Saturday, June 22, 2002

Charles Schwarz/Abner Louima, Round 2

The jury has been selected in the retrial of Ex NY Cop (and partner of Justin Volpe) Charles Schwarz for violating Abner Louima's civil rights and obstructing justice when he allegedly restrained Abner Louima during Louima's brutal assault in the precinct house bathrooom during which Volpe sodomized Louima with a broomstick. Schwarz was inititally convicted of the civil rights violation by a jury at the end of a trial in which Volpe plead guilty mid-way through. He got a new lawyer, went on trial again for obstruction of justice, testified on his own behalf, and was convicted. Both convictions were reversed. The first conviction was reversed because his lawyer had a conflict of interest.

What has Abner Louima been up to in the five years since his assault? He has moved to Florida to start a new life. Jim Dwyer, co-author with Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld of "Actual Innocence," takes a roadtrip to the Florida "Boomlands" to visit Louima and reports in today's New York Times Magazine, "For nearly five full years, the same players have been working over the same moment in time and space, fingering at the event until its meaning has all but rubbed away, like the lost language of weathered gravestones. There is no mystery, of course, about what happened to Abner Louima; the mystery is what happened to those cops."

Friday, June 21, 2002

Executing the Mentally Retarded

20 states now have laws permitting execution of the mentally retarded while 18 states outlaw it. Better yet, 12 states don't have the death penalty at all. Death Penalty Statistics in U.S.

Yesterday's Supreme Court decision in Atkins is a major plus, but there is still a long way to go. Watch out for op-ed pieces today claiming that that the Supreme Court abolished executing juveniles....the Court abolished executing anyone while they are still a juvenile, but it has not abolished executing adults who were juveniles at the time of their crime. Important distinction. Here are the statistics on state allowing execution of juvenile offenders.

Prosecutors are already worried about a flood of appeals. They should be!

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Supreme Court Ban Executing the Retarded

Big news for today: The Supreme Court just banned executing the mentally retarded! Associated Press report. The case is Atkins v. Virginia. Here is the text of the Court's opinion.

As the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty said in a press release today: The next step for the court should be to apply the same, exact standard to the execution of youthful offenders."

The hearing on the Innocence Protection Act went well. Proponents say they are about 60% towards the passage point, which could still come later this year. For more, here's Barry Scheck's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Alterman on Coulter

Check out Eric Alterman's column in the July 1 issue of the Nation. It is called Affirmative Action Reaction, but that's not what it's about in the traditional sense. It is a funny, witty and castigating indictment of conservative pundits--Ms. Coulter in particular gets her due, followed by the rest of the blond brat pack (excepting one: Kelly Ann Fitzpatrick, whose new name I forget, she got married, changed her name and moved to NY).

Eric also has a weblog called Eric Alterman's Altercation on msnbc which we like because it mixes politics and music--like Rolling Stone used to do in the old days when Hunter T. was around.
The conspiracy theorists and right-wing websites are abuzz with the physical similarities between U.S. Citizen and military detainee Padilla and John Doe 2 who witnesses at the Ryder Truck rental facility in Junction City, KS identified back in 1995 as the companion of Timothy McVeigh. Witnesses also put John Doe 2 at the Dreamland motel (answering the door to accept a delivery of chinese food) and in Kingman, AZ. The Goverment lobbied hard for the proposition that John Doe 2 didn't exist--that the witnesses confused him with the associate of another truck renter the day before. Here are the pictures, the resemblence is quite striking, we think the matter needs to be investigated into a bit more. For starters, was Padilla in jail or out and about in April, 1995?

John Doe 2 (left) and Padilla (right)

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Death Penalty Reform in Spotlight

Checks on the Death Penalty (
Death Penalty Reform in the Spotlight (new york times)

Hearings today on Innocence Protection Act in Congress. Favorable editorials all over, including those above.

Monday, June 17, 2002

Dog Mauling Conviction Overturned

Judge Tosses Dog Attack Murder Conviction

Good that the Judge in the dog-mauling case threw out the murder conviction against Marjorie Knoller. Now California is back to never having gotten away with convicting a dog owner for murder instead of manslaughter based upon a killing committed by his or her dog. The judge had the good sense to recognize that it wasn't like she knew her dog was going to kill someone that day.

Some Good, Some Bad Today

For '60s activists, fear of old abuses in new FBI powers Shouldn't we all fear these new powers?

Nat Hentoff in today's Washington Times says we should all be worried since our politican's aren't. He hopes some billionaire will come to the rescue by educating everyone on the Bill of Rights. Not likely.

The Washington Post is reporting that the White House is concerned that Attorney General Ashcroft is stealing the limelight from GW. Now this is more apt to lessen his power than any complaints we the people might have.

And Newsweek has published the emails of some prosecutors working on the John Walker Lindh ("American Taliban") case, showing that even they don't believe in their case against him. And that no one's emails are private.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Help Pass the Innocence Protection Act

Help out the Innocence Protection Act. Fax your senator and congressperson Monday and Tuesday.

The Innocence Protection Act (IPA - S 486 / HR 912) and other death penalty reform proposals will be the subject of back-to-back hearings before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees on Tuesday, June 18, 2002.

This important legislation provides critical new safeguards in capital cases by:

Ensuring convicted offenders can request DNA testing on evidence from their case that is in the government's possession to prove their innocence.

Helping states provide professional and experienced lawyers at every stage of a death penalty case.

Requiring states to inform juries of all sentencing options, including the option to sentence a defendant to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Providing those who are proven innocent after an unjust incarceration some measure of compensation.

Making sure the public has more reliable and detailed information regarding the administration of the nation's capital punishment laws.

For more on this, visit The Justice Project