Archive for October, 2010

Sunday Links

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Worthless jurors help imprison a woman for “drug crimes”

Saturday, October 30th, 2010
Pardon the little outburst, but these jurors fucking disgust me. If a single one of them did what any decent human being should have, then Patrica Smith would not be spending two to four years of her life wasting away in a prison nor would she be labeled a felon for the rest of her [...]

Carlos Miller: “Once Again Accosted by Miami-Dade Metrorail Security Guards”

Friday, October 29th, 2010
The following blog was written by Carlos Miller and posted at CarlosMiller.com: We knew it was too good to be true; the way Miami-Dade Metrorail security officials informed us that they are now aware of the law that states photography at transit stations is permissible. On Thursday, I was once again accosted by a Metrorail [...]

National Day Against Police Brutality – Atlanta

Friday, October 29th, 2010
(Originally posted at Liberty On Tour on October 28th.) MIAMA, FL –  October 22nd has been declared the National Day Against Police Brutality and while in Atlanta, GA Pete and I attended one of these rallys.  Being a victim of the war on drugs myself, police brutality is an issue close to my heart and [...]

About That New Police Professionalism

Friday, October 29th, 2010

From ProPublica and the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

The disciplinary file on the New Orleans Police Department's Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann is inches thick -- as thick as any on the police force.

The lieutenant has weathered more than 50 separate complaints, ranging from accusations of brutality and rape to improper searches and seizures. But none of the allegations ever stuck, although two complaints are still pending. Every time, Scheuermann was cleared and sent back onto the streets.

He has also fired his gun in at least 15 different incidents, wounding at least four people. Experts on police practices say the number is unusual -- most officers never fire their weapons.

Scheuermann's history of complaints would seem to make him an obvious candidate for the NOPD's early warning system, which aims to highlight and rehabilitate possible problem police officers.

Yet according to the city attorney's office, Scheuermann was never flagged for entrance into the monitoring program...

Amid the complaints, Scheuermann has received plenty of commendations. The awards depict Scheuermann as a top cop, a relentless workhorse whose arrest numbers are unparalleled and a leader who has patrolled the most dangerous corridors of the city over a 23-year career. He has been a hero in the eyes of many of his peers.

In an NOPD yearbook is a photo of a smiling Scheuermann shaking the hand of former President Bill Clinton, who bestowed a national award on him for "outstanding productivity throughout his career."

And now?

Today, Scheuermann, 49, is preparing to stand trial on some of the most disturbing charges ever filed against a New Orleans police officer. Federal prosecutors accuse Scheuermann and a colleague of setting fire to a car containing the body of Henry Glover, who had been shot by a different police officer in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Again, it isn't that there was a bad cop at NOPD. It's that nothing was ever done about it. It in part goes back to the twisted incentives that drive statistics-driven policing.

Agencies encourage officers to be proactive and make arrests, viewing big numbers as a sign of productivity. But when an officer who puts up big arrest numbers is accused of cutting corners or violating civil rights, supervisors often brush it off and declare the complaints unsustained, said Anthony Radosti of the watchdog Metropolitan Crime Commission.

"Where there is smoke, there is fire," Radosti said. "The more productive you are, the less you are scrutinized. Production means arrests, it's quantity versus quality. These arrest numbers became more important to the command structure in their efforts to regain control of the crime situation."

Back in 2008, I talked with former Baltimore cop and co-creator of The Wire Ed Burns about how the numbers game rewards the wrong sort of police work, and does little to make communities safer.

Lunchtime Links

Friday, October 29th, 2010

This Week in Innocence

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Texas has released a death row inmate.

After 18 years of incarceration and countless protestations of innocence, Anthony Graves finally got a nod of approval from the one person who mattered Wednesday and at last returned home — free from charges that he participated in the butchery of a family in Somerville he did not know and free of the possibility that he would have to answer for them with his life.

The district attorney for Washington and Burleson counties, Bill Parham, gave Graves his release. The prosecutor filed a motion to dismiss charges that had sent Graves to Texas' death row for most of his adult life. Graves returned to his mother's home in Brenham no longer the "cold-blooded killer," so characterized by the prosecutor who first tried him, but as another exonerated inmate who even in the joy of redemption will face the daunting prospect of reassembling the pieces of a shattered life.

"He's an innocent man," Parham said, noting that his office investigated the case for five months. "There is nothing that connects Anthony Graves to this crime. I did what I did because that's the right thing to do."

Graves was convicted of assisting Robert Earl Carter in killing a 45-year-old woman, her daughter, and her four grandchildren in 1992. Carter initially implicated Graves, but later recanted. Carter again insisted Graves was innocent just before he was executed in 2000. The man who prosecuted Graves apparently still believes he is guilty.

Charles Sebesta, then the district attorney, did not believe Carter. Even after he no longer held the post, Sebesta held to his beliefs, calling Graves "cold-blooded" and taking out an ad in two Burleson County newspapers in 2009 to dispute media reports criticizing the conduct of prosecutors.

The evidence against Graves was never overwhelming, depending mostly on Carter's earlier accusation and jailhouse statements purportedly overheard by law enforcement officers. Even Sebesta acknowledged it was not his strongest case.

"I've had some slam-dunk cases," he said in 2001. "It was not a slam-dunk case."

Yet he still sought—and won—a death sentence. (Sebesta has had problems in other cases, too.)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned Graves' conviction, noting the considerable weakness of the state's case against him. That court also found that Sebasta withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense and knowingly put on false testimony. Yet as late as last year, prosecutors were still seeking to retry Graves anyway, this time based largely on a "scent lineup," in which they used dogs to sniff out burnt clothing removed from a 17-year-old crime scene. 

...prosecutors this summer brought in Fort Bend County Deputy Keith Pikett to conduct a "scent lineup" – a practice of dubious scientific validity that was recently the subject of a scathing report from the Lubbock-based Innocence Project of Texas. This type of lineup, with dogs supposedly matching a scent from a crime scene to a scent collected from a suspect, is junk science, the Innocence Project charges, while questioning Pikett's techniques in conducting the dog-led lineup. The procedure has indeed been implicated in a number of wrongful arrests and convictions. According to the report, released Sept. 21, Pikett has no formal training in the practice – nor does he apparently think any is necessary. Pikett has testified in court (in a matter unrelated to Graves) that there is no need for formal training or for scientific rules or protocols when conducting such lineups, and Pikett has rejected the importance of scientific studies regarding scent identification. Nonetheless, prosecutors across the state – including with the Texas Attorney General's Office – have relied on Pikett for "expert testimony" in a number of criminal cases.

I've previously written about Deputy Pikett and the junk science of scent linups here and here.

But hey, Graves was eventually exonerated and released, right? As Justice Scalia would assure us, this case is just more proof that the system is working.

“Police Misconduct and Public Accountability” by Wendy McElroy

Thursday, October 28th, 2010
I wanted to write a similar post about police accountability and literally a day later came across this write up by Wendy McElroy in The Freeman.  She says it better than I could: Why is it difficult to prosecute police officers for criminal misconduct even when the abuse is severe and unequivocal? A February news [...]

People Hit the Streets as Ex-Cop Details Ongoing Brutality

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
"Sgt. Craig Plante writes about the "good ol' days" when veteran police officers taught new recruits the "unwritten rule:" You could beat "anyone who ran from us."' - Modesto Bee

On Saturday, October 23rd, 25 people took to the streets of Modesto against the ongoing murder and brutality of police on the streets and at the local county jail. The march was organized by Modesto Anarcho and Modesto Copwatch, with many families representing Francisco Moran and Rita Elias. In September of 2010, two people in less than 20 days were shot and killed by Modesto Police and Stanislaus County Sheriffs. Francisco Moran was killed in east Modesto, as police responding to a domestic call killed Moran and later claimed he was brandishing a knife. The knife turned out to in fact be a wooden spoon, that Moran had in his waistband. Rita Elias, a West Modesto resident, was shot and killed by an off duty Stanislaus County Sheriff, who was trying to evict Elias from her home for her landlord parents. After an argument ensued, Elias was shot dead. Police claim that Elias brandished a realistic looking toy gun, which she aimed at the Sheriff, who killed Elias in self-defense. Family and witnesses dispute this claim. Also, in the last year, 6 people have died at the Stanislaus County Jail. Half of those families of the murdered are launching lawsuits on their behalf for wrongful deaths. By the Sheriff's own admission, half of those who have died in the past year also had tasers deployed on them inside the jail.

Marchers marched to the spot down town where a mentally handicapped man was shot and killed by Modesto Police in 2009, the Modesto Police station, the County Jail, and ended at Paperboy Park, which was shut down by the City of Modesto in mid-2010. The park closure is part of an effort to kick out homeless people from the downtown and re-develop the area. Marchers also marched through the downtown bus station, handing out several hundred copies of the new time lines of Ongoing Police Repression in the Central Valley and the newest issue of Modesto Anarcho. Marchers then discussed where to go next with the movement to fight police repression in the local area.

While the marchers where able to draw connections to repression across the city; in the jails, in the streets, in the service of upper class interests, a recent leaked email details how police repression is everyday common policy. The leaked email only gives more ammo to those who have be calling for an end to ongoing police repression and murder for decades.

According to the Modesto Bee:



A vivid account of police brutality came to light Tuesday after a judge
ruled an e-mail written by a retired Modesto police sergeant be released as
evidence in a murder case.

In the e-mail, Sgt. Craig Plante writes about the "good ol' days" when
veteran police officers taught new recruits the "unwritten rule:" You could beat
"anyone who ran from us."

"The bad guys knew it as well as we did," Plante wrote. "If we chased you, it was coming. … You were pummeled, taken to Scenic Hospital, put to the front of the line, patched up and booked."

The biggest "B&R [beat and release] event" — when officers would beat and release people — was Modesto's Graffiti Night festivities, Plante wrote. Police would remove their name tags before doing it, the sergeant said. Plante said he wore another
officer's name tag from 1986 through 1991, the only dates referenced in the
e-mail.

"You'd start hitting, they'd start running and eventually they'd escape into the crowd," Plante wrote. "The SWAT (team) had their own 'Strike Squad.' …
They'd pour out and start clubbing people … until everyone ran away."

Police Chief Mike Harden confirmed Tuesday that Plante sent the e-mail to his colleagues on his last day of work, Sept. 12. Harden said he was "deeply
disappointed," but said there was no specific name or incident mentioned in the
e-mail that the department could investigate. He said Plante's e-mail was merely
"self-aggrandizing."

"It's either a reflection of his career or it's made up," said Harden, a 27-year veteran of the department. "I think it's inaccurate. It's not how this Police Department was run then and surely not now. This department does not willy-nilly use force without a legal justification to do so." In an e-mail to The Bee late Tuesday, Plante said he first heard a veteran officer use the term "beat and release" after breaking up fights at Graffiti Night, when thousands of people jammed downtown Modesto and McHenry Avenue to celebrate classic cars. He said these were not "one-sided affairs" but officers "fighting with groups of people," some of whom evaded arrest by fleeing into the crowd.

[An] attorney, Frank Carson, called the e-mail an eye-opening look into the mentality of Modesto police.

"It's a culture that lends itself to 'We're all in this together, and it's us versus them. The rules don't apply to us. We make the rules,' " Carson said. "It's about time that people found out, because our clients certainly know."


Read the email in full here.

The email details what many people already know. That the Modesto police can beat and murder with impunity. Sgt. Craig Plante ends the email by stating that he leaves the MPD with a 'ton of friends.' Sadly for Plante and the rest of the pigs - there will always be more of us than them. It is time we start talking with each other about if we are going to allow the police to continue with their now publicly stated policy of brutality - or stand up and fight them.


HOW MUCH LONGER BEFORE WE EXPLODE?
HOW MUCH MORE IS IT GOING TO TAKE BEFORE WE COME TOGETHER AND FIGHT?
WHEN WE WILL LOSE OUR FEAR AND START TO BEGIN?

Pls Help: Man faces torture for testifying cops beat detainee

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
8 comments to Pls Help: Man faces torture for testifying cops beat detainee | Bkt Aman, 30/10, 10am. Devan. October 28th, 2010 at 2:59 pm. I cant stand these…makes my heart boil!! This gangsters in blue think they are above the law. ...