Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be Mirandized

April 21, 2013

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I write today to defend a fellow citizen’s Fifth Amendment right to remain silent during a custodial interrogation and his Sixth Amendment right to consult with counsel and have counsel present during a custodial interrogation. He has not been questioned yet due to his medical condition.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a naturalized United States citizen in custody for his suspected participation in a scheme that detonated two bombs killing 3 people and injuring many more along the Boston Marathon race course on April 15, 2013. He is also a suspect in the murder of a law enforcement officer on the campus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after the bombing.

He is not an enemy combatant who attacked United States military personnel on foreign soil.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be advised that he has those rights before law enforcement agents attempt to question him and no interrogation should take place, unless he voluntarily waives those rights and agrees to answer questions. No less is required by the SCOTUS decision in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 US 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966).

If an interrogation proceeds without the advice of rights and voluntary waiver of those rights required by Miranda, then anything he says should be suppressed and cannot be used against him in a court of law.

He has the right to be charged and prosecuted in the United States criminal justice system, rather than before a military tribunal, and accorded all of the rights that would be accorded to any other defendant charged with a crime.

The United States Department of Justice has announced that he will be prosecuted in the civilian criminal justice system and that is a proper decision.

However, despite an acknowledged lack of any evidence or reason to believe that Tsarnaev is part of a larger plot with plans to commit other terrorist acts, the Justice Department has announced that it intends to interrogate him without Mirandizing him.

This decision is an intentional violation of Miranda that not only violates the suspect’s rights, it potentially jeopardizes the prosecution.

There is no reason ever to sacrifice due process of law and this casecertainly provides no compelling reason to consider making an exception.

For more information, read this informative article by Josh Gerstein at Politico.

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Thank you,

Fred


Behold President Obama: The Cowardly Assassin-In-Chief

June 7, 2012

Since the New York Times published an article about President Obama’s assassination-by-drone program, several writers, including Glenn Greenwald (here, here, here, here, and here), Tom Engelhardt (here), and Kevin Gosztola (here, here, here, here here and here) have posted articles condemning it.

I am appalled and sickened by Obama’s definition of a “militant” as any male of military age within the strike zone, unless posthumously determined to be innocent. This is a conclusive presumption of guilt and death sentence based on apparent age, gender and presence near an intended target, or in the case of signature strikes, mere association with others who also fit the definition and profile of a militant.

There is no discernible difference between this policy and the Vietnam War policy,

Kill ’em all and let God sort them out.

The decision to target a specific individual depends on the information available about that individual which may come from a variety of sources who are reliable and unreliable. The Attorney General and the President of the United States, who is a former Constitutional Law professor, assure us that the process by which the president decides whom to kill satisfies the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Yet, the president does nothing more than review a Power Point production with a photo of the individual under consideration with a bullet point list of alleged roles and activities in which he has engaged.

I was a criminal defense attorney for 30 years defending people charged with felonies, including death penalty offenses, and a law professor for three years teaching Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure and Causes of Wrongful Convictions. I can assure y’all that the process by which he makes these decisions is materially indistinguishable from a Star Chamber Proceeding. That is precisely what the Due Process Clause was intended and designed to prevent.

Do not ever forget that the Due Process Clause includes the Sixth Amendment right to counsel and the right to present a defense. One cannot have due process without those rights.

Even with those rights, the presumption of innocence and a jury trial, innocent people are wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit. According to the Cardozo Innocence Project, 292 people innocent people have been exonerated by post-conviction DNA evidence.

The seven causes of wrongful convictions are:

1. Mistaken eyewitness testimony;

2. Police Misconduct;

3. Prosecutorial Misconduct;

4. False Confessions;

5. Forensic Fraud;

6. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel; and

7. Jailhouse Informant Testimony

Note that only a small percentage of cases have biological evidence where it is possible to conduct a DNA test that will inculpate or exculpate a defendant. The seven causes of wrongful convictions can cause a wrongful conviction in any case.

The Department of Justice surveyed all public and private DNA labs in the country in the early 90s to determine how often each lab exculpated a prime suspect with a DNA test. The average rate varied little from lab to lab, whether public or private. The average rate was 22.5%

To nevertheless murder people without any meaningful process according to ridiculously overbroad definition of a militant is at best reckless homicide and at worst premeditated murder. Given its continuing use despite a high civilian casualty rate makes it premeditated murder.

To accept and allow this contrived exception to due process to stand is to tolerate an exception that swallows the rule. No American should tolerate it and no American should vote for the man who issues the order to kill. He is a murderer, a war criminal and utterly unfit to serve as President of the United States.

Anyone who votes for him will walk out of the voting booth with innocent blood on their hands.

Innocent blood that will never wash out.

I have another reason that motivated me to write this article.

President Obama obviously authorized the story in the New York Times because there is an election coming up in November and he wanted to portray himself as the candidate with the right stuff, ready, able and willing to make courageous and necessary decisions to keep all Americans safe.

But it does not take courage to order others to kill ’em all and let God sort them out, posthumously. And it does not take courage to look at a set of Power Point slides and, like a Roman emperor, issue a thumbs up or thumbs down sign.

Those are the acts of a murderous coward afraid of losing an election.

EDIT: I added links to a series of excellent articles by Kevin Gosztola that I inadvertently omitted from my original post. Thanks to Elliott at Firedoglake for the reminder.


Obama’s Vile Assassination Doctrine

March 7, 2012

President Obama’s assassination doctrine is a blatant violation of the Fifth Amendment and an insult to everyone who believes in due process of law, the rule of law, and the Constitution. No one is above the law, especially the President. That he would think and proclaim otherwise, says volumes about his arrogance and ignorance.

Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a speech at the Northwestern University School of Law purporting to justify the assassination doctrine as an acceptable form of non-judicial process that has never been reviewed, much less approved, by a court of law. Worse, the administration refuses to share and discuss the legal memorandum upon which Mr. Holder and Mr. Obama rely in claiming the assassination power.

As with everything else in this secretive administration, we are supposed to shut-up and trust them. I refuse to do so.

Support for the death penalty in this country has declined substantially due to the hundreds of innocent people wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. Why would anyone think that the President should be trusted to get it right when he targets someone for assassination, if our criminal justice system and its vaunted trial by jury so often gets it wrong? What is to stop a president from targeting a political rival or a Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. for assassination?

Nothing. The person is assassinated and we the people are never provided with an explanation. Absent a whistleblower, and we all know how much this president loves and welcomes whistleblowers, we would never know the president ordered the hit, much less why. Indeed, one might reasonably suppose that he or she would be next, if they asked too many questions.

I am truly disgusted and alarmed beyond words by this development. Under no circumstances will I vote for Barack Obama or any other candidate who supports his assassination doctrine.


Your Right To Due Process Of Law Is Endangered

February 2, 2012

Drone State?

by Truthout on Creative Commons at Flickr

Judges use a legal expression when they decide to prevent the potential evisceration of a fundamental rule of law by exception. In denying an argument to recognize such a proposed exception, they point out that, if they were to accept it, the exception would “swallow the rule.”

Our fundamental constitutional right to due process of law is in danger of being swallowed up by the Obama Administration’s policies of assassinating and indefinitely detaining United States citizens, no matter where they may be located, without due process of law, if the president decides that the citizen is a terrorist, supports terrorism, or is a member of al-Qaeda, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, or an associated force.

For example, in a recent federal case in which Anwar al-Awlaki’s father sued President Obama, Secretary of Defense Gates, and CIA Director Leon Panetta seeking to prevent them from assassinating his son without due process of law, the Department of Justice persuaded the judge to dismiss the case because, nothwithstanding the Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments that explicitly prohibit the government from depriving a person of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law,” the judicial branch of government has no constitutional authority to question or review decisions by the president as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces to assassinate U.S. citizens on his say so anywhere in the world at any time pursuant to the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), passed by Congress in response to 9/11, and the president’s authority under Article 2 of the United States Constitution.

Go here to read the government’s arguments in its motion to dismiss the father’s complaint.

Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both U.S. citizens, were subsequently assassinated in Yemen last September by Hellfire missiles fired from a U.S. drone. Mr. al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, was assassinated by drone two weeks later.

As Glenn Greenwald points out today, the Obama Administration hypocritically uses the CIA drone assassination program to publicly congratulate itself on removing targeted individuals like al-Awlaki “from the field” without due process of law while at the same it refuses to admit or deny that it has a list of targeted individuals and a drone assassination program. With the exception of Mr. al-Awlaki, whose name was confidentially disclosed to journalist Dana Priest as a person targeted for assassination, we do not know whether the president has targeted anyone else and, assuming that he has, we do not know if such person or persons have been assassinated. We also do not know what criteria the president uses to decide whether to put someone on the list. For all we know, any one of us already could be on the list or at risk to be added to it. Since we do not know whether we are on the list and we cannot find out if we are, we cannot challenge the president’s decision to add us to the list, assuming for the sake of argument that he did. We, by which I include every U.S. citizen no matter where situated in the world, are left with no choice except to trust the president to never make a mistake and never succumb to the temptation to use the assassination program for political purposes.

In the mistake department, one need only consider the relatively frequent stories that pop up about innocent people, including young children, whose names inexplicably are added to the No-Fly List maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. I will not go into the category of assassinations for political purposes as it remains a raw and bleeding wound of grief and endless suspicion and speculation by many people. Think, for example of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Bruce Ivins and others too numerous to mention. The point is that many unscrupulous people of wealth and privilege covet the power of the presidency. We already know that this president is for sale and we cannot trust him. The question is whether, assuming you openly oppose him, you are willing to trust him not to target you for assassination. And if you trust him not to do so, would you also trust a Newt Gingrich, a Sarah Palin, or someone like them not to do so, if they should be elected president?

The answer to that question should be self-evident.

Consider these words written by Justice Black of the United States Supreme Court in Reid v. Covert, 354 U. S. 1, 10 (1956):

Trial by jury in a court of law and in accordance with traditional modes of procedure after an indictment by grand jury has served and remains one of our most vital barriers to governmental arbitrariness. These elemental procedural safeguards were embedded in our Constitution to secure their inviolateness and sanctity against the passing demands of expediency or convenience.

This is not the first president and certainly will not be the last to seek to detain people indefinitely and/or target them for assassination without due process of law in the name of keeping us safe. Whether in good faith or in bad faith for political purposes in the pursuit of power, I feel much safer if his decisions and actions are constrained by the Due Process Clause and the right to habeas corpus.


The Decision From Hell (Part 2)

December 28, 2011

Yesterday, in Part 1 of this post, I critiqued the first part of the Court of Appeals decision affirming the trial court’s denial of her pretrial motion to suppress evidence.

I concluded that the Court of Appeals erred because it improperly relied on evidence (1) obtained after the deputy stopped Crane Station and (2) facts invented by the trial court. The Court of Appeals also (3) erroneously claimed that her appellate lawyer had failed to challenge any of the trial court’s findings of fact. I provided links to the decision by the Court of Appeals and Crane’s Opening Brief on Appeal and her Reply Brief.

In a related post today entitled How Could Judge Taylor Forget Garcia v. Commonwealth, I discussed a decision he wrote reaching the opposite conclusion on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. You may find that to be an interesting and helpful follow-up to Part 1 since he is one the three judges who decided her case. I also referenced Crane’s Petition for Rehearing of the decision by the Court of Appeals just so there is no misunderstanding or confusion regarding whether her lawyer challenged the findings of fact.

This first part of the decision by the Court of Appeals stands for the proposition that a motion to suppress based on an argument that a police officer lacked a reasonable suspicion to stop someone can be decided on the basis of information he acquires after the stop. Likewise an argument that a police officer lacked probable cause to arrest can be decided on the basis of evidence that turns up after the arrest. Both principles are contrary to long established federal and state case law and eviscerate the Fourth Amendment.

Therefore, the Kentucky State Supreme Court must grant discretionary review and reverse the Court of Appeals. If it does not, trial courts across the state will create havoc by following the decision by the Court of Appeals and denying motions to suppress in violation of a long line of state and federal cases. Eventually, the Supreme Court would have to grant review in one of those cases and overrule the Court of Appeals in the Leatherman case.

That is why it is necessary to grant discretionary review.

Today, I will critique that part of the decision that deals with Crane’s statement that her watch had fallen behind the seat during the ride to the hospital and her request for the deputy’s assistance to retrieve her watch for her.

Tomorrow in Part 3, I will deal with the final issue; namely, the decision by the Court of Appeals that the trial court properly denied her motion for a directed verdict of acquittal on the DUI charge. Due to the length of today’s article, I have decided that I should discuss the latter issue in a separate post.

When Deputy McGuire assisted Crane to get out of the back seat of his patrol vehicle at the hospital (because she was handcuffed with her hands behind her back), she told him that her watch had fallen off her wrist and dropped behind the rear seat during the ride. She asked him to please retrieve it for her. That is undisputed.

At the preliminary hearing, McGuire testified that, after they returned to his vehicle following the blood draw, he pulled the seat back, saw the watch and the suspected controlled substance near it, and seized both of them. When her lawyer asked him if he could see the two items before he pulled the seat back, he said. “No.” However, at the suppression hearing, he testified that he saw both items in “plain view” sitting at the top of the seatbelt crack next to where she was sitting when he opened the door to assist her to get out of his vehicle at the hospital.

Those two statements are mutually exclusive. They cannot both be true and there is no question that Crane’s lawyer was entitled to challenge the deputy’s credibility at trial by impeaching him with his prior inconsistent statement under oath at the preliminary hearing. Nevertheless, the trial judge sustained an improper objection by the prosecutor to that line of inquiry preventing him from eliciting the inconsistent statement.

Why did the trial judge do that?

Before jury selection, the trial judge granted the prosecutor’s motion in limine (i.e., at the beginning) for an order preventing the defense from introducing Crane’s statement about her watch and her request for his assistance in retrieving it on the ground that her statement was inadmissible hearsay.

I have addressed this issue previously in Hearsay, Part Deaux.

The judge’s ruling was improper because the statement was not hearsay, since it was not offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement. It was offered to show that, as a result of something she said (and it really does not matter what it was, which is why it was not offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted), he pulled the seat back to look for her watch and found both the watch and the suspected controlled substance in proximity to each other.

There is nothing misleading or improper about allowing the jury to hear that evidence because that is the way it happened, according to the deputy’s testimony at the preliminary hearing.

Instead, the jury only heard the deputy’s trial version of his discovery, which was that he found her watch and the suspected controlled substance in plain view on top of the rear seat in the seatbelt crack right next to where she was sitting. To make matters worse, in his final summation the prosecutor said the proximity of her watch to the suspected controlled substance in plain view amounted to her “autograph” on the controlled substance and she had not offered any explanation for how they happened to be in plain view together in the seatbelt crack right next to her.

It’s not surprising in the least that the jury found her guilty of possession and evidence tampering for attempting to conceal the rock of crack. Would the jury have convicted her if they knew that the deputy found the rock not in plain view, but under his back seat because she asked him to retrieve her watch from under the seat?

I do not believe the jury would have convicted her because who would ask a police officer to retrieve their watch from under the seat, if they had lost the watch while attempting to slough a controlled substance?

That was her defense, but the trial judge took it away from her with his ruling in limine.

The Court of Appeals did not decide whether her statement about her watch and request for his assistance to find her watch was inadmissible hearsay. Instead, it dodged the issue by saying the error, if any, was harmless because she could have testified about her statement and request. Indeed, the Court of Appeals noted that the trial judge told her that she could testify about it.

Why does this not make any sense?

(1) If the statement were hearsay, it is not admissible, whether or not she testifies. That is the law and the trial judge cannot create an exception that does not exist.

(2) She had a constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment not to testify and a right to have the judge instruct the jury that it cannot hold her silence against her. In other words, silence is not evidence of guilt.

(3) The judge’s unlawful exception was a manipulative and coercive effort to force her to testify against her will in violation of her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and not have her silence held against her.

(4) If she had testified, the jury would have been presented with a classic he-said-she-said controversy in which he said he found her watch and the rock together in plain view at the top of the seatbelt crack on the seat right next to her, and she said he found it under the seat after she asked him to look for her watch. Not even the longest long shot Louie at Hialeah would put a fin on her fate in such a swearing contest.

(5) Who could deny that the odds on the outcome of that he-said-she-said swearing contest would change dramatically, if the jury found out that the deputy had previously testified under oath at the preliminary hearing, about a week after her arrest, confirming her statement. The suppression hearing was five months after her arrest and the trial was 18 months after her arrest, by the way. There can be little doubt that the jury would have believed her and disbelieved his plain-view testimony. Then their whole case falls apart.

(6) That is why her lawyer’s attempt to cross examine the deputy by impeaching him with his prior inconsistent statement under oath at the preliminary hearing was proper and legitimate.

To call this error harmless is disingenuous and absurd. But guess what? That is not even the right test. Why is it not the right test?

The trial judge’s order in limine and his ruling preventing her lawyer from impeaching the deputy with the deputy’s prior inconsistent statement under oath at the preliminary hearing took away her defense.

A defendant in a criminal case has a constitutional right to put on a defense and her right to do that was denied to her by the trial judge’s rulings and aggravated by the prosecutor’s closing argument in which he commented on her silence, which is forbidden by the Fifth Amendment. He also attempted to switch the burden of proof over to her to prove her innocence, which is a denial of due process of law under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

When the court and a prosecutor violate a defendant’s constitutional rights, the test presumes the error affected the outcome of the trial and the prosecution must rebut that presumption by proof beyond a reasonable doubt that it did not.That is a far different test from the one employed by the Court of Appeals.

There is no way the prosecution can meet its burden in this case. Therefore, the Court of Appeals must be reversed on this issue.

Until tomorrow . . .


The Obamanable President: UPDATED

December 15, 2011

Even though he said he would veto it, President Obama has announced that he will sign the National Defense Authorization Bill that gives him and the military the authority to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens suspected of supporting terrorist activity. I am not surprised because Obama lies all the time about everything and he already claims to have the power to order any person in the world assassinated, no matter where situated and whether or not a U.S. citizen, if he decides that person is a terrorist or has provided material support for terrorism.

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Emphasis supplied.

Nothing explicit or implicit in the Fifth Amendment creates or justifies an exception to the Due Process Clause that I italicized, and if you carefully listen with your heart, you can almost hear our Founding Fathers shouting, “NO.”

Using post-conviction DNA testing, the Innocence Project, which was formed by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law in New York City approximately 20 years ago, has exonerated 282 innocent people who were wrongfully convicted of crimes. 17 people were on death row awaiting execution when they were exonerated.

“The Disturbing Case of Eddie Lowery” will be shown tomorrow night (Friday, December 16th) on MSNBC at 10 PM. He is one of those 282 innocent people. Mr. Lowery falsely confessed to a rape he did not commit and spent 10 years in prison before he was exonerated. You can visit the website for the Innocence Project and watch a preview of tomorrow night’s show here.

The Death Penalty Information Center issued a report today entitled, “The Death Penalty in 2011: Year End Report, which you can read here.

The Center reports that, while 1277 people sentenced to death since 1976 in the U.S. have been executed, 139 people sentenced to death have been exonerated (this number includes the 17 people exonerated by post-conviction DNA testing). That is more than 10% of the number of people executed.

The high number of post-conviction exonerations does not inspire confidence in the ability of the criminal-justice system to only convict the guilty and always acquit the innocent, despite due process of law.

Researchers have identified seven causes of wrongful convictions. They are:

1. Mistaken eyewitness testimony;

2. Police misconduct;

3. Prosecutorial misconduct;

4. Forensic fraud;

5. Ineffective assistance of counsel;

6. False confessions; and

7. Jailhouse informants.

To the extent we have information about the people detained at Guantanamo, approximately 80 to 90% are innocent. Most of the people detained by the U.S. military there and other places were identified by paid informants as terrorists and many of them confessed while being tortured.

There is no evidence-based reason to believe that the military is any better at only convicting the guilty and always acquitting the innocent than the civilian criminal-justice system. In fact, given the kangaroo-court-style military tribunal process, there is good reason to believe that there is a much higher probability of wrongful convictions by military tribunals.

Despite all of the well-documented examples of the wrongful conviction of innocent people accorded due process of law in civilian courts and the identification of the causes of those wrongful convictions, President Obama apparently would have us believe that he and his review panel would never make a mistake and order the assassination of an innocent person.

And now the U.S. Congress has granted him the authority to order U.S. citizens, whom he suspects of providing material support to terrorists, detained indefinitely by the U.S. military without access to lawyers and the civilian courts.

This is an egregious and unpardonable sin against the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, Rule of Law, and we the people of the United States.

Given the secretive manner in which senators Carl Levin (D) and John McCain (R) cooked-up this law behind closed doors without conducting any hearings or calling any witnesses, I cannot help but believe that this law was enacted with the OWS protests in mind.

Everyone who participated in drafting, supporting, and enacting this horrific law is unfit to serve in government. They should be immediately removed from office and forever barred from serving in public office in the future in any capacity.

Let December 15, 2011 forever be known as America’s National Day of Shame.

Cross posted from my law blog.


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