“Vindictive and retaliatory” prosecutions: Welcome to the USA!

What happens when you exercise your constitutional right to a trial by jury? Well, if you have sex on a beach in Florida and take the case to trial you might get 15 years in prison and have to register as a sex offender for life. As Jonathan Turley explains, this is just how prosecutors operate these days:

prosecutors now take the view that if they [sic] demand for a plea is ignored, they are relieved on any further duty to be reasonable and just in their indictments and sentencing arguments. I have seen this happen over and over again. It is vindictive and retaliatory against those who want to go to trial. I have had prosecutors tell me that “this is how the game is played” — you defy the state on a plea and they throw the book at you. However, the result is clogging our jails with excessive sentences and maintaining a crippling threat against those who simply want to seek a verdict on their charges.

He’s right, of course. And it’s sad. As one of the commenters on Turley’s page pointed out, the same “crime” in Dubai would only get you 3 months jail and deportation. And this is in a country that still observes parts of Sharia law.

It’s insane that we have laws that would make it possible to imprison someone for 15 years and register for life for having sex on a beach — even in front of children. But it’s equally insane that prosecutors refuse to exercise their discretion to achieve justice. Instead of justice we get ruined lives — not just for the people so perversely punished, but for all of us who have to pay for their incarceration and for the endless bureaucracy and litigation that comes from attempting to enforce sex offender registration requirements. What is the point of all this?

The only hope for these people is that they are before a judge that will have the courage to stand up to this prosecutor and give a sentence more appropriate to the crime. That hope is slim, but I wish them luck.

A very dated blogroll

Do blogrolls even exist anymore? Are they a thing? I remember the day there was this awesome new blog toy called blogrolling.com. It was this cool site where you could collect links that you wanted to include on your blog and then you put a little code into your blog’s sidebar and, voila! Instant blogroll! I loved it. That was the kind of geek I was back in… 2003? But time is accelerated on the internet. Blogs were a new thing then and now they are old things that no one has or maintains anymore. They have been taken over by corporations and talking heads. Maybe it’s not just blogrolls that have gone extinct, but blogs themselves. Is anyone out there?

But, yes, of course there are blogs out there, as the blogroll, or link list, in the sidebar of this blog here will attest. Some of the links there are dead, or lead to places that have grown dusty and disused. Some of those links (ok, most of them) I haven’t even visited in years. But it’s fun to revisit old haunts, to see what’s still out there, alive and kicking, and what has gone dormant or slipped away into the internet aether. Hello, Blonde Justice, so nice to see you again, or still — since 2004!?! I am amazed and impressed. In awe, really. Also, not only is she still there, but still hitting it out of the park with great posts that capture what it means to be a public defender. And Skelly So great.

I look forward to going through the blogroll again, saying hello to old friends, getting reacquainted, finding new links, and to letting you know what I find.

LAPD officers kill unarmed man, decry “rush to judgment”

It seems like almost every day we hear a new report of the police killing an unarmed person. The latest to come to my attention was last week in LA, where two officers shot and killed a homeless man. After viewing video of the shooting, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said:

“Any time an unarmed person is shot by a Los Angeles police officer, it takes extraordinary circumstances to justify that. I have not seen those extraordinary circumstances.”

And, of course, the police union has slammed Beck for “rushing to judgment.” This was the same response in Baltimore after six officers were charged with homicide and other crimes in the death of Freddie Gray. There, an attorney for the officers accused the state’s attorney of an “egregious rush to judgement“.

I have to admit to a little bit of schadenfreude when I see these officers getting a view of our justice system from behind bars. Maybe if a few of them are actually prosecuted for these killings their colleagues everywhere might think a little more carefully before pulling that trigger in the future.

Child life without parole: The U.S., Somalia, and South Sudan

Last week Cook County Judge Angela Petrone resentenced Adolfo Davis to natural life in prison without the possibility of parole for his actions as a 14-year-old accomplice to a gang-related double murder in 1990. This sort of sentence could only happen in three countries in the world:

Juvenile life without parole is banned in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by every country in the world except three: Somalia, South Sudan and the United States. In Somalia and South Sudan, there are no known cases of people serving a life without parole sentence for a crime committed as a minor. In the U.S., there were around 2,500 as of 2008, according to a Human Rights Watch tally.

Oh what wonderful company we keep when we practice purely punitive, rather than rehabilitative, justice. 

Poooof! Blowing the Dust Away

It’s been a long time. Apparently it’s been five years. That’s long enough for a lot of hackers and spammers to have trashed the installation of WordPress this site runs on because I wasn’t actively keeping it up to date. One of the drawbacks of setting up your own blog back in the dark ages of blogging was that you had to do so much of it yourself. At the time (way back in 2002!), I had time to maintain a web server and make sure the code stayed up to date. How things have changed!

So much has changed that I don’t even know where to begin, so I will just begin with this: Hello again. I’ve missed you. Let’s start again, shall we?

RSS Help please?

The RSS feed on this blog is broken. I don’t know how to fix it. Can anyone help?

Somewhere along the way, I think when I moved from Moveable Type to WordPress, I thought it would be an awesome idea to sign up with Feedburner to handle my RSS feed. The idea, as I recall, was I could somehow keep the same feed regardless of where my blog lived so that anyone subscribed to my old feed would remain subscribed to my new feed. Magic. Awesome. Great.

Except… not, because now it doesn’t seem to work and I’m really not sure what to do. Feedburner’s troubleshootize page is not really helping me. Any other suggestions?

Oh, also, this may have to do with how my WordPress template describes the feed, but, well, what should I change?

I’m getting too old for this stuff. Playing around with the guts of a website/blog was just much more fun 10 years ago when I started a blog. Things were so much simpler then! And yes, I know I sound like an old grump, but, well, grr….

NaNoWriMo madness

It’s that time of year again. I’m 10,000 words into another NaNoWriMo project (I’m not calling it a novel because, well, it just isn’t and probably never will be) and already bumping into some kind of wall. Such fun!

What’s not so fun is

Laura Miller advising people against NaNoWriMo. Why? So people can read more. Hmm. Right. But maybe even less fun are all the ranting comments defending NaNo. The whole thing is pretty unfortunate.

Anyway, I have to go read Freedom and write some more words. That’s just how I roll.

Silence is golden, even at passport control

I haven’t had the pleasure of travelling outside the U.S. since all this “border security” and TSA madness, but Paul Lukacs has, and he has a great story about being detained by the feds for not answering questions:

I was detained last night by federal authorities at San Francisco International Airport for refusing to answer questions about why I had travelled outside the United States.

The end result is that, after waiting for about half an hour and refusing to answer further questions, I was released – because U.S. citizens who have produced proof of citizenship and a written customs declaration are not obligated to answer questions.

Check out the followup post as well. Rights, like muscles, must be exercised or they will atrophy and, eventually, disappear.

Bush wanted war on Iraq from day one

Two weeks ago I noticed this little bit at Crooks and Liars: New Documents Show Bush Administration Planned War in Iraq Well Before 9/11/2001. The documents seem to be just as described — the Bush administration was making plans to invade Iraq at least as early as January, 2001. According to the National Security Archive, “September 11 was not the motivation for the U.S. invasion of Iraq – it was a distraction from it.”

So, um, why hasn’t this been bigger news? This world is insane.