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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How the news varies by TV network

Start off with this image ...

Now go to CNN and the lead story is:

Deadly quake hits Italy

On Fox News it is about a man in Pakistan who helped the US get Usama bin Laden and yet President Obama will not help him as he faces 33 years in prison!

I've noticed Fox never misses a chance to slam the President. Well, this President anyway. Interesting how the news varies by network!

On MSNBC, the lead story is about the potential danger to Mitt Romney of hanging out with Donald Trump.

Yes, there is bias in the news. And most often it is what stories they choose to focus on and how they are packaged.

And on BBC, it is about Syria. So if you want to learn about the rest of the world, that is your source.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Top stopies in the top newspapers today

I wanted to take a look at some of top newspapers in the US today, to see what the lead story is in each.

Here we go ...

Washington Post:

Mexican cartels stage massacres as war escalates
The two most important criminal groups in Mexico are engaged in an all-out war, dumping dismembered bodies in public places to intimidate, officials say.

LA Times:

Former Long Beach high school football star Brian Banks, convicted of raping a classmate a decade ago, had his conviction dismissed after his accuser recanted her story.

New York Times:

Man Claims He Strangled Patz and Put Body in Box, Police Say
A suspect in custody has confessed to strangling Etan Patz, the 6-year-old boy who disappeared in 1979 in SoHo on his way to school, a New York City police official said on Thursday.


I wonder if these newspaper editors care at all that crime remains at near record lows and that Americans are safer now than at any time in their lives from street crime?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Eyewitness identification now an issue in the Trayvon Martin case

In the book it is shown that faulty eyewitness identification is one of the major sources of wrongful conviction.

Now, this issue will greatly impact the case of George Zimmerman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin after an altercation that really no one knows how it started or why it turned deadly (some of my Facebook friends think they know, but none of us really knows because everything we think we know comes from media accounts, based on things like these kinds of eyewitness accounts.

Only, now they are changing. For example:

Four days after the shooting, one woman told police she "saw two guys running" and then "a fistfight--just fists, I don't know who was hitting who." But on March 20, she told investigators she saw just one person.

"I couldn't tell you if it was a man, a woman, a kid, black or white," the woman, "Witness 2," said. "I couldn't tell you because it was dark and because I didn't have my contacts on or glasses. I just know I saw a person out there."

Another witness, who was initially interviewed on March 20, said she saw two people on the ground immediately after the shooting, but was not sure who was on top.
But in another interview with investigators six days later, the paper reported, she was sure: It was Zimmerman on top.

"I know after seeing the TV of what's happening, comparing their sizes, I think Zimmerman was definitely on top because of his size," the woman, "Witness 12," said.

Don't believe everything you see. And especially not what other people swear they saw.

A third witness, "Witness 6," told police on the night of the shooting he saw a black man on top of a lighter-skinned man "just throwing down blows on the guy, MMA-style." He said the light-skinned man was calling for help. Interviewed later by investigators, he said he was not sure who was calling for help, and is not sure any punches were thrown.

A fourth witness also interviewed on the night of the shooting said he heard the shooting, ran outside, and saw Zimmerman standing with "blood on the back of his head." According to "Witness 13," Zimmerman told him that Martin "was beating up on me, so I had to shoot him."

A month later, the same witness described Zimmerman's demeanor: "[It was] not like 'I can't believe I just shot someone!' It was more like, 'Just tell my wife I shot somebody,' like it was nothing."

I fear we may never know what actually happened that night.

Friday, May 18, 2012

What the latests documents in the Trayvon Martin case show

The latest documents in the Trayvon Martin case show:

1) George Zimmerman likely acted in self-defense when he shot Trayvon Martin

2) If George Zimmerman had stayed away from Trayvon Martin as he was advised by the 9/11 dispatcher on the night of the shooting, the shooting would have never occured.

So, Zimmerman was the aggressor, but Martin likely attacked him as a result, thereby possibly justifying self-defense.

Seems contradictory, no?

That is why it is a complex case. And that is why we have courts to sort it out.

No matter what happens in this case, some people will not be satisifed. Personally, I am hoping the judge rejects the self-defense claim given that even the person who wrote the law in Florida said the law was not meant for cases like this (where the shooter followed and harassed the shooting victim); it was meant for people who are being followed and harassed and threatened by a dangerous criminal.

But the law is the law, and the law may very well be on Zimmerman's side in this case.

Notice how, even after all this time, the media are still on the case.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

2 men, same state, both executed, both innocent

The Huffington Post carried an article outlining some of the similiarities between Carlos DeLuna and Cameron Willamham, both convicted, sentenced to death, and executed for murders they did not commit.

One of the similarities? Shockingly bad police work.

Read more:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Innocent people killed by death penalty?

It's been all over the news lately, the case of Carlos DeLuna ... the high likelihood that the state of Texas killed yet another innocent man.

Another? Yes, wait for it.

Here is the story from the Death Penalty Information Center:

INNOCENCE: New Evidence That Texas May Have Executed an Innocent Man

In one of the most comprehensive investigations ever undertaken about the execution of a possibly innocent defendant, Professor James Liebman and other researchers at Columbia University Law School have published a groundbreaking report on the case of Carlos DeLuna (pictured), who was executed in Texas in 1989.  This "Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution" is being published today (May 15) in Columbia's Human Rights Law Review.  Prof. Liebman concluded DeLuna was innocent and was wrongly convicted "on the thinnest of evidence: a single, nighttime, cross-ethnic eyewitness identification and no corroborating forensics." DeLuna maintained his innocence from the time of his arrest until his execution, claiming that the actual culprit was Carlos Hernandez, who looked so similar to DeLuna that friends and family had mistaken photos of the two men for each other. Prosecutors called Hernandez a "phantom" of DeLuna's imagination, although Hernandez was known to police and prosecutors because of his history of violent crimes, including armed robberies and an arrest for a murder similar to the one for which DeLuna was executed. Liebman's investigation found that Hernandez "spent years bragging around Corpus Christi that he, not his tocayo - his namesake and 'twin' - Carlos DeLuna, killed Wanda Lopez."

For years, opponents of the death penalty have pointed out the very real possibility that innocent people are killed with the death penalty. They've pointed to things like the "innocence list" from the Death Penalty Information Center, which now stands at an amazing 140 people released from death row since 1973.

Supporters have often responded with, where is your proof? Name one person who is innocent that is actually killed. And until recently, it was difficult to provide an answer.

The Death Penalty Information Center maintains a page featuring people executed despite serious doubts about their guilt. On that page are NINE cases, including that of Carlos DeLuna, noted above.

But also on that page is the case of Cameron Willingham, also out of Texas, which has also received an enormous amount of news:

Cameron Willingham Texas Convicted: 1992, Executed: 2004
After examining evidence from the capital prosecution of Cameron Willingham, four national arson experts have concluded that the original investigation of Willingham's case was flawed, and it is possible the fire was accidental. The independent investigation, reported by the Chicago Tribune, found that prosecutors and arson investigators used arson theories that have since been repudiated by scientific advances. Willingham was executed in 2004 in Texas despite his consistent claims of innocence. He was convicted of murdering his three children in a 1991 house fire.
Arson expert Gerald Hurst said, "There's nothing to suggest to any reasonable arson investigator that this was an arson fire. It was just a fire." Former Louisiana State University fire instructor Kendall Ryland added, "[It] made me sick to think this guy was executed based on this investigation.... They executed this guy and they've just got no idea - at least not scientifically - if he set the fire, or if the fire was even intentionally set."

Willingham was convicted of capital murder after arson investigators concluded that 20 indicators of arson led them to believe that an accelerent had been used to set three separate fires inside his home. Among the only other evidence presented by prosecutors during the the trial was testimony from jailhouse snitch Johnny E. Webb, a drug addict on psychiatric medication, who claimed Willingham had confessed to him in the county jail.

Some of the jurors who convicted Willingham were troubled when told of the new case review. Juror Dorinda Brokofsky asked, "Did anybody know about this prior to his execution? Now I will have to live with this for the rest of my life. Maybe this man was innocent." Prior to the execution, Willingham's defense attorneys presented expert testimony regarding the new arson investigation to the state's highest court, as well as to Texas Governor Rick Perry. No relief was granted and Willingham was executed on February 17, 2004. Coincidentally, less than a year after Willingham's execution, arson evidence presented by some of the same experts who had appealed for relief in Willingham's case helped free Ernest Willis from Texas's death row. The experts noted that the evidence in the Willingham case was nearly identical to the evidence used to exonerate Willis. (Chicago Tribune, December 9, 2004).

Read "Texas Man Executed on Disproved Forensics" by Steve Mills and Maurice Possley, Chicago Tribune (December 9, 2004)
Read "Was an Innocent Man Executed in Texas?" by Anderson Cooper 360 Blog (April 9, 2007)
See also The Ernest Willis Case

The point of all this? It is pretty clear to anyone with any brain activity that the state of Texas has executed AT LEAST two innocent people.And why Texas? Because they lead the free world in the number of executions every year. And we know that the more a state carries out executions, the more mistakes they will make.

Some will react to this news with horror. Others won't care. Seriously, for some it is just an unfortunate reality, the cost of doing justice.

I think of people who have argued publicly that they support the death penalty even knowing that  innocent people are occasionally innocent. One such person--Louis Pojman--even wrote something to the effect of this:

We know that, when firefighters are fighting fires, that a fire truck will occasionally run through a red light and kill an innocent bystander. Yet, we don't abolish firefighting just because every once in a while an innocent person is killed. After all, firefighters serve a vital function for society. They save lives.

This analogy has always bothered me. First, the death penalty is different than firefighting. Fire fighters aim to save lives; the death penalty merely takes lives (there is now literally no valid evidence that the death penalty deters murder and thus saves lives). Second, of course we don't abolish firefighting. There is no other way to put out fires. There are, however, other ways to reduce murder and to punish murderers. And they do not run the risk of killing an innocent person.

Many Americans really care about "big government." Amazingly, they get all upset when the government taxes them too much. We even have a new "Tea Party" (even though tax rates are at an all-time low; they are lower now than under the previous President and far lower than the last Democratic President). But they couldn't care less about the government killing them and their fellow citizens, apparently even when the people being killed are innocent.

Fortunately for those of us who see it differently, the writing is on the wall. Innocent people being killed by states will end the death penalty. We are well on our way, even in North Carolina where studies show the death penalty to be rare, ineffective, costly, racially biased, and a threat to the innocent. Hopefully, Texas will join the sane world soon.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Good thing racial profiling is a myth, right?

Police officers stopped people on New York City’s streets more than 200,000 times during the first three months of 2012, putting the Bloomberg administration on course to shatter a record set last year for the highest annual tally of street stops.

Data on the 203,500 street stops from January through March — up from 183,326 during the same quarter a year earlier — was sent to the City Council from 1 Police Plaza late on Friday under a legal requirement spawned by public outrage over the 1999 fatal police shooting in the Bronx of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed black street peddler.

On Saturday, the department disclosed the information to reporters and credited the controversial topic known as “Stop, Question, Frisk” as one of several policies of engagement whose effectiveness was vindicated by a decline in homicides in New York.

So far this year, 129 people have been murdered in New York through Friday, the 132nd day of the year, a number that put the city on track for a new low in annual homicides. The 471 murders logged by the Police Department in 2009 was the lowest annual tally for any previous 12-month period since reliable numbers were kept in the early 1960s.

Still, the new street-stop numbers got a fresh round of criticism after a week that saw civil libertarians and prospective mayoral candidates debating the crime-suppression value of such stops and blaming the tactics for tearing at the fabric of city life, particularly in minority neighborhoods, during a period of historically low violence.

On Wednesday, the New York Civil Liberties Union issued a study of last year’s stop data, arguing that far too many innocent people were suffering under the policy. The study said that while young black and Hispanic men made up 4.7 percent of the city’s population, those between the ages of 14 and 24 accounted for 41.6 percent of stops in 2011

Driving while black. Walking while black. Whatever you want to call it. It is real. 

Interestingly, police department officials claim it is saving lives. Check the data and see for yourself.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Mother's Day from CNN

On the front page of CNN for Mother's Day is this heartwarming story.

Mothers of sex offenders share responsibility, burden of label

So now even Mother's Day news has to be about crime.

Is religion about love or exclusion and aggression?

Should a religious or moral issue be used as a weapon?

Is that God's message?

Rick Santorum, who bowed out of the GOP presidential race, urges Mitt Romney "to step up and take advantage of a president who is very much out of touch with the values of America." FULL STORY

And is this hyopcrisy? (IMHO, the answer is yes).

Some people wonder if the black church will punish President Obama for announcing support for same-sex marriage. Here's another question: Why would the black church cite scripture to exclude gays when a similar approach to the Bible was used to enslave their ancestors?
Meanwhile, over at Fox ...
  • Likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney set to give commencement address at Liberty University, an evangelical school, and will steer clear of gay marriage fight, but talk about the role family played in his life.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Um, ya' think?


Ruben Navarrette: The police who are accused of beating Kelly Thomas to death need to be treated the same as any alleged killers -- prosecuted, and if convicted, sent to prison.

So why is this so controversial in the first place?