Justice in America Episode 3: Who Built Mass Incarceration? Prosecutors

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Who has had the biggest impact on the growth of our incarceration system? It’s not the judge, the jury, or the legislator. It’s not the police, and it’s certainly not the President. It’s someone else—the prosecutor. Prosecutors are getting more attention now than ever, but many people still don’t know what they do.

Prosecutors don’t just play an important role at trial. It is prosecutors who recommend what bail a judge should set, prosecutors who decide whether a person should face criminal charges and what those charges should be, and prosecutors who control the plea deal process. Perhaps more than anyone else, prosecutors are responsible for our mass incarceration epidemic. On this episode, we’ll explore the impact prosecutors have and take a look at how they wield their power.

We’ll talk about the problems with prosecutors, and their excessive power, negative incentives, and almost total lack accountability. We’ll also talk to John Pfaff, a lawyer, economist, and prosecutor expert, whose book, Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration—and How to Achieve Real Reform, examines the power of prosecutors.

Justice in America is available on iTunes, Soundcloud, Sticher, GooglePlay Music, and LibSyn RSS. You can also check us out on Facebook and Twitter. Our email is justiceinamerica@theappeal.org.

For more on prosecutors, check out these resources:

This week on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver coincidentally did a segment on prosecutors. Check it out here.

Here’s an op-ed in the New York Times Josie published last fall on prosecutors that pretend to be reformers but fall short.

The Brooklyn Defenders made this awesome video on the power of prosecutors last year.

Radley Balko always publishes great work on criminal justice and law enforcement, particularly prosecutors. You can find his work at the Washington Post here.

Here’s a good piece on our guest John Pfaff’s book from the Marshall Project.

The Appeal’s other podcast, also called The Appeal, had Josie on for their first episode to talk about prosecutors. Check it out here.

And of course, we publish a lot of pieces on prosecutors at The Appeal. Here are some pieces from just the past few weeks: Amanda Sakuma wrote about a primary challenge to the St. Louis County Attorney who, in 2014, chose not to charge the cop that murdered Michael Brown. (The challenger, Wesley Bell,  subsequently won.) George Joseph and Simon Davis-Cohen investigated the Bronx DA’s office and the ways they intentionally drag cases out, improperly burdening defendants; and Jessica Brand and Ethan Brown wrote about the federal prosecutors that charged over 200 inauguration day protesters for rioting, and the history of misconduct in that particular office.

Transcript By Josie Duffy Rice and Clint Smith III./TheAppeal

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

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Is It Really Fair to Call It Our ‘Justice System’? The deaths of Alton Sterling and others show that black Americans rarely get justice.

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On March 18, Stephon Clark was shot and killed by law enforcement officers in his grandparents’ backyard in Sacramento, California. Officers claimed they saw a gun in Clark’s hand. He was actually carrying a cell phone. In the heat of the moment, the police officers had the presence of mind to turn off the audio on their body cameras, but not to discern a cell phone from a gun. The officers discharged 20 bullets in Clark’s direction; he was shot eight times.

Clark’s family called upon the district attorney’s office to file criminal charges against the officers involved in Clark’s death. The California Department of Justice and the Sacramento County District Attorney have since launched an investigation into the incident. Sequita Thompson, Clark’s grandmother, insisted, “I want justice for my baby. I want justice for Stephon Clark.”

Justice for the black victims of police shootings has been hard to come by. In late March, the Louisiana state attorney general announced that no criminal charges would be filed against the two officers involved in the shooting death of Alton Sterling.

Can the criminal justice system, which encompasses the network of entities tasked with arresting, prosecuting, sentencing, and punishing those accused and convicted of crimes, continue to be known as the justice system when historically it has failed to provide justice for all?
Black Americans’ interactions with the system provide some insight.

Full Article By Ebony Slaughter-Johnson / AlterNet

Fifty Years On, MLK’s Call for Economic Justice Rings True

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Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down fifty years ago today on April 4, 1968. It was a turning point of the twentieth century, marking an ending and a beginning. It was the end of one phase of the Black Freedom struggle, and the beginning of one of the most volatile periods of U.S. politics since the Civil War.

 

"King was arguably the greatest progressive leader of the past century."(Photo: AP/Gerry Broome)

Image: Common Dreams

Dr. King was a Baptist minister, a prophetic visionary, a great coalition builder, a moral pillar, a polarizing figure, a movement strategist, a practitioner of nonviolence, a radical reformer. King was arguably the greatest progressive leader of the past century.

One the one hand, King’s life and his assassination seem distant after five decades. At the same time, it is haunting to know that King could be alive today had he lived on. He was only 39 when he was killed.

Perhaps it is a natural obsession to wonder what King could have been had he lived. What would he do today? What would he say about Trump? How would he respond to the issues of the day? Truth is, we don’t know. But we can learn urgent lessons from his life’s work.

More from Common Dreams

Posted by Libergirl

Report: DOJ, FBI Admit Years of Flawed Testimony From Forensic Unit

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The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000, The Washington Post reported.

Image: Getty

Twenty-six of the 28 examiners overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, the Post reported Saturday, citing information from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project.

 The organizations are assisting the government with the post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence and provided the statistics under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions, the Post reported.
Posted by Libergirl

Mystery Surrounds Case Of White Cop Who Shot Unarmed Black Man

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The last time he did that, the 68-year-old black great-grandfather got killed — shot to death after a slow-speed chase as he parked in his own driveway, by a 25-year-old white police officer.

Investigators determined that North Augusta Public Safety Officer Justin Craven broke the law. A prosecutor, in a rare action against a police officer, sought to charge him with voluntary manslaughter, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. But the grand jury disagreed, indicting him on a misdemeanor.

Satterwhite’s death highlights the increasing number of police shootings in South Carolina, and how uncommon it is for the officers involved to face criminal charges.

More from TPM

 

Posted by Libergirl

Justice Sotomayor Speaks Truth to (White) Power

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Image: wikipedia

The Justice’s dissent in the Michigan college admissions case was courageous, as the attorney general said, because she dared to identify an enduring remnant of “white supremacy” still clinging to American democracy. Of course the justice did not use that odious phrase. She would have been accused of sensationalizing the issue. But her Republican colleagues in the majority on the Supreme Court must have felt the sting of her accusation.

The Michigan case, Sonia Sotomayor explained, is simply the latest example of an old and familiar abuse of the Constitution. The white majority used its power to change the rules in the middle of the game and deprive racial minorities of a fair shot at acquiring their just political rights.

More from Alternet

 

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Who are the real thugs?

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Image: AP

Let’s play a game. It’s called: “Who’s the Thug?”

It’s the day after Thanksgiving 2012, and four teenagers are sitting in a Dodge Durango outside a convenience store in Jacksonville, Fla.

The Durango is red, which is unimportant. The teenagers are black, which is important.

The teenagers are planning to try to pick up some girls later in the evening and have stopped for some gum — “so our breath would smell good,” one will later testify — and cigarettes. The teenagers are playing loud music in the Durango.

A car pulls up next to the Durango, parking very close to it. Inside is Michael Dunn, 45, a software developer, and his fiancée. Both are white. Dunn’s fiancée goes into the store while Dunn waits in the car.

The couple are coming from the wedding of Dunn’s son. They have Dunn’s 7-month-old dog with them. Dunn had two drinks at the wedding but is not “buzzed,” he will later say. He describes his mood as happy.

More from Roger Simon @Politico

Posted by Libergirl

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