The American Nightmare: The Tyranny Of The Criminal Justice System

How can the life of such a man
Be in the palm of some fool’s hand?
To see him obviously framed
Couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
Where justice is a game.—Bob Dylan, “Hurricane

Justice in America is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Just ask Jeffrey Deskovic, who spent 16 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit. Despite the fact that Deskovic’s DNA did not match what was found at the murder scene, he was singled out by police as a suspect because he wept at the victim’s funeral (he was 16 years old at the time), then badgered over the course of two months into confessing his guilt. He was eventually paid $6.5 million in reparation.

James Bain spent 35 years in prison for the kidnapping and rape of a 9-year-old boy, but he too was innocent of the crime. Despite the fact that the prosecutor’s case was flimsy—it hinged on the similarity of Bain’s first name to the rapist’s, Bain’s ownership of a red motorcycle, and a misidentification of Bain in a lineup by a hysterical 9-year-old boy—Bain was sentenced to life in prison. He was finally freed after DNA testing proved his innocence, and was paid $1.7 million.

Mark Weiner got off relatively easy when you compare his experience to the thousands of individuals who are spending lifetimes behind bars for crimes they did not commit.

Weiner was wrongfully arrested, convicted, and jailed for more than two years for a crime he too did not commit. In his case, a young woman claimed Weiner had abducted her, knocked her out, and then sent taunting text messages to her boyfriend about his plans to rape her. Despite the fact that cell phone signals, eyewitness accounts, and expert testimony indicated the young woman had fabricated the entire incident, the prosecutor and judge repeatedly rejected any evidence contradicting the woman’s far-fetched account, sentencing Weiner to eight more years in jail. Weiner was only released after his accuser was caught selling cocaine to undercover cops.

In the meantime, Weiner lost his job, his home, and his savings, and time with his wife and young son. As Slatere porter journalist Dahlia Lithwick warned, “If anyone suggests that the fact that Mark Weiner was released this week means ‘the system works,’ I fear that I will have to punch him in the neck. Because at every single turn, the system that should have worked to consider proof of Weiner’s innocence failed him.”

The system that should have worked didn’t, because the system is broken, almost beyond repair.

In courtroom thrillers like 12 Angry Men and To Kill a Mockingbird, justice is served in the end because someone—whether it’s Juror #8 or Atticus Finch—chooses to stand on principle and challenge wrongdoing, and truth wins.

Unfortunately, in the real world, justice is harder to come by, fairness is almost unheard of, and truth rarely wins.

On paper, you may be innocent until proven guilty; but in actuality, you’ve already been tried, found guilty, and convicted by police officers, prosecutors, and judges long before you ever appear in a courtroom.

Chronic injustice has turned the American dream into a nightmare.

At every step along the way, whether it’s encounters with the police, dealings with prosecutors, hearings in court before judges and juries, or jail terms in one of the nation’s many prisons, the system is riddled with corruption, abuse, and an appalling disregard for the rights of the citizenry.

Due process rights afforded to a person accused of a crime—the right to remain silent, the right to be informed of the charges against you, the right to representation by counsel, the right to a fair trial, the right to a speedy trial, the right to prove your innocence with witnesses and evidence, the right to a reasonable bail, the right to not languish in jail before being tried, the right to confront your accusers, etc.—mean nothing when the government is allowed to sidestep those safeguards against abuse whenever convenient.

It’s telling that while President Obama said all the right things about the broken state of our criminal justice system—that we jail too many Americans for nonviolent crimes (we make up 5 percent of the world’s population, but our prison population constitutes nearly 25% of the world’s prisoners), that we spend more money on incarceration than any other nation ($80 billion a year), that we sentence people for longer jail terms than their crimes merit, that our criminal justice system is far from color-blind, that the nation’s school-to-prison pipeline is contributing to overcrowded jails, and that we need to focus on rehabilitation of criminals rather than retribution—he failed to own up to the government’s major role in contributing to this injustice in America.

Indeed, while Obama placed the responsibility for reform squarely in the hands of prosecutors, judges, and police, he failed to acknowledge that they bear the burden of our failed justice system, along with the legislatures and corporations who have worked with them to create an environment that is hostile to the rights of the accused.

In such a climate, we are all the accused, the guilty, and the suspect.

As I document in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we’re operating in a new paradigm where the citizenry are presumed guilty and treated as suspects, our movements tracked, our communications monitored, our property seized and searched, our bodily integrity disregarded, and our inalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” rendered insignificant when measured against the government’s priorities.

Every American is now in jeopardy of being targeted and punished for a crime he did not commit thanks to an overabundance of arcane laws. Making matters worse, by allowing government agents to operate above the law, immune from wrongdoing, we have created a situation in which the law is one-sided and top-down, used as a hammer to oppress the populace, while useless in protecting us against government abuse.

Add to the mix a profit-driven system of incarceration in which state and federal governments agree to keep the jails full in exchange for having private corporations run the prisons, and you will find the only word to describe such a state of abject corruption is “evil.”

How else do you explain a system that allows police officers to shoot first and ask questions later, without any real consequences for their misdeeds? Despite the initial outcry over the shootings of unarmed individuals in Ferguson and Baltimore, the pace of police shootings has yet to slow. In fact, close to 400 people were shot and killed by police nationwide in the first half of 2015, almost two shootings a day. Those are just the shootings that were tracked. Of those killed, almost 1 in 6 were either unarmed or carried a toy gun.

For those who survive an encounter with the police only to end up on the inside of a jail cell, waiting for a “fair and speedy trial,” it’s often a long wait. Consider that 60 percent of the people in the nation’s jails have yet to be convicted of a crime. There are 2.3 million people in jails or prisons in America. Those who can’t afford bail, “some of them innocent, most of them nonviolent and a vast majority of them impoverished,” will spend about four months in jail before they even get a trial.

Not even that promised “day in court” is a guarantee that justice will be served.

As Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals points out, there are an endless number of factors that can render an innocent man or woman a criminal and caged for life: unreliable eyewitnesses, fallible forensic evidence, flawed memories, coerced confessions, harsh interrogation tactics, uninformed jurors, prosecutorial misconduct, falsified evidence, and overly harsh sentences, to name just a few.

In early 2015, the Justice Department and FBI “formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period…. The admissions mark a watershed in one of the country’s largest forensic scandals, highlighting the failure of the nation’s courts for decades to keep bogus scientific information from juries, legal analysts said.”

“How do rogue forensic scientists and other bad cops thrive in our criminal justice system?” asks Judge Kozinski. “The simple answer is that some prosecutors turn a blind eye to such misconduct because they’re more interested in gaining a conviction than achieving a just result.”

The power of prosecutors is not to be underestimated.

Increasingly, when we talk about innocent people being jailed for crimes they did not commit, the prosecutor plays a critical role in bringing about that injustice. AsThe Washington Post reports, “Prosecutors win 95 percent of their cases, 90 percent of them without ever having to go to trial…. Are American prosecutors that much better? No… it is because of the plea bargain, a system of bullying and intimidation by government lawyers for which they ‘would be disbarred in most other serious countries….’”

This phenomenon of innocent people pleading guilty makes a mockery of everything the criminal justice system is supposed to stand for: fairness, equality, and justice. As Judge Jed S. Rakoff concludes, “our criminal justice system is almost exclusively a system of plea bargaining, negotiated behind closed doors and with no judicial oversight. The outcome is very largely determined by the prosecutor alone.”

It’s estimated that between 2 and 8 percent of convicted felons who have agreed to a prosecutor’s plea bargain (remember, there are 2.3 million prisoners in America) are in prison for crimes they did not commit.

Clearly, the Coalition for Public Safety was right when it concluded: “You don’t need to be a criminal to have your life destroyed by the U.S. criminal justice system.”

It wasn’t always this way. As Judge Rakoff recounts, the Founding Fathers envisioned a criminal justice system in which the critical element “was the jury trial, which served not only as a truth-seeking mechanism and a means of achieving fairness, but also as a shield against tyranny.”

That shield against tyranny has long since been shattered, leaving Americans vulnerable to the cruelties, vanities, errors, ambitions, and greed of the government and its partners in crime.

There is not enough money in the world to make reparation to those whose lives have been disrupted by wrongful convictions.

Over the past quarter century, more than 1500 Americans have been released from prison after being cleared of crimes they did not commit. These are the fortunate ones. For every exonerated convict who is able to prove his innocence after 10, 20, or 30 years behind bars, Judge Kozinski estimates there may be dozens who are innocent but cannot prove it, lacking access to lawyers, evidence, money, and avenues of appeal.

For those who have yet to fully experience the injustice of the American system of justice, it’s only a matter of time.

America no longer operates under a system of justice characterized by due process, an assumption of innocence, probable cause, and clear prohibitions on government overreach and police abuse. Instead, our courts of justice have been transformed into courts of order, advocating for the government’s interests, rather than championing the rights of the citizenry, as enshrined in the Constitution.

Without courts willing to uphold the Constitution’s provisions when government officials disregard them, and a citizenry knowledgeable enough to be outraged when those provisions are undermined, the Constitution provides little protection against the police state.

In other words, in this age of hollow justice, courts of order, and government-sanctioned tyranny, the Constitution is no safeguard against government wrongdoing such as SWAT team raids, domestic surveillance, police shootings of unarmed citizens, indefinite detentions, asset forfeitures, prosecutorial misconduct, and the like.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Liberals Who Tried To Shut Down Scott Walker Just Got Smacked Down In A Big Way

The Wisconsin Supreme Court gave Governor Scott Walker a victory just as his presidential campaign launched earlier this week.

In a sweeping 4-2 decision, the court ruled that the governor’s 2012 recall-election campaign and conservative groups had not violated the state’s campaign finance laws. Additionally, justices chastised prosecutors in the case for the tactics they used in conducting the “unconstitutional John Doe investigation.”

As reported by Western Journalism, since Scott Walker took office in 2011, he and his supporters have faced the state’s controversial “John Doe investigations” initiated by Democrats, which have been described by conservatives as witch hunts in search of a crime.

The tactics used in these investigations have often involved pre-dawn home raids by armed police officers, where computers, phones, and documents are seized by the state. Those who are the subject of the investigations are prohibited, under force of law, from speaking about it to even friends and family.

A John Doe investigation, according to the statute, is a legal proceeding that a judge authorizes to investigate “any conduct that is prohibited by state law and punishable by fine or imprisonment or both.” It is like a grand jury investigation; but rather than falling on a jury of one’s peers to determine if there is likely criminal activity warranting prosecution, the entire process is overseen by a judge.

Conservatives have charged Democrats with hand-picking judges known to be sympathetic to their cause to green-light investigations into Walker and others.

The present case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court concerned whether the Walker campaign had unlawfully coordinated with conservative groups, including the Wisconsin Club for Growth, during his 2012 recall campaign. Walker was the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall campaign.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, writing for the majority, found that collaboration between issue groups and campaigns was not illegal. Further, he ordered prosecutors to return all records they seized and destroy any copies they made of them.

The majority ruled that the campaign finance statute is over-broad and vague, and therefore impinging on the First Amendment rights of free speech and association.

Gableman added that the case gave the court “an opportunity to re-endorse its commitment to upholding the fundamental right of each and every citizen to engage in lawful political activity and to do so free from the fear of the tyrannical retribution of arbitrary or capricious governmental prosecution. Let one point be clear: our conclusion today ends this unconstitutional John Doe investigation.”

The justice further chastised prosecutors for their use of “pre-dawn, armed, paramilitary-style raids.”

At a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Thursday, Walker responded to the ruling, saying he was happy the Supreme Court sided with his campaign. “As folks in Wisconsin’s will tell you, I’ve gone through these battles so many times. I don’t get too up or too down, I’m pretty even keeled in all this,” the Washington Post reported him as saying. “So we’re pleased; it’s just one more thing that allows us to take a step moving forward.”

According to the Journal Sentinel, “Francis Schmitz, the special prosecutor leading the investigation, said he was reviewing whether to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. He could ask the nation’s high court to review Gableman’s and Prosser’s decisions to stay on the case or how the majority interpreted the First Amendment right to free speech.”

“The decision represents a loss for all of the citizens of Wisconsin — independents, Democrats and Republicans alike,” Schmitz said in a statement. “It defies common sense that a Wisconsin resident of average means who gives $25 to a campaign has his or her name publicly reported under the law but, according to this decision, someone who gives, for example, $100,000 to a group which closely coordinates with the same campaign can remain anonymous.”

David French, who has reported extensively on the topic of Wisconsin’s John Doe investigations for National Review, writes: “The abuse has been stopped, but this victory — important as it is — will be hollow indeed if there is no accountability. For the raid victims and their families, justice is still long-delayed. If prosecutors do not face any real consequences for their actions, then justice — ultimately — will be denied.”

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

The Democrats Are Lining Their Pockets In Ukraine

While failing to provide any real solutions for Ukraine’s ailing economy, choosing instead to air vacuous platitudes and call Ukraine’s government “courageous” and “inspiring” at any given opportunity, the Obama administration proves once again its complete lack of leadership on any foreign policy matter. But what makes Ukraine’s case more unnerving is not Washington’s impotence in pushing back Russia, but the unyielding determination of State Department officials to reap profits and settle political, and sometimes personal, scores.

Indeed, leaked phone conversations that took place during the Maidan between US assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland and US ambassador to Kiev Geoffrey Pyatt revealed that the State Department was largely involved in canoodling with Ukraine’s opposition with the aim of manipulating the direction of the Ukrainian government in accordance with US interests. But why has the Obama administration gone out of its way to protect Ukraine? Was it to uphold the fundamental rights of freedom-loving Ukrainians, oppressed by the evil Russian bear? Not in the slightest. Washington, rather than developing a strategy for Kiev and its future, has instead been opting to secure its own geopolitical and strategic interests. Oil and gas, rather than freedom and democracy, can largely be considered the reasons why Washington has got its panties in a twist over Russia’s grip on Ukraine. For a Democratic party that has consistently and obsessively blasted the Iraq war as Bush’s crusade for oil, the Obama administration seems to do exactly that in Ukraine.

A war for oil?

In November 2013, before the Maidan Revolution, which saw former President Yanukovich ousted from power and a new group of “European” and “reform minded” leaders enter the scene, US oil and gas majors were already busy marking their territory. Chevron was quick to sign a $10 billion deal with Kiev for the exploration and production of shale gas in western Ukraine’s Oleska Field. Meanwhile, Royal Dutch Shell also inked an agreement to explore shale gas reserves in eastern Ukraine. A more recent US State Department report confirmed these companies’ interests in the country, underlining that “Ukraine’s strategic location between the main energy producers (Russia and the Caspian Sea area) […] its large transit network, and its available underground gas storage capacities make the country a potentially crucial player in European energy transit.” However, since the conflict in eastern Ukraine led both Chevron and Shell to pull out of the projects, it comes as no surprise why the US is really trying to cozy up to Ukraine’s leadership given the “game changing” opportunities for energy cooperation the country has to offer.

The war-torn east and relentless fighting between both sides hasn’t stopped Obama administration grandees from exerting their influence and lining their pockets. In May 2014, Joe Biden’s younger son, Hunter Biden, was appointed to the Board of Ukraine’s largest independent oil and gas company, Burisma Holdings. Biden, along with Devon Archer (who was John Kerry’s advisor during his 2004 presidential campaign and the college roommate of Kerry’s stepson, Christopher Heinz), claimed that their appointment to Burisma’s Board was solely to provide strategic guidance. However, Biden’s arrival on the scene coincided with that of David Leiter, former Senate Chief of Staff to Kerry, whose company (ML Strategies) signed up to lobby for Burisma in Washington. Owned by a former Yanukovich government minister, Nikolai Zlochevskyi, Burisma’s ties to the White House have led some to believe that while trying to promote cleaning up corruption in Ukraine’s state, Washington is trying to secure its own special deals in the state. According to Ed Chow, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “it maybe sends the wrong message that Westerners are just hypocritical.”

But gaining allies isn’t enough for the Obama administration – eliminating potential rivals and competitors has been a key strategy in ensuring US dominance over Ukraine’s energy market. In March 2014, just several days after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the Justice and State Departments via the FBI filed an extradition request in a Vienna court against Dmitry Firtash, Ukraine’s prominent gas and chemicals bigwig. Faced with allegations of bribing Indian officials, Firtash contended his arrest was nothing more than a political game played out by Washington, which felt threated by his influence in Ukrainian politics. With no evidence presented by the FBI, the Austrian judge deemed the US charges “politically motivated– and Firtash walked. But as a key player in Ukraine’s gas industry through his companies, Firtash’s woes are far from over. The Ukrainian government has recently confiscated 500 million cubic meters of gas belonging to Firtash and announced that it would be willing to cooperate with US investigators, who plan to appeal the Austrian decision.

Despite calls to make Ukraine an attractive place both for domestic and foreign businesses, it appears that, with the never-ending support of the Democratic Party, Ukraine is more occupied with settling political scores at the State Department’s behest than bringing about economic and institutional change.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

New Docs Just Revealed What The DOJ, IRS, And FBI Had In Store For Obama Opponents

Documents obtained by the government accountability group Judicial Watch reveal that the Lois Lerner IRS scandal is worse than originally believed, extending beyond the walls of the agency into the Department of Justice.

Judicial Watch sued both the IRS and the DOJ when both failed to comply with FOIA requests. What the newly released documents confirm is that the Obama administration not only targeted tea party and other conservative organizations for increased scrutiny, improper questioning (including lists of donor names), and delayed approval for their applications in the lead-up to the 2012 presidential elections–but also sought ways to criminally prosecute them.

To this end, an email reveals that Lois Lerner, then head of the IRS’ tax exempt organization unit, coordinated to have 21 discs containing 1.25 million pages of confidential tax information of these groups transmitted to the DOJ, for criminal investigation purposes.

According to a letter from then-House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, “This revelation likely means that the IRS – including possibly Lois Lerner – violated federal tax law by transmitting this information to the Justice Department.”

The DOJ apparently took the initiative to look into the criminal prosecution angle. Judicial Watch reports:

the new IRS documents include a October 11, 2010 “DOJ Recap” memo sent by IRS Exempt Organizations Tax Law Specialist Siri Buller to Lerner and other top IRS officials explaining an October 8 meeting with representatives from the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and “one representative from the FBI” to discuss the possible criminal prosecution of nonprofit organizations for alleged political activity.”

“These new documents show that the Obama IRS scandal is also an Obama DOJ and FBI scandal,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton in a press release. “The FBI and Justice Department worked with Lois Lerner and the IRS to concoct some reason to put President Obama’s opponents in jail before his reelection. And this abuse resulted in the FBI’s illegally obtaining confidential taxpayer information. How can the Justice Department and FBI investigate the very scandal in which they are implicated?”

“No wonder the Department of Justice under Eric Holder [did] no serious investigation of the Obama IRS scandal,” Fitton claimed in an earlier statement. “These new documents dramatically show how the Justice Department is up to its neck in the IRS scandal and can’t be trusted to investigate crimes associated with the IRS abuses that targeted Obama’s critics,” he said. “Richard Nixon was impeached for less.”

Judicial Watch reports: “The DOJ documents also include a July 16, 2013, email from an undisclosed Justice Department official to a lawyer for IRS employees asking that the Obama administration get information from congressional witnesses before Congress does.”

One last issue. If any of your clients have documents they are providing to Congress that you can (or would like to) provide to us before their testimony, we would be pleased to receive them. We are…authorized and I can connect you with [the Treasury Department’s Inspector General] to confirm; we would like the unredacted documents…

“Following Judicial Watch’s lead, the House also found out about the IRS transmittal of the confidential taxpayer information to the FBI. Because of this public disclosure, the FBI was forced to return the 1.25 million pages to the IRS.”

When the IRS scandal originally broke in May, 2013, President Obama said: “I have now had the opportunity to review the Treasury Department watchdog’s report on its investigation of IRS personnel who improperly targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. And the report’s findings are intolerable and inexcusable. The federal government must conduct itself in a way that’s worthy of the public’s trust, and that’s especially true for the IRS.”

However, several months later in an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, he said that the notion that conservative groups were targeted is “absolutely wrong.” Rather, the IRS officials were confused about how to implement the law governing tax-exempt groups. “There were some bone-headed decisions,” Obama conceded. Asked whether corruption was in play, he responded: “…not even a smidgen of corruption.”

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

WATCH: If Every American Saw This 3 Minute Video, Hillary Clinton Wouldn’t Stand A Chance

National Review just released a video compiling in less than three minutes some of the main reasons Hillary Clinton is not a trustworthy choice for the highest office in the land.

The video, which is entitled Who is Hillary Clinton?, opens with various high profile Democrats offering their reasons why Clinton is the best choice. She is the “most qualified,” they all appear to mimic.

“And by the way, thoroughly vetted,” one notes.

The video then delves into several recent revelations (covered by National Review), including:

1) Her use of a personal email server while secretary of state

2) Her wiping that server clean of all those emails, while purporting to turn over hard copies of all the work-related emails to the State Department (which is required by the Public Records Act)

3) The conflicts of interests in play as she served as secretary of state–her husband earned millions of dollars in speaking fees, and the Clinton Foundation took in tens of millions in foreign donations (the most egregious example perhaps being the Uranium One deal with Russia).

4) Her failure to turn over all work-related emails to the State Department, as previously claimed

5) The revelation in some of those emails that Sidney Blumenthal provided solicited, not unsolicited, counsel to Clinton on Libya and other matters, contrary to what she previously claimed. All this occurred while Blumenthal was employed at the Clinton Foundation and had personal business interests in Libya.

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee asks one important, overarching question concerning her effectiveness as secretary of state (while all the above was going on): “Name one country on this planet, which we have a better relationship than we have in January, 2009?”

As reported by Western Journalism, former President Jimmy Carter asked the same question last week.

A clip of Clinton’s own campaign video brings NRO’s to a close. “Let the conversation begin, I think it’s going to be very interesting,” the candidate says.

h/t: The Right Scoop

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth