Michigan is the latest state to have DNA clear a man imprisoned for years for a crime that he did not commit. What is most striking about the case of Jamie Peterson (right) is that lawyers had fight to re-test evidence that could prove his innocence. Prosecutors opposed the simple re-testing of evidence in the case that was not analyzed previously (as have prosecutors in other states). Finally, prosecutors relented and it was shown that it belonged to a man that police had cleared in first-degree murder in 1998. A second man was arrested this week but police insist that Peterson is not cleared. The case also shows the great cost to the rule of law that was presented by the Supreme Court ruling that there is no right to such testing in a post-conviction case. Chief Justice Roberts decision in the 5-4 case in District Attorney’s Office v. Osborne allows prosecutors and police to resist such simple testing to prove innocence in cases like Peterson’s. Indeed, the Court has produced an all-too-common double standard for citizens. It ruled in 2013 that police could routinely take DNA samples from suspects to use against them but the same individuals have no right to access to DNA testing to prove their innocence.
The Washington Post has a controversial take on yesterday’s hearing in its coverage by Dana Milbank. The hearing raised the serious question of a pattern of allegedly unconstitutional actions by President Obama in either barring enforcement of federal law or directly violating those laws. However, the Washington Post only reported on the fact that impeachment was raised in the hearing in the discussion of the constitutional means left to Congress to address presidential abuse. Republicans object that the Post piece misses 99 percent of the hearing detailing the rise of an imperial presidency under Obama and four hours of discussion of the dangerous shift of power in the tripartite system. Impeachment or presidential abuse. It seems that two hearings occurred simultaneously. Both sides appear to be claiming the other is blinded by bias. The Milbank and Republican accounts appear a modern version of the parable of the elephant and the six blind men.
There is an astonishing story out of Texas where the Dallas Police Chief David Brown quietly changed a rule that would require officers involved in a shooting to wait 72 hours before making a statement. There is no cognizable public interest behind such a rule, but it comes after a scandal where a surveillance video showed one of Brown’s officers shooting a mentally ill suspect for no apparent reason. The video contradicted the officer’s testimony and undermined the charge against the victim. Brown’s solution was not greater disciplining and monitoring of officers but to impose a delay to allow officers to craft their statements.
We have often discussed how airlines have gradually stripped passengers of basic comforts and, more importantly, basic rights. That was evident this week in the Gainesville Regional Airport when an entire plane of passengers was told to get off their flight. Some said that they were told of “mechanical problems” the favorite mantra of airlines canceling flights for any reason, including too many unsold seats. However, passengers were a bit peeved when they looked out the window and saw the University of Florida men’s basketball team get on the plane. It appears that the airline decided to dump the ticketed passengers to fly the Gators to Connecticut for a game against the University of Connecticut.
I have previously said that I find the work (and lifestyle) of Pope Francis to be inspiring. However, that bond became only stronger yesterday when it was revealed that the Pope once worked as a bar bouncer. It appears that, before laying hands on the faithful, Pope Francis would lay hands on the boozeful. He just gets cooler and cooler by the day.
This 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.
Julius Nyang’Oro, the former chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been charged with a felony count of obtaining property by false pretenses. The charge is exceptionally rare because it involves $12,000 that Nyang’Oro received for a summer course that he taught. While the course originally was meant to have regular classes, Nyang’Oro structured the class as an independent paper course. Notably, the university did not actually lose the $12,000 but recouped it in his final paycheck. Before his resignation in 2012, Nyang’Oro had a roughly $160,000 a year salary.
The BBC has a story this week about a police raid on a man firing a shotgun that led to his death. Unfortunately, in the United States, that is all too common a story. However, there was one fact in the story that stood out: this was the first such killing by police in the recorded history of Iceland. I am not sure how to verify this fact but even if it were only the 100th in history it would astonishing.
Maria Acosta has sued the Bastrop County, its police department, and its school district after a tragic accident left her son Noe Nino de Rivera with a brain injury. Acosta says that her son had broken up a fight at Cedar Creek High School when police arrived. They told him to put his hands in the air, but she says that they shot him anyway with a taser that knocked him to the ground where he struck his head causing “a severe brain hemorrhage”. Randy McMillan, a Bastrop County sheriff’s officer who works as a school resource officer, is named in the lawsuit. Police say that Noe Nino or “N.N.” acted “aggressively.”
It is that time of the year for our annual blawgletting — the ABA top blog competition. We have once again been selected as one of the top 100 legal blogs and this year inducted into the Hall of Fame. It appears that, as an inductee, this will be our last year to compete for top blog so we should go out with a bang. We are in the highly competitive News/Analysis category and it is time to release our minions upon the field for one last blog battle. You can vote here. It just take a few seconds to register to avoid vote rigging.
A court in Tokyo has ordered a hospital to pay a 60-year-old man $411,100 (or Y38 million) for its negligence in 1953 in the switching of him with another baby. The man’s biological family was quite wealthy and the other baby was given a life of luxury with his other three brothers. The man however was sent to a poor Japanese family, never married, and is now an unemployed truck driver. What was interesting about the case is that at least one of the couple suspected something was wrong after the switch.