Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sen. McCain lashes out against 'spurious' nationalism

Sen. John McCain of Arizona set rhetorical fire to what he called "half-baked, spurious nationalism" in a speech in Philadelphia, reported Business Insider.
McCain was there to accept the National Constitution Center's Liberty Medal, in recognition of his decades of service to the US. Former Vice President Joe Biden presented McCain with the honor on Monday evening.
"To refuse the obligations of international leadership, and our duty to remain the last, best hope of Earth for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems," McCain said, as the audience erupted in a raucous applause.
McCain said that kind of nationalism "is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history."
"We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil," McCain declared, referencing the racist ideologies of Nazi Germany that have resurfaced in the midst of the current white-nationalist movement in the US.
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Monday, October 16, 2017

Suit filed against white supremacists for riots in Charlottesville, VA

 A lawsuit filed Thursday morning seeks to hold white supremacist Richard Spencer and the organizers of the Aug. 12 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA accountable for the harms and injuries they caused, reported Slate. The suit, filed by 11 plaintiffs harmed that day, was filed in federal court in the Western District of Virginia. Plaintiffs include clergy leaders, peaceful protesters, and University of Virginia students. One suffered a stroke. Two were struck in a car attack. Among the named defendants are Spencer, rally organizer Jason Kessler, Vice interviewee Christopher Cantwell, Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin, and James Alex Fields, the driver of the car that killed Heyer.
The suit was brought by a pair of seasoned litigators: Roberta Kaplan, who successfully represented Edie Windsor in the 2013 case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, and Karen Dunn, a former federal prosecutor in Virginia. (Disclosure: Kaplan is a friend.) It was funded by a new nonprofit, Integrity First for America, dedicated to defending democratic norms and ensuring equal rights for every American. “The whole point of this lawsuit is to make it clear that this kind of conduct—inciting and then engaging in violence based on racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism—has no place in our country,” Kaplan told me via email. “We are a nation of laws, dedicated to the principle that all people are created equal. On behalf of our very brave clients, we are using those laws to prevent these defendants and others like them from being able to repeat what happened in Charlottesville ever again.”
The 96-page filing, which accuses the white supremacists of violating the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 and other statutes, paints a picture of the events in Charlottesville that bears no resemblance to the president’s “good people on both sides” narrative. It is shot through with tweets, photos, and messages that capture the gleeful planning and howling execution of an event that was intended to be the largest and most terrifying white supremacist event in decades.
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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Mangino interviewed on WFMJ-TV21 Weekend Today

Watch my interview on WFMJ-TV21 Weekend Today on the Nasser Hamad capital murder trial in Warren County, Ohio.
To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Saturday, October 14, 2017

GateHouse: Trump violates the First Amendment in attack on NBC

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
October 13, 2017

“With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”
                              President Donald Trump, Twitter, October 11, 2017

Gordon Smith, president of the National Association of Broadcasters, denounced President Trump’s threat in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “The founders of our nation set as a cornerstone of our democracy the First Amendment, forever enshrining and protecting freedom of the press,” said Smith.
“It is contrary to this fundamental right for any government official to threaten the revocation of an FCC license simply because of a disagreement with the reporting of a journalist,” he said.
Robert B. Reich, a professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration, wrote last year that over the course of history, tyrants have tried to control the press using four techniques:
     -- Berate the media and turn the public against it;
     -- Limit media access;
     -- Threaten the media; and
     -- Bypass the media and communicate with the public directly.
President Trump constantly berates the media. He pounds away at what he calls “fake news.” His administration has limited media access. For a period of time not conducting press briefings and conducting few press conferences for the president. He has threatened NBC’s license due to unfavorable stories and as the “King” of twitter he continues to bypass the media to speak directly to his supporters.
So you’re not convinced that Trump’s disdain for the media is indicative of his desire to be America’s first dictator. Well, what would you say to his disdain for the media being a violation of the Constitution?
Sure the president has the right to fully exercise his constitutional rights through the First Amendment. However, certain people in powerful positions, like say the president, have some limitations on what they can say.
In 2015, Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner wrote an opinion overturning an Illinois sheriff’s efforts to cajole credit card companies to drop service to a webpage that was involved in promoting some unsavory services.
The sheriff was not taking direct legal action against the companies, but he did send threatening letters to their offices, pressuring them to cut off services, according to Reason Magazine. Posner wrote that government officials are not allowed to make such threats.
“A public official who tries to shut down an avenue of expression of ideas and opinions through ‘actual or threatened imposition of government power or sanction’ is violating the First Amendment,” wrote Posner.
Judge Posner, who abruptly retired from the bench in September, continued, “A government entity, including therefore the ... Sheriff’s Office, is entitled to say what it wants to say -- but only within limits. It is not permitted to employ threats to squelch the free speech of private citizens ... a government’s ability to express itself is (not) without restriction.”
After Trump’s tweet, Andrew Schwartzman, a media law specialist at Georgetown University Law told The Washington Post, “Obviously, when a public official, much less the president, threatens media outlets with any kind of legal proceedings, it is a cause for grave concern as a First Amendment matter.”
Schwartzman also noted an historical precedent. In 1973, allies of President Richard M. Nixon challenged the individual licenses of television stations owned by The Washington Post. The famed duo of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein worked for the Post and were hot on the trail of Nixon and his involvement in the Watergate cover-up, which ultimately cost Nixon the presidency.
Those challenges were baseless and unsuccessful, Schwartzman said. Just as Trump’s threats against NBC have no merit, nor any chance of success.
-- 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.
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Friday, October 13, 2017

Texas executes man who killed prison guard

The 20th Execution of 2017
Robert Lynn Pruett was executed in Texas on October 12, 2017.  He was the 1,462nd person executed in the United States since 1976, the 544th person executed in Texas, and the 1,287th person executed by lethal injection.
According to The Marshall Project, Pruett was serving a 99-year sentence for a murder in Harris County, Texas, when he fatally stabbed Correctional Officer Daniel Nagle at the McConnell Unit in Beeville, Texas.
The incident began when a correctional officer took Pruett to get new shoes, causing him to miss the distribution of lunches. Instead of his normal meal, Pruett was given a sack lunch, which he took to the prison recreation area, in violation of unit rules. Nagle told Pruett he would have to eat his lunch before entering the recreation area and wrote up a disciplinary complaint.
Later that afternoon, Pruett stabbed Nagle eight times with an improvised knife. The weapon was found beside Nagle's body, along with the disciplinary complaint, which had been torn into several pieces. An autopsy report indicated Nagle had died of a heart attack after the stabbing. Multiple inmates testified at trial that they had witnessed the attack, describing Pruett as excited and covered in blood afterwards. Others testified that Pruett had vowed to kill Nagle. Pruett claimed Nagle had been killed by prison gang members to prevent him from exposing prison corruption. At trial, his attorneys argued that the Pruett's fingerprints were not found on the weapon, nor was the victim's blood found on the prisoner.
On appeal, Pruett contended he had suffered ineffective counsel, because his lawyer failed to develop mitigating factors. In rejecting the assertion, courts noted that Pruett failed to identify the factors he desired to be developed. In April 2015, Pruett's scheduled execution was halted to allow for DNA testing of the weapon in the hope that another individual's DNA would be revealed. The attempt was not successful.
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Thursday, October 12, 2017

New York prosecutors face little oversight

Four years ago, Kenneth Thompson ousted longtime Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes on the promise of making convictions in Brooklyn fairer. Thompson’s office then went to work correcting past injustices: Over the last three years, courts overturned 22 convictions, reported the New York Daily News.
One of the most striking was the case of Jabbar Collins, who served 16 years in prison after being sentenced to 34-to-life for the murder of a rabbi in 1994. For years, prosecutors suppressed the fact that they had threatened, jailed and badgered witnesses into testifying against Collins.
It turned out that one witness had been threatened with prison time if he didn’t testify. Another was offered a break on an unrelated robbery charge — and when he balked at testifying against Collins, prosecutors locked him up for a week as a “material witness” to apply more pressure.
The judge and jury were never told about these deals that were offered or the threats of prosecution that lay behind them. Hynes’ prosecutors presented coerced witnesses and their tainted evidence as trustworthy and reliable.
Collins performed miracles of evidence retrieval from behind bars with the help of attorney Joel Rudin, and eventually got the conviction reversed. But his case is part of a much bigger crisis.
 “One of the most stunning things when I began to work on my own case was just how common this misconduct was,” Collins told me. “These were institutional policies regarding withholding particular documents, not making a record of all of the incentives given to witnesses . All of the catalog of misconduct that took place in my case wasn’t confined to my prosecution.”
Collins helped a man named Tasker Spruill finally walk free this year after he spent 20 years in prison. Spruill was serving a 25-to-life sentence for the 1993 murder of a drug dealer.
Spruill’s legal team argued the DA’s office improperly withheld evidence that would’ve benefited his case. And the prosecutor involved, Stan Irvin, later admitted to having a witness already in jail shuffled back and forth between facilities 26 times in a six-month period — a punishment to force him into testifying against Spruill.
The harassment grew so bad that the witness attempted suicide. The jury was never told about the coercion.
“That’s how things were done,” Irvin said on the witness stand in August 2016.
Judge Evelyn LaPorte ordered a new trial for Spruill after determining there was prosecutorial misconduct by Hynes’ office. He’s not fully cleared, but at least he’s out of prison.
But there have been no penalties for Irvin, who is now a minister. And there’s an excellent chance that New York taxpayers will eventually have to pay a settlement to Spruill to atone for the misconduct.
The main recourse for bad prosecutors is to vote them out of office, which is what happened in Brooklyn and about a dozen other jurisdictions nationwide in recent years, according to the criminal-justice-reform website the Marshall Project. Prosecutors in Chicago, Cleveland, Tampa and Houston all lost their jobs amid charges of misconduct.
But that’s the exception. Prosecutorial misconduct usually results — at best — in a retrial, exoneration or a monetary settlement. That’s not good enough.
“I think the prosecutors should be held responsible. I think their law license should be on the line. I think that there should be charges that could be brought against them,” says Rita Dave, an attorney who works with wrongfully convicted defendants. “Some people will say I’m being extreme, but there has to be repercussions to your actions. Because if there are not, you get to walk away.”
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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Liptak: Lawyer's strategy challenged, SCOTUS to review

Adam Liptak outlines challenge to defense attorney's trial strategy pending before the U.S. Supreme Court for the New York Times:
Two weeks before Robert McCoy was to be tried for a triple murder, his lawyer, Larry English, paid him a visit. It was the summer of 2011, and the two men met in a holding cell in a Louisiana courthouse. Mr. McCoy, who was facing the death penalty, told his lawyer he was innocent.
Mr. McCoy was adamant. Others had committed the crimes, he said, and he wanted to clear his name.
The lawyer, , said he had a different strategy.
“I know that Robert was completely opposed to me telling the jury that he was guilty of killing the three victims,” Mr. English said. “But I believed that this was the only way to save his life.”
After the meeting, Mr. McCoy tried to fire his lawyer, saying he would rather represent himself. Judge Jeff Cox, of the Bossier Parish District Court, turned him down.
“Mr. English is your attorney, and he will be representing you,” the judge said.
Mr. McCoy’s parents had paid Mr. English $5,000 to defend their son. They had borrowed the money, using their car as collateral.
During his opening statement at the trial, Mr. English did what he had promised to do. “I’m telling you,” he told the jury, “Mr. McCoy committed these crimes.”
Mr. McCoy objected. “Judge Cox,” he said, “Mr. English is simply selling me out.”
“I did not murder my family, your honor,” Mr. McCoy said. “I had alibis of me being out of state. Your honor, this is unconstitutional for you to keep an attorney on my case when this attorney is completely selling me out.”
Mr. English’s trial strategy failed. Mr. McCoy was convicted and sentenced to death. He appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court, saying his lawyer had betrayed him. The court ruled against him.
The decision relied on a unanimous 2004 ruling from the United States Supreme Court in Florida v. Nixon, which said lawyers need not obtain their clients’ express consent before conceding guilt in a capital case. But the ruling did not address whether it was permissible for a lawyer to disregard a client’s explicit instruction to the contrary.
The right answer, Louisiana prosecutors told the justices, is that lawyers may ignore their clients’ wishes. “Counsel’s strategic choices should not be impeded by a rigid blanket rule demanding the defendant’s consent,” they wrote in a brief urging the court not to hear the case.
In a brief supporting Mr. McCoy, the Ethics Bureau at Yale, a law school clinic, said Mr. English had essentially switched sides. “Far from testing the prosecution’s case,” the brief said, “Mr. English seemed downright eager to advance it.”
Mr. McCoy’s situation is not particularly unusual, according to a second supporting brief, this one filed by the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Promise of Justice Initiative, a nonprofit group. “In Louisiana,” the brief said, “a capital defendant has no right to a lawyer who will insist on his innocence.”
Since 2000, the brief said, the Louisiana Supreme Court allowed defense lawyers to concede their clients’ guilt in four other capital cases over the clients’ express objections.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees a right to “the assistance of counsel.” Those words, the Supreme Court said in 1975 in Faretta v. California, indicate that the client is the boss.
“It speaks of the ‘assistance’ of counsel,” Justice Potter Stewart wrote, “and an assistant, however expert, is still an assistant.”
That case is McCoy v. Louisiana, No. 16-8255.
To read more CLICK HERE