Author Archives: Gideon

If you don’t buy this t-shirt, the racists win

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I don’t normally plug things for sale on the blog, but a good friend has made this tongue-in-cheek, but very serious t-shirt juxtaposing the ways we treat black and white actions differently in this country and the way we view the differences between the two races.

A major problem America faces is the existence (and often the denial) of Institutionalized Racism. There are countless studies and statistics that show minorities – especially black men – are disproportionately targeted by our judicial system. The criminalizing and villainizing of the black male greatly affects the majority’s perception of their fellow Americans.

In 2005, the media showed images of white Hurricane Katrina victims with supplies in their hands and called them “survivors” while calling black victims “looters.” In sports, black quarterbacks have historically been considered less intelligent yet more athletic than white quarterbacks.

This summer alone, we have witnessed the Ferguson Police Department assassinate the character of Mike Brown, a black teenager shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer. John Crawford III was killed by police in an Ohio Walmart simply for “shopping while black.”

The #BlackTomato t-shirt campaign is aimed at calling out how blacks and other minorities are perceived by the media and White America. All the money raised through this campaign will be donated to three amazing nonprofit organizations dedicated to racial equality: The Equal Justice Initiative, the Sentencing Project, and Colorado Communities United Against Mass Incarceration.

The money goes to 3 charities, 2 of whom are the Equal Justice Initiative and the Sentencing Project. None of the money goes to me. As you know, this blog is operated on a loss every year because I spend money but make none. So consider this payment for the last 8 years’ worth of free legal education I’ve given you.

You can buy it here.

A double standard in prosecutorial misconduct

Last week, in a Connecticut courtroom, something unprecedented happened: after a jury returned a guilty verdict in a trial, the judge, from the bench, suspended the defense lawyer for 20 days from the practice of law, for twice-violating a court order.

The lawyer is long-time New Haven attorney John Williams, who is a former law partner of Norm Pattis, so I’ll refer you to Norm for a defense of Attorney Williams.

Apparently, Williams’ client was tried in Federal court for the same offense and acquitted and then returned to State court for another trial. The judge ruled that the acquittal could not be entered into evidence and the jury could not be told about it.

Twice, Williams slipped up and mentioned the acquittal – once during cross-examination and once during closing arguments. After the verdict the judge announced his: a suspension for 20 days1.

Death by any means

It’s bad enough that the duty of prosecutors to disclose and give to the accused any exculpatory and impeachment evidence is entirely self-regulated. It’s quite another when prosecutors flout that requirement to obtain convictions while hiding behind the quickly falling veil of justice. It’s worse yet when they intentionally hide evidence in a case in which they are seeking to murder the accused.

This may sound familiar to you and that’s because I wrote back in February about Virginia prosecutors and their quest to kill Justin Wolfe. If only this were a follow-up to that post. It is not. This is yet another instance of prosecutorial hide-the-ball in a death penalty case, this time from Colorado in the case of Sir Mario Owens1.

Determined to demonstrate just how far he believed Arapahoe County prosecutors had strayed over the line in the effort to obtain the death penalty against his client, defense attorney Jim Castle resorted to a visual aid. During a hearing late Friday, he presented District Judge Gerald Rafferty with a wheeled cart piled with documents that he said prosecutors were obligated to turn over to the defense before trial but failed to do so — a transgression of due-process rights known as a Brady violation.

“There are so many violations in this case, I can’t cover them all,” Castle said. “How did this happen? This shouldn’t happen. If it’s allowed, we will accept a new low for justice in Colorado.”

I’m not going to go into a long-winded rant about the injustice of this. I’ll just let you see how outrageous it is.

  • [Co-defendant] Robert Ray’s wife, LaToya Sailor, testified that she wasn’t willing to come forward about what she knew until after Owens was arrested because she feared Owens would harm her son. Despite the fact that police documents indicate Sailor was already cooperating with authorities prior to Owens’ arrest, prosecutors made her supposed need to be protected from Owens “an issue in the case” and hammered away at it to the jury.
  • Another document withheld from the defense indicated Sailor, the beneficiary of a car from then-District Attorney Carol Chambers, had initially offered to assist in an accessory case against Ray but didn’t want to tie him directly to the Marshall-Fields shooting. (Ray was sentenced to death for Marshall-Fields’s murder and received a life sentence for Wolfe’s death.)
  • Witness Jamar Johnson was facing two counts of conspiracy to commit murder if he failed to cooperate in the Ray-Owens prosecution, but defense attorneys weren’t made aware of that possible motivation or how it might have shaped his testimony.
  • Greg Strickland, the only witness to identify Owens as the shooter of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe, testified that he’d received no assistance in any of his own cases in return for his testimony. But records indicate he received a plea deal in Adams County in exchange for his cooperation.

Some prosecutors take the position that if they don’t ask or know about information that would tend to prove the accused’s innocence, then they don’t have to abide by the Constitution. DA Carol Chambers apparently subscribed to that school of thought, because this isn’t the first case in which her ethics were called into question.

It is precisely this blood-lust that leads to a convict-at-all-costs attitude. And when the priority is a conviction, it is justice that dies.


Black men are exigent circumstances

Pursuant to the protections of the Fourth Amendment granted to every resident of this country, police cannot enter a residence or a closed bedroom without a warrant. This would violate the Fourth Amendment. There are certain exceptions to that warrant requirement, such as the existence of “exigent circumstances”.

[t]he term, exigent circumstances, does not lend itself to a precise definition but generally refers to those situations in which law enforcement agents will be unable or unlikely to effectuate an arrest, search or seizure, for which probable cause exists, unless they act swiftly and, without seeking prior judicial authorization.

There are three categories of circumstances that are exigent: those that present a risk of danger to human life; the destruction of evidence; or the flight of a suspect.

The exigent circumstances doctrine, however, is limited to instances in which the police initially have probable cause either to arrest or to search.

So, when one day police officers knocked on the door of the third floor apartment at 239 Knickerbocker Avenue, Stamford, CT, the following was known to them:

  1. GPS data from a third-party’s cell phone, which was believed to be in the suspect’s possession, suggested that the suspect had been in the general vicinity of that address (not that apartment) for some unknown period of time in the past 41 hours, and

  2. That the resident of the third floor apartment had recently been keeping company with two black men in her apartment. The suspect, naturally, was black.

Since the police were searching for a murder suspect from New Jersey, who they believed to be armed and dangerous, they thought it permissible to enter the bedroom without obtaining a warrant, because of “exigent circumstances”. But that’s just sophistry.

As Justice McDonald’s blistering dissent [PDF] states:

Thus, at the time the police knocked on Valvo’s apartment door, all they reasonably believed was that [the murder suspect] Singer possibly was in possession of a cell phone, that this cell phone had been in the vicinity of 239 Knickerbocker Avenue at some moment in the preceding forty-one hours, and that a man who has the same skin color as Singer had been staying in the third  floor apartment of 239 Knickerbocker Avenue for an unspecified period of time.

You’d think, now, that the name of the case is State v. Singer. It isn’t. It is State v. Kendrick [PDF]. Mr. Kendrick is one of those unfortunate black men who happened to be in the apartment at that time and in whose possession a gun was found after this warrantless search.

Mr. Singer was arrested in New Jersey, where the crime of murder had been committed. Further, the cell phone used to ping the general vicinity of Knickerbocker Avenue in Stamford? Never found in Stamford.

But this is all the information relied upon by the prosecution to convince a judge that exigent circumstances existed: the possibility that a black suspect had been in the vicinity of an apartment building and the knowledge that one of the apartments therein had a few black men in them.

That, the majority opinion states, is enough to lead officers to believe that there exists “a risk of danger to human life”.

Can you every imagine any court saying that about white people? The suspect is white, and armed, and that apartment building there has white people in it, so go ahead and burst into any room you want because officer safety!

Of course not. This stands only because being black carries with it the subtext of being a criminal. And, as this Court is wont to do, the result justifies the means: there was a gun, after all. So he was a criminal and he was dangerous.

The dissent makes the point that the police and prosecution may have had further evidence to tie those residents in that apartment to the cell-phone and the murder suspect, but chose not to present it. If that’s the case, this opinion is even more troubling.

What this signals, in that event, is that all the police and prosecution have to proffer to a trial judge in order to circumvent the Constitution is that the suspects are black. That, alone, is sufficient to justify an officer’s fear that the suspect is a danger.

We already know that in Connecticut minorities cannot freely walk the streets anymore without being suspected of criminal activity. Now minorities can’t sleep in their apartments at night without fear of cops busting in without any probable cause. Because our Court has affirmed that being black is the same as being armed and dangerous.

Snitches get people wrongfully convicted: another exoneration

It’s not cute enough to be on a poster, or a warning sign in the neighborhood, but it should be. The Innocence Project estimates that about 18% of all wrongful convictions include snitch/informant testimony. Time to add another to that tally.

Last Friday, a judge in Los Angeles vacated the murder conviction of Susan Mellen, who had spent 17 years in jail for a crime she did not commit.

The judge said the only evidence against Susan Mellen during her 1998 trial was the testimony of “a habitual liar” who claimed that Mellen had confessed her involvement in the killing of a former boyfriend.

“I believe that not only is Ms. Mellen not guilty, I believe, based on what I’ve read, she’s innocent, and for that reason, I believe the criminal justice system failed,” said Superior Court Judge Mark S. Arnold.

The habitual liar, now deceased, was a woman named June Patti. She had the usual trappings of a snitch: a drug addict who constantly was involved with the police. For instance:

One year she called 800 times, recalled Skagit County Sheriff Will Reichardt.

For a decade, Patti was involved in more than 2,000 police calls or cases in the county. She was accused of theft, trespassing, fraud and harassment in some, but many incidents involved her complaints and tips about other people.

So much so that the Skagit County Public Defender’s office had a file on her and a brief that they submitted in every case in which her name was mentioned, resulting in routine dropping of charges by the prosecutor.

But none of that was in play at Mellen’s trial, despite the fact that almost no other evidence supported her guilt and that she had a rock-solid alibi. And, of course, her cause wasn’t helped by the obligatory poor defense attorney:

Her defense was overseen by a divorce attorney who had been disciplined by the state bar for failing to perform legal services competently. He had taken the job at the request of Mellen’s mother, a friend. The entire case, he said, rested on Patti’s word.

Patti’s word, described by her own sister – a police officer:

Patti’s own sister, a Torrance police officer, described her as a pathological liar. She recently informed the district attorney’s office that she told the same thing in 1997 to the lead detective handling the murder case. Los Angeles Police Det. Marcella Winn “asked me about my sister and I said, ‘My sister is probably the biggest liar I’ve ever met in my life and if I don’t see something happening directly that she’s involved in, then I don’t believe anything she has to say,’” she said in a recorded interview with a prosecutor and two investigators.

Finally, thanks to the work of a small Innocence group and its lawyer Dierdre O’Connor, Mellen is free to go home. But not after 17 years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit. Reintegration is tough, but it’s better than being in jail.

The horror of teachers making slasher films

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The Twerking Undead

Hi America. There is a scourge in our nation today and that is sex. And gore. And children who might potentially be exposed to gore. And sex. and Violence. And bikinis. And those infernal zombies! They must be stopped! They must be eradicated from our puritanical nation and our children’s eyes scrubbed with caustic acid to remove all traces of heathen filth!

Wait, wait. Where are you going? Hollywood? Haha, no, no, there’s nothing wrong with Hollywood’s gratuitous nudity and glorification of violence. I’m talking about the bikini-slasher-horror-films written and produced by two Connecticut school administrators on their private time under fake names!

You see, my good friend Matthew Kaufman, long-time storied investigative journalist at the nation’s oldest flagging newspaper ran a tremendous expose the other week, doxxing a middle school principal and a guidance counselor as the shameful, sinful, pedophiles behind Moongoyle entertainment, which produces:

fairly typical bikini-and-blood slasher flick[s], featuring gratuitous nudity, sexually charged dialogue and a lead actress who “bares all as a kinky serial killer who loves to give her victims a satisfying but often morbid peep show.”

America, this cannot stand. I am outraged by the fact that these men – and remember, they are men, the worst kind of species God has made – are making pornographic movies with some nudity maybe I don’t know I haven’t watched it, but definitely some zombie devil nonsense and then they are going into our schools to touch our children(‘s hands and minds).

I am offended by this and if there is anything I know about the First Commandment it is that whatever offends me is illegal and must be stopped! This is America – the land of ME!

These creeps have no First Commandment rights because they are making movies with naked women in them while also teaching children! What can they be teaching our children?

Thank God they are now placed on paid leave. I cannot agree more with this letter to the editor in the Hartford Courant. This man had the prescience to write this letter three days before the story broke! Now there’s an American!

While they are on leave, the Obama government should investigate what else they do: do they drink? Do they have the sex? Someone should check their palms! Can you imagine, America, if they masturbate and their hairy palms come into contact with our children? The horror! These infidels should not be allowed in our schools! This is Catholic nation and any teachers who do not abide by catholic ideals should be fired immediately! This is how our country has given birth to the gays and pedos and blacks. But not lesbos, they’re fine with me.

Tolerance is the wrong message to send our children. We cannot make them weak and learn to accept other people’s viewpoints. We have to raise them to eradicate all filth that we disagree with. That is the only way that America will go back to its former glory. Remember Benjamin Franklin, the greatest man who ever lived, who said that “I do not agree with what you say and I will fight you to the death to prevent you from saying it!”

So go, America, to this terrorist sympathizer page and tell these horror loving, bikini ogling creeps that they aren’t welcome here. What is this, Japan?


See also.