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50 Years Since Gideon v. Wainright

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case of Gideon v. Wainright, which held that if someone accused of a crime cannot afford an attorney, the government would provide a lawyer for him or her.   This video tells the story of the case.

So, do the poor stand in a much better position in 2013?  Karen Houppert, author of Chasing Gideon, observes:

[O]ver time the war on drugs, the “three strikes” laws and the lock-’em-up mentality of politicians have led to indigent clients flooding the courts. Courts are overburdened, and across the country, lawyers for the poor are routinely buried beneath crushing caseloads and working in underfunded offices. Without adequate resources, it’s hard to hire the investigators, experts or paralegals to mount a good defense. The stakes are high — for the man on death row to the teen picked up for marijuana possession.

To keep up with the crushing caseloads, many propose more public defenders and more funding.    That view is mistaken–both in theory and as a matter of practical politics.   Budgets are tight everywhere.  In this policy climate, politicians are not going to allocate more money for persons accused of crimes.  Not happening.

To improve the administration of justice for poor persons, we need to work on the “front end” of the system.  Ending the drug war would greatly reduce the flood of persons entering the system–persons who do not belong in the system.  Ending the drug war would save the taxpayers money and it would actually enhance public safety.

And, instead of a public defender monopoly, a better approach would be to allow persons accused of crimes to use vouchers to choose their own attorneys.  Just as school vouchers empower poor persons to bypass the local public school, defense vouchers would empower poor persons to hire their own attorney, instead of having one imposed upon them by the government.  For additional background information, go here.

Police Misconduct Costs Chicago Residents Millions

From the Associated Press:

With three new settlements this week and more lawsuits pending, Chicago’s price tag for legal claims against its police force is climbing and has already surpassed the $27 million the city set aside for this year.

The City Council agreed to settle three lawsuits this week for nearly $7 million. That’s on top of the more than $32 million aldermen signed off on weeks ago in two police misconduct cases. With three more lawsuits stemming from one of the most shameful chapters in the department’s history — the torture of murder suspects by detectives under the command of former Lt. Jon Burge — still in the legal pipeline and two more federal lawsuits filed this week, the total could climb significantly higher. …

Aldermen said that while they believed the three settlements last week were fair, they’re angry that such cases continue to come before the council. They said they still hear that the officers involved either remain on the payroll or continue to receive their pension, including Burge.

“These guys are untouched and unscathed, and they keep their jobs by and large and they keep getting a paycheck,” said Alderman Howard Brookins Jr. “It has to stop.”

Note well that the victims that receive compensation are just a fraction of the victims out there.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 03-14-13

Here are the 9 reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, March 14, 2013:

  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: A former police officer already under indictment for insurance fraud has been charged with extortion in an alleged loan-sharking scheme. He is charged with four counts of making an extortionate extension of credit, four counts of collecting an extension of credit by extortionate means, and eight counts of obstruction.
  • Highland, New York: An officer was suspended without pay while officials investigate an incident at a high school in which his gun fired. The officer’s weapon was taken for evidence. No one was injured, and no staff or students were nearby when the gun went off.
  • Baltimore, Maryland: A police officer pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. A U.S. Attorney said his “treacherous conduct harms all police officers. He helped a drug dealer avoid arrest while planning an armed robbery and filing false police reports about other suspects.”
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: An officer pleaded guilty to charges that he tried to extort sexual favors from women in return for legal help. He was immediately handcuffed and taken to prison where he will serve 3.5-8 years.
  • Update: New York, New York (First reported 10-25-12): A police officer was convicted in a bizarre plot to kidnap, torture, kill and eat women. He could receive life in prison for one count of kidnapping conspiracy when he is sentenced. The police department fired him upon conviction.
  • Update: Dekalb, Illinois (First reported 02-26-13): A now-former Northern Illinois University police officer pleaded not guilty to raping a student. A state’s attorney previously dismissed the case without publicly revealing that the officer had signed a statement acknowledging that he continued to have sex with the student after she told him to stop.
  • Hingham, Massachusetts: A police officer has been charged with stealing $500 in gas from the town to fill up his own car. “I think anybody that’s going to commit any crime, whether they be town employees or otherwise, would know if they get caught, they will be charged,” said the police chief.
  • Laurinburg, North Carolina: A police officer resigned after he was accused of inappropriate behavior. He was suspended before he resigned. The investigation into the accusations is still ongoing.
  • Garland, Texas: Surveillance cameras at a home captured officers rummaging through duffle bags, searching a car parked in the front driveway and turning a surveillance camera in the back yard. The officers were looking for the homeowner’s brother, a convicted felon with an arrest warrant. The homeowner says his brother doesn’t live with him and he and his wife are upset that police officers took it upon themselves to conduct searches on his property without permission.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 03-13-13

Here are the 10 reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, March 13, 2013:

  • Cleveland, Ohio: A federal jury awarded $13.2 million to a man after finding two detectives fabricated or withheld evidence in a murder trial. “These detectives didn’t do their job at all,” a juror said. “they manipulated the evidence, and didn’t look at anyone else except the most convenient suspect to convict.”
  • Jefferson County, Louisiana: The sheriff announced the arrest and termination of a deputy. The arrest occurred after a criminal investigation into systematic theft of the police department’s property.
  • Update: Manchester, New Hampshire (First reported 03-03-12): The bar patron who whose bloodied, beaten face shocked residents was paid $200,000 to settle a federal lawsuit. The suit was filed against the city and four police officers accused of beating him. An investigation concluded that the officers had not committed a crime.
  • Northbridge, Massachusetts: A police officer who pleaded guilty charged of driving drunk and causing a head-on collision that left another man seriously injured was spared a jail sentence. He was instead placed on probation, at the urging of the victim and his family.
  • Update: Atlantic City, New Jersey (First reported 07-30-12): A State Police trooper pleaded guilty to changing the license plate numbers on his patrol car to conceal his role in an unauthorized, high-speed escort of sports cars. He and a second trooper also involved agreed to forfeit their jobs.
  • Shelbyville, Indiana: The police department suspended an officer who was arrested on an intoxicated driving charge.
  • Taylor, Michigan: A former police officer was found guilty in court on two of three charges of a stealing a department-issued shotgun.
  • Update: West Sacramento, California (First reported 02-26-13): A former police officer pleaded not guilty in court to 35 counts of sexually assaulting women while on patrol. He has been held in lieu of $29.3 million bail since his arrest on allegations including rape, sodomy, and kidnapping of six women.
  • Las Vegas, Nevada: An officer is now on paid administrative leave, after being recorded during a traffic stop. The YouTube video shows the officer react angrily after rear-ending a motorcycle.
  • Limestone County, Alabama: A former police officer charged with sexual abuse pleaded not guilty. A grand jury indicted him and he faces nine counts of sexually abusing a child under 12 involving three of the victims. The charges involving the fourth victim include four counts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12 and four counts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of 16.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 03-12-13

Here are the 9 reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, March 12, 2013:

  • Jackson, Mississippi: Three former law enforcement officers now face 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges of stealing government property. As part of the conspiracy, the FBI alleges that they would discuss how to steal cash from drug dealers traveling into Mississippi from other states.
  • New York, New York: A sergeant with 15 years on the force was arrested and charged in connection with having child pornography on his computer. He has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of the criminal proceeding brought against him.
  • Marfa, Texas: A highway patrol trooper has resigned after having allegedly been involved in a hit-and-run. The investigation is ongoing.
  • Update: Greenville, North Carolina (First reported 2-20-13): A deputy, who has since resigned, has been charged with misdemeanor simply assault. He and a fellow deputy were suspended after getting into a fight with a former highway patrol trooper.
  • Vallejo, California: Upon firing tear gas into a home, police ignited and destroyed the residence and killed two dogs in search of robbery suspects. The city attorney said that lobbing tear gas into a home where robbers were thought to be hiding “seems a reasonable and appropriate response.” The family has filed a lawsuit.
  • Logan County, West Virginia: The county commission has settled a woman’s lawsuit alleging two deputy sheriffs not only falsely arrested her, but also played a role in setting fire to her house and car in retaliation for complaints she made about their conduct. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed in court records.
  • Detroit, Michigan: An officer has been charged with felony involuntary manslaughter and careless discharge of a firearm causing the death of 7-year-old Aiyana Jones. A motion to dismiss the charges against the police officer was denied.
  • Henderson, Nevada: An officer has been suspended after he drove a damaged SWAT vehicle at least a mile and a half, with sparks flying, until it caught fire. “My first thought was a drunk driver or something. It was evident that the tire was completely gone on the car,” said the man who called 911.
  • Lakeport, California: A hearing led to the public disclosure of findings that the sheriff lied about shooting at a man who held a can of pepper spray. According to a statement by a sergeant, shooting at a person with pepper spray would have been a violation of sheriff’s office policy.

Undercover Cops Ensnare a Special Ed Student, Get Him Expelled

From the Press-Enterprise:

The parents of an autistic student accused of selling marijuana last year to an undercover deputy have prevailed in their effort to have the teen reinstated at the Temecula high school.

An administrative law judge who heard the special education student’s case issued a scathing ruling against the Temecula Valley Unified School District Friday, March 8. Judge Marian H. Tully wrote the district left the student “to fend for himself, anxious and alone, against an undercover police officer” and said the parents had “overwhelmingly demonstrated” that the teen’s behavior with the deputy was significantly influenced by his disability.

An Office of Administrative Hearings judge who heard the case challenging a move to expel the special education student, Tully found that the district failed to provide the teen with required counseling and other services while knowingly exposing the teen to the deputy.

Dealing with pressure from the officer was a challenging social situation that “would have been difficult even for typical high school students,” the judge wrote.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 03-09-13 to 03-11-13

Here are the 9 reports of police misconduct tracked for Saturday, March 9 to Monday, March 11, 2013:

  • Williamson County, Illinois: A sheriff says that the job status of one of his deputies is cloudy after he was arrested for suspected drunken driving for the second time in five years.
  • Update: Lake County, Florida (First reported 7-16-12): The family of a man shot and killed by police have filed suit. Deputies showed up at the wrong apartment in the middle of the night, looking for an attempted-murder suspect, and when the man answered holding a gun, they shot him. The deputies admitted that they didn’t identify themselves as police.
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin: A veteran police detective is facing criminal charges after a bar fight. He pleaded not guilty to three charges: strangulation and suffocation, a felony; and battery and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors. The fight happened while he was with his 13-year-old son on a trip.
  • Rochester, New York: State police arrested a state trooper for driving while intoxicated following the investigation of crash.
  • Homestead, Florida: Two police officers accused of assaulting men outside of a bar were fired along with another officer who allegedly covered up the incident. “It is an embarrassment to the police department,” said the police spokesman.
  • Albany, Georgia: A man has filed a multimillion dollar federal lawsuit against an officer, saying he was jailed for 16 months even though the officer knew he was innocent. He was arrested and charged when he was 17-years-old and put in jail for the next year and four months; the charges against him were later all dropped.
  • New York, New York: A man has filed suit against officers saying that they are targeting him. He claims that they assaulted him in his building, and, after he filed a lawsuit, showed up again. The NYPD’s internal affairs department is investigating.
  • Update: Springdale, Pennsylvania (First reported 2-11-13): An officer pleaded guilty to depriving a handcuffed man of his civil rights by using a stun gun on him. He admitted to using excessive force against a non-resisting victim.
  • Louisville, Kentucky: An officer was fined $2.00 after being convicted of official misconduct and harassment for striking a handcuffed suspect.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 03-08-13

Here are the 8 reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, March 8, 2013:

  • Wilmington, North Carolina: The SBI has agreed to open an investigation into possible criminal activity by the police department on behest of the District Attorney’s Office. A news release said a separate investigation stated the officers acted outside of acceptable standards for the use of alcohol on an undercover prostitution and drug sting, but did not break any laws.
  • Wheeling, West Virginia: A police officer was arrested on sexual assault charges after he was allegedly seen peering in the window of a local grade school where one of the alleged witnesses in the case is employed.
  • Mendenhall, Mississippi: A former police chief was arrested on charges that he detained and arrested people and demanded money or property in exchange for their release. He was charged with eight counts including conspiracy, extortion, soliciting bribes and witness tampering, according to court records. The indictment said he instructed “his officers to seize cash at every arrest, including money from people arrested for misdemeanors.”
  • Laredo, Texas: An officer pleaded guilty in federal court to violating the civil rights of an arrestee. He admitted that while using his authority as an officer, he entered the backseat of a patrol car where the victim was handcuffed and detained and struck the victim several times.
  • Update: New Athens, Illinois (First reported 11-16-12): A former police chief has pleaded guilty to official misconduct for removing an Apple iPod and Apple iPad from the department’s locker for personal use.
  • Itasca County, Minnesota: A deputy was charged for allegedly recording video of a 17-year-old girl undressing in a bathroom on a county-issued smart phone. He was charged with felony interference with the privacy of a minor under 18. The officer resigned.
  • Markham, Illinois: A deputy police chief has been indicted on civil rights charges alleging aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
  • Kanawha County, West Virginia: A woman says that a deputy sheriff’s distracted driving led to the death of her mother. She has filed a wrongful death suit. It states the officer was talking on his cell phone when the crash that ultimately killed her mother occurred.

Nightmare: System Forgets About Man Left in Solitary Confinement

From the NY Daily News

A New Mexico prisoner who languished for nearly two years in solitary confinement — and was so neglected that he had to yank out his own tooth — has been awarded one of the largest federal civil rights settlements in history. Stephen Slevin, 59, will be paid $15.5 million after Dona Ana County agreed to settle with the former inmate, who was jailed at the county detention center from 2005 to 2007 on a DWI arrest. … Those 22 months in solitary was an inhumane and hellish experience for Slevin: His toenails grew so long that they curled around his foot; he was denied showers, causing fungus to form on his skin; and he developed bedsores.  Jail officials also didn’t allow him to see a dentist, his lawyer said, so Slevin grew so desperate that he extracted a painful tooth on his own. Before and after pictures of the inmate show the dramatic difference during his time in jail. After two years, his hair was long and unkempt, his face became haggard. He said he lost 50 pounds. Now, he still faces an uphill battle with his health after doctors diagnosed him with lung cancer, he said.

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