Court and Judicial Corruption News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on court and judicial corruption
Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby says the city will no longer prosecute for prostitution, drug possession and other low-level offenses. Mosby made the announcement on Friday following her office's one-year experiment in not prosecuting minor offenses to decrease the spread of Covid-19 behind bars. "Today, America's war on drug users is over in the city of Baltimore. We leave behind the era of tough-on-crime prosecution and zero tolerance policing and no longer default to the status quo to criminalize mostly people of color for addiction, said Mosby. The experiment, known as The Covid Criminal Justice Policies, is an approach to crime developed with public health authorities. Instead of prosecuting people arrested for minor crimes ... the program dealt with those crimes as public health issues and work with community partners to help find solutions. The program has led to decreases in the overall incarcerated Baltimore population by 18%. Violent and property crimes are down 20% and 36% respectively. Mosby said her office will no longer prosecute the following offenses: drug and drug paraphernalia possession, prostitution, trespassing, minor traffic offense, open container violations, and urinating and defecating in public. The state's attorney's office is also working with the Baltimore Police Department and Baltimore Crisis Response Inc. (BCRI), a crisis center dealing with mental health and substance abuse issue, to offer services instead of arresting individuals.
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John Oliver returned to Last Week Tonight with another examination of an unjust cog in America’s criminal justice system: the unrepresentative makeup of trial juries. Serving on a “jury of your peers” is an “essential civic duty”, Oliver said. But in practice, said “peers” are not chosen from a fair cross-section of society. People of color and particularly black Americans are chronically underrepresented in jury pools. First, there’s the list of potential jurors, which in many states draws from voter registration data or drivers’ license lists, both of which disproportionately exclude people of color. Many states contract jury selection to private companies, whose methods, when revealed, fall far short of truly representative or random; Oliver pointed to one example in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a private company accidentally excluded zip codes in which 90% of the county’s black residents lived. Once potential jurors show up for selection, prosecutors can weed out jurors of color. Although the supreme court ruled in 1986 that prosecutors can’t strike jurors on the basis of race, “it turns out that’s a pretty easy rule to get around,” said Oliver. “All you have to do is just come up with some reason other than race to strike a juror.” To demonstrate the brazen efforts prosecutors will take to whitewash juries, Oliver pointed to the six murder trials for Curtis Flowers in Mississippi, a black man whose case eventually reached the supreme court, which decided that the prosecutor had repeatedly and blatantly filtered out any potential black jurors.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on judicial system corruption from reliable major media sources.
More than six years after the FBI crime laboratory was rocked by controversy, the Justice Department has identified about 3,000 criminal cases that could have been affected by flawed science and skewed testimony. Government officials told The Associated Press they are aware of between 100 and 150 cases in which prosecutors have alerted defendants of problems they concluded were material to verdicts. None has resulted in overturned convictions, they said. The identification of cases and prosecutorial reviews are the final stages of a scandal that shook the FBI during the mid-1990s when a senior chemist at the famed crime lab went public with allegations of shoddy work, tainted evidence and skewed testimony. A Justice Department internal investigation concluded in 1997 that 13 lab technicians made scientific errors in cases or slanted testimony to help prosecutors. Several were reprimanded, but none was fired or prosecuted. Some criminal defense lawyers are concerned by the Justice Department's decision to let federal, state and local prosecutors decide whether to notify defendants of problems. "That's like asking the fox to guard the hen house," said former federal prosecutor Neal Sonnett. He is past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "If there is a possibility that evidence has been tainted, then the Department of Justice or prosecutors should not be the arbiter of whether it's material," Sonnett said.
Note: In 2015, the FBI admitted its scientists used flawed evidence for decades to help prosecutors wrongfully convict defendants. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption from reliable major media sources.
The Justice Department inspector general's office has determined that the FBI crime laboratory made "scientifically unsound" conclusions in the Oklahoma City bombing case, finding that supervisors approved lab reports they "cannot support" and many analyses were "biased in favor of the prosecution." The still-secret draft report, obtained by The Times, also concludes that FBI lab officials may have erred about the size of the blast and the amount of explosives involved and may not know for certain that ammonium nitrate was used for the main charge that killed 168 people and injured more than 850 others. The draft report shows that FBI examiners could not identify the triggering device for the truck bomb or how it was detonated on April 19, 1995, and it warns that a poorly maintained lab environment could have led to contamination of critical pieces of evidence, such as debris found on the clothing of defendant Timothy J. McVeigh. If entered into evidence at McVeigh's trial ... the draft report could provide a measure of doubt about whether bomb residue evidence was properly handled and professionally examined by experts at the Washington lab. The Justice investigation began after complaints were made by Frederic Whitehurst, an FBI chemist and the principal whistle blower on problems at the lab. While confirming many accusations made by Whitehurst and others, the report also knocks down a number of Whitehurst's charges.
Note: Read more about major issues with the Oklahoma City bombing investigation. More recently, the FBI has admitted to problems in its forensics unit leading to decades of flawed testimony in criminal trials. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption from reliable major media sources.
Twenty-nine Nobel laureates have condemned alleged "judicial harassment" by Chevron and urged the release of a US environmental lawyer who was put under house arrest for pursuing oil-spill compensation claims on behalf of indigenous tribes in the Amazon. The open letter signed by scientists, authors, environmentalists and human rights activists said the treatment of lawyer Steven Donziger, whose movements have been restricted for more than 250 days, was one of the world's most egregious cases of judicial harassment and defamation. Donziger represents 30,000 indigenous people and small farmers who won a $9.5bn class action lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuadorean courts in 2013, as compensation for the contamination of their land by oil extraction activities. This judgment was one of the largest ever against an oil company, but not a cent of these damages has been paid to the plaintiffs. Donziger, who has been involved with the case for 27 years, has pressed for justice and payment of damages to his clients at increasing personal cost. His reputation, legal credentials and liberty have come under attack. Chevron has lobbied for his removal from bar associations and launched a countersuit accusing him of bribery and fraud, which was upheld by district judge Lewis A Kaplan in 2014. It was later reported that Chevron paid more than a million dollars for one of the key witnesses in the case – an Ecuadorean judge – to come to the United States. That witness later said he lied under oath.
Note: For lots more, read this Mother Jones article titled "How Did a Lawyer Who Took on Big Oil and Won End up Under House Arrest?." For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption from reliable major media sources.
The Supreme Court on Monday shielded a police officer from being sued for shooting an Arizona woman in her front yard, once again making it harder to bring legal action against officers who use excessive force, even against an innocent person. With two dissents, the high court tossed out a lawsuit by a Tucson woman who was shot four times outside her home because she was seen carrying a large knife. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in dissent the victim did not threaten the police or a friend who was standing nearby. This "decision is not just wrong on the law; it also sends an alarming signal to law enforcement officers and the public," Sotomayor wrote. Since the Civil War, federal law has allowed people to sue government officials, including the police, for violating their constitutional rights. But in recent years, the Supreme Court has erected a shield of immunity for police and said officers may not be sued unless victims can point to a nearly identical shooting that had been deemed unconstitutionally excessive in a previous decision. The justices did not rule on whether officer Andrew Kisela acted reasonably when he used potentially deadly force against Amy Hughes. The court instead ruled [that Kisela] could not be sued because the victim could not cite a similar case. Sotomayor said the majority had revised the facts to favor the officer. "Hughes was nowhere near the officers, had committed no illegal act, was suspected of no crime, and did not raise the knife," she wrote.
Eric Loomis pleaded guilty to attempting to flee an officer, and no contest to operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent. Neither of his crimes mandates prison time. At Mr. Loomis’s sentencing, the judge cited, among other factors, Mr. Loomis’s high risk of recidivism as predicted by a computer program called COMPAS, a risk assessment algorithm used by the state of Wisconsin. The judge denied probation and prescribed an 11-year sentence. No one knows exactly how COMPAS works; its manufacturer refuses to disclose the proprietary algorithm. We only know the final risk assessment score it spits out, which judges may consider at sentencing. Mr. Loomis challenged the use of an algorithm as a violation of his due process rights. The United States Supreme Court declined to hear his case, meaning a majority of justices effectively condoned the algorithm’s use. Shifting the sentencing responsibility [from judges] to a computer does not necessarily eliminate bias; it delegates and often compounds it. Algorithms like COMPAS simply mimic the data with which we train them. An algorithm that accurately reflects our world also necessarily reflects our biases. A ProPublica study found that COMPAS predicts black defendants will have higher risks of recidivism than they actually do, while white defendants are predicted to have lower rates than they actually do.
In the annals of wrongful convictions, there is nothing that comes close in size to the epic drug-lab scandal that is entering its dramatic final act in Massachusetts. About 23,000 people convicted of low-level drug crimes are expected to have their cases wiped away next month en masse, the result of a five-year court fight over the work of a rogue chemist. The prosecutors didn't want the scandal to end like this. They fought for a way to preserve the convictions. The chemist, Annie Dookhan ... worked at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Boston for nearly a decade before her misconduct was exposed in 2012. She admitted to tampering with evidence, forging test results and lying about it. She served three years in prison. [It] is not entirely clear why Dookhan ... felt compelled to change test results on such a massive scale. She was by far the lab's most prolific analyst, a record that impressed her supervisors but also worried her co-workers - a red flag that went overlooked for years. She also maintained friendly relationships with prosecutors, even though her role was to remain objective. Lab scandals have undermined thousands of convictions in eight states in the past decade. Critics say forensic chemists feel a duty to help prosecutors rather than remain neutral. Because of the system's reliance on plea bargains to keep cases moving, defendants often don't have a chance to challenge results from drug labs.
Note: The FBI was found to have faked an entire branch of forensic science. If one chemist's falsified results led to so many unjust criminal convictions, and lab scandals are known to have undermined convictions in eight states, how trustworthy is the science that feeds the extremely profitable mass incarceration industry? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing judicial corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
There was once a time - before the investigations, before the sexual abuse conviction - when rich and famous men loved to hang around with Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire money manager who loved to party. President Trump called Epstein a “terrific guy” back in 2002, saying that “he’s a lot of fun to be with. He likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” Now, Trump is on the witness list in a Florida court battle over how federal prosecutors handled allegations that Epstein, 64, sexually abused more than 40 minor girls, most of them between the ages of 13 and 17. The lawsuit questions why Trump’s nominee for labor secretary, former Miami U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta ... cut a non-prosecution deal with Epstein a decade ago rather than pursuing a federal indictment that Acosta’s staff had advocated. Epstein pleaded guilty to a Florida state charge of felony solicitation of underage girls in 2008 and served a 13-month jail sentence. Epstein’s unusually light punishment - he was facing up to a life sentence had he been convicted on federal charges - has raised questions about how Acosta handled the case. In [a] 2011 letter explaining his decision in the Epstein case, Acosta said he backed off from pressing charges after “a year-long assault on the prosecution and the prosecutors” by “an army of legal superstars” who represented Epstein.
Racial disparities have long been evident in the U.S. criminal justice system, but a new report drilling into statistics on wrongful convictions points up exactly how nefarious the problem is. African Americans are much more likely to be wrongfully convicted of a murder, sexual assault or drug offense than whites. The report, by the National Registry of Exonerations, found that “innocent black people are about seven times more likely to be convicted of murder than innocent white people,” and thus also account for a disproportionate share of the growing number of exonerations. African Americans who were convicted and then exonerated of murder charges also spent four years longer on death row than wrongfully convicted whites (and three years longer for those sentenced to prison). According to the report, African Americans convicted of murder “are about 50% more likely to be innocent than other convicted murderers,” and that such wrongful convictions, even when later corrected, expands the impact of violence on African American communities.
I was 29 and mowing the lawn at my mother’s house in Birmingham, Alabama, on a hot day in July 1985 when I looked up and saw two police officers. I asked the detective 50 times why I was being arrested. Eventually, he told me I was being arrested for a robbery. I told him, “You have the wrong man.” He said, “I don’t care whether you did it or not. You will be convicted.” At the station, it became clear I’d been at work when the robbery occurred. The detective verified this with my supervisor, but then told me they were going to charge me with two counts of first-degree murder from two other robberies. When I met my appointed lawyer, I told him I was innocent. He said, “All of y’all always say you didn’t do something.” I might have seen him three times in the two years I waited for trial. The only evidence linking me to the crime was the testimony of a ballistics expert who said the bullets from the murder weapon could be a match to my mother’s gun. They found me guilty. [In] 1986 I went to death row. Eventually, [in] 2015, the State of Alabama dropped all charges. I was released that same day. When you’ve been locked up for nearly 30 years, nothing is the same. It was like walking out on to another planet at the age of 58. Every night, I go outside and look up at the stars and moon, because for years I could not see either. Now, I am determined to go wherever I am asked to help end the death penalty. I am so thankful that I get to travel with Lifelines and [the Equal Justice Initiative], and share my story.
Two documentary film-makers are facing decades in prison for recording US oil pipeline protests, with serious felony charges that first amendment advocates say are part of a growing number of attacks on freedom of the press. The controversial prosecutions of Deia Schlosberg and Lindsey Grayzel are moving forward after a judge in North Dakota rejected “riot” charges filed against Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman for her high-profile reporting at the Dakota Access pipeline protests. But authorities in other parts of North Dakota and in Washington state have continued to target other film-makers over their recent reporting on similar demonstrations. Schlosberg, a New York-based film-maker, is facing three felony conspiracy charges for filming protesters on 11 October at a TransCanada Keystone Pipeline site in Pembina County in North Dakota. The 36-year-old ... could face 45 years in prison. In Goodman’s case, a judge forced prosecutors to drop a serious “riot” charge. But prosecutors and sheriff’s officials said they may continue to pursue other charges against the critically acclaimed journalist. In Schlosberg’s charges, North Dakota prosecutors have alleged that she was part of a conspiracy, claiming she traveled with protesters “with the objective of diverting the flow of oil”. “I was surprised at the conspiracy charges. I never thought that would ever happen,” her attorney Robert Woods told the Guardian. “All she was doing was her job of being a journalist and covering the story.”
A bipartisan campaign to reduce mass incarceration has led to enormous declines in new inmates from big cities, cutting America’s prison population for the first time since the 1970s. But large parts of rural and suburban America ... have gone the opposite direction. Prison admissions in counties with fewer than 100,000 people have risen even as crime has fallen. Just a decade ago, people in rural, suburban and urban areas were all about equally likely to go to prison. But now people in small counties are about 50 percent more likely to go to prison than people in populous counties. The stark disparities in how counties punish crime show the limits of recent state and federal changes to reduce the number of inmates. Far from Washington and state capitals, county prosecutors and judges continue to wield great power over who goes to prison and for how long. And many of them have no interest in reducing the prison population. The divide does not appear to be driven by changes in crime, which fell in rural and urban areas at roughly equal rates. Cities have adopted a more lenient approach to drug offenses in particular, diverting many low-level drug offenders to probation or treatment rather than to jail. Those choices have started to reverse - if only modestly - longstanding racial disparities in American prisons, where blacks and Hispanics are incarcerated at drastically higher rates than whites. But rural, mostly white and politically conservative counties have continued to send more drug offenders to prison.
Note: The war on drugs has been called a "trillion-dollar failure," and spending on jails outpaced spending on schools by three times over the last 30 years. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about judicial system corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
Police officers arrest more than 1.2 million people a year in the United States on charges of illegal drug possession. Field tests ... help them move quickly from suspicion to conviction. But the kits - which cost about $2 each and have changed little since 1973 - are far from reliable. Some tests ... use a single tube of a chemical called cobalt thiocyanate, which turns blue when it is exposed to cocaine. But cobalt thiocyanate also turns blue when it is exposed to more than 80 other compounds, including methadone, certain acne medications and several common household cleaners. Other tests use three tubes, which the officer can break in a specific order to rule out everything but the drug in question - but if the officer breaks the tubes in the wrong order, that, too, can invalidate the results. There are no established error rates for the field tests, in part because their accuracy varies so widely depending on who is using them and how. In Las Vegas, authorities re-examined a sampling of cocaine field tests conducted between 2010 and 2013 and found that 33 percent of them were false positives. By 1978, the Department of Justice had determined that field tests “should not be used for evidential purposes,” and the field tests in use today remain inadmissible at trial in nearly every jurisdiction. But this has proved to be a meaningless prohibition. Most drug cases in the United States are decided well before they reach trial, by the far more informal process of plea bargaining.
Note: Drug test field kits sometimes produce wildly inaccurate results. And recently the FBI was found to have faked an entire branch of forensic science. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing judicial corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
There are more than 20 states in the U.S. where growing small amounts of marijuana is legal. North Carolina isn’t one of them. Those caught cultivating cannabis in the Tar Heel State are usually slapped with a felony, prison time, and anywhere from a $200 to $200,000 fine. Unless, apparently, that person is a police officer. Take the case of Thomas Daniel Gaskins. Police arrested the 33-year-old on June 13 in connection to 11 marijuana plants found in a forest. At the time of his arrest, Gaskins ... worked as a police officer. Local news confirmed the arrest and initially reported that he had been charged both with “manufacturing” and possession of marijuana. But later reports began reflecting that he had only been charged with possession, a misdemeanor. His story is a perfect representation of the war on drugs’ biggest problem - racial bias. Minorities are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for pot than whites. While 11 marijuana plants may not seem like a large offense, it dwarfs many marijuana crimes that minorities are serving life sentences for today. Take the case of Fate Vincent Winslow, who was sentenced to life in prison ... for selling $20 worth of weed to an undercover officer. Winslow was accompanied by a white man in the sale, who - despite receiving $15 of the $20 - was never even arrested. That’s not to say that white men haven’t fallen victim to the drug war, just that they’re far less likely to serve the kind of hard time that minorities are often slapped with.
A cybersecurity taskforce chief turned child pornography collector seems poised to dodge prison. Before agents arrived at his house across from Ballard’s West Woodland Elementary School ... Brian Haller led the Seattle chapter of an FBI/private-sector group tasked with fighting computer crime. Haller had access to a secure FBI online platform and email system, though he is not alleged to have used either to collect child porn. Haller was one of the smaller fish caught in an expansive FBI sting last year. Agents found the law enforcement insider used a “dark web” service – a Tor network site – to collect 600 files capturing the sexual abuse and exploitation of countless children. Usually, Haller’s crimes could carry a five-year prison term. Instead, federal prosecutors have asked that Haller, 40, be spared even jail time when he is sentenced Friday for possession of child pornography. The standard sentencing range for a defendant like Haller is four to five years in federal prison. [Haller] was identified through a wide-ranging, controversial sting operation [that] has prompted charges against more than 130 others, including a Vancouver special education worker and a Fort Lewis soldier.
Note: It was reported in 2012 that two US states appeared to be "running state-protected child trafficking rings, with evidence of cops, judges, lawyers, clergy and government employees covering for each other." Watch an excellent segment by Australia's "60-Minutes" team "Spies, Lords and Predators" on a pedophile ring in the UK which leads directly to the highest levels of government. A second suppressed documentary, "Conspiracy of Silence," goes even deeper into this topic in the US. For more, see concise summaries of sexual abuse scandal news articles.
An anti-Iranian group calling itself “United Against Nuclear Iran” (UANI) ... is very likely a front for some combination of the Israeli and U.S. intelligence services. When launched, NBC described its mission as waging “economic and psychological warfare” against Iran. The group was founded and is run and guided by a roster of ... neocon extremists such as Joe Lieberman, former Bush Homeland Security adviser (and current CNN “analyst”) Fran Townsend, former CIA Director James Woolsey, and former Mossad Director Meir Dagan. In May 2013, UANI launched a “name and shame” campaign designed to publicly identify — and malign — any individuals or entities enabling trade with Iran. One of the accused was the shipping company of Greek billionaire Victor Restis, who ... sued UANI for defamation in a New York federal court. Then something quite extraordinary happened: In September of last year, the U.S. government, which was not a party, formally intervened in the lawsuit, and demanded that the court ... dismiss the lawsuit against UANI before it could even start, on the ground that allowing the case to proceed would damage national security. Why would such a group like this even possess “state secrets”? It would be illegal to give them such material. The U.S. government provide no clue as to what the supposedly endangered “state secrets” are. As a result of the DOJ’s protection, UANI cannot be sued. This group of neocon extremists now has a license to defame anyone they want.
Eric Garner was not the first American to be choked by the police, and he will not be the last, thanks to legal rules that prevent victims of police violence from asking federal courts to help stop deadly practices. The 1983 case City of Los Angeles v. Lyons vividly illustrates the problem. That case also involved an African-American man choked by the police without provocation. Unlike Mr. Garner, Adolph Lyons survived. He then filed a federal lawsuit, asking the city to compensate him for his injuries. He also asked the court to prevent the Los Angeles Police Department from using chokeholds in the future. The trial court ordered the L.A.P.D. to stop using chokeholds. The Supreme Court overturned this order. The court explained that Mr. Lyons would have needed to prove that he personally was likely to be choked again in order for his lawsuit to be a vehicle for systemic reform. This is the legal standard when a plaintiff asks a federal court for an injunction — or a forward-looking legal order. When the stakes are this deadly, federal courts should step in. If police departments still failed to comply, federal judges could impose penalties. How do we know? Consider school segregation. Local officials had promised change but failed to ensure it. It took decades of close supervision by federal courts to make a dent in the problem. As the courts started to leave this field in more recent years, de facto segregation returned.
Barry Davis stood before a judge and admitted to a horrific crime: aggravated sodomy of a 6-year-old girl. Davis served two years in prison and eight on probation, and his name was to live forever on an ignominious list: Georgia’s sex offender registry. But suddenly last year, all was forgiven. Georgia’s parole board granted Davis an unconditional pardon, recognizing his restored reputation and absolving ... him of his crime. The board did so without notifying Davis’ victim, her family, or the prosecutor and judge who sent him to prison. And now Davis, like at least one other pardoned child molester from Georgia, says he no longer has to comply with the state’s restrictions on sex offenders. Davis’ case underscores the near-absolute autonomy exercised by Georgia’s Board of Pardons and Paroles, a government agency that is not accountable to legislators, judges, or even the governor who appoints its members. The board classifies almost all material in its files as “confidential state secrets.” The board does not meet in public to consider cases. It announces no justification for its decisions. Without oversight or transparency, the board quietly restored the firearms rights of more than 1,400 felons in six years. In Davis’ case, the board apparently relied only on information that Davis himself assembled. So the board didn’t hear about his victim’s years of psychological therapy. And it learned nothing about Davis’ efforts, as late as 2011, to persuade the victim to claim the crime never happened.
Note: Some progress has been made in years since this article was published, but there are still serious problems. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on sexual abuse scandals and judicial system corruption.
Leaders at an African summit have voted to give themselves and their allies immunity from prosecution for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide at a new African Court of Justice and Human Rights. The continent ... has two sitting presidents and one ousted president facing charges at the International Criminal Court. Amnesty International called it "a backward step in the fight against impunity and a betrayal of victims of serious violations of human rights." The decision came [on June 27] at an African Union summit vote in Equatorial Guinea from which journalists were excluded, Amnesty International said. News of the vote was imparted obliquely in a statement [on June 30] about the summit outcomes. A paragraph listing legal instruments agreed at the meeting included the "Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights." That amendment bars the court from prosecuting sitting African leaders and vaguely identified "senior officials." Forty-two African and international civil society and rights groups had objected to the amendment, noting in an open letter before the summit that the impunity violates international and domestic laws as well as the constitution of the African Union.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing war crimes news articles from reliable major media sources.
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