Author Archives: SHG

But For Video: Black Man With Gun In Wal-Mart Edition (Update)

John Crawford III was shopping at Wal-Mart, which may reflect a questionable choice of venues but is not illegal in these United States.  And still, he ended up dead.  While walking through the store, he picked up an unboxed pellet gun and continued down the aisles, chatting on a cellphone all the while.

Another shopper, seeing Crawford carrying what looked like “an automatic rifle” while black, called 911.  The police appeared with both alacrity and passion, having just been trained to be “aggressive” to stop shooters.  Who doesn’t want to try out their new lessons?

According to the officers, they commanded Crawford to drop the weapon a few times.  He didn’t, so they killed him.  But there’s a video tape, because Wal-Mart. Continue reading

Arrested And Forgotten

It seems impossible to a New York criminal defense lawyer that this could happen, as there is a law, CPL §180.80, that requires a defendant arrested for a felony to either be indicted, given a probable cause hearing or released within 120 (which ends up being 144, because the Legislature forgot about weekends) hours of arraignment.  Is there nothing similar in Mississippi?

Octavious Burks has been in the Scott County Jail since Nov. 18, 2013. Joshua Bassett has been there since Jan. 16, 2014.

A grand jury has yet to indict either man.

They are far from alone. In jails across the state, some are held behind bars more than a year without ever being indicted.

“This is another poor man’s curse in Mississippi,” said J. Cliff Johnson, director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law. “It sounds like something that happens in a Third World country.”

This bizarre situation is exacerbated by the fact that Mississippi has no statewide public defender system, and lawyers for indigent defendants aren’t appointed until a defendant is arraigned on an indictment. Continue reading

Believing Is Seeing, and Video Can Make It Worse

It’s a curious notion, since we believe with all our heart that when something appears on video, we all see the same thing, and we do so fairly and objectively.  Yet, as experience shows, that’s not necessarily the case.

See? See it? There it is.  How can you not see it?

Apparently, that fragile device we all possess to some greater or lesser extent, our brain, continues to hamper our ability to be neutral and objective, even when watching a video.  From Science Daily:

Where people look when watching video evidence varies wildly and has profound consequences for bias in legal punishment decisions, a team of researchers at New York University and Yale Law School has found. This study raises questions about why people fail to be objective when confronted with video evidence.

Continue reading

Tough Farmers (Update)

For the first, and hopefully the last, time ever, a story from Modern Farmer graces SJ.  It’s not that farmers, at least family farmers, don’t live a hard and critically important life.  They are tough people, waking early, working hard, so that we can eat.  While I may not speak for everyone, I like to eat. Every day. But I digress.

Apparently, the USDA feels that farmers are tough people too, but for a very different reason.  And that, combined with the First Rule of Farm Policing, gave rise to a request.

“Submachine guns, .40 Cal. S&W, ambidextrous safety, semi-automatic or 2 shot bur[s]t trigger group, Tritium night sights for front and rear, rails for attachment of flashlight (front under fore grip) and scope (top rear), stock-collapsib[l]e or folding, magazine – 30 rd. capacity.”

In May, the USDA’s Office of Inspector General filed a request for these weapons. But why exactly do they need them?

Continue reading

Arizona’s “Revenge Porn” Law Challenged

Not that any pass constitutional muster, but of the knee-jerk laws passed to criminalize revenge porn, Arizona’s was among the worst.  On behalf of bookstores, libraries, newspapers and other lawful and First Amendment protected people and entities who would prefer not to be imprisoned for the exercise of a constitutional right, the ACLU and the Media Coalition have challenged the law.

Protecting personal privacy is, without doubt, a laudable goal. Indeed, the ACLU works tirelessly to protect your private data. But Arizona’s “nude photo law” is a seriously misguided attempt to achieve that goal. This new crime is broad and confusing. It applies to anyone who shares a nude image, not just to bad actors who intentionally invade another’s privacy. A prosecutor need not demonstrate that a person had an expectation of privacy in an image before charging you with a crime for sharing it. And the law applies equally to a private person’s hacked naked photo and a beautiful nude at a photography exhibit — because the law’s breadth encompasses truly newsworthy, artistic, and historical images.

As a result, the nude photo law creates bizarre and troubling burdens on speech fully protected by the First Amendment.

To drive home the point, Lee Rowland gives a pop quiz: Continue reading

That’s It? The Saga of The First Million Emails

There are the pitches from publicists that some nobody in nowhere opened a new office on Main Street.  There is the 32nd email from the Brennan Center that Attorney General Eric Holder will be speaking at their forum today.  There is the latest attempt from some low-rent publicist trying to sell an ignorant piece of crap by some nobody scum lawyer, who also notes he’s available for an interview. Continue reading

Take the Bait

When Drug Warrior Kelly Racca, who split her time as a teacher at Clovis North High School, decided that it was up to her to rid her school of demon weed, she saw no issue with using students as bait.  When her undercover plans hit the skids, she learned that the cops disagreed.

But at least the students who did as their teacher told them survived with their physical integrity intact.  A 14-year-old special needs girl wasn’t so lucky.

Court records indicate the 14-year-old girl was raped after teacher’s aide June Simpson told her to go into a boys’ restroom with the 16-year-old boy, who had reportedly been harassing several girls and asking them to have sex with him. Both he and the victim were special needs students.

Simpson told the girl that the school administration could punish him if they could “catch him in the act.” When neither Simpson nor any other school official followed the teens into the bathroom immediately, the girl was sodomized.

As it turned out, Teacher’s Aide Simpson wasn’t nearly as good at playing cop as she thought, and it all fell to pieces, with the young girl suffering not only an anal rape, but an educational one as well. Continue reading

An Exercise In Absolving Responsibility In One Page

The upshot of the car stop was that Bryce Masters, the 17-year-old son of a Kansas City police officer, will be brain damaged following his being tased by Independence, Missouri police officer Tim Runnels.  As Sgt. Darrell Schmidli explained, before the police had the chance to really put their “A game” story together, Masters “was just being completely uncooperative with the officer.”

But a couple good night’s sleep and some hard-noodling produced the search warrant application for the Masters’ car.

On 9-14-2014 at about 1507 hours, Independence Police Officer Timothy Runnels (PID #1439) conducted a car stop near Main Street and Southside Boulevard. Officer Runnels stopped a gray 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix bearing Missouri license KHI-M5Y. Prior to conducting the car stop, Officer Runnels observed the vehicle to have darkly tinted windows. Reported computer checks on the vehicle license were reported to have an active warrant association. Officer Runnels approached the passenger side of the vehicle and instructed the occupant to roll down the window. The driver partially rolled down the window a few inches. Officer Runnels reported that he detected an odor of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle. The driver refused to completely roll down the passenger side window and asked Officer Runnels, “Why?, I can hear you!”. Officer Runnels responded to the driver’s side door, where he opened the door. Continue reading

Giving A Haircut To Crime

Radley Balko writes about a bizarre pseudo-regulatory raid of barber shops by “SWAT-like” teams comprised of deputies from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s administrative inspectors.  The 11th Circuit affirmed the lower court’s denial of qualified immunity to the cops for the raid, offering the sad rationale:

We first held nineteen years ago that conducting a run-of-the-mill administrative inspection as though it is a criminal raid, when no indication exists that safety will be threatened by the inspection, violates clearly established Fourth Amendment rights. See Swint v. City of Wadley, 51 F.3d 988 (11th Cir. 1995). We reaffirmed that principle in 2007 when we held that other deputies of the very same Orange County Sheriff’s Office who participated in a similar warrantless criminal raid under the guise of executing an administrative inspection were not entitled to qualified immunity. See Bruce v. Beary, 498 F.3d 1232 (11th Cir. 2007). Today, we repeat that same message once again. We hope that the third time will be the charm.

In other words, don’t do it or we will be forced to write mean things about you again.  Still, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and against the police for masking their warrantless search in regulatory clothing and exceeding the scope of reasonableness in the execution of the administrative search for barber licenses.  Hooray.

But buried in footnote 6 is a detail that undermines what might otherwise appear to be the point of the decision. Continue reading

Sex With Goats (Including Oral) and Other Questions on the Test

Sending off your baby to college at Clemson, your eyes may be a bit teary but you have the comfort of knowing that this fine institution of higher learning will demonstrate the care and sensitivity you would demand be shown your child.  And it will be on the test.

[T]he South Carolina university is asking students invasive and personal questions about their drinking habits and sex life as part of what they’ve billed as an online Title IX training course.

“How many times have you had sex (including oral) in the last 3 months?” asks one question.

“With how many different people have you had sex (including oral) in the last 3 months?” asks another.

Invasive? Well, yeah, but then, this is college and sex (including oral) is part of the game.

“We believe you’ll enjoy the assignment,” the email, provided to Campus Reform, reads. “It is an engaging and informative online course, created with students for students. It will provide you with useful information regarding sexual violence and relationships. The course promotes a healthier and safer campus environment.”

Continue reading

Cyclists: Tastes Like Chicken

Adults who ride bicycles on the road with cars present a problem, and they know it.

When I drive my car, I get mad at cyclists who weave in and out of traffic, won’t move over, never stop at a red light and flip me off when I come within eye contact of them — the self-righteous bastards. When I ride my bike, I hate all those people in cars, some of whom are texting while driving — far worse than driving drunk.

Timothy Egan in the New York Times argues “[I]f each side could just think a little more like the other side, it would go a long way toward improved safety.” It’s unclear how exactly that would work, or what problem that would solve.  Sure, we should all be more careful, less hostile and aggressive, when on the road, regardless of our chosen vehicle.  But even if bikers suddenly stopped daring drivers to run them down, and drivers started driving competently, would that change things?

Cities are changing, quickly, to accommodate the new urban commuter. It’s not quite like the transformation from horse carriages to backfiring internal combustion engines, but a revolution is underway. Uber, Lyft and other ride services make it easy not to own a car. Bike commuting is at an all-time high in many cities.

But lanes for cyclists and signage for special routes might offer little more than the illusion of safety.

Continue reading

Blame the Children

Q: What happens when a police officer finds a 5-year-old special needs boy by himself a couple of blocks from the school house?

A:  Suspend the child.  At least, if the principal is Denise Segars-McPhatter, and the school is Early Childhood Center School 82.  What, you thought the cop did something wrong? Not this time.

From the Buffalo News:

A 5-year-old boy with special needs managed to grab his jacket and bookbag, leave his kindergarten class, get down a flight of stairs and walk out of a Buffalo elementary school undetected Tuesday.

A police officer on patrol around noon happened to spot the child nearly two blocks away in the East Side Kensington-Bailey neighborhood and returned him to Early Childhood Center School 82. Shortly afterward, the child’s mother got a call from a school staffer.

To apologize?  To beg forgiveness?  To seek the mercy and understanding of parents from those in loco parentis?  Nope. Wrong loco. Continue reading