The Life of an Exonerated Inmate

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The number of people being exonerated of crimes they didn't commit, often after spending decades in prison, is higher than it's ever been. ThinkProgress has the story of an Alabama man who spent 30 years in solitary confinement for a murder he didn't commit and was recently released from prison. The transition is incredibly difficult. … [Read more...]

Ladies and Gentlemen, Ben McCarthy Carson

Credit: Michael Vadon

It seems that Ben Carson is trying to really establish his McCarthyite bonafides by one-upping some of his Republican presidential rivals. Not only does he think we should have a database for all "foreigners," but he thinks we should be surveilling anyone he deems to be "anti-American." He means Un-American, of course. Perhaps even a House committee to oversee their activities. … [Read more...]

Brennan Uses Paris Attacks to Call for More Surveillance Power

Hey, here's a surprising development. The head of the CIA is using the attacks in Paris to justify even more power to the federal government to drown the 4th Amendment in a bathtub and give him expanded authority to engage in surveillance and invade our privacy. How shocking that a government agency would use a tragic event to demand more power for that government agency. … [Read more...]

Republican Governors Strike the Xenophobia Pose


In the wake of the attacks in Paris, nearly a dozen state governors, all of them Republicans, have come out and declared that they will not accept any Syrian refugees granted asylum in the United States. I am about equal parts appalled by the xenophobia and jingoism and amused at the notion that they have such authority. They don't, at least partly for the reasons Ian Millhiser offers: … [Read more...]

Government Wants Even More Power to Seize Assets


As if asset forfeitures in this country weren't already out of control, the Obama administration wants to make the rules even more unconstitutional than they already are. In a case heard by the Supreme Court this week, the DOJ argued that the government should be able to seize assets that they admit have no connection to a crime before someone is ever even put on trial for a crime they're accused of. Friend of Dispatches Radley Balko cites Damon Root on the facts of the case: … [Read more...]

Utah Judge Orders Child Removed from Gay Foster Parents


Shocking news: A judge in Utah is a raging anti-gay bigot. Judge Scott Johansen has ordered that a baby that has been raised by a lesbian couple for the last few months -- they're all married and everything, though I'm sure the judge just hates that -- be removed from their care because straight parents are better than gay ones (he apparently thinks there are studies that support this, but he's wrong). … [Read more...]

DOJ Doing Something About Unjust Indigent Defense System


I've said many times that Obama's record on civil liberties issues is generally very bad, but there are some bright spots. His support for the right to record the police is one. And now the DOJ is getting involved in pushing for reform in our indigent defense system, which is so unjust and ineffective that it should be viewed as a constitutional crisis. … [Read more...]

Another Massive Injustice in the Courts


I've been writing about the incredible injustices in our criminal "justice" system for a long time, but here's something I did not know: Most states charge poor people for their public defenders. They can't afford to pay, of course, and they plead guilty 95% of the time whether they're guilty or not, and then in many states if they can't pay that bill, they can then be sent to jail for that as well. … [Read more...]

SCOTUS Lets Cop Get Away With Murder. Again.


In a per curiam decision (which means it's unsigned), the Supreme Court has dismissed a case against a police officer in Texas who violated a direct order from his superior officer and opened fire the vehicle of a suspect who had been fleeing the police, killing the suspect. They did so on the basis of qualified immunity, the doctrine that says you can't sue a police officer unless they violate a clear right that has been long-established and spelled out. … [Read more...]

Anti-Westboro Baptist Protesters Challenge Topeka Ordinance


Well this is certainly a fascinating development. The Westboro Baptist Church has gone all the way to the Supreme Court to (successfully) defend their right to protest at funerals, and now a group that protests outside their church every week is challenging a Topeka ordinance that forbids "focused protests" outside churches. The protesters were charged with a misdemeanor for violating the ordinance. … [Read more...]

Another Teacher Doesn’t Understand the Law


The American Humanist Association's Appignani Humanist Legal Center has sent a letter to the East Syracuse Minoa School District in New York after a teacher there berated and bullied a student for not standing and reciting the pledge of allegiance. The teacher reportedly told the student "I don’t care about the law" when she told him she had a legal right not to say the pledge. … [Read more...]

Michigan State Police Using Cell Phone Spy Equipment


A new report from the ACLU, based on a Freedom of Information Act request, reveals that the Michigan State Police have, for nearly a decade, been using Stingray-type equipment that sweeps up all the cell phone traffic in a given area. These devices, which were justified on the grounds that they're necessary to stop terrorism, have instead been used in routine criminal cases. … [Read more...]