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Tag: "civil liberties"

Pepper Spray

[ 137 ] November 21, 2011 |

When I called it torture, I meant it. Imagine being sprayed with a concentrated dose of something more than ten times hotter than a habanero pepper, or nearly 1000 times hotter than a jalapeno pepper.


We were never warned that we were going to be pepper-sprayed.

Lt. Pike walked up to my friend, and I am told that he said, “Move or we’re going to shoot you.”

Then he went back and talked to a few of his police officer friends. A couple of other officers started to remove people who were sitting there, blocking exit. Pike could have easily removed us, just picked us up and removed us. We were just sitting there, nonviolent civil disobedience.

But Pike turned around and I am told that he said to the other officers, “Don’t worry about it, I’m going to spray these kids down.”

He lifts the can, spins it around in a circle to show it off to everybody.

Then he sprays us three times.

As if one time of being sprayed at point blank wasn’t enough.

I was on the end of the line getting direct spray. When the second pass came, I got up crawling. I crawled away and vomited on a tree. I was yelling. It burned. Within a few minutes I was dry heaving, I couldn’t breathe. Then, over the course of the next hour, I was dry heaving and vomiting.


Belligerent Ghouls Run UC Davis School

[ 51 ] November 21, 2011 |

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to resign at this moment,” said UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, after her decision to order peaceful protestors removed from campus had completely predictable consequences. (To which she responded with the kind of passive-voice accountability-avoiding language that is important to learn because it’s what separates us from the animals. Except the weasel.)

“Appropriate” is interesting phrasing, as if her responsibility for an indefensible decision that led to students on her campus being tortured with pepper spray was question of etiquette. It is, however, a word she likes. In a great catch by a commenter, it came up when she defended her role in allowing well-connected rich kids to jump the admissions queue at her previous (public) school:

When a politically connected Greek Orthodox priest wanted help getting the daughter of a family friend into the University of Illinois, he reached out to a campaign adviser to state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

Giannoulias’ political director came through, getting the applicant into the university’s secret admissions system for students with clout, and she was plucked from her spot on the university’s waiting list and admitted.


Internal campus documents released this week show Giannoulias’ adviser Endy Zemenides sent information about the student to U. of I. Provost Linda Katehi in February 2008. He e-mailed from his law office, but copied his “Alexi for Illinois” campaign address on the exchange.

Katehi, who was born in Greece, then forwarded the information to her vice provost.

“Endy Zemenedis [sic] is the campaign manager for the State Treasurer,” she wrote. “This is the application of the daughter of a fairly prominent Greek family in Chicago.”

After Katehi’s inquiry, admissions officers decided that they would admit the student in the spring, regardless of whether there was any wait-list movement at the Urbana-Champaign campus. Not every student on the wait list that year was accepted.


Katehi, who is currently traveling in Greece, called her actions appropriate and said references to Zemenides’ position were not meant to carry any extra weight. [Well, she might have a future doing standup, anyway. –ed]  “It is absolutely appropriate for me to pass along such a status inquiry,” she said in a statement. “I mentioned Mr. Zemenides’ title, simply because that was how I knew him.”

I think it would be “appropriate” for Katehi’s next job in academia to involve rolling flatbread around turkey.

…Another actual quote: ““I really feel confident at this point the university needs me…There are so many critical issues to be addressed and we really need to start the healing process and move forward.” I assume that the next OED will include among its definitions of “healing” “ensuring that nobody in a position of authority is held accountable.”

To Tide You Over

[ 17 ] November 9, 2011 |

I’m about to take the worst kind of red-eye flight, i.e. the one that leaves at 6 so you don’t get any sleep but it’s morning when you land. But I will end up in Ireland,so even if it’s a mostly working trip no complaints! In the meantime, I have pieces about the latest Roberts Court opportunity to insure that nobody in the New Orleans DA’s office is held accountable for systematic evidence suppression and a piece about the constitutional implications of prison privatization for your reading pleasure.

“[S]uch a statement seems to suggest a fear of too much justice.”

[ 18 ] November 3, 2011 |

Litwhwick’s depressing account of the oral arguments in Perry v. New Hampshire makes it pretty clear that the Supreme Court is disinclined to require any changes to how courts deal with eyewitness testimony despite extensive evidence that its unreliability is particularly likely to lead to miscarriages of justice:

In his rebuttal, Guerriero tries to explain again that the reason you want to take fallible eyewitness identifications away from the jury is precisely because eyewitness testimony is both powerful and wrong: “The witness’s sincerity has a powerful effect on the jury,” he explains. But it’s clear that this court will either dismiss or slide right past the old precedents that suggest that eyewitness evidence is uniquely dangerous. Oddly enough, the fact that other compelling evidence may prove equally untrustworthy seems to have immunized all the bad eyewitness evidence.

See also Liptak.

New Orleans DA Back at the Supreme Court

[ 10 ] November 2, 2011 |

Well, this is certainly surprising:

On Tuesday, the justices will hear the case of Juan Smith, who was convicted of murdering five people here. The court will consider whether he deserves a new trial because prosecutors withheld evidence from his lawyers. Such a concealment can be a violation of Brady v. Maryland, the 1963 Supreme Court decision that required prosecutors to turn over favorable evidence to the defense.

The Orleans Public Defenders office, in a brief supporting Mr. Smith, said that 28 convictions obtained by the district attorney’s office were later ruled to have been tainted by violations of this kind.

As a bare majority of the Supreme Court has reminded us, what’s crucial is to remember that 1)this is all a coincidence and not a systematic failure of the DA’s office, and 2)certainly nobody should ever be held accountable for constitutional violations.

The Three Authoritarian Stooges

[ 11 ] October 29, 2011 |

When Lieberman, Lindsay, and St. McCain get together and develop detainee policy, I want to run screaming in the other direction.

The ultimate double breasted trench coat and ladies winter jackets collection is here. You can find a full range of bomber jackets for women including motorcycle gloves to motorcycle clothing at our online shopping store.

The Supreme Court and the Strip Search

[ 16 ] October 13, 2011 |

Adam Liptak has a useful roundup of yesterday’s oral argument in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of Burlington County. The case involves a blanket policy of strip searching people arrested for minor offenses.    It is a classic case where Supreme Court intervention to protect Fourth Amendment rights is warranted.   The state is apparently unable to provide evidence of safety risks to would remotely justify suspicionless searches of people arrested for minor, non-violent offenses, and at an absolute minimum the Supreme Court should establish a standard of individualized reasonable suspicion for such searches that has some teeth.    There seems to be some skepticism of the state’s position from the Court, but my concern is that because of their unwillingness to set clear rules even if the Court rules against the state I can see an opinion for the Court so “minimalist” it doesn’t really stop states from doing anything.

Another point that should be made is that the term “contraband” conflates things that have different implications for safety within prisons.   The state has a very strong interest in insuring that people don’t smuggle weapons into prisons, but how many people arrested without warning for any offense — let alone minor, non violent offenses — are likely to have dangerous weapons hidden in intimate areas?   If the contraband we’re talking about is drugs smuggling might be a little more likely but this doesn’t entail a risk posed to other prisoners.        It’s a classic case of the War on (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs being used as an acid to dissolve the Bill of Rights; combining drugs and weapons into a generic “contraband” category allows the state to pretend there’s a more compelling justification for intrusive, humiliating searches than there actually is.   Both generally and in individual cases, it would better if they were kept distinct, although there’s virtually no chance anyone on this Court will do so.

Thank You Fred Hiatt!

[ 5 ] October 11, 2011 |

Shorter Marc Thiessen:  “Eric Holder is insufficiently committed to authoritarianism and arbitrary torture.”

This being Thiessen, the column is not only grotesquely immoral but contains (race-baiting!) howlers as well:

This only scratches the surface of ill-fated Holder initiatives. He also provoked a political firestorm by withdrawing a lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party for violations of the Voting Rights Act, over the objections of six career lawyers at Justice.

Yeah, no. I’d also love to see some evidence for the assertion that Holder’s decision to adhere to basic Fifth Amendment rights cost Martha Coakley the election…

…speaking of which, John Yoo remains very, very special.

The Feasibility of Capture

[ 51 ] October 9, 2011 |

A good question from Charlie Savage’s excellent account of the Awlaki killing:

The memorandum is said to declare that in the case of a citizen, it is legally required to capture the militant if feasible — raising a question: was capturing Mr. Awlaki in fact feasible?

It is possible that officials decided last month that it was not feasible to attempt to capture him because of factors like the risk it could pose to American commandos and the diplomatic problems that could arise from putting ground forces on Yemeni soil. Still, the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan demonstrates that officials have deemed such operations feasible at times.

Let’s say I remain unconvinced that a drone strike was the only viable option.

So We Agree!

[ 5 ] October 7, 2011 |

Michael Medved argues: “Nevertheless, Brewer met justice nine years more promptly than the African-American, Davis. In any just society, the race of the perpetrator—or victim—should have no bearing on the treatment of a killer.” The rather obvious problem here is that Brewer was clearly guilty while Davis was convicted solely by evidence we know to be highly unreliable, so this particular example doesn’t prove what Medved seems to think it proves. Nevertheless, I concede Medved’s bottom line — McCleskey v. Kemp was an abomination. Given the clear evidence that the death penalty is applied in a racially discriminatory manner it should be considered unconstitutional.


Today in Our Highly Functional Criminal Justice System

[ 5 ] October 5, 2011 |

But It’s Our Policy!

[ 34 ] October 3, 2011 |

Looking into the latest case of petty-dictator school administrators ordering an arbitrary strip search of young women [via], I saw from one of the petty dictators in question:

Dan Crozier, the interim superintendent of the Atlantic school district, said the search took place Aug. 21, the third day of school, during a gym class in the last period of the day.

Crozier said faculty members denied it was a strip-search. “According to our board policy, it was an allowable search,” he said.

Well, if it’s policy, who cares about the Fourth Amendment or basic human dignity anyway? But wait:

State education officials said the law is clear — school officials cannot force students to disrobe to search for contraband.

“There’s an absolute prohibition on strip-searches in Iowa,” said Carol Greta, legal counsel for the Iowa Department of Education, who was speaking in general and not referring to the Atlantic case. “It’s an absolute no-no.”

Statute, shmatute — it was our policy! I guess the argument here — which you may remember from Michael Hawkins’s disgraceful 9CA dissent in the Redding case — involves quibbles over whether requiring students to only mostly disrobe constitutes a “strip search.” Anyway, the settlement would seem to indicate that the districts lawyers didn’t think this nonsense would fly, which is a good thing.   But if administrators are willing to do this stuff even in a state where state law clearly prohibits it, one can only imagine what happens in states where it isn’t.    Redding was a good first step, but as a narrow opinion focused on an extreme set of facts it didn’t go nearly far enough.

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