Monday, October 14, 2019

Columbus Day--the celebration of Italian heritage--grew out of the lynching of 11 Italians in 1890 New Orleans

On this Columbus Day, Brent Staples writes in the New York Times about the lynching of 11 Italians in New Orleans.  Staples does not hold back on his employer (The Times) and its deplorable, racist, violence condoning writing of the late 19th and early 20th.
The carnage in New Orleans was set in motion in the fall of 1890, when the city’s popular police chief, David Hennessy, was assassinated on his way home one evening. Hennessy had no shortage of enemies. The historian John V. Baiamonte Jr. writes that he had once been tried for murder in connection with the killing of a professional rival. He is also said to have been involved in a feud between two Italian businessmen. On the strength of a clearly suspect witness who claimed to hear Mr. Hennessy say that “dagoes” had shot him, the city charged 19 Italians with complicity in the chief’s murder. 
That the evidence was distressingly weak was evident from the verdicts that were swiftly handed down: Of the first nine to be tried, six were acquitted; three others were granted mistrials. The leaders of the mob that then went after them advertised their plans in advance, knowing full well that the city’s elites — who coveted the businesses the Italians had built or hated the Italians for fraternizing with African-Americans — would never seek justice for the dead. After the lynching, a grand jury investigation pronounced the killings praiseworthy, turning that inquiry into what the historian Barbara Botein describes as “possibly one of the greatest whitewashes in American history.”
The blood of the New Orleans victims was scarcely dry when The Times published a cheerleading news story — “Chief Hennessy Avenged: Eleven of his Italian Assassins Lynched by a Mob” — that reveled in the bloody details. It reported that the mob had consisted “mostly of the best element” of New Orleans society. The following day, a scabrous Times editorial justified the lynching — and dehumanized the dead, with by-now-familiar racist stereotypes.
“These sneaking and cowardly Sicilians,” the editors wrote, “the descendants of bandits and assassins, who have transported to this country the lawless passions, the cutthroat practices … are to us a pest without mitigations. Our own rattlesnakes are as good citizens as they. Our own murderers are men of feeling and nobility compared to them.” The editors concluded of the lynching that it would be difficult to find “one individual who would confess that privately he deplores it very much.”
Few who march in Columbus Day parades or recount the tale of Columbus’s voyage from Europe to the New World are aware of how the holiday came about or that President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed it as a one-time national celebration in 1892 — in the wake of a bloody New Orleans lynching that took the lives of 11 Italian immigrants. 
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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Watergate prosecutors call for impeachment of President Trump

The following are all former members of the Justice Department’s special prosecutor team that investigated the Watergate scandal, who signed the following letter to the Washington Post calling for the impeachment of President Trump:
Nick Akerman, former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York
Richard Ben-Veniste, former member of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
Richard J. Davis, former assistant secretary of the treasury for enforcement and operations
Carl B. Feldbaum, former inspector general for Defense Intelligence, former assistant to the energy secretary and former chief of staff to Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter
George T. Frampton Jr., former assistant secretary of the Interior and former chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality
Kenneth S. Geller, formerly deputy U.S. solicitor general
Gerald Goldman, former clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan
Stephen E. Haberfeld, former U.S. magistrate judge in the Central District of California
Larry Hammond, former first deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel
Henry Hecht, lecturer in residence at University of California at Berkeley School of Law
Paul R. Hoeber, lawyer in private practice
Philip Allen Lacovara, former deputy solicitor general of the United States; former special counsel to the House Ethics Committee; and former president of the D.C. Bar
Paul R. Michel, former chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and former associate deputy attorney general of the United States
Robert L. Palmer, lawyer in private practice
Richard Weinberg, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York
Jill Wine-Banks, former general counsel of the U.S. Army; former solicitor general and deputy attorney general of the state of Illinois; and former chief operating officer of the American Bar Association
Roger Witten, lawyer in private practice

We, former members of the Watergate special prosecutor force, believe there exists compelling prima facie evidence that President Trump has committed impeachable offenses. This evidence can be accepted as sufficient for impeachment, unless disproved by any contrary evidence that the president may choose to offer.
The ultimate judgment on whether to impeach the president is for members of the House of Representatives to make. The Constitution establishes impeachment as the proper mechanism for addressing these abuses; therefore, the House should proceed with the impeachment process, fairly, openly and promptly. The president’s refusal to cooperate in confirming (or disputing) the facts already on the public record should not delay or frustrate the House’s performance of its constitutional duty.
In reaching these conclusions, we take note of 1) the public statements by Trump himself; 2) the findings of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation; 3) the readout that the president released of his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; 4) the president’s continuing refusal to produce documents or allow testimony by current and former government employees for pending investigations, as well as for oversight matters; and 5) other information now publicly available, including State Department text messages indicating that the release of essential military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on Ukraine’s willingness to commence a criminal investigation designed to further the president’s political interests.
In the 1970s, we investigated serious abuses of presidential power by President Richard M. Nixon, including obstruction of justice, concealment of government records and misuse of government agencies to punish his political enemies. We prosecuted many of Nixon’s aides for their complicity in Nixon’s offenses. Rather than indicting the president, the grand jury named him an unindicted co-conspirator, delivered to the House a “road map” of the evidence implicating him in wrongdoing and deferred to the House’s constitutional responsibility to address such presidential wrongdoing through the impeachment process.
mmittee, fulfilled that responsibility by reviewing the evidence, interviewing witnesses and concluding that the facts warranted adopting three articles of impeachment: one for obstruction, one for abuse of power and one for contempt of Congress. Shortly thereafter, the president resigned rather than face a Senate trial.
In our considered view, the same three articles of impeachment could be specified against Trump, as he has demonstrated serious and persistent abuses of power that, in our view, satisfy the constitutional standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” For example:
● Trump conditioned protection of the military security of the United States and of an ally (Ukraine) on actions for his personal political benefit.
● Trump subordinated the integrity of our national electoral process to his own personal political interest by soliciting and encouraging foreign government interference in our electoral process, including by Russia and China. He also appears to have demanded that Ukraine investigate a potential 2020 political opponent and pursue the conspiracy theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 presidential election, despite the unanimous conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community that it was Russia that had interfered.
● According to the evidence laid out in the Mueller report, Trump engaged in multiple acts of obstruction of justice in violation of federal criminal statutes and of his oath of office to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Because Mueller viewed Justice Department policy as precluding him from filing criminal charges against the president, the special counsel appropriately stated that these abuses are for Congress to address.
● Trump obstructed lawful congressional investigations by systematically withholding evidence and by directing government agencies and employees to refuse to cooperate with legitimate oversight by Congress. Most significantly, the president’s blanket refusal to honor requests for relevant information sought by House members conducting an impeachment inquiry constitutes impeachable contempt and obstruction. The public is entitled to know the facts, and Congress is the body our democracy has entrusted with uncovering them.
The Constitution provides for the elected representatives of the people to resort to impeachment in extraordinary circumstances showing that this drastic remedy is necessary to restrain, and possibly remove, a president who has engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors. Proper regard for reestablishing and protecting the rule of law requires firm and resolute action by the House. Lawmakers should not allow any refusal by the president to cooperate in its process to frustrate the performance of its constitutional duties.
If a bill of impeachment comes before the Senate, we urge all members of the Senate to put aside partisan loyalties and carry out their own constitutional duties courageously and honestly. In 1974, it was a group of Republican senators who put national interest over party loyalty and informed Nixon that his conduct was indefensible and would compel conviction by the Senate and removal from office. We hope the current Senate would similarly put honor and integrity above partisanship and personal political interest.
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, October 12, 2019

GateHouse: Crime rates fall, reform amps up

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
October 11, 2019
The FBI recently announced that violent crime fell 3.9% in 2018. The numbers are recorded by police departments across the country and compiled annually by the FBI. The violent crime rate in the United States has been cut nearly in half in the last 25 years.
In 2015 and 2016 there was an uptick in violence as recorded by the FBI. Some feared that the increase was a harbinger of more dangerous times. The latest data puts that fear to rest.
Ames Grawert, senior counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice, a research institute at New York University’s School of Law, told The Marshall Project, “That’s a really good sign that the long term trend towards greater safety is not in fact reversed, and that we’re moving past whatever happened in 2015 and 2016.” She pointed out “that two years isn’t a trend, and two years doesn’t break a trend.”
The good news from the FBI has further bolstered reform-minded prosecutors like Larry Krasner in Philadelphia; reform governors like California’s Gavin Newsom; and just about every member of a crowded field of Democrats running for president.
The leading Democrats have all come out with a crime reform plan that, by all accounts, would have immediately delegitimized their candidacies just two presidential campaign cycles ago.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is advocating for the end of cash bail. She said, “We should allow people to return to their jobs and families while they wait for trial.” She takes issue with pre-trial civil forfeiture, “I’ll reverse the Trump administration’s policy expanding pre-trial civil forfeiture at the federal level, and restrict the use of civil forfeiture overall.”
Warren also seeks to cap fines and fees at a percentage of income for low-income individuals. She believes states should also eliminate the profit incentive that drives excessive fees and fines by capping the percentage of municipal revenues derived from the justice system, and diverting seized assets.
California Senator Kamala Harris supports ending mass incarceration, supports states legalizing marijuana and legalizing marijuana on the federal level, ending mandatory minimum sentencing on the federal level and incentivizing states to do the same. Invest money in states to shorten the length of probation and other forms of community supervision and end jail time for technical probation and parole violations
A consistent pattern of reform is beginning to emerge.
Congressman Bernie Sanders’ wish list for criminal justice reform is massive. According to his website, Bernie would abolish the death penalty; stop excessive sentencing with the goal of cutting the incarceration rate in half and end mandatory minimum sentencing. That sounds awfully familiar.
He would reinstate a federal parole system and end truth-in-sentencing. He would expand the use of sentencing alternatives - including community supervision and publicly funded halfway house - and revitalize the executive clemency process by creating an independent clemency board removed from the Department of Justice and placed in the White Hous
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s reform plan is equally ambitious. He pledges to decriminalize marijuana, eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes, end the death penalty, abolish private prisons, get rid of cash bail and discourage the incarceration of children. For the Democrat contenders it’s wash, rinse, repeat.
Biden would also create a new $20 billion grant program that encourages states to reduce incarceration and crime.
As for South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, read any of the above plans ... abolish the death penalty, end cash bail, reduce prison population and eliminate private prisons.
“This is a conversation that is unrecognizable from 10 years ago - even five years ago - when these kinds of proposals wouldn’t have been floated in back rooms, let alone in public,” Adam Gelb, president of the Council on Criminal Justice, a nonpartisan research organization, told the New York Times.
President Donald Trump’s take on criminal justice reform, like Republican presidents before him, is confrontational. “They (Democrats) don’t mind crime,” he said recently at a rally in New Hampshire. “We do mind crime.”
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
To visit the column CLICK HERE


Friday, October 11, 2019

Thiel College-Death Penalty

The Death Penalty-Comment Project 3

The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled that a method of execution violated the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment.  Which method of execution--hanging, electrocution, gas, firing squad, lethal injection--do you find most humane? Explain you answer.

Police in Illinois charge 9-year-old with five counts of first-degree murder

A 9-year-old has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder in connection with a lethal mobile-home fire in April near Goodfield, IL, reported the Peoria Journal Star.
The juvenile also has been charged with two counts of arson and one count of aggravated arson, Woodford County State’s Attorney Greg Minger said.
The identity of the suspect was not revealed, given that person’s age. Minger would not divulge additional details about the suspect, including a possible relationship to the victims.
Minger’s decision to prosecute came six months following the blaze April 6 that killed two adults and three children in a residence at Timberline Mobile Home Park.
The fire at 14 Cypress Court began shortly after 11 p.m. on a Saturday. The trailer was engulfed in flames by the time firefighters arrived a few minutes later.Kathryn Murray, 69; Jason Wall, 34; Rose Alwood, 2; Daemeon Wall, 2; and Ariel Wall, 1, died of smoke inhalation, autopsies revealed.
There were two survivors — Katrina Alwood, who was 27 at the time of the fire, and her juvenile son.
Katrina Alwood and Jason Wall, who were engaged to be married, were parents of Ariel Wall and Daemeon Wall. Rose Alwood was a niece. Murray was Katrina Alwood’s grandmother.
Minger said he went through various authoritative reports about the blaze numerous times before he decided to proceed with prosecution.
“It was a heavy decision,” he said. “It’s a tragedy, but at the end of the day it’s charging a very young person with one of the most serious crimes we have.
“But I just think it needs to be done at this point, for finality.”
He said the aggravated-arson charge suggests the suspect knew others were present when the fire was set.
Earlier, Woodford County Coroner Tim Ruestman ruled the fire was started intentionally.
The fire site is just northeast of Goodfield. The village of about 1,000 residents is located along Interstate 74 between Peoria and Bloomington-Normal.
No arrest warrant is to be issued for the suspect, Minger said. He wasn’t certain about the minimum age threshold for imprisoning a minor.
The suspect is to be appointed an attorney and will be subject to a bench trial, in front of a judge, according to Minger. No jury is to be empaneled.
If convicted, the suspect could be placed on probation for at least five years but not beyond the age of 21, the state’s attorney said. Therapy, counseling and psychological evaluation would be likely.
Incarceration is not an option, Minger suggested.
“Probation, given the age, is about the only outcome that could happen here,” he said.
To read more CLICK HERE 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Indigent defendants crushed by court costs

Though poor defendants are entitled to be provided legal representation, that does not mean access to the justice system is free, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Court fees — even for indigent defendants — average more than $1,000 per case across Pennsylvania. The median court costs imposed on indigent defendants in the region range from $537 in Philadelphia County to $1,652 in Delaware County, an ACLU of Pennsylvania analysis found. That’s in addition to fines and restitution the court may impose.
For those who spend years on probation or parole, as Hudson did, costs can pile much higher. In addition to assorted fees — $250 for a DNA detection fund, $50 toward the cost of prosecution, $8 for a judicial computer project, $5 for a firearm training fund — he was assessed almost $800 in supervision fees.
In many cases, these costs appear uncollectible: The ACLU found that among defendants poor enough to be assigned public defenders, court costs were paid in full in just 24% of cases over 10 years. Among non-public-defender cases, 54% had paid in full.
“It tends to be the people who are not paying are the ones who have no ability to pay,” Christy said.
In Philadelphia and other counties, public defenders have been campaigning over the last year for judges to waive court costs for indigent defendants, arguing they are obligated to take defendants’ means into account. That question is now before the state Superior Court, which ruled in September that judges did not have to do so — but recently, unprompted, withdrew that opinion, opting to put the question before a judicial panel for further review.
But costs and fines across Philadelphia and its four suburban counties brought in $273 million over the last 10 years, according to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts — making them a critical part of courts’ budgets.
And, in some local counties, judges routinely impose punishments on people who can’t or won’t pay, generally without distinguishing between the two.
In Delaware County, dockets show some people have been sentenced 10 times or more on a single case, with sentence conditions emphasizing paying fines, court fees, or restitution. In some cases, the judge threatened detention in the event of a single missed payment. In others, judges promised early termination once costs were paid.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

White House refuses to cooperate 'Wonderful thing, a subpoena'

The White House declared war on the House impeachment inquiry reported the New York Times, announcing that it would not cooperate with what it called an illegitimate effort “to overturn the results of the 2016 election” and setting the stage for a constitutional clash with far-reaching consequences.
However, as Wilford Brimley said in Absence of Malice, "Wonderful thing, a subpoena."
In a letter to House Democratic leaders, the White House said the inquiry had violated precedent and denied President Trump’s due process rights in such an egregious way that neither he nor the executive branch would willingly provide testimony or documents.
“Your unprecedented actions have left the president with no choice,” said the letter signed by Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel. “In order to fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the executive branch and all future occupants of the office of the presidency, President Trump and his administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances.”
But in refusing to cooperate with what Mr. Trump on Tuesday called a “kangaroo court,” the president risked ensuring the very outcome he would rather avoid. House Democrats made clear that his failure to comply with their demands for information could form the basis for its own article of impeachment.
To read more CLICK HERE