Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Supreme Court case expands access rights, unlocks government data--including California Bar Association records

New Supreme Court case expands access rights, unlocks government data
Peter Scheer, Executive Director
First Amendment Coaltion

Dec. 2013 The First Amendment Coalition won a major victory last week in a test case about government transparency and public access to government data. I'm writing to share the good news and to use the occasion to ask you to make a year-end donation to FAC.

The California Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, established that no agency of government can exempt itself from the public's right to know. The State Bar—an arm of the judiciary that regulates lawyers—had argued that, since it is not covered by California's FOIA law, it has no obligation to make its records available for public review. The Court's answer: Sorry, but you do!

The Court said the Bar's records--specifically, Bar admissions data needed for academic research on affirmative action---are subject to a “common law” right of access. This right is not limited to records of official actions or records in court cases, but extends to any government records whose “disclosure would contribute significantly to public understanding of government activities,” the Court held.

This revived common law right of access could have a far-reaching impact, potentially providing an alternate remedy whenever state FOIA laws, for a variety of reasons, are of no avail.

But there's more . . .

The Court also held that government data can’t be withheld on privacy grounds as long as the data are “de-identified” by stripping out identifiers, controlling data cell sizes, and other steps that have become standard in professional research. The Court’s reasoning: There is no conflict between privacy rights and public access rights when the disclosed data can’t be linked to identifiable individuals.

This aspect of the Court's decision settles a central issue in debates over public access to, and use of, government data that pertain to private individuals---an issue that comes up in many contexts. The Court's holding is a powerful tool for unlocking government databases.

Our victory comes after a long battle with the State Bar—a battle that may drag on, unfortunately, if the Bar chooses to contest the procedures proposed by FAC and our co-plaintiff, UCLA Professor Richard Sander, for de-identifying the Bar's admissions data.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Los Angeles doctor runs down pedestrian, then gets him arrested

Author Steve Bevilacqua

Doctor causes harm, then lies about it to escape blame. Haven't I heard this before?

"...road rage lunatic who happened to be a doctor...The driver also pulled the gender card and claimed that her actions were justified because she was "very afraid" of me, despite the fact that she was in a car and I was on my ass in the street."

Book: A Layman's Handbook for Those Falsely Accused of Felonies
Man Run Over By Doctor Faced Lengthy Prison Sentence & Was Then Redeemed On National TV By Judge Judy
Ryan McCormick
Nov 19, 2013

One day Steve Bevilacqua was hit by a car crossing the street and almost went to prison for it. The driver who ran him down was charged with nothing, and Steve spent months in court fighting mandatory prison sentences for imaginary crimes. His book "KAFKA AT THE BEACH: A Layman's Handbook for Those Falsely Accused of Felonies" offers a firsthand account of being on the wrong end of America's justice system.

In KAFKA AT THE BEACH Steve Bevilacqua reveals:

How & why he was facing an 18-month mandatory prison sentence for assault, battery, and strong-armed robbery against the woman who ran him over with her car - crimes he did not commit.

How after he was run over, the driver cursed him, got out of her car, and then attempted to physically assault him.

A corrupt LAPD detective adds more false charges to Steve's existing ones.

In court, Steve meet the alcoholic city attorney who, chomping on pretzels and nursing a hangover, keeps confusing his case with others and becomes hellbent on sending Steve to prison for two years.

Redemption: TV's Judge Judy ruled in Steve's favor as he was suing the driver for cost incurred of her making deliberate false statements.

Santa Monica courthouse

"In the bizarre totalitarian odyssey that devoured a year of my life. I fought off a ferocious campaign to put me in prison, experienced the joys of bankruptcy, and struggled through an absurd maze of court-ordered therapy. However, I ultimately triumphed, achieving vindication on national television at the hands of the snarling modern-day Solomon known as Judge Judy." Steve Bevilacqua

Lights, Camera, Justice: If Only the Los Angeles Court System Were More Like Judge Judy
Steve Bevilacqua
Huff Post

I was run down by a car while crossing the street, and almost went to prison for it, thanks to our local court system. Granted, what happened to me was an extreme incident, propelled by a road rage lunatic who happened to be a doctor yet should never have been listened to by anyone. The driver also pulled the gender card and claimed that her actions were justified because she was "very afraid" of me, despite the fact that she was in a car and I was on my ass in the street. But what transpired for the next 8 months in our city's court system was a totalitarian nightmare straight out of Kafka's The Trial.

Hundreds of hours, thousands of dollars, and one surreal stint in court-ordered therapy later, I was ravaged but free. Then this legal deathmarch was to play itself out again, on television. Amazingly enough, in one extremely loud afternoon, my fiasco was set right by the modern-day Solomon known as Judge Judy. The actual court system spent months squeezing every technicality in their agonized efforts to send me to prison at the expense of the obvious truth. Judge Judy was direct and ferociously sensible...

During my months in court, I endured City Attorneys defending a driver's right to run down a pedestrian with her car, while refusing to charge her with anything. The driver even admitted giving the finger to the downed pedestrian as she fled the scene, yet she didn't even receive a traffic ticket...

I have yet to see an argument based on some pigshit technicality succeed on Judge Judy while, in real courts, it seems to happen as often as not...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It's Hard for a White Guy to Get Himself Arrested

From Courthouse News
...Constantino, who was wearing the same ensemble that he has worn for many of his demonstrations: a Hugo Boss suit, Yves Saint Laurent tie, a lion-decorated silk handkerchief in his breast pocket and Cole Haan wingtip oxford shoes. Constantino wears the self-styled "magic invisible suit of miracles" in wry comment on the trappings of white privilege...

It's Hard for a White Guy to Get Himself Arrested
By Kevin Drum
Daily Kos
Dec. 17, 2013

Over at The Atlantic, a former prosecutor named Bobby Constantino has a piece called "I Got Myself Arrested So I Could Look Inside the Justice System." It's oddly riveting. It starts with a description of his former career:

In between the important cases, I found myself spending most of my time prosecuting people of color for things we white kids did with impunity growing up in the suburbs. As our office handed down arrest records and probation terms for riding dirt bikes in the street, cutting through a neighbor’s yard, hosting loud parties, fighting, or smoking weed — shenanigans that had rarely earned my own classmates anything more than raised eyebrows and scoldings — I often wondered if there was a side of the justice system that we never saw in the suburbs. Last year, I got myself arrested in New York City and found out.

In a nutshell, this guy desperately tried to get himself arrested for walking around New York City with a stencil and a spray can (a class B misdemeanor) and had no luck. So he tagged City Hall. With a surveillance camera recording him. Still no luck. He turned himself in. They turned him away. He literally found it impossible to get arrested.

He finally succeeded, spent a night in jail, and went to court. And then just the opposite happened. He was initially sentenced to five days community service until the prosecutor suddenly realized the case file was flagged "no deal." So he went back to court, and this time they insisted on throwing the book at him. The judge was so pissed off at him that he then doubled the book.

There's more, and it's worth a read. A white guy in a suit, it turns out, is practically invulnerable to being arrested. But when he uses this fact to embarrass the judicial system, the judicial system suddenly turns on him with a fury. Welcome to America.

In the wealthy suburbs of Massachusetts, our shared narrative told us that people who didn’t live where we lived, or have what we had, weren’t working as hard as we were. We avoided inner city streets because they were dangerous, and we relied on the police to keep people from those places out of our neighborhoods. Whatever they got, we figured they deserved. My total, unquestioning belief in this narrative was the reason I arrived in Roxbury, fresh out of law school, eager to incarcerate everything in sight."

I Got Myself Arrested So I Could Look Inside the Justice System
A former prosecutor fights the law and lets it win.
Bobby Constantino
Dec 17 2013

Left to right: A snapshot of the author's graffiti; a "selfie" of the author, dressed in his suit and tie and ready to vandalize; a surveillance video still of the work in progress (Bobby Constantino)

Ten years ago, when I started my career as an assistant district attorney in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, I viewed the American criminal justice system as a vital institution that protected society from dangerous people. I once prosecuted a man for brutally attacking his wife with a flashlight, and another for sexually assaulting a waitress at a nightclub. I believed in the system for good reason.

But in between the important cases, I found myself spending most of my time prosecuting people of color for things we white kids did with impunity growing up in the suburbs. As our office handed down arrest records and probation terms for riding dirt bikes in the street, cutting through a neighbor’s yard, hosting loud parties, fighting, or smoking weed – shenanigans that had rarely earned my own classmates anything more than raised eyebrows and scoldings – I often wondered if there was a side of the justice system that we never saw in the suburbs. Last year, I got myself arrested in New York City and found out.

On April 29, 2012, I put on a suit and tie and took the No. 3 subway line to the Junius Avenue stop in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville. At the time, the blocks around this stop were a well-known battleground in the stop-and-frisk wars: Police had stopped 14,000 residents 52,000 times in four years. I figured this frequency would increase my chances of getting to see the system in action, but I faced a significant hurdle: Though I’ve spent years living and working in neighborhoods like Brownsville, as a white professional, the police have never eyed me suspiciously or stopped me for routine questioning. I would have to do something creative to get their attention.

“What does that say?” the officer asked me incredulously. I held the stencil up for him to read. “What are you, some kind of asshole?”

As I walked around that day, I held a chipboard graffiti stencil the size of a piece of poster board and two cans of spray paint. Simply carrying those items qualified as a class B misdemeanor pursuant to New York Penal Law 145.65. If police officers were doing their jobs, they would have no choice but to stop and question me.

I kept walking and reached a bodega near the Rockaway Avenue subway station. Suddenly, a young black man started yelling at me to get out of Brownsville, presumably concluding from my skin color and my suit that I did not belong there. Three police officers heard the commotion and came running down the stairs. They reached me and stopped.

“What’s going on?” one asked.

“Nothing,” I told them. “What does that say?” the officer interrupted me, incredulously, as the other two gathered around. I held the stencil up for them to read.

“What are you, some kind of asshole?” he asked.

I stood quietly, wondering whether they would arrest me or write a summons. The officers grumbled a few choice curse words and then ran down the stairs in pursuit of the young man. Though I was the one clearly breaking a law, they went after him.

I continued west, through Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, and then north through Fort Greene, carrying the stencil, talking to residents. I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and arrived at City Hall. I walked around the building a few times, and then went down Broadway to the Wall Street Bull. From Brownsville to downtown Manhattan, I would estimate that I passed more than 200 police officers, some from a distance, some close enough to touch. Though I was conspicuously casing high-profile public targets while holding graffiti instruments, not one of them stopped, frisked, searched, detained, summonsed, or arrested me. I would have to go further. I walked up to the east entrance of City Hall and tagged the words “N.Y.P.D. Get Your Hands Off Me” on a gatepost in red paint. The surveillance video shows me doing this, 20 feet from the police officer manning the gate. I moved closer, within 10 feet of him, and tagged it again. I could see him inside watching video monitors that corresponded to the different cameras. As I moved the can back and forth, a police officer in an Interceptor go-cart saw me, slammed on his brakes, and pulled up to the curb behind me. I looked over my shoulder, made eye contact with him, and resumed. As I waited for him to jump out, grab me, or Tase me, he sped away and hung a left, leaving me standing there alone. I’ve watched the video a dozen times and it’s still hard to believe. I woke up the next morning and Fox News was reporting that unknown suspects had vandalized City Hall. I went back to the entrance and handed the guard my driver’s license and a letter explaining what I’d done. Several police officers were speaking in hushed tones near the gates, which had been washed clean. I was expecting them to recognize me from eyewitness descriptions and the still shots taken from the surveillance cameras and immediately take me into custody. Instead, the guard politely handed me back my license, explained that I didn’t have an appointment, and turned me away. I went home and blogged about the incident, publicizing what I’d done and posting pictures, before returning to the guard tower the next day, and the next, to hand over my license and letter. Each time, the guards saw a young professional in a suit, not the suspect they had in mind, and each time they handed me back my license and turned me away. On my fifth day of trying, a reporter from Courthouse News Service tagged along. At first skeptical, he watched in disbelief as the officer took my license, made a phone call, and sent me on my way. On Friday May 4, 2012, I turned myself in at Manhattan Criminal Court. Two Intelligence Unit detectives arrived and testily walked me outside to a waiting unmarked police car. Court papers show that they’d staked out my apartment to arrest me, and that I unwittingly kept eluding them. In one dramatic instance, two officers had tailed me as I walked down Eastern Parkway. I’d entered the subway station at the Brooklyn Museum, unaware that I was being followed. One of the officers had followed me through the turnstiles while another guarded the exit. The report states that the officers then inexplicably lost contact with me. Now, we drove west on Canal Street during rush hour, inching across Manhattan to the West Side before turning around and crawling back to a precinct in the East Village. Eight hours later, around midnight, the officers drove me to central booking, in the basement of the courthouse where I had surrendered. “The judge just left, man, your timing sucks,” one of my cellmates told me as the iron door clanged shut. The cell was approximately 20 feet by 30 feet, and a large metal toilet platform occupied a quarter of the room. I stepped over several men lying on the floor and took the open seat adjacent to the platform. The toilet over me had no door and no partition, and the entire room had a view of sitting users. Feces and urine were caked onto the metal and smeared on the concrete next to me, which is why the seat was vacant. Each time, the guards saw a young professional in a suit, and each time they handed me back my license and turned me away. Over the next 24 hours, I watched as men and women came and went, many with cuts, bruises, and welts. I asked several of them how they’d been injured, and they described fierce struggles with the police. One young man cradled what he reported was a broken wrist. Another pulled up his shirt and revealed three Taser burns. Yet another removed his fitted cap and pointed to a swollen knot on his head. I exchanged uncomfortable glances with the few other white men in the cellblock. “Did they treat you like that?” I whispered. “No, you?” “No.” We held out our wrists to compare. “I’m trying man, but they won’t listen to me,” another man implored through the phone, “Hold on—” “When will you let me see my attorney? He’s been upstairs waiting to see me for two hours!” another man called out in the direction of a group of corrections officers sitting and talking out of view. Some time later, around 2:00 a.m., an older man started calling out, pressing himself against the bars. “CO, I’m diabetic. I need my sugar pills,” he pleaded. Nothing. “CO, please,” he begged another CO with thin-rimmed glasses walking by. “CO, I’m diabetic, I need my sugar—” “Sir, can’t you see I’m busy here?” he interrupted, without stopping. Some time later the door swung open and a CO led three more men into our cell. Eighteen men were now sitting and lying feet to head, or feet to feet, along the length of the bench and floor. “Sir, do you think this is the right way to treat people, piling them on top of one another, when you have an empty cell open all night?” I said indignantly, when morning came, pointing at a vacant cell across the hall. “I’ve been doing this 22 years,” the officer replied. “So yeah, I do.” Around midnight, after 34 hours in custody, I was led to a courtroom upstairs to be arraigned. The district attorney’s office, responsible for prosecuting offenders, asked the judge to dismiss my case with three days of community service. This is standard practice for first-time, nonviolent misdemeanor offenders. The judge read through the paperwork and agreed, though he raised the number of community service days to five. I accepted the sentence and the clerk began reading it into the record. “Your honor, wait!” the assistant state attorney interrupted. Startled by the outburst, the judge looked up and scowled as the attorney read something written on her file. She blushed and continued, “I’m sorry, I have to withdraw my offer.” As the judge shook his head and set a date to return, I felt an odd pang of empathy for her. Once, as a rookie prosecutor, a judge had humiliated me in open court for being evasive about a file that had an ominous yellow “do not dismiss” sticky note on it.

Two months later I arrived at Manhattan Criminal Court at 9:00 a.m. and stood in a line of people that stretched out to the street. I found my way to the courtroom and watched cases being called until around noon, when my attorney beckoned me into the hallway and confirmed what had been written on the assistant state attorney's file at arraignment. “The district attorney’s office is playing hardball. They are seeking a guilty plea against you and requesting jail time if you don’t take it.”

“But it’s a first-time misdemeanor, that ridiculous—”

“I know, but they aren’t budging. Your only chance at avoiding the consequences of a guilty conviction is going to trial.”

Seven subsequent months of visits offered snaking lines, courtrooms packed with misdemeanor offenders, assistant state attorneys threatening jail time, and the steady issuing of fees, fines, and surcharges.

In the end I was found guilty of nine criminal charges. The prosecutor asked for 15 days of community service as punishment. My attorney requested time served. The judge—in an unusual move that showed how much the case bothered him—went over the prosecutor's head and ordered three years of probation, a $1000 fine, a $250 surcharge, a $50 surcharge, 30 days of community service, and a special condition allowing police and probation officers to enter and search my residence anytime without a warrant.

At my group probation orientation, the officer handed each of us a packet and explained that we are not allowed to travel, work, or visit outside New York City.

“Wait, what?” I blurted out. “This is true even for nonviolent misdemeanors?”

“Yes, for everyone. You have to get permission.”

After the orientation, I went straight to my probation officer and requested permission to spend Christmas with my family in Massachusetts. I listened in disbelief as she denied my request—I’d worked with probation departments in several states, and I knew that regular family contact has been shown to reduce recidivism. My probation officer also refused to let me go home for Easter and birthdays. After six or seven of these refusals, I complained to a supervisor, citing New York’s evidence-based practices manual, and was assigned to a new probation officer.

In May, I requested permission to visit a class of third graders in my old neighborhood. The year before, when I’d set out to march from Boston to Florida to protest the handling of the Trayvon Martin case, the class had joined me for a day, calculated my route, and located places for me to sleep. After one of the students, Martin Richard, was killed in the Boston Marathon bombing, the class invited me to march with them in his memory. Though my new probation officer and I have an excellent relationship, and she has allowed me to visit my family twice, she denied this request...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Just how far to the extreme right is Catholic University of America? Charles Koch likes it a lot, giving $1 million to business school

Charles Koch

Our own Judge Judith Hayes of San Diego Superior Court is a graduate of Catholic University of American in Washington DC, as is the infamous retired judge Sharon Armstrong of Seattle.

Scholars Protest Charles Koch's Donation to Catholic University

—By Stephanie Mencimer
Mother Jones
Dec. 16, 2013

Last month, the Charles Koch Foundation pledged to donate $1 million to the new business school at Catholic University of America in DC to contribute to its effort to advance the study of "principled entrepreneurship." Now some of the school's staff and other scholars at other Catholic universities around the country are crying foul. They're asking Catholic University to reject the donation because the Koch foundation and its funder have long pursued a conservative political agenda that's at odds with Catholic social teaching, especially as recently emphasized by the new Pope. In a letter to school's leadership delivered on Monday, they write that accepting the contribution may "send a confusing message to Catholic students and other faithful Catholics that the Koch brothers' anti-government, Tea Party ideology has the blessing of a university sanctioned by Catholic bishops."

Indeed, Catholic University is not just any Catholic school. It was created by US bishops and they sit on its board. Meanwhile, the Charles Koch Foundation is funded by the chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, the oil and gas conglomerate, and one half of the Koch brothers political duo. The Kochs (who aren't Catholic) have spent tens of millions of dollars over the past four decades pushing a free-market agenda that has included opposing the minimum wage and a host of environmental regulations.

Between 2007 and 2011, Koch-related foundations donated more than $30 million to 221 colleges and universities in the US. Charles Koch's donations to academic institutions have been controversial in the past. In 2011, his foundation sparked a minor controversy in Florida when it pledged $1.5 million to fund teaching positions in Florida State University's economics department. The donation enabled the foundation to have a say in hiring decisions for a new program promoting "political economy and free enterprise"; the foundation also wanted the school to start a new class on "Market Ethics: The Vices, Virtues, and Values of Capitalism," in which books by libertarian icon Ayn Rand would have been required reading.

The academics write that "as Catholic bishops affirm the rights of workers to collectively bargain and organize, the Koch brothers give generously to elected leaders like Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin who strip public employee unions of their rights to bargain." And the they quote a pastoral letter from the bishops that states emphatically that the church "fully supports the rights of workers to form unions and other associations to secure their rights to fair wages and working conditions… No one may deny the right to organize without attacking human dignity itself." (Koch Industries did not respond to a request for comment. We will update the post if they do.)

The scholars also knock the Kochs for fighting the expansion of Medicaid in many states through their advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, another position that puts the brothers at odds with Catholic social teaching. (The church supports the expansion.) To make their case, Catholic University faculty and others who signed on to the letter are invoking "Time Man of the Year" Pope Francis. "While the Koch brothers lobby for sweeping deregulation of industries and markets," they write, "Pope Francis has criticized trickle-down economic theories, and insists on the need for stronger oversight of global financial markets to protect workers from what he calls 'the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.'"

The letter-signers aren't the only ones who are unhappy about Catholic University's decision to take Koch money. Faithful America, a progressive Christian group, launched a petition last month urging the university to reject the donation. So far, more than 28,000 people have signed it. "The Koch brothers bankroll a political movement that is working to undermine much of what the Catholic social tradition has stood for over the past century," said John Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, an advocacy group in Washington. "It's reasonable to ask why a business school at a Catholic university would want to even risk giving the impression that it endorses a libertarian view of economics. The faith in unfettered markets and anti-government zealotry that has become a theology for many on the right is simply incompatible with Catholic identity."

The bishops who sit on Catholic University's board have increasingly moved away from the church's focus on social justice and aligned with more conservative political elements. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has pulled back funding for anti-poverty groups that have been caught working in coalitions that included gay-rights advocates, for instance, and it's cracked down on nuns who supported President Obama's health care reform initiative. Catholic University would never take a donation from Planned Parenthood or a foundation that promoted abortion rights, but it doesn't see a problem with taking Koch money.

The university issued a statement defending the donation and accusing Faith in Public Life, which helped coordinate the letter campaign, of an "unfortunate effort to manufacture controversy and score political points at the expense of The Catholic University of America." The school says the Koch foundation will have no role in hiring or course material, and that "the aim of the Charles Koch Foundation grant—to support research into principled entrepreneurship—is fully consonant with Catholic social teaching." The university says the grant has not inspired any opposition on campus and notes that Koch donations to universities are so widespread and uncontroversial that some of the academic signers of the protest letter seem unaware that their own institutions already take Koch money (including Notre Dame, Villanova, and Holy Cross). To that end, the university declares that it "has no intention of revisiting its decision to accept the grant from the Charles Koch Foundation."

Is the San Diego Bar Association using public property and public funds to maintain a private club for lawyers?

John W. Adkins

Open letter to the San Diego Public Law Library chief administrator:

Dear Mr. John Adkins, Director:

I strongly urge you to bring back the introductory legal classes for members of the public that were offered before the recent re-purposing of the San Diego Public Law Library.

Previously there were many classes giving an overview of the legal system and teaching citizens how to conduct lawsuits and appeal decisions.

A few years ago I took those classes, making it possible for me to defend my constitutional rights against a large law firm that wanted to shut down my public interest website. I won in the Court of Appeal in 2011, and I recently filed another appeal. [Here's the Leagle web page with the earlier decision.]

I suspect that the legal establishment in San Diego wants to limit poor litigants to those few who have been chosen for pro-bono representation because they allow business as usual to proceed in the legal community. Certainly the legal clinics offered by USD law students do not fill the void created by the canceled classes. It seems that local lawyers (and judges) want to make sure that people like me (who critique the local justice system) are prevented from protecting themselves in state and federal courts.

It appears that the the San Diego Bar Association has influenced the Public Law Library to help in this goal.

It is improper to sabotage and undermine the longstanding purpose of the Public Law Library. Please return the library to its former purpose of educating the public as well as educating attorneys.

Maura Larkins

[Note: I sent a message to your staff using the "Request a class" page of the Public Law Library website on Nov. 27, 2013. I received no response. ]

See SDER web page on the San Diego County Public Law Library

See also: The profession's in crisis, but law schools don't care. They're steeped in a toxic, hyper-capitalist worldview

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Teen Kills 4; Judge LITERALLY Lets Him Off Because He is Rich!

Judge Jean didn't concern herself with rehabilitation and well-being when it was a 14-year old black kid who punched a guy who fell down and died. 10 years. Updated: Teen Kills 4; Judge LITERALLY Lets Him Off Because He is Rich!
by SemDemFollow
Daily Kos
Dec 11, 2013

...16-year old Ethan Couch was driving drunk at THREE times the legal limit and had Valium in his system. He plowed into four people going 70 miles per hour in a 40 mile per hour zone, killing them. Other victims are severely injured; one has severe brain damage. Even after he killed and maimed those people, he was uncooperative and combative with the emergency services and walked away from the police saying "I'm outta here".

He pleaded guilty, of course. But Ethan's parents are very wealthy. (We are talking the 1%.) They hired an attorney that brought on a psychologist to say Couch was "a product of wealth" and was used to getting "whatever he wanted". Because he was so affluent and accustomed to never having consequences, the attorney argued that he should get therapy as opposed to jail.

This was the argument, mind you, used in the defense:

He said Couch got whatever he wanted. As an example, Miller said Couch's parents gave no punishment after police ticketed the then-15-year-old when he was found in a parked pickup with a passed out, undressed 14-year-old girl.

Miller also pointed out that Couch was allowed to drive at 13. He said the teen was emotionally flat and needed years of therapy. At the time of the fatal wreck, Couch had a blood alcohol content of .24, said Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson. It is illegal for a minor to drive with any amount of alcohol in his or her system.

Prosecutors tried to get 20 years. The Defense argued for therapy and probation.

Texas State District Judge Jean Boyd bought the inane "I'm too rich for consequences" defense and actually sided with the Defense and gave him probation:

(Video of the breaking news report. Includes talk with a victim's family member.)

The kid is not remorseful in the slightest. I'm sure he always expected to get off. He always has before. Meanwhile, the victim's families are devastated.

Tell me again how there are NOT two Americas and two sets of rules.

Look at this lady, this young man, and this poor kid. Notice a theme?

Does anyone for a second think if this kid was poor and black he would not be facing death row?

After all, Texas executed this guy even though he was mentally retarded. Yet that's never been a legitimate defense in Texas.

But apparently, if you are white and superich, "affluenza" now is.


2:18 PM PT: The father is owner/president of Cleburne Sheet Metal, the truck the kid was driving was a company truck "entrusted" to this kid by his dad. What makes this story even worse is that apparently they built a lot of their wealth with taxpayer money/government contracts. The local representative is Kay Granger. Let her know NO More Government Contracts for this company! (Zip code is 76135 to leave a message).

6:12 PM PT: Judge Jean didn't concern herself with rehabilitation and well-being when it was a 14-year old black kid who punched a guy who fell down and died. 10 years. H/t Ivycompton.

7:33 PM PT: CNN picked up the story and as usual, left a lot out. Nothing of his action at the scene, or since, or his past history. As a result there are several comments expressing sympathy for what he must be going through. At least they covered it finally unlike other outlets.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Prosecutor withholds evidence, destroys innocent lives, allows killer to kill again, becomes a judge--then spends three days in jail

THE CRIMINAL IN THE PROSECUTOR'S CHAIR: Prosecutor Ken Anderson. It's about time the legal system took some action against prosecutors and judges who knowingly destroy innocent lives.

Innocent man: How inmate Michael Morton lost 25 years of his life
By Josh Levs
December 4, 2013

...A few years ago, a group of attorneys, working pro bono on Morton's behalf, managed to bring the truth to light. Not only was Morton innocent, but the prosecutor, Ken Anderson, was accused of withholding crucial evidence.

The little boy, Eric, had seen the attack and told relatives that daddy was not home at the time. He described the man who did it. Neighbors had described a man parking a green van behind the Mortons' house and walking off into a wooded area. A blood-stained bandana was found nearby. None of that evidence made it into the trial.

It took years of fighting, but Morton's attorneys finally got the bandana tested for DNA. It contained Christine Morton's blood and hair and the DNA of another man -- a convicted felon named Mark Norwood.

Norwood had killed Christine Morton. And since no one figured that out after her death, he remained free. He killed another woman in the Austin area, Debra Baker, in similar circumstances less than two years later, authorities say.

Norwood has now been convicted in Morton's killing, and indicted in Baker's killing. A documentary details how Michael Morton -- with help from the Innocence Project -- proved he didn't kill his wife.

Morton was freed in October 2011. He was 57 years old. "I thank God this wasn't a capital case," he said.

Morton's story, told in the CNN Films' documentary "An Unreal Dream," shines a spotlight on wrongful convictions in the United States. More than 2,000 wrongfully convicted people were exonerated between 1989 and 2012, according to data compiled by the University of Michigan Law School.

But Morton's case has paved new ground that could affect cases nationwide.

Last month, Anderson -- Morton's prosecutor who in 2001 became a judge -- pleaded no contest to criminal contempt for deliberately withholding exculpatory evidence.

Anderson's punishment pales in comparison to Morton's experience. The former prosecutor stepped down from his position as a judge and agreed to 10 days in jail. He then served only five of those days, under Texas laws involving good behavior behind bars.

He also agreed to a $500 fine, 500 hours of community service, and the loss of his law license, according to the Innocence Project, a legal clinic affiliated with Yeshiva University's Cardozo Law School.

It's "an extremely rare instance, and perhaps the first time, that a prosecutor has been criminally punished for failing to turn over exculpatory evidence," the Innocence Project said.

The "historic precedent demonstrates that when a judge orders a prosecutor to look in his file and disclose exculpatory evidence, deliberate failure to do so is punishable by contempt," said Barry Scheck, the project's co-director.

The organization is working with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Innocence Project of Texas to coordinate a review of Anderson's cases.

Anderson, meanwhile, has not publicly acknowledged any personal wrongdoing. In court, he said he couldn't remember details of the case, and that he and his family have been through false accusations over it.

"I apologize that the system screwed up. I've beaten myself up on what I could have done different and I don't know," he said, acknowledging Morton's "pain."

Morton asked a judge to "do what needs to be done, but at the same time to be gentle with Judge Anderson."

In prepared remarks outside the courthouse, Anderson repeated that he wanted to "formally apologize for the system's failure to Mr. Morton and every other person who was affected by the verdict."