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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Botched execution in the news

Botched executions are nothing new. See?

And then, last night, in Oklahoma, we saw this (from the Death Penalty Information Center):

BREAKING NEWS: (4/29). The first of two planned executions in Oklahoma tonight was botched, with the inmate, Clayton Lockett, dying of a heart attack. Lockett sat up and uttered words, even as the execution was going forward. The second execution of Charles Warner was called off. Oklahoma was trying a new execution protocol for the first time. It had refused to reveal the source of the drugs or the names of those involved.

Why did this happen? Here are the basic facts:

* The Constitutionality of lethal injection in Oklahoma, like in other states, is being challenged on the basis of allegedly causing pain to inmates
* Painful and lingering deaths are considered a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution, according to the US Supreme Court
* States are thus changing their execution protocols, including which drugs they use to put inmates to death and where they get the drugs
* In Oklahoma, the process was kept secret
* Inmates challenged the process
* An Oklahoma court declared a stay in these two executions for this reason
* Oklahoma's governor said she was going to make sure they were killed anyway, in spite of the court order
* The court lifted the stay

And the rest is history. More of our sordid death penalty history, that is.

According to the Associated Press:

Clayton Lockett, 38, was declared unconscious 10 minutes after the first of the state's new three-drug lethal injection combination was administered. Three minutes later, though, he began breathing heavily, writhing, clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head off the pillow.
The blinds were eventually lowered to prevent those in the viewing gallery from watching what was happening in the death chamber, and the state's top prison official eventually called a halt to the proceedings. Lockett died of a heart attack a short time later, the Department of Corrections said.

Now, let's be clear. We're not talking about a nice guy here. From the AP:

A four-time felon, Lockett was convicted of shooting 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman with a sawed-off shotgun and watching as two accomplices buried her alive in rural Kay County in 1999 after Neiman and a friend arrived at a home the men were robbing.

Regardless, to be put to death, the practice has to be Constitutional. And right now, it is not.

Incredibly, another inmate in Oklahoma was supposed to be executed the same night. But his execution was stayed for 14 days after this mess. What was he convicted of?

According to the AP: 

Warner had been scheduled to be put to death two hours later in the same room and on the same gurney. The 46-year-old was convicted of raping and killing his roommate's 11-month-old daughter in 1997. He has maintained his innocence.

See that last part? Don't think it's possible?

Consider this then:

On April 28 a study published in the prestigous Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicated that far more innocent people have been sentenced to death than those found through the legal process. According to the study, many innocent defendants are probably not being identified because they were taken off death row and given a lesser sentence. The rate of exonerations for those sentenced to death would be over twice as high if all cases were given the heightened scrutiny often accorded to those who remain on death row. The authors of "The Rate of False Conviction of Criminal Defendants Who are Sentenced to Death" concluded: "[A] conservative estimate of the proportion of erroneous convictions of defendants sentenced to death in the United States from 1973 through 2004 [is] 4.1%." The percentage of death row inmates who were actually exonerated during the time of the study was only 1.6%. Professor Samuel Gross (pictured) of the University of Michigan Law School, one of the authors of the study, pointed to the gravity of the problem: “Since 1973, nearly 8,500 defendants have been sentenced to death in the United States, and 138 of them have been exonerated. Our study means that more than 200 additional innocent defendants have been sentenced to death in that period. Most of these undiscovered innocent capital defendants have been resentenced to life in prison, and then forgotten.”

Are you tired of this process yet?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

War on drugs still in the news ...

both in the US and around the world!

Start with this, from the Dallas Morning News:

In the war on drugs, a dismal record and a legacy of unfairness

Kansas City Star-16 hours ago
But the “war on drugs” didn't hurt drugs at all: Usage rose by 2,800 percent — that's not a typo — in the 40 years after it began in 1971.
Leonard Pitts Jr.: Time to cease the 'War on Drugs'
Poughkeepsie Journal-Apr 27, 2014

This is from the article: As journalist Matt Taibbi observes in his new book “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap,” Holder’s Justice Department has declined, essentially as a matter of policy, to prosecute the bankers who committed fraud, laundered money for drug cartels and terrorists, stole billions from their own banks, left taxpayers holding the bag, and also — not incidentally — nearly wrecked the U.S. economy. But let some nobody get caught with a joint in his pocket during a stop-and-frisk and the full weight of American justice falls on him.

And then there is this:

Read more here:

David Cameron told it's time to surrender war on drugs, by Tory ...

Daily Mail-5 hours ago
David Cameron has been urged to abandon the 'futile' war on drugs by a group of Conservative party modernisers who think reform would ...
And this!

Australia losing its war on drugs

ABC Online-4 hours ago
MARK COLVIN: The Australian Crime Commission's annual drugs report warns that the use of meth - or ice - is emerging as a pandemic.
Australia warned its ice problem is reaching pandemic proportions
-Herald Sun-14 hours ago

Monday, April 28, 2014

Capital punishment in the news

Start with this from The Economist: "The Slow death of the death penalty."

Then, move to these:

What botched executions tell us about the death penalty

Boston Globe-Apr 27, 2014
Earlier this month, the New Hampshire State Senate deadlocked on a vote to repeal the state's death penalty, tying 12 to 12 and leaving the law ...
Oregon shows no inclination to carry out the death penalty -- should ...
The Oregonian-Apr 26, 2014

After court drama, Oklahoma to have 2 executions

Charlotte Observer-Apr 24, 2014
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is working on specifics and logistics of how Tuesday's executions will be carried out, Fallin said.

Holy Capital Punishment

National Catholic Reporter (blog)-Apr 19, 2014
The dynamics of capital punishment follow us to this day as we create reasons for justifying its practice. While it's reasonable to assume that ...

NH Senate to vote on repeal of death penalty

Boston Globe-Apr 17, 2014
As the vote has neared, appeals to conscience have intensified. State Senator Nancy Stiles, a Hampton Democrat who backs the death penalty ...
State Senate upholds death penalty; 1 on death row
-SFGate-Apr 17, 2014
Explore in depth (239 more articles)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Major changes to US criminal justice policy coming ...

Justice Department invites thousands of inmates to seek clemency

Los Angeles Times-12 hours ago
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Wednesday unveiled the most ... American drug offenders serving long sentences for nonviolent crimes. ... Obama against "seeking to change sentencing policy unilaterally.".

Obama Admin Details Historic Clemency Eligibility for Drug Offenders

Democracy Now-1 hour ago
The Justice Department will widen the criteria for clemency to ... Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the new policy is a matter of basic fairness. James Cole: "These defendants were properly held accountable for their criminal .... Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning to legally change her name.
Justice finally comes to the pardons office and perhaps to many ...
-MSNBC-Apr 23, 2014
And how does Fox News respond?

Krauthammer: Justice Department clemency initiative is 'lawlessness'

Fox News-6 hours ago
Krauthammer: Justice Department clemency initiative is ... The applicant must also be someone subject to a “substantially lower sentence” for the crime ... administration's pattern of behavior regarding many policy changes.
Krauthammer: 'This is lawlessness'
Politico-3 hours ago 
Isn't that interesting? Because in this case, they do NOT see lawlessness, even though that is precisely what it is. Instead, they see an American standing up for his rights, even though he denies the right of the USA even to exist! (though he still rides his horse holding an American flag).

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Does it matter where you get your news?

It turns out, yes, it does. These are the lead stories from different sources today:



Watch this video

It was found on Australia's coast

An "object of interest" in Flight 370 search was recovered several hours drive south of Perth, an Australian official tells CNN. FULL STORY


The absence of air pockets on the third and fourth decks of the sunken ferry all but eliminates any hope of finding survivors of the disaster in South Korea. FULL STORY

Fox News:

arrive in Poland amid Ukraine crisis

NY Times:

 Colleges Seek New Paths to Diversity After Court Ruling

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision upholding Michigan’s ban on racial preferences in admissions, many educators envision relying more heavily on criteria such as income.

General Motors Seeks to Fend Off Lawsuits on Switch

The company asked a federal bankruptcy judge to dismiss dozens of lawsuits over its handling of a defective ignition switch in millions of cars, and to bar similar cases in the future.

Washington Post:

General rebuked over bungled
sex-assault case

The commander of U.S. forces in Japan was reprimanded after letting sexual misconduct complaints slide, but despite being disciplined, he has been moved to an important Pentagon post.

Has the Navy learned from its $3.2B Marine One fiasco?

The president’s copters need upgrades, a process that will test whether the Pentagon can purchase major systems without busting budgets and deadlines.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Top rated of 2014 (so far).

According to IMDb, these are your top-rated movies of 2014 (so far) ... here are the top 25!

My review of these films suggests that at least 18 of the 25 deal with violence (72%), and in fact, excessive violence. Further, at least 14 of these 25 films (56%) deal with issues of crime and criminal justice. 2014 is thus shaping up to be like the rest of recent years in cinema.

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) Add to Watchlist Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history: the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier. Dir: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo With: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi 136 mins.
2. Divergent (2014) Add to Watchlist Divergent (2014)
In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she's Divergent and won't fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it's too late. Dir: Neil Burger With: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet Adventure | Romance | Sci-Fi 139 mins.
3. The Expendables 3 (2014) Add to Watchlist The Expendables 3 (2014)
Barney (Stallone), Christmas (Statham) and the rest of the team comes face-to-face with Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson)... Dir: Patrick Hughes With: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li Action | Adventure | Thriller
4. Noah (2014) Add to Watchlist Noah (2014)
A man is chosen by his world's creator to undertake a momentous mission to rescue the innocent before an apocalyptic flood cleanses the wicked from the world. Dir: Darren Aronofsky With: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins Action | Adventure | Drama 138 mins.
5. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) Add to Watchlist X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants. Dir: Bryan Singer With: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman Action | Adventure | Fantasy | Sci-Fi
6. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Add to Watchlist The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. Dir: Wes Anderson With: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric Comedy 100 mins.
7. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) Add to Watchlist The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Peter Parker runs the gauntlet as the mysterious company Oscorp sends up a slew of supervillains against him, impacting on his life. Dir: Marc Webb With: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx Action | Adventure | Fantasy 142 mins.
8. The Legend of Hercules (2014) Add to Watchlist The Legend of Hercules (2014)
The origin story of the the mythical Greek hero. Betrayed by his stepfather, the King, and exiled and sold into slavery because of a forbidden love, Hercules must use his formidable powers to fight his way back to his rightful kingdom. Dir: Renny Harlin With: Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins Action | Adventure 99 mins.
9. Lucy (2014) Add to Watchlist Lucy (2014)
A woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic. Dir: Luc Besson With: Scarlett Johansson, Analeigh Tipton, Morgan Freeman Action | Sci-Fi
10. 300: Rise of an Empire (2014) Add to Watchlist 300: Rise of an Empire (2014)
Greek general Themistokles leads the charge against invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes and Artemisia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy. Dir: Noam Murro With: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey Action | Drama | Fantasy | War 102 mins.
11. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Add to Watchlist Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
From their home in the storm sewers of Manhattan, four Ninjitsu-trained turtles, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello and their sensei, Master Splinter, battle evil. Dir: Jonathan Liebesman With: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner Action | Adventure | Comedy | Fantasy | Sci-Fi
12. God's Not Dead (2014) Add to Watchlist God's Not Dead (2014)
College student Josh Wheaton's faith is challenged by his philosophy professor, who believes God does not exist. Dir: Harold Cronk With: Shane Harper, Kevin Sorbo, David A.R. White Drama 113 mins.
13. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) Add to Watchlist Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan. Dir: James Gunn With: Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
14. Godzilla (2014) Add to Watchlist Godzilla (2014)
The world's most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity's scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence. Dir: Gareth Edwards With: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
15. Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) Add to Watchlist Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
An automobile mechanic and his daughter make a discovery that brings down the Autobots and Decepticons - and a paranoid government official - on them. Dir: Michael Bay With: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
16. Need for Speed (2014) Add to Watchlist Need for Speed (2014)
Fresh from prison, a street racer who was framed by a wealthy business associate joins a cross country race with revenge in mind. His ex-partner, learning of the plan, places a massive bounty on his head as the race begins. Dir: Scott Waugh With: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots Action | Crime | Drama | Thriller 132 mins.
17. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) Add to Watchlist Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
Survivors of the simian plague trigger an all-out war between humanity and Caesar's growing forces. Dir: Matt Reeves With: Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Andy Serkis Action | Drama | Sci-Fi | Thriller
18. The Drop (2014) Add to Watchlist The Drop (2014)
Bob Saginowski finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood's past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living - no matter the cost. Dir: Michaƫl R. Roskam With: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini Crime | Drama
19. Rio 2 (2014) Add to Watchlist Rio 2 (2014)
It's a jungle out there for Blu, Jewel and their three kids after they're hurtled Rio de Janeiro to the wilds of the Amazon... Dir: Carlos Saldanha With: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jemaine Clement Animation | Adventure | Comedy | Family 101 mins.
20. The Other Woman (2014) Add to Watchlist The Other Woman (2014)
After discovering her boyfriend is married, Carly soon meets the wife he's been cheating on. And when yet another affair is discovered, all three women team up to plot mutual revenge on the three-timing SOB. Dir: Nick Cassavetes With: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton Comedy | Romance 109 mins.
21. The Lego Movie (2014) Add to Watchlist The Lego Movie (2014)
An ordinary Lego construction worker, thought to be the prophesied 'Special', is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis. Dir: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller With: Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Alison Brie Animation | Adventure | Comedy | Family | Fantasy 100 mins.
22. The Raid 2 (2014) Add to Watchlist The Raid 2 (2014)
Only a short time after the first raid, Rama goes undercover with the thugs of Jakarta and plans to bring down the syndicate and uncover the corruption within his police force. Dir: Gareth Evans With: Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Arifin Putra Action | Crime | Thriller 150 mins.
23. Muppets Most Wanted (2014) Add to Watchlist Muppets Most Wanted (2014)
While on a grand world tour, The Muppets find themselves wrapped into an European jewel-heist caper headed by a Kermit the Frog look-alike and his dastardly sidekick. Dir: James Bobin With: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey Adventure | Comedy | Crime | Family | Musical 107 mins.
24. Transcendence (2014) Add to Watchlist Transcendence (2014)
As Dr. Will Caster works toward his goal of creating an omniscient, sentient machine, a radical anti-technology organization fights to prevent him from establishing a world where computers can transcend the abilities of the human brain. Dir: Wally Pfister With: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman Drama | Mystery | Sci-Fi | Thriller 119 mins.
25. Blended (2014) Add to Watchlist Blended (2014)
After a bad blind date, a man and woman find themselves stuck together at a resort for families, where their attraction grows as their respective kids benefit from the burgeoning relationship. Dir: Frank Coraci With: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Wendi McLendon-Covey Comedy 117 mins.