Monday, July 30, 2007

The arrogance of the DOJ knows no bounds

On June 27th, a hearing was held before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights. Oversight of capital punishment was the topic. According to Senator Feingold, it was the first such oversight hearing in over 6 years. Given the volatile nature of this issue, It's not surprising this hearing quickly turned into a debate on the policy. For the most part, I thought the testimony recycled information. Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, Paul Charlton's testimony left me speechless. He testified about the last capital case he worked before he was forced to resign. He discussed the case U.S. v. Rios, a RICO case. The case centers around a methamphetamine dealer who is accused of killing his supplier. Charlton feels seeking the death penalty in this case is very suspect. AG Gonzales disagreed, and authorized the death penalty. Charlton's feelings are well founded. He stated that there is no forensic evidence in this case, NONE. All evidence is coming from individuals who have made plea bargains. There isn't even a body in this case. To make things worse, the location of the body is known. The AG will not authorize the $500,000-1,000,000 necessary to exhume the body from the landfill it is buried in. Even more disturbing is the amount of time given to this decision. Mike Elston, Chief of Staff for DAG Paul McNulty told Charlton that the DAG spent a considerable amount of time with the AG on this issue, perhaps 5-10 minutes. This is certainly an insufficient amount of time to decide whether someone should be put on trial for their life, especially given the facts of this case. Charlton believes he was forced to resign because of this case, and I find it very difficult to argue with that contention. Whether it be drug policy or crime policy in general, out of touch federal officials substituting their judgment for that of local people with intimate knowledge is very wrong. Regardless of one's position on capital punishment, it should be easy to see why this is a prosecution that should never get near a jury as a capital case. Transcript of Paul Charlton's testimony

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Another coffin nail for personal responsibility?

The AP has reported on news chopper coverage of high speed chase that ended in tragedy yesterday. Two choppers from KTVK and KNXV in Phoenix were covering and collided. There were no survivors. The primary incident came to an end after the suspect barricaded himself in a house and SWAT was called in. He has been charged with six counts including four for aggravated assault of a police officer. He also carjacked someone on the highway. There is no question that this man should be in prison for a long time. The problem is, Phoenix Police Chief, Jack Harris suggested that the suspect could be held responsible for the four deaths that resulted from the helicopter crash. Obviously, this will not be a decision he makes. But, a police chief showing such a distorted understanding of criminal responsibility is scary. The choppers were there of their own free will. Day by day the concept of personal responsibility loses ground in this country. I can only hope that the prosecutor is more reasonable than the police chief.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Legally you cannot be addicted to cannabis

As most people know, there has been heated debate about the harmful and addictive nature of cannabis. I generally don't read anything in the Controlled Substances Act beyond the schedules. Recently, I decided to look at the definitions section. The definition of addict and marihuana make it clear that you can't be addicted under the law. This fact highlights the insanity of cannabis being a class I controlled substance and drug policy in general. 21 USC Sec. 802

Sunday, July 15, 2007

My drug war horror story

I experienced the effects of the drug war up close and personal when I was 7 years old. In 1985, I was living in West Oakland, CA with my Mother and her boyfriend. Both were heavy drug users. Late one night, the police executed a no-knock warrant related to a drug and firearm investigation. The warrant had the wrong address. The boyfriend had me locked in the bedroom so he could abuse my Mother without interference from me. When the police encountered the door, they kicked it in. A few seconds later one of the officers discharged his weapon. Thankfully, I wasn't injured.

This event and my Mother later contracting Hepatitis C are what have formed my personal mission to see these horrid laws repealed. Since that time I have been educating as many as I can about the real effects of these flawed policies.

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A favorite quote

"There is precious little difference between those people who society designates as respectable and law abiding and those people society castigates as hoodlums and thugs. The world of corporate finance and corporate capital is as criminogenic and probably more criminogenic than any poverty-wracked slum neighborhood. The distinctions drawn between business, politics, and organized crime are at best artificial and in reality irrelevant. Rather than being dysfunctions, corporate crime, white-collar crime, organized crime, and political corruption are mainstays of American political-economic life." Gary W. Potter, Professor of Criminal Justice and Police Studies at Eastern Kentucky University, in writing about the savings and loan scandals of the 1980s