Marvin Wilson sucked his thumb into his adulthood, reads at a second grade level, has an IQ of 61, doesn’t know the difference between left and right, and as a child couldn’t wear a belt without cutting off his circulation. On Tuesday, barring a last-minute intervention from the US Supreme Court, he’ll be executed in Texas.
Film: At the Death House Door
Probation Fees Multiply, Firms Profit, and the Poor Go to Jail
Three years ago, Gina Ray, who is now 31 and unemployed, was fined $179 for speeding. She failed to show up at court (she says the ticket bore the wrong date), so her license was revoked. When she was next pulled over, she was, of course, driving without a license. By then her fees added up to more than $1,500. Unable to pay, she was handed over to a private probation company and jailed — charged an additional fee for each day behind bars.
For that driving offense, Ms. Ray has been locked up three times for a total of 40 days and owes $3,170, much of it to the probation company. Her story, in hardscrabble, rural Alabama, where Krispy Kreme promises that “two can dine for $5.99,” is not about innocence. It is, rather, about the mushrooming of fines and fees levied by money-starved towns across the country and the for-profit businesses that administer the system
The financial ability of the individual has no relationship to the scope of the rights involved here. The privilege against self-incrimination secured by the Constitution applies to all individuals. The need for counsel in order to protect the privilege exists for the indigent as well as the affluent.
While authorities are not required to relieve the accused of his poverty, they have the obligation not to take advantage of indigence in the administration of justice.
--Chief Justice Earl Warren. Today is the anniversary of Miranda v. Arizona.
Police Routinely Track Phones, Usually With Little or No Court Oversight
Law enforcement tracking of cellphones, once the province mainly of federal agents, has become a powerful and widely used surveillance tool for local police officials, with hundreds of departments, large and small, often using it aggressively with little or no court oversight, documents show.
The practice has become big business for cellphone companies, too, with a handful of carriers marketing a catalog of “surveillance fees” to police departments to determine a suspect’s location, trace phone calls and texts or provide other services. Some departments log dozens of traces a month for both emergencies and routine investigations.
In California, for example, police can download text messages when a phone is turned off.
And according to the ACLU, phone carriers keep cell tracking data for a long time: “Sprint keeps location tracking records for 18-24 months, and AT&T holds onto them “since July 2008,” suggesting they are stored indefinitely. Yet none of the major cell phone providers disclose to their customers the length of time they keep their customers’ cell tracking data.” This data can be obtained by police departments, often without a warrant or a showing of probable cause.
7 Milwaukee Police Officers And 1 Supervisor Stripped of Power Because of Misconduct
Seven Milwaukee police officers and a supervisor with a long history of misconduct complaints have been stripped of their police powers after several people complained about invasive body searches. The searches are being investigated as potential sexual assaults and civil rights violations.
The supervisor at the center of the investigation is Sgt. Jason Mucha, who has been investigated in the past after suspects accused him of beating them and planting drugs on them, according to police and court records.
Why Do Innocent People Confess?
The New York Times has a fascinating piece on the phenomenon of false confessions:
If you have never been tortured, or locked up and verbally threatened, you may find it hard to believe that anyone would confess to something he had not done. Intuition holds that the innocent do not make false confessions. What on earth could be the motive? To stop the abuse? To curry favor with the interrogator? To follow some fragile thread of imaginary hope that cooperation will bring freedom?
Yes, all of the above. Psychological studies of confessions that have proved false show an overrepresentation of children, the mentally ill and mentally retarded, and suspects who are drunk or high. They are susceptible to suggestion, eager to please authority figures, disconnected from reality or unable to defer gratification. Children often think, as Felix did, that they will be jailed if they keep up their denials and will get to go home if they go along with interrogators. Mature adults of normal intelligence have also confessed falsely after being manipulated.
About a year ago Clara Vannucci hopped on a yellow school bus as it went around the city picking up children, mothers, sisters and brothers. The destination was at the end of a long bridge in Queens — a holiday party for women jailed at Rikers Island.
“Sometimes they stay there for two years and don’t see themselves,” she said. “These pictures are the only way they can see themselves. When I show them the slide show, they start to cry, laugh. It’s a strong reaction when you don’t see your face for a year.”
A black Milwaukee driver is seven times as likely to be stopped by city police as a white resident driver, a Journal Sentinel analysis of nearly 46,000 traffic stops has found.
Similarly, Milwaukee police pulled over Hispanic city motorists nearly five times as often as white drivers, according to the review, which took into account the number of licensed drivers by race.
Police also searched black drivers at twice the rate of whites, but those searches didn’t lead to higher rates of seized weapons, drugs or stolen property.
Milwaukee Police Department Ignores National Standards for Domestic Violence
The very training that makes someone a good police officer can produce a frightening abuser, experts say.
For example, officers are trained to take control of every situation. They learn to interrogate suspects and to conduct effective surveillance. They learn how to pursue suspects and physically restrain them - in many cases, without leaving a mark. When they use force, they know how to provide legal justification.
This article is part of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s continuing investigative report on the corruption in the Milwaukee Police Department. Early parts of the series can be found here and are absolutely worth reading.
As a means of controlling crime, America’s prisons are notoriously inefficient and only minimally effective, often creating hardened criminals out of first-time offenders. The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population, yet 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. In the past generation, the imprisonment rate per capita in this country has multiplied by five. There are 2.3 million Americans in prisons and jails. Spending on prisons has reached $77 billion a year.
Even as the prison population has grown, less than half of the inmates are serving time for violent crimes. Far too often, prison has become a warehouse for people with drug or alcohol addiction. More than half of the population has some form of mental illness.
--The New York Times. Falling Crime, Teeming Prisons. Republican senators have sabotaged the National Criminal Justice Commission Act, which would be an essential step toward major criminal justice reform.
The department tolerates misconduct. Prosecutors give cops career-saving deals. The commission reduces punishments when officers break the rules. As a result, police who have crossed to the other side of the law keep the power that comes with the badge. Meanwhile, citizens have no way of knowing whether the officers responsible for protecting them have tarnished records.
-The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Both Sides of the Law: At least 93 Milwaukee police officers have been disciplined for violating law.