Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Doug Jones is projected to win Senate seat in Alabama over maligned Roy Moore

The Associated Press projected that Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney, defeated Roy Moore, a controversial former judge, in a major upset. Moore faced allegations that, decades earlier, he had pursued romantic relationships with girls in their teens when he was in his 30s.

Jones’s victory in the special election is a seismic defeat for the GOP, President Trump and Trump’s former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon. The result will narrow the Republican majority in the Senate to 51 to 49 — and will place that majority in greater peril during next year’s midterm elections.

Monday, December 11, 2017

GOP lawmakers excoriate FBI and special counsel

For five hours last week, Republican lawmakers delivered a reckless and sustained attack on the FBI and the special counsel, reported the Washington Post. They amplified President Trump’s claim that the FBI’s “reputation is in Tatters — worst in History” and that Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe, which has already secured guilty pleas from two Trump campaign officials and the indictments of two more, is part of a system that is “rigged,” “phony,” “dishonest” and using a “double standard.”
Shamefully, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee launched an all-out assault on the special counsel and the FBI — choosing to protect Trump at the cost of Americans’ faith in the justice system and the rule of law.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the chairman, echoed Trump’s “tatters” claim and told FBI Director Christopher A. Wray that Mueller’s probe and the Clinton email probe have been tainted by “bias.”
Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) repeatedly charged that the FBI and Mueller have a “shocking” anti-Trump bias.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said he has a “hunch” that “pro-Clinton, anti-Trump bias” at the FBI was behind a secret “warrant to spy on Americans associated with the Trump campaign.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) called former FBI director James B. Comey an “egomaniac rogue” and speculated that the FBI paid for the “dossier” on Trump’s activities in Russia.
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) speculated that anti-Trump bias led the FBI to conclude that Russia interfered in the U.S. election, and he threatened Wray: “I think you’re walking into a contempt of Congress.”
This is calumny. Mueller is a longtime Republican who was appointed FBI director by George W. Bush. He was named special counsel by Rod J. Rosenstein, also a Republican, who was appointed by Trump himself to be deputy attorney general. Comey, a Republican who served in Bush’s Justice Department, made political contributions to John McCain, Mitt Romney and other Republicans. Wray, a Republican who also gave to GOP candidates, was appointed by Trump.
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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Racist court decision may be key to Moore victory in Alabama

If Roy Moore narrowly defeats Doug Jones in this week’s Senate race, he may have an obscure 1903 Supreme Court case to thank, reported Newsweek.
The case, Giles v. Harris , upheld Alabama’s successful campaign to prevent African Americans from casting ballots despite the constitutional guarantee of the right for black people to vote.
Its ramifications can be felt to this day: about 15 percent of otherwise qualified African American residents of Alabama have been barred from voting in recent elections.
In a state where 90 percent of eligible blacks vote Democratic, that can make the difference in this week’s closely watched Senate election.
Alabama’s unequal approach to voting can be traced to its 1901 constitution, drawn up to prevent black citizens from voting.
The president of the convention that drafted the constitution, John B. Knox, declared at the beginning of the meeting: “And what is it that we want to do? Why it is within the limits imposed by the Federal Constitution, to establish white supremacy in this State.”
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Saturday, December 9, 2017

GateHouse: Waning respect for the rule of law

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
December 7, 2017
Following a recent terrorist attack in Manhattan that killed eight and injured 12 President Donald Trump attacked the criminal justice system. He suggested that the criminal justice system was partially at fault for terrorist acts.
“We need quick justice, and we need strong justice -- much quicker and much stronger than we have right now. Because what we have right now is a joke, and it’s a laughingstock,” said Trump.
Last weekend President Trump tweeted, “After years of [F.B.I. Director] Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters - worst in History! . . .”
Not to mention the president’s recent attacks against Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team of investigators as “very bad and conflicted people” and his characterization of the Russia probe as a “witch hunt.”
Those comments from the president of the United States should alarm anyone who believes in the rule of law.
Bob Bauer, White House Counsel to President Obama, wrote recently on LawFare, “the president is successfully bringing the legal process into the discredited conspiratorial ranks of the ‘deep state.’ He is specifically stirring up suspicion of Robert Mueller, but his broadsides have a far wider focus. He has upbraided the whole system--DOJ, the FBI and the courts.”
The foundation of American democracy rests on the rule of law. Freedom endures with the notion that all men and women are on equal footing before the courts, and that our government of checks and balances protects us from corrupt institutions.
The faith that we invest in our leaders is always subject to legitimate scrutiny. However, baseless attacks on our institutions shake our faith in democracy.
In 2016, Gallup released a poll that showed only 23 percent of Americans have either “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the criminal justice system. Such lack of confidence is unfortunate and concerning. The poll predates the current attacks on justice-related institutions.
Jason Brennan a professor at Georgetown University wrote in Time, ”[M]ost voters have no incentive to be well-informed about politics, or to correct their misinformed opinions. They have no incentive to think rationally about politics or to process information in a reasonable way. They have every incentive to indulge their biases and prejudices.”
The recipe of demagogic attacks on political institutions, and failure of voters to correct misinformation, is dangerous. Don’t take it from me. This week, former President Barack Obama warned against staying complacent in the face of rising nativism--citing the rise of Hitler as an example of what can happen if democracy is not defended--reports Crain’s Chicago Business.
“We have to tend to this garden of democracy or else things could fall apart quickly,” Obama told an audience at the Economic Club of Chicago. “That’s what happened in Germany in the 1930s, which despite the democracy of the Weimar Republic and centuries of high-level cultural and scientific achievements, Adolf Hitler rose to dominate.”
Obama continued, “Sixty million people died...So, you’ve got to pay attention. And vote.”
Whether it was attacking U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel for his ethnicity or the “so-called judges’ that overruled his travel ban or his comments after the sanctuary cities decision, “This case is yet one more example of egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge,” President Trump has displayed little respect for the rule of law.
In 1947, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote, “There can be no free society without law administered through an independent judiciary. If one man can be allowed to determine for himself what is law, every man can. That means first chaos, then tyranny.”
Judges, prosecutors and investigators should be free from pressure imposed by a political party, a powerful person, a private interest, or popular opinion.
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, December 8, 2017

South Carolina police officer who gunned down Walter Scott gets 20 years

Two and a half years after millions saw a cellphone video of Michael Slager gunning down Walter Scott, the 20-year prison sentence imposed will be etched into history as one of the most significant for an American police officer involved in a fatal shooting, reported the Post and Courier.
Slager was patrolling one of North Charleston’s most hardened communities on April 4, 2015 when he stopped Scott’s car for a broken brake light. The police had long used minor traffic stops to check on residents and look for greater crimes afoot.
This stop was ordinary until Scott, 50, jumped out and ran. Slager gave chase and tried to stop him with a Taser.
But the officer said Scott fought him and grabbed the stun gun, turning the weapon against him. As they rose from the ground, Slager said he feared what Scott might do. He pulled his pistol and fired.
But bystander Feidin Santana’s video showed the Taser bouncing behind the officer, though it offered no clear view of who had been holding it. Scott is running away at the first gunshot and is still running at the eighth, which brought him down. Five of the bullets had hit him from behind.
Officers are rarely arrested in shootings, a product of how much leeway the law gives them in justifying deadly force. Even more seldom are they convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, which was apparent when Slager's state murder trial last year ended with a hung jury.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Homicides continue to fall in NYC even without 'stop-and-frisk'

In August 1952, The New York Times published the following dire statement in an editorial: The public now had evidence in statistics “solemnly guaranteed as accurate and complete by the Police Department, that there is definite reason for concern about the trend violence is taking in New York.”
Over the years, things got bloodier, more or less steadily, until 1990. The city had 2,245 murders that year, WROTE Jim Dwyer in The New York Times.
This week, the police department released statistics that showed murders have declined so much in New York City that killings are likely to be fewer than 300 for 2017. That is less than most years in the 1950s, when there were fewer people living in the city.
A mere number, the homicide statistic is of the utmost importance for what it counts, death by violence. But it is also a historic milestone for what it does not count: lives not lost. It marks a long change, one whose importance would be unmistakable for anyone familiar with the city.
Well, not everyone. You can, of course, always manage to find one New Yorker who sees things upside down. In this case, the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump managed that trick during a campaign debate last year.
“Murders are up, all right,” Mr. Trump said. “You check it.”
Wrong then, wrong now. That may not qualify as startling news, but it is welcome. As the city has grown, it has become safer and safer.
The cause of the (nonexistent) crime increase, Mr. Trump had said, was that “a judge, who was a very-against-police judge,” acting in concert with Mayor Bill de Blasio, had ended the use of stop-and-frisk.
Candidate Trump got the murder trend completely wrong, but sometimes people stumble on facts when rushing to get to a larger truth.
In this case, Mr. Trump was trying to get at an even bigger untruth.
More than 4 million innocent people were stopped and frisked between 2002 and 2012. Most were under the age of 25. The vast majority were black or Latino. Under pressure from a lawsuit, the practice was scaled back beginning in 2012 — not by the order of a judge, not by Mayor de Blasio, but by his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg.
Today, the police still stop and search people, but the number of such encounters has dropped by more than 98 percent since its peak in 2011 — down to 12,404 in 2016, and about the same pace this year. Six years ago, 685,724 were stopped and searched — 605,328 of whom had done nothing wrong, and many thousands who had done nothing worse than carry marijuana.
Along the way, a federal judge did say that the city’s wholesale stop-and-frisk practices violated the Constitution. But contrary to the cries of Mr. Bloomberg, the police commissioner and some editorial writers, further curtailing this approach did not make the city more dangerous. In fact, the opposite happened. That is unambiguously great news.

To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Malcolm Jenkins writes about JLWOP for NBC News

NFL player Malcolm Jenkins wrote recently for NBCNews about juvenile life without parole.  Here are excerpts: In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that life sentences without parole should only be given to juveniles in the rarest of circumstances. Last year, it ruled that those individuals currently serving life sentences without parole should have their cases reviewed. Currently, more than 2,100 people who were sentenced as children are eligible to have their sentences reviewed and earn a second chance. Approximately 300 of these people are from the city of Philadelphia alone.
In its decision, the Supreme Court said that juvenile life without parole, where kids are sentenced to literally die in prison, should only be given to teens found to be “irreparably corrupt.” But in reality, according to the Fair Punishment Project, the “irreparably corrupt” child is a myth. We have to stop locking up kids and throwing away the key. According to human rights groups, America is the only country that sentences kids to life without parole.
The infuriating irony here is that the kids who have received life without parole sentences are, in many ways, the young people who needed our help the most. According to study conducted by the Sentencing Project, 79% of this population witnessed violence in their homes growing up, 40% were enrolled in special education classes, nearly half experienced physical abuse, and three-quarters of the girls had experienced sexual abuse.
America failed them once. Today, these kids deserve a second chance. Contrary to the super-predator rhetoric utilized by politicians in the past to justify locking up kids for life, adolescents really are different from adults — in almost every way. Their brains are underdeveloped, they struggle with judgment, they are susceptible to peer pressure.
For too long, we have depicted our youth, especially our black youth, as fully developed adults who are a lost cause. But they can change. These are not the soulless “super-predators” the media scared its readers with in the 70s and 80s. These are children. Studies show that even those accused of the most serious crimes age out of crime.
To read more CLICK HERE