Why Does Riviera Beach Police Department Need a Tank Rigged with a 50 Cal Gun?!?!

 

A tank acquired from the Feds cost approximately $2,200 for the City of Riviera Beach Police Department.  It's being outfitted with a 50 caliber gun, and AR plate for the turret gunner protection.  WTF?!

A tank acquired from the Feds cost approximately $2,200 for the City of Riviera Beach Police Department. It’s being outfitted with a 50 caliber gun, and AR plate for the turret gunner protection. WTF?!

On the coat tails of the #Ferguson uprising, we’ve just been made aware that another police department in a high-crime area has acquired military equipment to outfit their unit.

The City of Riviera Beach Police Department is now the proud owner of a military tank, complete with AR plating and (soon) a .50 cal machine gun.  This killing machine, used in WARFARE, is now to be used in a town full of drugs and gangs just north of the Downtown West Palm Beach, Florida city center.

These are terrifying times, indeed.

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Why the Hobby Lobby Case Will Force Otherwise Republican Women to Abandon the GOP

As a woman, few things are as disturbing as studying history other than watching history unfold as progress takes a giant leap backwards. The outcome of the Hobby Lobby case has proven yet again that patriarchy (and slut-shaming) is alive and well in the United States, and may have women who consider themselves moderate Republicans rethinking their votes in the upcoming elections.

Consideration of Women in American History: “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby”?

It’s no secret that women have had to navigate a minefield in their attempts to gain a modicum of legal equality and possession over their own persons. In the early 18th Century, domestic patriarchalism was “both a set of beliefs about power relations within families and households and a description of behavior within the family. This ideology of domestic patriarchalism placed husbands over wives within the family, asserted that women were legally inferior to men, and separated the economic roles of men and women into distinct spheres.”(1) This week’s outcome in the Hobby Lobby ruling has re-opened the question: Just where do (or should) women stand politically in order to protect the underlying interests unique to their gender?

Going back in time even further to March of 1776, Abigail Adams asked her husband John to “Remember the Ladies” in order to protect women from the legal tyranny of their husbands. “If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies, we are determined to forment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”(2) Certainly less than eighty years after women were burned at the stake for witchcraft and adultery and “Puritan ministers railed against the ‘uncleanness,’ ‘whore mongers,’ and ‘mothers of bastards’ for whom the ‘fire of lust’ led to the ‘fire of hell’”(3), Abigail saw that little had changed for her gender.

The public, relentless, slut-shaming reaction on social media outlets regarding the Hobby Lobby ruling has proven that things really haven’t changed much in 300 years.  Patriarchy and misogyny are still quite commonplace and are the products of the firmly held, religion-based beliefs that women are less valuable to society and less-deserving of equal healthcare treatment provisions than their male counterparts in the eyes of many fundamentalist Christian men.

Throughout history in America, and, in the name of Christianity, women have been denied access to preventative healthcare, land ownership, child custody, interest payments on their investments, openly belittled in publications as idiots and whores, and considered radical progressives simply for demanding equality when it pertains to voting in elections, decision-making authority over their own bodies and reproductive systems, equal pay and workforce opportunities. In 1968, the slogan targeting the young, professional female consumer by Virginia Slims “You’ve come a long way, baby” no longer seems to have merit.

If nothing else the Hobby Lobby case pushes Republican-leaning women to make an unsavory choice: vote based on their economic and fiscal philosophies that support capitalism, or vote their conscience as women who have been consistently fighting the battle to protect the medical and reproductive rights and marginal legitimacy that have taken over 300 years to accomplish in this country.

Hobby Lobby: Self-Proclaimed Fundamental Constitutionalists Are Sadly Misguided

The Hobby Lobby case is being touted as a “Constitutional” win by improperly informed so-called patriots, and since most of them are unaffected by this ruling simply due to their gender or economic status, they have jumped on an embarrassingly ignorant bandwagon. The lawsuit itself was not and is not based on the First Amendment or the Bill of Rights, an argument that is laughable yet simultaneously disturbing because (a) those (mostly male) people believe that a corporation’s First Amendment “rights” which should belong solely to individuals have been upheld, and (b) these people vote.

The Hobby Lobby case was a statutory lawsuit that broadly misapplied the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which notably, was enacted to support and enforce the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act. The Hobby Lobby lawsuit bastardized the purpose of a law positioned to protect Native Americans’ religious practices from the overreach of white-man expansion and oppression, and was instead used to enhance the “person”-rights of a large company to impute the owners’ fundamentalist Christian will on its staff.

Though it remains to be seen the actual breadth of this ruling, it is safe to say that at least forty other corporations are awaiting their day in court so they can deny all access to all birth control medications to all women employees. It seems unlikely the next forty companies will lose, since all it took Hobby Lobby was to cry that the heart-felt, moral beliefs of the majority owners were in direct conflict with a federal healthcare law (the Affordable Care Act) so therefore, they should not have to comply. The winners are the corporations and fundamentalist religious lobbyist groups. The losers are women employees making low wages that will have their access to preventative care greatly reduced, especially as Title X programs continue to get hit with funding cuts.

The irony of the Hobby Lobby case is that not only did the company’s insurance program previously provide for all preventative reproductive health products for women prior to filing the lawsuit, but the company’s multi-million dollar 401(k) plan is divested in Bayer, the manufacturer of one of the IUDs (Mirena) that Hobby Lobby alleged is an abortificant. Interestingly enough, the word “abortion” is not mentioned on the product description page, because it doesn’t cause abortions as alleged in the lawsuit.

It wasn’t until the Becket Fund approached this kind, Christian couple (Mr. and Mrs. Green), that they permitted their company to symbolize the anti-woman efforts of the GOP to throw us right back into the 18th century patriarchy with which they’re most comfortable. The other ironic value in all of this is that the Becket Fund represents slews of Muslims in similar cases. Fundamentalist Christians everywhere may be disappointed that they’ve been used as a pawn by a non-profit group to increase their legal celebrity. Honestly, the Becket Fund couldn’t care less about Mr. and Mrs. Hobby Lobby, and we now know, the SCOTUS majority couldn’t care less about women.

The Hobby Lobby Precedent Will Likely Sway the Female Vote Further into the Blue

The Hobby Lobby case has been eye-opening for many women, especially those that may have previously defined their political persuasion as “fiscally conservative/socially liberal.” Women who, perhaps, do not spend their time as a political and legislative watch-dogs but ample time on social media have seen Facebook strings and Twitter posts blow up in a most disturbing way. With men shamelessly making statements such as: “… if you want fuck coverage pay for that shit yourself” and “[t]he whiny ass bitches are the ones that didn’t agree with the Supreme Court’s decision” it’s becoming more difficult for women to jump on the GOP bandwagon.

Other comments by men when it comes to this issue are more obvious in their viewpoint of where women belong, such as “[r]oles in society are predetermined by our genetic makeup” and, “[g]o work somewhere else if you don’t like it”, and dismissive quips such as, “that’s like saying since men won’t pay for dinner anymore [so] women can’t eat.”

These fundamentalist self-declared Christian men are also, evidently, extremely knowledgeable in women’s medical care: “[t]he whole argument about the hormonal benefits of these pills that women take, but not for the contraceptive itself is ridiculous,” and that the “…extreme amount of pregnancies that women put themselves into by just sleeping with whomever they want because that’s what this generation does now” is by no means a reason to permit access to birth control that is only available by prescription.

Perhaps, women should just know their place: “Too many women believe the ‘my body my choice’ crap” and women should also keep this in mind next time she’s sexually assaulted: “Nobody told a chick to say yes. Nobody told her not to use protection. Nobody said she couldn’t say no.”

 

It’s Already Getting Ugly: The Fallout from Hobby Lobby Has Just Begun

As the slew of cases are now being heard on the coattails of Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College just received their injunction to ensure they too, will not be “overburdened” by providing an insurance policy that offers contraceptive care to women which, they feel, is in conflict with their deeply held religious beliefs. It only took a few days, and we are already watching angered women SCOTUS justices file scathing dissents against their male counterparts.

 

A Discouraged Woman will Likely Vote Democrat

Sadly, as women watch decades of progress get dismissed by the majority-male, conservative justices sitting on the bench in the Supreme Court (despite contentious dissents from their female counterparts), there are serious philosophical questions they must ask themselves: How do we protect and promote our economic philosophies while protecting my personal rights to my body, workplace equality, and prevent fundamentalist ideologues brow-beating me with their dogma? Since it’s merely a two-party system in for primary purposes, and until that changes, the GOP’s special-interest groups have placed the party at a great disadvantage when it comes to capturing or retaining female voter loyalty.

Christianity has its own form of Sharia Law, it seems, and while the American right-wing fundamentalist Christian men spew their disdain for all-things woman, legislate from the bench, and await the Rapture…female voters who once considered themselves fans of Reagan’s GOP, now must sadly consider jumping ship to protect themselves from the very party they once supported.

 

[1] See Women, Families and Communities: Readings in American History, (Hewitt & Delegard, 2008), 82.

[2]  Abigail Adams “chose to make a significant observation about women’s inferior legal status by putting a standard argument to new use and by applying to the position of women striking phraseology previously employed only in the male world of politics.” Major Problems in American Women’s History, (Norton & Alexander, 2007), 128.

[3] See Born for Liberty: A History of Women in America, (Evans, 1997), 31.

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Hobby Lobby: A Backward Step for Women in the United States Workforce

One of the biggest downfalls of the Citizens United case is that we have created an environment where for-profit corporations are now viewed as “people” with the same religious expression rights of the individual and not for profit entities. This is extremely evident in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga decisions this week.  The IRS identifies a “privately, closely held company” as a for-profit company with share ownership by 5 or less individuals.  A closely held status is not based on size of the company, per se, and does not remove the for-profit status.  The Federal Government and the Supreme Court have now identified for-profit corporations as individuals that can impose their religious views on their employees’ health insurance options, and further, curtail medical contraceptive methods that may conflict with their Judeo-Christian beliefs. But rest assured… if you are a male employee that needs to “get it up/get it on” with Viagra, Levitra or Cialis, you’re covered without complaint. All that company has to do is say that theirs is a “sincerely held belief” however, and a woman’s access to equitable medications is denied.  The Hobby Lobby SCOTUS ruling (by a majority of male conservatives) gives way for oodles of future interpretations: from vaccines, to psychotropic drugs, to anything produced with marijuana, pig or cow materials for that matter. 

Some statements I’ve read in support of this ruling are simply don’t work for Hobby Lobby, then.  This argument implies that a potential female employee would know, upon application and acceptance of said employment with a “closely-held company” that the options in the hiring company’s insurance program prior to acceptance of the job limits her access to contraceptive care (this particular circumstance truly only affects women).  But because that due diligence rarely happens before enrollment and hire date, I’d say we can consider that possibility a moot point.  Not going to happen. Companies don’t divulge their entire insurance policy information to a minimum wage employee prior to the hire date.  The burden is just too much on the HR departments.

As for the gender implications… to ignore them is just plumb dumb.  There’s no moral objection against any “medications” for men – only women.  For a group of managers at a hobby company that view the Bible as their guidance, I can only state the obvious:  women, the crux and blame for all things evil in a book developed by several male authors in a religion created by a tent-maker with momma issues (Paul), will NEVER move forward if you guys keep this up. 

This is ABSOLUTELY a gender issue right now.  It’s an issue about ABORTION and about these religious organizations literally legislating our ovaries, and frankly, I’m sick of it.  I wish I could look forward to the day when the tables turn on others to feel the pinch, which, the way the SCOTUS left it, maybe that day will come in the form of denial of medicinal marijuana and drugs that may offend Hindu’s, Scientologists, or Jews. 

I’ve read the Bible-thumping, band wagoner’s expressions of glee with incredulity.  Who are we kidding, here?  I don’t look at this as though it’s some sort of boon for the individual – a company is NOT an individual.  Period.  To deny that this is about dictating a woman’s body and her healthcare options is an insult to any logical person’s intellect.

While men continue to request ED drugs and get them without hesitation, I think about the women they knock up that won’t have the RU-486 option available to her.  Or the women like me, who literally cannot use pills, shots or patches and have had to use an IUD for the past ten years to avoid hemorrhaging from the hormone issues caused by BC Pills, shots, and patches.  Or, the women who became pregnant while on a patch or pill (both of my children we conceived while on birth control), or a broken condom (on average it’s 2.5% of those using condoms according to a leading manufacturer), who now cannot turn to their regular physician for other options preventing an unwanted pregnancy and will be relegated to an outside clinic and no longer under the care of her physician. 

The same religious groups that don’t want to deal with young, unwed mothers (the majority of which are, contrary to some beliefs, white and Christian according to DHS and the CDC) have pushed for corporations to exercise individual rights to religious freedom denying these women access to low-cost contraceptive options.  Religious freedom is a right solely intended for the citizen, of which for-profit companies, closely held or not, do not qualify.  Or rather, didn’t qualify.

Religion: No matter how you slice it, the authors of the Bible simply didn’t value women in their society, and the pushers of these religious organizations still don’t view women as equals. 

I’m wary of ANY company that lays down Christianity (or ANY religion) as a road-map for management of their healthcare program when it comes to women’s issues.  Why?  Let’s take a look at how that book views women.  Authors are notated.

Leviticus author:  Unknown (Moses)

“And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.” (Leviticus 21:9)

I Corinthians author:  Paul (aka as Never-Married, Fatherless, Tent Maker)

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” (I Corinthians 11:3)

“For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” (I Corinthians 11:8-9)

“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (I Corinthians 14:34-35)

Exodus author: (unknown 6th BCE priest)

“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Whoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death. He that sacrificeth unto any god, save to the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.” (Exodus 22:18-20)

Timothy author: (Paul AGAIN)

“Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (I Timothy 2:11-14)

Ephesians author: (Paul AGAIN – he was a very busy man)

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)

Ecclesiastes author: (Solomon)

“Give me any plague, but the plague of the heart: and any wickedness, but the wickedness of a woman.” (Eccles. 25:13)

“Of the woman came the beginning of sin, and through her we all die.” (Eccles. 25:22)

“If she go not as thou wouldest have her, cut her off from thy flesh, and give her a bill of divorce, and let her go.” (Eccles. 25: 26)

“The whoredom of a woman may be known in her haughty looks and eyelids. If thy daughter be shameless, keep her in straitly, lest she abuse herself through overmuch liberty.” (Eccles. 26:9-10)

“A silent and loving woman is a gift of the Lord: and there is nothing so much worth as a mind well instructed. A shamefaced and faithful woman is a double grace, and her continent mind cannot be valued.” (Eccles. 26:14-15)

“A shameless woman shall be counted as a dog; but she that is shamefaced will fear the Lord.” (Eccles.26:25)

“For from garments cometh a moth, and from women wickedness. Better is the churlishness of a man than a courteous woman, a woman, I say, which bringeth shame and reproach.” (Eccles. 42:13-14)

 

Good thing we have Hobby Lobby to make sure we women know our place in society.

 

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Ann Coulter Struggles to Stay Relevant by Jumping on #WorldCup Hashtag

Today, I had the great displeasure of reading one of the most absurd articles I’ve read in a long time.  Ann Coulter, desperately striving to be relevant, lashed out against soccer in a way I can only relate to how an anti-social wall-flower responds to being forced to go to a middle school dance:  like a pouty kid, jealous that she’s incapable of having any fun.  Yes, Ann.  “REAL” ‘Mericans are having fun watching the World Cup and not watching some redundant interview with you.  Yes, Ann.  I’m one of them.  In fact, lately, you’ve made watching shows made for Disney’s HD Channel and the Home Shopping Network much more enjoyable.

To be honest, I’ve never been a huge soccer fan.  This year, I was more interested in the game because of the controversy surrounding FIFA’s debacle in engaging Brazil in the building, lack of completion of the building, and displacement of the population all for a series of games.  Though ousting people from their homes to make way for a sport isn’t on the top of my list of good citizen relations policies, I’ve watched (mostly) because I’ve been waiting for the civil uprisings and riots I was promised by all the national news channels.  Then, I read Coulter’s whine-fest in which she complained, “[n]o American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer.  One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time.”

My business partner says I have a tendency to be oft-incredulous (and have an over-developed sense of justice).  I considered when I read Coulter’s article to qualify as one of those moments.

My knee-jerk response was righteous indignation and incredulity.  New Americans?!  Actually, Ma’am (she’s much older than I, so I get to call her Ma’am), not only was my great-grandfather from America, but our family dates back to the mid-1640’s settlement of New Amsterdam.  Yet, here I’ve been watching a game that you claim would require I take additional lessons in my mother tongue.   

Childless Coulter points her pen at parents, attacking them for raising pansies in a win-less, expressionless sport, “[l]iberal moms like soccer because it’s a sport in which athletic talent finds so little expression that girls can play with boys.  No serious sport is co-ed, even at the kindergarten level.”  *Cue incredulity again because it’s Friday and I’m feeling generous: My daughter played soccer.  She was not only tough, she was out to win.  My son, who also loves the sport, is highly competitive in everything he does. Then I thought harder… way back into my memory bank.  I played t-ball and baseball – both on co-ed teams – as a little kid.   Then it hit me:  What the hell would Coulter know about raising children?  At 52-ish, I’m pretty sure she has… hmmm… none.

I shook off being considered a “liberal” (she hasn’t had a chance to meet me yet), and then I realized she resides, at least part time, in Palm Beach.  Of course she does.  My hometown is constantly getting infiltrated with idiots who are middle-aged, self-important, ignorant, and entitled.  Fools vying desperately to hold onto their looks, their relevance, and their audience, swarm to this sunny place for shady people like flies to spoiled meat to take what they want and debase the rest of us.  Please go back to Albany, NY.  We don’t need any more jerks down here.

After I read her article, I was reflective.  I’ll never get the thirty seconds that it took me to read her bunk article back.  Ever.  Then I began to think of what I could have accomplished in those thirty seconds that would have been more worthwhile.  For instance, I could’ve gone to the bathroom, cleaned out my coffee mug, or hugged my child.  Damn you, Coulter.

As a partner in a social media and integrated marketing firm, I give props to her for jumping on the #WorldCup hashtag bandwagon.  It’ll generate traffic, most definitely, and give her the boost from her missing “new American” viewership who would rather watch the soccer game re-runs than watch her squawking on Hannity. I think there was a time when I actually agreed with some of Coulter’s opinions, or at the very least, felt she had something interesting to contribute to political media, but I wouldn’t even admit it anymore.  I haven’t run the stats, but I imagine she’s getting a lot of traffic on the article, and with that she is S-M-R-T. 

Coulter is simply unlikeable and (obviously) ignorant when it comes to parenting.  Personally, I resent that she shares a zip code with my family and I, but I know she can live wherever she wants because of “freedom” and all that stuff that not only my family members fought for, but that I also served to preserve.  You’re welcome, Ann.  Coulter is flat-out ungrateful for what soccer is doing for her at this very moment.  Creating more traffic to her site and more hits on her social than she’d ever get without another Benghazi.  My message to Coulter as a Daughter of the Revolution:  I’m American (old, not new) and believe that soccer may one day save your life…. It certainly saved your social backlinks and traffic volume this week.

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Gun Control May Not Be THE Answer to the Child Shooting Pandemic

The Valerie Strauss article published in the Washington Post this past February identified over 44 school shootings since Newtown. A chilling reality prompting many to call, née scream, for tighter gun control laws.

(Read it here: Washington Post Article)

Many non-parents see this pandemic solely as a “gun control” issue. I disagree. Though there is a completely unnecessary number of weapons in the hands of untrained individuals (adults) who think the country is set to collapse tomorrow, this is really about parents – and lawmakers – that are in total denial. The reality?

This is a cultural problem promulgated by a society that has turned out some of the absolute worst parents ever. We can thank government to an extent-the hands of parents and teachers have been tied by agencies like DCF that simply don’t see any value in discipline or rules and a softer-gentler approach to the word “NO” that includes bargaining and negotiating with toddlers, setting the stage for parents and school administrators to simply give up with the Tweens and teens that are focused and hell-bent to get what they want, when they want it, with absolutely no ability to consider long-term consequences (read Miller v. Alabama).

Coupled with the false correlation of “bad behavior = ADD/ADHD” or some other diagnosis that removes parental responsibility and repulsive “zero-tolerance” policies that no longer force school administrators to hold a singular child responsible for bad behavior (similar to the everyone gets a trophy philosophy) this has been a recipe for disaster that is finally becoming apparent in the monthly (if not weekly) reports of child murderers.

I have a possible solution. Instead of “gun control” measures that will be opposed and never make an actual impact, let’s make parents criminally responsible for the behavior of their children. Though some states have civil penalties for parents,the statutory criminal liability in most states for parents is typically confined to driving and vandalism crime parental responsibility. That’s not enough incentive to force parents to, well, parent.

My message to parents (as a parent myself):

▪️You don’t know your child as well as you think.

▪️Your child doesn’t have a right to privacy-no matter what the genius courts have ruled or what school districts and physicians and HIPAA laws say.

▪️YOU are not more important than your child, and have an absolute duty to protect society from your problem child.

▪️YOU are not a teenager-and your teenager is not an adult. He/she is also not your friend.

▪️It doesn’t take a village-nor is it that village’s responsibility-to raise your child.

▪️Stop partying and start parenting. You decided to procreate and therefore the party is over.

▪️Inspect your child’s room, meet their friends and their friends’ families.

▪️If your child commits a violent crime YOU should be held criminally responsible for negligence and charged via a felony-murder rule and face life imprisonment or the death penalty.

▪️Let’s see how fast the prospect of life in prison (for you) motivates you to parent.

Admittedly, this is not an instant fix-but neither is the idea that “gun control” will change behavior or a pharmaceutical-riddled society who seeks diagnoses over accountability. Gun control, though well-meaning, is a fallacy; just as living in a gated community makes you “more safe.”

Parental responsibility is the answer. Hold the feet of these irresponsible breeders to the proverbial fire.

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Why You Shouldn’t Talk to Law Enforcement Without a Lawyer… EVER.

If the police are questioning you in relation to a crime that took place, you may already be a suspect.  At best, you are being questioned as a witness who may possibly be used to testify at trial.  At worst, you are under suspicion for the crime, and a criminal defense attorney is the best means of protecting yourself against self-incrimination and falling prey to tactics by the police to evoke a statement that may be construed as an admission of guilt.  The police are well trained to trick a suspect into confessing to a crime, and even if you didn’t commit the crime, you’d better have a lawyer present during any and all questioning.   

Police Know How to Evoke a “Confession” From You – Even if it’s False.

Too often, false confessions are the result of hours of threats, psychological stress, mental disability, and a slew of other factors.  A common method used by law enforcement to obtain “voluntary” confessions is the criticized Reid Technique. The Reid Technique, developed by John E. Reid and his colleagues in 1947, is a nine-step process used by law enforcement for interrogation.  These nine steps, outlined in an educational piece entitled “The Reid Technique of Interrogation” written by Brian C. Jayne and Joseph P. Buckley (President of John E. Reid & Associates) and published in 2004, makes statements that should alarm the criminal defense community, as well as place all citizens that are facing police questioning on notice.  For example, “[a]ll suspects start off denying involvement in the offense. The guilty suspect eventually becomes quiet and withdrawn.  At some point the guilty suspect starts to mentally debate whether or not to confess.  It is at this stage that the investigator seeks the first admission of guilt.” The Reid Technique takes an assumptive stance that all suspects “start off denying involvement” and presumably, that every suspect is a viable candidate for voluntary confession, regardless of that initial denial or the actual involvement in the crime.  The document states, “[m]ost guilty suspects and all innocent ones will offer denials during theme development. An important principle with respect to denials is that the more often a suspect denies involvement in an offense, the more difficult it is for that person to tell the truth.  If a suspect is permitted to voice too many denials he becomes committed to that position and no amount of persuasion will allow him to save enough face to tell the truth.  For this reason, the investigator will discourage the suspect from offering weak denials.”  If you are facing questioning by law enforcement in relation to any crime, remember that law enforcement utilize the Reid Technique on a regular basis.   

Wrongful Convictions – American Society’s Pandemic

According to the Innocence Project, “[i]n approximately 25% of the wrongful convictions overturned with DNA evidence, defendants made false confessions, admissions or statements to law enforcement officials.”  Those defendants spend an average of 13 years in prison before exoneration.  In their efforts to convict for a crime, law enforcement (and state prosecutors) sometimes hone in on the wrong person of interest due to faulty detective work or inadequate evidence.   If you’re being questioned in a criminal matter, the police are likely suspicious of you; they are seeking an arrest and the state is seeking a conviction.  By not having the right representation, you may be vulnerable to a system that has a history of obtaining convictions through inaccurate evidence, mis-identification by eye-witnesses, and false confessions made under duress.  

Wrongful convictions and the imprisonment of innocent people is an increasing phenomenon, and as science and law continue to intersect, more exonerations are occurring with the acceptance of better post-conviction DNA testing laws, recanted and/or corrected witness statements, invalidated forensic science results and acknowledgement of bad government procedures.  But at what price?  Thousands of innocent people, who likely thought they’d never need a lawyer because they were not guilty of the crime have been put behind bars, or worse, placed on death row.  According to the National Registry of Exonerations there were 90 exonerations of wrongful convictions in 2013 alone – and that’s certainly not the national total of individuals improperly imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit.  Some experts estimate the number of innocents imprisoned has skyrocketed to over ten thousand people.  A study spearheaded by University of Michigan law professor Samuel R. Gross was published in April 2014 by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. In this examination entitled Rate of false conviction of criminal defendants who are sentenced to death, Gross and his fellow researchers state that identifying post-conviction, material factual evidence that proves the innocence of a convicted person has simply not been a priority as “legal review of a criminal conviction in the United States focuses primarily on procedural errors at trial rather than on the factual accuracy of the trial court’s judgment.”  The best way to avoid these types of factual errors before it’s too late is for every citizen involved in an investigation to engage an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.

Even an innocent person needs a lawyer during police questioning.  It doesn’t make you “look guilty” by invoking your right to have an attorney present.  If you are arrested or simply brought in for (seemingly innocent) questioning in a criminal matter, asking to speak with your lawyer won’t be enough to invoke your right to counsel.  You must firmly state the following:  “I am invoking my right to remain silent.  I am invoking my right to have my attorney present.”  It is then that the police should stop their line of questioning until you have retained a lawyer to be present during questioning.  Don’t place yourself in a vulnerable position in a criminal investigation. With the rates of incarceration skyrocketing, it’s simply unwise to talk to police without a lawyer on your side. Image

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A Jury of (a few of) Your Peers

You may have heard of the film “12 Angry Men” the 1957 Sidney Lumet drama starring Henry Fonda. It depicted the deliberations of a jury facing the quandary of reasonable doubt and a unanimous verdict requirement (that’s not quite accurate) in the criminal trial of a young man charged with the stabbing death of his father in which a guilty verdict would result in the death penalty.

Earlier this week, I wrote an article for a criminal defense attorney about juries and what exactly comprises a jury? You may be surprised to learn that the size and makeup of a jury has been debated quite a bit – and not in the favor of the citizen, but certainly, in the favor of the state. And that idea of unanimous verdict…? That’s not what you might think, either. Read on…

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“Why do juries have 6 or 12 people? Why not 5? Why not 50?”

The number of jurors in criminal cases is a highly debated topic within the legal community. Under the Sixth Amendment, “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committee.” The Sixth Amendment insures the right to a jury, and combined with the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause, there is a right to a due process in determining the composition or structure of a jury. However, the specificity as to how many of those impartial jurors are necessary to ensure a fair trial for a defendant, while simultaneously providing a representative cross-section of the community, was not clearly outlined by the framers of the Constitution, and this ambiguity has caused much controversy over the past century.

The number of jurors assigned to criminal trials historically relied on the Magna Carta of 1215 (also known as The Great Charter), and English Common Law. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan penned, “When Magna Charta declared that no freeman should be deprived of life, etc., ‘but by the judgment of his peers or by the law of the land,’ it referred to a trial by twelve jurors” Thompson v. Utah, 170 U.S. 343, 350 (1898). The general rule adopted by the Court was for a jury of twelve (white) males.

It was in 1970 that Justice Byron White opined that the generally accepted twelve-man jury was arbitrary, even historically accidental, and that a six member jury was constitutionally sufficient. The opinion effectively altered the generally accepted jury size of twelve men. He stated, “[i]n short, while sometime in the 14th century the size of the jury at common law came to be fixed generally at 12, that particular feature of the jury system appears to have been a historical accident, unrelated to the great purposes which gave rise to the jury in the first place.” Williams v. Florida, 399 U.S. 78, 90 (1970). While Justice White found the twelve-man jury to be unnecessary, accidental and somewhat arbitrary, Justice Thurgood Marshall dissented, “[a]s I see it, the Court has not made out a convincing case that the Sixth Amendment should be read differently than it was in Thompson even if the matter were now before us de novo—much less that an unbroken line of precedent going back over 70 years should be overruled. The arguments made by MR. JUSTICE HARLAN in Part IB of his opinion persuade me that Thompson was right when decided and still states sound doctrine. I am equally convinced that the requirement of 12 should be applied to the States.” Williams v. Florida, 399 U.S. 78, 117 (1970).

Eight years later, another case that called to question the matter of jury size came to the Supreme Court, and the Court acknowledged that, though the number six was a bit arbitrary, they had to draw a line somewhere. Justice Powell, joined by the Chief Justice and Justice Rehnquist, admitted in Ballew “the line between five-and six-member juries is difficult to justify, but a line has to be drawn somewhere if the substance of jury trial is to be preserved.” Justice Powell then questioned the methodology with which the Court came to its conclusion stating, “I have reservations as to the wisdom— as well as the necessity—of Mr. Justice Blackmun’s heavy reliance on numerology derived from statistical studies. Moreover, neither the validity nor the methodology employed by the studies cited was subjected to the traditional testing mechanisms of the adversary process. The studies relied on merely represent unexamined findings of persons interested in the jury system.” Ballew v. Georgia, 435 U.S. 223, 246 (1978).

From an outside point of view, jury size debates may seem more like hair-splitting bickering between attorneys, bar associations, courts and legislators. The reality, however, is many case-critical issues arise from a reduced jury size. Many scholars allege that the Williams decision was made using mostly untested research and possibly misinterpreted empirical data and that six-person juries are unable to confer and communicate as effectively during deliberations, often eliminate essential minority group representation, and that their collective memory for factual aspects of the cases are significantly less than in the larger twelve-person jury. Smaller juries, argue academics and scientists, result in more convictions and a higher probability of convicting innocent defendants.

Though six-person juries are considered constitutional by the Court, there is a caveat that was outlined by Justice Rehnquist in his opinion: “However, much the same reasons that led us in Ballew to decide that use of a five-member jury threatened the fairness of the proceeding and the proper role of the jury, lead us to conclude now that conviction for a nonpetty offense by only five members of a six-person jury presents a similar threat to preservation of the substance of the jury trial guarantee and justifies our requiring verdicts rendered by six-person juries to be unanimous.” Burch v. Louisiana, 441 US 130, 138 (1979). In other words, twelve-person juries do not require a unanimous verdict – but six-person juries do.

The questions remain: What size jury is truly a representative cross-section of the community? Are the smaller juries statistically and repeatedly resulting in the convictions of innocent persons? As more scientific and empirical data is collected, analyzed, and more cases are tested in front of the Supreme Court, we may see a revision to those numbers again in the not-to-distant future.

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