Friday, December 08, 2017

Oklahoma: Pyongyang on the Prairie

A criminal justice system that operates in the dark is arbitrary, unjust and criminal.  In Oklahoma, it asks us to believe that a Japanese American of impeccable reputation is a serial rapist of black women.  No wonder they fear the light of day!

In Oklahoma this year, a Kafkaesque set of sealed motions, secret orders and closed-door hearings completely shut out a criminal defendant, his public defenders and the public. A trial judge served as handmaiden for the prosecutors, even failing to notify the defendant and his lawyers of the kangaroo court proceedings until after they had occurred.

The defendant, who is appealing his convictions and maintains his complete and actual innocence, was denied an opportunity to challenge the state's legal arguments for hiding information about a crime lab analyst's shoddy work on his case that could be exculpatory and key to his exoneration. His public defenders were also denied the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses — all government employees from Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma City Police Department.

Welcome to Pyongyang on the Prairie.

The Oklahoma attorney general's office claims that the trial judge, Timothy Henderson, conducted an "exhaustive" review of the protected materials and "deeply explored" their contents with government witnesses who only represented the government's side of the story.

Don't worry, be happy, comrades.

Here's the thing: While the defendant was denied representation at the secret hearings, Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger was allowed to enter the star chamber with an entire "team" of fellow prosecutors. (We only know this after two local TV journalists obtained video footage from a surveillance camera outside the hearing room.) In fact, the state attorney general divulged in one of the few unsealed court filings on the matter, Gieger "facilitated the District Court's inquiry by thoroughly examining those witnesses in an ex parte proceeding."

Gieger was the original prosecutor in the defendant's case. The defendant's appeal argues that Gieger "repeatedly and flagrantly misrepresented" evidence at trial, including the forensic evidence and testimony of the OCPD crime lab analyst, Elaine Taylor. A report by six internationally renowned DNA scientists and experts released this summer highlighted Taylor's "flawed forensic science, including insufficient serological analysis and improper DNA testimony" in the case at hand. The scientists concluded that the defendant, former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw, who is now serving 263 years for a bandwagon pile-on of sexual assault allegations, "was deprived of his due process right to a fair trial because the State misused DNA evidence" and stated that his "conviction should be overturned and he should be given a new trial."

Taylor's work on the case, the state was forced to acknowledge, just happened to be the subject of the secret hearings that Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger was allowed to "facilitate."

Can you spell "conflict of interest"?

Incredibly, the state attorney general pats itself on the back for "its strong commitment to transparency" and argues that the "State was forbidden by law from turning any of the material over to the defendant" because a crime lab review of Taylor's work is "an unfinished personnel review" protected by the state open records act.

Nonsense on a stick. The law specifically states that a public body "may," not must, keep personnel records confidential — and there is no indication that a review of Taylor's work would invade her privacy.

Both the public's right to know and the defendant's constitutional rights to exculpatory information (as well as information subject to cross-examination) trump the phony "personnel records" shield erected by the state attorney general's office and its collaborators.

In fact, given the wave of crime lab scandals across the country from Austin, Texas, to Washington, D.C., it is in the national interest to disclose such information about questionable forensic analysis and testimony (which I've exposed more at length in my work on the Holtzclaw case and other wrongful convictions for "Michelle Malkin Investigates" ).

It's even more imperative given the Oklahoma City Police Department's sordid history of fabricated forensic evidence and misconduct dating back more than 15 years.

Fact: Elaine Taylor worked under disgraced former OCPD forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist, who was fired for systematic fraud, false testimony and planting evidence that led to countless death row and other convictions.

Fact: Taylor reportedly told a former supervisor that she destroyed rape kits under Gilchrist's orders because she "believed the only thing (she) could do was to follow (Gilchrist's) orders or else pay the consequences."

Fact: Elaine Taylor is the mother-in-law of Detective Rocky Gregory, the co-lead investigator in the current defendant's case (a relationship that was not disclosed at trial).

Fact: My attempt through a public records request to obtain a list of cases from the DA's office in which Taylor served as an expert witness — so that the public can learn if she botched other analyses and testimonies — was flippantly rejected because "our office maintains no list of cases in which Ms. Taylor appeared as a witness to give testimony as an expert or otherwise," and so "this matter (is) now closed."

Nearly six months after the cloak-and-dagger confab on Taylor's work held in late June in Judge Henderson's locked courtroom, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has yet to respond to Holtzclaw's motion to unseal the secret proceedings. In fact, the criminal appeals court has yet to issue a ruling on his public defenders' simple motion for an order to preserve evidence in light of the police department's admission that it had deleted Taylor's email account after she retired on Feb. 2, 2017 (a fact not known to the defendant until media public records request forced disclosure).

Legal experts left, right and center tell me they've never seen anything like this. Former ACLU of Oklahoma president and retired University of Oklahoma law professor Randall Coyne blasted the secrecy circus this summer, and his words bear repeating:

"This is no way to run a criminal justice system. In 29 years of practicing and teaching criminal law in Oklahoma, I have never seen the level of sealed orders and secret, ex parte courtroom proceedings that has occurred in the Holtzclaw matter. ... The dark cloud of secrecy over the Holtzclaw case gives rise to suspicions that somebody is hiding something. ... The court immediately should unseal all orders and filings so the public — as well as other convicted defendants whose cases and lives may be impacted — can see the details."

Is this North America or North Korea? Over to you, Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.


Guam Has a Racist Voting Law  -- and Obama didn't care
It took Jeff Sessions to make the department fulfill its duty.

It looks like Arnold Davis is finally getting some justice. I have written numerous updates about the voting-rights lawsuit that Davis, a retired Air Force officer, filed back in 2011 against the territory of Guam. Guam refused to allow Davis, a longtime resident of Guam, to register to vote for a plebiscite on the future of the territory because he is white and not Chamorro, the racial designation given to the natives who originally inhabited Guam.

Through eight long years of litigation, Davis has been represented by J. Christian Adams and the Center for Individual Rights. The Eric Holder/Loretta Lynch Justice Department refused to represent Davis or otherwise assist with the lawsuit. Holder even made a ceremonial visit to Guam in 2012, one in which he voiced no criticism whatsoever of the territorial government, or even of the racist attacks that Guam’s community leaders and government officials have launched against Davis.

Finally, in March of this year, a federal judge in Guam ruled in favor of Davis and issued a permanent injunction against the territory, barring it from enforcing its discriminatory registration law. Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood held that limiting voter registration to so-called Native Inhabitants of the island violated both the 14th and 15th Amendments. The Constitution does not allow the government “to exclude otherwise qualified voters in participating in an election where public issues are decided simply because those otherwise qualified voters do not have the correct ancestry or bloodline."

 After Guam lost in March, it appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. On Nov. 28, after eight years of studied indifference, the U.S. Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions finally did the right thing: It filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit supporting Arnold Davis.

DOJ’s brief, which was filed by John Gore, the acting assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division, argues that "Guam’s plebiscite law intentionally discriminates based on race.” It directly violates Supreme Court precedent set in Rice v. Cayetano, a 2000 decision in which the Court threw out a similar Hawaii law. DOJ points out that the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments both apply to Guam; the fact that it is a territory does not deprive its residents of those constitutional protections. The brief asks the Ninth Circuit to uphold the district court’s decision.

This follows on a lawsuit filed in September by the Civil Rights Division against the government of Guam and its Chamorro Land Trust Commission for violations of the Fair Housing Act in discriminating against non-Chamorros. The government and its land trust owns about 15 percent of the land on the island. It leases one-acre residential tracts at a cost of $1 per year for 99 years and also provides below-market-rate loans and numerous housing-related benefits. However, not all residents of the island are eligible — only Chamorros. So if Arnold Davis wanted such a lease, he would not be eligible for one, just as Guam told him he couldn’t vote.

As the saying goes in Washington, “personnel is policy,” and that is certainly true in both of these cases. The Obama administration refused to enforce federal law barring racial discrimination in voting, housing, employment, and education on a race-neutral basis. The Holder/Lynch Justice Department didn’t care if you were being discriminated against unless you were a member of one of its favored groups, a distinction that does not exist in our anti-discrimination laws. The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, as well as federal statutes such as the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act, protect all Americans from racial discrimination.

It took a Jeff Sessions Justice Department to finally recognize that.


The marvelously 'wild richness of American philanthropy'

by Jeff Jacoby

WOULD YOU LIKE to be happy? A Chinese proverb offers advice:

If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody else.

On the calendar this week was "Giving Tuesday," the informal start of the post-Thanksgiving charitable season, when many people make a particular point of donating to charity. Two-thirds of American households give money to charitable causes each year, and 63 million adults give of their time to charities as unpaid volunteers. If you're in either camp (they overlap significantly), you probably don't need a Chinese aphorism to tell you that charity blesses those who give as well as those who get.

Researchers have found notable correlations between charitable giving and happiness. For instance, data from the 2001 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, a major source of information on civic activity, indicates that people who donate to charity were 43 percent more likely to say they are "very happy" than nongivers, while nongivers are more than three times as likely to say they were "not happy at all."

America's philanthropic culture has amazed foreign observers for generations. In the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville famously marveled at Americans' "innumerable multitude" of charitable endeavors: "The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found seminaries, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries," he wrote. Eighteen decades later, the German-born British journalist Matt Frei expressed similar astonishment: "Americans give to schools, hospitals, libraries, galleries, and the poor like no other country in the world," he noted with awe on BBC. "Americans, wealthy and not so wealthy, are giving their dollars away by the lorry load."

There are some who argue that most of this giving doesn't really count as charity since it isn't dedicated to the relief of the poor and sick. Peter Singer, a well-known professor of bioethics at Princeton, disdains those who give money to orchestras and museums when so many people still suffer from hunger and disease. Former NPR executive Ken Stern laments that charitable status is granted so promiscuously — not just to groups that help "the poor and downtrodden," but also to "organizations that have little connection to common notions of doing good: the Sugar Bowl, the US Golf Association, the Renegade Roller Derby team . . . and the All Colorado Beer Festival."

Clearly there are better and worse ways to donate one's money and time; and clearly those who help the poor, sick, and hungry should be praised and emulated.

But I think Karl Zinsmeister, editor of the Almanac of American Philanthropy, makes a better argument. I'm a fan of Zinsmeister's work, which I've cited in the past. I return to it today because he persuasively refutes the idea that only generosity aimed directly at the poor should count as philanthropic. That attitude, he writes in the lyrical introduction to the almanac's 2017 edition, "is astoundingly narrow and shortsighted."

For starters, he notes, direct aid is only one way to help the poor. He cites the example of George Eastman, founder of the Eastman Kodak photography company, who donated tens of millions of dollars to higher education, transforming the University of Rochester and MIT into top-tier research institutions and sustaining Tuskegee, Hampton, and other historically black colleges for decades. In so doing, he contributed to the knowledge, prosperity, and advancement of tens of thousands of individuals across the social spectrum — and through them and their achievements, to the welfare of millions of human beings. Viewed in that light, is donating money to a college really less valuable than giving to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter?

American philanthropy comes in more varieties, supports more ventures, and has done more good than the most industrious team of researchers could ever fully tally.

"The wild richness of American philanthropy," as Zinsmeister calls it, is exhilarating. Historic treasures like Mount Vernon and Monticello; houses of worship from the tiniest neighborhood churches to the National Cathedral; innumerable public libraries; vast swaths of Acadia, Grand Teton, and other national parks; great astronomical observatories; cutting-edge medical facilities; art museums and orchestras — all them of them thrive today thanks to the benevolence of legions of charitable donors. Entire scientific disciplines, such as oceanography and biomedical engineering, have been brought into existence through visionary philanthropy. And without philanthropy, some of the nation's most enlightened causes, like the temperance movement and the preservation of endangered species, would never have gotten off the ground.

American philanthropy comes in more varieties, supports more ventures, and has done more good than the most industrious team of researchers could ever fully tally. Yes, some charities are of dubious worth. But taken as a whole, private giving in America has been one of history's greatest engines of progress, kindness, and uplift. Be a part of it. Give.


Ahead of Jerusalem Announcement, House Passes Bill Withholding Funding Until Abbas Stops Paying Terrorists

With all eyes on President Trump’s expected Jerusalem policy announcement, the House of Representatives on Tuesday dealt the Palestinian Authority another potential blow by passing legislation withholding funds until the P.A. stops paying terrorists.

“If you finance or reward terrorism, you don’t deserve a penny from the United States,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said after the bipartisan bill passed by voice vote. “The Palestinian Authority should be forced to choose between its despicable practice of paying terrorists’ salaries and receiving foreign aid funded by the American taxpayer.”

The Taylor Force Act, introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and co-sponsored by 169 lawmakers from both parties, is named for U.S. Army veteran and Vanderbilt student Taylor Force who during a visit to Israel was stabbed to death by a Palestinian in Jaffa in March last year.

P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization hailed Bashar Masalha, the terrorist who killed Force and wounded another ten people during the attack before being shot dead, as a “heroic martyr.”

Masalha’s relatives benefited after his death from the longstanding P.A. policy of paying stipends to terrorists – or if they are killed, to their families.

Published reports indicate that a Palestinian jailed for an attack which did not lead to fatalities receives a $400 monthly salary, while in cases where victims were killed the amount rises to $3,400 a month. There are also increases linked to the length of sentence, and grants issued upon release from prison that can reach $25,000 for a released killer.

Dead terrorists’ families receive stipends that begin at $100 a month and increase depending on the family circumstances of the “martyr.”

A comprehensive study published last summer by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs found that the P.A. dedicates almost half (49.6 percent) of all 2017 foreign budgetary aid – most of which comes from the U.S. and Europe – to payments to prisoners and ex-prisoners, and the families of “martyrs.”

Critics say the payments not only send the wrong message to Palestinians, but amount to an incentive to carry out attacks – and especially attacks that cost lives.

“This system is a disgrace,” House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said Tuesday. “It is also the result of an abiding climate of hatred Palestinians leaders continue to foster toward Jews and Israelis.”

The P.A. has defended the payments as “humanitarian” and a form of welfare.

Last August, the head of the PLO mission in Washington, Husam Zomlot, was quoted by the Palestinian news agency Ma’an as saying he had told U.S. decision-makers that “if there is a choice between the American aid and our responsibilities to our people we will choose the latter.”

“In Taylor’s memory, we must stop sending aid money to an entity that rewards his murderer’s family and prevents any future injustice,” Lamborn said Tuesday after the measure passed.

“I urge my colleagues in the Senate to vote ‘yes’ on this bill and hold the Palestinian Authority accountable for financing terrorism.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee last August passed an amended version of the original bill, including an amendment to create an escrow fund to hold the set-aside money until the secretary of state certifies that the P.A. has stopped the payments.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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