Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Wet Soggy Halloween

It's always fun driving on US1 after a rainstorm. Sheesh.

Anyway, eat some candy today, and let's hope it dries up for tonight.

Here are a couple stories to get your Monday going:

1. Leonard Pitts thinks the Fourth Amendment should still have some teeth:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated . . . — Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Just in case you forgot.

There has been, after all, an appalling amount of forgetting where that amendment is concerned. And New York City has become the epicenter of the amnesia. Yes, the “stop and frisk” policy of questioning and searching people a cop finds suspicious is used elsewhere as well. But it is in the big, bruised apple that the issue now comes to a head.

Federal agents recently arrested a New York City cop on charges of violating the civil rights of an African-American man. Officer Michael Daragjati allegedly stopped the man in April and threw him against a parked van to search him. No drugs or weapons were found, but Daragjati reportedly became angry the man questioned his rough treatment and requested the officer’s name and badge number. So Daragjati ran him in on a charge of resisting arrest. Later, talking on the phone to a friend, he bragged that he had “fried another nigger” and that it was “no big deal.” This was overheard by the feds, who had him under surveillance in a separate investigation.

Let no one fix his or her mouth to pronounce themselves “surprised.” Blacks and Hispanics have complained for years about the selective attention they get from police. Giving cops the power to randomly stop and search pedestrians they find suspicious could not help but exacerbate the problem.

Last year, about 600,000 people were stopped and frisked in New York. Though blacks and Hispanics account for just over half the city’s population, they represent about 85 percent of those stopped. The Center for Constitutional Justice, a civil rights group, says drugs or weapons are turned up in less than two percent of those stops.

It bears repeating: less than two percent.

2. Can lawyers be ineffective during the plea process? Seems like the answer is obviously yes, but the Supreme Court will hear oral argument on the question today:

Anthony Cooper shot a woman in Detroit in 2003 and then received laughably bad legal advice. Because all four of his bullets had struck the victim below her waist, his lawyer said, Mr. Cooper could not be convicted of assault with intent to murder.

Based on that advice, Mr. Cooper rejected a plea bargain that called for a sentence of four to seven years. He was convicted, and is serving 15 to 30 years.

At least Mr. Cooper heard about his plea offer. Galin E. Frye’s lawyer never told him that prosecutors in Missouri were willing to let him plead guilty to a misdemeanor and serve 90 days in prison for driving without a license. When Mr. Frye did plead guilty after the offer expired, he was sentenced to three years.

On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the two cases, which ask how principles concerning bad legal work at trial should apply to plea bargains. The question is of surpassing importance, since a large majority of criminal cases are settled at the plea stage.

3. The U.S. jails way too many people:

As a means of controlling crime, America’s prisons are notoriously inefficient and only minimally effective, often creating hardened criminals out of first-time offenders. The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population, yet 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. In the past generation, the imprisonment rate per capita in this country has multiplied by five. There are 2.3 million Americans in prisons and jails. Spending on prisons has reached $77 billion a year.


Anonymous said...

Hey, what are your thoughts on probation officers getting furloughed once a pay period?

Anonymous said...

re: stop and frisk. There are statistics ... and there are statistics. The question is if the standards for stop and frisk are objective or not. If the percent of a group stopped that have drugs or weapons are found to be the same as the overall percent then the standards were objective and did their purpose. The problem might be that the objective standards are too loose when they only result in 2 percent success.

Anonymous said...

Gee, think anyone should thank the FBI/US Attorney Office in NY for actually arresting a racist police officer...

Anonymous said...

10:43: we should thank them for doing their job? Where do I send that thank you note? Do I send one when they arrest a drug dealer, too? What is the proper protocol on this and why isn't their PAY the proper expectation for doing their the rest of the working world?