Archive for the ‘Civil Liberties’ Category

Exercise Your Right To Remain Silent

September 28, 2016

Prosecutorial Misconduct

July 1, 2016

Further Weakening The Fourth Amendment

June 21, 2016

“It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.”

The term “carceral state” was not spoken by Alex Jones, the late William Cooper, or anyone else that peddles in conspiracy theories. Those are the words of a Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, in her ruling on the case Utah v. Strieff.

Sadly, her opinion was a dissent, as cops are now allowed to conduct an illegal stop if an arrest warrant unrelated to the stop exists because “errors in judgment hardly rise to a purposeful or flagrant violation.” You can thank Justice Clarence Thomas for those insightful words.

We lost just a little bit more freedom because of this.

The Atlantic has an excellent write-up on the ruling.

Why “Criminals” Should Have Rights

April 9, 2016

Another vile example of what happens when law enforcement treats civilians as criminals with no rights-an illegal stop, illegal search, police brutality, and an illegal arrest:

Hayes again asks whether he’s getting a ticket and objects to Knight searching his mouth. At that point, a clearly agitated Knight says, “You take that out of your mouth right now or I will choke you out.” He then grabs Hayes by the lapels of his shirt and says again: “I will choke you out right now. Take that out your mouth.”

Within a couple of seconds, Knight throws Hayes to the hood of the vehicle, out of view of the camera. Hayes says, “What’s the problem, officer?” and then there’s only audio of a scuffle, with Knight repeatedly telling Hayes to put his hands behind his back and Hayes crying out in pain. Knight then shows up in the video holding his flashlight and Hayes’s hat. He puts Hayes’s hat on the hood, then begins searching around the vehicle (presumably for the baggie of drugs he thought Hayes was hiding). Hayes comes back into the frame about five minutes later wearing handcuffs, his head bloodied.

Video of the stop is in the article.

Why “Criminals” Should Have Rights

February 10, 2016

How can you turn an innocent suspect into a criminal? Deprive them of sleep:

The New Scientist article notes several cases in which a sleep-deprived suspect was later exonerated, including Damon Thibodeaux, who was wrongly imprisoned in Louisiana for 15 years. There’s also Daniel Anderson of Chicago, who spent 25 years in prison for a sleep-deprived confession. Frank Sterling served more than 18 years in a New York prison after falsely confessing to raping and killing a 74-year-old woman in 1988. His confession came after 12 straight hours of interrogation. He tried to explain what he was going through to New York magazine in 2010: “They just wore me down . . . I was just so tired. Remember, I hadn’t had any sleep since about 2:30 Tuesday night . . .“It’s like, ‘Come on, guys, I’m tired—what do you want me to do, just confess to it?’ It’s like, yeah—I wanted to get it over with, get home, and get some sleep . . . Eighteen years and nine months later, I finally get to go home.”

Sleep deprivation can even cause people to falsely admit to raping and killing their own children. Jerry Hobbs, an Illinois man who confessed to raping and murdering his daughter and her friend, spent five years in jail before he was cleared for the crimes. DNA had exonerated him after just two years, but citing his confession, prosecutors came up with bizarre alternate narratives to explain why the DNA found in the victims didn’t come from Hobbs. Because he was out looking for his daughter the night before his arrest, Hobbs hadn’t slept in 24 hours. After his arrest, he was interrogated for 20 hours straight, which means he’d gone nearly two full days with no sleep before confessing. Kevin Fox, another Illinois man, falsely confessed to raping and killing his daughter after 14 straight hours of interrogation. He remained in jail for eight months until DNA testing exonerated him and implicated another man for the crime.

More here.

I was on call for jury duty last year, and witnessed a voir dire session. I was stunned how quickly my so-called peers were quick to pronounce guilt just based on the level of accusation. That experience, coupled with stories like this, show just how important it is that we safeguard the rights of all people.

In today’s political climate, believing in this probably makes me a “p—y.”

The Republican Presidential Field: Pro-Torture

February 7, 2016


“I would bring back waterboarding, and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” said Trump, speaking of the “enhanced interrogation technique” that simulates drowning.

President Obama banned waterboarding, which had been used by the CIA under the Bush administration.

In the same exchange, Cruz also said he would be open to waterboarding in emergency situations, such as to stop an imminent terrorist attack. Rubio also approved of it, saying that “anti-terrorism” situations should be handled differently than “law enforcement,” and could follow different rules.

Torture is evil. Anyone wishing to revive it as official US counter-terrorist policy doesn’t deserve any respect.

The Fourth Amendment: An Endangered Species

October 7, 2015

From the Washington Post:

New Jersey’s highest court has struck down the state’s unusually strict standard for allowing police to search a car without having to get a judge-approved warrant.

In a split ruling, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that police don’t have to demonstrate an urgent need to dispense with a warrant when they have probable cause to suspect a car on the road contains evidence of a crime.

Thursday’s decision brings the state’s requirement for warrantless car searches in line with the federal standard, which requires no such exigent circumstances under the so-called “automobile exception” to the Fourth Amendment. Most states follow the federal standard.

What are the possible ramifications of this continued erosion of the 4th Amendment? Radley Balko gives the ugly details:

But because the courts won’t typically second-guess the motives of police officers, this essentially becomes an instructional on how to conduct a warrantless search. Simply claim to smell marijuana. In states like Virginia and Florida, an officer’s claim to have smelled pot alone is enough to justify a vehicle search. (Although in Arizona, it is not enough to justify a search of your home.) In Texas, it was recently used to justify a cavity search of a woman’s vagina. In fact, in Kentucky v. King, the Supreme Court case Fleischman mentions, the officers only knocked on the door to the apartment in question by mistake. The court found that so long as the mistake was unintentional, it didn’t matter.

So if you’re a cop who wants to search a home without a warrant, simply knock on the door, claim to have heard “rustling around” or to have smelled marijuana. Break in and search the home. If you find something illegal, make your arrests and celebrate your success. Just remember to note what you smelled or heard on your report, and be sure to note that you originally knocked on the door after mistaking it for a different one.

If you don’t find anything illegal, you’re probably going to be fine. It’s expensive and time-consuming for an innocent person to file a civil rights lawsuit over an illegal search. Most won’t find an attorney willing to take the case. Most won’t bother to try. For the few who do, your qualified immunity will make it difficult for them to even get in front of a jury. Again, remember the courts aren’t likely to second-guess your claims about what you heard or smelled, even if your search comes up empty. On the off-chance that your victim somehow gets over those hurdles and gets to trial, you can take comfort in the fact that juries rarely rule against police officers.

Kim Davis And Religious Liberty

September 9, 2015

Should Ms. Davis have been sent to jail for not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples? Probably not.

But don’t conflate her stance with the exercise of religious liberty. When Ms. Davis used her powers as a public official to impose a selective reading of the Bible on same-sex couples, she violated the establishment clause of the Constitution. If anyone’s religious liberty was violated, it was the liberty of the same-sex couples who do not accept Ms. Davis’s selective Christianity, but were turned away because her religious viewpoint (temporarily) became the official stance of Rowan County. has their take:

Demilitarizing The Police? Not So Fast….

May 19, 2015

From Radley Balko’s Washington Post blog, some welcome news from the Obama administration as they plan to reform the controversial 1033 program:

According to NBC News, the new policy will stop “tanks and other tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, firearms and ammunition measuring .50-caliber and larger, grenade launchers and bayonets” from being given to local police agencies.

Additionally, the new policy would attach some restrictions and conditions to the transfer of other equipment, “including armored tactical vehicles like those used in Ferguson, as well as many types of firearms, ammunition and explosives.” These restrictions include requiring the agencies to present “a clear and persuasive explanation of the need for the controlled equipment,” adopt community-oriented policing strategies, agree to “close federal oversight and monitoring overseen by a new federal agency with the power to conduct local compliance reviews,” train officers who will be using the gear, and keep data on how the equipment is used and with what results.

The news, unfortunately, has a caveat:

That said, most of the militarization today happens outside the 1033 Program. As the Heritage Foundation reported last year, few of the weapons we saw in those iconic images coming out of Ferguson were obtained through 1033. That program created the thirst for militarization, but police agencies can now quench that thirst elsewhere. Since 2003, for example, the Department of Homeland Security has been giving grants to police departments around the country to purchase new military-grade gear. That program now dwarfs the 1033 Program. It has also given rise to a cottage industry of companies that build gear in exchange for those DHS checks. Those companies now have a significant lobbying presence in Washington. I suspect that presence will now only grow stronger. So if the Obama administration really wants to roll back police militarization, this program needs reform, too.

The Proper Response To “Contempt Of Cop”

April 17, 2015

As stated in the video description in the YouTube link, this is a pretty famous video. Maybe I’m misreading the intent, but the implication from the voiceover guy seems to be that this motorist deserved to have his behind handed to him, but the motorist is “lucky” to be dealing with a patient state trooper.

If a cop’s instinct in this situation is to resort to screaming and violence, that cop is unfit for duty.

No tasers were involved in the video above. No gunshots. No body slam tackles. No restraint holds. No punching. No kicking. No slamming anyone’s head. At worst, a little bit of condescension as the state trooper had the motorist pick up his litter.

Compare the above video to this video, of a woman “resisting arrest” for parking tickets.

A badge is not supposed to give you a license to assault people. Civilians most certainly are held accountable for violence against others, even if if the violence is an “accident.” Can we see violent police officers consistently held to the same standards?