Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What bugs me about the Ferguson thing...

It's the ignorance surrounding what a Grand Jury does and how it is supposed to work.  And it doesn't come from just the general public since I saw one "legal scholar" make a comment that there should have been rigourous cross examination.

There are two different parts of the criminal process for determining whether a case should go to trial: the preliminary hearing and a grand jury.  Neither of these two proceedings involves a finding of guilt or punishment of a party.  In fact, no "jeopardy" attaches and one can be retried if found "innocent" in one of these proceedings.  The difference between the two is that a preliminary hearing looks like a trial it is open to the public with a prosecution, defence, and judge addressing the matter: None of those are present in a grand jury.

Grand jury proceedings are much more relaxed than normal court room proceedings. There is no judge present and frequently there are no lawyers except for the prosecutor. The prosecutor will explain the law to the jury and work with them to gather evidence and hear testimony. Under normal courtroom rules of evidence, exhibits and other testimony must adhere to strict rules before admission. In fact, a grand jury has broad power to see and hear almost anything they would like.

Well, almost everything.  United States v. Williams, 504 U.S. 36 (1992) points out that there is no right to testify or produce exculpatory evidence:
It is the grand jury’s function not ‘to enquire … upon what foundation [the charge may be] denied,’ or otherwise to try the suspect’s defenses, but only to examine ‘upon what foundation [the charge] is made’ by the prosecutor. Respublica v. Shaffer, 1 Dall. 236 (O. T. Phila. 1788); see also F. Wharton, Criminal Pleading and Practice § 360, pp. 248-249 (8th ed. 1880). As a consequence, neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented.
The difference in procedures and rules lead to a situation that a former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler would comment that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.”  Of course, that is also due to the fact that the burden of proof in these proceedings is less than a regular criminal trial: preponderance of the evidence v. beyond a reasonable doubt.  In other words, is it more likely than not that a crime occurred.

Federal law required a grand jury indictment before beginning a criminal proceeding.  There were 162,000 federal cases filed in 2010:  Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them. Of course, this was a state proceeding rather than a federal one (and the feds love cases they can't lose). On the other hand, “If the prosecutor wants an indictment (in a non-federal case) and doesn’t get one, something has gone horribly wrong,” said Andrew D. Leipold, a University of Illinois law professor who has written critically about grand juries. “It just doesn’t happen.”

 Of course, a lot of commenters are thinking that the prosecution didn't want to bring charges, but this is a high profile case with a lot at stake.  What better than to pick a procedure where these is no real scrutiny.  In fact, ordinarily the proceedings in a grand jury case should be sealed, but they have been released in this case to try and give some form of legitimacy that this was some form of adversarial proceeding, which gets to the comment about cross examination.

That didn't happen here.  In fact, from what I heard the prosecution basically discounted anyone who contradicted Officer Wilson's defence.  Additionally, this was done without any real cross examination, yet there is this mysterious "grand jury proceeding" to lend an air that "justice has been done" when that was hardly the case.

Of course, I can guess that people who believe that a white person can carry a gun late at night in a known drug and prostitution area will find that the police acted with justification in shooting an unarmed black youth who may have been surrendering.  If the police officer in the first instance faces reprimand--shouldn't he also in the second one?  In fact, it would seem more important that justice is done in the second situation since deadly force was actually used.

The real issue is not so much whether Michael Brown was an innocent young man as much as whether justice has truly been done.

Of course, that is something that far too many people have missed in this situation.

See also:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday again -- Fun Day, again!

And what could be more fun than a little Fiore video?



and now coming up on two-weeks post-election (or is that too weak?) a little home truth about that dark money from special interests:



and 'bomb it'.......rhymes with vomit!



and to round out the political commentary -- true of Congress while on recess, true of them now that they're back, except for some loud and nasty empty posturing.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Because ONLY Conservatives could be this kind of ugly-crazy

You couldn't make this up if you tried.

Conservatives on the religious right give God and religion a bad name.

Just a little perspective - the guy was court martialed while in the military, and likes the moniker "Dr. Chaps". He's got a very large file over at Right Wing Watch - and deservedly so.

Shame on Coloradoans who elected this jerk. They'd be better off electing a monkey, or maybe a dead guy, or an actual horse's rear end.

Smoke and Mirrors, and Gum - because you can't make up stuff this stupid from the right

Numb-nuts Bo Dietle, some 4 minutes in, personifies the idiocy of the radical right and their appalling lack of knowledge of other countries, customs or cuisine. You'd expect better from a former New York City cop, given the cultural diversity of that city, but it's best to expect dumbed down from a right wing nut who mostly appears on Imus in the Morning on Fox Business rather than Fox not-news, although in this case apparently the sole perpetual topic is offensively (Not) funny-business.

Then again, the Rush Limbo variety of conservative has to be talked down to, somewhere around an elementary school level.

Then there was this clear example of unprofessional standards of correction, of the kind of mistake one would expect from a child not an adult -- however this is typical of conservative propaganda, which follows the coverage of the Obama trip to China.

Conservatives believe things which are factually false on a daily basis -- and it diminishes us all, damages us all, dumbs down all of us.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Thanks, properly expressed

I've made no secret that I spent 12 years in the US Army and Reserve, with the vast majority of that time in the Reserve (in fact I was active duty only for my training time and a couple of extra activations).

Every time (lately) someone hears that I served, they "thank me for my service."  I appreciate the sentiment, it's both good and nice that people now recognize it's not easy, and far more so than for me, it's extremely stressful for those who were deployed overseas to a combat area, and even more than just stressful, dangerous/scarring for those who served in combat directly.

To THOSE folks (who served overseas and in even more in combat), I express my deep and profound thanks and gratitude.  The bottom line is, as soldiers, we go where we're sent, no matter the political leader or reason for the warfare.  We (they) served, and that service is beyond honorable, it's self-sacrificial with the laudable and idealistic goal of protecting US citizens AND the citizens of the country in which they served.  A simple thank-you is hardly sufficient, but at least on this webpage, and in person at that exact moment, it's all I have and all I can do.

But it's not all I can do in general nor is it close enough to "enough."  If you TRULY are grateful, VOTE, exercise your civic responsibility, show honor to their sacrifice to give you that right by using it.  If you are TRULY grateful, speak up, get educated, get involved, learn why our system of government works so well (mostly), and what you OUGHT to care about.  But more than anything else, if you are TRULY grateful, vote for those people who will fund the Veterans Administration and PAY for the care those veterans. who were injured in service, deserve to receive.  In short, put your money where your mouth is.  Pay out of your pocket for their care, for the care of their surviving family members (for those who've died), for the care for the roughly 2 MILLION homeless vets who need mental health care and a warm meal.  Saying "thanks" is nothing more than conscience salving lip-service letting you get away with doing nothing REAL if you don't back it up with action.  So, put up or shut-up, I appreciate your thanks, but if you really mean your thanks, act, don't talk.  Often times, when I hear "thank you", I want to laugh at it because it's such pablum, so hollow, without the actions to back it up.  If you are acting to help vets, then that's FAR FAR more meaningful to me than any words, and I'm very grateful that you did/do.  The point being, we've all been thanked 10,000 times, and if you aren't doing something (like pressing your Congressman to support veteran's benefits) then you're talking out both sides of your face and your thanks appear to be nothing other than hypocrisy. So ACT.