Justice (and Some Other Minor Stuff)

Am I missing something when I read the news? Or are some things just under-reported?

Goldstein -  screwed but at least free

Goldstein - screwed but at least free

A Tribune article (not available in the paper; all you get is a little blurb directing you to an article online) recapped four recent Supreme Court decisions that sided with the police and prosecutors. I hadn’t heard about any of them before this. The latest decision shields prosecutors from lawsuits if their management mistakes send someone to prison. In this case, Thomas Goldstein was wrongly convicted for murder, based on testimony from a prison stoolie (I love that word) who lied under oath. (The guy’s name, by the way, was Ed Fink…I kid you not.) The prosecutors’ office in Los Angeles knew the informant was a liar but didn’t tell the guy prosecuting Goldstein. Oh well, the Court says.

As the Trib reported, “In Monday’s decision, the Supreme Court mostly set aside the facts of Goldstein’s case and focused on the potential harm of allowing top prosecutors to be sued. District attorneys who are managing teams of prosecutors should not face the fear they might be sued years later by resentful crime suspects, the justices said.” Resentful. How about guys who spend 24 years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit, because of the DA’s screw-up? It was a unanimous decision, as all the jurists agreed that the immunity was necessary to keep the wheels of justice running smoothly. OK.

24 years…

The other cases I didn’t hear much about included one in Utah. Police raid a house without a warrant, simply on the word of an informer. Court said the cops can’t be sued, though it did not rule on the legality of this search. And this is another good one, as reported by the Trib: “The court said police can stop and frisk a passenger in a stopped car, even if there is no reason to suspect the passenger has done anything wrong.” Now, as I learned at the Jurist, in this case the cops patted down a suspected gang member and found a gun and some pot, so this was not Grandma being frisked. But on the other hand, can this freedom to frisk a passenger without cause possibly be abused in the future? Another unanimous decision by the way, so maybe I’m overreacting to the threat to civil liberties in these cases. Or maybe not…

On another subject somewhat related to justice…A University of Illinois law professor thinks George Ryan should win the Nobel Peace Prize. Ryan, as you may know, was the gov of Illinois right before Blago. He now sits in a federal cell, perhaps keeping Ramblin’ Rod’s cot warm. Ryan was arrested for corruption, and his sins included turning a blind eye to a driver license scandal in the Secretary of State’s office when he held that position. Guy bribes his way to a commercial trucker’s license, then kills several people in a car accident.

Remorseless George

Remorseless George

So why is Ryan deserving of the NPP? Because as the Feds closed in, he declared a moratorium on executions in the state, then cleared Death Row of all the convictions waiting for their sentence. Was this sudden attack of morality at all related to garnering some humanitarian props? A lot of people wise in the ways of Illinois politics thought so. Now, as I’ve written here, I oppose the death penalty (one reason: see Mr. Goldstein and wrongful murder convictions supra).  And when I still lived in CT and heard about Ryan’s actions, I thought it was a great thing. I now think it was a great thing done for the wrong reasons. Even if that’s not true, Ryan expressed no public remorse about any of his felonious actions, until late in 2008 – when Dubya was considering presidential pardons. Ryan didn’t get one, he shouldn’t get one from the POTUS from Illinois (though I sure wouldn’t bet against it, given politics here), and he sure as hell doesn’t deserve a Nobel. But I’m open to being convinced otherwise.

OK, I may have just convinced myself that at the least, Ryan was not totally cynical in turning against the death penalty, thanks to an article in the Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties (online at Google Books). So John Kass, if you’re reading (haha), show me why he was being cynical. But no one can convince me he deserves the prize.

But our profits belong to Daddy

But our profits belong to Daddy

And now we turn to economic news. Halliburton “posted stronger than expected fourth-quarter earnings,” the Trib said the other day. Well, yea! It’s also paying a settlement of $559 mill to atone for corruption charges brought against its former subsidiary, KBR. The folks who brought those electrified showers to our soldiers in Iraq, killing and wounding several people. Nice folks, who care more about profits than the safety of humans. Dick Cheney’s old company. That settlement might seem like a lot of dough, but for Halliburton, it’s less than 15 percent of one year’s profits. Just the price of doing business…

And we close with this, with another tip of the Bosox cap to my friend Hugh for sending it along. The Village Voice ran an article about how truly fucked up the world economy is, thanks to AIG and Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan and…well, the list is pretty long, and I’m getting the signal that it’s time to leave the podium. One thrust of the article: What happened to get us into this financial mess was criminal. Will there be any Michael Milkens or Ken Lays getting convicted this time? We can only hope. And so, I guess we come back to justice after all. Hopefully.


~ by mburgan on January 29, 2009.

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