6 horrifying things you learn as a death row inmate

I’ve written before about how dehumanizing prisons are and how badly inmates are treated by guards and of course I’ve written about the injustices of the system, but you folks seem to all be gravitating toward lists, so here’s a decidedly somber one from one of the funniest sites out there.

Luckily this man’s innocence was proved, but think of how many there are who are still seeking that vindication.

Dispensing with the sham: prosecutors serving as judges

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A judge usually wears many hats: jurist, prosecutor, defense attorney. A judge has to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a case in pre-trial negotiations, make offers, impose just sentences, etc.

Prosecutors usually end up being judges once they advance far enough in their careers and have schmoozed the right politicians.

Some prosecutors remain prosecutors even after they take the bench and Missouri is ensuring that they get ample practice in maintaining their bent1.

Neil Bruntrager, general counsel for the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association, works part time as a judge where police officers from county jurisdictions sometimes testify against defendants.  “There has never been a conflict. If there was I would remove myself,” Bruntrager said. “If anything, being a defense attorney makes me more sympathetic as a judge in terms of scrutinizing the evidence.”

St. Louis County and the Circuit Attorney’s offices both have full time prosecutors that are allowed to work part time as municipal judges. While prosecutors can do it, state law says public defenders cannot.

Here, have a look at how ridiculous it can get:

Attorney Ronald Brockmeyer works as a St. Charles divorce and criminal defense lawyer during the day, but by night he works part time prosecuting traffic violators in Dellwood. He also works part time as a judge in nearby Breckenridge Hills.

“I don’t think that’s a conflict at all,” Brockmeyer said. “Not at all.”

Brockmeyer makes $600 a session and isn’t alone in wearing multiple hats.

I’m the judge in Ferguson, a judge in Breckenridge Hills, a prosecutor in Florissant, a prosecutor in Vinita Park, and prosecutor here in Dellwood,” he said.

The defense attorney is a prosecutor and a judge and a prosecutor is always a prosecutor and a judge but never a defense attorney and a lawyer for cops is a prosecutor and a judge but never a defense attorney and public defenders are always defense attorneys but never judges and defendants are always screwed.

Justice.


Fear the death of rights

Human rights, individual rights. We all have rights. We all should have the same rights. Yet we often withhold those basic rights that we’d want for ourselves from others in civilization because we dislike or disagree with them. Why is that? Is that because we’re afraid of them? Some of them, undoubtedly, have forfeited the right to have those protections – either for a short period of time or forever – but the easiest road to stripping humans of their inherent rights is to treat them as inhuman.

We are also incredibly selective in our willingness to recognize the existence of these rights. Some, in America, recognize the First Amendment rights, but only for groups they support. Some recognize only Second Amendment rights. Some are willing to subjugate all the rights to their personal interests without any sense of irony.

We, in America, have built a society upon a foundation of individual freedom and inalienable rights but we constantly pile heaps upon heaps of fear and ignorance on that bedrock to the point that it is now so completely obscured that it remains a distant memory.

It is a difficult thing to do, to be honest: to stand firm on your principles and be honest and true to them in the face of overwhelming fear, emotion and sensationalism. As humans, we are also petty, cheap, jealous, base and vindictive. Tolerance is an achievement, not an inherent state of existence. The ability to hold two conflicting ideas in one’s head takes effort, whereas vilification of some ‘other’ takes nothing but the triggering of some base emotion.

We are also social creatures. We have the herd mentality. We need to be part of a greater whole. We want to be liked. We want to be wanted. We need approval. And approval is most easily gained by further dumping on those that the majority is already abandoning. Joining the crowd and appealing to base instincts of fear and ignorance and hatred is far easier than standing firm against that tide.

This is why it makes perfect sense that judges do, perhaps subconsciously, succumb to negative advertising and shy away from standing behind principles of freedom, equality and due process. That’s why politicians lose their seats because of spurious allegations of “supporting child molesters”. It’s why the Debo Adegbile‘s of the world can’t get the recognition they deserve.

When we decide whether certain rights (guns) should be granted based on whether we like the people who are seeking those rights (gun nuts) then we decide that rights aren’t rights at all, but rather privileges that can be taken away without any recourse.

When that happens, it won’t matter if you’re a child molester or a law-abiding citizen owning a firearm. You’ll be as much of a criminal in the eyes of everyone else.

 

 

Yet another example of unsanctioned prosecutorial misconduct

I wrote last week about the double standard in sanctioning defense attorneys while scores of prosecutors nationwide engage in deliberate and willful misconduct that deprives individuals of their Constitutional rights without any consequences whatsoever.

A helpful reader sent me a link to this CT Supreme Court opinion from 2012 that I’d missed, as a further example. In this case, the defense argued that in order to convict him of aggravated sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping (both require the use of a firearm), the jury must be instructed that he actually possessed such firearm. The operative language of both statutes is similar and it is this:

(1) such person uses or is armed with and threatens the use of or displays or represents by such person’s words or conduct that such person possesses a deadly weapon

The reason for this argument is that it is an affirmative defense that the weapon was inoperable. Thus, it would make no sense for the affirmative defense to be applied to someone who had an inoperable gun, but unavailable to someone who had no gun at all.

The Court agreed with the prosecution that the defense had not preserved this argument and thus declined to consider it. And then it dropped this footnote:

[W]e feel compelled to note that in the section of her appellate brief addressing this issue the state’s appellate counsel, Assistant State’s Attorney Melissa L. Streeto, purported to provide quotations of §§ 53a-70a (a)(1) and 53a-92a but inserted commas supporting her statutory construction without any indication that alterations had been made.

In response to questions at oral argument regarding the accuracy of these quotations, she explained, in justification of the improper insertions, that “I put those there because that is how the statute should be read.

No matter how a statute should be read, it is for the legislature—and not counsel—to determine how the statute should be written. We strongly disapprove of the tactic employed here, which was at the very least misleading, and we remind counsel that they are obligated to indicate, through the use of brackets or explanatory parentheticals or otherwise, any modification to quoted materials.

Contrary to Assistant State’s Attorney Streeto’s suggestion at oral argument, and notwithstanding her apology for misleading the court, this obligation is not met by including unmodified copies of the relevant texts in an appendix.

A prosecutor, in reproducing something as basic as the text of a statute – something that everyone has free access to – which she must’ve known the parties would be familiar with, decided to pass off as accurate her own interpretation of the statute.

Then, upon being questioned, had the hubris to state “that’s how the statute should be read”.

This is what happens when prosecutors are allowed to run rampant without any oversight. Once again, I’m fairly certain, despite the Supreme Court’s concern and strong disapproval of this “tactic” that was “at the very least misleading”, she was not punished or reprimanded, let alone referred to the grievance committee.

When prosecutors apologize, everything is okay, because they didn’t really mean to deprive you of your Constitutional rights. After all, they’re in it for justice.

Not all child molesters

Everyone who molests children is a horrible, evil person. Everyone who looks at photos of child pornography is the devil and deserves to die immediately, or slowly and excruciatingly, or deserves to be beaten up. Anyone who dares to speak up against the hysteria surrounding child abuse and child pornography is also a rapist, molester, creep, pervert, abuser.

Until it happens to one of yours.

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser addressed his staff Monday about the child pornography charges his adult son faces after being arrested Oct. 16 by federal agents.

On Monday, Michael Gmoser told his staff that after years to of trying to conceive, he and his wife, Olga, adopted a “special 7-month-old child.” “He was perceived to be highly intelligent,” Gmoser said. “But we knew we would always have to deal with Jason on his own terms.”

This most evil of evil guys who looked at pictures of children subjected to sexual slavery, who is scum of the Earth:

went downhill with depression, self esteem issues and a horrible weight problem … he became reclusive,” Michael Gmoser said. He added there were several diagnosis to explain his son’s condition, including Asperger syndrome and bipolar disorder.

This asshole who molests children and encourages those who molests children should be immediately executed despite

Jason Gmoser was then taken to Texas to one of the best facilities money can buy, Michael Gmoser said. “But money can’t buy everything,” Michael Gmoser said, pausing and appearing to hold back tears.

Child molesters aren’t people with mental health problems and issues and families. They’re all the same.

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.