Pete Guither at the Drug War Rant has an exquisite analysis of the 1998 law and Government Accountability Office interpretation thereof that explains that it is the duty of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy to lie about drugs and the effectiveness of anti-drug policy.Sphere: Related Content
Monday, October 01, 2007
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Last December I appealed to readers to call former Florida Jeb Bush to commute the sentence of Richard Paey.
Today Bush's Republican successor, Governor Charlie Crist, after hearing argument from Paey's outstanding attorney, John P. Flannery, II, moved to grant Paey a full pardon, and his cabinet adopted the motion. Paey should be released from prison today.
Crist extended the usual five minutes for such argument to thirty minutes, and took an extraordinary step to grant a full pardon. Crist was a leading anti-crime State Senator and later Florida Attorney General.
I encourage you to call (850) 488-7146 or write Governor Crist to commend him!
Office of Governor Charlie Crist
State of Florida
PL-05 The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
I sent this email to Charlie.Crist@MyFlorida.com
Dear Governor Crist:
Your motion this morning to grant a full pardon to Richard Paey was the most heartening act by a public official that I can think of in many years.
It seemed to me that it was completely consistent with your pledge and philosophy published on your website.
It should not be remarkable that you took this step -- given the facts, but it is remarkable.
I am tremendously impressed by your leadership on this.
With very best wishes,
Eric E. Sterling
Sphere: Related Content
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
The Senator's website has this statement:
[U.S. Senator Larry] Craig [R-ID] said in his statement that he regrets his guilty plea.
"I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter," he said. "In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously."
I did nothing wrong at the Minneapolis airport. I regret my decision to plead guilty and the sadness that decision has brought to my wife, family, friends, staff, and fellow Idahoans. For that I apologize.
"In June, I overreacted and made a poor decision. While I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct at the Minneapolis airport or anywhere else, I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in the hope of making it go away. I did not seek any counsel, either from an attorney, staff, friends, or family. That was a mistake, and I deeply regret it. Because of that, I have now retained counsel and I am asking my counsel to review this matter and to advise me on how to proceed.
"For a moment, I want to put my state of mind into context on June 11. For 8 months leading up to June, my family and I had been relentlessly and viciously harassed by the Idaho Statesman. If you’ve seen today’s paper, you know why. Let me be clear: I am not gay and never have been.
Do innocent people plead guilty "to handle [the] matter ...quickly and expeditiously"? You better believe it.
If you were a leading conservative U.S. Senator and you could plead guilty to disorder conduct or a sex offense, which would you do? What, you really want a trial in open court in which the police officer who does these undercover stings in the men's room for a living takes the stand and your counsel is going to cross-examine him to trip him up? Roll the dice on the guilty plea and that you won't get found out?
Sadly, this often happens. Then again, the Senator may be guilty, and is still lying. Sphere: Related Content
According to the CDC, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News, sports like football result in 1.6 to 3.8 million head injuries like concussions each year, but the CDC spokesperson notes that this is almost certainly an undercount. "The consequences can be profound."
Mark Kleiman at The Reality-Based Community pointed this out
and noted that
if high-school football were a drug, it would be in Schedule I. NIDA has spent approximately a gazillion dollars looking for evidence of lasting cognitive deficits from pot-smoking, and found nothing nearly as clear-cut as the risks associated with concussion, which is a fairly routine risk of playing football under current rules.Sphere: Related Content
Monday, August 20, 2007
The Washington Post editors have not tolerated much criticism of the basics of American drug policy. Historically their op-ed page has welcomed defenses of status quo strategy by Joseph Califano (former counsel for the paper), George Will, and government officials. Almost the only criticism of the status quo can be found in occasional letters to the editor.
But on Sunday, the Outlook section published on its front page a very powerful analysis by Misha Glenny of the global criminal organizations that threaten legitimate governments everywhere, and the Afghan government in particular. This tracks some of the analysis that can be found at StopFundingTerrorists.com and is a theme of Arnold Trebach's new book, Fatal Distraction: The War on Drug in the Age of Islamic Terror.
Misha Glenny is a former BBC correspondent and the author of "McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Underworld," to be published next year.
What is unique in Glenny's report -- as far as it being on the Post op-ed page -- is that it highlights the prohibition character of drug policy as an advantage to criminals and terrorists, and a handicap for the rest of us.
In Washington, the war on drugs has been a third-rail issue since its inauguration. It's obvious why -- telling people that their kids can do drugs is the kiss of death at the ballot box. But that was before 9/11. Now the drug war is undermining Western security throughout the world. In one particularly revealing conversation, a senior official at the British Foreign Office told me, "I often think we will look back at the War on Drugs in a hundred years' time and tell the tale of 'The Emperor's New Clothes.' This is so stupid."
How right he is.
Sphere: Related Content
The BBC reports on the overdose on caffeine that sent 17-year old Jasmine Willis to the hospital last week in County Durham, England. She drank 7 double espressos.
"I was burning up and hyperventilating.
"I was having palpitations, my heart was beating so fast and I thought I was going into shock," she said.
She said that she was still experiencing side effects days later.
"If we can save just one child from this terrifying experience, this one law would be worth it!" Isn't that the standard for deciding whether to make it a felony to recklessly leave caffeine products in the proximity of persons underage?
Well, OF COURSE NOT. The "save just one life" rationale is a powerful emotional but intellectually bogus argument. It arises only after an activity has been stripped of normality. Even as global levels of "caffeinization"grow, we are nowhere near a reaction that will demonize use of caffeine.
But other activities have been moved into that category. Cigarette smoking is probably the best example of this transformation. You can still find seats on airplanes with ashtrays built into the armrests. Only a few decades ago, children made ashtrays in their first pottery classes. Smoking was permissible in college classrooms. It is hard for Americans to recall the ubiquity of cigarette smoking only 40 years ago.
Noting this transformation is not a defense of cigarette smoking. I do not like the smell of tobacco smoke, and I consider smoking indoors in the presence of unconsenting others a grave breach of etiquette. It is the process of this profound social change that I am noting. Thus we move the behavior from being unobjectionable to objectionable, laying the groundwork for criminalization.
In California, for example, not only is it a misdemeanor to distribute cigarettes to a person under 18, it is illegal to distribute cigarettes other than in sealed packages of 20. It is illegal to rent videos that include advertisements for cigarettes (or alcohol products).
And yet, caffeine products are marketed without being mentioned on ingredient labels, without warning labels that caffeine is addictive or that consumption of caffeine carries a risk of overdose.
Sphere: Related Content
Friday, August 17, 2007
On August 8, The Washington Post and other news papers reported that the U.S. and Mexico are planning a collaboration to assist Mexico in combating the prohibition-related violence that has swept Mexico. The Economist reports that the plan could be unveiled August 20 or 21 when the leaders of the U.S., Canada and Mexico meet in Quebec.
That the violence is rampant is not in dispute. Between January and June 2007, more than 1400 people have been killed -- from innocent civilians to law enforcement chiefs and important drug cartel figures, according to an insightful report from the Washington Office on Latin America.
The United States and Mexico have not always collaborated on the problem of illegal drugs. Mexico had been a well known source of cannabis since before President Nixon ordered Operation Intercept in 1969, after the Special Presidential Task Force Relating to Narcotics, Marihuana and Dangerous Drugs singled out Mexico in its June 6, 1969 report, according to the excellent April 2003 paper by Kate Doyle for the National Security Archive.
Operation Intercept was a crude exercise of American unilateralism, and seen by Mexico as a betrayal of the neighborliness that had characterized the Kennedy Administration's approach.
Now the shared nature of the drug problem is well established. Roger Noriega, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs (2003-2005), and former U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States, wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post, August 16, 2007, "It's Our Drug War, Too." Noriega, also a former staffer for the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees, advises the Administration to bring Congress into the negotiations if it wants to develop a plan that will be politically successful in the U.S. Having congressional "buy-in" could avoid "micro-management" by Congress that "will demoralize our Mexican friends." Noriega suggests a supplemental appropriation, since the FY 2008 appropriations bill has already passed the House. Waiting for the FY 2009 bill would mean no money would be available until October 2008. Noriega notes in passing the importance of "legal reform and judicial capacity-building" which are key points that WOLA made in its June 2007 paper.
I agree with Noriega that the prohibition-enriched criminal organizations in Mexico (and elsewhere in the hemisphere) pose very serious threats to the American people because their capacity to thoroughly corrupt or bludgeon legitimate government is enormous. The consequences of such organizations' triumph would stymie social justice, political reform, economic development in the hemisphere and undermine legitimate trade and exchange. American businesses operating elsewhere in the hemisphere will inevitably be pressured to become partners to the criminals as we have seen in Colombia with the Chiquita corporation.
A role for the American government that does not involve simply pouring money into Mexico's military and intelligence agencies, and providing hardware and software for wiretapping, etc. would be for the U.S. Justice Department to focus its drug investigation capacity on the high-level international criminals that are behind the violence and corruption in Mexico and the rest of Latin America. For twenty years, the laws have been on the books directing the DEA and the Justice Department to focus on high-level traffickers -- the Narcotics Penalties and Enforcement Act of 1986 that created tough mandatory minimums of 10 years -- with up to life imprisonment. But as the latest report on cocaine sentencing from the U.S. Sentencing Commission demonstrates, overwhelmingly the focus has been on low-level offenders operating at the street-level in American cities (see tables 5-2 and 5-3, pp 108-114). These neighborhood drug dealers can be, and frequently are, prosecuted by state and local authorities. There is no law enforcement justification for wasting federal anti-drug resources on crack dealers who are universally local operators.
If the Justice Department were competently run -- and it has not been competently run for decades -- anti-drug cases would not be the plaything of ambitious local federal prosecutors, but coordinated in Washington to focus on the global criminals -- many of whom are responsible for drenching Mexico in blood.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Financial Times columnist Matthew Engel was considering the "most disastrous decision ever taken by a modern democratic government. The current Iraq war would be no higher than 4th place. Mr. Engel puts in first place, "the laws that have barred legitimate business from the recreational drugs industry and handed a worldwide monopoly of distribution to the Mafia and its imitators."Sphere: Related Content
Choose Responsibility, run by a former college president, has some excellent ideas for addressing alcohol use by persons 18 to 21.
Check out this site.
Six Italians were murdered in northern Germany in a power struggle among factions in a southern Italian organized crime group that reportedly plays a key role in selling tens of billions of dollars of cocaine in Europe. New York Times, August 16, 2007, German Police Link 6 Dead Men to an Italian Mob Feud.
I don't have the time to do the research now, but let's hypothesize that there has been a trend of increasing numbers of extraterritorial organized crime killings -- that is, killings in mob rivals that take place in countries outside the national home of the conflicting mobs.
I suspect that we could find instances in which the Mexican organized crime conflicts have spilled over into homicides in the U.S.
Those who direct and commit such extraterritorial murders may believe that they are reducing the risk that they will be successfully investigated or prosecuted. To the extent that the investigating agencies will be unlikely to have informants among the criminal organizations, they are less likely to be fluent in the language of the criminals, the long-distance investigations will be very expensive due to the costs of sending investigators to other countries, hiring translators, etc., and extradition proceedings against the criminals could be expensive, these crimes may be less easily solved and prosecuted.
However, there may be a law enforcement benefit from this crime pattern. Assume that the police agencies in countries where the murders take place, which are not the home of the conflicting mobs, are unlikely to have corrupt alliances with any of the mobs. If that assumption is valid, then at least on that basis those police are more likely to pursue the investigation than if the police were corruptly allied with the mob.
Unfortunately police - criminal alliances are too common; they characterize the situation in Mexico, for example.
This has significance for the U.S. criminal justice system priorities as the organized crime conflict in Mexico intensifies. The U.S. must make investigation and prosecution of Mexican criminal organizations a high priority -- certainly higher priority than prosecuting medical marijuana dispensaries operating under California or other state laws.
Indeed, U.S. investigations and prosecutions of high level criminals in other countries is probably the most productive activity of the U.S. Department of Justice can take to address global crime, as well as drug distribution in the U.S. See my paper Getting Justice Off its Junk Food Diet
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
As I read this account in the Los Angeles Times, Aug. 15, 2007, How lawyer navigates sea of secrecy in bizarre case, about a lawyer who cannot read the pleadings of the government, who is told that he must write his client's brief in the government's office -- without the benefit of notes or law books, and who cannot keep a copy of his own brief, I imagined a lawyer in Germany in 1937 representing a Jew challenging some provision of the Nuremburg laws.Sphere: Related Content
The Washington Post story, Illegal Crops Creep Into the Suburbs by Kari Lydersen, is another example of mediocre journalism in covering a drug story. Lydersen covers Chicago for the Post.
Her story is that some 18 patches of marijuana totaling 60,000 plants were discovered and eradicated from the Crabtree Forest Preserve in northwest Cook County, about a dozen miles northwest of O'Hare airport. She reports that DEA says they were worth $30 million! That is $500 per plant.
I had some questions about the story which I emailed to her. She ignored my questions which follow:
Re: Illegal Crops Creep Into the Suburbs
Aug. 5, 2007
Dear Ms. Lydersen:
Your report from Illinois was very interesting.
Obviously Joanna Zoltay from DEA was extremely helpful to you in preparing your story.
From 1979 through 1988, I was counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary responsible for overseeing DEA and other federal law enforcement agencies. I accompanied DEA representatives on field investigations along the border, in Florida, and in South America and the Caribbean, at the DEA El Paso Intelligence Center, and at DEA Headquarters in Washington. Unfortunately, there were occasions in which DEA officials lied to me and the Members of Congress for whom I worked about various aspects of their operations.
Was there anything about their characterization of this operation that around your journalistic skepticism?
Were you able to go to any of the eradicated fields to see how large they were or to examine the cultivators' campsite or look closely at any of the eradicated cannabis before it was burned?
$30 million dollars is a great deal of money. By any chance did DEA's spokesperson(s) show you the arithmetic DEA used to arrive at that sum? If there were actually 60,000 plants (was this a count or an estimate?), that would require that each plant generate $500.
How much saleable marijuana would each plant produce to be worth $500? Does that pricing make sense to you?
Does the value per plant depend upon the size of the plant? How tall does a plant have to be to be worth $500?
"Some" of these 60,000 plants, you report, were 8 feet tall. Does "some" mean ten plants, one hundred plants, one thousand, six thousand, 30,000 plants?
How tall were the typical plants?
How tall were the shortest plants, and how many were there?
Did DEA give you any of this background?
One of the important facts in your story was in the next to last paragraph in which one source told you that he picked "garbage" marijuana that grew wild on a nearby lake when he was a youngster.
What is unclear from your report is whether any of the marijuana in these 18 different fields was of this "garbage" variety, also called "ditchweed." DEA in its 2006 annual report on its domestic marijuana eradication program notes that reveals that perhaps 98 percent of all eradicated marijuana is ditchweed (and not worth $500 per plant) nationwide, with enormous variation by state, but most of that coming from Indiana.
Would it be relevant to your story to report why easily grown plants -- 60,000 plants grown by a handful of men over a season -- could be worth $500 each? Or is that too obvious to explain?
Certainly when criminal organizations set up high-profit growing operations in park and recreation areas it creates a danger to park users. I live 5 houses from the very large Rock Creek Park in Maryland that connects to Rock Creek Park in D.C., and my family uses the parks all the time. The safety of parks is very important to me.
Can you imagine what expansion of DEA's activities (or other marijuana enforcement activities) could change the economics so that it would no longer be enormously profitable to grown marijuana in public nature preserves? Would it have helped or hurt your story if you had inquired whether, if the legislature and Congress legalized the cultivation and use of marijuana and people could grow their own, this would end the practice of hiding illegal marijuana cultivation in the parks?
I helped write the federal law in 1986 that provides a mandatory minimum federal sentence for growing more than 1000 marijuana plants. From your reporting do you think that such a law is having any deterrent effect? Or is such a law a central feature of the economic structure that makes a single marijuana plant worth $500?
Certainly when criminal organizations set up high-profit growing operations in park and recreation areas it creates a danger to park users. Do you think that raids such as this are making parks safer?
Eric E. Sterling, J.D.
Criminal Justice Policy Foundation
Friday, August 03, 2007
Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm reports (pasted below) on the prosecution of a 20-year male prisoner for masturbating in his cell in the Broward County Jail. Yep. Terry Lee Alexander was tried by the office of Broward County State Attorney, Michael J. Satz and convicted. Obviously this case will be the source of innumerable jokes and puns. But it demonstrates an all-too-common lack of perspective in prosecutors' offices around the country -- cases that do not warrant prosecution get to court because they can be brought.
Let's look at the Florida Criminal Code to see if the no-nonsense Florida legislature might have thought this kind of case deserves prosecution:
775.012 General purposes.--The general purposes of the provisions of the code are:
(1) To proscribe conduct that improperly causes or threatens substantial harm to individual or public interest.
(2) To give fair warning to the people of the state in understandable language of the nature of the conduct proscribed and of the sentences authorized upon conviction.
(3) To define clearly the material elements constituting an offense and the accompanying state of mind or criminal intent required for that offense.
(4) To differentiate on reasonable grounds between serious and minor offenses and to establish appropriate disposition for each.
(5) To safeguard conduct that is without fault or legitimate state interest from being condemned as criminal.
(6) To ensure the public safety by deterring the commission of offenses and providing for the opportunity for rehabilitation of those convicted and for their confinement when required in the interests of public protection."
Raise your hand if you think this "conduct improperly causes or threatens substantial harm to individual or public interest."
Raise your hand if you think there is a "legitimate state interest" in "condemn[ing] as criminal" a 20 year old who masturbated in his jail cell.
In 1991, The National District Attorneys Association adopted National Prosecution Standards, 2nd Edition. An appropriate general guidance is in standard 1.1, "The primary responsibility of prosecution is to see that justice is accomplished." No room for argument there, is there?
Standard 42.3 (at pp. 125-126) spells out the factors a prosecutor should consider in exercising his or her discretion to screen out a case for non-prosecution -- cases in which the "prosecution is not justified or not in the public interest." Such factors potentially relevant in this case include:
"d. Possible improper motives of a victim or witness;
e. The availability of adequate civil remedies; [like punishment by the jail]
f. The availability of suitable diversion and rehabilitative programs;
k. The attitude and mental status of the accused; [yes, consider being 20 years old in jail]
l. Undue hardship caused to the accused;
m. A history of non-enforcement of the applicable violation;
p. Any mitigating circumstances."
One would think that State Attorney Satz, who took office in 1976, might recognize "a history of non-enforcement of the applicable violation" would apply in this case.
This case did not belong in court.
The American Bar Association On-line Journal reports that there were eight more cases!
And, upholding the dignity of our justice system (if not to assure a fair trial for the accused), jurors were questioned about the masturbation habits!
This prosecutor is shameless!
Justice went blind in this jailhouse case
Sphere: Related ContentFirst, in the spirit of full disclosure, I attended a military boarding school. If Ken Jenne had been headmaster, my entire senior class would have been up on charges.
Jenne, as sheriff and chief jailer in Broward County, has launched a crackdown on self-abusing miscreants. It's no longer enough to warn hairy-palmed drooling deviants that self-indulgence risks stunted growth, blindness, sallow skin, slackened jaws, amnesia, shrunken testicles, impotence and, for Catholics in particular, eternal damnation. Jenne wants jail time.
And, late Wednesday afternoon, in a triumph of creative law enforcement, masturbation in the county jail became a criminal pleasure. Good for another 60 days behind bars.
Sheriff Jenne, with help from the office of State Attorney Mike Satz, who has taken on additional duties as Broward's dean of boys, notched a law enforcement triumph when a county court jury convicted Terry Lee Alexander, 20, of going at it in his cell last November.
At the time of the offense, Alexander was punished with 30 days without TV, music, exercise time and other jail house perks. But obviously self-abuse demands a criminal charge and a full-blown jury trial, and two prosecutors, and a court-appointed taxpayer-paid defense lawyer and six jurors (and an alternate), and a judge, and a court reporter, and a couple bailiffs, and a pretrial deposition, and a daylong trial.
Not that any of the time and expense of a trial would have any actual effect on the life of the defendant. Alexander was already looking at 10 years for a robbery conviction. But the trial was clearly intended to send a message from the sheriff and state attorney to other sex fiends lurking in their lock-up.
The sheriff's critics, of course, might find the prosecution of a masturbation case curious given the burst of violent crimes that has beset the county lately. They might also point out that Sheriff Jenne, who's feeling the heat of a federal criminal investigation himself, may come to appreciate the sexual needs of a lonely inmate.
And there's also the lingering issue of what seems to be a spectacular case of selective prosecution. The prosecution's only witness, jailer Coryus Veal, testified Wednesday afternoon, ``They had warned me about what goes on there.''
Indeed, ''they'' were right.
Deputy Veal initiated criminal charges against eight inmates (Four, so far, have taken plea deals while three others await trial.) for what may be the most flouted violation in the history of jails, boarding schools, seminaries and military barracks. And who knows what goes on underneath those flowing black judicial robes.
Technically, Alexander faced charges of indecent exposure, with lots of lewd, lascivious, wicked, deviant, etc. tacked on. He also faced the prosecution's tortured contention that his jail cell qualified as a ``public place.''
In the course of the one-day trial, prosecutor Cynthia Lauriston and Veal managed to describe Alexander's offense in startling detail, eight times, once with Lauriston approximating the action with arm motions. It was hard to imagine the original act could have had a much more lascivious effect than the lurid stuff those poor women had to utter, over and over, in Courtroom 417 Wednesday.
''It was very vulgar. Very indecent,'' Veal testified.
She was describing the crime but she could have been characterizing the prosecution, the trial, the verdict and the obscene, indecent, vulgar, lascivious, downright stupid waste of time and money.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
This is it! August 2007 -- the first National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month!
Senate Resolution 225 passed the Senate on June 26, sponsored by Senators Biden and Grassley.
Let's hear it for education.
The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America have teamed with the good folks at the
Consumer Healthcare Products Association (founded in 1881 as The Proprietary Association http://www.chpa-info.org/ChpaPortal/AboutCHPA/History/) to fight cough medicine abuse, http://www.doseofprevention.org/overview.html a worthwhile endeavor.
Note the CHPA history:
"Eighty-four companies were represented at the group's first annual meeting in 1882. Standard therapy of the time included bloodletting, purging, and blistering, along with 'home remedies' concocted from various herbs. The great attraction of this 'green' medicine, as it was often called, was its safety. It didn't always help, but it almost never harmed.
Proprietary medicines flourished in this setting. In 1880, shipments were estimated at $15 million."
Without mentioning specific ingredients, it seems that this old trade association is proud of its role in distributing cannabis products in the 19th century.
Senate Resolution 225
June 7, 2007
June 21, 2007
Passed the Senate on June 26, 2007
Whereas over-the-counter and prescription medicines are extremely safe, effective, and potentially lifesaving when used properly, but the abuse and recreational use of these medicines can be extremely dangerous and produce serious side effects;
Whereas 6,400,000 individuals who are age 12 or older reported using prescription medicines non-medically in a recently sampled month, and abuse of prescription medications such as pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives is second only to marijuana, the number 1 illegal drug of abuse in the United States;
Whereas, recent studies indicate that 1 in 10 youth ages 12 through 17, or 2,400,000 children, has intentionally abused cough medicine to get high from its dextromethorphan ingredient, and 1 in 5 young adults (4,500,000) has used prescription medicines non-medically;
Whereas, according to research from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, more than 1/3 of teens mistakenly believe that taking prescription drugs, even if not prescribed by a doctor, is much safer than using street drugs;
Whereas teens' and parents' lack of understanding of the potential harms of these powerful medicines makes it more critical than ever to raise public awareness about the dangers of their misuse;
Whereas, when prescription drugs are misused, they are most often obtained through friends and relatives, but are also obtained through rogue Internet pharmacies;
Whereas parents should be aware that the Internet gives teens access to websites that promote medicine misuse;
Whereas National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month promotes the message that over-the-counter and prescription medicines are to be taken only as labeled or prescribed, and when used recreationally or in large doses can have serious and life-threatening consequences;
Whereas National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month will encourage parents to educate themselves about this problem and talk to their teens about all types of substance abuse ;
Whereas observance of National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month should be encouraged at the national, State, and local levels to increase awareness of the rising misuse of medicines;
Whereas some groups, such as the Consumer Healthcare Products Association and the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America, have taken important proactive steps like creating educational toolkits, such as `A Dose of Prevention: Stopping Cough Medicine Abuse Before it Starts', which includes guides to educate parents, teachers, law enforcement officials, doctors and healthcare professionals, and retailers about the potential harms of cough and cold medicines and over-the-counter drug abuse ;
Whereas the nonprofit Partnership for a Drug-Free America and its community alliance and affiliate partners have undertaken a nationwide prevention campaign utilizing research-based educational advertisements, public relations and news media, and the Internet to inform parents about the negative teen behavior of intentional abuse of medicines so that parents are empowered to effectively communicate the facts of this dangerous trend with their teens and to take necessary steps to safeguard prescription and over-the-counter medicines in their homes; and
Whereas educating the public on the dangers of medicine abuse and promoting prevention is a critical component of what must be a multi-pronged effort to curb this disturbing rise in over-the-counter and cough medicine misuse: Now, therefore, be it
- Resolved, That the Senate--
- (1) designates the month of August 2007 as `National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month'; and
(2) urges communities to carry out appropriate programs and activities to educate parents and youth of the potential dangers associated with medicine abuse .
This thoughtful op-ed discusses the framing of defendants (guilty as well as the innocent) in homicide cases. Sadly, the crusader mentality that infects our national thinking about drug use and drug users creates a similar dynamic for police and prosecutor "framing" defendants in drug cases. This is a phenomenon that is not as high profile as murder cases, but is much more common.
It would be interesting to try to compile as many such instances as possible -- a subset of the DRCNet corrupt cop weekly report.
August 2, 2007
The New York Times
"The Presence of Malice" By RICHARD MORAN, Op-Ed Contributor
South Hadley, Mass.
LAST week, Judge Nancy Gertner of the Federal District Court in Boston awarded more than $100 million to four men whom the F.B.I. framed for the 1965 murder of Edward Deegan, a local gangster. It was compensation for the 30 years the men spent behind bars while agents withheld evidence that would have cleared them and put the real killer -- a valuable F.B.I. informant, by the name of Vincent Flemmi -- in prison.
Most coverage of the story described it as a bizarre exception in the history of law enforcement. Unfortunately, this kind of behavior by those whose sworn duty it is to uphold the law is all too common. In state courts, where most death sentences are handed down, it occurs regularly.
My recently completed study of the 124 exonerations of death row inmates in America from 1973 to 2007 indicated that 80, or about two-thirds, of their so-called wrongful convictions resulted not from good-faith mistakes or errors but from intentional, willful, malicious prosecutions by criminal justice personnel. (There were four cases in which a determination could not be made one way or another.)
Yet too often this behavior is not singled out and identified for what it is. When a prosecutor puts a witness on the stand whom he knows to be lying, or fails to turn over evidence favorable to the defense, or when a police officer manufactures or destroys evidence to further the likelihood of a conviction, then it is deceptive to term these conscious violations of the law -- all of which I found in my research -- as merely mistakes or errors.
Mistakes are good-faith errors -- like taking the wrong exit off the highway, or dialing the wrong telephone number. There is no malice behind them. However, when officers of the court conspire to convict a defendant of first-degree murder and send him to death row, they are doing much more than making an innocent mistake or error. They are breaking the law.
Perhaps this explains why, even when a manifestly innocent man is about to be executed, a prosecutor can be dead set against reopening an old case. Since so many wrongful convictions result from official malicious behavior, prosecutors, policemen, witnesses or even jurors and judges could themselves face jail time for breaking the law in obtaining an unlawful conviction.
Strangely, our misunderstanding of the real cause underlying most wrongful convictions is compounded by the very people who work to uncover them. Although the term "wrongfully convicted" is technically correct, it also has the potential to be misleading. It leads to the false impression that most inmates ended up on death row because of good-faith mistakes or errors committed by an imperfect criminal justice system -- not by malicious or unlawful behavior.
For this reason, we need to re-frame the argument and shift our language. If a death sentence is overturned because of malicious behavior, we should call it for what it is: an unlawful conviction, not a wrongful one.
In the interest of fairness, it is important to note that those who are exonerated are not necessarily innocent of the crimes that sent them to death row. They have simply had their death sentences set aside because of errors that led to convictions, usually involving the intentional violation of their constitutional right to a fair and impartial trial. Very seldom does the court go the next step and actually declare them innocent.
In addition, some of these unlawful convictions resulted from criminal justice officials trying to do the right thing. (A police officer, say, plants evidence on a defendant he is convinced is guilty, fearing that the defendant will escape punishment otherwise.) In cases like these, officers or prosecutors have been known to "frame a guilty man."
The malicious or even well-intentioned manipulation of murder cases by prosecutors and the police underscores why it's important to discard, once and for all, the nonsense that so-called wrongful convictions can be eliminated by introducing better forensic science into the courtroom.
Even if we limit death sentences to cases in which there is "conclusive scientific evidence" of guilt, as Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate and former governor of Massachusetts has proposed, we will still not eliminate the problem of wrongful convictions. The best trained and most honest forensic scientists can only examine the evidence presented to them; they cannot be expected to determine if that evidence has been planted, switched or withheld from the defense.
The cause of malicious unlawful convictions doesn't rest solely in the imperfect workings of our criminal justice system -- if it did we might be able to remedy most of it. A crucial part of the problem rests in the hearts and souls of those whose job it is to uphold the law. That's why even the most careful strictures on death penalty cases could fail to prevent the execution of innocent people -- and why we would do well to be more vigilant and specific in articulating the causes for overturning an unlawful conviction.
Richard Moran is a professor of sociology and criminology at Mount Holyoke College.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Who deserves to have their sentence commuted? Anyone whose sentence is excessively harsh.
Sometimes the criminal justice system orders harsh sentences in order to "convince" the accused to "flip" on higher-ups. In such cases the harsh sentences are frequently reduced.
President Bush has not created a record that he is generally concerned to use his constitutional power to commute sentences (Article II, section 2) when they are excessive. Having been the president in recent memory who has used this power the least, it really is not believable that his commutation of Scooter Libby's 2 1/2 year prison sentence for lying to the grand jury is motivated exclusively -- or even a little bit -- by a tender feeling that excessively harsh sentences should generally be commuted.
Indeed, looking at his record, that this is the reason that motivates him to commute Scooter Libby's sentence is utterly implausible. He has pending before him (in the office of his Pardon Attorney) about 3000 petitions for commutation of sentence.
Just consider one case, that of Clarence Aaron. His case has been repeatedly brought to President Bush's attention by the valiant effort of Deborah Saunders, conservative columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Aaron, pleaded not guility, and a jury found him guilty of being part of a cocaine purchase for a crack dealing organization in Mobile, Alabama. Pursuant to the Sentencing Guidelines for the quantity of cocaine said to have been involved (enough to fill a briefcase), even as a go-between who was never going to receive any of the profit of the drug deal, because the quantity, he was sentenced three terms of life imprisonment. Aaron, whose case was featured on PBS Television's Frontline in 1999, was a college student when he was brought into the case by his buddies from home. The leaders of the organization worked out plea deals and are all out of prison now, but Aaron is destined to die in prison unless a president commutes his sentence.
No, a revulsion for excessively harsh sentences has not been a part of the character of President Bush. Why else might he have pardoned Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff?
If one recalls the case of Watergate burglars of June 1972 who were sentenced to prison of Judge "Maximum" John Sirica in 1973, one of them, James McCord, facing years in prison, broke, and informed Judge Sirica about what McCord said was a wide ranging coverup of the burglary. McCord, it turned out, was telling the truth.
The question that must have troubled the President and his close aides was whether, once sentence to prison, Scooter Libby, with young children, was prepared to "rot in prison" and "take the fall." The President or his advisers must have wondered whether Libby might find irresistible the temptation to use his "get out of jail ticket" -- that is reveal to the prosecutor his knowledge of who directed the leaking of Valerie Plame's name and identity as a secret agent for the CIA.
As a general matter, the President should not be chastised for using his power to grant reprieves and pardons. It is important that the President use his powers appropriately. (In fact, the practice of regularly exercising his actual powers may serve to minimize the drive to claim powers he does not have.) The power to grant reprieves and pardons was seen by the framers of the Constitution as very important. It is in the same sentence that names him Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy!
The justice system would be well served by a more frequent use of the power to commute sentences. But it corrupts the justice system to use such favors only for close cronies, and deny the real reasons behind the selection of beneficiaries of this important power.
It appears that the President is prepared to take the likely considerable political flak for this commutation of sentence in exchange for protecting extremely senior figures in his Administration from the possibility that Scooter Libby might have decided that his imprisonment was unfair.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Today the Supreme Court whittled away at the speech protection for public school students in Morse v. Frederick, the "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" banner case from Juneau, Alaska, in an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts. Only Scalia and Thomas were solidly with Roberts.
Justice Alito wrote a very pointed concurring opinion (joined by Kennedy) saying that he viewed the reach of the majority opinion as very narrow. As members of the majority, they read the banner as advocating illegal drug use. Alito stressed that he "join[s] the opinion of the Court on the understanding that (a) it goes no further than to hold that a public school may restrict speech that a reasonable observer would interpret as advocating illegal drug use and (b) it provides no support for any restriction of speech that can plausibly be interpreted as commenting on any political or social issue, including speech on issues such as 'the wisdom of the war on drugs or of legalizing marijuana for medicinal use.' "(citing Justice Stevens dissent).
On the issue that actually got the case to the Supreme Court -- the Ninth Circuit's holding that the principal was personally liable for damages for suspending student Joseph Frederick -- there was unanimity: no liability. If the Ninth Circuit had not gone that far in its opinion last Spring, it is quite possible this case never would have got to the Supreme Court.
The extreme position taken by the principal and school board (the petitioners in the case, represented by Kenneth Starr, former Whitewater Independent Counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton and found Monica Lewinsky), and supported by the Federal government, that "the First Amendment permits public school officials to censor any student speech that interferes with a school's 'educational mission'" was rejected. (concurring opinion of Justice Alito).
Justice Stevens dissented (joined by Souter and Ginsburg). Stevens would allow advocacy of drug use. "It is also perfectly clear that 'promoting illegal drug use,' comes nowhere close to proscribable 'incitement to imminent lawless action.' Brandenburg, 395 U.S., at 447. Encouraging drug use might well increase the likelihood that a listener will try an illegal drug, but that hardly justifies censorship..."
Justice Thomas would have overruled the seminal case of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969) that ruled that student may wear armbands to protest the Vietnam War. Thomas conducts an historical analysis of the rights of students in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century and finds that at the time of either the First Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment there was no right of students to speak, and that teachers and schools had very broad powers to discipline and punish students who were disobedient or disorderly.
Justice Breyer would have restricted the ruling to the issue of the principal's liability and not ruled on the First Amendment question.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
In the 1970s and 80s, a New York metropolitan area electronics merchant, Crazy Eddie, advertised on television that his prices were "INSANE!!!!"
On December 26, 2007, the Los Angeles Times reported on the impact of Afghanistan heroin production on heroin use in southern California. The LA Times says that DEA is reporting that heroin is selling for $90 per gram in Southern California.
Table 45 of the White House Drug Czar's data displays the average price and purity of heroin in the United States for the years 1981 - 2003. At retail (purchases of less than a gram) in 1981, the average price of heroin in the U.S. was $1974.49 per gram. By 2003 (preliminary data), the price had plummeted down to $361.95 per gram.
Now, $90 per gram heroin? INSANE!?!?!? Yes -- an "insane" drug policy -- executed by agencies facing no repercussions for failure, led by indifferent management, and overseen by a Congress by turns hysterical, cynical or indifferent.
As Friedrich Nietzche noted in Beyond Good and Evil (1886), "In individuals insanity is rare, but in groups, parties, nations and epochs it is the rule." (p.156, cited by George Seldes, The Great Thoughts, Ballantine Books, 1985, p.310).
Or, as has been widely and falsely attributed to Albert Einstein, but may be truly said of our drug policy, "Insanity is repeating the same behavior over and over and expecting a different result."