Posted tagged ‘law’

Another Reason to Abolish Capital Punishment

February 25, 2009

noose

I’ve gotten into a lot of arguments over the years with people who support the death penalty.  While I would usually cite the moral and philosophical issues I have with it, that argument was usually countered with “we are spending too much money on criminals as it is, so just get rid of them.”   Was happy to see that in light of the economic crisis, law makers are taking a closer look at their respective state budgets, and in an effort to save money by reducing spending where it isn’t needed, many have targeted capital punishment as an expense that should come off the books.  This NYTimes article explains how death penalty cases cost millions of extra dollars in court costs, and how the years of appeals and trials only exacerbate the problem of over-crowded prisons — an issue so severe in some areas that states are simply releasing [non-violent] offenders on the basis of capacity limitations.

Whatever the reason, let’s hope the tide against the death penalty continues to rise.

Abductee Fighting to Have CIA Torture Acknowledged

June 9, 2008

I was so glad to read this story.

I wrote about the plight of Khalid al-Masri in this post back in October, describing the disgraceful US Supreme Court decision to exercise a loophole and avoid hearing the case of man who was abducted, sent to Afghanistan where he was tortured and interrogated, and then later abandoned by the CIA. But al-Masri hasn’t given up yet. Along with a growing bastion of supporters, he is again putting pressure on the German government (he is a German citizen) to acknowledge what was done to him hold accountable the agents involved.

The ACLU has taken up his case in the US. We’ll see how far that goes.

Good for al-Masri for sticking to his guns and having the courage to relive this horrible ordeal in order to expose governmental corruption and receive the public apology he desrves. I hopes he gets a few billion out of it as well..though a billion dollars probably only exchanges to something like 3.5 euros. Good luck dude.

To read more about this case, click here.

Turkish Court Bans Headscarf In Universities — Again

June 6, 2008

This really pissed me off.   I’m going to Turkey for a few months on vacation; it has always been my dream vacation.  I think about it as a crossroads of modern human history, where so many civilizations have made their mark on the world, a mark whose beauty is reflected today in the diversity of the Turkish culture.

That’s why I was so pissed off by the news report today that the Turkish High Court overturned a legal change issued by Prime Minister Erdogan that would allow women to where the headscarf at Turkish universities on the grounds that the change violated laws protecting Turkish secularism.

Read that sentence again.  The purpose of the overturned legal change wasn’t to require women to wear the headscarf; it was to allow women who choose to wear it to attend a Turkish university. 

I know the history of Turkey is complex and that there is a strong general desire to protect secular laws from religious extremism, but this isn’t a question of zealotry or “Islamism” or security.  It is a question of liberty, justice, and equality.  Secularism can be maintained while preserving individual liberties.  These kind of laws cannot be made to assuage irrational fears; think about where the U.S. would be if lawmakers and courts never took a stand against irrational and often ignorant public opinion. The decision of the high court is appalling because Turkey is trying so hard to kiss EU ass and prove that it is progressive, yet refuses to pass laws securing individual liberties for it’s own citizens (the other well known grievance is the strict code of expressive censorship Turkey enforces). The courts are also considering banning Erdogan and his widely popular AKP party from politics altogether…they have banned entire parties in the past and are expected to do it again here.  

Obviously there are many other countries in the same boat, but I guess I just expect more from Turkey.  I am also especially sensitive to human rights violations that are validated by the courts…I place a lot of faith in court systems as the guardians against corruption, and I feel indignant when they instead become the purveyors of it (I wrote about a similar story a few months ago regarding a US supreme court decision).

Here’s hoping that Turkey can be a place where all people are afforded equal rights, and that any protests that result from this decision are widespread, yet peaceful.

Mexican Donkey Jailed 3 Days… For Acting Like an Ass

May 22, 2008

Ay Dios Mio.

If you’re gonna punish an animal like a human, shouldn’t the animal be given human rights?  I highly doubt the Donkey was Mirandized, or even given a phone call.  And good luck providing him with a jury of his peers…I’d love to voir dire that one.

Not only that, but I have evidence proving that the Donkey was drugged and incapacitated against his will prior to the alleged assault, and therefore cannot be held responsible for his actions:

PETA would have a field day with this. 

My Jury Duty Adventure

May 14, 2008

They got me.  After years of evasion, including several name and address changes, fake social security numbers, and 4 years of college just so that I could qualify for the student exemption, they found me. I shouldn’t have been so surprised.  No one can escape from…Jury Duty! (queue evil foreboding organ music]

I spent a few hours trying to think of ways to get declared exempt, which has become increasingly difficult in the NYC court system.  With my job and education, I couldn’t get the language exemption, and I’m not over 75 or whatever that age rule applies [there is no age limit for jury duty, but those over a certain age have the choice of declining].  I tried making a helmet out of foil and wearing my shoes and shirt the wrong way and taping a plastic parrot onto my shoulder, but in NYC, I realized that I would pass more for a hipster from the East Village than for my intended mentally-disabled exempt-ee.  Deflated, I just sucked it up and went to Queens County Criminal Court to start what would be a long day, finding some solace in my paid reprieve from work.

The first day was long and boring…200 people spending all day in a room waiting to be assigned to a case.  Once that happens, the pool of jurors for a specific case get sent to a court room to be questioned by the judge and the attorneys (in a criminal case, the attorneys would be a defense lawyer and an assistant district attorney).  There were so many jurors that my turn to be questioned didn’t come until 4pm the NEXT DAY (I came early the next day and waited..and waited…).  Finally, selection was over.  I was the last juror picked.

[quick sidebar:  during the first day of jury selection i was sitting behind an annoying woman who kept trying to make converation with everyone, except that she was rude and loud and no one wanted to talk to her.  Everytime the lady in charge would excuse people who claimed that their english wasnt good enough for jury duty, this lady would slap her knees and bitch about how “these immigrants are disgusting! they come here and dont wanna learn the language.  They spit on our great country and we have to clean up after them! Bla bla bla bla bla, I’m a whore, a lousy  wretched whore!” At least that’s how I remember it.  I shot spitballs into her hair all morning.]

Jury selection was brutal.  But then the case began.  And contrary to what both lawyers said to us during opening statements, the next few days actually did play out a lot like an episode of Law & Order. (I’m pitching a new idea to NBC…seeing since Law & Order has so many versions on TV already, I have begun writing a script for the latest volume –  Law & Order: Pissed Off Jurors.  Starring myself of course.  Open auditions next week for the role of sassy Court Officer.)

The case sounded boring at first – the defendant was indicted on the charge of bail jumping, a class E felony.  During trial, however, it was revealed that the defendant violated her bail not just for missing one court date, but by trying to jump ship so as to never show up at all; the defendant was brought into custody 8 months after the bench warrant for her arrest was issued.  And while the exact nature of her original charges were not specified (due to the hard-fought wins of the defense during pre-trial motions to suppress that information for fear of prejudicing the jurors), it was revealed during witness testimony that there were no less than 8 counts brought against her, a number of them felonies. 

The drama reached a climax when the ADA was conducting her direct examination of the former attorney of the defendant.  That was a risky call because her own witness, as a former representative of the defendant, had motive to be hostile and withhold information on the grounds of attorney-client privilege.  And hostile she was, though she proved no match for the ADA in the battle to see who could get the most flustered.  The ADA got so hot n bothered by the countless sustained objections and the obviously fabricated ignorance of the witness that she looked as if she might, at any second, charge the box and ninja kick her in the face (I was hoping she would; I noticed that the court officer had a taser handy).  Instead, she resorted to yelling over the calls from the judge to cease her improper line of questioning, and after being reprimanded by the judge for her lack of self-control, she unleashed the soliloquy of all soliloquies, explaining to the judge that we were all here to find the truth but no one could handle it, and how this was supposed to be about justice but she’s not being allowed to ask the questions she needs to ask…basically blaming the court for everything short of ozone depletion just because she couldn’t figure out how to properly phrase her questions.  She even turned around and started yelling at the trial spectators, and asked the judge to throw them out because of their constant snickering (they were laughing at her).  I felt really embarrassed for her, but I couldn’t help but feel excited by all the drama. As a fellow juror put it, “They put hot sauce on it today, boy!”

This is just about how it happened, more or less…

Yes.  Jury duty was spicy.

I won’t dwell on the deliberation, but that part was exciting too and I took an active role in explaining to the other jurors the deductive approach we had to take in order to reach a fair verdict, as well as my personal opinions on the case.  In other words, I used a stern tone and menacing glare (framed by my dark evil arab eyebrows) to render them my mental slaves and subsequently instructed them to find this chick GUILTY.  It worked in swaying all but one of the holdouts who kept insisting that the judge had something against the defendant, forcing us to take another whole day to deliberate, locked up in that dreadful musty back room. I was pissed, but she would not relent, and we went back and forth.

She eventually had a change of heart.  (I had a taser, too.)

The verdict? Jury duty is cool!  I give it a rare “whatchu talkin ’bout Hasselhoff?”  thumbs up. 

“Supreme Disgrace”

October 11, 2007

absolut_corruption.jpg

The Supreme Court recently refused to hear the case of Khaled al-Masri – the Lebanese-born German citizen who was kidnapped, deported, detained, and tortured by the CIA on the suspicion of being linked to al-Qaeda before eventually being released in a remote village of Albania – on the grounds that trying the case would risk the exposure of government secrets.

 Read that one more time. Then read this great editorial about it in the NYT.

The Supreme Court, whose main function to judge the fairness of legislation and keep the Executive powers from operating outside the law, refuses to grant a man a fair trial because the case might expose the secrets of the PARTY WHO ALLEGEDLY  COMMITTED THE CRIME, in this case, the US government.  So whenever the US government commits a crime it can get off the hook without so much as a trial because the actions of this entity are to remain confidential?  Remain confidential from whom?  American citizens, for the whom the government was built to serve and protect, and answer to when it operates outside the scope of the law of the land?  The law designed to protect state secrets in trials was not meant to serve as a basis to avoid even granting a trial.  I get the feeling that if this guy were an American citizen, this story would be getting a whole lot more press.  But since he was just some Arab German, the fact that his life was destroyed is apparently of much less consequence.

  khaled-al-masri.jpgKhaled al-Masri 

This is a perfect illustration of how the blanket defense of protecting state secrets and preserving “national security” has come to be unabashedly abused by the Bush administration.  What secrets are at stake here?  Secret prisons owned by the US in remote areas that operate outside the law?  The physical and psychological torture of detainees?  These ‘secrets’ are illegal not only in the realm of International law, which the US always seems to disregard when inconvenient, but also in the eyes of are own constitution.  THEY SHOULD BE EXPOSED.  That no Justices so much as rendered a dissenting opinion is disappointing and inexcusable.

THIS IS FUCKING CORRUPTION – BY AN ENTITY DESIGNED TO FIGHT IT.

As someone who once held the Supreme Court in high esteem for its ability and willingness to defend against the abuse of legislative and executive powers in the past, I am embarrassed and indignant by this travesty.