said Bobby Cleveland, director of the Oklahoma Corrections Professionals. “They even had fights at the minimum-security prison.” He noted that prisoners use contraband cellphones to coordinate illegal efforts.
Following the lockdowns, guards conducted shakedowns of the prisons and confiscated homemade weapons. “A lot of shanks . . . broken broom handles, broken faucets, faucet heads that have a cord attached to them,” said Matt Elliott, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (OCDC). “The types of weapons inmates typically use and fight with.”
Prisoner Chad Burns, 27, was killed in a fight at the Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy. He was serving a 15-year sentence for 2016 convictions on charges of weapons, assault and battery, robbery, and burglary. Of the 36 injured prisoners, 12 were hospitalized with “non-life threatening injuries.” No prison staff were hospitalized.
The fights were gang- and race-related, Elliott said. He refused to identify the gangs involved.
“No, and I don’t know that we will,” he said. “We don’t want to spread that information and touch off more violence and add notoriety to those gangs. When you do that, you’re building their street cred.”
OCDC took action to attempt a break-up of the gangs. “DOC staff are transferring inmates identified in the fights to other facilities for their safety,” OCDC said in a statement. “The agency has also added staff to the above facilities to enhance security.”
The number of prisoners involved in the fights was undetermined. “We’re still investigating as far as the numbers involved,” Elliott said. “It’s going to be a lot of people involved.”
Prison officials began lifting the lockdowns on September 24, 2019. The process was graduated with controlled movement in the initial stages before normal operations were resumed.