Subscribe

Welcome to the ‘Criminal Defense’ Archive


Here you will find all archived articles and posts under the selected category. Thank you for visiting and supporting the movement.

Washington state governor declares death penalty moratorium

February 12, 2014 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Defense, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights, White Privilege

From Reuters:

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee declared a moratorium on Tuesday on carrying out the death penalty in his Pacific Northwest state, citing concerns about unequal application of justice in determining who is executed.

The action marked a victory for opponents of capital punishment who have seen a growing number of U.S. states take steps in recent years to end executions, either by legislation or through suspensions issued by governors or the courts.

“Equal justice under the law is the state’s primary responsibility,” Inslee, a first-term Democrat, told a news conference announcing the suspension of capital punishment. “And in death penalty cases, I’m not convinced equal justice is being served.”

But Inslee stopped short of commuting to life in prison the sentences of the nine inmates currently on death row in Washington state, leaving open the possibility they could still be executed should a future governor lift the moratorium. The next election for governor will be held in 2016.

Eighteen U.S. states have already legally ended executions, with Maryland last year becoming the sixth state in six years to abolish capital punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. A number of others have temporary execution bans in place.

CI: Collective Non-Cooperation

January 22, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Defense, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights, What People are Doing to Change the World

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Collective Non-Cooperation
by nancy a heitzeg

One of the least discussed realities of criminal injustice is this: the entire endeavor rests on the cooperation of everyday citizens. Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data primarily depends on citizens to call and report crimes to the police. Gaps in UCR data (i.e. unaccounted for crimes that are neither detected by police nor reported by citizens) are estimated by administering the National Crime Victimization Survey to a random subset of the population. The over-whelming majority of everything that is known about crime, especially the Index Offenses, comes from us.

Further, Arrest Rates or Clearance Rates rely heavily – not on super-tech CSI techniques – but on victim and/or bystander descriptions. Prosecutors depend on a snitch system of informants to further investigations especially in so-called “victimless” crimes such as drug deals. The courts count on 90% of all those charged to accept a “negotiated guilty plea” otherwise known as plea-bargaining.

Professor Alexandra Natapoff on Snitching

The Criminal InJustice System is Nothing without our Cooperation.

As it becomes increasingly clear that reporting crime does little to protect us and that state violence often further victimizes those that seek help, what if we stopped calling ? What if some of us already have?

As police become increasingly violent in their responses to even 911 calls for help, what if we stopped calling them?

As the Drug War system of mass incarceration becomes ever more dependent on confidential informants, what if we stopped snitching?

As we are increasingly asked to give up our constitutional rights, what if, as Michelle Alexander wonders,  we went “to trial and crashed the system”?

What would that look like? How could that be collectively organized? What alternatives would need to be in place?

Think about it..

In the meantime, Know Your Rights.

 

(more…)

CI: The Year in State-Sponsored Homicide

December 18, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Defense, Criminal Injustice Series, International Law, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

The Year in State-Sponsored Homicide
by nancy a heitzeg

As 2013 comes to a close, both Amnesty International  and the Death Penalty Information Center offer us a final look at the year in Killing States, both in the USA and around the world. While the overall trend is towards abolition, capital punishment remains an both option and a grim reality in the 31 countries that carried out executions in 2013.

Without further adieu, the numbers. These include only judicially mandated executions and not extrajudicial killings  by police, security guards and vigilantes. Those numbers would add untold thousands more.

And the only word I have left: Abolition.

Executions Worldwide

While more than two-thirds of the world’s nations are now abolitionist in law or in practice, thousands are executed around the world each year.  China keeps its’ execution numbers a secret, so a complete accounting is not available. Concern has been expressed recently over the increase in secret executions in Japan, and the high rate of executions in Iraq. Unsurprisingly, the United States is ranked in the top five of countries carrying out executions.

Methods of execution included beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection and various kinds of shooting (by firing squad, and at close range to the heart or the head). Public executions were known to have been carried out in Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. In Saudi Arabia, executions are usually beheadings with a sword. In one case recorded by Amnesty, a Sudanese man’s head was sewn back onto his body and hung from a pole in a public place.

dpwPNG
(Full Size Graphic here)

dpw2 (more…)

CI: More Than 1000 Words…

December 11, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Defense, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

More than 1000 Words…
by nancy a heitzeg

How many tens of trillions of words have been written here and elsewhere about the state of Criminal InJustice? How ever many, it has not been enough. Despite claims of and calls for reform, the USA remains Incarceration Nation, with a brutal system of harsh sentences, extreme conditions, with a racial dynamic that persists, perhaps because it is precisely the point.

The scope and scale are stunning. So tonight, let’s just look. The following graphics are from a new fact sheet from The Sentencing Project: Trends in US Corrections. The numbers and images speak  for themselves.

sp1

sp3NG (more…)

Political Prisoner to President: Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013)

December 05, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Criminal Defense, Imperialism, International Law, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights, What People are Doing to Change the World

Lucky Dube ~ House of Exile

Mandela Obituary, The Guardian

Mandela’s Struggle in Posters, New York Times

Official Statement on the Passing of Nelson Mandela From Leonard Peltier

Nobel Symphony excerpt ~ Steve Heitzeg

 

CI: For Fred Hampton (August 30, 1948 – December 4, 1969)

December 04, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Defense, Criminal Injustice Series, Imperialism, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

For Fred Hampton (August 30, 1948 – December 4, 1969)
by nancy a heitzeg

“Nothing but a Northern Lynching”…

Eyes on the Prize – 12 – A Nation of Law?, 1967-1968
“By the late 1960s, the anger in poorer urban areas over charges of police brutality was smoldering. In Chicago, Fred Hampton formed a Black Panther Party chapter. As the chapter grew, so did police surveillance. In a pre-dawn assault by the police, Panthers Hampton and Mark Clark were killed. The deaths came at a time when movement activists were increasingly becoming targets of police harassment at both the local and federal levels through COUNTELPRO, the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program. During this same period, inmates at New York’s Attica prison took over the prison in an effort to publicize intolerable conditions. During the police assault which ended the takeover, several inmates and guards were killed. For some, Attica came to symbolize the brutality of a hardened political regime.”

The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther”

History Is A Weapon: “Power Anywhere Where There’s People”

Fair Sentencing Act Ruled Not Retroactive for Inmates Sentenced under 100 to 1 Ratios

December 03, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Defense, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Divided Federal Court Rules Crack Cocaine Sentencing Reforms Do Not Apply To Those Already in Prison

Today, a sharply divided Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA), which reduced the unfair, unjustified, and racially discriminatory crack cocaine/powder cocaine sentencing ratio from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1, does not apply to thousands of individuals who are currently incarcerated pursuant to sentences imposed under the discredited 100-to-1 regime.  Seven judges concluded that the FSA should apply to those serving sentences under the 100-to-1 federal sentencing structure, and ten judges declared that it should not.NA-BL741A_CRACK_NS_20110601213903

“We are deeply disappointed in the outcome of this case. Thousands of people, the majority of whom are African-American, are still serving time under an unfair drug sentencing regime that has destroyed individuals, families and communities. Today’s decision demonstrates that those who are working to eliminate the impermissible role of race in criminal prosecutions and sentences still have much more work to do. We will continue to press this issue in the court,” said Sherrilyn A. Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., a leading civil rights law firm and a separate entity from the NAACP…

In 2010, Congress passed the FSA to reduce the irrationality and unfairness occasioned by a federal sentencing structure under which 100 grams of powder cocaine triggered the same sentence as a single gram of crack cocaine. Congress made this change in recognition of the fact that powder cocaine and crack are indistinguishable from one another and the fact that the law was imposed in starkly racially disproportionate ways.  Indeed, Judge Karen Nelson Moore, who joined the majority and concluded that the law does not apply to those who are already serving 100-to-1 prison sentences, acknowledged that the 100-to-1 ratio “led to the mass incarceration of African-American men and has bred distrust of law enforcement in the larger African-American community.” Nationwide, nearly 9,000 individuals—90% of whom are African American–are serving out sentences imposed on them under the 100-to-1 ratio.

(more…)

CI: Black Life, Perceived Threat, and “Stand Your Ground”

November 13, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Defense, Criminal Injustice Series, Gun Culture, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, What People are Doing to Change the World

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Black Life, Perceived Threat, and “Stand Your Ground”
by nancy a heitzeg

Almost one year ago, CI published Standing Up to Stand Your Ground in response to the murder of Jordan Davis. In the ensuing months, we have witnessed an intensifying climate of toxic Anti-Blackness, where fear and explict/implict bias turn deadly and white killers walk.

The acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin . The death of Jordan Davis. The death of at least 6 Black men, women or children at the hands of someone employed or protected by the US government. Jonathan Ferrell, who survived a car crash only to be shot 10 times by the police while seeking help. And now Renisha McBride, another help-seeking crash survivor shot in the head with a 12 gauge shotgun by a Stand Your Ground Michigan homeowner. Brittany Cooper in Asking for Help While Black: How it Became a Capital Offense:

Screen-shot-2013-11-08-at-2.27.20-PMWhite supremacy is no country for black people. Gender be damned. And it remains abundantly clear that black life is still considered a reasonable price to pay for the protection of white property and white life. White supremacy works to reassert and maintain dominance by striking fear in the hearts of black and brown people, by restricting our free movement through the world, by reminding us at every turn, that we might end up the indiscriminate victims of white rage. We are made to believe that white rage is ephemeral, though, such that we look up in its aftermath, devastated by its inhabitation, but remain unable to track, trail or trap it. With a kind of profound certitude, though, we can generally trust its trail of black destruction.

Video by dream hampton

Drip, drip, drip.

So too the calls for “justice” – one by one by one – from a system designed to devalue  it. Ultimately, we must challenge both the cultural constructs and structural processes which collude/collide/conspire to devalue Black Life. As Kay Whitlock notes in What Would Real Justice for Trayvon Martin Look Like?:

blPNGWhile the NRA may solidify its ethically bankrupt power by encouraging an ethos of enmity and expendability, great leaders for social change—King, Gandhi, Chavez, Huerta, Malcolm X, Archbishop Oscar Romero—have always rightly noted the importance of simultaneous forms of transformation at both individual and structural levels.

Where are the civic and faith-based leaders calling for such transformation today?   Where are today’s risk-takers who are willing to step out into the great storms of fear—those who are willing to call not for more policing, punishment , and retribution, but for justice that not only names and confronts, but works to transform and heal the terrible wounds of structural racism in this purportedly “colorblind” society?

Even as we mourn the loss of Trayvon Martin and so many other young people of color, let us reflect on the collective duty before us: valuing their lives by dismantling all the neutral-sounding ways in which racism manifests—anti-immigrant laws, gutting of the Voting Rights Act, voter suppression efforts, Stop and Frisk police practices, race-based mass incarceration and more. If we’re serious about racial justice, we have to embrace measures equal to the challenge.

The challenge is a daunting. Legal challenges to Stand Your Ground laws remain a starting place. Since CI originally published its’ critique, a growing body of research indicates that these laws have contributed to the racially fueled climate of guns and violence, with white shooters being wide latitude to kill Blacks. For example, a recent study of homicide conviction rates in the 22 states with such laws, found that 17% of the homicides of black victims by white defendants were ruled justifiable, while only 1% of the homicides of white victims by black defendants were deemed legally justifiable.

Resistance has mounted as well. But repealing these laws will  largely be a state by state struggle. And so, as a reminder of the scope and legal pitfalls of expanding “gun rights” legislation, CI revisits an updated Standing Up to “Stand Your Ground” below..

(more…)