Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Black Panther Party’s 1966 "10 Point Plan" Still Relevant To (In)Justice Today

I came across the following at the Prison Culture blog:

I came across the Black Panther Party’s 10 Point Plan again last week in the course of doing some research on a different topic. I stopped to re-read the points and I was struck by two things. The first is that the plan is as relevant today as when it was unveiled in 1966. The second is how many of the points address themselves to the criminal legal system.
7. We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people.
We believe we can end police brutality in our black community by organizing black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our black community from racist police oppression and brutality. The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States gives a right to bear arms. We therefore believe that all black people should arm themselves for self defense.
8. We want freedom for all black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.
We believe that all black people should be released from the many jails and prisons because they have not received a fair and impartial trial.
9. We want all black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their black communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.

We believe that the courts should follow the United States Constitution so that black people will receive fair trials. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives a man a right to be tried by his peer group. A peer is a person from a similar economic, social, religious, geographical, environmental, historical and racial background. To do this the court will be forced to select a jury from the black community from which the black defendant came. We have been, and are being tried by all-white juries that have no understanding of the “average reasoning man” of the black community.

They Electrocuted and "They Executed My Son," Says Middlebury Heights, OH Parent

It's not Just Black People

Seen at Excited Delirium blog.

In Middlebury Heights, Ohio, police responded to the scene after 41 year-old Howard Hammond rear-ended another driver's car at a traffic light. While there is no evidence of a struggle in the police video, the police nonetheless electrocuted and "executed" (the father's word) Hammond.   

"They executed my son," the father told Fox 8, Cleveland, OH.

Police fired their electrocution devices at Howard Hammond twice, and the failed to call an ambulance, even though electric shock devices are known to cause serious injury and death, particularly in people who are intoxicated, as the police say they believe Hammond was.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pastor Kenneth Glasgow on Drug Reform Bill President Obama Signed

Submitted by Pastor Kenneth Glasgow on August 4, 2010 as Letter to the Editor of the (AL) Dothan Eye News.
Thank God for the drug reform bill President Obama signed reducing the disparity in federal
mandatory sentences between crack cocaine and powder cocaine convictions.

The 25 year-old law that Congress just changed subjected tens of thousands of blacks to long
prison terms for crack cocaine convictions while giving far more lenient sentences to those,
mainly whites, caught with the powder form.

Blacks serve almost as much time for drug offenses (58 months) as whites do for violent
offenses (61 months). Though this new law is a congressional compromise, it is a huge step
forward in reforming our overly harsh and wasteful drug laws.

The old 1986 law was enacted at a time when crack cocaine was considered a violent drug.
However, in 2002, twenty-eight U.S. Court of Appeals judges and many District Court Judges
who were formerly U.S. Attorneys, wrote the Sentencing Commission condemning the notion as
not scientifically accurate and recommended its repeal.

There’s still much work to be done as the law applies to only federal defendants, not state laws.
Most drug arrests occur at the state level.

We started this journey for justice in 2001. Our many trips to Washington, DC were covered
by the Dothan Eagle, WTVY, WDHN, Southeast Gazette and Rickey Stokes News. Local and
regional debates followed with law enforcement officials that wanted to keep the Draconian
Laws. The door opens again for those who have not participated in reform to join in doing
so now. Otherwise they will be looked upon as preserving a racial caste system that was
abolished with chattel slavery.

We must continue to locally address related issues like lack of family support, ministry and
rehabilitation of those incarcerated because of repressive attitudes toward “lawbreakers”, even
after being “punished”. How long will we allow local political culture to shape our local social
culture by discretionary drug enforcement practice here–the real morally and socially unjust
behavior that destroys lives?

Pastor Kenneth Glasgow
Founder, Executive Director
The Ordinary People Society (TOPS)
403 West Powell St. Dothan, AL 36303
Office / Fax: 334-671-2882
Cell: 334-791-2433

Pastor Kenneth Glasgow Writes About Drug Reform

Submitted by Pastor Kenneth Glasgow on August 4, 2010, to the (AL) Dothan Eye News
as a letter to the editor.

It’s hard to think of a more wasteful way to spend tax dollars than locking up marijuana users. But, in the midst of a budget crisis, this is exactly what Alabama is doing.

Pastor Kenneth Glasgow Writes About Drug ReformYour legislators could change that. Alabama is already taking a serious look at its sentencing practices — but they need some encouragement. So please, ask them to get their priorities straight and to support sentencing reform. Please urge legislators to introduce legislation to stop wasting money and ruining lives by incarcerating people for possessing marijuana.

There are clear harms entailed in the practice of putting lots of unenforceable or unenforced laws on the books and consigning a significant swathe of your population to the category of “lawbreakers”. On the one hand, this promotes contempt for the law. On the other hand, it allows police and government to lock up many people at will, since most people are always violating some law or another, and that’s a discretionary power that governments tend to abuse for repressive political purposes.

The government also derives extortionary power from its ability to lock people up at will, which leads to corruption. In autocratic countries across a wide spectrum of development, from Guinea to Russia, you tend to find all of these things occurring together: a broad range of normal economic and political behavior is criminalized, the citizens treat the law as an arbitrary set of irritating technicalities to be evaded, government uses police powers to repress political opposition, and police and government officials make their living by shaking people down.

Parts of this syndrome (criminalizing normal behavior, contempt for the law, shaking people down) also describe the way drug laws function in much of America. So the question arises of whether we should legalize pot. Sarah Palin recently said we shouldn’t, but that marijuana use isn’t much of a problem–and should be a low priority for law enforcement.

What I think what we’re seeing here is the wrong-headed notion that an appropriate way to express disapproval of a behavior is to simply make it illegal, but then wink and nod on enforcement as if this is some sort of middle ground.

If you don’t think a law should be enforced, you should support repeal of the law. All “compromise” accomplishes is granting police almost unfettered discretion. If smoking pot is still technically illegal, police can enforce the law when they choose, targeting certain people for arrest while turning a blind eye to others engaging in the exact same activity.

I’ve now learned in some of those foreign countries that are famously tolerant of drug use, it turns out that “tolerant” is the operative word. For example, while there are periodic calls in the Netherlands to move to complete legalization of soft drugs, that initiative never seems to get anywhere. But neither do calls for actual prosecution of marijuana possession and use.

So while the Netherlands, Denmark, and so forth are among the countries that court public contempt for the law and repressive police practices by keeping marijuana use illegal, they also keep the “lawbreakers” unpunished in practice. And yet these countries have failed to turn into Russia.  I think what we’re seeing in the United States is the impact of a national political culture shaping the practices of governance over other national social institutions when it comes to drug laws here.

It would be nice if we could arrive at an ethically and logically consistent legal stance on drug use, but it may be that in practice that’s very hard to do, and not actually very important. Basically, while Sarah Palin’s position on this issue, as on many others, is semi-deliberately incoherent, it is in this case a semi-deliberate incoherence that has proven to be effective policy in many countries, and it might be the stance to begin on the issue in the United States.

Pastor Kenneth Glasgow
Founder, Executive Director
The Ordinary People Society (TOPS)
403 West Powell St. Dothan, AL 36303
Office / Fax: 334-671-2882
Cell: 334-791-2433

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Esteban Carpio Case Closely Watched Nationally by Public Against Police Brutality, Unrepentant Police Officers

The case of Esteban Carpio will not go away or be forgotten because of a number of alarming facts in his case:

Esteban Carpio's mother told police that he was mentally deranged, but police believed he had knifed an old woman that day, and they questioned him, without a lawyer, from the early evening into the midnights hours, at which time police accuse Carpio of taking a gun from the only police officer in the interrogation room, shooting the officer dead, and then jumping from an upper-floor window, after which a police chase ensued that ended with a horrific beating of Carpio that left his face so incredibly disfigured by fresh hammering that police were ashamed to show him to the court and instead put a mask over his face.

This case poses the societal and legal questions of whether the accused should be punished after conviction at trial or whether the Providence Police Department's summary extra-judicial punishment (see photograph), otherwise known as "lynching" when death results, is acceptable to the white people who make up the majority of the United States and the majority of its juries.

Virtually every one of the hundreds of cases of death of a member of the public after police lethally shock the person with an electrocution devise such as the Taser, sometimes repeatedly shocking handcuffed and arrested persons poses the same question:  Is lynching de facto legal, or do police have to wait and submit cases to the judgment of courts, judges and juries rather than imposing a pre-trial death penalty and/or severe physical harm upon immobilized prey?

Esteban Carpio's lawyer has asked the Rhode Island Supreme Court to order a lower court to consider significant evidence that Esteban Carpio met the legal definition required for him to be declared not competent.  They say that they showed at trial more than "a fair preponderance of the evidence — that his mental illness rendered him ineligible for conviction."

The largest local newspaper reported on September 4, 2010, that Carpio's legal defense, based on a mental illness that no one denies, had reached the Rhode Island Supreme Court with a request that a new hearing be held with the proper legal standard applied to his mental status:

Carpio asks R.I. Supreme Court to throw out his murder conviction

01:00 AM EDT on Saturday, September 4, 2010
By Gregory Smith

Journal Staff Writer

Esteban Carpio

PROVIDENCE — Esteban Carpio, convicted of shooting to death Providence police Detective Sgt. James L. Allen at police headquarters, is asking the Rhode Island Supreme Court to void the conviction because he was not criminally responsible due to mental illness.

More than four years after his conviction in one of the most infamous murders of the modern Rhode Island era, Carpio has submitted a memorandum of appeal of his conviction and sentence.
Carpio would like to see the Supreme Court return the case to Superior Court Judge Robert D. Krause with an order that Krause enter a verdict of not guilty due to lack of criminal responsibility on all three of the counts of which he was convicted.

Through his appellate lawyers at the public defender’s office, Carpio contends that the defense proved by more than the required standard — a fair preponderance of the evidence — that his mental illness rendered him ineligible for conviction. He further contends that Judge Krause erred in his instructions to the jury that convicted him; and that his sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is unfairly excessive, in large part because of his illness.
The Carpio family, Providence Police and people from around the country, judging by this blog's Site Meter, are waiting to hear from the Rhode Island Supreme Court whether Carpio's mental condition now and at the time of the crimes of which he was convicted is to be considered in weighing Carpio's behavior and, implicity, the arguably criminal and obviously unwise behavior of the Providence Police Department.

While it is natural that the Providence Police Department is aggrieved by what happened on that fateful day, they should seriously consider whether question a mentally ill man for hours and then leaving him alone in a room with one solitary armed police detective created an unreasonable risk that the exhausted and some say psychotic Carpio would use the officer's own gun to kill the officer.

Maybe, police should have given more consideration to the mother's insistence that Carpio was psychotic and therefore presented a danger to himself and other.  If they had shown that sensitivity and concern for their own safety, then the police detective who died might be alive today.

"Tasers Are Perfectly Safe as Long as They Aren’t Used on the People Most Likely To Be Tasered", Says "The Agitator" Blog

Tasers Are Perfectly Safe as Long as They Aren’t Used on the People Most Likely To Be Tasered, Says "The Agitator" Blog.

I saw the following over at "The Agitator" blog and I am compelled by its relevance to share it with readers:

Tasers Are Perfectly Safe as Long as They Aren’t Used on the People Most Likely To Be Tasered

An NIJ report on Tasers gives us the ol’ “Nothing to see, here”.  Nut graph:
“There is no conclusive medical evidence in the current body of research literature that indicates a high risk of serious injury or death to humans from the direct or indirect cardiovascular or metabolic effects of short-term CED exposure in healthy, normal, nonstressed, nonintoxicated persons,” the report concludes.
And we all know that Tasers are never, ever used on people who are unhealthy, or who are intoxicated, or who are under some sort of duress. So the debate is settled!