Greece is in a state of economic and financial crisis that’s dominated global headlines this week, but the real roots of the crisis lie over a decade ago in the misguided idea of uniting a very diverse group of European countries into a single currency:
Tens of thousands of Massachusetts inmates may have the chance to get their drug convictions overturned, thanks to a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling, earlier this month. The cases all involved defendants who plead guilty on the advise of council, after state crime lab tests reportedly showed the presence of drugs.
In 2013, former Massachusetts crime chemist Annie Dookhan plead guilty to 27 criminal counts, including tampering with evidence, violating the state witness intimidation statute, multiple counts of lying to a grand jury, falsely claiming to carrying a degree and others. Dookhan admitted to falsifying lab results in tens of thousands of drug related criminal cases. For her crimes, she received a three to five-year prison sentence, and an additional two years probation.
According to WCVB in Boston, Dookhan tampered with test results, forged documents and testified falsely in criminal cases over a 14 year period, while she was employed with the state crime lab.
While hundreds of convictions have already been overturned because of the tainted evidence, thousands of additional cases have yet to be brought forward. Many of those cases involved defendants who entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors, on advice of legal counsel.
According to Matthew Segal, Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, while anywhere from 40,000 to 60,000 cases were impacted by the evidence tampering, only about 1,200 defendants actually challenged their sentences in court. Segal told The New York Times that people were afraid that if they brought a legal challenge, the result could be an even harsher sentence than what was originally imposed.
On May 18, the Supreme Judicial Court paved the way for those cases to be brought forward, without the fear of additional punishment. The justices wrote:
“we now conclude that (1) a defendant who has been granted a new trial based on Dookhan’s misconduct at the Hinton drug lab cannot be charged with a more serious offense than that of which he or she initially was convicted under the terms of a plea agreement and, if convicted again, cannot be given a more severe sentence than that which originally was imposed.”
According to Segal, the justices decision will have a pronounced impact on individuals who have thus far been afraid to challenge their sentences.
“It clears a path for people to challenge — when I say people, I say thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people — to challenge their convictions without fear that prosecutors will respond by seeking to revive harsher charges or harsher sentences that were relinquished in a plea bargain.”
Following a 15-month-long investigation into Massachusetts’ Hinton Drug Lab, state inspectors found ‘a pattern of neglect, mismanagement, and poor standards.’ While claiming that Dookhan was the only ‘bad actor’ at the lab, the Inspector General told the Boston Globe that “a lack of uniform protocols and procedures at the lab led to deficient practices.” He went on to say that training for chemists was ‘wholly inadequate.’
Inspectors found improper weighing of drug evidence (in order to trump up charges), cases with no chain of command, and cases in which the test results were inconsistent, but prosecutors and defense attorneys were never informed of the discrepancies.
One of the most surprising revelations about the Hinton Drug Lab is that it was never accredited. Yet the lab was charged with testing evidence, providing documentation and even sending ‘expert witnesses’ to testify in court.
Following the state’s investigation, the Hinton Drug Lab was closed down. Besides Dookhan, no-one who worked at the lab was charged with a crime. Three years after the investigation first began, tens of thousands of citizens may still be in prison because of the conduct of Hinton Lab employees.
While the court’s recent decision will minimize some of the chilling effect of the Hinton Lab scandal, until there is real public oversight over every aspect of the criminal justice system, public confidence in that system will remain a long way off.
Police wrestled a 14-year-old girl to the ground and handcuffed her as she rushed to aid her younger brother after police shot him in a Cleveland park, according to newly released video from the incident.
Officers shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice on Nov. 22 as he sat outside Cudell Recreation Center, where 911 callers reported someone with a gun.
The sixth-grader had been playing with a pellet gun before officers pulled up in a police cruiser and shot him seconds later.
“This has to be the cruelest thing I’ve ever seen,” said attorney Walter Madison.
City officials finally released the 30-minute video Thursday, and it backs claims made by the children’s mother that officers stopped her daughter from aiding her brother – and that police failed to render first aid for several minutes.
The video shows rookie Officer Timothy Loehmann help his partner, Officer Frank Garmback, restrain the teenage girl and place her in the back of a police cruiser about 10 feet away from her brother as he lay dying on the ground.
Police stood around the wounded boy, including one who stood with hands on hips as an FBI agent arrived and administered first aid four minutes after officers shot the child.
Paramedics arrived eight minutes after the boy was shot, and he was taken away on a stretcher 13 minutes after the shooting.
Tamir later died at a hospital.
The family’s attorney said officers showed “overwhelming indifference” to the child they had shot.
“This is the level of service that makes people very upset and distrustful of law enforcement,” Madison said.
The attorney said the video raises additional questions about Loehmann, who was hired by Cleveland police despite his firing by another department in 2012 and was turned down for a job by several other police agencies.
“This video really explains why,” Madison said. “This is not the professional standard we would expect or deserve, and the city of Cleveland put him in the position to allow this to happen.”
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has turned the investigation over to the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department, which will then hand over its evidence to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty’s office.
Prosecutors will then present the case to a grand jury, which will determine whether any charges will be filed.
How is Miss America “still a thing?” wonders John Oliver
In just 15 minutes, John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” has taken down the sexist tradition of beauty pageants, challenged the credibility of the entire Miss America organization, and brilliantly parodied the ridiculous production that is the pageant. The segment also illustrated how, increasingly, Oliver’s program seems to be a journalism-driven show with aggressively researched, truth-seeking stories told with a sense of self-awareness and lots of wit.
After revealing Miss America’s dubious and troubling relationship with its so-called scholarships (arguably the only thing that keeps the pageant relevant in 2014), Oliver hosted a beauty contest of his own. Comedian Kathy Griffin participated as a contestant, flipped the script and then judged the beauty of pageant host Oliver next to a model. The model, who is a model, won the contest because it favors people who look like models. Oliver then declares, “Pageants are horrible! I feel bad about myself.”
In a shocking video posted to YouTube, police tase and arrest a black man picking his kids up from preschool
The latest in police misconduct was captured in a cellphone video that surfaced earlier this week. The video depicts a black man, identified as 28-year-old Christopher Lollie, sitting in a public space waiting to pick up his young children from New Horizon Academy in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota.
“I want to know who you are and what the problem was back there,” a female cop says to Lollie at the start of the video.
“There is no problem, that’s the thing,” he replies.
“So talk to me and let me know who you are and you can be on your way.”
Lollie explains to the officer that he has been sitting in a public area for 10 minutes and protests that he doesn’t have to tell her his name because he had not broken any laws.
“The problem was –” the officer says.
“The problem is I’m black,” Lollie interrupts. “It really is, because I’m not sitting there with a group of people. I’m sitting there by myself, not causing a problem.”
A second officer then approaches the two and attempts to touch Lollie. “I’ve got to go get my kids,” Lollie says, growing upset. “Please don’t touch me.”
“You’re going to go to jail then,” the second officer replies.
“Come on, brother,” he says. “This is assault.”
“I’m not your brother. Put your hands behind your back, otherwise it’s going to get ugly.”
Shortly thereafter, the phone gets knocked out of Lollie’s hands as the cops cuff him. One can then hear the sound of a taser charging and Lollie’s screams as the cops tase him.
The police report states that two officers, Michael Johnson and Bruce Schmidt, were called to the First National Bank Building “on a report of uncooperative male refusing to leave.” The female officer has not yet been identified.
His children had been attending New Horizon for about 9 months at that time, he said, so many people at the school already knew who he was. Luckily, he said, his children weren’t there to witness the incident since the children’s mother still hadn’t arrived. But Lollie’s children’s classmates and teacher all witnessed the event, he said.
“The teacher actually gave me a witness statement, stating that ‘he was calm, he wasn’t doing anything wrong, he was talking to them, and they just started assaulting him,” he said.
Since then, Lollie said he fought the charges and because of the teacher’s statement and the footage from the building’s security cameras, all charges against him were dropped as of July 31.
Lollie said that he didn’t want to post the video until the charges were dropped. “It hurts, it really does,” he said. “Because no matter what — I could be the nicest guy in the world, talk with respect, I can be working, taking care of my kids, doing everything the model citizen is supposed to do — and I still get that type of treatment.”
Warning: The video below could be upsetting to viewers.
On the latest episode of his Web series, the British comedian takes Fox to task for its one-sidedness
Russell Brand eviscerated Fox News’ coverage of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, on Thursday, blasting the network for its one-sidedness.
“It’s so outrageous,” Brand said on the latest episode of his show, “The Trews.”
“It’s almost art.”
Brand criticized Fox News for its nearly unanimous support of Darren Wilson, the white Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown earlier this month, and for its deeply negative attitude toward protesters in the Missouri city.
“I think what’s interesting about Fox News’ coverage is the complete evisceration of any compassion in the argument,” Brand said. “Pain and suffering is the lifeblood of their channel. There’s no one so disadvantaged, so oppressed, that Fox News can’t get some mileage out of exploiting or condemning them.”
Beginning his takedown, Brand homed in on Greg Gutfeld’s comments on “Red Eye,” where the host said that “the media, like humanity, can only handle two sides to a story, and they almost always flock to one side — and it’s David, never Goliath.”
Cutting in, Brand cannily responded: “Yeah … When you look at the Bible, you think, ‘Hang on here! Should we revise this clearly allegorical story about David and Goliath? What about Goliath — the hapless, lovable giant?’ No, you don’t — Goliath is clearly there to demonstrate oppressive power, isn’t he?”
Brand continued his assault on Gutfield, playing a segment where Gutfield called the overwhelming support for Brown whom the “Red Eye” host deemed the “underdog” the result of “decades of pop culture, deeming what’s cool and what isn’t.”
Interjecting, Brand offered his rebuttal.
“It’s not ‘cool’ to stick up for the people of Ferguson, who after a century of oppression and the only limited success of the civil rights movement, have decided that after the killing of an unarmed man to protest. They’re doing it because they like some of their trainers,” Brand said, referring to expensive athletic shoes.
“That’s outrageous,” Brand said. “Of course there’s an economic aspect to the argument. Of course there’s a social aspect. You can’t just bring out the author of the book ‘We Deserve to Be Shot’ to bring out arguments just so Fox News can keep being as they are.”
He continued: “People don’t just spontaneously have an attitude toward the criminal justice system …Like the same way you might not have an attitude to your dishwasher. If your dishwasher doesn’t do anything except wash the dishes, you won’t just suddenly wonder one day, ‘You know, it’s really unjust the way that dishwasher keeps shooting unarmed black men!’”
A friend emailed me today and asked me why hadn’t I reported some of the malicious treatment by police officers against alleged “perpetrators” in recent weeks. I think I wrote back saying that I have in fact reported on police violence in the past but wanted to stick to the tagline of this blog: Sorting out the crazies.
The truth of the matter (and my friend touched on this in his email) I probably didn’t want to offend the readers of this political blog with stories of police misconduct across the nation. Perhaps there’s even a deeper reason…
So, I have decided to include some of the police misconduct craziness going on across the country (especially in the northeast) perpetrated by poorly trained, unprofessional cops everywhere. (H/t: LTL)
Disturbing video captures the NYPD arresting a woman as she shouts that she needs her oxygen. The woman was dragged naked from her Brownsville, Brooklyn apartment by NYPD.
Denise Stewart, a 48-year-old Brooklyn woman was dragged by NYPD from her apartment and arrested in the late hours of July 13, New York Daily News reported. The grandmother had just taken a shower and was only wearing a towel and pair of underpants when NYPD pounded on her door.
The NYPD officers were responding to a domestic violence 911-call made from the Brownsville apartment building. However, according to the Daily News, they did not know the apartment number. After hearing shouts from Stewart’s apartment they banged on the door at 11:45 PM. According to the Daily News, Stewart told the police they had the wrong apartment and attempted to close the door. Denise Stewart was then dragged by the NYPD cops into the hallway.
Neighbors captured part of the arrest on video, which shows male officers struggling to subdue the woman, and Stewart calling for her oxygen.
“For approximately two minutes and 20 seconds, Stewart was bare-breasted in the hallway as additional police officers tramped up the stairs and through the hallway, glancing at her as they passed by,” the Daily News reported. Eventually a female officer covered her with a towel.
Shouts of “Oxygen, get my oxygen” can be heard int he video.
“Ok, ok,” a police officer says, and leaves the frame.
“Her asthma! Her asthma! Her asthma,” shouted bystanders.
Stewart, who has asthma, fainted during the arrest, according to the Daily News.
The NYPD arrested Denise Stewart and charged her with assaulting a police officer — she bit an officer’s finger during the scuffle. Denise Stewart’s 20-year-old daughter Diamond Stewart was arrested and charged with acting in a manner injurious to a child, resisting arrest and criminal possession of a weapon. Stewarts’s 24-year-old son Kirkland Stewart was charged with resisting arrest.
Stewart’s 12-year-old daughter was also taken into custody. According to the police, the 12-year-old had injuries on her face and claimed that her mother and sister hit her with a belt. The 12-year-old daughter later resisted arrest, and allegedly kicked out a police van window, cutting an officer’s chin. She was charged with criminal mischief, criminal possession of a weapon and assaulting a police officer.
Denise Stewart’s lawyer, Amy Rameau, was told by a Legal Aid lawyer that the original 911 call came from a different apartment at the Kings Highway address. The NYPD allegedly arrived at Stewart’s apartment by mistake.
“They manhandled [Stewart] and behaved in a deplorable manner,” Rameau said. “She feels completely mortified. This is about human dignity.”
Rameau also explained that the Administration for Children’s Services investigated and found no evidence of neglect.
The office of Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) said same-sex couples who were married after the state’s ban on gay marriage was struck down, but before theSupreme Court halted gay marriages in the state, will not be recognized as legally married.
Herbert’s chief of staff Derek Miller emailed the following instructions to Cabinet Members on Tuesday:
Dear Cabinet,I’m sure you are all aware of the issuance of the stay regarding same-sex marriage in Utah from the United States Supreme Court yesterday. This stay effectively puts a hold on the decision of the district court, which found state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage in Utah to be unconstitutional.
After the district court decision was issued on Friday, December 20th, some same-sex couples availed themselves of the opportunity to marry and to the status granted by the state to married persons. This office sent an email to each of you soon after the district court decision, directing compliance.
With the district court injunction now stayed, the original laws governing marriage in Utah return to effect pending final resolution by the courts. It is important to understand that those laws include not only a prohibition of performing same-sex marriages but also recognizing same-sex marriages.
Based on counsel from the Attorney General’s Office regarding the Supreme Court decision, state recognition of same-sex marital status is ON HOLD until further notice. Please understand this position is not intended to comment on the legal status of those same-sex marriages – that is for the courts to decide. The intent of this communication is to direct state agency compliance with current laws that prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex marriages.
Wherever individuals are in the process of availing themselves of state services related to same-sex marital status, that process is on hold and will stay exactly in that position until a final court decision is issued. For example, if a same-sex married couple previously changed their names on new drivers licenses, those licenses should not be revoked. If a same-sex couple seeks to change their names on drivers licenses now, the law does not allow the state agency to recognize the marriage therefore the new drivers licenses cannot be issued.
We appreciate your patience and diligence in this matter. We recognize that different state agencies have specific questions and circumstances that will need to be worked through. Please do so with the Assistant Attorney General assigned to your respective agency in coordination with the Governor’s General Counsel. We also recognize that these changes affect real people’s lives. Let us carefully and considerately ensure that we, and our employees throughout the state, continue to treat all people with respect and understanding as we assist them.
The Supreme Court has refused a group of doctors’ request to block implementation of the nation’s new health care law.
Chief Justice John Roberts turned away without comment Monday an emergency stay request from the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. and the Alliance for Natural Health USA.
They asked the chief justice Friday to temporarily block the law, saying Congress had passed it incorrectly by starting it in the Senate instead of the House. Revenue-raising bills are supposed to originate in the lower chamber. They also wanted blocked doctor registration requirements they say will make it harder for independent non-Medicare physicians to treat Medicare-eligible patients.
Still pending is a decision on a temporary block on the law’s contraceptive coverage requirements, which was challenged by a group of nuns.
One year has passed since 20 children and six teachers were shot and killed in Newtown, Conn., and yet, Washington, D.C. has still failed to enact major legislation on gun control. Using #ShameOnDC, Americans throughout the country wrote in to HuffPost Live to express their frustration, advocate for change, and make their voices heard.
“I am a mother endowed with old-fashioned common sense and respect for the sanctity of human life. And I am here on behalf of my two children unafraid to say that the gun lobby emperor has no clothes.” — Jennifer Mendelsohn, mother of two children
“I know longer think of gun violence as something that happens to somebody else. Those meaningless numbers are real people to me now.” — Pam Simon, 2011 Tuscon shooting survivor
“It’s such a magical age… A six-year-old may want to be a veterinarian one day, a ninja the next, and a banker after that.” — Kimberly Wilkins, mother of seven-year-old son
“The instant he drew his last breath was when I decided that too many [children] have died.” — Mary Leigh Blek, lost son to gun shooting in 1994
“The service we ask of you is one that demands you imagine what isn’t yet, what appears to be beyond what you can accomplish and then make it happen.” — Rabbi Aaron Alexander
“It’s a terrible thing to know that your government would rather cave to gun lobbyists and their money than to stand up for innocent children, students, employees, and citizens.” — Ariana Henderson, student at Penn State University