Monday, July 19, 2010

On Vacation for 2 weeks

Even blustering, blithering, bloggers need vacations. I'm signing off for about two weeks. Thanks for putting up with me, participaitng and contributing. Keep up the good work! Take care! Prof. Ray Kessler

More on the Danziger Bridge incident in New Orleans

One of the most egregious examples of police misconduct in recent years continues to play out aganst New Orleans PD. The latest at LINK

ACLU finally coming around on 2nd Amend.?

One of the most egregious acts of public hypocrisy by a national organization supposedly dedicated to civil rights has been the ACLU's failure to support the individual rights approach to the Second Amendment. For many years they supported a collective rights approach which was rejected by the Supreme Court in D.C. v. Heller. Perhaps the ACLU is eventually going to become a TRUE civil liberties organization some day. LINK

Judge strikes down federal Defense of Marriage Act

A District Court judge struck down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Many conservatives sacrificed federalism (which they claim to value) to pass this law to try to protect the traditional heterosexual definition of marriage. IMHO the DOMA was beyond the powers granted to the federal government and these matters were reserved to the states under the 10th Amendment. LINK Where is it all going to end? There's a good chance it will end with the Supreme Court holding that Equal Protection requires that legal marriage be made equally available to both gays and straights. For a start, see Justice O'Connor's concurring opinion in Lawrence v. Texas. Although O'Connor says her opinion has nothing to do with gay marriage, her logic clearly does. LINK

BART police to get more oversight after suspect killed by officer.

In response the the recent killing of Oscar Grant by BART Officer Johannes Mehserle, the state of California took new steps to increase civilian oversight over BART police. LINK

Oakland/ BART police killing Part Deux?

Just when you hoped things might quiet down in Oakland, another tragic incident involving BART officers. LINK

Murderous Mexican Madness Marches On

18 murdered at Mexican party. In addition to the current chaos, what will Mexico be like when the next generation, who grew up in the midst of a bloody narco-war where many seem to place little value on human life, takes over. LINK

Friday, July 16, 2010

Good summary of last Supreme Court term's decisions

For a short and readable summary of the Supreme Court's decisions from the just-ended term, see the ACLU's. LINK Although the ACLU leans heavily to the left, their summary is almost always fairly bias free.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The BART shooting tragedy: drawing the handgun rather than the Taser

Article by an officer involved in the criminal case of BART officer Johannes Mehserle. He lists a surprisingly large number of other cases where the officer made the same claim. LINK Mehserle faces a sentence anywhere from probation to 14 years in prison for his involuntary manslaughter conviction in this case.

New DNA technique, familial matching, nabs accused serial killer

A relatively new DNA matching technique, "familial DNA," helped catch an accused serial killer. If this technique proves valid and reliable, it could result in even more of the guilty being punished and more of the innocent being cleared. LINK

California to Legalize Marjuana?

Legalizing marijuana is a hot topic in California. It's on an upcoming voter inititiative and has been called a "civil rights issue" by the CA NAACP. LINK Just in time, there is a new Rand Corp. study on legalizing marijuana in CA. Unfortunately, as the report notes, it is difficult to draw firm conclusions about the effects of legalizaiiton. LINK Finally, even if legalizied in CA, federal law which bans pot, generally prevails over state laws. A few years ago, the Supreme Court found that federal law too precedence over CA's medical marijuana law. LINK

Friday, July 09, 2010

Provocative Article on Race and Gun Control

Strong stuff, but there is some truth in there! LINK

Riots Follow Mehserle Verdict in BART killing

Former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of a Black teen. Mehserle claimed he thought he had drawn his Taser and fired it instead of his handgun. Mehserle was initially charged with first-degree murder, but the judge threw out that charge because of insufficient evidence of "premeditation." The jury passed on the more serious charge of second-degree murder. Demonstrations were reported in many cities, but rioting was reported thus far only in Oakland. Many think the verdict was a "compromise." Mehserle faces 2-4 years in prison for the offense, but the jury found an enhancement for a "gun crime" which increases the possible imprisonment from 5-14 years. LINK

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Feds sue Arizona over state immigration enforcement law

The Obama administration has sued the state of Arizona over the state's new law regarding questioning suspects in lawful contact with police (e.g. Terry stop) about possible illegal immigration. As is usual with culture wars issues, emotion trumps reason and facts, and there is lots of heat being generated--but little light. The law is, at least in part, an emotional reaction to frustration caused the inability or unwillingness of the feds to control illegal immigration. Laws based on emotional reactions are often, but not always, unwise. The way I, and others interpret the law, is that there must already be a lawful reason for the officer- citizen contact before the inquiry about citizenship is made. The inquiry about citizenship can then only be made on reasonable suspicion. The way I read existing 4th Amendment and Equal Protection law, ethnicity alone can never justify police intervention. The law does not authorize anything that some state officers in AZ and elsewhere have been doing lawfully for years. The Fourth Amendment and Equal Protection clause and numerous anti-discrimination and anti-profiling laws are available, at least on paper, to prevent abuses. Is it a good policy? Will there be widespread abuse? Who knows! Given that the law has yet to be enforced and that this is an on-its-face challenge based on supremacy clause arguments (which seem dubious in this case since the law assists the feds) it appears to me to be more grandstanding by the Obama administration. See the text of the law at the first link and commentary thereon at the second link LINK LINK

Great editorial on the McDonald Dissenters.

I don't always agree with conservative columnist Jacob Sullum, but he hit the the nail on the head with this critique of the dissenters in the Second Amendment incorporation (McDonald) case. Constitutional law makes strange bedfellows. It's usually the conservatives who make these arguments in civil rights cases. However, when ideologue liberals don't like the results in a civil rights case, they pull the arguments they have long dismissed out of their result-oriented tools bag. The same tool bag used by the conservative ideologues on the Court. LINK

Monday, July 05, 2010

Study on Career-Ending Misconduct of Police in NYC

There are lots of interesting and provocative reports of research funded by the U.S. Government that never get any publicity. The U.S. Dept. of Justice Funded this study entitled "Bad Cops: A Study of Career Ending Misconduct Among New York City Police Officers." Relative to the bad publicity, there are surprisingly few NYPD officers whose careers are ended because of brutality and abuse. The authors suggest that NYPD effectively controls and disciplines its officers and thus the low rate of dismissals. Others might disagree. One of the authors is James J. Fyfe--a well-respected criminal justice authority on the police. LINK

Friday, July 02, 2010

New Study on less than lethal weapons, esp. Taser

The Weapons and Equipment Research Institute of Florida Gulf Coast University is the author of "Less Lethal Weapon Effectiveness, Use of Force, and Suspect and Officer Injuries: A Five-Year Analysis."(Report to NIJ, 2008). The report is generally positive about Tasers. LINK