Category Archives: Legal

More on Police Culture

In yet another clear sign that the Drug War’s most prominent success has been the corruption of police culture in this country, we have this story in Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee Police Department is accused of taking possession of a Mercedes-Benz convertible from a drug-addicted local businessman in return for agreeing not to prosecute him for cocaine possession.

So, in Milwaukee rich folks can trade an expensive car for having criminal charges dropped? That hardly sounds like Rule of Law to me. Wisconsin law does not provide for forfeiture of vehicles in cases of simple possession. Even if it did, normally forfeiture laws and criminal charges are separate issues and you can’t just forfeit a vehicle, or other property, to get the criminal charges dropped. It turns out that wasn’t all the police decided was appropriate for this guy.

Maistelman [ed: the Beck family’s attorney] also cited the family’s belief that police contributed to Beck’s death by threatening to disclose his drug activity.

“At the time of Jordan’s arrest he was in a custody battle with his wife for his minor children. Subsequent to his arrest Jordan and his family were bombarded with threats by your office and or the Milwaukee Police Department that unless he gave his car up, then the authorities would contact his wife’s attorney and ‘rat him out’ about his drug offense.”

Maistelman also wrote that a member of Beck’s family had witnessed “harassing, intimidating and coercive telephone calls” and that authorities also threatened that if he didn’t give up the car, “they would tell certain drug dealers that Jordan and his family were informants, when in fact they were not.”

Remember, as you are reading this, that Mr. Beck was a drug user, not a dealer. He was facing charges for possession, not dealing. He was not a criminal, he was a drug addict. But, he had something the police coveted. An expensive car, worth $100,000, give or take.

We have taught our police departments that taking property if someone is a drug user is okay. They are simply doing something that we have condoned. We have given them power, and they have abused it, as was predictable.

h/t: Radley Balko

More Mandatory Minimums Madness: The “Sexual Predator” Edition

Cross posted at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds

I have written in the past about the insanity of mandatory minimum sentencing laws on at least two occasions (here, and here). In my previous posts, the minimum sentencing guidelines had to do with the war on drugs. In this latest outrage however, this mandatory minimum sentence has to do with “aggravated child molesting.” Many people enjoy sexual relations with someone younger than themselves, but the majority of the people know that sexual acts with a minor is illegal and therefore will remain on the right side of the law, but instead perhaps enjoy legal sites like young sexer.

In theory, mandatory minimum sentencing for certain crimes seems like a great idea. The problem with such a “one size fits all” approach is it gives judges absolutely no discretion when it comes to particular cases. No matter how well written or intentioned a law may be, there are always going to be cases where the application of the law is simply unjust. The case of Genarlow Wilson is a perfect example of what I mean.

From The New York Times article “Georgia Man Fights Conviction as Molester”

[Genarlow Wilson] was sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl at a New Year’s Eve party, an offense that constituted aggravated child molesting, even though Mr. Wilson himself was only 17.


Disturbed by Mr. Wilson’s conviction, the Legislature changed the law in March to ensure that most sex between teenagers be treated as a misdemeanor. But the State Supreme Court said legislators had chosen not to make the law retroactive.


Even more confounding, at the time of Mr. Wilson?s offense, a so-called “Romeo and Juliet” exception had already been made for sexual intercourse between teenagers. “Had Genarlow had intercourse with this girl, had he gotten her pregnant, he could only have been charged with a misdemeanor and punished up to 12 months,”? said Brenda Joy Bernstein, Mr. Wilson’s lawyer.

So let me get this straight: Genarlow Wilson is 17 and engages in oral sex with a girl who is 2 years younger than he is. At the age of 15, the girl is not at the legal age of consent in Georgia. However, had the two had “consensual” sex instead of oral sex, Wilson would have been charged with a misdemeanor offense carrying a maximum sentence 1 year but because they didn’t go all the way, Wilson is facing an 11 year sentence and will not be eligible for parole until after he has served 10 years. OR if Wilson chooses, he can have his sentence reduced to 5 to 7 years with a possibility of parole if he agrees to register as a sex offender.

So why won’t Wilson take the deal? According to the aforementioned article, Wilson is quoted as saying the following:

“Even after serving time in prison, I would have to register as a sex offender wherever I lived and if I applied for a job for the rest of my life, all for participating in a consensual sex act with a girl just two years younger than me,” he told a reporter for Atlanta magazine last year, adding that he would not even be able to move back in with his mother because he has an 8-year-old sister. “It’s a lifelong sentence in itself. I am not a child molester.”

There is no question that Wilson used poor judgment in engaging in oral sex with a girl who was under the age of consent. Most people are often aware of the legal age of consent within their states and will try their best to understand the law and if they aren’t sure they can read a post like this and understand where the age of consent lies for them. But he is quite right in making a distinction between a child molester and a couple of horny teenagers. When I think of the term “child molester” I tend to think of an adult (usually middle-aged) having inappropriate contact with a prepubescent child. These are the real sexual predators who should be put away possibly forever.

It seems to me that there needs to be a serious discussion about where exactly the line should be drawn. Clearly, children should be safe from predators but at what point is a child an adolescent of an age where he or she can be held responsible for his or her choices? I believe there should be some sort of sliding scale taking into consideration the ages of the parties involved. Is an 18 year old having sex or sexual contact with 17 year old molestation, regardless of the age of consent? I think not! What about a 30 year old with a 17 year old? I tend to think so!

There seems to be no clear answers; what might seem reasonable to me might not seem reasonable to you. When a “zero tolerance” policy in the form of mandatory minimum sentences is in play, there can be no thoughtful discussions in the jury room. It’s all or nothing.

Genarlow Wilson has served nearly 2 years for this offense. Does he really need to serve another 8 to teach him a lesson? Alternatively, should he be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life? The answer to both of these questions depend on whether or not one believes that Genarlow Wilson is a threat to children based on his actions as A 17 YEAR OLD WITH A GIRL WHO WAS ONLY 2 YEARS YOUNGER THAN HIM. If you ask me, he has already done enough time.

Life In Prison For Smoking Pot

Via Reason’s Hit & Run, comes news of a 33 year old man currently being held in prison on a life sentence imposed when he was caught smoking marijuana:

In 1990, Tyrone Brown, then 17 years old, took part in a $2 Dallas stickup in which no one was hurt. He got caught, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery, and received a sentence of 10 years probation. A few weeks later, he was in court again — because a drug test detected the presence of marijuana in his urine. For still unexplained reasons, his sentencing judge, Keith Dean, threw the book at him. The 17-year-old was resentenced to life in prison, where he remains to this day.

And if you think that makes no sense, consider what the same judge did in another case of a probationer caught smoking marijuana:

While Brown got 10-year suspended sentence for the robbery, [John Alexander] Wood got a 10-year suspended sentence for murdering a prostitute. When Brown tested positive for pot, Judge Dean sent him to prison for life. When Wood repeatedly tested positive for cocaine and got arrested for cocaine possession, Judge Dean didn’t jail him for life. Instead, he let Wood stay a free man and even exempted him from having to take drug tests or meet a probation officer.

In that article, Judge Dean refused to discuss the two cases, saying he might have to rule on them again. But he told the Morning News that he generally tried to evaluate “the potential danger to the community” and “what, in the long run, is going to be in the best interest of the community and the person themselves.”

Yes, because a guy who murders prostitutes isn’t a danger at all. Let’s be honest, nationwide legalization cannot come soon enough, and I for one cannot wait for the day when stories like this are a thing of the past and people that enjoy marijuana can go about their business without the danger of being locked up. For now, though, it’s still a good idea to use an online smokeshop when finding all of your paraphernalia, instead of risking a run-in with the cops. When people are at risk of potentially failing a drug test when they know they have one coming up, they tend to have a look for synthetic urine (more info about fake pee here) so they can make sure that they remain uncaught from any law enforcement, as no one wants to spend their life in prison for having small traces of marijuana in the urine. Especially when there are a number of dangerous individuals who are still on the streets.

It is important however to note that drug tests can take place for a wide number of additional reasons. For example, some people like to make use of drug testing kits like marquis reagent to make sure that they know exactly what they are taking and won’t be ripped off doing something fake, which could actually harm them. They like to know that what they are taking is legal and won’t be an issue in the future. Not only that though, but some employers (particularly those in the healthcare sector) use drug tests as part of their pre-employment screening programs. You can learn more about these kinds of drug tests here: 10 Panel Drug Test – Pre-Employment Screening – Health Street.

For now, pressure is growing on Texas Governor Rick Perry to commute Brown’s sentence. It would seem that justice demands it.

Politics Trumps Ethics… As Usual

When FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell went through his confirmation hearings, it was made very clear that he would be expected not to rule on any deals related to his previous lobbying clients. These clients included both AT&T and BellSouth, companies which are attempting to gain government approval for a merger.

So McDowell is standing up to his promise, and has said he won’t take part in the proceedings. Unfortunately, though, the proceedings are deadlocked between the Republican and Democrat factions. So what do the FCC’s lawyers say? “Go ahead, because political expediency is more important than any assurance of objectivity.”

But despite his concern about a possible conflict of interest, the FCC’s general counsel, Samuel Feder, ruled this month that McDowell could take part because of an overriding government interest in breaking the deadlock.

McDowell rejected that reasoning and criticized Feder’s opinion for overlooking important facts and legal considerations. In particular, he faulted the opinion for not addressing the ethics agreement reached during his Senate confirmation process this year in which he pledged not to participate for a year in any matter in which Comptel had been involved.

“While I expected the legal equivalent of body armor, I was handed Swiss cheese,” McDowell said.

FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin, who asked Feder to issue the opinion, has been urging McDowell to take part in the considerations. Late yesterday, Martin said his aim had been to make sure the commission considered the merger in a timely fashion.

Yep. You heard them. It doesn’t matter if the decision is right, just as long as it’s fast.

Thoughts On The Death Penalty

Yesterday, executions were put on hold in two states over concerns about the manner in which the most common form of execution is administered:

MIAMI, Dec. 15 — Executions by lethal injection were suspended in Florida and ordered revamped in California on Friday, as the chemical method once billed as a more humane way of killing the condemned came under mounting scrutiny over the pain it may cause.

Gov. Jeb Bush (R) ordered the suspension in Florida after a botched execution in which it took 34 minutes and a second injection to kill convicted murderer Angel Nieves Diaz. A state medical examiner said that needles used to carry the poison had passed through the prisoner’s veins and delivered the three-chemical mix into the tissues of his arm.

In California, a federal judge ruled that the state must overhaul its lethal-injection procedures, calling its current protocol unconstitutional because it may inflict unacceptable levels of pain.

These are the latest developments in a year that has seen several challenges to the way executions are conducted in the United States:

In Maryland, a federal judge is considering the constitutionality of lethal injection. A ruling is expected next year. Officials in Missouri and South Dakota have delayed executions while lethal injection is reviewed. Oklahoma altered its procedure so that the prisoner receives more anesthesia before being executed. And in North Carolina, a federal judge ordered that a brain monitor be used to make sure an inmate is unconscious before the final drug is administered.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed another Florida death-row inmate to challenge that state’s lethal-injection procedures through a federal civil rights lawsuit, a ruling considered a procedural victory for opponents of the death penalty.

I’ve generally always been supportive of the death penalty in appropriate circumstances, but I’ve recently been having second thoughts that lead me to wonder if the state really does have the right to execute even the most violent of murderers. There are two basic areas that concern me, one based on the Constitution, and one based, in part, on what I know the legal system is actually like rather than what it should be.
» Read more

1 99 100 101 102