Monday, July 22, 2019

'Too old to kill' 77-year old violent felon kills woman

A 77-year-old convicted murderer, whom a judge once deemed to be too old to hurt someone again, has been convicted of fatally stabbing another woman, reported The Huffington Post.
A jury on Wednesday convicted Albert Flick in the July 15, 2018, murder of Kimberly Dobbie, 48, outside a laundromat in Lewiston, Maine.
Dobbie’s twin 11-year-old sons were nearby and witnessed their mother’s violent death, which prosecutors said occurred after Flick had obsessed over the single mother to the point of stalking.
“The obsession became if I can’t have her, I will kill her and that’s exactly what he did,” Assistant Attorney General Robert Ellis told the jury, according to Portland station WCSH-TV.
The attack followed a series of other violent incidents involving Flick and women over nearly four decades as well as a judge arguing against giving him a longer prison sentence, eight years before his latest attack, because of his age.
In 1979, he was first sentenced to 25 years in prison for stabbing his estranged wife to death in front of her daughter from an earlier marriage.
After his release, he was convicted of assaulting another woman in 2010. A prosecutor recommended that he serve eight years behind bars but the judge agreed to four, stating Flick’s old age ― Flick then being in his late 60s ― hindered his ability to hurt anyone again.
“At some point, Mr. Flick is going to age out of his capacity to engage in this conduct,” Maine Superior Court Justice Robert E. Crowley said at the time, according to the Portland Press Herald, “and incarceration beyond the time he ages out doesn’t seem to me to make good sense from a criminological or fiscal perspective.”
After Flick’s release from prison in 2014 he moved to Lewiston where he eventually met Dobbie, who was living in a homeless shelter with her two sons, and became infatuated with her, prosecutors said.
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The Vindicator: Torch carried by The Vindicator since 1869 is being extinguished

Matthew T. Mangino
The Youngstown Vindicator
July 20, 2019
The Mahoning Valley should “rage at the dying of the light”
Beyond the three traditional branches of government – legislative, executive and judicial – there is another equally powerful, and indeed essential, component to a free democratic society: the free press referred to as the Fourth Estate.
The First Amendment protects freedom of the press. A free press is the cornerstone to a thriving democracy, functioning as a watchdog that can investigate and report on government wrongdoing.
The Fourth Estate, as the political philosopher Edmund Burke referred to it, was considered to be the most important power estate of his time. At the time of Burke, and into the 20th century, it was difficult for an individual to be heard. The newspaper was a vehicle that people relied upon to keep power in check.
Political corruption
Over the years The Vindicator wrote about the evils of unchecked corporate greed and the plight of Mahoning Valley workers; the ills of McCarthyism and the corruption and excesses of Watergate. Locally, this paper was a tireless voice against political corruption and organized crime.
Soon that voice will go silent. The Mahoning Valley has endured countless hardships. Steel mills closed, businesses of all sorts moved out of town, even as light began to shine at the end of the tunnel GM Lordstown closed. However, nothing is quite like the loss of a town’s newspaper.
Much of the litigation over the years regarding the First Amendment focused on what is known as prior restraint – the review and restriction of speech prior to its release.
Prior restraint has a history of being viewed as a form of oppression in the United States. The Founding Fathers had experienced the effects of prior restraint while under British rule, and they specifically used language in the First Amendment to guard against prior restraint, which they felt was a violation of democratic principles.
demise of newspapers
Unfortunately here in Youngstown, and in many cities and towns across the nation, a form of prior restraint is being foisted upon the people. The news in not being reviewed and censored, it is being voluntarily silenced. Could you image in 1882 or 1982 if the government came along and said we’re going to close The Vindicator? There would have been an armed insurrection. Today, it’s “Oh well, another business is closing shop.’
The newspaper is not just another business. Sure, newspapers have a bottom line and things haven’t been good. The total estimated circulation of daily newspapers in the United States has steadily declined since the late 1980s, from approximately 63 million to 31 million. Advertisement revenue has plunged from $49 billion in 2005 to $17 billion in 2017.
Yet, the newspaper is the fabric of the community. It is a forum to exchange ideas. In 2006, The Vindicator gave me a chance to express my views about crime and punishment. In the last 13 years I have written about 136 columns for The Vindicator; today’s is my last.
Newspapers are where ordinary, and extraordinary, people celebrate their achievements and share their sorrows–births, deaths, graduations and championships to name a few.
Shining light
A newspaper is a shining light in the community. States across the country, including Ohio, have Sunshine laws that ensure that the work of the government is not done in secret. Often violations of Sunshine laws are unearthed by zealous reporters who discovered government officials not following the rules.
That light is beginning to dim in Youngstown. But that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. As the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote in 1947, “Do not go gentle into that goodnight ... rage, rage at the dying of the light.”
The Mahoning Valley needs to keep kindled the torch carried by The Vindicator for a century and a half.
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 and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino).
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Sunday, July 21, 2019

GateHouse: Death penalty may have its day in court

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
July 19, 2019
The death penalty is a bundle of contradictions that promotes both support and opposition to its continued use.
The support for the death penalty as an effective deterrent has all but disappeared. The rarity of imposition and the handful of times each year that it is carried out mutes any impact the death penalty has on crime.
Pennsylvania may be the next major battleground for the death penalty. This week, in an extraordinary move by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, his office filed a brief with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in support of a claim by two death row inmates that the death penalty in Pennsylvania violates the Eighth Amendment to the United State Constitution.
Krasner, whose opposition to the death penalty was a major component of his 2017 upset DA victory, now joins a small group of prosecutors from across the country - including the Boulder County, Colorado District Attorney, Orlando, Florida States Attorney and King County, Washington Prosecuting Attorney - who have called for their states to abolish the death penalty, reported the Huffington Post.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office based its position on a review of every case where a Philadelphia defendant received a death sentence between 1978 and 2017. The study found that 72 percent of those 155 sentences were ultimately overturned - more than half of them for ineffective assistance counsel.
Pennsylvania is one of 30 states that has the death penalty, although Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf four years ago announced a temporary halt on executions in one of his first acts as governor. The moratorium still stands.
Since 1978, three men have been executed in Pennsylvania. Gary Heidnik, convicted of killing of two women he imprisoned in his Philadelphia home, was the last person put to death in the state, in 1999.
The current appeal has attracted support from groups like the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
It is not just progressives who want to see the end to the death penalty in Pennsylvania. Hannah Cox, National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, suggested, “Conservatives in Pennsylvania and across the country increasingly realize the death penalty is a failed government program that threatens innocent people and is marred by racial disparities, as well as inconsistency in how it has been used.”
The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association is alright with the death penalty. “If the death penalty is abolished, that would have a very real effect on a limited number of cases - which happen to be the most heinous cases,” said Greg Rowe, legislation and policy director for the PDAA. The Pennsylvania attorney general, the Philadelphia chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, and several groups of Republican state lawmakers filed briefs in support of the death penalty.
If racial disparities and poor lawyering are not enough to oppose the death penalty, those supporting the end to the death penalty have more to argue. In 2016, The Reading Eagle reported that Pennsylvania paid an estimated $816 million on the death penalty since 1978.
The Juvenile Law Center and Youth Sentencing and Reentry Project cites impetuosity and susceptibility to negative peer influences for 18- to 25-year-olds - who make up over one third of Pennsylvania’s current death row - as evidence of the overall arbitrary and disproportionate nature of Pennsylvania’s death penalty.
Quinn Cozzens, an attorney with the Pennsylvania-based Abolitionist Law Center, argues that that the death penalty can be unfairly “used as a tool” in the plea bargaining process. “They’re able to hang that over the heads of defendants,” Cozzens said.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court may soon have a say whether the death penalty is fine as it is, needs repaired or ended.
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 and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Gov. Wolf signs justice reform legislation

With the Legislature out of session for the summer, Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday ceremonially signed six bills designed to boost the rights of crime victims in Pennsylvania, reported the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.
The legislation Wolf officially signed into law on June 28 are, per his office:
House Bill 315, which criminalizes female genital mutilation by making it a first-degree felony.
House Bill 502, which amends the Crime Victims Act to allow the victim to be present in any criminal proceeding unless the court determines the victim’s own testimony would be altered by hearing other witnesses.
House Bill 504, which prevents prosecutors bringing up the victim’s sexual history or prior allegations of sexual abuse while prosecuting certain crimes.
Senate Bill 399, which makes updates to the Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act, including requiring the Pennsylvania State Police to create procedures for anonymous victims and establishing timelines for submitting, testing, and storing rape kits.
Senate Bill 469, which establishes procedures protecting victims and witnesses with intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorder, including allowing for testimony and questioning to take place outside of a courtroom.
Senate Bill 479, which expands the list of crimes for which an out-of-court statement made by a child under 12 can be used.”
The commonwealth has in recent years made headlines for bipartisan criminal justice reform, including a landmark law that automatically seals certain criminal records.
But at the Capitol on Monday, state Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm said this legislative session has been just as profound for crime victims. She called 2019 a “historic and unprecedented” year, thanks to the passage of nine bills that make “necessary and vital changes” to existing state law.
“At a time when our system is ever-changing and reforming,” Storm said, “we are obligated to ensure that crime victims are at the forefront of everything we do.”
Flanked by several state lawmakers, Wolf said he would “continue to pursue this goal into the fall session.”
Storm also mentioned Marsy’s Law, a proposed constitutional amendment that would enshrine crime victims statutes in the state Constitution.
It does not require Wolf’s signature, as Storm noted. Rather, “it will be the citizens of Pennsylvania who will decide if it will become law,” this November.
Critics, most prominently the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, say Marsy’s Law will endanger the due process rights of the accused.
Storm has rejected those concerns, countering that the amendment will simply give crime victims recourse if their rights are violated — something they don’t have at the moment.
“Marsy’s Law changes that,” she said. “It is in my humble opinion the most important thing we can do for victims.”
Wolf has publicly backed the proposal.
“There’s a balance we’re trying to strike,” Wolf said in a response to a reporter’s question about the ACLU’s objections. “I’m not a big believer in slippery slope arguments.”
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Friday, July 19, 2019

Time to stand up to the U.S. internment of human beings

Manisha Sinha writes in the New York Review of Books: Some historical analogies can mislead, granted, but we should be mindful of the lessons from history that can shine light on our current humanitarian crisis. The first is that evils we had thought long banished from civilized societies can reappear, and with alarming speed. From concentration camps for Uighurs in China, the largest mass-detention since the Holocaust, to migrant detention centers in America, we’re seeing an increase in the systemic internment of human beings worldwide. In the US, perhaps the most fraught example is Fort Sill, Oklahoma, an Army post proposed as a migrant detention center. Fort Sill symbolizes a bloodline of state-sponsored cruelty throughout American history, first as a reservation for dispossessed Native Americans, then as an internment camp for Japanese-American citizens during World War II, and now in its present planned use by ICE as a holding pen for migrants.
The second lesson from history is how quickly such measures can be accepted as necessary, even “natural.” That ordinary people of any ethnicity or nationality can partake in and support evil actions at any time is not news to historians. The blithe assurance of top advisers like Stephen Miller and senior bureaucrats like Kirstjen Nielsen who devise cruel policies to suit the needs of the system they’re working within, and implement them seemingly without thought, recalls Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil.” More shocking is that many border patrol agents appear not only to be following orders but, according to a recent ProPublica report, have paraded their own racist, misogynistic, and sadistic tendencies in Facebook posts. That the Trump administration has announced new nationwide raids by ICE agents recalls the kidnappings and roundups by nineteenth-century slave-catchers and federal marshals.
The out-group mentality is always a danger, but there are still individuals who, regardless of race and ethnicity, do not accept or support their government’s unjust and inhumane policies. If the history of slavery and the fight against it has taught us something, it is that racial proscriptions and divisions suit those who seek to dehumanize and exploit people they construe as the other. For this reason, the interracial nineteenth-century abolition movement can provide valuable inspiration to those involved in today’s efforts to provide humanitarian aid to migrants and refugees and to resist the threatened descent into authoritarianism, mass atrocity, and inhumanity.
The 1793 federal Fugitive Slave Act required Northern free states to return runaway slaves to Southern slaveholders, enforcing the fugitive slave clause of the US Constitution. By the turn of the nineteenth century, free blacks and mostly Quaker abolitionists resisted the implementation of the fugitive slave law by forming humane societies to prevent the kidnapping of free blacks, as well as fugitive slave rendition. Northern states such as Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York passed personal liberty laws guaranteeing the due process of law and trial by jury for suspected fugitives.
The plight of today’s “Dreamers” and citizens and legal immigrants married to undocumented immigrants is comparable to the status of runaway slaves who married free blacks and raised children in free states. 
The prosecutions of those rendering aid to migrants and refugees across Europe and America demand that we extend anew our moral imaginations and recommit ourselves to universal human rights and democracy. The abolitionists’ protests against the fugitive slave laws, which deprived large groups of people of their liberty and criminalized those who offered assistance to them, should be an inspiration in our dismal times.
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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Philly DA supports inmates' request to abolish death penalty

A petition before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court by two death row inmates could upend Pennsylvania's dysfunctional death penalty, and it has one extremely unusual supporter: the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, reported Reason.
In a legal brief filed Monday night in support of the petition, Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner, who ran for office promising to never pursue a death sentence, argues Pennsylvania's death penalty is applied unreliably and arbitrarily, violating the state constitution's ban on cruel punishment.
To reach its conclusions, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office reviewed every case where a Philadelphia defendant received a death sentence between 1978 and 2017. The study found that 72 percent of those 155 sentences were ultimately overturned—more than half of them for ineffective legal assistance.
"Where nearly three out of every four death sentences have been overturned—after years of litigation at significant taxpayer expense—there can be no confidence that capital punishment has been carefully reserved for the most culpable defendants, as our Constitution requires," the office wrote in its brief. "Where a majority of death sentenced defendants have been represented by poorly compensated, poorly supported court-appointed attorneys, there is a significant likelihood that capital punishment has not been reserved for the 'worst of the worst.'"
The brief was filed in the case of Jermont Cox and Kevin Marinelli, who were sentenced to death for three drug-related murders in 1992 and a fatal 1994 shooting, respectively. Their petition argues that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court should strike down the state's capital punishment system because of its "pervasive unreliability" and "systemic dysfunction," citing the scores of reversed death penalty sentences, as well as six death row exonerations.
Cox and Marinelli's petition has attracted amici briefs from groups like the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania attorney general, the Philadelphia chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, and several groups of Republican state lawmakers filed briefs opposing the petition. But it appears to be the first time, at least as far as several criminal justice experts can tell, that a district attorney has argued broadly in court against a state death penalty. 
"There have been individual cases where a particular defendant challenges the death penalty and a prosecutor who reviews the case on appeal decides, you know, we can't defend what happened here," says David Rudovsky, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. "I don't know of any case of a broad-scale attack like this on the whole system, where a prosecutor agreed that the death penalty, at least in application here in Pennsylvania, is unconstitutional."
Last year, the prosecuting attorney for King County, Washington, wrote an op-ed calling on the state to end the death penalty.
Krasner, a former civil rights attorney, was elected in 2017 and is one of the most high-profile members of a wave of progressive candidates who have run for prosecutor offices in major cities in recent years, promising to roll back policies they say contribute to mass incarceration.
Krasner pledged during his campaign to never seek the death penalty. That decision, along with others, has led to intense opposition from police unions and critical local news coverage.
Although Pennsylvania is one of 30 states where the death penalty is still on the books, there have only been three executions in the state since 1978. The last took place in 1999. Four years ago, Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf announced a moratorium on the death penalty that still remains in place.
Nationwide, the use of capital punishment has steadily declined and become more geographically isolated over the past few decades. Only a handful of counties in the U.S. are responsible for the majority of new death penalty sentences. Last year, the Washington Supreme Court struck down the state's death penalty "because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner"—much the same argument that Cox and Marinelli, as well as Krasner, make.
However, the extraordinary cost of death penalty trials and near non-existence of executions have not stopped Pennsylvania prosecutors from pursuing capital punishment. A 2016 analysis by the Reading Eagle found that the state had spent $816 million on the death penalty since 1978.
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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

PA Supreme Court case that could end death penalty

A little-known case before Pennsylvania’s highest court could strike down the death penalty and block the executions of scores of people on death row, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.
At the heart of the case before the state Supreme Court, Commonwealth v. Cox,  is whether Pennsylvania’s death-penalty system is so flawed that it violates the state constitution’s prohibition on cruel punishment. The justices’ decision could affect not just future cases, but also the 142 inmates awaiting execution, potentially forcing the courts to resentence them. 
 “If the death penalty is abolished, that would have a very real effect on a limited number of cases — which happen to be the most heinous cases,” said Greg Rowe, legislation and policy director for the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.
It could also set the stage for another showdown with the Republican-controlled legislature, which just last year accused the Democratic-majority court of trying to set public policy from the bench.