Monday, July 12, 2010

5 out of 9 Justices Recommend Leaving Innocent People in Jail

by Dr. Barry Starr
In a truly awful decision reminiscent of Gore vs. Bush, the Supreme Court has decided that there should be no federal mandate for genetic testing after someone has been convicted. Even though DNA evidence can free innocent people who were wrongfully accused. How absurd is this?

It is especially hard to understand when there is ample evidence that there are plenty of innocents in prison. And when a DNA test can prove so conclusive in showing their innocence.

A case I use in a high school activity (and which will be highlighted in the new Technology Benefiting Humanity exhibition at The Tech) involves Marvin Anderson. He is an African American who was convicted of rape by an all white jury in the South.

Court TV produced a great documentary that details all of the mistakes that sent Marvin to prison. And how the Virginia state government, much like our current Supreme Court, fought the simple DNA test that eventually proved his innocence.

Marvin was a suspect because he had a white girlfriend and the rapist had said that he had a white girlfriend during the attack. In a photo line up, Marvin’s was the only picture in color. Then, in the real line up, Marvin was the only man who had been shown in the photo line up.

Marvin’s lawyer represented the man who had really committed the crime. The trial lasted one day and as I said, Marvin was sent to jail by an all white jury. And while Marvin languished in prison, the real rapist confessed but the judge threw out the confession.

This is when the Innocence Project took up the case. The Innocence Project uses genetic testing to free innocent men and women. After hearing the details of Marvin’s case, they decided to help him clear his name. And it was not easy!

First off, they had to find the evidence from the case. This is often hard to do because evidence gets thrown away after a certain amount of time.

But, by a miraculous fluke, the Virginia government found the evidence from the rape kit... it had been saved in a lab notebook. So all that needed to be done was to see if the DNA from the crime scene matched Marvin's. If it didn’t, then Marvin most likely was innocent.

But the Virginia government would not allow the evidence to be tested. Apparently, just like the Supreme Court, procedure mattered more than innocence to the bureaucrats involved.

Finally, in 2001, after Marvin had been in jail for 15 years and spent four years on parole, Virginia passed an Innocence Project backed statute that allowed DNA evidence to be tested in some cases. Marvin’s was the first evidence tested under the new statute. He was found to be innocent and the police were able to use the evidence to catch the real rapist.

If the Virginia government had not done the right thing, the real rapist would be free to continue committing crimes. And everyone would still see Marvin as a rapist.

There are undoubtedly Marvins rotting in jail in the three states that don’t allow for genetic testing after a conviction (Alaska, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts). And other Marvins are probably in those other states that only allow genetic testing in certain situations.

The Supreme Court could have given all of these innocent people the chance that Marvin finally got after 19 years. But five justices decided against doing that.

Now I suppose there is probably some legalese reason why the Supreme Court ruled that innocent people should stay locked up. But I am not lawyer enough to understand it. And neither are the Marvins still out there, waiting for justice.

How many people like Marvin Anderson are waiting for the justice system to do the right thing?

How Many Innocent People Are In Prison?

by Ed Brayton
That's the very difficult question that Radley Balko attempts to answer in an essay at Reason. He begins by noting why this is so difficult to calculate:

Calculating the percentage of innocents now in prison is a tricky and controversial process. The numerator itself is difficult enough to figure out. The certainty of DNA testing means we can be positive the 250 cases listed in the Innocence Project report didn't commit the crimes for which they were convicted, and that number also continues to rise. But there are hundreds of other cases in which convictions have been overturned due to a lack of evidence, recantation of eyewitness testimony, or police or prosecutorial misconduct, but for which there was no DNA evidence to establish definitive guilt or innocence. Those were wrongful convictions in that there wasn't sufficient evidence to establish reasonable doubt, but we can't be sure all the accused were factually innocent.

But there should be little doubt that the number of exonerations brought about by DNA testing is only the tip of the iceberg:

Most prosecutors fight requests for post-conviction DNA testing. That means the discovery of wrongful convictions is limited by the time and resources available to the Innocence Project and similar legal aid organizations to fight for a test in court. It's notable that in one of the few jurisdictions where the district attorney is actively seeking out wrongful convictions--Dallas County, Texas--the county by itself has seen more exonerations than all but a handful of individual states. If prosecutors in other jurisdictions were to follow Dallas D.A. Craig Watkins' lead, that 250 figure would be significantly higher.

He then blasts Justice Scalia's absurd reasoning in claiming that there are very few innocent people in prison:

If the numerator is tough to figure, the denominator is even more controversial. One of the more farcical attempts at writing off the growing number of DNA exonerations came in a concurring opinion that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the 2005 case Kansas v. Marsh. Scalia began by dismissing the idea that an innocent person may have been executed in America, explaining that if such a tragedy had occurred, "we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent's name would be shouted from the rooftops by the abolition lobby."

Full Story

New Mel tape mentions allegedly hitting girlfriend

NEW YORK — Mel Gibson is heard allegedly acknowledging that the actor hit the mother of his 8-month daughter in a recording released by a celebrity news website.

The eight-minute recording posted Monday by is purportedly a phone argument between Gibson and then-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva. A voice sounding distinctively like the Academy Award-winner is heard telling Grigorieva that she "deserved" to be hit after she chastised him for allegedly punching her in the face and breaking two of her teeth.

"What kind of a man is that?" she is heard saying. "Hitting a woman when she's holding a child in her hands? Breaking her teeth twice in the face! What kind of man is that?"

"Oh, you're all angry now!" Gibson responds. "You know what, you ... (expletive deleted) deserved it!"

Alan Nierob, a spokesman for Gibson, declined comment on the tape.

The former couple have been locked in a bitter custody dispute in Los Angeles. The 40-year-old singer has accused Gibson of domestic violence, and sheriff's officials have launched an investigation.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore would not say directly whether the recordings released by RadarOnline would become part of the investigation, but he said any potential evidence would be thoroughly reviewed and considered.

Read More

Video: 6 dead in Albuquerque office shooting

New Mexico authorities said a former employee shot and killed five people at a business Monday in Albuquerque before turning the gun on himself.

NBA 2K11 Puts LeBron James in a Heat Jersey

By now you’ve heard all about the LeBron James decision to head to the Miami Heat, where he will team up with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade hoping to take a shot at immortality. Well, King James has already been programmed into NBA 2K11 wearing a Heat jersey and here’s the first shot. Sorry, Cavs, Nets, Bulls, Knicks and Clippers fans, (There are Clippers fans, right?) guess you better get used to looking at this, you’ll be seeing it for at least the next five years.

Teach For America More Competitive Than Ever

By Kay Steiger
An article in the New York Times from yesterday points out that, Teach for America, while controversial among some, is a more popular option among graduating college seniors than ever. TFA applicants are up about 32 percent from last year, many applying as early as August last year — well before the deadline.

The article attributes the renewed interest in the federal teaching program to a down economy, saying TFA hired more graduating seniors than any other single employer this year. The applicants also come from some of the top schools in the nation: Harvard, Yale, and UC-Berkeley.

TFA has become competitive; it creates an effect of teaching becoming an extremely desirable job — something that school districts struggled with for years. However, some critics to say that not all TFA teachers-in-training stick with it, since more than 80 percent of TFA teachers leave teaching within three years. Many leave the program to attend law or business school or go on to take highly paid consulting gigs. But a new proposal suggests that TFA should ask for a five-year commitment instead of just two years.

Still, the fact that college graduates are drawn to public service programs, even if it is because they might be waiting out a poor economy, is encouraging. Experiences in a program like TFA will likely diversify the experiences of the young people in the program, allowing them firsthand experience with children from different backgrounds. At least, that’s the hope, anyway.

University Of Texas Considers Renaming Dorm Named In Honor Of Klansmen

The University of Texas is considering changing the name of a dormitory that was named in honor of a prominent Klansman.

The school released a press release saying that University President William Powers Jr. will ask the University's regents to rename Simkins Residence Hall; a male dorm named in honor of William Stewart Simkins, a former professor at the institution and member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Controversy swirled around the dorm after UT law professor Tom Russell researched Simkins and concluded that the dorm was named in his honor to send a message to African-Americans after the U.S. Supreme court decision in Brown V. Board Of Education.

In a research article Russell writes,

"Professor Simkins helped to organize the Ku Klux Klan in Florida at the conclusion of the American Civil War, and he advocated his Klan past to Texas students…During the 1950s, the memory and history of Professor Simkins supported the university's resistance to integration. As the university faced pressure to admit African-American students, the university's faculty council voted to name a dormitory after the Klansman and law professor.”

If approved by board members the building will be renamed Creekside Dormitory for a creek that runs nearby.

Simkins taught at the University's law school from 1899 until his death in 1929.

» by Danielle Canada

Nate Henn, American Killed in Uganda, was Crusading for ChildrenPosted by AD Lynn

Nate Henn is a name that you’ll be hearing a lot if you’re following today’s shocking Uganda News. He’s the only confirmed American fatality in the Uganda bombings that killed at least 64 people in Kamplala during the World Cup finals. Nate was killed while watching the game at a local rugby center with some of his students. These students were his life: Nate worked tirelessly with a group called Invisible Children, which aims to end the use of child soldiers in Uganda. More below.

Henn, a University of Delaware student who had worked with the non-profit for a year and a half, was passionate about making life better for Uganda’s children. “From traveling the United States without pay advocating for the freedom of abducted child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s war, to raising thousands of dollars to put war-affected Ugandan students in school, Nate lived a life that demanded explanation. He sacrificed his comfort to live in the humble service of God and of a better world, and his is a life to be emulated,” it says on Invisible Children’s blog. “Nate was not a glory-seeker and never sought the spotlight. He asked not to be made a hero of. But the life he lived inspires reflection and imitation.”

The child soldiers of Uganda are kids who have been abducted from their homes and forced to fight in brutal wars. Invisible Children uses the media to makes these children and their plight visible to the world, in an effort to stop the child warfare practice. IC also rebuilds schools in Uganda and provide mentors and scholarships.

If you’d like to honor Nate’s life, consider donating to Invisible Children at their website.

Colton Harris-Moore, the Barefoot Bandit Arrested in the Bahamas

The “Barefoot Bandit” will now be wearing prison issued foot wear …

19 year old Colton Harris-Moore, known as the “Barefoot Bandit” has finally been arrested in the Bahamas after being on the run for two years. The US teenager allegedly stole cars, boats and airplanes to evade US law enforcement. Colton Harris-Moore was arrested in northern Eleuthera as he attempted to dock a boat at Harbour Island. Colton Harris-Moore now faces possible extradition back the the United States. Colton Harris-Moore was being transported to Nassau, Bahamas, on Sunday.

Colton Harris-Moore, the Barefoot Bandit

The Barefoot bandit is the modern day version of “Catch Me if You Can,” the story made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks where Frank Abagnale Jr. who, before his 19th birthday, successfully conned millions of dollars worth of checks as a Pan Am pilot, doctor, and legal prosecutor.

NASSAU, Bahamas – A U.S. teenager who allegedly stole cars, boats and airplanes to dodge U.S. law enforcement for two years was finally captured Sunday in the Bahamas, bringing an end to exploits that made the “Barefoot Bandit” a folk hero.

Colton Harris-Moore was arrested before dawn in northern Eleuthera, said Sgt. Chrislyn Skippings, a spokeswoman for the Royal Bahamas Police Force. A contingent of high-ranking officers traveled to the island to take the suspect to Nassau, the country’s capital, where he faces possible extradition to the United States.

The “Barefoot Bandit” was a folk hero of sorts who got his nickname after allegedly leaving shoeless prints at a series of crime scenes in the United States. Colton Harris-Moore has been on the run since 2008, when he escaped from a juvenile halfway house in Renton, Washington, after pleading guilty to three counts of burglary

His alleged exploits have resulted in a string of arrest warrants issued by local forces in the US as well as catapulting him to celebrity status. He has thousands of Facebook followers, a fan club selling “Run, Colton, Run” T-shirts and songs have been written about him.

Growing up just north of Seattle, Harris-Moore gained his first theft conviction at 12 and in 2007 was given a four-year sentence in juvenile detention. He escaped from an open window and went on the run after being moved to a halfway house.

Coming soon to a movie theatre near you a combination of “Footloose”, “Shoeless Joe Jackson” and “To Catch a Thief”.




About the last thing on anyone’s mind right now, particularly in my home state of Louisiana, is whether or not Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan will be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. It’s pretty much a “done deal,” right? Whoever the President wants, the president gets, regardless of political party. Oh, in the Kagan case, the republicans will throw up some half-hearted concerns about Kagan being too liberal and not enough of a “strict constructionist,” whatever that is supposed to mean. So why should the average American care?

In recent polling data, two-thirds of the 1,000 American adults polled couldn't name a single current justice, and just 1 percent was able to name all nine sitting justices. Less than one-third of voters have any view of Kagan at all. This lack of governmental knowledge really is not all that big of a surprise when you look at other historical events that have most Americans perplexed.

• More Americans could identify Michael Jackson as the composer of "Beat It" and "Billie Jean" than could identify the Bill of Rights as a body of amendments to the Constitution.

• More than 50 percent of respondents attributed the quote "From each according to his ability to each according to his needs" to either Thomas Paine, George Washington or President Obama. The quote is from Karl Marx, author of "The Communist Manifesto."

• More than a third did not know the century in which the American Revolution took place, and half of respondents believed that either the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation or the War of 1812 occurred before the American Revolution.

So it’s of little surprise that nominee Kagan registers so low on the national recognition scale. If you were one of the few that sat glued to C-Span through the Senate Judiciary Hearings last week, here is what you would have found out:

On TV cameras in the court room, that are presently prohibited, Kagan is for them.

Good for her on this issue. Her colleagues have for years thrown up the hoary arguments the television would undermine the high court’s “ethos” and bring forth the justices’ faces to C-Span-watching terrorists. Bunk. TV court room coverage works well in many state judicial systems including Louisiana’s. In fact, I argued the first televised case before the Louisiana Supreme Court back in the mid 1990s. The issue involved the right of law enforcement officers to seize cars that were uninsured. I won the case, by the way, and the television broadcast was no big deal. So mark one for the nominee.

But her score takes a justified hit on a whole host of other issues including her decision as dean of Harvard Law to bar recruiters from the school's career services office over the Pentagon's policy against openly gay soldiers. Kagan said she was trying to balance Harvard's nondiscrimination policy, which she believed "don't ask, don't tell" violated, with a federal law that required schools to give military recruiters equal access as a condition of eligibility for federal funds. But that was the law, later upheld in a legal challenge unanimously by the Supreme Court. With two wars going on at the time, Kagan would have seemed to have substituted her personal view rather than what the law required.

There are a number of positions Kagan argued before the Supreme Court as Solicitor General that undermine and impede basic freedoms, and that should concern those asked to promote her to the nation’s highest court. One such troubling case involves former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, convicted of bribery in 2006. The Supreme Court last week unanimously vacated Siegelman’s conviction, after ninety-one state attorneys general urged that the conviction was unjust and should be overturned.

Kagan filed a petition urging the Supreme Court to deny hearing Siegelman’s appeal. The facts showed that an Alabama business man made a large donation to support the creation of a lottery with the profits to go to public schools. The governor appointed the contributor to a spot on Alabama’s hospital oversight board. A tit for tat? Not even close. If governors were indicted for appointing a campaign contributor to a board or commission, there would not be one chief executive still serving anywhere in the country. Kagan supported a conviction where there was no crime.

The list of similar questionable actions by Kagan is long. Her positions are often detrimental to individual rights and freedoms. If she is the best the country has to serve on the nation’s highest court, then the cream is far from rising to the top, and it’s mediocrity that is on the assent.

So is there a chance she will not be confirmed? Absolutely not. The lady’s a cinch, for as even some republicans are saying: “Elections have consequences.” Though mediocre in qualifications, Kagan is the President’s choice, and the democrats will offer support in lock step. The same scenario would be playing out if the unqualified nominee were a republican under a republican administration.

In the meantime, enough about these trivial concerns. Who cares who interprets our laws and protects our basic freedoms? After all, the new season of American Idol is not all that far off. And that’s when the voting really matters.


“So what if he is mediocre? There are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they?”

Senator Roman L. Hruska of Nebraska

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all is past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am central time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Posted by JoshuaWDelano

Jesse Jackson Says The Cavs Owner Sees Lebron James As A “Runaway Slave”

“He speaks as an owner of LeBron and not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers,” Jackson told The Associated Press. “His feelings of betrayal personify a slave-master mentality. He sees LeBron as a runaway slave.” “LeBron is not a child, nor is he bound to play on Gilbert’s plantation and be demeaned,” Jackson said. “He has been a model citizen and has inspired the children of Akron, Cleveland, the state of Ohio and the United States.”

Full Story: NY Daily News

Switzerland will not extradite Roman Polanski

Switzerland’s Justice Ministry announced today that it will not extradite Roman Polanski to the United States, the Associated Press reports. Swiss police arrested the director last September due to an outstanding American warrant; he was convicted here in 1977 of having unlawful sex with a minor but left the country before sentencing.