Monday, February 12, 2007


A reader writes:

The problem is that the Duke Lacrosse Frame/Hoax is still going on. And there still exists the very real possibility that the Special Prosecutors assigned to examine the case are primarily focused on finding SOME KIND OF CHARGE to get this case to trial, and not on a search for justice. ANY KIND OF CHARGE would help save the state of North Carolina the legal and financal embarassment having to declare that this was only "a hoax and frame-up conducted by the state's agent, Michael Nifong", from the beginning.

One of the Special Prosecutors is James Coman, who insisted on proceeding with a second trial for Alan Gell, even after it was discovered that the DA in his orginal trial knew there were seventeen eyewitnesses who could prove his innocence, but had refused to divulge this information to the defense. If convicted, Gell would have again faced the death penalty, for a murder Coman knew he did not commit. Joe Cheshire and James Cooney were part of Gell's defense team (and are now part of the Duke defense team). Coman is said to harbor a considerable personal animosity towards both of them, and also against Wade Smith, another defense attorney.

Mary Winstead, the second Special Prosecutor, worked with Nifong trying to secure a conviction in the Malloy rape case. Crucial taped evidence in that case was somehow erased by Winstead (recall the erased tapes and cell phone evidence in the Duke case); she protested vigorously against bringing in out-of-state experts to try and reconstruct the tape. When the tapes were restored, Malloy was aquitted.

These are about the last two people I would assign to examining the lacrosse case. So the question becomes, why did AG Cooper select them? Can they be reliably expected to uncover all the wrongdoing by Nifong over the past two and a half decades? Or by the judges who appear to have collaborated with him on this case (Stephens, Bushfan, and Titus)? Or possible connections between members of the Durham civic administration and the prosecutor's office? And can they be expected to put a search for justice ahead of an attempt to rescue the state from liability and even a federal investigation?

That is why I am circulating the following three petitions, to end the Duke case and bring federal investigators to Durham. The lacrosse case is a political trial; and in political trials, noise counts. If you want to get involved in helping raise the noise level (and maybe saving three innocent defendants from wrongful conviction, and an entire town/county from a corrupt oligarchy) below is how:

Petition to Attorney General Cooper of North Carolina to end the hoax

Petition to the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department to investigate corruption in the Durham city administration

Petition to Attorney General Gonzales to investigate civil rights violations and hate crimes in the Duke lacrosse case


Meet Daniel P. and Allison B. and their children, Mujahid Daniel and Mujahid David, ages 13 and 11. Not your typical American family, but their situation may affect your right to speak to your children. During their marriage, according to court documents, Daniel and Allison followed a "quasi-Muslim philosophy." They also "amassed a large quantity of weapons," and Daniel was imprisoned for illegal weapons possession and for making threats. Allison testified that Daniel abused her and that she went along with his actions only because she was afraid of him. The couple divorced in 1997, when Daniel was in prison.

Daniel, now out on parole, wants to see his children. Allison objects, based on Daniel's "violent felony conviction record . domestic violence . extremist views regarding religion, including . jihad; and the letters written to the children while he was incarcerated, lecturing about religion and reminding the children that their names are Mujahid." ("Mujahid" means a soldier fighting for Islam; "mujahedin" is the plural.)

In December, a New York appellate court held that Daniel should be allowed supervised visitation after his parole expires this summer. But the court also upheld, in the name of "the best interest of the children," the trial court's order that Daniel not discuss with the children "any issues pertaining to his religion."

Now, it is surely in the children's best interests not to be taught militant jihad. But the trial court didn't apply a jihadists-only rule, or a "convicted felons lose their parent-child speech rights" rule. Rather, it applied the broad and subjective "best interests of the child" standard. Many parents might wonder how their own philosophies might be evaluated by family judges under that standard.

In fact, a wide range of parental speech has been prohibited by family courts, all in the name of the child's supposed best interests. One parent was enjoined from making any racial slurs in a child's presence. Another parent whose ex was a lesbian was ordered to "make sure that there is nothing in the religious upbringing or teaching that the minor child is exposed to that can be considered homophobic." A different court barred a father from taking his children to "any social, religious or educational functions sponsored by or which otherwise promote homosexual lifestyle."

In one case, two divorcing Wiccan parents were ordered to "shelter" their son from "involvement and observation of . non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals." In another, a court ordered each parent to teach children "the need for religious tolerance and not permit any third party to attempt to teach them otherwise."

Even more courts have made custody decisions based partly on parent-child speech and religious upbringing. Courts in some states, such as Michigan, routinely favor the parent who takes the children to church more often. Other courts have denied parents custody based partly on the parents teaching their children the propriety of racism, polygamy or homosexuality.

If the rule is really "children's best interests above all," these results may make sense. Say a dying friend asked you to choose a custodian for his children. Wouldn't you reject candidates who would teach the children harmful ideas, whether racist, pro-terrorist or, depending on your views, pro- or anti-homosexuality?

But the question, which few courts have grappled with, is whether judges, using government power, are allowed under the 1st Amendment to make such decisions. A family court judge is a government official, bound by the Constitution. Orders mandating or forbidding certain kinds of speech pose serious 1st Amendment problems. So does allocating civil rights, such as the right to spend time with one's child, based on a person's speech.

But does the 1st Amendment mean something different when it comes to parent-child speech, especially when the parent is divorced? On the one hand, children are immature and less able to resist their parents' ideological excesses. There may be special reasons to protect children from parental teachings that harm their best interests.

On the other hand, parental self-expression rights are especially important. Many people would trade all their free-speech rights for the right to teach their own children. And government power to constrain how parents teach their own children is dangerous: Restricting the spread of ideas from parent to child can help today's majority, or today's elite, entrench its views for future generations. Also, the power to suppress parents' speech may not stay limited to broken families but might spread to intact families too.

I think the 1st Amendment should impose some constraint here. The Supreme Court has recognized that the equal protection clause bars courts from considering a parent's interracial remarriage in the "best interests" analysis, even when the remarriage might have led to social trouble for the child. Some state courts have likewise barred judicial consideration of parents' religious teachings, at least unless imminent physical or psychological harm to the child is shown.

The same should be done for parents' ideological teachings. Such "harm" standards are themselves often subjective, but at least they are better than letting judges routinely decide when a parent's ideological teachings are against a child's best interests.

All this having been said, of course situations like Mujahid Daniel's and Mujahid David's remain troubling. Should children be exposed to a jihadist philosophy that may lead them into crime, violence and war against our nation - which could be fatal for them as well as bad for us? Even if their father hadn't been a felon, might his teachings still have been so dangerous that we should protect his children from them?

However we answer these questions, we should remember that the rules courts make don't just apply to jihadists. Any parent whose views may be seen by some as against the child's best interests - because the parent is atheist, intolerant, pro-gay, anti-gay or whatever else - could find a judge curtailing his parental rights and his speech rights.



A judge in the Paris suburb of Bobigny has charged two police officers in connection with the 2005 electrocutions of two teens whose deaths sparked three weeks of rioting in France, officials said Thursday. The two officers were charged Wednesday for "non-assistance to people in danger," which carries up to five years in prison and a maximum $97,400 fine, judicial officials said on condition of anonymity in line with policy. The decision came more than 15 months after Zyed Benna, 17, and Bouna Traore, 15, were killed as they hid from police in a power substation in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois.

The Oct. 27, 2005, electrocutions triggered riots that raged through housing projects in troubled neighborhoods with large Arab and black populations. France's suburbs remain plagued by poverty, discrimination, tensions between youth and police and a sense of alienation from French society.

An internal police review of the electrocutions, released in December, faulted police officers for their handling of the incident. The report confirmed the officers had been chasing the teens before they were killed, which the Interior Ministry and police had initially denied. The report said officers should immediately have notified French energy company EDF that the youths were hiding in the power station. It also said that if officers had notified EDF, technicians could have intervened 15 minutes before the accident. Still, the report said such steps would not necessarily have prevented the electrocutions.

Under French law, everyone - not just police - must make an effort to help a person in danger as long as they or others aren't themselves threatened by bringing such aid. For example, although non-swimmers would not be required to jump into water to save a drowning person, they would be obligated to try to get help.

Judge Olivier Geron, in his decision, considered that the two officers should have tried to warn France's EDF to cut the power at the substation or take other measures to protect the teens. Le Figaro daily on Thursday, citing judicial sources, identified the two officers as Sebastien G., 32, and Stephanie K., 29. Both had testified about the case before Geron in November, along with three other officers.

Tensions in France's suburbs are a particularly sore subject for Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who is running for president. The Interior Ministry declined immediate comment on the decision. Sonia Imloul, head of an association called Respect 93 that works to prevent youth crime in Paris' rough suburbs, said the police committed "homicide" and urged Sarkozy to apologize to the families. "The youths died for nothing, and this death must not remain unpunished," she said. "If two youths had killed two police officers, by today they would already be imprisoned." Local authorities hailed the charges. "We have always said that it is important that light be shed on what happened that day and what to understand how two young people could die because they were afraid of being stopped by police," said Olivier Klein, assistant to the mayor of Clichy-sous-Bois.


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