If you noticed from last week's talk I use the terms 'illegal' 'unconstitutional', 'not in the public interest' and 'we can VOID that' quite often. I do that so the American people know we can indeed reverse these policies and still seek justice. Global pols think they can push forward ignoring American law and Constitutional structures but they cannot. That is why this 2016 election for President, Congress, and city hall pols is so important.
GET RID OF WALL STREET GLOBAL CORPORATE CLINTON/OBAMA NEO-LIBERALS AND BUSH/HOPKINS NEO-CONS AND REPLACE THEM WITH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS AND VOILA! BYE,BYE NEW WORLD ORDER AND GLOBAL CORPORATE RULE.
Today I will use the term 'public malfeasance' as in our elected officials acting deliberately, willfully, and with malice to harm the public and Federal, state, and local government. Wall Street and corporations were allowed to act with impunity in violating every Federal law and constitutional right in place because our elected officials and their appointed officials failed to protect and serve-----therefor they 'aided and abetted' crime.
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals summarized a number of the definitions of malfeasance in office applied by various appellate courts in the United States.
“Malfeasance has been defined by appellate courts in other jurisdictions as a wrongful act which the actor has no legal right to do; as any wrongful conduct which affects, interrupts or interferes with the performance of official duty; as an act for which there is no authority or warrant of law; as an act which a person ought not to do; as an act which is wholly wrongful and unlawful; as that which an officer has no authority to do and is positively wrong or unlawful; and as the unjust performance of some act which the party performing it has no right, or has contracted not, to do.”
— Daugherty v. Ellis, 142 W. Va. 340, 357-8, 97 S.E.2d 33, 42-3 (W. Va. 1956) (internal citations omitted).
'The court then went on to use yet another definition, "malfeasance is the doing of an act which an officer had no legal right to do at all and that when an officer, through ignorance, inattention, or malice, does that which they have no legal right to do at all, or acts without any authority whatsoever, or exceeds, ignores, or abuses their powers, they are guilty of malfeasance."'
If we acknowledge most of our Democratic politicians are Clinton Wall Street neo-liberals then we know why they are not pursuing public malfeasance charges for lack of action against fraud and corruption as well as for passing laws that clearly harm the public. The only time you hear politicians broaching these issues has been with campaign finance reform. Yes, it involves corruption and fraud in elections---no doubt pols are protecting themselves. But this article shows the same arguments against fraud, corruption, and public malfeasance in elections is true broadly and systemically throughout government and corporate business structures. Of course Maryland and Baltimore are steeped in all of this----and the feeling of voters is THIS MUST END NOW.
'Teachout’s principal target is the Supreme Court, and in particular the unduly narrow understanding of corruption that has come to dominate its campaign finance jurisprudence. Avoiding corruption and the appearance of corruption are the only government interests the Court has deemed sufficient to warrant limits on campaign spending, but its conception of corruption is, Teachout maintains, much narrower than the conception that has preoccupied us since the framing'.
Below you see a city that is ranked #1 only because it has a functioning justice system. Someone is taking these government corruption crimes to court and winning. Maryland and Baltimore which are REALLY #1 do not enter this ranking because all of the corruption is ignored and never brought to justice.
REMEMBER, WHEN YOU LOOK AT ALL THESE STATS ON FRAUD, CORRUPTION, AND JUSTICE----IF A STATE DOESN'T ENFORCE LAWS THEY ARE NOT RECORDED AS BEING AS CORRUPT AS THEY ARE.
Chicago, like Baltimore are NOT DEMOCRATIC-----they both are captured by right-wing politics------Chicago is ground zero for Wall Street global neo-liberalism and Baltimore is ground zero for Wall Street global neo-conservatism----BOTH ALLOWED TO BE CALLED DEMOCRATIC.
Chicago Number 1 In Political Corruption! State of Illinois Number 3
By Michael Ciric, February 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm
According to a report released by the University of Illinois /Chicago, Chicago is Number 1 in public corruption while the State of Illinois is ranked Number 3 so far as corrupt states go. Dick Simpson, head of the university's political science department noted that since 1976 - federal prosecutors rung up a total of 1,531 public corruption convictions in the Northern District of Illinois. The 1,828 total convictions for Illinois lagged only behind California and New York.
Of course this is hardly a surprise.
Sadly, the level of corruption continues to rise despite the convictions. You know, I have said long ago that political corruption is an art form in Chicago (and the state) and I doubt that anything will ever change until the people finally realize that corruption does, in fact, impact them directly each and everyday. Yet they stand idle and accept the "business as usual culture" as somehow being normal. Well folks - that just compounds the problem!
Chicago Voters are a stubborn lot, though. Instead of voting the crooks and scumbags out - they continue to vote for some mythical ideology that simply has never existed here. People refuse to believe that Chicago Democrats are purely a name they go by and not an endorsement of a party principle. Those of the Machine do not have principles and if the people were to begin putting two and two together they would see that their so-called "candidates of the people" have left them high and dry.
My goodness, people with half a brain should be able to see that the agenda of Chicago Democratic Machine politicians has never had anything to do with helping the everyday person or to provide them with a better life. I mean, how many dead and decaying neighborhoods do people need to see that the promises made by their politicians are just that - empty promises?
Sadly, people have not only let it happen election after election, but they have allowed even more neighborhoods to fall into the abyss. Neighborhoods that were once considered good places to bring up your children are now disappearing at an alarming rate. Yet, politicians are taking more money out of your pockets to provide you with - what exactly? And that, by the way, is on top of all that money already taken.
But hey, this has been your choice all along, and if this is what you want -
then so be it.
But being Number 1 isn't always a good thing.
Citizens in states across the nation are calling for the end of this corruption that we all know is occurring. That is what the mantra of OVERSIGHT AND ACCOUNTABILITY means coming from voters. We hear in Baltimore EVERY candidate claiming to want to do that----even the establishment who has been central in making Baltimore and Maryland the most corrupt and fraudulent state in the nation.
This is what the terms 'public malfeasance' and 'aiding and abetting crime' means-----
What we as voters know is this-----when corruption is so deep and crony we are not going to waste time and taxpayer revenue trying to bring to justice ALL FRAUD AND CORRUPTION. We can bring billions of dollars back to the City of Baltimore----trillions of dollars back to our US Treasury by simply investigating and recovering the low-hanging fruit as they say. No mayor or President will come to office looking to bust all of the low-level government employees brought into this corruption by the highest ranking corporate institutions and government officials.
YOU CAN BET THIS 2016 ELECTION HAS THOSE HIGH-RANKING POLS---WHETHER CONGRESS OR CITY HALL WORKING TO GET ELECTED TO KEEP OVERSIGHT AND ACCOUNTABILITY AT BAY.
Transparency, Accountability: What Hawaii Voters Want
A Civil Beat poll finds cynicism and distrust among voters, who want a government that more clearly looks out for their interests.
February 9, 2016 · By The Civil Beat Editorial Board
Across the nation, this seems to be a year in which not just distrust but outright contempt for government is driving the body politic.
For both major political parties, perceived outsiders are at or near the top of the polls after months of campaigning and one state caucus. A national average of public opinion polls shows less than 30 percent of Americans feel the country is headed in the right direction while more than 63 percent say it’s headed in the wrong direction.
Hawaii isn’t exempt from this general feeling of angst and dissatisfaction. The Civil Beat poll of 922 registered Hawaii voters found that only 35 percent of respondents feel the country is moving in the right direction, even though 57 percent have a positive opinion of President (and native son) Barack Obama.
The Civil Beat poll showed deep skepticism among voters as to whether decisions at the State Capitol and elsewhere in Hawaii government are moving the state in the right direction.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Conservative and Republican-affiliated voters feel the most strongly about our national direction: About eight in every 10 say the trend is bad.
Sentiments regarding Hawaii aren’t much better: About one-third of respondents overall say Hawaii is on the right path, though only half say it’s explicitly moving in the wrong direction. Curiously, a little more than one-third feel positively about Gov. David Ige, one-third feel negatively and one-third said they are unsure.
It’s that feeling of negativity and cynicism that struck us as the dominant theme in the first Civil Beat poll of the new year. A slim majority of respondents, for instance, oppose NextEra Energy’s acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Industries. But about two-thirds think the state Public Utilities Commission will favor the interests of business and elected leaders over those of the public.
Only 16 percent of respondents felt positive and unconcerned about issues related to progress on the Honolulu rail project, while about eight out of 10 either were troubled by the project or thought it a bad idea altogether. Ninety percent of respondents called homelessness a major problem throughout Hawaii, and less than one-third thought the problem has lessened under the leadership of either Gov. David Ige or Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
In perhaps the poll’s only hint of positivity, 62 percent of respondents said they thought effective leadership can solve homelessness.
Among Voters, A Winter Of Discontent
What are we to make of all this, particularly in an election year in which voters’ discontentment may drive whether they cast a ballot and for whom?
In past presidential election cycles, the generally accepted wisdom has been that if the economy is in good shape, the incumbent party fares well. And by most measures, the U.S. economy has completed a 180-degree shift from the shambles it was in when Barack Obama was first elected nearly eight years ago.
Unemployment has dropped by more than half, last month falling below 5 percent, its lowest level since 2008. The housing market and mortgage industry, banking and financial systems and automotive industry were all in deep trouble when Obama was inaugurated, and each has mostly, if not entirely, recovered. Meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act has enabled more than 90 percent of Americans to enjoy health care coverage — an all-time high for this nation.
Hawaii has certainly felt the recovery. Home prices not only have recovered, but have risen to record levels. State unemployment is about 4 percent, one of the lowest rates in the country. And though Hawaii’s exorbitant cost of living continues to be a source of concern for working-class residents and a major driver of homelessness, our islands remain highly desirable places to live.
But Hawaii voters are not immune to the messages being relentlessly pushed in a primary season where the phrase “let’s make America great again” has been both the tagline of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump and a sort of summary statement for those who can only see good times growing ever more distant in the rear view mirror.
Voters may be troubled by conflict and terrorism clawing at civilization in countries around the planet and concerned — even without evidence — that America’s role as the world’s leading superpower is threatened.
Voters seem unsettled by the pace of technological and social change and a cultural landscape that sometimes seems as foreign as the surface of Mars.
Transparency, accountability and consistent communications are too often in short supply in Hawaii governance, which can leave voters feeling not only that the deck is stacked against them, but that they are impotent to seek change.
Their discomfort shows in conflicting poll responses. On the one hand, they seem to feel their own situation is pretty good: The Consumer Confidence Index rose last month to 98.1 (on a scale of 100). But, as noted above, nearly two-thirds of voters in national polls and half of Hawaii respondents to the Civil Beat poll say America is on the wrong track.
Those who interpret such “wrong track” responses and the rise of outsider candidates as a sign of voter anger are probably wrong, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released in late January. Only 24 percent of respondents described themselves as angry about the federal government, which is on the low side of responses to that question in recent years, according to the Post. Twice as many described themselves as “dissatisfied, but not angry.”
That seems to track with the general feeling in the Civil Beat poll, also conducted in January. As noted in the response to Civil Beat’s question on the NextEra/HEI deal, that dissatisfaction may mean not only that they don’t feel government is working properly, but that it isn’t working in their interests. That applies equally to responses to questions on the Honolulu rail project, with budget overruns of $1.5 billion that have never been fully explained and which promise to grow larger in the months and years ahead.
This is a challenge that government is, in part, able to address. Transparency, accountability and consistent communications are too often in short supply in Hawaii governance, which can leave voters feeling not only that the deck is stacked against them, but that they are powerless to seek change.
Our state’s one-party government — Democrats hold all federal seats, the governor’s office and all but eight seats in the state Senate and House — often furthers the impression that the important decisions are made by a privileged few, behind closed doors, out of the sight of ordinary citizens.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once famously prescribed an antidote to such an environment: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”
That may not be all that’s needed to change the attitudes voters expressed in the Civil Beat poll. But it’s a great place to start.
Once the American people see that what occurred from Clinton/Bush/and Obama partnered with Wall Street and the FED was a planned movement of American wealth and assets to the few with orchestrated legislation like the subpriming of our housing and US Treasury and municipal bond markets-----you see conspiracy to defraud and that is indeed what has been happening these few decades. Failure to enforce laws, failure to investigate and convict, failure to recover fraud ----are all aiding and abetting these crimes especially when everyone sees these politicians are enriching themselves. Don't think there are not off-shore bank accounts with names of many politicians on them.
If the American people are going to be afraid to call a POLITICIAN OR JUDGE CORRUPT----if we are afraid to call laws passed at national, state, and local level illegal and unconstitutional ----we cannot fix this. The American people are not bound to follow laws that are illegal and unconstitutional and it is our duty as citizens to push back this growing corruption.
Please go to the video below ----note that all references to conspiracy and aiding and abetting are directed to street crime and not white collar crime but they are the same.
How is "aiding and abetting" different from "conspiracy" in Nevada law?
Published on Feb 27, 2014
Top Las Vegas criminal defense attorney explains the difference between "aiding/abetting" and conspiracy in Nevada.
More info at http://www.shouselaw.com/nevada/aidin... or call Las Vegas Defense Group LLC for a FREE consultation at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673).
HOW IS AIDING AND ABETTING DIFFERENT FROM CONSPIRACY?
Conspiracy is a lesser charge than aiding and abetting in Nevada. While aiding and abetting in Nevada require that you knowingly assist or encourage someone in the commission of a crime, conspiracy requires that you agree with others to commit a crime. Conspiracy requires a preconceived plan to be criminal in Nevada.
If we had a functioning Congress the US Justice Department would have been forced to recover tens of trillions of dollars in corporate fraud=====Clinton/Bush/and Obama would not have been allowed to use Executive Order to disregard the entire US Constitution and all Federal laws. If we had a functioning Congress the Supreme Court Chief Justice would have been moved to impeachment for the awarding of a Presidential election to Bush when the Court has no jurisdiction over elections and the same for the CORPORATIONS ARE PEOPLE ruling ignoring over a century of court precedent and law. A functioning Congress would as well be moving to impeach Obama for several acts most recently his Fast Tracking and pushing of Trans Pacific Trade Pact and International Economic Zone policies which are an attack on US sovereignty, our US Constitution, and our national security. Democrats in Congress would have led in all of this
IF THEY WERE DEMOCRATS AND NOT WALL STREET GLOBAL CORPORATE REPUBLICAN NEO-LIBERALS.
The closest we have gotten to any of this comes with the talk of impeachment ----whether Republicans calling for Obama's impeachment for things like immigrant or health care policy-----or whether the Supreme Court impeachment for campaign finance rulings led by 'progressive Democrats'. Congress should have been doing a lot of impeaching---from Bush to Obama----regarding the failure to address all this crime to the pushing of Trans Pacific Trade Pact and misusing Executive Order to ignore enforcement of the entire US Constitution and Federal laws. ALL OF THIS WAS IMPEACHABLE ACTIONS. Yes, the Supreme Court Chief Justice should have been threatened with impeachment ----but for the ruling of CORPORATIONS ARE PEOPLE-----completely ignoring over a century of court precedent and legal statute is not allowed in court rulings. Yes, allowing the American people to be required to buy health care plans but not to rule HEALTH CARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT knowing citizens are simply going to be soaked for all their disposable income just to pay this required health insurance. Allowing a Supreme Court judge to decide the Bush/Gore election? That was impeachable because the court had no jurisdiction over elections. The American people see our judges making rulings that do not follow Federal or even state Constitutional law----that ignore Federal statute required by states to enforce as with election laws. If we allow Federal law and US Constitutional rights to continue to be ignored-----that will bring the end of US sovereignty, an end to our US Constitution, and the end of our rights as citizens ---AND THAT IS TO WHERE GLOBAL POLS AND CORPORATIONS WANT TO GO-----AND WE THE PEOPLE WILL NOT ALLOW THAT!
All of these violations are tied to the very Republican stance of extreme corporate power and wealth. Republican voters hate all this too and need to know all of it is Republican policy and not Obama being a socialist.
Let's Talk About Impeaching Supreme Court Justices
04/05/2012 02:08 pm ET | Updated Jun 05, 2012
- Nathan Newman Director, Data Justice
Impeachment? Many progressives shrink back in horror at such a supposed affront to judicial independence. For an example, see Ruth Marcus's tizzy over President Obama's rather mild (and accurate) statement that unelected judges striking down such a core economic regulation would be unprecedented in the post-1930s legal environment.
But we need to be talking about impeachment if we are not to see every progressive economic regulation struck down by the courts as outside the supposed intent of the Constitution's Founders -- the regular rhetoric of those promoting rightwing legal theory.
What we have been witnessing in recent years is the rising use of anti-democratic means by corporate-backed interests to block any advance of progressive legislation.
- The filibuster -- once an infrequently deployed weapon -- has become a daily tool of the right-wing in blocking legislation and making a farce of majority rule in this country.
- Corporate money in both elections and deployed in the halls of Congress and state legislatures has exploded to corrupt the process -- and the Supreme Court in its Citizens United decision has just abetted this empowering of moneyed interested at the expense of the general public.
- Conservative legislators have promoted "Voter ID" laws and other strategies to disenfranchise the poor -- laws validated by this Supreme Court
So why talk about impeachment? Especially since it takes a two-thirds vote of the Senate, it won't happen any time soon.
Talking about impeachment, however, is a way to label this right-wing Court majority as the partisan tool of corporate right-wing interests that it has become. The Constitution says judges "shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour," so speaking of impeachment is the way to assert that using partisan judicial power to undermine health care for our nation is not proper behavior for unelected judges.
An attack on the health care reform law by what would inevitably be a narrow 5 to 4 partisan divide on the Court -- and by extension the Court reasserting its power to strike down core economic regulations -- is not a normal act of judicial review, modifying democratic governance at the margins, but the Supreme Court becoming de facto another partisan legislative body.
When Earl Warren led the Court in its Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, he made sure it was a 9-0 unanimous decision to make clear that such an extraordinary intervention into democratic governance reflected a nearly universal consensus in the legal world. The current Roberts Court, on the other hand, regularly hands down anti-democratic decisions based on 5-4 partisan divides, undermining any credibility that the Court speaks for beliefs with any partisan difference from other political branches.
In the very short term, talking about impeachment publicly is one way to signal to the Roberts Court majority that the legitimacy of the Supreme Court is on the line with this decision -- and it might make a swing vote like Anthony Kennedy think twice before crossing that Rubicon.
And in the longer term, talking about impeachment is also a way to prevent any adverse Court decision on Obamacare creating an ideological sense in the public that health care reform itself is somehow illegitimate. There are plenty of ways to pursue health care reform in new ways and we don't want any Court decision to chill the public debate in pursuing those alternatives.
The right-wing Court may try to strike down those alternatives but they will fear a backlash that could lead to actual impeachment if they block every democratic avenue to such a popular goal as health care reform.
Why Progressives Should Not Value Judicial Independence:
But, argue the nervous liberal defenders of the courts, won't such progressive attacks undermine the courts more generally?
Quite honestly, judicial independence is quite well defended in the U.S. Constitution. As noted, tt takes a two-thirds vote of the Senate to remove a federal judge, which is almost insurmountable in our two-party system. The Justices don't need us to watch our language to remain the least accountable branch of government.
But some progressive legal scholars seem to worry that rhetorical attacks on the Court will somehow delegitimize the Court in the public mind -- as if that's a bad thing.
Here's the reality. Because of a few high-profile decisions under the Warren Court, many progressives are under the delusion that the courts are the institutional friend of civil rights and a democratic society. In fact, the courts have mostly been the enemy of democracy and liberties in this nation and served overwhelmingly as the handmaiden of corporate privilege.
In the 19th century, it was the Supreme Court that protected slaveowners from state government and congressional laws that sought to extend even the most limited protections to escaped slaves -- thereby precipitating the Civil War. Immediately after the Civil War, the Supreme Court struck down most of the federal Reconstruction laws, literally freeing terrorists in the South to murder at will. (See here for more on the post-Civil War history of the Court ushering in Jim Crow and lynching in the South.)
And far from enshrining "states' rights," the Supreme Court in the 19the century and early 20th century would strike down state law after state law that sought to limit corporate power, limit child labor or enact basic reforms like the minimum wage. Recent decades where the Court has struck down affirmative action laws, limited local environmental regulations and gutted campaign finance laws is not a deviation from the historic role of the Supreme Court but merely returning it to its normal status quo of serving elite interests.
It was the a couple of decades of the Warren Court that was the deviation -- and it did far less than most of its cheerleaders think it did. Yes, Brown v. Board was important symbolically, but most public schools were desegregated not by court order but by the 1965 Title I education law, which used the bludgeon of federal money to push forward the limited gains in integration achieved in our schools. The limited rights of the accused supposedly protected by the Warren Court actually coincided with an explosion of rising prison rolls in this country. And legal abortion had been spreading across the states before the iconic Roe v. Wade decision was decided -- and no less a scholar than current Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has argued that far from advancing abortion rights, the decision may have fed a backlash that undermined grassroots movements for abortion rights.
Progressives need to get over their recent attachment to the courts as an institution and recognize that unelected judges have overwhelmingly been the enemy of civil rights and economic justice in this nation.
Mounting a full-throated progressive campaign against a rightwing judicial elite ultimately complements the Occupy rhetoric against the financial and political elites protecting the interests of the 1% in our society.
Talking about impeachment is a way to pull together critiques of a Court that increasingly just protects moneyed interests in cases ranging from Citizens United to a myriad of other less-known cases that just pad the wallets of the financial elite and undermine our democracy.
We need to start talking about impeachment before the court makes democratic action on most progressive legislation impossible.
Here you see American citizens moving in the right direction------all things listed are not necessarily worded correctly but they are right and indeed a politician or judge can be impeached. Since it takes a statehouse or Congress to do this-----we need to go to criminal and civil courts to do so.
The People’s Articles of Impeachment Against Pat Toomey
Posted by John on October 19, 2011
RESOLVED, That Patrick J. Toomey, United States Senator from Pennsylvania, is hereby impeached by the people, and that the following articles of impeachment be exhibited for all the public to see.
Article 1: Violating His Oath
Most recently in his conduct of the office of United States Senator, and previously as a member of the House of Representatives, Pat Toomey violated his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, which calls us to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, [and] promote the general Welfare.”
Article 2: Serving Wall Street Instead of the People
After getting rich as an investment banker, Toomey became a member of the House of Representatives, and served the interests of Wall Street rather than “promoting the general Welfare” of the people. From his seat on the House Banking Committee, he helped write some of the financial deregulation legislation that allowed the banks to crash our economy.
Article 3: Running a Millionaires’ Club
Pat Toomey took a break from Congress to run the so-called “Club for Growth,” which is really a club of millionaires campaigning for tax cuts for the rich, job-killing trade agreements, and more deregulation of banks and corporations.
Article 4: Cutting Programs We Need So He Can Cut Taxes for the Rich
Now in the United States Senate, Toomey has continued to serve Wall Street instead of the rest of us. He fights hard to keep the Bush tax cuts for the rich, even though now more than ever the country needs everyone to pay their fair share. Meanwhile, he advocates deep cuts to vital programs such as transportation and infrastructure; elementary and secondary education; Medicaid for the poor elderly, people with disabilities, and children; cancer and other health research; and protecting the environment.
Article 5: Trying to Steal America’s Retirement
He has even become the leading advocate for privatizing Social Security and turning over our nation’s retirement savings to his Wall Street friends.
Article 6: Ignoring the People’s Plea for Jobs
Most recently, he voted to kill the American Jobs Act, which would have taxed the rich and corporations to put people back to work repairing our infrastructure and staffing our schools.
In all of this, Patrick J. Toomey has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as a United States Senator, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of Pennsylvania and of the United States.
Wherefore, Patrick J. Toomey, by such conduct, warrants impeachment, trial and removal from office!
The Innocence Project IS an example of citizens working to force justice and the rebuilding of public justice and law enforcement. This is the backbone of rebuilding oversight and accountability. If a candidate is simply using the mantra of AUDITS, AUDITS, AUDITS=====as they do in Baltimore----they are not addressing any of this and all of this is the GORILLA IN THE ROOM of returning to a Rule of Law, US Constitutional, Equal Protection, anti-monopoly, WE ARE THE PEOPLE with rights as citizens UNITED STATES.
Holding Prosecutors Accountable
Share This: Posted: August 31, 2011 12:00 AM
A recent Supreme Court decision begs the question of what, if anything, prosecutors can be held accountable for.
In 1985, John Thompson, a 22-year-old father of two, was wrongfully convicted of murder and sent to death row at Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana. While facing his seventh execution date, a private investigator hired by his appellate attorneys discovered scientific evidence of Thompson’s innocence that had been concealed for 15 years by the New Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office.
Thompson was released and exonerated in 2003 after 18 years in prison, 14 of them isolated on death row. The state of Louisiana gave him $10 and a bus ticket upon his release. He sued the District Attorney’s Office. A jury awarded him $14 million, one for each year on death row. When Louisiana appealed, the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. This spring, Justice Clarence Thomas issued the majority 5-4 decision in Connick v. Thompson that the prosecutor’s office could not be held liable.
The controversial and divided decision leaves Thompson with no choice but to get on with his life, which, incredibly, he already has. He is the founder and director of Resurrection after Exoneration, an organization that provides transitional housing to exonerees in the New Orleans area. Thompson’s fortitude notwithstanding, his story has become a kind of cautionary tale of unchecked prosecutorial power. If prosecutors cannot be held accountable in this case, when can they be held accountable?
In an op-ed for The New York Times, Thompson writes, “I don’t care about the money. I just want to know why the prosecutors who hid evidence, sent me to prison for something I didn’t do and nearly had me killed are not in jail themselves. There were no ethics charges against them, no criminal charges, no one was fired and now, according to the Supreme Court, no one can be sued.”
The prosecutorial misconduct in Thompson’s case was no anomaly. According to a report by the Innocence Project of New Orleans, District Attorney Harry F. Connick’s office withheld evidence favorable to the defense in at least nine death row cases. Four death row convictions were overturned because of the misconduct.
In spite of this legacy, the Supreme Court ruled that the violation in the Thompson case was “a single incident,” and that no pattern of misconduct could be established. The majority opinion acknowledges the four other overturned convictions but argues that they don’t count because different types of evidence were withheld in those cases. In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg writes, “the conceded, long-concealed prosecutorial transgressions were neither isolated nor atypical.” She cites ten items of evidence that were withheld from Thompson’s defense, including police reports, audiotapes and blood evidence that would have seriously undermined Thompson’s conviction.
Such violations have led to an incalculable number of wrongful convictions. Because of the often covert nature of prosecutorial misconduct, it is impossible to estimate how many innocent people have been affected. Furthermore, the vast majority of felony cases are resolved through plea bargaining and never go to trial. Prosecutors may have engaged in misconduct in those cases as well.
In at least 63 of the wrongful convictions later overturned through DNA testing, innocent defendants alleged prosecutorial misconduct in their appeals or civil trials. Examples of misconduct include elicting perjured testimony; destroying, concealing or fabricating evidence; making improper and inflammatory statements and more.
Recent studies of these and other cases have shown that prosecutors are rarely found at fault, and even when they are, they are very rarely disciplined for it. A USA Today investigation found that only one federal prosecutor has been disbarred, even temporarily, for misconduct in the past 12 years despite 201 documented cases of violated laws or ethics rules. The federal prosecutor in that one case was suspended from practicing law for just one year. A study conducted by the Northern California Innocence Project supports these findings. In that study, over 700 California prosecutors engaged in misconduct from 1997 to 2009 and only seven of them
In response to the misguided ruling in Connick v. Thompson, the Innocence Network sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the Presidents of the National District Attorneys Association and the National Association of Attorneys General calling for solutions to the problem of prosecutorial misconduct. Nineteen wrongfully convicted victims of prosecutorial misconduct signed the letter: “Now that the wrongfully convicted have virtually no meaningful access to the courts to hold prosecutors liable for their misdeeds, we demand to know what you intend to do to put a check on the otherwise unchecked and enormous power that prosecutors wield over the justice system.”
The 19 exoneree signatories included five people who served time on death row. Kirk Bloodsworth, who spent two years on Maryland’s death row, remarked on the Thompson decision: “It’s sad for America that we allow court officers to inflict the most harmful of all errors upon us with glib and cavalier intent to only win. Justice in that event always loses.”
This article originally appeared in The Innocence Project in Print -- Summer 2011.