Archive for the ‘Testimony’ Category

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)- Weekend Contributor

Thanks to the disclosures made by whistleblower Edward Snowden, we now know how far our government went to hide the warrantless surveillance by the NSA. “If you blinked this week, you might have missed the news: two Senators accused the Justice Department of lying about NSA warrantless surveillance to the US supreme court last year, and those falsehoods all but ensured that mass spying on Americans would continue. But hardly anyone seems to care – least of all those who lied and who should have already come forward with the truth. (more…)

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By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

maeso-hepatitis-valencia_thumbBespectacled Juan Maeso led a fairly mundane life as an anesthetist in the Spanish coastal town of Valencia. All that changed in 2007 when Maeso was convicted of serial murder. A morphine addict, Maeso had been skimming the painkiller meant for his patients and then using the same compromised needle to inject them. Over a decade, 275 patients contracted hepatitis-c (HCV)  and four of them died from complications from the disease. A Spanish court sentenced Maeso to 1,933 years in prison but the sentence pales in interest to how the murderous soporifist was finally caught.

A fascinating article in the journal Nature details the laboratory hunt for the killer with all the twists and turns of an Arthur Conan Doyle story. Led by researchers at the University of Valencia, the work involved analyzing and categorizing 4200 viral sequences to backtrack to Maeso’s particular strain of hepatitis-c. The process known as phylogenetic forensics has been successfully used to track down the origins of such infamous cases as the 2009 anthrax-laced heroine scare in Europe and the case of Bruce Ivins, a microbiologist at the US Army Medical Research Institute, strongly suspected of sending anthrax tainted letters to Senators in 2001. Ivins committed suicide before charges were placed.

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By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

Forensic-Science-S_2132330bA 2009 report by the National Research Council (NRC) passed quietly into the night (except in legal and forensic circles) while barely garnering more than a ripple in the public’s psyche. It should have been a tidal wave given news last December  that a  48-year-old New Jersey man, Gerard Henderson, who spent 19 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, was done in by faulty crime lab work. Henderson was convicted largely on “bite mark” evidence. Bite mark evidence is a process used to exam indentations and anomalies on a victim’s body and  ostensibly made by human teeth which are then matched to a defendant’s dentures in an effort to prove that he/she was the perpetrator of the crime. Convicted in 1995, Henderson proved that state testing of the bite marks on the back of 19-year-old victim, Monica Reyes, was deeply flawed and conducted without sufficient safeguards to insure its reliability.

Independent forensic scientists working for Project Innocence could not reproduce findings by the state crime lab which is the gold standard for scientific verifiability. Henderson became one of the more than two dozen people wrongfully convicted of rape or murder  since 2000 as a direct result of flawed bite mark evidence analysis all duly attested to as accurate by the local crime lab.

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260px-capitol_building_full_viewThis morning I will testify in Congress before the House Judiciary Committee on “The President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws.” The hearing will address areas where President Obama has ordered the delay or nonenforcement of federal laws. While I happen to agree with some of these policies, I have great reservations about this record and its implications for the separation of powers.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

The five alleged 9/11 defendants currently being held at Guantanamo Bay where they have been detained since 2006, are currently preparing their defenses for trials that are scheduled for September 2014.  All five defendants have been subjected to what the United States government called enhanced interrogation techniques at CIA black sites even before they got to Gitmo. (more…)

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Submitted by Charlton Stanley (aka Otteray Scribe), Guest Blogger

“If you’ve got ‘em by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”
– Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President of the United States.

Town of Edwards, MSI should have known something was up. I came home from work one day and my wife met me at the door. “Somebody broke into Curtescine’s house and tried to rape her.” Curtescine Lloyd was one of the nurses on the oncology floor at the hospital. Curtescine lived in Edwards MS, a small bedroom community just a few miles west of where we lived.

Shocked, I asked if there was any word on whether she was hurt, and did we need to go to the hospital. My wife responded, “Not exactly.”

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Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

400px-Elizabeth_Loftus-TAM_9-July_2011I’d only planned to write one guest blog this weekend, but this morning on Huffington Post I saw a video from a TED lecture. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TED_%28conference%29  The lecture was from Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Loftus  who has been studying false memories since the 1970’s. She links what she discovered with one of the failings of our Criminal Justice System, with the false memories reported in court. This is an 18 minute lecture but it is well worth your time and bears directly on the topics we discuss here on the Law Blog. I must note that in it she is critical of certain psychotherapy techniques and I am a psychotherapist. Despite my training and profession I believe her critiques are on point and illustrate one of the problems inherent in some psychotherapies. For any readers that are interested in our legal system and who care about its problems, viewing this will represent time well spent.  My technical skills are such that I don’t know how to properly make the video appear in WordPress but if you click on the following link you will be able to see it:     Mystery of Memory 

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

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Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

287px-Sing_SingWe have had a lot of discussions here about the ever growing private prison system in the United States, where our country has become the world leader in imprisoning its citizens. Many blogs have been written discussing our world prison leadership and the fact that it stems from the failed “War on Drugs”, which has tended to focus on people in poverty and/or people of color. The for-profit prison industry has had a growth spurt that can be directly traced to that aspect of the conservative movement that has disparaged government services and at the same time pushed for privatization of government services using the false concept that private industry can do it better and cheaper. It is an ideas that to me seems nonsensical on its face because of the absolute need that private industry turns a profit and in today’s economic scheme that profit has to continually rise as time passes. Business strategy, which by definition, must focus on profit has focused on cutting costs as a means of building profit. Cutting costs then devolves into hiring less skilled workers, cutting down on services provided and in a business like private prisons reducing the quality of care. When ot comes to reduction of services and diminishing of quality of care when it comes to the prison industry, I’m sure that the majority of public opinion would approve of even more draconian measures. After all those convicted of a crime are generally scorned and feared. Muscular fundamentalist philosophy has discarded the Jesus of turn the other cheek into a Jesus of vengeance and so there is even in some circles moral approval of treating prison inmates harshly. There is now a widespread use of solitary confinement as a tool of prison punishment and that confinement has stretched from weeks, too months and too years. We are after all, a society that has a majority of Americans for torture in our post 9/11 era.

In 2008 we saw the opening of a scandal in Pennsylvania where it was discovered that juvenile court judges were sentencing youths to prison for minor offenses because they had received money from sources in the private prison industry. Two judges were convicted in this case and it was seen that many youths were adversely affected and are now suing for unlawful imprisonment. It is this profiting on the imprisonment of youth that I would like to address broadly in this blog. For the most part my reference links will appear at its conclusion. This is a very disturbing problem that I think cuts to the heart of what kind of society we want to live in and I would hope that others find this as disturbing as I do. (more…)

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-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

iphone_fingerprintThe iPhone 5s allows the user to unlock their device using biometric data, namely their fingerprint. It is more convenient that typing in a simple four digit passcode. Fingerprint readers vary in vulnerability. Some only check ridges and can be fooled by a good photocopy. The iPhone reader uses radio frequency scanning to detect sub-epidermal layers of your skin requiring the owner to be alive and the finger attached. The new fingerprint reader may protect your iPhone from thieves, but what about protecting your personal data from government snooping?

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Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

Junior_Seau_2Football fans around the nation are feeling the excitement grow as we again approach the NFL Football season. They are avidly watching their favorite team’s pre-season games, checking out the new rookies and preparing for their various fantasy football leagues by analyzing league rosters. NFL Football has become the preferred sport of the country and generates many billions of dollars. It is our budding empire’s version of the gladiator battles in the various Roman Coliseums that were spread across the Empire as a palliative to an enslaved populace. While it is true that the Roman Gladiator battles usually ended only by the death and dismemberment of the “losers”, the news of the physical and mental costs to pro football players has begun to receive more publicity of late. This is due to the realization of the lasting damage done by football head trauma referred to broadly as concussions. As someone who has watched the National Football League for perhaps 60 years the idea of a concussion is one that is intertwined with the sport itself. For much of that time while it was discussed openly by the game announcers, analysts and sports journalists, in truth they all made light of them and players themselves would cheerfully discuss “getting clocked” or “having their bell rung.” The players thus injured who would insist on returning to the game were seen as “real men” and “heroes” for their fortitude. Then too coaches concerned with winning would tell them to “man up” and their teammates opprobrium for them “relaxing” on the sidelines would add peer pressure to continue to play even through their disorientation and head pain.

As the sport grew and outpaced baseball as the nation’s “national pastime,” like the gladiators of old players became heroes with nationwide celebrity. Many noted how some retired players from era’s past seemed to die relatively early in life, especially considering that to play football one must be an excellent physical specimen. As fans we were also aware how many of our heroes’ sustained injuries that in their retirement rendered them somewhat physically disabled for life, but merely made passing note of this reality, rather than feel discomfort at what this violent sport was doing to those who played it for our entertainment. The truth is that football fans and football professionals celebrated the violence of the game, even while shedding “crocodile tears” for player carted off the field with terrible injuries. Coaches and players talked about the exultation one felt when they made a jarring hit upon another player. It was common in interviews for players to talk of the joy they felt “making contact”, a minor euphemism for hitting or being hit with jarring intensity. We are to my way of thinking no more evolved than those Roman Citizens who would excitedly vote “thumbs down” on whether a losing gladiator should receive the killing blow. Our social norms require that we “feel sad” about a terrible injury, but if it occurs to an opposing player and affects our teams prospects, only the most unaware would deny that in the back of their mind they are calculating what this injury will mean. Our consciences are salved by the fact that many football players get paid enormous sums of money for their skills and so from a legal perspective one might say there is an assumption of risk. I want to examine this “assumption of risk” and discuss the implications that it has for NFL, the players and for us the fans. (more…)

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Submitted by Charlton Stanley (Otteray Scribe), guest blogger

Dr. Isaac Ray

Dr. Isaac Ray

The relationship between mental health and the legal system is a turbulent one at best. One major problem is they speak two different languages. For example, insanity is a legal term found nowhere in any psychiatric or psychological diagnostic manual.

There are several key words used commonly by both professions, but which have quite different meanings. The words “validity” and “reliability” are part of the vocabulary of science. To a scientist, the word validity means that a test measures what it claims to measure. When a test is intended to measure depression or anxiety, the user can assume it measures depression and anxiety.

Reliability refers to the repeatability of a test or measurement. If we give the same test to the same subject several times, all the scores will fall within the standard error of measurement 95% of the time.

When an attorney uses the word validity, it means, Binding; possessing legal force or strength; legally sufficient.

The legal interpretation of the word reliability suggests the subject matter is trustworthy, and that one can rely on it. However, when a scientist says something is reliable, it means whatever is being tested will get the same results with every retest, within the Standard Error of Measurement.

An examination of the literature of both professions reminds us of the quip attributed to George Bernard Shaw, “[We] are two peoples divided by a common language.”

When I was in graduate school, a well-known attorney gave an invited lecture to the student body. The speaker made several sweeping generalizations about the mentally ill; all of them displaying a stunning ignorance of facts. Then he turned his venom on those in the mental health professions, referring to mental health professionals scornfully as, “Soul doctors.” I would like to say people like him are rare, but they are not. I have known judges who, quite literally, did not believe in mental illness. We had one of those in our area who, mercifully, retired a few years ago.  People like that remind me of those misogynistic knuckle-draggers who don’t believe there is such a thing as rape.

Now, back to the stormy relationship between the legal system and mental illness.

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-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

136px-US-FBI-ShadedSealAt a time when recording a conversation is as easy as whipping out a cellphone or iPod, the FBI policy on electronic recording of witness interviews is: “agents may not electronically record confessions or interviews, openly or surreptitiously, unless authorized by the SAC or his or her designee.” Instead FBI agents take notes and later type up a summary report called a form 302. The interview takes place with two FBI agents and the single interviewee. The FBI has eschewed the objective for the subjective.

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Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

220px-Richard_NixonIn 1964, during Barry Goldwater’s race for the White House, a book became a runaway best seller and it was titled “None Dare Call It Treason”. Its’ premise, typical of the thinking of many of that time, was that the United States was being sold out to Communism by its “liberal elites” who were pro-communist and thus wanted the USSR to win the “Cold War”. As the title clearly illustrates the book’s author, John A. Stormer, believed that the “elite” were traitors, liberal of course, who were so powerful that their “treasonous actions” couldn’t be challenged. I remember the popularity of the book at that time and how many who supported Barry Goldwater were believers in the books veracity. Goldwater himself seemed to be echoing Stormer’s theme of rooting out pro Communists in his Convention speech which produced the memorable phrase: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” It is thus a meme that in many different ways has been played and re-played through our Country’s history by those of a more Conservative persuasion. That meme is that the true American patriots are those who are of Right Wing political persuasion. (more…)

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Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

200px-JMR-Memphis1While I’m not a lawyer, I do write for this legal blog by the invitation of its creator Jonathan Turley. I first arrived on the scene here many years ago because since the age of ten I have had been interested in the nature of the broad spectrum of civil rights issues faced by this country. My interest became an obsession at the age of ten. My parents, who were quite liberal, allowed me to stay up way past my bedtime to watch Ed Murrow bravely attack Sen. Joseph McCarthy for his Communist Witch Hunt, by documenting the anti-constitutional excesses he used to destroy people’s lives and careers. Months later they kept me home from school to watch the Army/McCarthy Hearings which directly led to McCarthy’s downfall. On our twelve inch, black and white TV I watched this famous scene:

“On June 9, 1954, the 30th day of the Army–McCarthy hearings, McCarthy accused Fred Fisher, one of the junior attorneys at Welch’s law firm, of associating while in law school with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), a group which J. Edgar Hoover sought to have the U.S. Attorney General designate as a Communist front organization. Welch had privately discussed the matter with Fisher and the two agreed Fisher should withdraw from the hearings. Welch dismissed Fisher’s association with the NLG as a youthful indiscretion and attacked McCarthy for naming the young man before a nationwide television audience without prior warning or previous agreement to do so:

“Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School and came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us. Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is true he is still with Hale and Dorr. It is true that he will continue to be with Hale and Dorr. It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think I am a gentle man but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me.”

When McCarthy tried to renew his attack, Welch interrupted him:

“Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

McCarthy tried to ask Welch another question about Fisher, and Welch cut him off:

“Mr. McCarthy, I will not discuss this further with you. You have sat within six feet of me and could have asked me about Fred Fisher. You have seen fit to bring it out. And if there is a God in Heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further.”

The gallery erupted in applause.”

The drama of this distinguished lawyer chastising one of the most powerful men in the United States and silencing his cruelty was one of the defining moments of my life. It spurred a lifelong interest in the Constitution, the Law and the rights of the American People. Today, among other ills, I believe that our American Criminal Justice System is broken. Let me explain why I believe that. (more…)

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One hour ago, our blog passed the 14,000,000 viewer. The fact that we only recently passed the 13,000,000 viewer mark reflects the impressive growth of this blog. Congratulations everyone. Now if we could only get .000001 of those viewers to vote for us on the ABA blog competition we could crush the competition! If you (are any distant relative, incompetent ward, or pet) has not voted, you can vote here and cast your vote today!

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