Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Obama bans sale of some military equipment to police

In addition to the ban on sales of certain military equipment to the police, Obama commented on police-community relations and praised the Camden, NJ police dept.  He concluded that the emphasis on military equipment often created an inappropriate atmosphere.  There is a link to the 50-page White House report in the article.

Unarmed suspect killed while advacing on officer

Video and article on killing of unarmed suspect who refuses to stop advancing on officer.

“García Villalpando had been drinking and had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit. Clark tried to stop him after spotting him in a car while responding to a burglar alarm. García Villalpando led Clark on a  [dangerous] chase about 6:30 p.m. along busy State Highway 121 until he stopped on the shoulder in Euless [TX].  Dashcam video released Monday shows García Villalpando getting out of his car and putting his hands on his head. Clark, who remains by his patrol car while waiting for backup help, repeatedly orders García Villalpando to stay by his own car. Instead, García Villalpando slowly walks toward the patrol car while the officer repeatedly yells for him to stop.Two shots are heard a few seconds after García Villalpando walks off camera.”

Ordinarily, I’d argue that, if the officer had a Taser, he should have tased the suspect first.  However, the officer was in his vehicle which MIGHT have made it difficult to draw or use  his Taser before the suspect got too close for comfort.  Further, what if the suspect was deaf, or otherwise impaired and couldn’t hear or understand the officer?  The grand jury refused to indict.




Saturday, May 16, 2015

The NEWEST civil rights movement?

In this article from the NYT magazine, the author discusses 'How a group of black social-media activists built the nation's first 21st-century civil rights movement."

"The movement began with a single image: Michael Brown, lying facedown on the asphalt, a stream of blood running from his head."

"Since Aug. 9, 2014, when Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department shot and killed Michael Brown, Mckesson and a core group of other activists have built the most formidable American protest movement of the 21st century to date. Their innovation has been to marry the strengths of social media — the swift, morally blunt consensus that can be created by hashtags; the personal connection that a charismatic online persona can make with followers; the broad networks that allow for the easy distribution of documentary photos and videos — with an effort to quickly mobilize protests in each new city where a police shooting occurs.
We often think of online activism as a shallow bid for fleeting attention, but the movement that Mckesson is helping to lead has been able to sustain the country’s focus and reach millions of people."
If the Brown case and the Ferguson riots were not the real start, will the horrendous video of the slaying of slaying of Walter L. Scott in North Charleston on Apr. 4, be the spark?

Are Texas courts and juries going sour on the death penalty?

This commentator thinks that's what's actually happening in the courthouses suggest Texas, long a leader in capital punishment.  For instance, during the year 1999, Texas courts sent 39 people to death row. Last year, it was 11. And so far this year, none."

Police use pepper spray to break up fight at MIDDLE school.

"Fifteen students at Dade Middle School in South Dallas were injured Monday afternoon after a Dallas ISD police officer used pepper spray to break up a fight."  The fight reportedly involved as many as 60 students.  I've been following Dallas Independent School District News and this incident is only further evidence that DISD is a disaster.  A few months ago, the Superintendent ordered a school board trustee removed from a school, and that's just the tip of a huge iceberg.  These children and their parents deserve better.  It's time to throw the bums who are running the system out!

U.S. Court of Appeals victory for privacy rights

"A federal appeals court in New York ruled on Thursday that the once-secret National Security Agency program that is systematically collecting Americans’ phone records in bulk is illegal. The decision comes as a fight in Congress is intensifying over whether to end and replace the program, or to extend it without changes."

Peace officer killings up in 2014; vicious circle feared

According to NPR:
"After a sharp drop in 2013, the number of police and other law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty as a result of felonious incidents rose in 2014, from 27 to 51, according to preliminary statistics gathered by the FBI. The agency says another 44 officers died in accidents while on the job.
"From 1980–2014, an average of 64 law enforcement officers have been feloniously killed per year," the FBI says in a news release. "The 2013 total, 27, was the lowest during this 35-year period."

Let's hope this doesn't become a vicious circle of anxious officers confronting angry suspects.  

Execution a long way off in Tsarnaev case

As you may already know, the jury in the Boston marathon bomber case chose the death penalty.  However, appeals and a federal moratorium on the death penalty mean execution is probably  years away.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Video of an officer who doesn't shoot a dangerous suspect

There's lots of videos that, at least look like, unlawful, unjustified force by police.  Videos, such as this one where an officer did NOT shoot are hard to find.  Although the officer received much praise, some officers criticized him.  What do you think?

TIH: 1854 Texas Germans declare Slavery 'EVIL.'

It happened on May 14-15, 1854. (Thanks to John Hughes for the link.)   However this courageous declaration would not go  unpunished.  The price was paid in 1862 at the Nueces Massacre

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

New Study on U.S Supreme Court

According to the New York Times,  "A new computer analysis of about 25,000 Supreme Court opinions from 1791 to 2008 identified three trends that have transformed the court’s tone. The justices’ opinions, the study found, have become longer, easier to understand — and grumpier. . . . Five current members of the court claimed spots in the top 10 list for grumpiness: Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Stephen G. Breyer, Anthony M. Kennedy, Scalia and Clarence Thomas. (Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were in the middle of the pack. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined too recently to be ranked.)"  The new,"like earlier ones, found evidence that law clerks do much of the writing at the Supreme Court"

The Second-Amendment Revolution Continues

The Gun Rights Revolution in America continues, licensed open-carry is poised to become law in Texas.  This is much to the dismay of  manyDemocrats and the Left.  You would think the ACLU and many who spout "liberty" would be ecstatic. They aren't.  More hypocrisy on rights.  For an example see this article on the evolving politics of open-carry in Texas.  "Democratic" has largely become a proxy for anti-Second Amendment in Texas and most places. 

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The Good Cops get ignored

This blog spends a lot of time pointing out the bad things some cops do.  We all know that most cops are honest, law-abiding people who are egregiously underpaid.  This cop is a hero. 
"He’s a hero, the traffic cop who was wrapping up an off-duty security gig at a Garland community center when two gunmen [homegrown jihadists set on attacking a ballroom full of people] rolled up in a black sedan.
He had his pistol and an unarmed partner. They had two assault rifles, extra ammo, body armor and the element of surprise.
But the Garland officer — whose name wasn’t released Monday — managed to help stop Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi before they ever got close to the ballroom with about 200 people at a contest for cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad."

We also rarely hear about officers who perish on the job. A young NYPD officer was shot in the head and perished.  RIP

Thursday, April 30, 2015

S.Ct. hears 2 'hot button' cases

The U.S. Supreme Court just completed oral argument on two of its most controversial cases: One of these involved Oklahoma's new execution-drug protocol. The other involved legal gay marriage.  Expect 5-4 (or at best 6-3) decisions in both cases.  Based on his prior decisions, I predict the swing-vote, Justice Kennedy will vote with the Court's liberals (Sotomayor, Kagan, Ginsburg and Breyer) against Okla. and for gay marriage.  Chief Justice Roberts may surprise observers by also voting with the liberals.  Stay tuned for the decision which will be releases some time in late May or June.

Court upholds law on political campaign fundraising.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld limits on political campaign money fundraising.  The Court distinguished prior cases such as Citizens United on the basis that this law involved judicial candidate fundraising.  According to (see link):
"What clearly made the difference, in this break from a string of First Amendment rulings protecting big money in politics, was that this was about judicial elections and the majority was worried that asking directly for money by a would-be judge was a serious threat to judicial integrity.   By assigning the main opinion to himself, as the nation’s highest-ranking judge, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., gave the ruling something of the stature of a national judicial policy declaration.
At issue in the case of Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar was a state ethical rule that no candidate for a state judicial office may personally ask anyone for a campaign contribution — whether the person contacted was a lawyer, a friend, or even a family member.  That, the Chief Justice wrote, is sufficiently related to a state’s interest in impartial courts that it is permissible under the First Amendment."
  This makes sense to me although it is a limitation on First Amendment rights.  Remember, no right is absolute.

A surprisingly valuable source: Al Jazeera America-AMENDED

I have re-read the editorial and see the point of 44's comment. Let me amend the post to recommend only the NEWS section, but not the OPINION section.
"Al Jazeera America" has a suspicious sound to it, but it's news coverage is surprisingly good and relatively balanced.  I detect some left-leaning, at least in the editorials but I also detect a lot of insight that is provided by at least a partially 'outside,' non-Red v. Blue source.   On the other hand, it is partially funded by the ruling family of Qatar. Check it out.  See their news section. Thanks to Vince Kessler for suggesting I check out this source.

5 Top Criminal Law Myths in the U.S.

Excellent article on Findlaw.  Sometimes people's misinformation can get them in trouble.

Book Recommendation: Foner's "The Story of American Freedom"

As American's we are always watchful for infringements on our freedom.  Many are also interested in the concept itself.  This is why I strongly recommend, Eric Foner's book The Story of American Freedom. Although he is not without critics, and may lean a little to the Left,  Foner is one of America's most highly respected scholars of American history.  He was won just about every award for American history that there is. I stress his qualifications because too many people rely on history written by ideologues and think-tank employees and grantees.  That's no the way to get an accurate, balanced coverage.   No writer is above biases, but we can at least avoid the most obviously biased by checking the author's background.   If you only read the writings of ideologues, you will become one.

Basically, the  traces the various uses and abuses of the term over the course of American history up to the late 1990's.  Every politician and cause likes to wrap itself in the mantle of freedom.
Rather than re-invent the wheel and present my own review, I offer this excellent review from the Wall Street Journal.

More on Tulsa County Sheriff's Reserve Officer scandal

The more we dig into many of these very questionable law enforcement shooting cases, the worse it gets as revelations of misfeasance, malfeasance, incompetence and political patronage and corruption emerge.  Here's the latest on the 73-year old reserve officer who has been charged with second-degree manslaughter.  See also post below.  It's time for the Sheriff to resign,  In many of these incidents, it appears that lack of agency transparency is a factor that might have been a factor.  We need to be pushing for more transparency in law enforcement agencies.  Unfortunately, these revelations often cause us to lose sight of the majority of officers who are honest, decent, competent and law-abiding.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Feds criticize conditions at W. Texas Prison

"A prison in West Texas that holds mostly immigrant inmates and has been the scene of multiple riots was understaffed and failed to address persistent security problems, a federal report released Thursday said.
The Justice Department's Inspector General report criticized operations at the Reeves County Detention Center in Pecos, which came under heavy scrutiny beginning in late 2008 following the death of an inmate and two riots that caused an estimated $1 million in damage."

Police duty to those in custody, problems in Baltimore with PD

Once police take a person into full custody, they become responsible for protecting the suspect and seeing that needed medical care is provided. This is another area, like excessive use of force, that has spawned accusations of racism and police misconduct.  Demonstrations in Baltimore over the severe in-custody injuries of a black man have resulted in some arrests and violence. The suspect suffered severe spinal cord injury while in police custody.  He was transported in a police van to the station, not to the hospital. It is alleged that he was not secured and was alone in the back of the van. The department admitted he should have gotten medical help much sooner.  This is just one case is a history that has poisoned the relationship between the PD and many in Baltimore. 

According to the NYT;
"Last year, The Baltimore Sun reported that taxpayers had paid $5.7 million since 2011 in judgments or settlements in 102 lawsuits alleging police misconduct. A. Dwight Pettit, a lawyer who specializes in police misconduct and represents Tyrone West’s family in a wrongful-death suit against the city, said he had “20 open cases right now,” and was flooded with requests for representation.
Mr. Gray was not the first black man in Baltimore to emerge from a police van with a spinal cord injury. Jeffrey Alston, who became paralyzed from the neck down after a van ride, settled for $6 million in 2004. The following year, Dondi Johnson, also paralyzed after a van ride, won a jury award of $7.4 million, though it was reduced on appeal."

Acquittal in case of alleged sexual abuse of wife with Alzheimer's

The background for this case is in a post below.  According to the NY Times:
On Wednesday, a jury in Iowa found 78-year old  Henry Rayhons not guilty of charges that he sexually abused his wife, an Alzheimer’s patient, by having sex with her in a nursing home,  The sex came after staff members told him she was cognitively unable to give consent. However, there is more to this verdict than meets the eye.  See the link.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fourth Amendment Victory re extending traffic stop

In Rodriquez v. U.S., the U.S. Supreme Court held that officers violated the Fourth Amendment when they extended a traffic stop to wait for a drug-sniffing dog. The lower courts concluded that there was no reasonable suspicion or probable cause to extend the stop.  If either of those had been present, the extension would have been lawful  The Supreme Court did not deal with that issue. For more detail, see the Courts syllabus for the opinion at the link (“Absent reasonable suspicion, police extension of a traffic stop in order to conduct a dog sniff violates the Constitution’s shield  gainst unreasonable seizures”)

Thomas, Kennedy and Alito dissented. This is an issue that the Court had dodged for too long.  However, the finally came up with the correct decision.


DEA Director resigns after agency misconduct reports

It seems that the scandals involving federal law enforcement just keep on going.  The Secret Service and  FBI (see below) have now been joined by the DEA.  Charges include allegations of "sex parties" with prostitutes.

FBI forensic examiners overstated matches

According to the Washington Past, "The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.
Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.
The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions."

Police duty to render immediate aid to suspects hurt by police

The NY Times reported: "
He did not fire a shot. He is black, not white.

But Clarence W. Habersham Jr., the first officer to arrive on the scene after the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man named Walter L. Scott, is drawing intense scrutiny both for the questions surrounding his response to the shooting and for what his role has illuminated about the pressures and expectations black officers face in largely white police departments.

Critics of Officer Habersham, 37, including black leaders and lawyers, have called for him to be prosecuted for what they say was his failure to provide adequate aid to Mr. Scott, 50, and for appearing to go along with what many viewers of a video of the shooting believe was an attempt by Michael T. Slager, the white officer who fatally shot Mr. Scott in the back, to plant a Taser by his body."

You also may remember an earlier shooting when an officer ran up to a fatally wounded suspect and told told him, in effect, it was his fault because he ran.

What both of these officers seem to have neglected is their legal duty to render immediate anyone who is hurt by any officers.  The legal duties do

Little data on police shootings available

According to this source the recent incidents involving police shooting unarmed suspects has "raised a question about policing that not even the Justice Department can answer: How often do officers across the country fire their weapons?
Under current federal laws, there is nothing requiring any of the 18,000 police departments and other law enforcement agencies across the country to report to the public or to the Justice Department anything about shootings involving officers."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Psychological Factor in Police Shooting

"The Justice Department recently analyzed eight years of shootings by Philadelphia police officers. Its report [see post below] contained two sobering statistics: Fifteen percent of those shot were unarmed; and in half of these cases, an officer reportedly misidentified a “nonthreatening object (e.g., a cellphone) or movement (e.g., tugging at the waistband)” as a weapon.
Many factors presumably contribute to such shootings, ranging from carelessness to unconscious bias to explicit racism, all of which have received considerable attention of late, and deservedly so.
But there is a lesser-known psychological phenomenon that might also explain some of these shootings. It’s called “affective realism”: the tendency of your feelings to influence what you see — not what you think you see, but the actual content of your perceptual experience. . . The brain is a predictive organ. A majority of your brain activity consists of predictions about the world — thousands of them at a time — based on your past experience. These predictions are not deliberate prognostications like “the Red Sox will win the World Series,” but unconscious anticipations of every sight, sound and other sensation you might encounter in every instant. These neural “guesses” largely shape what you see, hear and otherwise perceive.
In every moment, your brain consults its vast stores of knowledge and asks, “The last time I was in a similar situation, what sensations did I encounter and how did I act?” If you’re in a produce section, your brain is already predicting that an apple is nearby. If you are in a part of town with a high crime rate, your brain may well predict a weapon. Only after the fact does your brain check the world to see if its prediction was right."
The authors of the report note: "
Let us reiterate: We are not claiming that affective realism is the preferred explanation for police shootings that involve the misidentification of weapons. Nor are we claiming that racial bias has had nothing to do with such shootings. Indeed, affective realism may be one pernicious way in which racial bias expresses itself.
What we do know is that the brain is wired for prediction, and you predict most of the sights, sounds and other sensations in your life. You are, in large measure, the architect of your own experience."

New Report on shootings by police in Philadelphia

The report covers eight years.  It appears to be very comprehensive. See the 9-page "Executive Summary" at the beginning of the report.

Suicide by Cop?

Woman killed by police leaves note suggesting "suicide by cop."