(AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, John Spink)
On Monday, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles sealed the fate of Troy Anthony Davis when it rejected his final plea for clemency. Davis was convicted for the 1989 murder of a police officer, but his guilt was never certain; seven of nine eyewitnesses in the case recanted after the trial. One of the witnesses has actually bragged to people that he was the one who committed the murder. Last night, Davis was executed without the state having ever decisively proved his guilt. It is highly probable that the state of Georgia -- with last-minute permission from the Supreme Court -- executed an innocent man.
Ted Olson, the lead counsel of the American Foundation for Equal Rights' lawsuit seeking to overturn Proposition 8, California's 2008 initiative amending the state's constitution to ban same-sex couples from marrying, was at the podium. State Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin asked, "If the governor and attorney general do not defend, then no one can defend it?"
After hedging and then getting some pushback from elsewhere on the bench, Olson replied, "Yes."
Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America
By Adam Winkler, W.W. Norton, 362 pages, $27.95
The nation was horrified in January when Jared Loughner shot 20 people in Tucson, Arizona, killing 6 and wounding 14. But as horrified as we may be, we are also inured to this kind of carnage. Other armed-to-the-teeth madmen shot 48 people at the University of Texas in 1966; 35 schoolchildren at an elementary school in Stockton, California, in 1989; 43 people at a cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, in 1991; 38 people at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999; 49 students and faculty at Virginia Tech in 2007; and 43 people at Fort Hood in Texas in 2009. These events are only the biggest and most widely reported massacres on a long list.
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)Justice Clarence Thomas
The final two rulings of the 2010–2011 Supreme Court term -- on employment discrimination and campaign finance -- showed again how the Roberts Court favors powerful interests that are already greatly overrepresented in the political process. The justices often strained the law to protect corporations, and the Supreme Court's misguided supervision of the electoral process has made it harder for Congress to protect minorities hurt by bad Supreme Court decisions.
Lorraine Ela displays a cell-phone photo of her daughter, Megan Waterman, 22. Waterman was one of four women whose bodies were dumped along a desolate beachfront strip on Long Island. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)
"I also picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed," Mr. Ridgway said in his statement. "I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught."
-- Gary Ridgway, the "Green River Killer," who admitted in 2003 to killing 48 women (quoted in Silja J.A. Talvi's Nov. 13, 2003 AlterNet story)
Attorney General Eric Holder (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
Our country's shoulder-shrugging acceptance of rape in prisons has made it to the U.S. Department of Justice. Last week, the public comment period on new federal standards to eliminate sexual assault in prisons closed. The standards, released by the Justice Department in February, fall far short of the tools needed to confront the pervasive problem.
The library in the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Last year, Jeff Fogel, an attorney who was working on a prison First Amendment case, e-mailed to tell me I was too hot for the Virginia Department of Corrections. An article I had written on states experimenting with creative ways to reduce their prison population had failed to make it past the department's Publications Review Board.
Former Virginia Attorney General and current Gov. Bob McDonnell gestures after demonstrating upgrades to the Virginia sex offender registry. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
You could say it started with three small-town Minnesota boys riding their bikes to a convenience store on an October night in 1989. As they were returning home on a dark stretch of road, a man stepped out of the darkness holding a gun. He told them to lie face down on the ground and then directed two of them -- Trevor Wetterling, age 10, and Aaron Larson, 11, to run into the woods and not look back or he'd shoot them. That was the last that they, or anyone, would see of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling.
Former death-row inmate John Thompson (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
John Thompson served 18 years in prison -- 14 of them on death row -- for a murder and an armed robbery he did not commit. The prosecution's case was a house of cards: Thompson did not match the eyewitness description originally given of the murderer (although the most crucial witness against him did), and a blood test taken from the scene proved that he did not commit the robbery.
If the blood evidence should have exonerated him before either case went to trial, why did he come so close to being executed?
Fifteen-year-old Frank and his brother Joseph had gotten into fights before, but this one was different. When the two started throwing punches one day in December 2008, their mother Nancy tried to intervene. Frank responded by hitting and kicking her, and then pinned her head against the wall.
Some states are looking to end policies that allow prisoners to accrue child-support debt while in prison and have most of their wages garnished when they get out -- policies that drive many ex-prisoners to re-offend.
As the budget debate unfolds over the next several months, the focus will likely be on big-ticket items like Social Security and Medicare and how they will affect the deficit. Inevitably lost in the high-stakes wrangling are the many small-bore programs that have a significant impact on individual Americans. To wit: President Barack Obama's 2012 budget contains a proposal -- on page 279 of an attachment to the main document -- that would end draconian state-level policies that force low-income fathers convicted of crimes to continue paying child support while in prison, leaving them saddled with debt they will never be able to pay once they're released.
Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani and his lawyer in a 2009 courtroom sketch (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)
On Tuesday, former Guantánamo Bay prison detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 1998 American embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, in which 224 people were killed.
Conservatives were quick to remind everyone that Ghailani was convicted of conspiracy to destroy property, not of murder -- and was acquitted on hundreds of other counts as a result. But conservatives retreated to this position only after all of their dire predictions proved false.
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik (AP Photo/Chris Morrison)
For the past two years, our political life has been charged with intimations of violence. Tea Party activists have brandished guns at meetings with elected officials. (In 2009, a protester dropped a firearm at one of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' Safeway meet and greets.) Republican politicians have hinted at "Second Amendment solutions," in the words of Senate candidate Sharron Angle, to the intolerable tyranny of the Obama administration. Last summer, a conservative radio host told a Tea Party rally, "If ballots don’t work, bullets will." She was later hired as chief of staff for newly elected Congressman Allen West, though controversy soon forced her resignation.
It's been raining and the San Francisco Giants are on TV, so the streets are quiet. We're cruising through East Oakland, one of the most violent parts of a violent city. A knot of drug dealers loiters in front of a housing project, and crackheads sit in folding chairs on the sidewalk. Two teenagers in hoodies saunter by; another weaves back and forth on a small bike. Anthony DelToro gestures toward them: "When you see youngsters like that, all in black, the majority of the damn time they got guns." He pauses. "This is Oakland -- everybody got a gun."
Missouri defense attorney Justin Carver has seen it a million times. One of his clients, an 18-year-old parolee, was about to be sent back to prison because he was late paying restitution and "user fees" related to property-damage and peace-disturbance charges. The client showed up at court with $200, more than enough to pay off his $118 debt, in the hopes he could convince the judge to let him stay out and graduate from high school. The judge said he'd take the money, but Carver's client would still have to spend 20 days in jail. Since he wouldn't be able to graduate anyway, Carver's client pocketed the $200 and spent two months in jail.