Posts tagged criminal justice
Posts tagged criminal justice
reports on the case of CeCe McDonald, an African American transgender woman who fought against her attacker—and was charged with murder.
IMAGINE BEING outnumbered and brutally attacked. Now imagine facing most of the rest of your adult life in prison for the crime of protecting your life.
This is the living nightmare endured by CeCe McDonald, an African American transgender women who was charged with second-degree felony murder for defending herself against a hate crime.
After international pressure, an ongoing campaign of public protests and more than 15,000 petition signatures, on May 2, McDonald and her attorney were able to negotiate a plea agreement and get the charges against her reduced to second-degree manslaughter. McDonald is set to be sentenced to 42 months in prison on June 4, and her sentence will be reduced to one-third of that for good behavior.
McDonald’s case demonstrates the power and necessity of struggle in achieving justice for oppressed people, and the obscene racism and transphobia at the core of America’s criminal injustice system.
A lot of people have been mobilized by the Troy Davis case, especially in the past few days. You called and emailed elected officials; you petitioned political appointees; you demanded that people be held accountable for a decision that put proper procedure ahead of anything else. But what will all of you do tomorrow? Will you dedicate yourselves to putting an end to the system whose flaws became so apparent to so many tonight? Or will you forget about the continued injustice of the death penalty until the next Troy Davis is moved to the death house? You have many other legitimate concerns in your daily lives and many other important issues that demand your attention. But you cared so much this time; do you think you can continue to care about the brokenness of our justice system as you do right now, tonight?
In light of the fact that tomorrow, the state of Georgia, barring virtually unprecedented administrative action, is going to execute a man which the great weight of evidence suggests is not guilty of the crime he is accused of, this seems like a good time to remind people of the case for the Executive Pardon, and its proper place in a sane criminal justice system.
Alexander Hamilton made the case for the Executive Pardon in Federalist 74:
Humanity and good policy conspire to dictate, that the benign prerogative of pardoning should be as little as possible fettered or embarrassed. The criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity, that without an easy access to exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt, justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel. As the sense of responsibility is always strongest, in proportion as it is undivided, it may be inferred that a single man would be most ready to attend to the force of those motives which might plead for a mitigation of the rigor of the law, and least apt to yield to considerations which were calculated to shelter a fit object of its vengeance. The reflection that the fate of a fellow-creature depended on his sole fiat, would naturally inspire scrupulousness and caution; the dread of being accused of weakness or connivance, would beget equal circumspection, though of a different kind. On the other hand, as men generally derive confidence from their numbers, they might often encourage each other in an act of obduracy, and might be less sensible to the apprehension of suspicion or censure for an injudicious or affected clemency. On these accounts, one man appears to be a more eligible dispenser of the mercy of government, than a body of men.
It is hard to express the sense, wisdom and sanity Hamilton displayed was when he wrote this. The only reasonable counter-argument to Hamilton’s defense is that the executive pardon could be used mischievously by unscrupulous executive office holders to pardon individuals whose guilt was clearly established, thereby undermining the democratic legitimacy of jury trials. However, I think this objection can be quickly dispatched by simply pointing out that a) juries can be and often are wrong, particularly where the body of evidence in a case changes post-verdict, and b) Governors and Presidents are politicians; abuse of the Executive Pardon would quickly become a political liability if used fecklessly and as a form of patronage. And given the fact that these are public acts of record, there is no shortage of journalistic scrutiny that might be applied to make such acts known to the public.
Unfortunately, in Georgia, the Governor has no direct control over the pardon process. The decision is made by a Board of unelected individuals, the composition of which has very little guidelines in terms of selecting an ideological and professionally balanced committee. Georgia isn’t the only state that does this either, which I would argue is an abdication of the Executive Office’s responsibility; the case for Executive Pardons in Federalist 74 falls apart when Pardons are decided by a small coterie of peers, who “might often encourage each other to act in obduracy, and might be less sensible to the apprehension of suspicion or censure for an injudicious or affected clemency.”
Appreciate that fact when Troy Davis is executed tomorrow in the face of overwhelming evidence of his innocence. Appreciate the fact that things could be done differently. But they won’t be.
This — a perfectly innocent woman being hauled off a flight, handcuffed, jailed, strip-searched, and grilled for hours — because some fucking ninny on the plane thought she and the two dark-skinned people sitting next to her were “suspicious”, and because “better safe than sorry” has become a higher value to law enforcement than probable cause or reasonable suspicion or due process or common freaking sense, and because we’re too cowed as a people to say anything about it.
Reporting on the issue is meek.
“Due to the anniversary of Sept. 11, all precautions were taken, and any slight inconsistency was taken seriously,” Berchtold said. “The public would rather us err on the side of caution than not.”
From what I can piece together, this woman got treated like that because she was seated in the same row as two Indian men who wen to the bathroom in succession and took longer than some passenger deemed necessary.
We have met the enemy, and he is us.
Texas’ Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice, Don Clemmer, later testified that his office didn’t have the resources to investigate allegations of sexual abuse at a TYC facility in Ward County because at the time the local agent was busy investigating charges of voter fraud by a 68-year-old Hispanic woman.