Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Has the far reaching authority of the PATRIOT Act ever thwarted a terrorist attack?

Sixteen years ago President George W. Bush signed into law the most weeping, publicly acknowledged domestic surveillance authority in American history, according to the Cato Institute. Enacted six weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the bill passed the Senate 98-1 and the House 357-66.
The bill had been rushed through Congress before any 9/11 inquiry had commenced, much less concluded. Congress had yet to investigate why the attacks had succeeded in the first place. Thus, the PATRIOT Act was a solution to a problem that remained unexamined at the time it became law.
Within three years of its enactment, two separate national reports—one by Congress, the other by the 9/11 Commission—would conclude that it was not a lack of data, but a lack of focused intelligence analysis and dissemination that impeded the intelligence community from detecting the terrorist plot. The PATRIOT Act’s constitutionally compromised, data-centric approach was, and remains, the wrong solution for preventing future attacks.
Indeed, in the nearly 20 years since it became law, it has become clear that none of the 160 provisions of the PATRIOT Act have ever been shown to have stopped an attack on this country.
You will search in vain to find any reports by relevant agency or department Inspectors General or the Government Accountability Office, that show, based on a truly independent review of the available data (classified or otherwise), that any PATRIOT Act authority can be credited with stopping an attack on America. In fact, multiple examinations of such claims have found the opposite.
Worse, a number of the bill’s provisions have been used to violate the constitutional rights of Americans, and to chill debate over the so-called War on Terror.
There are documented reports of American Muslims curtailing or even ceasing charitable contributions to American-based Muslim charitable organizations in the wake of the passage of the PATRIOT Act in fear of being accused of providing financial support to a “terrorist” organization. That fear proved well-grounded when the “material support” provision of the PATRIOT Act was used to prosecute the Humanitarian Law Project for engaging in peace-making work between Kurdish rebels and the Turkish government.
The American Library Association was so alarmed by the PATRIOT Act’s effects that at its 2005 meeting it issued a resolution condemning the law and its chilling effect on libraries and their patrons who worried that their book checkout and online browsing histories would be subject to disclosure to the FBI under Sec. 215 of the law. That provision was initially labeled “the library provision” of the PATRIOT Act precisely because the FBI sought those very type of records from a Connecticut library in 2005. The law’s sweeping language allowed the government to demand any “tangible things” from public or private entities involving American citizens as long as the “tangible things” sought were “relevant” to the collection of “foreign intelligence information” or terrorism.
But it was former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s amazing revelations in 2013 that helped highlight just how out-of-control government surveillance under Sec. 215 of the PATRIOT Act had become more than a decade after its passage and its two intervening congressional renewals. Snowden’s disclosure that Verizon was, under FISA Court order, providing bulk telephone metadata to federal law enforcement and intelligence entities provoked a rhetorical uproar in the press and on Capitol Hill.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, October 30, 2017

Massachusetts CJ reform includes raising age of criminal responsibility

The Massachusetts Senate  passed a sweeping bill that would upend state laws on crime and punishment, aiming to reduce the number of people ensnared in the thicket of the criminal justice system and ease the tough-on-crime approach of decades past, including raising the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 19, the highest in the nation, reported the Boston Globe
 “We have to lift people up, not lock people up,” said Senator William N. Brownsberger, the legislation’s top author, on the Senate floor. “We have to cut the chains that hold people down when they are trying to get back up on their feet.”
The legislation, which passed just before 1:30 a.m. on October 27, 2017 after more than 14 hours of debate, would repeal mandatory minimum prison sentences for several drug-dealing crimes such as selling heroin within 300 feet of a school; make those changes retroactive so dealers will be able to earn release weeks or months early; legalize sex between young teens close in age; raise the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 19, the highest in the nation; and diminish the procession of fees, fines, and license suspensions that people accused or convicted of a crime often must endure.
Advocates say the bill is a long overdue antidote to a poisonous bureaucracy that has unnecessarily ensnared generations of people — often poor, often black or Latino — in the criminal justice system.
However, many law enforcement officials warn the bill would soften crime laws to the point that it undercuts the pursuit of justice, ignore the interests of victims, and put at risk the sharp decrease in violent crime Massachusetts has seen since the early 1990s. The status quo, they say, is a far cry from other states’ Draconian systems of punishment and has, for the most part, served the state’s nearly 7 million residents well.
Nine of the state’s 11 district attorneys warned in a letter Monday against a “return to the old and discredited ways of the past.” They said that “many of the proposals contained in this legislation turn the clock back.”
And law enforcement officials — who hope the House of Representatives proposes a more prosecutor-friendly bill — point to the state’s relatively low incarceration rate as proof of Massachusetts’ more enlightened position.
In 2015, Massachusetts had the second-lowest imprisonment rate, with 179 sentenced prisoners for every 100,000 people, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. Nationally, 458 prisoners were sentenced to more than one year in state or federal prison per 100,000 US residents.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Should police use warning shots or shoot to kill?

A new policy endorsing the use of warning shots by police to de-escalate potentially deadly confrontations is driving a rift among some law enforcement leaders who believe the practice only heightens risk and should be abandoned, reported the USA Today.
The controversial issue broke into the open during a weekend gathering of the nation’s police chiefs in Philadelphia where some officials called for removing the provision allowing for warning shots contained in the National Consensus Policy on Use of Force. 
The policy paper was approved earlier this month by a coalition of police groups, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the largest society of top law enforcement officials in the country.
"I'll be real candid, I think it's a stupid idea," said James Varrone, assistant police chief in Wilmington, N.C., who first raised the matter Sunday at a law enforcement town hall event staged to coincide with the IACP conference. "I thought the idea of warning shots and the dangers posed by such a policy went away decades ago or longer than I have been in law enforcement – and that's been 31 years.''
Varrone's assessment was effectively endorsed by hundreds of law enforcement colleagues who, when asked whether they supported such a policy, sat silent during the discussion sponsored by the Police Executive Research Forum, a D.C.-based law enforcement think tank.
"We have had enough people killed or injured as bystanders over the years by errant gunfire without endorsing a strategy like this for police," said Darrel Stephens, the outgoing executive director of the Major City Chiefs Association, which represents the 59 largest police departments in the United States.
Of the criticisms raised by other police groups regarding the policy, Pasco said: "You could nit-pick any kind of document like this. This is a statement of best practices."
The policy is not binding on any law enforcement agency, as departments adopt their own guidelines on the use of deadly force. But some officials said the warning-shot option could dangerously cloud officers' responses to the most difficult question they face on the job: when to shoot?
For that reason and for the safety of third parties, Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, said warning shots--as an option for officers--have been banned by most department for decades.
"There has never been any real discussion at all in terms of change," Wexler said. "It's been an established policy for the better part of 40 years that warning shots are prohibited."
Stephen Davis, deputy police commissioner for the New York Police Department, said extreme density in cities like New York are strong arguments against such a policy.
"When you fire a shot, that bullet has to come down somewhere," Davis said. "The downside of policy like this greatly outweighs any benefit, especially in New York."
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, October 28, 2017

GateHouse: Who's watching you?

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
October 28, 2017
Opponents of the use of drones for surveillance often invoke George Orwell’s “1984.” In Orwell’s 1949 classic novel, citizens have no privacy. Many of their homes are equipped with two-way “telescreens” so that they can be watched or listened to at any time. Telescreens are at work and in public places to keep track of a citizen’s every move.
The police, in Orwell’s book, use undercover agents, who pose as normal citizens and report any suspicious thoughts or conduct. Children are encouraged to report suspicious persons to the government, and some denounce their parents. The same sort of conduct attributed to the Nazis by Winston Churchill in a speech to the House of Commons at the onset of World War II.
Government drone deployment began more than a decade ago when it was just an emerging technology with extremely limited use. Today, drones have come into their own. Last year, more public agencies acquired drones than in all previous years combined, with at least 167 departments using drones in 2016, according to a study released this spring by Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone, reported Bloomberg.
In Los Angeles, police commissioners said they believe that their policy offers strict limitations and enough oversight. Under the rules established in Los Angeles, only SWAT officers will be permitted to fly drones during a handful of specific, high-risk situations. According to the Times, a drone can also be used during search and rescue operations, or when looking for armed suspects who have “superior firepower,” an “extraordinary tactical advantage” or are suspected of shooting at an officer.
Each flight must be approved by a high-ranking officer. Any request to fly a drone—whether approved or not—will be documented and reviewed. The Police Commission will also receive quarterly reports that will be made public, reported the Times.
Whatever one thinks of this technology, the public debate about the issue and the vote by the Los Angeles’s civilian oversight board was, according to the New York Times, refreshing—but rare. Americans deserve transparency and detailed information about the surveillance tools the police are considering—or using.
“Mission creep is of course the concern,” Jim Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles told Bloomberg. “The history of this [LA police] department is of starting off with supposedly good intentions about the new toys that it gets ... only to then get too tempted by what they can do with those toys.”
One concern with “mission creep” is facial recognition. According to the New York Times, half of American adults are already in a law enforcement facial recognition network. Drone surveillance merged with police body camera technology and facial recognition could facilitate increased surveillance and the erosion of the anonymity people assume when they go about their daily business.
For instance, the New York Police Department’s body camera policy, which was adopted after consulting with the public, does not prohibit the use of facial recognition.
The proliferation of facial recognition could stifle activity protected by the First Amendment. People may be reluctant to express their views in public if they believe their participation at rallies or protests will be identified through technology and their actions maintained in a database.
Orwellian or not, drones have a function in law enforcement and public safety—but this extraordinary tool lends itself to “mission creep” or even worse intentional misuse and abuse.
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 27, 2017

White House infringing on independence of DOJ?

Rod Rosenstein, the second-in-command at the Department of Justice, recently told reporters who gathered for a press conference on a "major development" in the fentanyl epidemic, "These cases reflect a new and disturbing facet of the opioid crisis in America," said Rosenstein. 
However, what got the attention of DOJ veterans at the press conference was something different according to NPR. 
Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to President Trump, had ventured down Pennsylvania Avenue and past Justice Department security to hear the announcement in person.
It's unusual for a White House adviser to appear at a news conference about an enforcement matter. And for Trump administration critics in Congress and out, it's yet another example of how the administration is refusing to respect the independence of the Justice Department.
"Although we've had attorneys general who view their job as serving the president and as an extension of the White House, I do not believe that's the job of the attorney general," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a hearing last week, one day after the fentanyl event. "The attorney general's master is the people and the law."
Matthew Miller, who led the Justice Department's public affairs office during the tenure of President Barack Obama's long-serving attorney general, Eric Holder, said he could not recall a time when an Obama White House official traveled to the Justice Department to hear an enforcement announcement that was being livestreamed online.
"It sends a message that these law enforcement activities are coordinated, directed by the White House," Miller said. "It's an appearance thing."
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Senators introduce USA Rights Act to overhaul warrantless internet surveillance

A bipartisan group of US senators introduced the USA Rights Act that would overhaul aspects of the National Security Agency (NSA) warrantless internet surveillance program, reported Jurist.
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is set to expire at the end of the year, is used by US intelligence officials to combat national and cyber security threats, and it allows officials to tap into and store digital communications from foreign suspects. The program also incidentally stores communications of American citizens, including if a citizen has conversations with foreign targets. Those communications can then be subject to warrantless searches, including by the FBI.
The bill, led by Ron Wyden (D) and Rand Paul (R), would reform Section 702 to end the warrantless "back door" searches of American calls, emails, texts and other communications. In addition, the bill would impose additional oversight provisions, such as allowing individuals to raise legal challenges and expand the oversight jurisdiction of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.
In a letter to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Wyden wrote:
I am writing to urge the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hold an open mark-up of legislation reauthorizing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This legislation will have enormous impact on the security, liberty, and constitutional rights of the American people. The public has therefore taken a keen interest in the outcome of this mark-up and in specific proposed reforms to Section 702.
The Senator went onto say that a "transparent legislative process is a fundamental hallmark of our democracy."
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

NYT: When It Comes to Surveillance, Watch the Watchmen

Americans should be aware of the rules governing this type of surveillance in their jurisdiction, suggests the New York Times. It’s one thing to be identified by the police once you’re detained; it’s another for the police to be able to identify you at a distance without having to say a word to you.
This use of facial recognition could potentially have a stifling effect on First Amendment-protected activity such as protests. Citizens may be less willing to take part if they think the police are able to catalog their participation and see where else they’ve appeared in public.
The same concern applies to drones, which, although still comparatively rare, will also be a regular part of police departments’ tool kits soon. The New York Police Department has in the past strongly resisted calls for information about its drone records.
Americans care about this. Analysis of online behavior suggests, unsurprisingly, that some changed their online search behavior after Edward Snowden’s revelations that the National Security Agency had engaged in widespread internet surveillance.
The relationship between security and liberty is often described as a balancing act. This act can’t take place if we’re not informed about the technology used to safeguard our security.
That’s why, when it comes to surveillance technology, the American people should demand to know whether the police are spying on them. At the moment, those who are suspected of being Muslim extremists are prime targets, and innocent people caught in this effort face immediate concerns. In the past, Communists, civil rights leaders, feminists, Quakers, folk singers, war protesters and others have been on the receiving end of law enforcement surveillance.
No one knows who the next target will be. What we do know is that it’s difficult to put surveillance equipment back in the box it came from.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A “mass casualty event” played out in slow motion

Opioids are killing more than 50,000 Americans a year, far more than the toll of the AIDS epidemic at its height, reported the Guardian.
President Trump is set to declare the opioid crisis a “national emergency,” reported the Washington Post. Trump telegraphed this when he recently told reporters that he would soon have a “major announcement” on the “massive opioid problem,” and people inside the White House are now leaking word that this announcement will herald an all-hands-on-deck push to combat the epidemic.
But members of Trump’s own handpicked commission to combat the epidemic aren’t nearly as confident, I’m told. They are increasingly worried that the Trump administration will not actually follow through with a robust response, even if he does go before the cameras and declare the crisis a national emergency, and they are increasingly annoyed by the efforts of people inside the administration who are resistant to such a response, one member of the commission says.
In a surprisingly blunt interview with me, Patrick Kennedy, the former congressman from Rhode Island who is a member of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, candidly described the mood on the commission as one racked by pessimism about the president’s willingness and ability to follow through with a response that matches the scale of the human disaster that has unfolded.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, October 22, 2017

GateHouse: Prison labor: A legacy of involuntary servitude

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
October 21, 2017
The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. As any high school sophomore knows, President Abraham Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation were driving forces behind the official abolition of slavery.
The 13th Amendment was passed by Congress and ratified by the states in 1865. However, there was a notable exception to the 13th Amendment. Slave labor and involuntary servitude could continue in America’s prisons “as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”
And, continue it does.
At the federal level, the Bureau of Prisons operates the Federal Prison Industries Program that pays inmates $0.90 an hour to produce everything from mattresses and spectacles to road signs for government agencies, earning the government about $500 million in sales in 2016, according to the Economist.
Overall some estimate that prison labor generates about $2 billion of revenue annually for federal, state and local governments and private businesses.
Prison labor has become so widely accepted that recently Caddo Parish, Louisiana Sheriff Steve Prator lamented a new state program that could release non-violent prisoners early. According to the New York Times, Prater said, “In addition to the bad ones (prisoners) ... in addition to them, they’re releasing some good ones that we use every day to wash cars, to change oil in our cars, to cook in the kitchen, to do all that, where we save money.”
Low-cost, and at times, no-cost prison labor has become so common that most people don’t even know that prisoners are providing essential services. For example, as wildfires ravage California, inmates account for about 40 percent of the firefighters trying to contain the devastating blazes.
Thousands of state prisoners work as firefighters, for as little as $2 a day. As news reports herald the heroic and dangerous work done by firefighter combating wildfires few realize those efforts are being provided for practically nothing.
Incarcerated workers, although not expressly excluded from the definition of employee in federal labor laws, are not provided the protections afforded other workers because of the wording of the Constitution. Courts have reasoned that the relationship between the prison and a “duly convicted” worker is penological in nature and not that of an employer and employee.
According to The Atlantic, incarcerated persons — in spite of the 13th Amendment — lack a constitutional right to be free of forced servitude. The forced labor is not checked by the protections enjoyed by workers laboring in the exact same jobs on the other side of the wall.
Heather Thompson, a professor at the University of Michigan who studies the history of prison labor, told The American Prospect, labor unions ensured during the New Deal era that strong regulations on the use of prison labor were put in place, including a ban on selling prison-made goods across state lines.
However, as the prison population began growing in the 1970s, businesses began lobbying to undo many of those regulations. In 1979, Congress enacted a law that for the first time since the 19th century allowed private companies to “lease” prisoners for work.
Last fall, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, a project of the Industrial Workers of the World union, drew up plans for a national strike “against prison slavery,” to draw attention to the exploitation of prison labor. Loosely organized strikes sprung up in prisons across the country.
Interestingly, according to The New Yorker, neither the A.F.L.-C.I.O. nor the S.E.I.U., the nation’s two largest union umbrellas, supported the prison strike.
The American labor movement had long opposed “free” work performed by prisoners — on the theory that it undercuts wages on the outside. Today big unions also represent prison guards, and probation officers and government workers who benefit indirectly from cultivating, implementing and managing prison labor.
Slavery continues in America — in every county and state of this great country.
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.comand follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
To visit the column CLICK HERE

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Condemned Alabama man flips-off state before execution

The 21st Execution of 2017
Alabama  executed Torrey Twane McNabb on October 19, 2017. He convicted of killing Montgomery police officer Anderson Gordon in 1997.
McNabb's attorneys filed appeals in the case throughout Thursday to halt the execution that was set for 6 p.m. at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. the last stay was lifted between 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. McNabb's official time of death was 9:38 p.m.
Gordon's family issued a statement after the execution.
"Over 20 years ago we lost a companion, a father a brother and a friend who only wanted to make a difference in his community. Brother, who we affectionately called him, worked to make a difference in his community until his life was taken from him," the statement read in part. "Though this has been a difficult day for the Gordon family, we also continue to pray for the family of Torrey McNabb."
McNabb's final words were as follows:
"Mom, sis, look at my eyes. I'm unafraid ... To the state of Alabama, I hate you motherf***ers. I hate you. I hate you."
A brief portion of his final words was unintelligible.
McNabb raised both of his middle fingers twice during the lead-up to his death.
He raised his right arm and grimaced about 20 minutes before he was declared dead, just after a corrections officer performed the second round of consciousness checks. McNabb's family members and attorneys audibly expressed concern that he was not yet unconscious at that point.
To read more CLICK HERE

Friday, October 20, 2017

Mangino interviewed on WFMJ-TV21

Watch my interview on WFMJ-TV21 regarding Mercer County District Attorney Miles Karson who is facing 17 misdemeanor charges, including obstruction of government functions, officially oppressing an arrest or search warrant, and hindering prosecution.

To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Locking up crime victims as material witnesses, again victimizing the victim

Sarah Stillman is a staff writer at The New Yorker writes a compelling story about the arrest and jailing of innocent material witnesses. Here is a sample of her provocative article:

In New Orleans, Renata Singleton called the cops after her then boyfriend, in a jealous fit, grabbed her cell phone and smashed it; she’d feared for her safety.
As trial rolled around for her ex-boyfriend, Singleton the victim, was put in jail as a material witness. She was locked up for a week although she had three small kids, ties to the community, and a job.
On the day of trial she showed up ready to testify, only to learn that her ex-boyfriend had already pleaded guilty, avoiding jail time altogether.
According to Stillman, “Her testimony wasn’t needed after all. He’d agreed to a six-month suspended sentence, with one year of inactive probation. “I was so violated, so upset and hurt that I had to sit in jail,” Singleton told me. “So, when I found out he took a plea and didn’t have to do anything, I was, like, ‘Are you serious . . . I wish I could have had that deal.”
The right to jail these so-called material witnesses has deep roots in America. (A material witness is an individual considered vital to a case, often because he or she saw a crime unfold or was its victim.) As early as 1789, the Judiciary Act codified the duty of witnesses to appear before the court and testify. From a public-safety perspective, the statute has a clear purpose: the perpetrator of a crime should not escape punishment because of a witness’s reluctance to testify. “The duty to disclose knowledge of crime rests upon all citizens,” a 1953 U.S. Supreme Court opinion, in the case Stein v. New York, reads. “It is so vital that one known to be innocent may be detained, in the absence of bail, as a material witness.” 
In 1984, Congress reaffirmed the right to jail material witnesses, but also noted that their testimony should be secured by deposition, rather than imprisonment, “whenever possible.” Jailing crime survivors and innocent witnesses, in other words, was legal but undesirable.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft identified the material-witness statute as a convenient weapon for the war on terror. Federal agents could use it to detain individuals of interest, even without sufficient evidence to arrest them as criminal defendants, by deeming them “witnesses” to terrorism-related crimes. In late 2001, the Department of Justice used material-witness laws to target Muslims, often arresting them at gunpoint and later placing some in solitary confinement. According to Human Rights Watch, the U.S. government eventually apologized to at least thirteen people for wrongful detention as material witnesses, and released dozens more without charges. 
“Holding as ‘witnesses’ people who are in fact suspects sets a disturbing precedent for future use of this extraordinary government power to deprive citizens and others of their liberty,” Human Rights Watch argued. In the face of lawsuits and public scrutiny, the practice slowed.
Recently, however, controversy over the use of material-witness statutes has resurfaced—this time at the state and local level.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Beaver County, Pennsylvania sues opioid manufactures

Pennsylvania's Beaver County filed a lawsuit on against opioid manufacturers, reported Jurist.
The lawsuit, filed in the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas [official website], accuses manufacturers and doctors of deceptive acts, fraud, unjust enrichment, negligence, misrepresentation and public nuisance, seeking in return compensatory damages, punitive damages and the county's legal costs.
The complaint describes the state of the opioid epidemic in Beaver County, noting it spends millions annually in response to the opioid crisis, including expenses for emergency responses, police overtime, and increased incarceration and treatment. The first 10 pages of the 83-page complaint set forth support for the county's claim, citing to national and county-wide opioid-related statistics. According to the complaint, deaths associated with opioid use have tripled in Beaver County from 1999 to 2015, causing it to incur the highest rate of fatal overdoses in Pennsylvania in 2017 at 59.9 per 100,000 people.
The majority of the text concentrates on manufacturers' alleged strategy and tactics which caused and continue to cause addiction, illness, and death to users. As described in other similar lawsuits, these plaintiffs accuse manufacturers of promoting the sale and use of opioids through third-parties, many of whom are doctors:
Recognizing that doctors are gatekeepers for controlling access to prescription drugs, not surprisingly, manufacturers focused the bulk of their marketing efforts ... on the professional medical community. As a controlled substance with significant regulatory barriers limiting access, Defendants knew doctors would not prescribe opioids to patients with common chronic pain complaints unless doctors were convinced that opioids had real benefits and minimal risks. Accordingly, Defendants concealed from prescribers, patients, and the public that evidence in support of their promotional claims was inconclusive, non-existent and unavailable. Instead, each Defendant disseminated misleading and unsupported messages that caused the target audience to believe those messages were corroborated by scientific evidence. As a result, Beaver County doctors began prescribing opioids long-term to treat chronic pain—a treatment choice that most if not all never would have considered prioir to Defendants' campaign.
Named defendants in the lawsuit include four allied physicians, and manufacturers and some subsidiaries of Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions, Allergan, Actavis, Watson Pharmaceuticals, McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen.

To read more CLICK HERE

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.
To read more CLICK HERE

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.
To read more CLICK HERE

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.
To visit the column CLICK HERE

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.
To read more CLICK HERE

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.”
To read more CLICK HERE

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Underfunded Missouri public defender disciplined for not keeping up with work

The chronically underfunded Missouri public defender system is now dealing with another vexing issue: the prospect that its overworked attorneys could be punished for not keeping up with their workloads. And that's leading to a growing standoff between judges and public defender attorneys.
The issue surfaced after the Missouri Supreme Court last month suspended a 21-year veteran of the public defender’s office in Columbia who was laboring under a huge caseload and was hospitalized with chronic health problems.
The lawyer, Karl William Hinkebein, was placed on probation for a year after the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel — the state agency that oversees attorney conduct — found that he failed to provide adequate representation to six of his clients between 2011 and 2013. 
In the wake of that decision, many public defenders throughout the state are refusing to take on additional clients. Last week, Boone County Presiding Judge Kevin Crane  said he would start appointing private attorneys to represent indigent clients. He has since appointed more than three dozen, who will be working pro bono, or without pay.
Michael Barrett, director of the Missouri public defender system, says the Supreme Court’s decision has left public defenders in an untenable position.  
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, October 9, 2017

Author explores the decline of the death penalty

University of Virginia law professor Brandon Garrett’s new book, “End of Its Rope: How Killing the Death Penalty Can Revive Criminal Justice,” represents a major new effort to untangle  the demise of the death penalty. He also analyzes the decline for lessons that might be applied to the criminal justice system as a whole. The Marshall Project asked him:
Why has the death penalty declined?
No one expected this to happen. After all, the death penalty has long stood for the ultimate in punishment, and it has been very popular for decades. I felt that understanding the great death penalty decline might help to show us how we can turn away harsh punishment more broadly.
At the county level, my colleagues and I observed a strong statistical connection between murder rates and death sentences. But while declining murder rates matter, it is not the only explanation. Death sentences fell far more steeply than murders did. Unfortunately, while the decline in murders played an important role, when Alex Jakubow, Ankur Desai and I analyzed the past 25 years of death sentencing data, we found a strong county-level pattern of racial bias. Counties with more black residents have more death sentences. And counties with more white victims of murder have more death sentences. Call it a “white lives matter” effect.
We also found a muscle memory effect. Counties impose far more death sentences just as a function of having done so in the past. This inertia is powerful. And yet today, when prosecutors seek the death penalty, they are more often failing to convince jurors to impose it. That reverses the muscle memory in these offices; to lose an expensive death penalty trial is no trivial matter. In 15 death penalty trials since 2015 in Texas, only eight have resulted in death sentences. In Virginia, prosecutors failed to get death sentences more than half of the time in trials since 2005. Rural counties have fallen completely off the death penalty map; just a handful of relatively populous counties still have death sentences.
What I call a “defense lawyering effect” also played an important role in this death penalty decline. The states that created offices for defense lawyers experienced significantly more pronounced declines in their death sentences. The states that continue to leave it to local judges or counties to decide who handles death penalty cases have more death sentences.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Congress to take another crack at criminal justice reform

Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican representing Iowa and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat representing Illinois co-authored the following op-ed outlining their bipartisan criminal justice reform bill:
In 2015, a diverse group of lawmakers set out to rethink our approach to federal prison sentences. Our goal: improve public safety and the rule of law by ensuring that penalties match their crime. Many months of thoughtful deliberation yielded a product that earned broad bipartisan support in Congress and from organizations around the country and across the political spectrum. And though the political winds in Washington have shifted, that broad support for comprehensive sentencing reform remains strong.
This week, we are reintroducing the “Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act” as we continue to build on the most sweeping criminal justice reform effort in a generation.
Crafted by Republican and Democratic leaders, this legislation aims to safely and sensibly reduce excessive sentences. It recalibrates prison sentences for certain drug offenders and gives judges greater sentencing flexibility while keeping stiff penalties in place for violent criminals. The bill preserves important law enforcement tools to take down large criminal organizations while expanding outlets to shield low-level nonviolent offenders from lengthy mandatory minimum prison sentences. It eliminates mandatory life sentences for three-strike drug offenders and gives judges authority to retroactively apply the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the sentencing disparity between offenses involving crack and powder cocaine. The bill also includes “back end” reforms to curb recidivism by helping inmates successfully re-enter society.
We believe this is the right mix of reforms to give nonviolent offenders who’ve done significant time for their crime a second chance to rejoin their families and contribute to our communities while also reducing taxpayer costs and empowering law enforcement to keep dangerous criminals off our streets. Our bipartisan work represents hard-fought consensus to a long-established problem.
In recent years a unique and growing chorus of voices from across the political spectrum prompted a number of proposals in Congress to reform sentencing laws. However, until now, none garnered enough support to move forward. It became clear that if we wanted to truly make progress on this issue, we would have to come together, check our differences at the door, and focus on areas where we could reach agreement. So a bipartisan group of senators and their staffs held countless discussions to forge a framework for reform. After months of thoughtful deliberation, we introduced a bill that swiftly passed the Judiciary Committee and was cosponsored by 37 senators—a rare broadly bipartisan alliance.
The House of Representatives followed suit, moving its bipartisan sentencing reform package through the committee process less than a month later.
We are encouraged by engagement from the White House on this comprehensive criminal justice reform effort. Last Congress, our bill was supported by hundreds of organizations from a variety of industries and political perspectives, including the NAACP and the Charles Koch Institute. It was also endorsed by a broad range of faith-based organizations and law enforcement leaders. We continue to welcome input from stakeholders and our colleagues in government and the law enforcement community as we make additional improvements.
This bill represents the way Congress is supposed to work, and is well-positioned to be one of the most significant bipartisan achievements of the 115th Congress. It also represents an important step in our nation’s ongoing quest for justice.
Our founders declared that Americans have the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our criminal justice system needs to reflect these values. That means seeking justice for both the victim and the accused. Our colleagues in Congress supporting these reforms may not always see eye to eye on every proposal, but we are committed to upholding America’s promise of justice for all.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

GateHouse: The NRA’s silence was deafening

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
October 6, 2017
The National Rifle Association has broken its silence. In the days immediately following the Las Vegas massacre nary a word from the gun advocacy group.
Wayne LaPierre, executive vice-president of the NRA, said in a statement last night “devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”
In the same statement the NRA blamed the massacre on the Obama Administration and claimed gun control laws would not stop further attacks, and called on Congress to pass a law that would make it easier for owners to carry weapons across state lines.
Contrast that with the NRA’s response in the wake of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald on Nov. 22, 1963. Oswald shot the president with an Italian military surplus rifle purchased from a NRA mail-order advertisement.
At the time, NRA Executive Vice-President Franklin Orth, according to Time, told a congressional hearing that mail-order sales should be banned, “We do think that any sane American, who calls himself an American, can object to placing into this bill the instrument which killed the president of the United States.”
For the NRA silence was the course of action after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, after the Sandy Hook elementary school killings in Newtown and after the massacre at Virginia Tech.
Stephen Paddock murdered 59 people and wounded hundreds more while shooting out of a 32nd floor hotel window into a Las Vegas outdoor concert. Along with the 23 guns that police officers found in Paddock’s hotel room, officials also found “bump stocks.” The device alluded to by the NRA’s LaPierre uses a semi-automatic weapon’s recoil to allow it to fire repeatedly at a rate closer to that of a fully-automatic weapon.
Jill Snyder, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, told CNN that Paddock rigged 12 semi-automatic rifles with bump stocks.00:
According to the New York Times, bump stocks replace a rifle’s standard stock, which is the part held against the shoulder. The stock “bumps” back and forth between the shooter’s shoulder and trigger finger, causing the rifle to fire far faster than an unaided finger can pull a trigger.
Why does the average American sportsman need an assault rifle modified to be an automatic weapon?
The simple answer is -- he doesn’t. As Justin Peters wrote for Slate after the Pulse nightclub mass shooting, an “AR-15 is very good at one thing: Engaging the enemy at a rapid rate of fire. When (a mass shooter kills multiple people in a short period of time) he’s committing a crime, but he isn’t misusing the rifle. That’s exactly what it was engineered to do.”
Although, lawmakers refused to act after Virginia Tech, Newtown and the Pulse nightclub there appears to be at least some appetite among all important GOP lawmakers for outlawing bump stocks. Hence the NRA’s belated reaction.
Wisconsin GOP Sen. Ron Johnson told reporters on Capitol Hill that he had “no problem” banning the device. “Automatic weapons are illegal,” he said. “To me, that is part of that same type of process. So I have no problem banning those.”
Sen. John Cornyn, the second ranking Republican in the Senate, said he would like a hearing on the issue to learn more and said he has already brought it up to Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee.
Not everyone is on board. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told CNN, “The investigation has not even been completed, and I think it’s premature to be discussing legislative solutions if there are any.”
Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama made his position clear when he spoke to reporters, “I’m a Second Amendment man. I’m not for any gun control. None.”
Maybe this massacre -- unlike the others -- will not slowly drift from our collective conscience and with it any chance to enact common sense gun laws?
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 6, 2017

Florida carries out execution for 1983 murders

The 19th Execution of 2017
Michael Lambrix, 57, died by lethal injection at 10:10 p.m. at Florida State Prison in Bradford County on October 5, 2017. He was convicted of killing two people after a night of drinking decades ago, reported the Associated Press.
For his final words, Lambrix said, "I wish to say the Lord's Prayer." He recited the words, ending on the line "deliver us from evil," his voice breaking slightly at times.
When he finished and the drug cocktail began flowing through his veins, Lambrix's chest heaved and his lips fluttered. This continues for about five minutes, until his lips and eyelids turned silver-blue and he lay motionless. A doctor checked his chest with a stethoscope and shined a light in both of his eyes before pronouncing him dead.
Corrections spokeswoman Michelle Glady said Bryant's sister was the only victims' family member to attend and she did not wish to speak with reporters afterward.
Lambrix's attorney, William Hennis, argued in an appeal to the nation's high court that because his client's jury recommendations for death were not unanimous — the juries in his two trials voted 8-4 and 10-2 for death — they should be thrown out. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that Lambrix's case is too old to qualify for relief from the new sentencing system.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday night denied Lambrix's last-ditch appeal.
Lambrix was convicted of killing Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant in 1983 after a long night of partying in a small central Florida town, Labelle, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of Fort Meyers. Lambrix said he was innocent.
He and his roommate, Frances Smith, had met the victims at a bar, and returned to their trailer to eat spaghetti and continue the party, prosecutors said.
At some point after returning to the trailer, Lambrix asked Moore to go outside. He returned about 20 minutes later and asked Bryant to come out as well, according to Smith's testimony.
Smith testified at trial that Lambrix returned to the trailer alone after the killings, his clothes covered in blood. The two finished the spaghetti, buried the two bodies and then washed up, according to Smith's testimony cited in court documents.
Prosecutors said Lambrix choked Bryant, and used a tire iron to kill Moore. Investigators found the bodies, the tire iron and the bloody shirt.
Lambrix has claimed in previous appeals that it was Moore who killed Bryant, and that he killed Moore only in self-defense.
"It won't be an execution," he told reporters in an interview at the prison Tuesday, according to the Tampa Bay Times. "It's going to be an act of cold-blooded murder."
Lambrix's first trial ended in a hung jury. The jury in the second trial found him guilty of both murders, and a majority of jurors recommended death.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Mueller mulls strategy to deflect preemptive pardons

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has a distinctly modern problem, reported Bloomberg. The president, judging by his tweets, could try to pardon people in his circle even before prosecutors charge anyone with a crime.
Mueller’s all-star team of prosecutors, with expertise in money laundering and foreign bribery, has an answer to that. He’s Michael Dreeben, a bookish career government lawyer with more than 100 Supreme Court appearances under his belt.
Acting as Mueller’s top legal counsel, Dreeben has been researching past pardons and determining what, if any, limits exist, according to a person familiar with the matter. Dreeben’s broader brief is to make sure the special counsel’s prosecutorial moves are legally airtight. That could include anything from strategizing on novel interpretations of criminal law to making sure the recent search warrant on ex-campaign adviser Paul Manafort’s home would stand up to an appeal.
"He’s seen every criminal case of any consequence in the last 20 years," said Kathryn Ruemmler of Latham & Watkins LLP, who served as White House counsel under President Barack Obama. "If you wanted to do a no-knock warrant, he’d be a great guy to consult with to determine if you were exposing yourself.”
Dreeben has begun working on legal issues as a counselor to Mueller but is also retaining some of his solicitor general work for the sake of continuity, according to Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel’s office. Carr declined to elaborate on Dreeben’s work with Mueller or make Dreeben available for comment.
Preemptive pardons are a distinct possibility now that current and former Trump advisers are under Mueller’s scrutiny. Trump himself has tweeted that everyone agrees the U.S. president has “complete power to pardon." Some of those kinds of executive moves have been well studied, including Gerald Ford’s swift pardon of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton’s exoneration of fugitive financier Marc Rich. But the legal territory is largely uncharted over pardons of a president’s own campaign workers, family members or even himself -- and how prosecutors’ work would then be affected.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Only in America: The answer to gun violence is more guns

An excerpt from Garry Wills column in the New York Review of Books only days after the Newtown Massacre in 2012:
The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?
Its power to do good is matched by its incapacity to do anything wrong. It cannot kill. Thwarting the god is what kills. If it seems to kill, that is only because the god’s bottomless appetite for death has not been adequately fed. The answer to problems caused by guns is more guns, millions of guns, guns everywhere, carried openly, carried secretly, in bars, in churches, in offices, in government buildings. Only the lack of guns can be a curse, not their beneficent omnipresence.

To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Gun carnage in America is here every day, every where

Large-scale, high-profile shootings such as the horrific one that just happened in Las Vegas represent just a tiny fraction of the daily drumbeat of gun violence in the United States, reports the Washington Post
This year close to 12,000 people have been killed in gun violence incidents, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that tracks shootings via media and police reports.
That works out to around 42 victims of gun violence per day, a figure which does not include suicides.
Sunday alone there were at least 24 fatal shooting incidents in the United States, including the Las Vegas shooting, according to the Gun Violence Archive. That number doesn't include suicides (which account for more than half of all gun shot deaths), and it doesn't include shootings in which individuals were injured but not killed (75,000). It does include fatal shootings involving police officers (737), which are often determined to be justified after the fact.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, October 2, 2017

O.J.'s former attorney F. Lee Bailey lives above a beauty salon

Now that O.J. Simpson is out of jail, no one involved in the O.J. spectacle  has taken as big a fall as F. Lee Bailey.
Bailey joined Simpson’s defense team with a courtroom résumé that even Perry Mason would be jealous of. Bailey got neurosurgeon Sam Sheppard a new trial on charges he brutally killed his wife — and a not-guilty verdict. He defended fugitive newspaper heiress Patty Hearst, the “Boston Strangler” and scores of other accused murderers. He was rich, flew on private jets and even played himself in a movie.
Today he lives with a hairstylist in Maine. Last year, Bailey filed for bankruptcy after a string of scandals inside and outside the courtroom left him disbarred and shamed. He was accused of misappropriating funds from his defense of an alleged drug dealer.
Here’s what he had left: a 1999 Mercedes station wagon.
Unable to practice law, Bailey runs a consulting business above his girlfriend’s hair salon.
To read more CLICK HERE