The Security of a Free State?

15 11 2010

We, the People. Those three words should be genetically engraved into the brains of every American. The meaning of those three words is- or should be- self evident: The people of the United States are supposed to rule this country. The Preamble to the US Constitution starts off with those three words precisely to make clear the fact that the people are supposed to hold all the cards when it comes to government.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Reading further into the Constitution further clarifies this inescapable fact of American government. Even the most casual perusal reveals that the Constitution is written to limit the power of government. Several of the Amendments in the Bill of Rights start with or include some variation on “Congress shall make no Law …”, and then go on to list a bunch of things the government cannot do. Not things the People cannot do. The 9th and 10th Amendments make it even more clear:

IX-The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

For those of you who didn’t pay attention in Civics class, allow me to translate: any particular right or privilege, whether or not it is specifically written into the Constitution, is reserved for the People.

X- The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Once again for those who slept through Civics: All rights and privileges not specifically assigned to the federal government by the Constitution are reserved for the states or the People.

Any moderately sentient creature in this country should therefore be aware of the fact that the government is supposed to be limited in power. How, then, have we come to the quasi-police state currently in effect in these United States?

What am I talking about? How about someone who decides that he or she doesn’t want to be either irradiated by a backscatter x-ray device or groped by low-paid government functionaries? Some would say, “Too bad. Submit to getting molested by the Gummint or don’t fly.” Sorry, Charlie. That is as much a lie as “I promise I won’t cum in your mouth” or “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear.” If you decide that you aren’t willing to be groped or irradiated by government stooges once you have entered the security area, you no longer have the option of just leaving and turning in your ticket. You are required to complete the screening. In at least one recent instance, the victim of this government-sanctioned sexual assault decided that he would rather walk, but was accosted by security goons and told he would not be permitted to leave the airport unless he completed the screening which he had refused to allow to begin.

Or how about the young man facing seven years in prison in New Jersey for following both the letter and spirit of the law? The victim in question was moving from Colorado to New Jersey to be closer to his son, who lived with his ex-wife. One day, as he was driving from his mother’s house (where he was staying until he got moved into an apartment) to his new apartment, dear old mom decided that he was a little despondent over some squabbles with his ex and started to call 9-1-1 out of concern. She changed her mind without talking to anyone, but the police responded anyway. Once they heard her story, they called the young man on his cell and asked him to return to his mother’s house. Once there- despite the fact that they determined he was not a danger to himself or others- the police searched his car and found the three firearms he was carrying to his new place in the trunk. These firearms were properly packed away in locked containers in the trunk of his car, without ammunition, in accordance with federal and New Jersey gun laws. The police arrested him anyway. At his trial, the judge refused to allow him to present evidence that he was complying with state and federal laws for transporting firearms, and refused to answer questions from the jury during deliberation about any exemptions to the draconian New Jersey laws regarding firearms. As a result, a man with no prior criminal record who was scrupulously following state and federal laws was sentenced to 7 years in prison.

Then there is the increasing frequency of prosecutorial misconduct resulting in the imprisonment of completely innocent citizens. In the latest such outrage, a man spent 15 years behind bars because the prosecutor withheld exculpatory evidence and deliberately lied in court to send an innocent man to jail and pad his win-loss ratio. When this misdeed was finally uncovered and the man was freed, he found he had no legal recourse against the prosecutor who framed him. He can’t even get compensated by the state for wrongful imprisonment, because the law doesn’t allow for such compensation except for people freed by DNA evidence.

How could these events be reconciled with theĀ  traditional American sense of justice or a supposedly free society? They can’t. We, the People, have allowed the pinheads in pinstripes who infest our nation’s capitol to filch away our liberties in the hopes of gaining a false sense of security against a host of non-existent existential threats. There are, in fact, a lot of people who would dearly love to kill lots of Americans. The security theater in place to supposedly “protect” us from these people has not substantially decreased the probability of such an attack, but it has made huge strides in increasing the power of the government at the expense of individual liberty. All over the country, police agencies are increasingly treating the citizens they allegedly serve as enemy combatants, while unctious politicians pass ever more laws to restrain the power of the people and vastly increase the power of the government, and well-meaning fools elect poltroons who will cater to their fears and whims. Take a look at the people you elected to represent you in Congress. How many of those people do you think will “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” if it means losing the next election or turning down the next bribe? Whatever number you came up with, divide by ten. The result will still be far too high, but will be closer to reality.

We, the People, are allowing our elected leaders to pull the wool over our eyes and steal our country away from us. We have allowed professional politicians to hijack our government- which is supposed to be “by the People, of the People, and for the People.” How much legislation out of Washington has been by, for, or of the People recently? As far as I can tell, it has all been by, for, and of the interests of a well-connected few at the expense of the People. And we are letting it happen.

All of those new Congresscritters you dolts sent to Washington this past election should be sent a clear message from we, the People: “That cushy job in DC is yours on a probationary basis. Any hint of putting your own self interest before that of the country will be repaid with expulsion in 24 short months. Ignore this warning at your peril.

Science fiction author Ed Howdershelt once said there are Four Boxes to be used in defense of liberty: Soap, Ballot, Jury, and Ammo. Please use in that order. We are currently using those first two boxes. I am using the first box to encourage the rest of you to use the second. If our elected representatives fail to adequately represent us in accordance with the US Constitution, vote the bastards out. If they pass laws which diminish the liberties of Americans, open up that third box and take the bastards to court. We are supposed to be sovereign in this country, and its high time the tax-fattened swine in DC get reminded of that fact. But it is up to us.

Current status: Pissed off

Current music: Lizstomania by Phoenix

Orwell Was An Optimist

9 11 2009

“Justice” system, my pasty, white, lumpy, asymmetrical ass!

In yet another example of how far astray from its alleged purpose our “justice” system has wandered, here are a couple of articles about some journalism students at Northwest University getting harassed by an Illinois prosecutor. Their crime? Glad you asked. It turns out that a Journalism professor at Northwest has, for the last ten years or so, tasked his advanced students with learning if anyone currently in prison might actually be innocent. Evidence uncovered by these student-journalists is turned over to the relevant attorneys, and a total of eleven innocent men have been freed as a result of their efforts. This has apparently raised the ire of the Illinois State Attorney, who seems to be trying to intimidate the students and their professor by launching an investigation into … the students’ grades.

I’m reasonably certain that somewhere in a prosecutor’s job description it is written that justice is the goal. Far too many prosecutors seem to have forgotten this, judging by the extravagant mental gymnastics several prosecutors have used recently in attempts to keep demonstrably innocent men in prison.

Despite the supposed focus on justice required by their jobs and oaths of office, far too many prosecutors across the country are more interested in their conviction ratio. The more convictions they get- especially in high-profile cases- the more pay and bennies they earn. This is doubly true for those prosecutors who are elected to their offices.

For those of you who failed to pay attention in civics class, here’s a hint: Prosecutors are public servants. We (the People) are the public. I fail to see how we are being served by political hacks more interested in promotions, re-elections, and pay raises than in justice.

Back to the case at hand. A prosecutor, when given evidence that someone has been wrongfully convicted and sent to prison, should examine the evidence, re-examine the case in light of the new evidence (if it has any value), and either get the convict a new trial or immediately get him or her released from prison. Alas, this ideal state does not exist except (possibly) on paper. In reality, prosecutors have been trained that more convictions means more money and power for the prosecutors, so penny-ante subjects like the actual innocence of their victims doesn’t come into the picture.

I don’t know about you, but I was always told that it was better that a thousand guilty men go free than one innocent man be deprived of life or liberty. Our so-called “justice” system is supposedly set up with this principle in mind. It is the price of a free society. There is no excuse for sending innocent men or women to prison. If there is a reasonable doubt, they must be found “not-guilty” (note that this is not necessarily the same as innocent). If they have already been convicted and sentenced, the presentation of new evidence which may provide “reasonable doubt” must be looked at dispassionately by judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys alike with justice in mind. If the new evidence had been presented at trial, would this convict have been found guilty? Does this evidence provide “reasonable doubt” of the convict’s guilt? These are matters of Law and Justice, and the political status and professional pride of the prosecutor should have no bearing on the decision.

I am a firm believer that some crimes merit the death penalty. That said, the death penalty must only be invoked for truly heinous crimes about which there is no doubt of guilt. Not “reasonable doubt”- no doubt whatsoever. A sentence of death should be a separate decision from that of guilt or innocence, and any doubt should immediately drop the maximum penalty to that of life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Given the shenanigans prosecutors around the country have been pulling lately, a blanket suspicion of doubt has effectively been cast over all convictions. The actions of a few prosecutors are tainting the very heart of the judicial process. If prosecutors are willing to allow innocent men and women to languish in prison or even be put to death if it might further their career, then the criminal justice system in this country is broken beyond repair.

And now, we return to my catch phrase: the Four Boxes. There are four boxes which must be used- in the following order- in defense of liberty. These are Soap, Ballot, Jury, and Ammo. This subject demands that we (the People) use those first three boxes to correct these injustices, now and forever. If we fail to immediately and permanently deal with the application of injustice by our public servants with those first three boxes, then our Republic is doomed. We will be forced to open that Fourth Box, in the aftermath of which the United States of America will be no more.

So, start paying attention. Use that sloppy grey goo between your ears for a change. Take the time to learn the facts for yourself, from multiple sources whenever possible. When you find the putrid smell of injustice, root it out. We cannot afford to let it fester, for that way lies madness and destruction.

Current status: Pissed off

Current music: On My Way Home by Enya

Last Chance

4 11 2009

Argh! The stupid, it burns!

I’ve spoken at length about the Four Boxes to be used in defense of Liberty. Those are Soap, Ballot, Jury, and Ammo, and should be used in that order. The purpose of that saying is to discourage people from resorting to violence when peaceful methods are available- and more likely to produce positive results without a lot of unnecessary collateral damage to society. Implicit in that description is the idea that, at some point, the destruction of liberty becomes so onerous that nothing less than a total write-off and re-build is in order. If the justice system (Box #3) in this country stops actually providing justice, there will be little recourse but to wipe the slate clean and start over.

There is a case being heard before the Nine Worthies right now that has the potential to push the country over that particular precipice. Here is the story from NPR– just take care your blood pressure does not reach dangerous levels while reading it.

Worse than the initial criminal actions by the prosecutors and police in the original case is a single quote from the prosecutors- backed up by the Attorney General of the United States, no less: “There is no free-standing Constitutional right not to be framed

Pop quiz time: Can anyone point to any part of the US Constitution which might give lie to this assertion by trained legal professionals? Anyone? Buehler?

Let us take a look at the Fifth Amendment, shall we?

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

That seems to pretty definitively send the prosecutors’ argument into the shitcan where it belongs. The two men in question did not receive due process. They were maliciously framed by the police and prosecutor. Due process of law wasn’t even allowed in the courtroom.

The main issue seems to be Prosecutorial Immunity. Long-standing legal precedent holds that prosecutors cannot be held civilly liable when a case goes south on them. This is largely in place to protect prosecutors from civil penalty if they inadvertently convict the innocent. The prosecutors (who still claim that Terry Harrison and Curtis McGhee committed the crime in the face of really impressive evidence to the contrary) are trying to convince the Supreme Court that the Public Interest would be harmed by allowing any variation from the doctrine of Prosecutorial Immunity.

That’s as may be, and I could not care less. Two completely innocent men were framed by a Prosecutor and the police, and spent twenty-five years in prison as a result. I submit that the Public Interest is harmed far more by allowing prosecutors to withhold evidence and suborn perjury. The evidence for this assertion is simple and clear: If prosecutors can commit felonies with impunity against the very public they allegedly serve, our justice system (and the Republic on which it is based) is no more. The Supreme Court is the last resort for those who have worked their way through the first three Boxes. If the final appeal from the Third Box rules against the innocent victims, what choice do we (the People) have left?

The Supremes will probably issue a ruling on this early next year. I hope that they will rule in the interests of Justice over the interests of the rules and procedures. Reading past rulings lends a certain degree of hope that they will, but another chilling quote from a sitting Justice makes me fear the worst (“Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached.” – Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia). If the Court rules in favor of the prosecutors, that’s it- game over. Such a ruling would mean that we are no longer free citizens, but serfs. Slaves to the Government, to be imprisoned at the whim of Government functionaries. If the Government fails to “establish Justice”, and “secure the blessings of Liberty”, it will be time to vote from the rooftops.

And that would be the end of the United States of America.

Current status: Disturbed

Current music: Play the Game by Queen