Ethics-challenged judges added to opioid deaths…and more


Click to enlarge

❝ For years, they sealed evidence about the risks as the body count mounted. And as a Reuters analysis found, it’s only one of many big product-liability cases in which judges have countenanced a lethal and often unlawful secrecy.

❝ In an unprecedented analysis, Reuters found that over the past 20 years, judges sealed evidence relevant to public health and safety in about half of the 115 biggest defective-product cases consolidated before federal judges in so-called multidistrict litigation, or MDLs. Those cases comprised nearly 250,000 individual death and injury lawsuits, involving dozens of products used by millions of consumers: drugs, cars, medical devices and other products. And the numbers don’t convey the full extent of information locked away because they don’t include thousands of product-liability cases heard in state courts.

Frankly, they need to be indicted and tried in something more than the court of public opinion. However, I doubt there is any appropriate body in American jurisprudence or politics with sufficient courage – or dedication to the common good – to do so.

1.5 million men missing from Black society


Never read the INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison? Then, you should.

For every 100 black women not in jail, there are only 83 black men. The remaining men – 1.5 million of them – are, in a sense, missing…

Among cities with sizable black populations, the largest single gap is in Ferguson, Mo…

North Charleston, S.C., has a gap larger than 75 percent of cities…

This gap – driven mostly by incarceration and early deaths – barely exists among whites…

African-American men have long been more likely to be locked up and more likely to die young, but the scale of the combined toll is nonetheless jarring. It is a measure of the deep disparities that continue to afflict black men — disparities being debated after a recent spate of killings by the police — and the gender gap is itself a further cause of social ills, leaving many communities without enough men to be fathers and husbands.

Perhaps the starkest description of the situation is this: More than one out of every six black men who today should be between 25 and 54 years old have disappeared from daily life…

Higher mortality is the other main cause. About 900,000 fewer prime-age black men than women live in the United States, according to the census. It’s impossible to know precisely how much of the difference is the result of mortality, but it appears to account for a big part. Homicide, the leading cause of death for young African-American men, plays a large role, and they also die from heart disease, respiratory disease and accidents more often than other demographic groups, including black women…

The missing-men phenomenon began growing in the middle decades of the 20th century, and each government census over the past 50 years has recorded at least 120 prime-age black women outside of jail for every 100 black men. But the nature of the gap has changed in recent years.

Since the 1990s, death rates for young black men have dropped more than rates for other groups…Yet the prison population has soared since 1980. In many communities, rising numbers of black men spared an early death have been offset by rising numbers behind bars…

Just in case you thought our racist history was affecting life overall in the Black community less – because enough white folks voted for an agenda of change in two elections. We got a modicum of change…national healthcare has been an election promise since 1948. But, Black folks and the nation as a whole did not get the post-racial society the two old parties prattle about.

The longest march starts with one step forward. And we only have one party trying to go in that direction as it is.

Hat tip to Markus Schomer

How can rape victims hope for justice when rape kits are routinely ignored

For decades, tens of thousands of boxes of DNA evidence that nurses meticulously gathered from the bodies and clothing of sex assault victims sat stacked in storage rooms, ignored. Later, this mountain of untested evidence would be known as the “rape kit backlog”.

As scrutiny of disregarded rape kits mounted, a portrait of a more difficult to tally sort emerged – rape kits police destroyed. As with the rape kit backlog, there is no national tally of the kits police destroyed. But increasingly, local media have published reports of police destroying rape kits in states as disparate as Utah, Kentucky and Colorado.

In some cases, police destroyed kits because they deemed allegations unfounded, alleged that victims didn’t cooperate or arrested suspects without the benefit of DNA. In others, victims never filed a police report and relinquished DNA to a group of anonymous rape kits known as non-reporting or “Jane Doe” evidence, collected in case they one day decide they can report…

In 2013, in Aurora, Colorado, police department workers derailed a prosecution when they destroyed a rape kit from a 2009 assault. The error was discovered when a detective got a hit on an offender DNA profile, went to pick up the rape kit and was told it no longer existed. Shortly thereafter, police stopped all evidence destruction while they investigated, and found workers destroyed evidence in 48 rape cases between 2011 and 2013…

In Kentucky, the state auditor discovered some police departments routinely destroyed rape kits after a year, even though the state had no statute of limitations for rape. The perpetrators could have been prosecuted as long as they were alive. He wouldn’t hazard a guess at how many kits had been destroyed by police….

“You may have a hit against the national DNA database, and when law enforcement or prosecutors are notified, [they] find out evidence has been destroyed,” said Kentucky state auditor Adam Edelen. “That’s a scandal – it’s a tragedy.”

Most state lawmakers, Rebecca Brown, policy director at the Innocence Project, said, fail to provide guidance on when to test and retain crime scene evidence, which in the case of a sexual assault is a rape kit.

RTFA for details of cases dropped, cases never carried to prosecution. There are lots of bureaucratic rationales around. A few are rolled out in the article. My feelings are a bit more abrupt. This crap has been going on for decades.

Cops don’t give a damn. The judicial system and prosecutors don’t give a damn. Our state legislators don’t give a damn. After all, it’s only women who are abused by the system which is supposed to be providing aid and comfort, justice to resolve what happened to them. And our society as a whole doesn’t give a damn, either.

No one will stand up and say that. But, the same number will not stand up and do anything about it either. I think any legislator who won’t fight to revise or repair useless evidence laws – especially as it applies to rape cases – should be replaced by someone with a conscience.

Our courts think we should be the cops of the world, too

Internet service providers must turn over customer emails and other digital content sought by U.S. government search warrants even when the information is stored overseas, a federal judge has ruled…

In what appears to be the first court decision addressing the issue, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Francis in New York said Internet service providers such as Microsoft or Google cannot refuse to turn over customer information and emails stored in other countries when issued a valid search warrant from U.S. law enforcement agencies.

If U.S. agencies were required to coordinate efforts with foreign governments to secure such information, Francis said, “the burden on the government would be substantial, and law enforcement efforts would be seriously impeded.”

The ruling underscores the debate over privacy and technology that has intensified since the disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about secret U.S. government efforts to collect huge amounts of consumer data around the world…

The decision addressed a search warrant served on Microsoft for one of its customers whose emails are stored on a server in Dublin, Ireland.

In a statement, Microsoft said it challenged the warrant because the U.S. government should not be able to search the content of email held overseas.

“A U.S. prosecutor cannot obtain a U.S. warrant to search someone’s home located in another country, just as another country’s prosecutor cannot obtain a court order in her home country to conduct a search in the United States,” the company said. “We think the same rules should apply in the online world, but the government disagrees…”

The search warrant in question was approved by Francis in December and sought information associated with an email account for a Microsoft customer, including the customer’s name, contents of all emails received and sent by the account, online session times and durations and any credit card number or bank account used for payment.

It is unclear which agency issued the warrant, and it and all related documents remain under seal.

Yes, transparency of our elected officials continues to match their honesty and integrity. Or lack thereof.

Scumballs never stop — patent troll claims to own the Web

Even after Amazon and Google put two bullets into its head earlier this year, overgrown patent troll Eolas is stumbling forward with new lawsuits against Facebook, Wal-Mart and Disney.

Eolas is a shell company that had been stomping around the country demanding companies pay it to use basic technology that lets users “interact” with the web. It suffered what looked like a fatal blow earlier this year when Amazon and other Eolas targets persuaded a Texas jury that two of its patents were invalid.

Nonetheless, Eolas has dusted itself off and filed new claims based on the same patents plus two more that are offshoots from the original patent issued in 1998. That patent…is entitled “Distributed hypermedia method for automatically invoking external application providing interaction and display of embedded objects within a hypermedia document.”

Eolas’ legal rampage led the man regarded as the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, to testify in February that its patents should be invalid.

The troll’s activities have also proved controversial because the University of California has been its partner in the patent lawsuits. A spokesperson told Reuters, which was first to report the Facebook suit, that the school considered the patents public assets and that it “should be paid a fair value when a third party exploits that university asset for profit.”

…McKool Smith…The law firm, which has won hundreds of millions in Texas troll cases through commissions of up to 40 percent, has seen its fortunes turn in the last year.

Fortunately.

Creeps like this prove the US Patent Office has gone from incompetent to useless and a partner in criminal conspiracies.

Though one of the cardinal requirements of this kind of theft is a patent office that knows nothing of technology, the many judges and courts cooperating in this crap are equally corrupt and fill the needs of legal extortion with their ignorance.

Prove genetic predisposition and American courts more likely to give a psychopath a break

Criminal psychopaths in the United States whose lawyers provide biological evidence for their brain condition are more likely to be sentenced to shorter jail terms than those who are simply said to be psychopaths…

A study published in the journal Science found that if judges were told a criminal was a psychopath, they considered it an aggravating factor. But if they also heard biological explanations for the disorder, they gave shorter sentences.

Researchers from the University of Utah who conducted the study said the findings were surprising and worrying, and external experts said they had problematic implications for how brain science might affect criminal justice in future.

“In the coming years, we are likely to find out about all kinds of biological causes of criminal behavior, so the question is, why does the law care if most behavior is biologically caused?” said Teneille Brown, an associate professor at the university’s college of law…

Several studies in recent years have found that psychopaths who have committed serious crimes like murder and rape have faulty connections in their brains which show up on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans.

These and other advances in neuroscience have led some to worry that such scientific evidence may be used increasingly in court to explain criminal actions or argue mitigating circumstances…

Brown and her colleagues said their study raised ethical questions: Whether it was right to reduce a criminal’s sentence because defective genes or brain function meant he had less self-control and ability to tell right from wrong. Or whether such evidence should be an argument for a harsher sentence because the criminal may be more likely to reoffend.

Though I have an abiding interest in the law – and justice – the topic raises new and interesting conflicts between the two. Teneille Brown’s questions put it to the test of ethical decisions that are going to have to be written into legal precedent.

So far, I haven’t an opinion. Though, having spent a few years BITD immersed in studies of the value of sociopathy in the creative arts – I recall what conclusions I came to at the time. Norman Mailer and Nietzsche were wrong.

Over 2,000 false convictions in past 23 years in the United States


Sylvester Smith

In 1984, two North Carolina girls, age 4 and 6, were molested. They told police their abuser was Sylvester Smith, who was dating the mother of one of the girls, and he went to prison for the crime.

Twenty years later, the victims recanted, saying their grandmother told them to blame Smith, and his conviction was overturned.

But the person they say who really molested them — their cousin, who was nine at the time — could not be prosecuted because he was under age at the time of the alleged crime. He is, however, serving a life sentence for another crime he committed in the meantime: murder.

Smith’s case illustrates the fallout from false convictions: He lost roughly 20 years of his life to prison, while the alleged perpetrator was free to commit other crimes.

Smith’s discarded conviction is one of nearly 900 such cases filed in the National Registry of Exonerations, a database of prisoners exonerated in the U.S. of serious crimes since 1989, that was made public on Monday. To qualify as an “exoneree,” an individual must have been convicted and later relieved of all the legal consequences.

In compiling the database, researchers became aware of more than 1,100 other cases in which convictions were overturned due to 13 separate police corruption scandals, most of which involved the planting of drugs or guns on innocent defendants. Those exonerations are not included in the registry.

I’d love to include the names of the Police Departments and coppers involved, though.

Continue reading

Pillheads putting pharmacies under siege

Less than two hours after picking out a man in a police lineup who held up his drugstore, pharmacist Mike Donohue was being robbed. Again…

Like the other five robbers who had held up Donohue’s store before, the man demanded OxyContin, a popular painkiller known for its high abuse potential.

“My technician came back and showed me the note that said, ‘Give me your OxyContin. I have a gun,’ ” Donohue said.

Instead of handing over the drugs, Donohue unholstered the Glock 19 handgun he wore beneath his white lab coat and sprinted to the front of the small pharmacy…

The would-be robber dashed out the door, with the pistol-packing pharmacist giving chase. Surveillance video cameras captured the entire incident.

The man got away, only to be arrested that day. He later pleaded guilty to attempting to rob Donohue’s store and to robbing another drugstore…

On the front window of his pharmacy, Mike Donohue lists the names of the men who have robbed him of drugs.

They were all eventually caught, he said, because of a simple truth: They couldn’t stop. But that’s little solace for the pharmacist who fears he is pitted against a new, more dangerous strain of criminal…

When he started his career two decades ago, Donohue said, he never imagined having to wear a gun or put bullet-resistant glass on his store windows to keep any shots he fires at robbers from breaking through and hitting someone walking by.

The pharmacist’s methods may be unorthodox but he says they are working: Since Donohue pulled a gun, the robbers have not come back.

RTFA. There are more tales of robbery and violence committed against the neighborhood pharmacist. Even if it’s a chain store, the guy dispensing prescriptions is still the same.

Ernest Sonnier freed in Houston after half his life in prison

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

It was a scene replayed with alarming frequency in Texas: a 46-year-old man walked out of prison here Friday afternoon after spending 23 years behind bars for a sex crime that the evidence suggests he did not commit.

The man, Ernest Sonnier, was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison largely on the strength of the victim’s testimony, even though the forensic evidence gathered from her body and clothes showed that someone with a blood type different from the defendant’s had raped her, lawyers from the Innocence Project in New York said.

“It’s just sloppy science, at best,” said Alba Morales, who represents Mr. Sonnier.

Well, “best” has little or nothing to do with justice in Texas. Especially if you’re Black.

Over the last 18 months, genetic testing of evidence found on the victim’s clothing and at the scene of the attack had yielded no trace of Mr. Sonnier, the Harris County district attorney’s office said. Instead, it has implicated two other men. Both are felons and known associates. One is awaiting trial for a different rape.

In light of the new evidence, Judge Michael McSpadden of Harris County District Court on Friday ordered Mr. Sonnier to be released pending further investigation, a first step toward exoneration, which under Texas law can be granted only by the state’s highest criminal court.

Donna Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said the state was not ready to concede Mr. Sonnier’s innocence, though prosecutors acknowledge that the new DNA tests cast strong doubt on the conviction. “There is a lot more legwork that needs to be done before we draw any conclusions,” Ms. Hawkins said.

Donna Hawkins is another predictable legal hack – guaranteed to reject science and justice equally. The perfect political prosecutor for Texas jurisprudence.

As he stood with his mother and extended family in the scorching sun outside the Harris County Jail, Mr. Sonnier said the justice system had broken down. He had lost two decades of life.

The evidence was on the table that I wasn’t the guy, and they failed to do justice,” he said. “It’s lost. It’s lost. There is no way to make it up.”

Texas leads the nation in cases in which convicted men have been exonerated through DNA tests. Thirty-eight of the nation’s 241 people cleared since 1989 were convicted here, according to the Innocence Project, a charity dedicated to such cases.

There are Texans who stand up for justice. Who reject the racism that still defines much of law and justice in one of the least repentant of the Confederate States. They are not the majority of the electorate.

Nutball blogger arrested for threats to judges


From a previous arrest
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

The FBI has arrested an Internet blogger from New Jersey on charges of threatening three prominent Chicago judges who authored an anti-gun rights ruling earlier this month.

Hal Turner, 47, of North Bergen, N.J., allegedly posted a headline “These judges deserve to be killed,” supplemented the next day by, “Judges official public work addresses and a map of the area are below. Their home addresses and maps will follow soon. Behold these devils.”

Below this headline, the entry listed the names, photos, phone numbers, work addresses and room numbers of the three judges involved in the handgun decision, as well as a photo of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago and a map, according to an affidavit. The photo of the building had been modified to include arrows and a label referencing “Anti-truck bomb barriers,” according to the affidavit…

We take threats to federal judges very seriously. Period,” Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said in a written statement.

Turner is charged with threatening to assault and murder three federal judges. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, if convicted.

I’ve not read his babble or listened to it; but, if he’s fool enough to break established criminal law – he’ll probably get what he deserves. The nutballs, of course, will consider him a hero. Surely you don’t think America’s right-wing is ready to accept the Constitution or federal law as binding.