The Guilty and the Innocent : The case for punishing prosecutors who abuse their power.

The Guilty and the Innocent

The case for punishing prosecutors who abuse their power.
BTL_Hannah-Overton's-2006 new-trial_680
AP Photo/Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Todd Yates

On September 17, in a decisive 7–2 ruling, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the capital murder conviction of a Corpus Christi woman named Hannah Overton. Readers of Texas Monthly may recall Overton’s case, which I examined in an article a few years ago called “Hannah and Andrew,” a lengthy story that questioned the assumptions that had led to her prosecution. Overton is one of a number of defendants I have written about in recent years whose convictions have been overturned by the CCA. Michael Morton, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for the murder of his wife, and Anthony Graves, who was sent to death row in 1994 for killing six people, were exonerated after spending a collective 42 years behind bars. Although these three cases are each quite different, they share a common theme: the prosecutors who sought their indictments and secured their convictions should never have tried the cases in the first place.

Take, for example, the facts surrounding Overton’s case. The mother of five was arrested in 2006 after Andrew Burd, a four-year-old foster child whom she and her husband were in the process of adopting, mysteriously died from a rare case of salt poisoning. Overton, who had no prior arrests and no previous run-ins with Child Protective Services—and who had earned an excellent reputation as a private-duty nurse for special-needs children—quickly became the focus of the Corpus Christi Police Department’s investigation into Andrew’s death. The Nueces County district attorney’s office discounted evidence suggesting that Andrew had an undiagnosed eating disorder called pica, which is not uncommon among foster children and involves ingesting inappropriate items, including salt. Concluding that a crime had taken place, the DA’s office secured an indictment for capital murder. …read more please:

http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/holding-texas-prosecutors-accountable?fullpage=1

Six Shocking Truthz About Prisonz

Originally posted on Moorbey'z Blog:

“According to a recent study conducted
by the ACLU, at least 37 states have
legalized the contracting of prison labor
by private corporations. Corporations
that many Americans hold in high regard
are reaping major benefits from this
almost free labor pool.”
Salon.com published an article about the ways in which private for-profit prisons are socking it to the taxpayer even though prison privateers claim that they help states to save money. Using data gleaned from a report published by In the Public Interest, a comprehensive resource center on privatization and responsible contracting, Salon put a spotlight on some things the privateers would rather you didn’t know. In “Six Shocking Revelations About How Private Prisons Make Money“, Salon.com reported:
  • 65 percent of the private prison contracts In The Public Interest received and analyzed included occupancy guarantees in the form of quotas or required payments for empty prison cells (a…

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Lawsuits: Alabama Jailers Allowed 3 Inmates to Die of 19th-Century Ailments

Lawsuits: Alabama Jailers Allowed 3 Inmates to Die of 19th-Century Ailments

Gangrene, a bowel obstruction, and delirium tremens killed inmates in the Madison County jail. In 2013.

| Wed Oct. 22, 2014 6:15 AM EDT
 

On August 6, 2013, officers at the Madison County jail in Huntsville, Alabama, moved an inmate named Duendrez Woods to a medical watch cell. Woods, 19, was suffering from an open wound on his foot and had begun hallucinating. But the jail didn’t provide him with any medical treatment. In the following days, they tased Woods for being uncooperative—three times. Woods began lying naked on the floor. He barely moved except when officers dragged him into the showers to hose off the stench of his injury. At no point did anyone treat Woods’ oozing foot or even take his blood pressure. On August 21, Woods died. The cause was complications related to gangrene, a condition in which tissue dies around an untreated wound.

This is just one horrific tale included in three new lawsuits filed in federal court last week. The families of three inmates who died in Madison County custody in 2013—Woods, Nikki Listau, and Tanisha Jefferson—are accusing corrections officers and medical personnel of standing idly by as each died of a treatable condition. …

READ MORE: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/10/alabama-jailers-watched-three-inmates-died-their-cells

Chuck Grassley: My son drowned in police custody. Please demand a full investigation into the Missouri Water Patrol and the tragic death of Brandon Ellingson. PETITION

Originally posted on ChildreninShadow.wordpress.com:

My son drowned in police custody. Please demand a full investigation into the Missouri Water Patrol and the tragic death of Brandon Ellingson.

https://www.change.org/p/chuck-grassley-my-son-drowned-in-police-custody-please-demand-a-full-investigation-into-the-missouri-water-patrol-and-the-tragic-death-of-brandon-ellingson?alert_id=HRzgZDkaZs_zXa5UQAOhPxt9yLmnfDhlRW2c7ubxZnzpxQRB%2FXBR%2FQ%3D&utm_campaign=163889&utm_medium=email&utm_source=action_alert

 Chuck Grassley: My son drowned in police custody. Please demand a full investigation into the Missouri Water Patrol and the tragic death of Brandon Ellingson.

 sign

 An: Sen. Chuck Grassley

Iowa

Sen. Chuck Grassley

My son drowned in police custody. Please demand a full investigation into the Missouri Water Patrol and the tragic death of Brandon Ellingson.

  1. Petition vonClive, IA
  2. Sherry Henrickson Ellingson

I was so proud of my son, Brandon. He was going into his junior year of Business College at Arizona State University and he was planning to join our family business when he graduated. But on the night of May 31, Brandon drowned while in the custody of the Missouri Highway/Water Patrol. Now all I can think, over and over, is how did this happen? Who let this happen?

On that day, Brandon was out with his friends boating at The Lake of the Ozarks in…

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Indiana Plans to Cut Tens of Thousands Off Food Stamps

http://www.nationofchange.org/2014/10/21/indiana-plans-cut-tens-thousands-food-stamps/

Indiana Plans to Cut Tens of Thousands Off Food Stamps

foodstamps102114

Indiana will soon be cutting tens of thousands of its citizens off of the food stamps program even though the state is in economic strain.

Indiana will cut tens of thousands of its poorest people off of the food stamps roles beginning next spring, the state announced. Gov. Mike Pence (R) has decided to join seven other states in reinstating work requirements for food stamps despite being eligible for a federal waiver from those rules for the coming fiscal year.

Federal rules require able-bodied, childless people who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for more than three months a year to demonstrate that they are working or attending a job training program for at least 20 hours a week. But those rules can be waived during times of high economic strain when the work requirements cannot reasonably be fulfilled. Nearly every state requested and received such a waiver during the Great Recession. But a growing number of states have begun reinstating the work rules even though the Department of Agriculture has said their unemployment rates are still high enough to justify waiving the rules.

The state estimates that 65,000 people will be affected by Pence’s change, according to the Indianapolis Star. Previous similar moves in Kansas, New Mexico, Maine, and other states have left tens of thousands of people without access to food stamps. The network of food charities that picks up the slack when hungry people are underserved by government programs is already overstretched around the country, according to the people who run those charities.

There is ample evidence that tying anti-poverty aid to work requirements renders the programs ineffective exactly when they are most needed. When the economy tightens and work becomes scarce, more people find themselves in need of safety net programs. Work requirements deprive those programs of the flexibility they need to function, and in recessions they fail to keep up with spikes in demand, leaving needy families in the lurch. The welfare reforms of the 1990s were praised by both political parties for years, but they have eroded the country’s system for helping impoverished families to the point where a record 74 percent of poor families with children did not receive federal aid from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program in 2010.

Most of the states that have retreated prematurely from food stamps waivers — Indiana, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, and Maine — have Republican governors. (Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) have also declined statewide waivers despite being eligible.)

Pence’s rationale for the move is that it will help push people who would otherwise collect benefits without trying to work. The administration official in charge of the relevant state agency explained Indiana’s decision in a letter to the Department of Agriculture as “an opportunity to help improve the skills of our fellow Hoosiers and advance their prospects for meaningful employment, while at the same time establishing a pool of better-prepared candidates for the Indiana workforce.” Gov. Sam Brownback (R) used a similar argument to justify ending waivers in Kansas last year when the state was still eligible.

But making it harder to fill the fridge doesn’t make it easier to find a job. There are currently two job-seekers for every job opening nationwide. Those are steep odds for people making good-faith efforts to find work, but the two-to-one ratio is also a dramatic improvement from recent years when the ratio was up around five-to-one.

The same conservative mentality toward the unemployed recently lead North Carolina to slash its unemployment insurance system so deeply that it now no longer qualifies as a valid jobless aid system under federal rules. Gov. Pat McRory (R) has claimed that the move helped the state’s economy. But the reality is that the state’s unemployment statistics improved because tens of thousands of people who had been looking for work prior to the cuts simply gave up and stopped being counted. Before the cuts, the employment rate for people between 25 and 54 years old had been rising steadily in North Carolina. It has begun a “pronounced” decline since, analysts at the Economic Policy Institute have found. (In addition to liberal think tanks, conservative economic pundit Jim Pethokoukis at the American Enterprise Institute has criticized McRory’s move and the Republican rhetoric about it.)

Indiana’s similar maneuver with food assistance funds is likely to produce a similar failure to achieve the Pence administration’s stated goals. The most recent statistics on the job market in the midwest shows that there are nearly two million unemployed people hunting for just over a million jobs across the region, to say nothing of the tens of thousands who have given up their formal job searching and are no longer counted as unemployed.

Still, Pence’s policy compares favorably with what his neighbor Gov. John Kasich (R) is doing in Ohio. Kasich retained the SNAP work waivers for 16 of the state’s 88 counties but reinstated work rules in the counties that house the majority of the state’s minority population. Food stamps recipients in the counties that continue to enjoy waivers are 94 percent white, according to a coalition of groups that filed a civil rights complaint against Kasich in August.

In one Ohio county that lost its waiver, the Star reports, more than 2,500 people lost food stamp benefits. A third of them had physical or mental health issues that make it hard for them to work, an Ohio food charity official told the newspaper.

Mountaintop Removal Linked to Cancer

Originally posted on spiritandanimal.wordpress.com:

Mountaintop Removal Linked to Cancer

mountaincancer102114

Mountaintop removal is not only environmentally destructive, it is also responsible for lung cancer among coal miners and the loss of may jobs in the coal industry. This is a lot of ammunition for environmentalists to use to help end this landscape devastation.

We know what a mess mountaintop removal makes when the tops of mountains are literally blown off to access the coal inside them. Forests are stripped and debris is dumped into streams and valleys, leaving behind a ravaged landscape. It’s partly responsible for the loss of jobs in the coal industry since it requires only a handful of workers to operate the huge machines involved. Now we’re learning that the process, which has been touted by advocates as cleaner and safer than below-ground coal mining, is the direct cause of…

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Ministers urged to investigate rate of prison suicides

Ministers urged to investigate rate of prison suicides

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan says prisons have become dens of violence and number of deaths is a national disgrace

and  http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/oct/18/ministers-inquiry-prison-suicides

 The Guardian, Saturday 18 October 2014

Chris Grayling
Chris Grayling, the justice secretary. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Ministers have been urged to launch an urgent inquiry into the number of suicides in prison after a Guardian investigation revealed that more than six inmates a month are taking their own life.

The shadow justice secretary, Sadiq Khan, described the situation as a “national disgrace” and said ministers should extend the ongoing Harris inquiry, which is looking into deaths in custody among 18-24-year-olds, to include the entire prison population.

“No one expects prisons to be five-star hotels but the public do expect some basic levels of decency,” said Khan. “Instead, prisons have become dens of violence, where deaths and suicide are happening far too often.”

The Guardian found that 125 people killed themselves in prisons in England and Wales between January 2013 and August 2014. A further nine have taken their own life since 1 September. It also emerged that 26% of those who died were on remand awaiting trial.

Khan said: “While the Harris inquiry into the deaths of 18- to 24-year-olds is to be welcomed, the government is making a mistake in not looking at the bigger picture. We need to learn the lessons of deaths in custody whatever the age. That’s why the government must, as a matter of urgency, widen the inquiry so we can truly get a grip on the rising numbers of people dying behind bars.”

The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has repeatedly said there is no pattern to the rise in suicides in the last 20 months. However, the Guardian’s research identified distinct themes in many of the self-inflicted deaths, including failures in the assessment of risk in the face of obvious warning signs, a lack of training for prison staff, inadequate monitoring once risk was identified and insufficient communication with families.

Grayling has also been criticised for failing to heed reports from prison inspectors and coroners. The prison service ombudsman Nigel Newcomen told the Guardian his repeated recommendations to help save lives were being ignored, and said the scale of self-inflicted deaths was “utterly unacceptable” and reflected a “rising tide of despair”.

Newcomen said: “There is no question the prison service is more challenged now than in a generation. My job is to draw lessons from these individual human tragedies, and I don’t think that adequate heed has been taken of them. This appalling upsurge in suicides means there is an absolute need for prisons to review and reframe the approach that they take to suicide and self-harm. That must include more resources being applied. I keep saying it, and I will continue to say it, but I am yet to see serious, tangible steps taken to heed these lessons.”

Khan said it was time ministers started listening to the experts. “It should not be a surprise to ministers what has led to this surge in suicides. Time and again the chief inspector has warned that staff shortages and overcrowding are the underlying causes of violence and deaths. Yet ministers have their fingers in their ears, and carry on denying there’s a prisons crisis. …

READ MORE: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/oct/18/ministers-inquiry-prison-suicides