February 1, 2009
The chief judge at the Guantanamo Bay war crimes court Thursday rejected President Obama’s request to halt the prosecution of terrorism suspects. Obama had made a request rather than an order. The judge does have a lot of jurisdiction here, but I can’t imagine it holding up if Obama really pushed. I don’t really see the judges rejection of a request like this from the commander in chief as defensible. This could get interesting. There is a full and well written report on the issue over at the LA. times.
February 1, 2009
Under the Bush administration, the CIA began a practice of nabbing people off of the streets all over the world. They would be stripped, drugged, and flown via secret flights to secret locations, often allegedly chosen because of their lax laws on torture and interrogation. They were mistreated and interrogated, all without accusation, trial, or notification to either the country they were stolen from or their families. Many were released after years of torture without so much as an official accusation or apology.
Barack Obama has been conspicuously silent about the practice. He created a task force to reexamine renditions to make sure that they “do not result in the transfer of individuals to other nations to face torture”, but has otherwise taken no action to ban the practice. The L.A. Times cites an anonymous source within the Obama administration as saying, “The legal advisors working on this looked at rendition. It is controversial in some circles and kicked up a big storm in Europe. But if done within certain parameters, it is an acceptable practice.”.
At some point things like this have to fall under some sort of oversight. The danger of knowledge of capture affecting results is a short term one. Once an individual is noticed as missing, any organization they belong to would act under the assumption of capture. The risk of corruption that inevitably follows government unaccountability is then the greater threat. I could support the practice under very short term conditions. I can’t see holding anyone or more than a week without at least notification to their country of origin. Obama has banned torture and closed Gitmo. He has some credibility on the subject with me, but I’m going to be watching this one closely. I’ll update this post as more becomes available.
December 28, 2008
It looks like people are now taking advantage of this new, guilty until proven innocent folly in order to hurt their rivals. ‘Speed Camera Pimping“, as it is being called (Plate Cloning in Europe) is the act of putting a printout of someone else’s licence plate on your car and then intentionally zipping through red lights in order to rack up tickets. The city has a conflict of interest in this case since it is far easier for them to continue to accept these vast revenues than to solve the problem.
April 5, 2008
According to the New York Post a Judge has ruled (case is irrelevant) that a jury should be informed of mandatory sentencing.
What is the core purpose of a jury? The concept of a jury seems to have begun in an attempt to remove the appearance of conflict of interest between those in power and the people they preside over. Traditionally a jury is a group of people compelled to render a verdict as to the guilt or innocence of one of their peers. They are not generally allowed to interpret matters of law, since those are handled by the judge. If the judge decides that the jury is ruling contrary to clear evidence in the case, the judge can declare a mistrial and call a new jury. The judge also decides which information the jury will have access to. This has the potential to either preserve the impartiality of the jury or to skew the opinion, depending on what was withheld. The system seems to work, more or less, but it does bring to mind the saying that if voting could really change anything, it would be illegal.
If the job of the jury is simply to decide whether the defendant committed the crime or not, why would they need to know what sentence they could be condemning them to? I see three reasons this should be allowed. For one, if the true purpose of the jury is to see to it that those in power treat their peers fairly, sentencing seems quite relevant. Secondly, if a member of the jury is already familiar with the law, they would already know the answer, so why withhold it from the others? And finally, sentencing is not evidence directly relating to the case, so I see no reason to justify withholding it.