Saturday, November 17, 2018

Mangino discusses Dee Dee Blanchard murder on Law and Crime Network

Watch my appearance with Yosha Gunasekera on the Law and Crime Network talking about the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard.
To watch the segment CLICK HERE

GateHouse: The murder of Dee Dee Blanchard: Sex, lies and mental illness

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
November 16, 2018
In Missouri, a jury is being asked to consider whether murder is justified in retaliation for a long history of child abuse by a domineering mother.
The only catch is that the killer was not the victim of abuse, but rather the autistic online boyfriend of the victim.
Gypsy Rose Blanchard lived with her mother, Dee Dee Blanchard, in Springfield, Missouri. Gypsy had reportedly been battling several chronic diseases since childhood including Muscular Dystrophy and cancer. She was confined to a wheelchair since the age of seven. In June 2015, Dee Dee Blanchard was found dead in her home. She has been stabbed 17 times and her chronically ill daughter, Gypsy, was missing.
Within days, to everyone’s shock, Gypsy was arrested for Dee Dee’s murder in Big Bend, Wisconsin, along with her online boyfriend Nicholas Godejohn.
Police soon revealed that Gypsy was perfectly healthy. She could walk and never had cancer. Her ailments had been the product of her mother’s imagination. Gypsy’s mother suffered from a rare disorder known as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSbP).
The name MSbP is derived from Munchausen Syndrome, a different though related condition. People with Munchausen Syndrome have a profound need to assume the sick role, and exaggerate complaints, falsify tests or inflict illnesses on themselves directly. With MSbP perpetrators fulfill their need for positive attention by hurting their own child, thereby assuming the sick role onto their child — by proxy.
The case had all the ingredients of a prime-time crime drama — mental illness, child abuse, sex, matricide and a gory crime scene.
According to the Washington Post, the murder created a media sensation around Gypsy’s arrest. She appeared on the “Dr. Phil Show.” HBO featured a documentary on the case. Hulu is set to produce a scripted series based on the events.
Godejohn is on trial for first degree murder in Missouri for his role in the killing. He allegedly did the stabbing. Gypsy, 27, is serving a 10-year sentence in Chillicothe Correctional Institution in Ohio. She pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. She will be eligible for parole in 2024, at the age of 32.
In the trial’s opening statement, Godejohn’s lawyer portrayed him as an autistic man with few friends who only had one real job in his life, holding a sign outside of a pizza shop, and spent most of his time on the internet, reported the Springfield News-Leader.
Godejohn fell in love with Gypsy online. The two shared salacious text messages. Gypsy revealed the abuse heaped on her by her mother.
Gypsy formulated the plan for the killing, stole the murder weapon and arranged for Godejohn to come down to Springfield from his home in Wisconsin.
Godejohn’s defense is to show that he wasn’t able to formulate the requite intent to commit first-degree murder because of diminished capacity — his autism spectrum disorder.
According to Christine N. Cea in Autism and the Criminal Defendant, autism is categorized as a neurodevelopmental disorder diagnosed through the standards of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. A fundamental criterion for autism is a “persistent deficit in social communication and social interaction.”
In a stunning turn of events, Gypsy testified for the defense this week at Godejohn’s trial. She said she planned the murder — she used Godejohn because “I didn’t believe I could do it — I’m too squeamish.”
Gypsy testified about her mother’s abuse, her isolation from the outside world and being forced to portray herself as wheelchair-bound and sickly. A sad story to be sure, but is it a defense for Godejohn?
At the trial’s end, the jury will decide whether Godejohn is guilty of first-degree murder — the intentional and deliberate killing of Dee Dee Blanchard — or a lesser charge like second-degree murder. That decision will have a major impact on how Godejohn spends the rest of his life.
First-degree murder in Missouri carries a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
— 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, November 16, 2018

Was Whitaker's appointment as AG unconstitutional?

An op-ed in the New York Times last week, written by former solicitor general Neal Katyal and conservative lawyer George Conway, argues that Whitaker’s appointment is unconstitutional under the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, which requires that the president get the “advice and consent of the Senate” for appointments to offices that report directly to the president. The U.S. attorney general is a position that requires Senate confirmation, and Whitaker had not been through that process for his post as Sessions’ chief of staff. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., expressed similar misgivings in a letter to the president last week, CNBC reports.
The president appointed Whitaker under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, a 1998 federal law laying out rules for how a president may appoint temporary officers. Under that law, presidents may appoint a temporary officer to a Senate-confirmed, presidentially appointed position when the previous officeholder “dies, resigns or is otherwise unable to perform the functions and duties of the office.” The president may install any other person who has been confirmed by the Senate, or an “officer or employee” who has served at least 90 days at the agency at a senior pay scale, reported the ABA Journal.
Whitaker, as the former chief of staff, would fall under the second category. That’s unusual, critics note. Most acting federal officers are promoted from a position as deputy to the vacant office. The Vacancies Reform Act makes this the default succession, and the Justice Department’s succession law, 28 U.S.C. § 508 (2011), designates the deputy attorney general as the preferred acting attorney general. This would make Rod Rosenstein, who has been through a Senate confirmation, the presumptive successor to Sessions. On Tuesday, the state of Maryland made that argument in a motion challenging Whitaker’s appointment as illegal and unconstitutional.
Thus, the debate over Whitaker’s appointment is partially about whether the Vacancies Reform Act’s provision allowing the appointment of non-Senate-confirmed officials violates the Appointments Clause. Justice Clarence Thomas said it did in 2017, writing in NLRB v. SW General Inc. that the Appointments Clause should apply even to temporary appointments.
“That the Senate voluntarily relinquished its advice-and-consent power in the FVRA does not make this end-run around the Appointments Clause constitutional,” Thomas wrote.
The Wall Street Journal notes that some critics of the president’s choice also argue that the provision of the Vacancies Reform Act at issue doesn’t apply to “principal officers” that report directly to the president.
As Lawfare and Slate note, there’s also a debate over whether the Justice Department’s succession statute should override the Vacancies Reform Act. John Bies, writing at Lawfare, notes that rules of statutory interpretation favor specific statutes over more general ones. However, the Justice Department itself, through its Office of Legal Counsel, has supported a deviation from the line of succession during President George W. Bush’s administration in 2007, when former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez stepped down. In that case, Bush selected Peter Keisler, who had gone through the Senate confirmation process as the assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. Keisler served less than two months as the acting attorney general before Michael Mukasey was confirmed as U.S. attorney general by the Senate.
“The Vacancies Reform Act nowhere says that, if another statute remains in effect, the Vacancies Reform Act may not be used,” the 2007 memorandum opinion states. “Nor would it make sense that the attorney general, through the exercise of a discretionary authority to name a further order of succession after the deputy attorney general and associate attorney general, could prevent the president, his superior, from using his separate authority under the Vacancies Reform Act. Indeed, for this reason, we believe that the president’s action under the Vacancies Reform Act, without more, trumps the attorney general’s designation of a succession under section 508.”
On Wednesday, the Department of Justice released a new memo referencing the 2007 opinion and justifying Whitaker’s appointment as within the president’s powers.
Gonzalez himself weighed in on Whitaker’s appointment in an NPR interview on Saturday. “I’ve got some issues with this, quite frankly, because the notion that the chief of staff who is not Senate confirmed would have more experience, more wisdom and better judgement than someone like the deputy attorney general or even the solicitor general, people in the line of presidential succession within the Department of Justice, to me, it confounds me,” he told NPR.
Finally, some question whether the Vacancies Reform Act applies when the departing officer was fired. Sessions resigned, but said in his resignation letter that he was resigning at the president’s request, raising questions about whether that is effectively a firing. The Vacancies Reform Act says it applies when the officer “dies, resigns or is otherwise unable to perform the functions and duties of the office.” Attorney John Lewis of Democracy Forward and Elizabeth Hempowicz, director of public policy for the Project on Government Oversight, told the ABA Journal in October that there’s an active legal debate on this issue, with no court rulings and a pending case on the issue as applied to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Those who say the Vacancies Reform Act includes firings point to the “otherwise unable” language as wide enough to encompass firings. Law professor Steven Vladeck of the University of Texas wrote in the New York Times on Saturdaythat Sessions’ resignation letter is enough to pass muster, and that the Vacancies Reform Act would apply to Whitaker’s appointment. Professor Anne Joseph O’Connell of Stanford argues on Twitter that whether or not Sessions was fired, the Vacancies Reform Act would apply.
“What about a bad apple in a [presidentially appointed] job? If the person refuses to resign (and impeachment takes time) what would happen to the job’s duties if they were non-delegable and could not be performed, except by an acting (confirmations take time too)?” wrote O’Connell. She notes that there are issues with the Vacancies Reform Act that could be tweaked, “but don’t burn down a statute that makes modern government work because of [Trump].”
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Texas executes man convicted of killing wife and two children

The 21st Execution of 2018
Texas executed Robert Moreno Ramos by lethal injection on November 14, 2018, amid his lawyers’ continued pleas up until the final hour that the case be re-examined for legal violations from 25 years ago, reported the Texas Tribune.
Ramos, 64, was convicted of capital murder in March 1993 for the February 1992 killings of his wife, Leticia, 42, and their two children, Abigail, 7, and Jonathon, 3, in Hidalgo County. Ramos, a Mexican national, beat his wife and children with a miniature sledgehammer, and then buried them under the bathroom floor in the family’s Progreso home, according to trial evidence.
Ramos’ case had been a point of contention in both district and federal courts for years, due to requirements of an international treaty. The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations mandates that when an immigrant is arrested and held in detention, he has the right for the consulate to be notified so that the foreign government can provide legal representation.
Lawyers in Ramos’ case had argued in appeals since 1996 that Ramos wasn’t aware of his rights, and therefore didn’t receive sufficient legal guidance that they say could have made a difference in his sentencing.
His current lawyer, Danalynn Recer, wrote in a 2015 filing that Ramos was instead represented by court-appointed, “incompetent counsel” who was poorly trained and failed to present “mitigating evidence” at his conviction and sentencing that disregarded Ramos’ brain damage and history of severe mental illness, including bipolar disorder, as well as his upbringing marked by “shocking brutality and desperate poverty.”
On Feb. 7, 1992, a neighbor reported that she had heard screams coming from the Ramos home. For nearly two months after the murders, Ramos dodged questions regarding his wife and children’s location, until his sister-in-law reported Leticia Ramos and the children as missing. In court records, it is noted that Ramos was having an affair and had married the woman three days after the killings.
Police questioned Ramos at the end of March about his family’s disappearance. After providing contradictory statements — saying first that his family was in Austin, then San Antonio and Mexico — Ramos was later arrested on traffic violations and brought to the police station.
Police obtained permission to search the house on April 6. They found traces of blood throughout the home. After another round of questioning on April 7, Ramos admitted that he buried the victims under the bathroom floor, where police eventually excavated the bodies from underneath newly installed tiling.
During Ramos’ sentencing, his 19-year-old son testified against him, detailing harrowing accounts of growing up under his father’s physical and verbal abuse. Another woman testified that Ramos was likely responsible for the disappearance of her daughter, who married Ramos in 1988 in Reynosa and who had not been seen by her family since 1989.
Ramos was found guilty and sentenced to death in March 1993.
The Mexican government eventually filed a case against the United States in 2003 that bundled Ramos with more than 50 other Mexican immigrants sentenced to death in the U.S. who did not receive consulate-sponsored representation under the treaty. The case went to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, which determined in 2004 that the U.S. government had violated the treaty.
To read more CLICK HERE


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

St. Louis deadliest big city in America

No major American city has come close to Chicago’s soaring murder total in the past few years. The Windy City recorded nearly 1,900 homicides between 2015 and 2017, a period during which the next-closest city, Baltimore, registered around 1,000, according to the Pew Research Center.
However, when adjusting for its large population, Chicago is by no means the nation’s “murder capital.” For decades, in fact, it has had fewer murders per capita than many other U.S. cities with smaller populations, according to FBI data going back to 1985.
St. Louis led the nation with 66.1 murders per 100,000 people in 2017, according to the FBI’s most recent yearly statistics, released in September. It was followed by Baltimore (55.8 per 100,000), Detroit (39.8 per 100,000), New Orleans (39.5 per 100,000) and Baton Rouge, Louisiana (38.3 per 100,000).
For its part, Chicago ranked 14th among cities with at least 100,000 people in 2017. Its 653 murders, measured against a population of more than 2.7 million, translated to a murder rate of 24.1 homicides per 100,000. That was less than half the rate in St. Louis and Baltimore and below the rates of cities including Cleveland; Memphis, Tennessee; and Newark, New Jersey.
St. Louis has had the nation’s highest big-city murder rate every year since 2014. Baltimore, Detroit and New Orleans have all been in the top five during that span, according to the FBI, which collects data each year from thousands of local, state, federal and other law enforcement agencies. (It’s important to note that not all police agencies submit data to the FBI every year, which can make comparisons across cities or time periods difficult. 
Chicago’s annual murder total reached its highest level in two decades in 2016 (765 murders), but New York, Los Angeles and several other big cities have enjoyed long-term declines. No decrease has been more dramatic than New York’s: The 292 murders that took place in the Big Apple in 2017 were down from a peak of 2,245 in 1990. In fact, New York’s murder rate – 3.4 homicides per 100,000 people – is now below the national average.
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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Guns in school still a bad idea

Gregory Gibson's son was killed in a school shooting in 1992, he wrote this for the New York Times:

In 1992, my son was killed in a school shooting in Massachusetts, a random victim of a disturbed fellow college student who’d purchased a semiautomatic rifle at a local gun shop and smuggled it onto campus. College officials had been warned that this student had a gun, but they didn’t know how to respond; school shootings were still too new.
How could we have imagined then the cellphone videos of the carnage in Las Vegas? Or Thousand Oaks, Calif. trending on social media because a dozen people, including college students, were slaughtered in a country music bar?
America’s response to our gun problem has taken some strange turns since 1992. We no longer ask, “How could this have happened?” Gun violence has become reliable content in the 24-hour news cycle.
Survivor activists work toward the cultural change we’ll need to eradicate the virus that’s grown bone-deep in us. Lucy McBath, a black woman whose 17-year-old son was shot and killed by a white man for playing loud music, got angry enough to run for Congress in Georgia — and last week she won the seat. Manuel Oliver, whose son was killed in the Parkland,Fla., school shooting, makes public art related to gun violence, including a 3-D printed model of his son.
endorsed by Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education, that putting guns in schools will reduce school shootings. After the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, President Trump seconded the motion: “If they had some kind of protection inside the temple, maybe it could have been a very much different situation.”
I think of the crowded school library in which my son died. I try to imagine a librarian drawing her Glock and returning fire.
This scenario resonates for me. A few years ago, tired of being told by gun rights people that I knew nothing about firearms, I bought a handgun and learned to carry and use it. I found the transgressive nature of the exercise stimulating. Survivors of gun violence are not supposed to walk around with guns. I also discovered, to my surprise, that shooting was therapeutic. I was mastering the instrument of my suffering. Now I reckon I’m at just the level of casual knowledge that a gun-owning janitor or history teacher might be expected to have attained. What if I’d been in that library in 1992, charged with keeping my son safe?
I put the question to a man I know, a retired Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent who specializes in training people to use guns defensively — the kind of training that this administration might want to give teachers, the kind that the National Rifle Association imagines could stop the killer in a mass shooting.
This man spoke with me about the low proficiency of the average gun owner: “Imagine shooting hoops in your driveway and thinking you can play in the N.B.A.” He spoke of the hundreds of hours necessary to achieve the Zen-like level of expertise in which, in the midst of chaos, responses are instantaneous and instinctive. He spoke of the continual training necessary to maintain those skills, and he generously agreed to take me through an abbreviated version of that curriculum, training intended to turn an average shooter into, well, what exactly? I wasn’t sure.
To read more CLICK HERE


Monday, November 12, 2018

Alexander: Risk assessment 'weapon of math destruction'


Michelle Alexander writes for the New York Times:
In the midterms, Michigan became the first state in the Midwest to legalize marijuana, Florida restored the vote to over 1.4 million people with felony convictions, and Louisiana passed a constitutional amendment requiring unanimous jury verdicts in felony trials. These are the latest examples of the astonishing progress that has been made in the last several years on a wide range of criminal justice issues. Since 2010, when I published “The New Jim Crow” — which argued that a system of legal discrimination and segregation had been born again in this country because of the war on drugs and mass incarceration — there have been significant changes to drug policy, sentencing and re-entry, including “ban the box” initiatives aimed at eliminating barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated people.
This progress is unquestionably good news, but there are warning signs blinking brightly. Many of the current reform efforts contain the seeds of the next generation of racial and social control, a system of “e-carceration” that may prove more dangerous and more difficult to challenge than the one we hope to leave behind.
Bail reform is a case in point. Thanks in part to new laws and policies — as well as actions like the mass bailout of inmates in New York City jails that’s underway — the unconscionable practice of cash bail is finally coming to an end. In August, California became the first state to decide to get rid of its cash bail system; last year, New Jersey virtually eliminated the use of money bonds.
But what’s taking the place of cash bail may prove even worse in the long run. In California, a presumption of detention will effectively replace eligibility for immediate release when the new law takes effect in October 2019. And increasingly, computer algorithms are helping to determine who should be caged and who should be set “free.” Freedom — even when it’s granted, it turns out — isn’t really free.
Under new policies in California, New Jersey, New York and beyond, “risk assessment” algorithms recommend to judges whether a person who’s been arrested should be released. These advanced mathematical models — or “weapons of math destruction” as data scientist Cathy O’Neil calls them — appear colorblind on the surface but they are based on factors that are not only highly correlated with race and class, but are also significantly influenced by pervasive bias in the criminal justice system.
As O’Neil explains, “It’s tempting to believe that computers will be neutral and objective, but algorithms are nothing more than opinions embedded in mathematics.”
Challenging these biased algorithms may be more difficult than challenging discrimination by the police, prosecutors and judges. Many algorithms are fiercely guarded corporate secrets. Those that are transparent — you can actually read the code — lack a public audit so it’s impossible to know how much more often they fail for people of color.
Even if you’re lucky enough to be set “free” from a brick-and-mortar jail thanks to a computer algorithm, an expensive monitoring device likely will be shackled to your ankle — a GPS tracking device provided by a private company that may charge you around $300 per month, an involuntary leasing fee. Your permitted zones of movement may make it difficult or impossible to get or keep a job, attend school, care for your kids or visit family members. You’re effectively sentenced to an open-air digital prison, one that may not extend beyond your house, your block or your neighborhood. One false step (or one malfunction of the GPS tracking device) will bring cops to your front door, your workplace, or wherever they find you and snatch you right back to jail.
Who benefits from this? Private corporations. According to a report released last month by the Center for Media Justice, four large corporations — including the GEO Group, one of the largest private prison companies — have most of the private contracts to provide electronic monitoring for people on parole in some 30 states, giving them a combined annual revenue of more than $200 million just for e-monitoring.Companies that earned millions on contracts to run or serve prisons have, in an era of prison restructuring, begun to shift their business model to add electronic surveillance and monitoring of the same population. Even if old-fashioned prisons fade away, the profit margins of these companies will widen so long as growing numbers of people find themselves subject to perpetual criminalization, surveillance, monitoring and control.
Who loses? Nearly everyone. A recent analysis by a Brookings Institution fellow found that “efforts to reduce recidivism through intensive supervision are not working.” Reducing the requirements and burdens of community supervision, so that people can more easily hold jobs, care for children and escape the stigma of criminality “would be a good first step toward breaking the vicious incarceration cycle,” the report said.
Many reformers rightly point out that an ankle bracelet is preferable to a prison cell. Yet I find it difficult to call this progress. As I see it, digital prisons are to mass incarceration what Jim Crow was to slavery.
If you asked slaves if they would rather live with their families and raise their own children, albeit subject to “whites only signs,” legal discrimination and Jim Crow segregation, they’d almost certainly say: I’ll take Jim Crow. By the same token, if you ask prisoners whether they’d rather live with their families and raise their children, albeit with nearly constant digital surveillance and monitoring, they’d almost certainly say: I’ll take the electronic monitor. I would too. But hopefully we can now see that Jim Crow was a less restrictive form of racial and social control, not a real alternative to racial caste systems. Similarly, if the goal is to end mass incarceration and mass criminalization, digital prisons are not an answer. They’re just another way of posing the question.
Some insist that e-carceration is “a step in the right direction.” But where are we going with this? A growing number of scholars and activists predict that “e-gentrification” is where we’re headed as entire communities become trapped in digital prisons that keep them locked out of neighborhoods where jobs and opportunity can be found.
If that scenario sounds far-fetched, keep in mind that mass incarceration itself was unimaginable just 40 years ago and that it was born partly out of well-intentioned reforms — chief among them mandatory sentencing laws that liberal proponents predicted would reduce racial disparities in sentencing. While those laws may have looked good on paper, they were passed within a political climate that was overwhelmingly hostile and punitive toward poor people and people of color, resulting in a prison-building boom, an increase in racial and class disparities in sentencing, and a quintupling of the incarcerated population.
Fortunately, a growing number of advocates are organizing to ensure that important reforms, such as ending cash bail, are not replaced with systems that view poor people and people of color as little more than commodities to be bought, sold, evaluated and managed for profit. In July, more than 100 civil rights, faith, labor, legal and data science groups released a shared statement of concerns regarding the use of pretrial risk assessment instruments; numerous bail reform groups, such as Chicago Community Bond Fund, actively oppose the expansion of e-carceration.
If our goal is not a better system of mass criminalization, but instead the creation of safe, caring, thriving communities, then we ought to be heavily investing in quality schools, job creation, drug treatment and mental health care in the least advantaged communities rather than pouring billions into their high-tech management and control. Fifty years ago, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned that “when machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” We failed to heed his warning back then. Will we make a different choice today?
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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Beschloss: Examining presidential shortcomings 100 years later

Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian, is the author of the new book “Presidents of War” and wrote this op-ed for the Washington Post.

On the Nov. 11 100th anniversary of the Allied victory in World War I, I’m celebrating the heroism of American warriors in Europe. Perhaps 116,000 of them died in that struggle. Their commander in chief, Woodrow Wilson, did not match the quality of their service. During the conflict, Wilson made serious mistakes as a political leader that should never be forgotten.
Wilson’s missteps in wartime were hardly his only defects. His most disgraceful flaw was his racism. Given his high-flown rhetoric as a professor about elevating humankind, Wilson especially stood out in his white supremacy. He was not a man of his time but a throwback. His two predecessors, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, had looked far kindlier on African Americans and their rights.
In 1916, Wilson, a Democrat, narrowly won reelection, campaigning under false pretenses with the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War.” Privately, however, he knew it was quite possible that he would take the nation into the European struggle soon after starting his second term.
As an academic, Wilson had emphasized the need for presidents to explain military setbacks and other complex or mystifying events to Americans. Yet he spent much of 1917, the first year of U.S. engagement in the war, in kingly isolation, rarely using his luminous oratorical gifts to explain to his countrymen why they needed to make severe sacrifices for a conflict that wasn’t an obvious, direct threat to America’s national security.
Wilson, who preened as a civil libertarian, persuaded Congress to pass the Espionage Act, giving him extraordinary power to retaliate against Americans who opposed him and his wartime behavior. That same law today enables presidents to harass their political adversaries. Wilson’s Justice Department also convicted almost a thousand people for using “disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive language” against the government, the military or the flag. Wilson is an excellent example of how presidents can exploit wars to increase authoritarian power and restrict freedom, some arguing that criticizing the commander in chief amounts to criticizing soldiers in the field.
In the 1918 midterms, with the Great War heading to its climax, Wilson shamelessly exploited the military struggle for domestic politics, urging voters to support his party “for the sake of the nation itself” because Republicans were trying to take “the conduct of the war out of my hands.” This cheap maneuver backfired. Roosevelt and Taft charged that Wilson was asking for “unlimited control over the settlement of a peace that will affect them for a century.” Partly out of disgust with Wilson’s presumptuousness, voters switched controlof both the House and Senate to the Republicans.
I admire Wilson’s insistence on ending the war with a League of Nations to ensure that such a conflict never happened again, but his plan to achieve it was clumsy political malpractice. He knew the Republican majority in Congress and many other Americans would be troubled by the possibility that if the Senate endorsed U.S. entry into the League of Nations, the new peace organization might have the right to call American troops into battle. Wilson should have immediately made it his central mission to assuage those fears, but he instead decamped to the Paris peace conference for months — certain, in his vanity, that no mere professional diplomat could match his negotiating skills. The domestic debate over the League of Nations was left to its loudest opponents, such as Henry Cabot Lodge, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. By the time Wilson returned in the summer of 1919, fatal damage had been done.
Wilson’s famous failure to persuade Americans to accept his cherished league (he poignantly suffered a strokewhile campaigning for it) had gargantuan consequences. It doomed the League of Nations’ potential to keep the world out of an even more ruinous war, decades later, as Adolf Hitler expanded his brutal reach in Europe and Japan fell under the spell of a militant, imperial regime.
In the late 1930s, when Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to awaken Americans to the possibility that they might have to fight to save the world from tyranny, perhaps his biggest obstacle was the bitter public memory of Wilson and World War I. Laboring under the millstone of the then widely detested 28th president, FDR managed to rearm the United States only in the nick of time.
One can admire Wilson for his progressive reforms, for his idealism and eloquence about America’s role in the world, as I do, without sugarcoating his displays of political incompetence as a president of war. In wartime, Americans have a right to expect that the bravery of U.S. troops is matched by brilliant political leadership in the White House. Too often in the past, World War I anniversaries have been transformed into paeans to Woodrow Wilson. This time, let’s keep it focused on the troops.
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Saturday, November 10, 2018

GateHouse: Criminal justice reform big winner on election day

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
November 9, 2018
Setting aside the bluster of soon-to-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump, the big winner on election night was criminal justice reform. Ballot initiatives focused on softening the impact of crime and punishment were successful in blue states and red states.
In Florida, voters approved Amendment 4, a measure that restores voting rights for people who have completed their sentences after being convicted of a felony, excluding those convicted of murder or certain sex offenses.
According to Vox, the Sentencing Project, a non-profit advocacy group, estimated that nearly 1.5 million people in Florida could not vote in the midterm elections because of a conviction — about 9.2 percent of the state’s voting age population.
Could those potential voters have had an impact on the very competitive Governor and U.S. Senate races in Florida?
Marijuana advocates scored a number of substantial ballot victories including Michigan, which became the 10th state in the nation to approve recreational use of marijuana.
“Michigan will be the first state in the Midwest to end marijuana prohibition and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated for adult use,” Marijuana Policy Project deputy director Matthew Schweich, told the Washington Post.
With the addition of Michigan, nearly 80 million Americans — 25 percent of the total U.S. population — live in a state or jurisdiction that has legalized recreational marijuana. Medical marijuana was also approved by voters in Missouri and Utah.
Not all news was good for marijuana advocates. North Dakota voters overwhelmingly rejected an initiative that would have legalized marijuana without setting any possession limits or regulatory structure.
In Ohio, voters rejected an initiative that would have lessened the severity of some drug offenses.
Ohio prosecutors, judges, coroners and even Gov. John Kasich urged a “no” vote on the proposal, which would have reduced certain drug possession charges to misdemeanors. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the measure failed by a margin of nearly two-to-one.
An initiative in Washington will make it less difficult for prosecutors to pursue police officers who unlawfully use deadly force. Approval of Initiative 940 means that prosecutors will no longer have to prove law enforcement officers acted with “evil intent” or “malice” when considering whether to file criminal charges such as manslaughter. According to the Seattle Times, Washington was the only state with such restrictive language.
Abraham Lincoln once said “The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” Colorado wasn’t on Lincoln’s mind when he said that, but on election day — more than 150 years after the ratification of the 13th Amendment — Colorado voters officially abolished slavery.
Colorado is one of more than a dozen states whose Constitutions allow involuntary servitude as a form of criminal punishment. Colorado will no longer permit prisoners to do slave labor, reported The Associated Press.
A constitutional amendment to end non-unanimous jury verdicts in Louisiana was approved by the state’s voters. Louisiana and Oregon were the only states that permitted a less than unanimous verdict in a criminal trial.
The less-than-unanimous verdict was rooted in the state’s ardent racism that intensified after the Civil War and during the Jim Crow era.
The amendment was pushed through the Louisiana Legislature with strong support from groups that rarely collaborate. On the right, supporters included the Christian conservative, Louisiana Family Forum, and the Koch Brother’s political organization, Americans for Prosperity. On the left, supporters included the American Civil Liberties Union and Innocence Project New Orleans.
Voters in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina and Oklahoma approved a ballot measure known as Marsy’s Law — the so-called crime victim’s bill of rights.
Marsy’s Law aims to ensure that victims and their family members are informed about all criminal proceedings, present and heard, and protected from the accused.
Finally, in the wake of the GOP’s election day loss of the House — a notable casualty surfaced in the criminal justice system — President Trump asked his embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign. He agreed, and so begins a new chapter in the tumultuous investigation of Russia, the president, the White House and the president’s advisors.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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Friday, November 9, 2018

Delaware to send high-security inmates to Pennsylvania

Hundreds of inmates from Delaware’s maximum-security prison, the site of a deadly inmate uprising last year, will be transferred to Pennsylvania in an effort to reduce overtime for severely understaffed correctional officers, reported The Associated Press.
The head of the union representing Delaware correctional officers criticized the move, saying the department needs to commit to improving compensation and recruitment and retention of prison guards.
Department of Correction officials said they have entered into a two-year agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to accept up to 330 inmates from the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna. The agreement calls for Delaware to pay Pennsylvania $123 per inmate, per day, to house offenders who were sentenced in Delaware. DOC officials said the move would result in a savings of $8 per inmate, per day.
“Reducing mandatory overtime will provide relief for Delaware’s correctional officers, and help make our facilities safer for officers and inmates,” DOC Commissioner Perry Phelps said in a prepared statement.
Geoff Klopp, head of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, characterized the move as a half-measure.
“This is just another Band-Aid on the situation,” Klopp said. “It’s a temporary fix. Until we’re able to hire and retain correctional officers, we’re going to continue to have issues when it comes to safety and security in the facilities.”
All of the inmates selected for transfers will have more than five years remaining on their sentences and will return to Delaware to complete their sentences when the correctional officer vacancy rate is projected to be “significantly lower.”
There are currently 237 vacancies statewide, according to prison officials. They did not specify what would constitute a “significantly lower” number.
The vacancy rate remains stubbornly high despite efforts taken after the February 2017 riot to boost correctional officer salaries and offer recruitment and signing bonuses. DOC officials say they have hired 130 cadets since the salary increase became effective in July.
A review ordered by Democratic Gov. John Carney after the riot found that the dismissal by DOC officials of warnings about trouble brewing was indicative of an overcrowded, understaffed facility plagued by mismanagement, poor communication, a culture of negativity, and adversarial relationships among prison staff, administrators and inmates.
“For years, excessive mandated overtime and fatigue ... inconsistent management ... the lack of communication, adversarial relationships, and a general lack of respect at all levels ... have contributed to poor correctional officer morale and increasing hostility between inmates and correctional officers,” the review stated.
Carney noted that reducing mandatory overtime was among the report’s key recommendations.
“We have heard loud and clear that the high levels of mandatory overtime in Delaware’s prisons creates hardships for correctional officers and real security concerns inside our correctional facilities,” he said in a prepared statement.
Wednesday’s announcement comes amid the ongoing trial for three of the 18 inmates indicted on criminal charges after the riot. It also follows the filing of a class-action lawsuit last week on behalf of scores of inmates at the prison. The lawsuit alleges that they were subjected to inhumane conditions and physical and verbal abuse by guards both before and after the riot.
Sixteen inmates were charged with murder, kidnapping and other crimes following the riot, during which prison guard Steven Floyd was killed and three other staffers taken hostage. Two other inmates, including one who pleaded guilty to riot and is testifying for prosecutors, were not charged with murder. The defendants are scheduled to be tried in groups over the next several months.
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Thursday, November 8, 2018

Fox News: Trump's appointment of acting AG may be illegal

President Donald Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General may be illegal, Andrew Napolitano, senior judicial analyst for Fox News, reported the Huffington Post. 
“Under the law, the person running the Department of Justice must have been approved by the United States Senate for some previous position. Even on an interim post,” Napolitano told Fox News’ Dana Perino. 
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was dismissed on Wednesday and Napolitano said his interim replacement should have been Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein
While Whitaker was confirmed by the Senate in 2004 when he was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, Napolitano said that he was nevertheless ineligible to serve in his current post as the confirmation was not “for a leadership position in the Justice Department.”
“Who has been confirmed and who’s next in line? Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein,” Napolitano added. 
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Justice Kavanaugh may be swing vote in death penalty case


Conservative new U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined liberal colleagues in raising concerns about Missouri’s plan to use lethal injection to execute a murderer with a rare medical condition, reported Reuters.
Lawyers for Russell Bucklew, 50, have argued that because of a congenital condition called cavernous hemangioma that leaves him with blood-filled tumours on his body, the lethal injection could cause undue agony in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
Based on the one-hour oral argument, it is not clear how the court will rule in Bucklew’s case but Kavanaugh’s comments in his first death penalty-related oral argument since joining the court last month suggest he could potentially break with fellow conservatives.
If he joins the court’s four liberals, the court could issue a narrow decision sending the case back to lower courts to determine whether the state can accommodate Bucklew’s medical issues.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Mangino on the Law and Crime Network Daily Debrief

Watch my appearance on the Law and Crime Network Daily Debrief with Aaron Keller.
To watch the segment CLICK HERE

Glasgow takes on violence as a health problem and homicides plummet

In 2005, the World Health Organization dubbed Glasgow, Scotland the “murder capital of Europe.” There had been 83 homicides the previous year in the Glasgow region, where gangs were known for their booze-and-blades culture, reported the Washington Post.
Exasperated police in Glasgow decided to rethink strategy. They set up a violence reduction unit (VRU) guided by the philosophy that violence is like a public health issue: Violent behavior spreads from person to person. To contain it, you need to think in terms of transmission and risk, symptoms and causes.
“You cannot arrest your way out of this problem,” said Niven Rennie, director of the now-national Scottish VRU, a unit funded by the government with a budget of $1.6 million this year.
Scottish police plucked ideas from the Cure Violence project in Chicago, Boston’s Operation Ceasefire and Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, among other initiatives. They formed partnerships with local teachers, doctors and social workers.
They didn’t abandon traditional policing. Shortly after launching the VRU, police ratcheted up stop-and-search and successfully campaigned for legislation that increased the maximum sentences for carrying a knife. But increasingly, they emphasized the interruption and prevention of violent behavior. They are intervening in hospitals, working with partners in schools and helping former offenders get back to work.
Meanwhile, over the past decade, Glasgow has seen a 60 percent drop in homicides, and violent crime in Scotland has fallen to historic lows.
The notion that the public health approach may have contributed to the decline has brought officers from as far afield as Canada and New Zealand to Glasgow to learn more.
And in London, where knife crime has risen by 50 percent in the past three years, Mayor Sadiq Khan recently announced the creation of a violence reduction unit modeled on Scotland’s. “We have listened and researched the public health approaches in cities like Glasgow, where their own long-term approach over more than a decade has delivered large reductions in violence,” the mayor said in a statement.
Researchers urge caution in assessing the impact of Scotland’s program. They stress the difficulty of pinpointing and disentangling the variables that influence crime rates.
“There are a lot of factors at play,” said Susan McVie, a professor of criminology at the University of Edinburgh.
Scottish police have been “bold, they’ve been progressive in a way that has not happened in the city of Glasgow before,” said Alistair Fraser, a criminology lecturer at the University of Glasgow and author of a book on gang identity. Fraser said the VRU has been successful at changing the narrative about crime, but he was hesitant about more concrete results. “There is a general sense it’s a good thing,” he said, “but little in the way of hard proof.”
The picture is complicated by statistics showing that crime also has decreased in areas of Scotland where the VRU is not active. Other possible explanations for the decline include anti-knife campaigns in Scottish schools and a trend of young people spending more time at home and less lingering on the streets.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, November 5, 2018

Gun-carrying border vigilantes answer Trump's call to arms

Gun-carrying civilian groups and border vigilantes have heard a call to arms in President Trump’s warnings about threats to American security posed by caravans of Central American migrants moving through Mexico, reported the Washington Post. 
They’re packing coolers and tents, oiling rifles and tuning up aerial drones, with plans to form caravans of their own and trail American troops to the border.
“We’ll observe and report, and offer aid in any way we can,” said Shannon McGauley, a bail bondsman in the Dallas suburbs who is president of the Texas Minutemen. McGauley said he was preparing to head for the Rio Grande in coming days.
“We’ve proved ourselves before, and we’ll prove ourselves again,” he said.
McGauley and others have been roused by the president’s call to restore order and defend the country against what Trump has called “an invasion,” as thousands of Central American migrants advance slowly through southern Mexico toward the U.S. border. Trump has insisted that “unknown Middle Easterners,” “very tough fighters,” and large numbers of violent criminals are traveling among the women, children and families heading north on foot.
The Texas Minutemen, according to McGauley, have 100 volunteers en route to the Rio Grande who want to help stop the migrants, with more likely on the way.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Ohio gun homicides soar after legislature bans local gun laws


The mass shooters' weapon of choice is the AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle dubbed "America's most popular rifle" by the gun lobbyist organization the NRA. It's also the most popular rifle among mass shooters, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. 
The AR-15 made appearances in mass shootings at a school in Parkland, Florida, a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a country music festival in Las Vegas, an Orlando, Florida night club, a workplace in San Bernardino, California, and so on. 
The scope of such mass tragedies often are followed by impassioned debates about gun rights, and what, if anything, communities can do to restrict access to firearms.
Such discussions by local lawmakers in Ohio are largely moot.
In 2006, the state's rural legislators rewrote the laws for urban areas where most of the gun murders occur. In doing so, they wiped away dozens of municipal ordinances enacted by cities like Cleveland.
Since then gun homicides are up 60 percent in Ohio's six big urban counties, and 39 percent in throughout the rest of the state.
The state law change cannot directly be linked to the increase in gun deaths (which are also up nationally), but it leaves local leaders powerless to experiment with laws that might make their communities safer.
The change banned local laws more restrictive than state gun laws.
The Ohio Supreme Court in 2010 upheld the new state law, wiping out about 80 local gun laws, including assault-weapons bans in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo.
To advocates such as the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, changes in gun laws -  from the ban on local ordinances to a loosening of concealed weapon restrictions - are tied to the increase in gun deaths: "The reason to me is that they (guns) are more accessible," founder Toby Hoover said.
But to the Buckeye Firearms Association, local ordinances are burdens to law-abiding citizens traveling from one city to another, and did little to deter crime: "The only thing any city could ever do was make a crime that is a misdemeanor. ... With state law, almost everything is a felony, more jail time and higher fines,"  the association's president, Jim Irvine said during an interview with cleveland.com earlier this year.
Rural/urban divide
What state lawmakers did in 2006 was the rarest of circumstances. The Republican majority, with key help from some Democrats, voted to override a veto by their party's own governor, Republican Gov. Bob Taft.
Yes, there was a strong divide along political lines. Republicans in the Ohio House and Senate voted 75-4 in favor of overriding the veto; the vote in favor of the override was 17-29 among Democrats in the two chambers.
But perhaps more significant was the divide between urban and rural legislators, regardless of party affiliation.
State senators and representatives in largely rural parts of Ohio and smaller towns carried the day on a law that disproportionately impacted urban communities.
They voted nearly as a bloc to prevent cities from making decisions on gun laws at the local level. While any city or village of any size could previously have enacted tougher restrictions than the state, this was largely a big-city issue.
The veto override 
Taft, who was raised in Cincinnati and once served as a Hamilton County commissioner, had the backing in his fight against the law from most lawmakers in urban areas.
Among those on the governor's side was Republican state Sen. Steve Stivers of the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington, now a member of Congress, and Lorain County Republican state Sen. Jeffry Armbruster.
But that urban support wasn't enough to prevent the override of Taft's veto. The rural, small town and, in some cases, suburban vote carried the day - the rights of cities to tackle gun laws at the local level were stripped away and hailed as a victory by the National Rifle Association.
14,882 deaths and counting 
Since then, at least 14,882 Ohioans have been killed by gunfire, the latest Ohio Department of Health records show, including partial data for this year. At least 5,334 gun deaths were homicides, the second leading cause behind suicides (9,079).
The trend is heading the wrong way.
Gun homicides were up 54 percent last year over 2007, an increase from 404 to 622 statewide, according to preliminary data for 2017.
Counting all gun deaths, including suicides, accidents, police shootings and undetermined cases, the number was up 47 percent from 1,085 in 2007 to 1,591 last year.
It is a particularly big issue in Ohio's urban areas.
Ohio's six largest counties - the places where opposition was greatest to the change enacted by the 2006 law - account for 42 percent of the population but 72 percent of the gun homicides from 2007 through 2017. (State records are based on where a person resided, not necessarily where the shooting occurred.)
Gun homicides up in urban counties 
Gun homicides were up last year over 2007 in five of the six counties:
Cuyahoga County (which includes Cleveland) - gun homicides totaled 142 last year, up from 98 in 2007.
Franklin County (Columbus) - 128 last year, up from 60 in 2007.
Hamilton County (Cincinnati) - 74 last year, up from 64 in 2007.
Montgomery County (Dayton) - 39 last year, down from 37 in 2007.
Lucas County (Toledo) - 33 last year, up from 11 in 2007.
Summit County (Akron) - 35 last year, up from 11 in 2007.
For all firearm deaths, including accidents and suicides, the divide is not as wide. The six big counties with 42 percent of the population accounted 51 percent of the reported firearm deaths from 2007 through 2017.
The total gun deaths were up last year in each of the six largest counties from 2007, including highs of 227 in Cuyahoga County and 216 in Franklin County - Ohio's two biggest counties.
 Increase in deaths not just an urban issue
Though the highest per-capita gun death rates are in the urban counties, they increased in less populated parts of the state as well, from 2007 to 2017.
Homicides
Up 60 percent in the six large urban counties to 451 in 2017.
Up 39 percent in the other 82 counties to 171 in 2017.
Suicides
Up 31 percent in the six largest counties to 345 in 2017.
Up 50 percent in the other 82 counties to 575 in 2017.
Total (including accidents, police shootings, undetermined)
Up 46 percent in the six largest counties to 813 in the 2017.
Up 48 percent in the other 82 counties to 778 in 2017.
A solution? 
Hoover, from the Coalition Against Gun Violence, believes a return to local control could help, even if local laws can only be misdemeanors with shorter jail time and smaller fines than felonies.
"People want to be law abiding and go along with what the (local) culture accepts," Hoover said during an interview. "If you have an ordinance that says no assault weapons, people will be less likely have an assault weapon."
Irvine, from the Buckeye Firearms, views suicides as a mental health issue unrelated to gun laws, but offers an alternative to reducing homicides.
"If you want to reduce crime, it's a timely arrest of a criminal, prosecution and lengthy prison sentences," Irvine said.
To read more CLICK HERE


Saturday, November 3, 2018

GateHouse: President seeks to amend the Constitution by executive order

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
November 3, 2018
On the eve of the midterm elections, the president has promised to end birthright citizenship embodied in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The most recent amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1992, some 202 years after it was proposed by the first Congress. The president wants to erase a portion of the 14th Amendment with the swipe of a pen.
This country’s last constitutional amendment, the 27th Amendment, also known as the Congressional Compensation Act of 1789, was actually the second of 12 Amendments proposed in 1789. Ten of those proposed Amendments were timely ratified and became the Bill of Rights.
According to the Constitution Center, there was no time period for ratification of a proposed Amendment by the states. After only six states ratified what would become the 27th Amendment, it remained dormant for almost 80 years.
In 1873, Ohio ratified the amendment as an expression of dissatisfaction with attempts by Congress at the time to increase their salaries. The amendment once again lay dormant, but in 1978 Wyoming ratified it, and by 1992, the requisite three-quarters of all states had ratified the Amendment — it was certified as the 27th Amendment.
At issue today is the 14th Amendment, ratified by Congress in 1868 as part of the civil rights amendments after the Civil War. The 14th Amendment provides in part, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
“What (President) Trump is seeking to do is enact a constitutional amendment through executive fiat through the phone and the pen, and you can’t do that,” Matthew Kolken, an immigration lawyer who is an elected member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s board of governors told Business Insider. “The process to enact a constitutional amendment is exceptionally difficult and designed that way.”
The Constitution provides that an amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures.
The only method ever used to amend the Constitution has been Congress proposing an amendment in the form of a joint resolution. Once passed by Congress, a proposed amendment becomes part of the Constitution as soon as it is ratified by 38 of the 50 states.
The president has no constitutional role in the amendment process. In fact, the Congressional resolution does not go to the White House for signature or approval. The lack of any role for the president in amending the Constitution makes Trump’s proposed executive order even more troubling.
The 14th Amendment cannot be changed by executive order, or even by an act of Congress. It requires a constitutional amendment.
In 1995, Walter Dellinger, then the head of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, testified before Congress on the department’s position that any action to limit birthright citizenship would be unconstitutional. He said at the time that birthright citizenship is “fundamental to our liberty as we understand it.” According to Lawfareblog.com, Dellinger noted this week that this position “has never been publicly called into question.”
Unfortunately, the president has no regard for the law or the Constitution. Whether his threat to sign away birthright citizenship is just that — election bluster to motivate his far right base — or he truly intends to take action, he is being, and will continue to be, challenged.
Trump’s cockamamie ideas with regard to immigration have been thwarted. His family separation policy was met with intense opposition from both sides of the aisle and his executive order seeking to restrict immigration and travel to the U.S. was upheld on the third try after federal courts blocked the first two versions.
Even leaders in his own party have rejected the president’s idea out of hand. GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan opposes Trump’s plan to issue an executive order. “As a conservative, I’m a believer in following the plain text of the Constitution, and I think in this case the 14th Amendment is pretty clear, and that would involve a very, very lengthy constitutional process.”
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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Friday, November 2, 2018

Tennessee executes killer by electric chair

The 20th Execution of 2018
Tennessee Death row inmate Edmund Zagorski died at 7:26 p.m. CDT Thursday after prison officials electrocuted him with the electric chair, reported the Tennessean.  
He is the 134th person put to death by Tennessee since 1916 and the second person this year after Billy Ray Irick’s execution by lethal injection on Aug. 9. He is the first person to die by electric chair since Daryl Horton's execution in 2007.
Zagorski, 63, was convicted in the April 1983 murders of John Dale Dotson, of Hickman County, and Jimmy Porter, of Dickson. Prosecutors argued Zagorski lured them into the woods in Robertson County with the promise to sell them marijuana, and then he shot them, slit their throats and stole their money.
Two minutes before it was set to begin at 7 p.m., the U.S. Supreme Court denied Zagorski's appeal on the grounds of the unconstitutionality of choosing between the electric chair and lethal injection. 
As dark clouds loomed over Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville and the sunset changed the sky from bright pink to black, a police-escorted van arrived.
Eight people believed to be family members of the victims entered the prison to witness the execution.
They waited in front of a covered large window that looked into the execution chamber where on the other side of the glass Zagorski sat pinned in the electric chair, held down by buckles and straps with electrodes fastened to his feet.
The blinds opened for the rest of the witnesses to see Zagorski dressed in his cotton clothes, smiling and grimacing to the group.
Zagorski pronounced his last words: "Let’s rock."
He sat smiling in the wired chair as prison staff placed a wet sponge, which had been soaked in salt, and a metal helmet on his freshly shaven head.
Zagorski raised his eyebrows, appearing to be communicating with his attorney Kelley Henry. She sat while nodding and tapping her heart, looking at Zagorski.
“I told him, when I put my hand over my heart, that was me holding him in my heart,” Henry told The Tennessean. She said Zagorski smiled, to encourage her to smile back. 
Then his face was covered with a black shroud.
The warden gave the signal to proceed. Zagorski lifted his right hand several times in what looked like attempts to wave, before he clenched his hands into a fist as the first current ran 1,750 volts of electricity through his body for 20 seconds.
There was a short pause before the second jolt was administered for 15 seconds.
The doctor overseeing the death appeared in view to check on Zagorski’s vitals.
Zagorski was dead. The blinds into the chamber closed.
Ten minutes later, the victims' families exited the building and drove away in the van without speaking publicly.
"The death of Edmund Zagorski was carried out by means of electrocution on Nov. 1, 2018," Neysa Taylor, director of communications for the Tennessee Department of Correction, said in a press conference.
 To read more CLICK HERE


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Tennessee to use electric chair tonight on condemned killer


Weeks after choosing the electric chair over lethal injection, a Tennessee death row inmate would be the second person in the state to be executed that way in nearly six decades, reported CNN.
Edmund Zagorski, 63, was sentenced to death for the 1984 murders of two men. His execution is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m.
He requested electrocution on the eve of his original execution date in early October because the state uses a controversial drug in lethal injections.Zagorski's attorneys argued the lethal injection would make him spend the last 10 to 18 minutes of his life in "utter terror and agony" while the electric chair would only cause him "excruciating pain for (likely) 15-30 seconds," court documents show.
Despite the decision, Zagorski's attorneys said he was forced into a "terrible choice," arguing that electrocution though "relatively fast" is also "dreadful and grim."The legal battle over his execution continues.
Zagorski's attorney, Paul Bottei, said he is still asking the US Supreme Court on Wednesday to delay the execution.The nation's high court declined to hear Zagorski's case in early October.
To read more CLICK HERE