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Another Dose of Prosecutorial Discretion

By: letsgetitdone Wednesday November 26, 2014 5:36 pm

Here’s a footnote to my recent post on prosecutorial discretion. Of course, the Grand Jury verdict not to indict Darren Wilson in Ferguson was a product of prosecutor McCulloch’s decision to perform a non-directive prosecution accompanied by a “jury dump” without benefit of clear guidelines and instructions. This had the predictable result that the jury would carry on its own trial, not only absent vigorous prosecution, but by all accounts a prosecution that played more of the role of a defense attorney then a representative of law enforcement prosecuting a crime.

The way McCulloch proceeded in the case is almost never done by prosecutors and it illustrated perfectly the contrast between prosecution for me, and discretion for thee, the very mark of a legal system that is broken, failing to produce equal justice for all, under the law. This is perfectly acceptable to many Americans when it is not their ox that is being gored. So, we recently heard thunderous recriminations from the right over the President’s executive orders on immigration, but perpetual loud silence about the IRS’s failure to enforce the law prohibiting tax exemptions for claimed 501 (c) (4) organizations that are not exclusively engaged in social welfare activities. Now, we’re seeing rage against a prosecutor who obviously fixed an unjust outcome in a prosecution he did not want to engage is at all. The rage is justified, of course, and there are many lessons we can draw from Ferguson, but surely one of them is that we need to limit prosecutorial discretion. It gives prosecutors far too much power to ‘fix’ justice, which in various ways they do all the time.

(Cross-posted from New Economic Perspectives.)


Video of Police Shooting of 12 Year Old Child Looks Almost Like a Drive-By

By: Ohio Barbarian Wednesday November 26, 2014 3:21 pm

Today, Cleveland Police released a surveillance camera video police shooting a 12 year old boy armed with an soft pellet pistol. While the police are saying the kid picked up the gun off of a picnic table and then reached for it, in spite of the poor quality of the video, it appears to me that he was already holding the gun, then put it in his waistband pointing at his own junk, and then was immediately shot by a cop who had just pulled up in a police car at point-blank range.

The short version of the video has talking heads giving the police version. The long version, over seven minutes, shows the 911 caller sitting at the picnic table at first, then the kid walking around, sometimes waving the toy gun, sometimes playing in the snow, sometimes just sitting at the table. What I see is the police pulling up within three feet of the kid, the kid putting the gun into his waistband, and then being immediately shot by the cop. I wasn’t able to fast forward it, and the action starts at about 6:30 into it.

It IS clear that the police were not ten feet away, as they claim, and that at no time did this child point the gun at them. It looks like he saw the cops, thought “uh-oh,” and tried to hide the toy gun, like kids will do.

The local media, which was all over this story yesterday in conjunction with the street protests in downtown Cleveland, is now hardly talking about it, mouthing platitudes such as “the video raises more questions than answers.” The video looks pretty damned clear to me that this child was just blown away without being given a chance to drop the gun and put his hands up. If anything, it will outrage the community even more, in the wake of several questionable, and that’s putting it mildly, civilian deaths at the hands of Cleveland police over the last couple of years.

I don’t see any way that this is a justified shooting by police. What do you think?

Update: CBS News has a video that’s easier to watch. Not easier on the mind, however. CBS also points out that the exchange between the cops pulling up and the shooting of the child lasted less than two seconds.

The police in this country are simply totally out of control.


Boston Bombing News: Certainties, Absurdities, and Watertown

By: lauraw Wednesday November 26, 2014 2:43 pm

The tone of Judge O’Toole’s latest ruling is one of the certainties we have come to rely on. O’T has denied the defense’s request for additional info concerning, among other things: pre-2013 communication from the Russian government, forensic computer reports, and Waltham murder documents.

The judge did make one interesting comment: that Ibragim Todashev is of no use to the defense. Some of us wonder if Todashev, alive, might have been of great use … which may be why he is dead.

Is Watertown the clincher which makes the Tsarnaevs’ guilt a certainty? To me, this crazy saga makes the whole case look even MORE suspicious. In light of recent discussions, I think it would be worthwhile to revisit this topic, with updates.

Here’s a brief review of the Official Narrative: When Agent DesLauriers televised images of his suspects, the counter-terrorism agents who had been watching and interviewing Tamerlan for two years neglected to tell him who these guys were. DesL was forced to ask the public for help, though he knew this measure might force the suspects to flee.

When they saw their pictures on TV, the brothers indeed realized they needed to flee, but they didn’t have a plan for that. So they improvised. They decided to drive to Times Square to party, er, to bomb it. But they failed to get to New York because they did everything possible to ensure that they were caught before they got out of Boston.

First, they drove their Honda to a nearby 7-11 for snacks, unfazed by the massive police presence in Cambridge. Then they killed an MIT cop and dropped his gun on the ground near the murder scene instead of taking it with them. After that (perhaps thinking they had not yet drawn enough police attention to themselves), they hijacked an SUV, confessed their crimes to the driver, and took him hostage. They drove in circles for almost two hours. At a gas station in Cambridge, they carelessly let their hostage escape.

Then they drove to Laurel and Dexter and provoked a firefight with the entire BPD, shooting guns and hurling explosive devices. They only managed to take down one policeman (who may actually have been hit by friendly fire). The hordes of cops and “self-deployed” volunteer shooters really had to struggle to defeat these two Chechen Rambos, but they finally succeeded in killing one of them.

The other was wounded, but escaped and hid in a boat. Though weak with blood loss, he wrote a manifesto on the boat’s fiberglass surface, using an appropriate writing tool which he just happened to have with him. He then attempted suicide by shooting himself in the mouth with a magically disappearing gun. He confronted police, somehow managing to stay upright in spite of this very serious head injury. (The note, when revealed to the public, was artistically decorated with bright-red blood streaks, which strongly resembled red paint.)

How did the shootout begin? Option 1, the current official version: Tamerlan got out of the SUV and began firing at a cop who was slowly following him with his lights off. Option 2: Police fired at the speeding SUV trying to make it stop, while a passenger threw bombs out the window. Police scanner transcripts and Andrew Kitzenberg back up this account. (AK reported a wild car chase with a police car crashing into a house.)

What happened next?

I Just Won A Major Lawsuit Against The Pentagon, When’s My IRS Audit?

By: Lloyd Chapman Wednesday November 26, 2014 2:33 pm

This will be the first time in a quarter of a century the American people will be allowed to see how the Pentagon is spending trillions of their tax dollars.

I just won a landmark legal victory over the Pentagon yesterday. I’m forcing the Pentagon to release information that will prove they have cheated American small businesses out of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal subcontracts over the last 25 years.

Using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), I requested the most recent information submitted to the Pentagon’s “sham” Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program (CSPTP) by one of the Pentagon’s largest prime contractors Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. The information I requested will clearly indicate the Pentagon is cheating American small businesses out of billions. It will prove they are allowing their largest prime contractors to circumvent federal law that mandates a minimum of 23% of all federal contracts be awarded to small businesses.

This will be the first time in a quarter of a century the American people will be allowed to see how the Pentagon is spending trillions of their tax dollars.

The Pentagon adopted the CSPTP in 1990 under the guise of“increasing subcontracting opportunities for small businesses.” In reality it was designed to do just the opposite. The CSPTP removed all transparency and penalties on small business subcontracting programs for the Pentagons largest prime contractors.

If that’s not insane enough, the Pentagon has been testing this program to cheat small businesses for 25 years. In a shining exampleof how corrupt our government is, both the House and the Senate have voted to renew the anti-small business CSPTP into its twenty-eighth year of testing.

One of the nations leading experts on federal contracting law, Professor Charles Tiefer, released a legal opinion on the CSPTP that stated, “The program is a sham and its extension will be seriously harmful to vital opportunities for small business to get government contracting work… There is no doubt in my mind the CSPTP has significantly reduced subcontracting opportunities for small businesses. It should not have gotten its 25 years of extension as a never-tested ‘Test Program.’ Let it expire.”

In 2004, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the results of an investigation on the CSPTP that stated, “Although the Test Program was started more than 12 years ago, DOD has yet to establish metrics to evaluate the program’s results and effectiveness.”

The Chairman’s Mark of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Bill even stated, “However, after nearly 24 years since the original authorization of the program, the test program has yet to provide evidence that it meets the original stated goal of the program…”

What’s The Value Of TV Journalism? Analysis Of Episode Two Of The Newsroom

By: spocko Wednesday November 26, 2014 1:00 pm

There was a scene in The Newsroom’s second episode this season where Charlie, the network president, explains to the two rich kids working on a hostile takeover that what the news division of ACN does and says is important. ACN, he explains, is like NBC and CNN, they are the face and voice of the parent corporation.

That really struck me. I liked it. Suddenly I was Fox Mulder quoting from the poster above my desk. “I want to believe.”

The rich kids didn’t care. If they could make more more money showing Foxy Boxing than the news, then why not?

Concurrently in the show, we see Will, The Anchor With Integrity, stand on the side of journalism, and telling the truth.

Then we see all the people and pressures that get in the way of the truth that Charlie believes in: other TV news divisions, lawyers, federal law enforcement and the people focusing on the financial bottom line.

Sorkin sets us up for conflicts and confrontations with each group. Do these issues and pressures come up in the real world? Is this really what people think, or do we just hope people think and act like this in the real world?.

While watching a gripping TV show I often feel like a passenger in the back of a cab. I feel like I have no control and no say about anything that is happening. In a cab I actually do have some control, if i speak up at the right time, am heard and the driver responds to my comments. Does the same feeling extend to watching the news? Can I have a say?

In this episode Sorkin shows us a potent way that we can have a say in the network news. He shows us what they care about, how it is pointed out to them and what they do in response.

One of the junior staffers says something about the Republicans after the Boston Marathon bombing being happy this tragedy didn’t involve guns. That comment clearly doesn’t match anyone’s idea of “The Voice” of the network or corporate parent. The people who point out the brand mismatch are other media. They see this as news. The network has to act to right the mismatch.

The March for Ferguson: Houston

By: Coach Bill Wednesday November 26, 2014 9:24 am

The notice of the March for Ferguson and Michael Brown came through Facebook. It would begin in a park near where I work so I thought I would take a look.

When I arrived, I thought there might actually be more media and cops than demonstrators but the crowd slowly swelled. A few people spoke in turn through a megaphone but the chants soon took over, “ Hands up, don’t shoot”.

The leaders began to move the crowd toward the nearest intersection cautioning that once out of the park, their actions would be illegal. As the protestors moved into the intersection, blocking traffic in every direction, the police established a perimeter but did not interfere. After about 10 minutes, we began to march. The police formed an escort, ahead, behind and on the side, lights flashing but no sirens and most importantly no interference. There was also a sizable contingent of Mounties always present in Houston at crowd events.

As the march moved away from the park and headed toward the University of Houston, I noticed that a reporter from the local CBS affiliate had embedded herself in the march with her camera crew. She stayed with us till the end.

There Goes Virginia’s Climate

By: David Swanson Wednesday November 26, 2014 8:49 am

At this rate, Virginia will be as hot as South Carolina by 2050

A snowstorm is the ideal time to write about climate disruption, as it allows us to immediately set-aside the cartoonish claim that if any spot on earth isn’t warmer than it was yesterday then all is well. The following things we know:

There are giant snowflakes falling outside my window.

Five-year averages of temperature in Virginia began a significant and steady increase in the early 1970s, rising from 54.6 degrees Fahrenheit then to 56.2 degrees F in 2012.

The Piedmont area, where I live, has seen the temperature rise at a rate of 0.53 degrees F per decade.

At this rate, Virginia will be as hot as South Carolina by 2050 and as northern Florida by 2100, and continuing at a steady or increasing pace from there.

Sixty percent of Virginia is forest, and forests cannot evolve or switch over to warmer-weather species at anything like that fast a pace. The most likely future is not pines or palm trees but wasteland.

From 1979 to 2003, excessive heat exposure contributed to over 8,000 premature deaths in the United States, more than all deaths from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined, and dramatically more than all deaths from terrorism.

Between 1948 and 2006 “extreme precipitation events” have increased 25% in Virginia. Precipitation in Virginia is likely to increase or decrease dramatically overall, and is extremely likely to continue the trend of arriving in ever more intense bursts of storms interrupting droughts. This will be devastating to agriculture.

Acidity in the ocean has already increased by 30 percent and if current trends continue will hit a 100 to 150 percent increase by 2100 and continue to spiral upward from there.

Over Easy: Transcripts show #DarrenWilson Lied to the Grand Jury

By: Masoninblue Wednesday November 26, 2014 4:55 am
darren wilson

Darren Wilson

Officer Darren Wilson testified that he knew about the theft of a box of cigarillos from the Ferguson Market, before encountering Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson. However, Officer Wilson’s supervisor testified that he spoke to Wilson after the shooting, and that Wilson “did not know anything about the stealing call.” In an apparent effort to turn unreasonable actions into a reasonable excuse to pull the gun out, Wilson connected the stop to the call about the in-store theft.

First we have a transcript of his grand jury testimony:

Question by Prosecutor Ms. Whirley:

Q: Okay. Did you get any other calls between the time of the sick baby call and your interaction with Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson?
A: While on the sick case call, a call came out for a stealing in progress from the local market on West Florissant, that the suspects traveling toward QT. I didn’t hear the entire call, I was on my portable radio, which isn’t exactly the best. I did hear that a suspect was wearing a black shirt and that a box of Cigarillos was stolen.
Q: And this was your call or you just heard the call?
A: It was not my call. I heard the call.
Q: Some other officers were dispatched to that call.
A: I believe two others were.
Q: Was it a call you were going to go toalso?
A: No.
Q: So you weren’t really geared to handle that call?
A: No.
A: As I approached them, I stopped a couple of feet in front of Johnson as they are walking toward me, I am going toward them. As Johnson came along my driver’s side mirror I said, “why don’t you guys walk on the sidewalk?” He kept walking, as he is walking, he said, “we are almost to our destination.”
Q: Do you think he used those words destination, we are almost to our destination?
A: Yes, ma’am. He said we are almost to our destination and he pointed this direction over my vehicle. So like in a northeasternly (sic) direction. As he did that, he kept walking and Brown was starting to come around the mirror and as he came around the mirror I said, “well, what’s wrong with the sidewalk?” Brown then replied, um it has vulgar language.
Q: You can say it, say it.
A: Brown then replied, “fuck what you have to say.” And when he said that, it drew my attention totally to Brown. It was very unusual and not expected response from a simple request.
When I start looking at Brown, first thing I notice is in his right hand, his hand is full of Cigarillos. I looked in my mirror, I did a double check that Johnson was wearing a black shirt. These are the two from the stealing.
And they kept walking, as I said, they never once stopped, never got on the sidewalk, they stayed in the middle of the road.
So I got on my radio and Frank 21 is my call sign that day, I said Frank 21 I’m on Canfield with two, send me another car.
I then placed my car in reverse and backed up and I backed up just past them and then angled my vehicle, the back of my vehicle to kind of cut them off, kind of to keep them somewhat contained.

[GJ, Vol. V pp. 202-209]

Second, now we have a transcript of his direct supervisor’s testimony. Sergeant LNU* responded to the scene within minutes after the shooting and was the first person to interview him.

Question by a Prosecutor Ms. Alizadeh