Know Anyone Who Thinks Racial Profiling Is Exaggerated? Watch This, And Tell Me When Your Jaw Drops.
This video clearly demonstrates how racist America is as a country and how far we have to go to become a country that is civilized and actually values equal justice. We must not rest until this goal is achieved. I do not want my great grandchildren to live in a country like we have today. I wish for them to live in a country where differences of race and culture are not ignored but valued as a part of what makes America great.
What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White
Friday, October 20, 2017
Trump’s mindless cruelty to a soldier’s widow speaks to the core of his character - The Washington Post
"By Eugene Robinson Opinion writer October 19 at 7:57 PM One person who obviously didn’t know ‘what he was signing up for’ is President Trump. Others include Trump voters who believed they were electing a decent human being to be commander in chief.
What Trump reportedly said to the grief-stricken widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who gave his life for his country, is not some kind of minor miscue or media-fueled distraction. It speaks to the core issue of Trump’s character and demonstrates, as clearly as any incident to date, his unfitness for the office he holds — and dishonors.
Johnson and three other U.S. soldiers — Staff Sgt. Jeremiah ‘J.W.’ Johnson, Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright — were killed Oct. 4 in Niger, apparently ambushed by Islamic State-affiliated militants. Exactly what happened is unclear, and Congress should be as dogged in investigating these deaths as it was in probing Benghazi.
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"To White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, the conversation between the president of the United States and the spouse of a fallen soldier is “sacred.” And perhaps, private.
"Former president George W. Bush on Thursday delivered a rare political speech in which he warned of threats to American democracy and a decay of civic engagement, a message that was interpreted as a rebuke of President Trump’s divisive leadership style.
At a New York forum sponsored by his presidential center, Bush offered a blunt assessment of a political system corrupted by ‘conspiracy theories and outright fabrication’ in which nationalism has been ‘distorted into nativism.’
‘We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty,’ Bush said during a 16-minute address at ‘The Spirit of Liberty’ event. ‘Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone and provides permission for cruelty and bigotry. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.’
Bush did not mention Trump by name and former aides emphasized that his message echoed words he has spoken before. But the fact that a former president was sounding the alarm about American values and the United States’ role in the world at a time when Trump has unsettled allies abroad and provoked intense political backlash at home injected his remarks with greater urgency."
Thursday, October 19, 2017
A fallen black soldier being disrespected? That's not an aberration in America. The reported treatment of Sergeant La David Johnson’s family is part of this country’s ugly history regarding black people and the military. | Ameer Hasan Loggins | Opinion | The Guardian
"Donald Trump’s reported response to Myeshia Johnson, widow of slain soldier Sergeant La David Johnson, has the 45th president of the United States in the thick of yet another controversy. According to Frederica Wilson, a Democratic congresswoman from Florida, Trump said to the grieving widow that her husband “must have known what he signed up for”.
In an interview on CNN’s New Day, Wilson said Trump’s condescending condolences made the young widow cry: “When she actually hung up the phone, she looked at me and said: ‘He didn’t even know his name.’ That’s the worst part.”
Sergeant Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, added: “President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter, and also me and my husband.” After the president’s denial of the accusations, Jones-Johnson stood her ground in a Facebook post: “Yes, he did state that comment.”
I looked at the face of Sergeant Johnson, forever frozen in a picture. I recognized a black family in pain, and while Trump’s voice bounced around my brain saying “he must have known what he signed up for”, I found myself finishing his sentence, thinking: “Yes, he sadly signed up to be a part of history riddled with black military veterans being disrespected in the United States.”
The close of the civil war marked a rejuvenated reign of racialized terror levied on black individuals and communities in America. After the Emancipation Proclamation of 1865, thousands of black children, women, and men were slaughtered as a violent response to freedom for former enslaved black people.
As the 2016 report by the Equal Justice Initiative, a Montgomery, Alabama-based civil rights organization reminds us:
No one was more at risk of experiencing violence and targeted racial terror than black veterans who had proven their valor and courage as soldiers during the civil war, world war I, and world war II. Because of their military service, black veterans were seen as a particular threat to Jim Crow and racial subordination. Thousands of black veterans were assaulted, threatened, abused, or lynched following military service.
Sadly the racialized terror experienced by black veterans was also taking place inside of the military, as the military death penalty fell disproportionately on black soldiers.
During the first world war, black folks in America accounted for less than 10% of the army’s enlistment. Yet during the war, 70 soldiers were executed by the US military and, of those, 55 (79%) were black.
After President Truman ordered an end to the armed forces’ segregation in 1948, this racial disparity actually increased. The military carried out 12 executions from 1954 until the most recent one in 1961. Eleven of the 12 executed service members were black.
Disproportionate punishment for black people in the military continues to this very day. According to a 2017 study published by military advocacy group Protect Our Defenders, found “significant racial disparity in the military justice system.”
Black members of the military are, “substantially more likely” than their white counterparts to be punished in four out of the five branches of the US armed forces.
The report also found that black military service members were as much as 2.61 times more likely than their white peers to face court-martial or non-judicial punishment in an average year, noting that:
In the air force, black airmen on average are 71% more likely to face court-martial or non-judicial punishment (NJP) than white airmen.In the marine corps, black marines are, on average, 32% more likely to receive a guilty finding at a court-martial or NJP proceeding than white marines, with the size of the disparity becoming more significant the more serious the disciplinary action was.In the navy, black sailors are on average 40% more likely than white sailors to be referred to special or general court-martial.In the army, black soldiers are on average 61% more likely to face a special or general court-martial compared to white service members.The disparity is alarmingly notable, considering active white service members make up the largest racial group in the military at 74.6 %.
I fully empathize with the family of Sergeant La David Johnson. I can only imagine the levels of loss that they are feeling at this time: the loss of a loved one, the loss of privacy.
Sadly, the lack of respect given to them is not an American aberration. It is a part of this country’s ugly history regarding black people and the military.(Via.). A fallen black soldier being disrespected? That's not an aberration in America | Ameer Hasan Loggins | Opinion | The Guardian:
"Politico reports that congressional Republicans are privately admitting they will likely have to adopt some form of the bipartisan deal reached this week to shore up the Obamacare exchanges. Trump and Republicans have publicly blasted the compromise forged by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), which would fund cost-sharing reductions for two years in exchange for some deregulatory features that Republicans want. But that posture may not be sustainable, Republicans acknowledge:
Opinions newsletter Thought-provoking opinions and commentary, in your inbox daily. Sign up Republican sources say it’s only a matter of time before Congress must find some way of addressing the reeling insurance markets — a vote the GOP sources know will infuriate lawmakers and their base.
The most likely scenario is to push the matter off and fold a yet-to-be-determined solution into a year-end package they hope will include some GOP concessions as well as Democratic perks. Such a strategy, they argue, would be less painful than voting on a stand-alone bill that conservatives view as a ‘bailout’ for insurance companies — and a vote to ‘prop up’ a law they’ve tried to dismantle for years.
This constitutes an important, if implicit, admission that funding the CSRs is the right thing to do, because not funding them could help cause insurers to exit the individual markets, leaving millions without coverage options, including in many red states. Yet Trump and Republicans continue to oppose this, arguing that Murray-Alexander would ‘bail out’ insurance companies and take the focus off the GOP drive to repeal Obamacare. As White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders put it: ‘We’ve said all along that we want something that doesn’t just bail out the insurance companies, but actually provides relief for all Americans, and this bill doesn’t address that fact.’"
On May 25, 1861, Abraham Lincoln sat down to write a New York oyster salesman and his wife what was probably his first condolence letter of the Civil War.
“My dear Sir and Madam,” he began, “in the untimely loss of your noble son, our affliction here, is scarcely less than your own.”
The president had known the late Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth before the war, and found in him “a fine intellect, an indomitable energy. … And yet he was singularly modest and deferential in social intercourse.”
The day, before Ellsworth, 24, had been shot and killed in Alexandria, Va., by a Confederate sympathizer as he pulled down a Rebel flag flying from the roof of a hotel across the Potomac River from Washington.
It was one of the early deaths of the Civil War, then only a few weeks old, in a conflict that would claim tens of thousands of lives during the next four years.
And Lincoln’s letter to Ellsworth’s parents, Ephraim and Phoebe, is one of the most moving in American history: “In the hope that it may be no intrusion upon the sacredness of your sorrow, I have ventured to address you this tribute to the memory of my young friend, and your brave and early fallen child…”
Charles's Blow's last question is also the one I have and I have my doubts.
"It is a commonly accepted rule among those who are in the business of argument, especially online, that he or she who invokes Adolf Hitler, either in oratory or essays, automatically forfeits the argument.
The reference is deemed far too extreme, too explosive, too far beyond rational correlation. No matter how bad a present-day politician, not one of them has charted or is charting a course to exterminate millions of innocent people as an act of ethnic cleansing.
Hitler stands alone in this regard, without rival, a warning to the world about how evil and lethal human beings can be, a warning that what he did can never be allowed again.
That said, there are strategies that Hitler used to secure power and rise — things that allowed his murderous reign — that can teach us about political theory and practice. And very reasonable and sage comparisons can be drawn between Hitler’s strategies and those of others.
One of those lessons is about how purposeful lying can be effectively used as propaganda. The forthcoming comparison isn’t to Hitler the murderer, but to Hitler the liar.
According to James Murphy’s translation of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”:
“In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.”
The text continues:
“It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”
This demonstrates a precise understanding of human psychology, but also the dangerously manipulative nature that operates in the mind of a demon.
And yet, as many have noted, no person of sound reason or even cursory political awareness can read this and not be immediately struck by how similar this strategy of lying is to Donald Trump’s seeming strategy of lying: Tell a lie bigger than people think a lie can be, thereby forcing their brains to seek truth in it, or vest some faith in it, even after no proof can be found.
Trump is no Hitler, but the way he has manipulated the American people with outrageous lies, stacked one on top of the other, has an eerie historical resonance. Demagogy has a fixed design.
It should be mentioned that Vanity Fair reported in 1990 that Trump’s first wife, Ivana, “told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that from time to time her husband reads a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, ‘My New Order,’ which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed.” The magazine pointed out that “Hitler’s speeches, from his earliest days up through the Phony War of 1939, reveal his extraordinary ability as a master propagandist.” (At the time, Trump said, “If I had these speeches, and I am not saying that I do, I would never read them.”)
Trump has found a way to couch the lies so that people believe they don’t emanate from him but pass through him. He is not a producer but a projector.
One way he does this is by using caveats — “I was told,” “Lots of people are saying” — as shields.
Jenna Johnson of The Washington Post addressed this in June 2016, writing about Trump’s use of the phrase “a lot of people are saying”:
“Trump frequently couches his most controversial comments this way, which allows him to share a controversial idea, piece of tabloid gossip or conspiracy theory without technically embracing it. If the comment turns out to be popular, Trump will often drop the distancing qualifier — ‘people think’ or ‘some say.’ If the opposite happens, Trump can claim that he never said the thing he is accused of saying, equating it to retweeting someone else’s thoughts on Twitter.”
In August of 2016, Gregory Krieg and Jeff Simon came to a similar conclusion about Trump’s use of these phrases, pointing out on CNN:
“Trump has a habit of punctuating his more self-assured claims with the phrase ‘believe me.’ But when he wants space between himself and the words he is about to speak or tweet, he defers to other sources, relying on a rhetorical sleight.”
Just this week, Trump told the colossal lie that “President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls” to the families of fallen soldiers.
When called out about this lie, he quickly retreated to one of his shield phrases: “That’s what I was told.”
He even projects his own ignorance onto others with his lies. As Steve Benen pointed out in July on MSNBC.com, Trump’s “awkward process of discovery has, however, produced a phrase of underappreciated beauty: ‘A lot of people don’t know that.’ These seven words are Trump’s way of saying, ‘I just learned something new, and I’m going to assume others are as ignorant as I am.’ ”
This is not a simple fear of the truth; it is a weaponizing of untruth. It is the use of the lie to assault and subdue. It is Trump doing to political ends what Hitler did to more brutal ends: using mass deception as masterful propaganda.
Maybe I have crossed the ink-stained line of the essay writer, where Hitler is always beyond it. But I don’t think so. Ignoring what one of history’s greatest examples of lying has to teach us about current examples of lying, particularly lying by the “president” of the most powerful country in the world, seems to me an act of timidity in a time of terror. It is an intentional self-blinding to avoid offending frail sensibilities.
I have neither time nor patience for such tiptoeing. I prefer the boot of truth to slam down to earth like thunder, no matter the shock of hearing its clap.
The world has seen powerful leaders use lying as a form of mass manipulation before. It is seeing it now, and it will no doubt see it again. History recycles. But the result doesn’t have to be — and hopefully never will be again — a holocaust. It can manifest as a multitude of other, lesser horrors, in both protocol and policy, including the corrosion and regression of country and culture.
That is the very real threat we are facing. Trump isn’t necessarily a direct threat to your life — unless of course you are being kept alive by health care that he keeps threatening, or if you’re in Puerto Rico reeling in the wake of two hurricanes — but he is very much a threat to your quality of life.
The only question is: Are enough Americans sufficiently discerning to understand that this time they are the ones being manipulated?
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
By Sarah Stillman, www.newyorker.comView OriginalOctober 17th, 2017
The right to jail these so-called material witnesses has deep roots in America.
Photo by: Illustration Justin Renteria
One night in May, 2015, an accountant named Renata Singleton arrived home from work and changed into lounge pants. Singleton, a polite, bespectacled woman in her mid-thirties, who kept the books for a local New Orleans charter school, intended to have a quiet evening with her three children. She was surprised when two uniformed police officers knocked on the door. “Can we speak to you away from your kids?” one of the cops asked. Singleton stepped outside to join the officers and recalls one of them explaining, “The district attorney’s office called us to come and pick you up tonight.” The officers had a warrant to arrest Singleton and take her to the Orleans Parish Prison. Singleton had not committed—nor even been accused of—a crime. But, six months earlier, she’d called the cops after her then boyfriend, in a jealous fit, grabbed her cell phone and smashed it; she’d feared for her safety. The cops had arrived and arrested the boyfriend. Later, Singleton told the district attorney’s office that she wasn’t interested in pursuing charges. (She’d left the relationship in the meantime.) Still, the D.A.’s office pressed ahead. Her ex faced charges of “simple battery and criminal damage to property less than 500 dollars,” and prosecutors wanted Singleton to testify against him in court.
Now, the cops had a warrant to arrest Singleton because, according to the D.A.’s office, she had dodged the office’s attempts to serve her a subpoena or contact her by phone; according to Singleton, a prosecutor wanted to interview her about the alleged crime in private and had deemed her an uncoöperative victim. (Singleton told me that she had planned to appear in court; she’d ignored two previous subpoenas left in her door, which were improperly served.) The D.A.’s office was using an arcane tool of the law—a little-known but highly consequential instrument called a “material witness” statute—to jail Singleton until she testified in court about the cell-phone incident.
While the officers were at Singleton’s home, a friend who worked in law enforcement arrived and told the officers, “Don’t do this! The kids are in the house—you’re going too far!” She promised to escort Singleton to the D.A.’s office in the morning, after arrangements could be made for the children.
The next day, as promised, Singleton met with an assistant district attorney, Arthur Mitchell, who questioned her about her evasiveness and pressed for details on the domestic-violence incident. (His office, he claimed, had visited her house and place of employment on numerous occasions, hoping that she would talk.)
“I need a lawyer,” Singleton said.
“You’re the victim,” Mitchell replied, according to Singleton. “You don’t get a lawyer.”
“Well, right now I don’t feel like the victim,” Singleton responded. As an officer came to arrest her, putting her in handcuffs and escorting her to a police car, Singleton thought about her son and daughter—ages ten and fifteen—who were expecting to see their mom after school.
“Please,” Singleton said to the officer. “How will I explain this to my kids?”
Across America, some prosecutors—arguably with the authority of state and federal laws—are jailing innocent crime victims and witnesses, in hopes of insuring their testimony in court. In Washington State, a sexual-assault victim was arrested and jailed to secure her testimony against the alleged perpetrator. (He was found guilty of kidnapping, attempted rape, and assault with sexual motivation.) In Hillsboro, Oregon, a Mexican immigrant was jailed for more than two years—nine hundred and five days—to obtain his testimony in a murder case. (The case was being brought against his son.) And in Harris County, Texas, a rape survivor suffered a mental breakdown in court while testifying against her assailant. Afraid that the woman would disappear before finishing her testimony, the court jailed her for a month. She has since filed a federal lawsuit against the county and several individuals involved, alleging that she was “abused, neglected, and mentally tortured” while in detention.
The right to jail these so-called material witnesses has deep roots in America. (A material witness is an individual considered vital to a case, often because he or she saw a crime unfold or was its victim.) As early as 1789, the Judiciary Act codified the duty of witnesses to appear before the court and testify. From a public-safety perspective, the statute has a clear purpose: the perpetrator of a crime should not escape punishment because of a witness’s reluctance to testify. “The duty to disclose knowledge of crime rests upon all citizens,” a 1953 U.S. Supreme Court opinion, in the case Stein v. New York, reads. “It is so vital that one known to be innocent may be detained, in the absence of bail, as a material witness.” In 1984, Congress reaffirmed the right to jail material witnesses, but also noted that their testimony should be secured by deposition, rather than imprisonment, “whenever possible.” Jailing crime survivors and innocent witnesses, in other words, was legal but undesirable.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft identified the material-witness statute as a convenient weapon for the war on terror. Federal agents could use it to detain individuals of interest, even without sufficient evidence to arrest them as criminal defendants, by deeming them “witnesses” to terrorism-related crimes. In late 2001, the Department of Justice used material-witness laws to target Muslims, often arresting them at gunpoint and later placing some in solitary confinement. According to Human Rights Watch, the U.S. government eventually apologized to at least thirteen people for wrongful detention as material witnesses, and released dozens more without charges. “Holding as ‘witnesses’ people who are in fact suspects sets a disturbing precedent for future use of this extraordinary government power to deprive citizens and others of their liberty,” Human Rights Watch argued. In the face of lawsuits and public scrutiny, the practice slowed.
Recently, however, controversy over the use of material-witness statutes has resurfaced—this time at the state and local level. In parts of the country, prosecutors are using these orders to put crime victims—especially poor victims, and, in cities like New Orleans, victims of color—in jail in order to get swift victories in court, sometimes, puzzlingly, in minor cases. A lawsuit filed today in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union and Civil Rights Corps, a legal nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., seeks to challenge what it calls “the Orleans Parish District Attorney Office’s unconstitutional policy of using extrajudicial and unlawful means to coerce, arrest, and imprison crime victims and witnesses.” The suit alleges that the office’s practices “ensure these victims and witnesses are trapped in jail.”
Despite the public attention given to prosecutorial misconduct in recent years, this form of alleged abuse has gone mostly unnoticed. Last spring, a watchdog group called Court Watch NOLA released a report documenting attempts by the office of the Orleans Parish D.A., Leon Cannizzaro, Jr., to coerce testimony from crime survivors. The lawsuit filed today, on behalf of Singleton and other plaintiffs, questions the justifications that prosecutors have used to put victims and innocent witnesses in jail. According to the complaint, prosecutors sought more than a hundred and fifty material-witness warrants over the past five years in Orleans Parish; approximately ninety per cent of the victims and witnesses, in cases where the A.C.L.U. could determine race, were people of color. Poverty, homelessness, precarious immigration status, and mental-health issues were all invoked by the D.A.’s office as reasons to jail crime victims, who included survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child sex trafficking.
“We believe we’ve only scratched the surface of this trend,” Katie Chamblee-Ryan, an attorney for Civil Rights Corps, told me. “The pattern of behavior is so brazen, but it wouldn’t naturally come to light without dogged investigation”—in part, she alleged, because prosecutors often don’t file the relevant documents. (Both the A.C.L.U. and Civil Rights Corps are launching national initiatives to seek prosecutorial accountability.)
Starting last spring, I began reviewing the cases of more than a dozen material witnesses who had been detained in New Orleans. Near the city’s Garden District, I sat down with a sixty-year-old homeless man who was arrested largely because he didn’t want to have a private meeting with prosecutors about his assault; he was jailed for eight days, on a hundred-thousand-dollar bond. More recently, I reviewed the case of an alleged incest victim, “M. C.,” whom prosecutors sought to jail because they feared she might not show up in court. Their reasons included the claim that, “as the victim of this heinous crime” involving sexual abuse by her father, the victim “has routinely changed residences, and does not have a stable address.”
“This isn’t something we celebrate doing—it’s a last resort,” Christopher Bowman, an assistant district attorney and spokesperson for Cannizzaro’s office, told me. “But the people who want to criticize us for doing it don’t have a solution for how not to do it, unless it’s to just dismiss the case, which we are not willing to do.” Public safety, Bowman argued, demands that these cases be prosecuted successfully. And the fear of snitching in New Orleans runs deep; the D.A.’s office, he said, needs tools to combat this fear, and budget cuts have left prosecutors with few options. The threat of jail time, Bowman concluded, had proved effective—but crime survivors in the city told me otherwise.
This past April, Marc Mitchell, a soft-spoken forty-one-year-old, told me about his experience being jailed as a crime victim in Orleans Parish. In the summer of 2014, Mitchell was playing basketball with a few family members in Central City, New Orleans, when a younger man—a complete stranger—walked up and demanded a turn on the court. Mitchell dismissed the stranger, not realizing that, according to later reports, he belonged to a local gang. A few minutes afterward, another man came up to the basketball court with a gun, and fired bullets into Mitchell’s leg and chest, and into his cousin’s neck. “I had nowhere to go, so I just lay down,” Mitchell recalled. He nearly died. A neighborhood boy happened upon the scene, called 911, and cradled Mitchell and his cousin in his arms, repeating, “I love y’all. I love y’all.” (The boy was also a stranger—“heaven-sent,” Mitchell said.)
Mitchell tried to coöperate with law enforcement. Hours after the attack, still in a hospital bed, he identified the mug shot of the man who’d confronted him on the basketball court. Eventually, the alleged shooter was also identified and charged with attempted murder. Mitchell testified for the prosecution, even though he knew that it could put his life at risk. Prosecutors got a swift conviction. “I just wanted to be safe,” Mitchell told me.
As the trial for the second defendant neared, however, Mitchell’s relationship with the D.A.’s office soured. Mitchell, according to the A.C.L.U. and Civil Rights Corps lawsuit, felt that prosecutors “seemed more intent on telling him what had happened than actually listening to Mr. Mitchell’s account of the shooting.” Equally troubling, he told me, was that the D.A.’s office had made—but not kept—certain promises intended to allay his fears about his safety. “They claimed that they would have people watching us and helping us,” Mitchell said. “They promised a lot, but, when it came down to it, they said, ‘We can’t do it,’ or they wouldn’t answer the phone.” (The D.A.’s office told me that it followed through on its promises to Mitchell.)
In April, 2016, Mitchell told an assistant district attorney that he wanted no further private contact with prosecutors—though he also signed a subpoena pledging to appear in court. Two days later, the prosecutor submitted a motion to jail Mitchell as a material witness. The next day, Mitchell was in the lobby of a hotel where he worked in housekeeping, wearing his white dinner jacket, black tuxedo pants, and bow tie, when police arrived; they took him away as hotel guests gawked. (Mitchell told me that his arresting officers were kind. “They told me to get a lawyer,” Mitchell said. “They wished me good luck.”) Mitchell’s family convinced the head of a local advocacy organization to fight for Mitchell’s release, and he was let out the next morning. Mitchell felt that the prosecutors hadn’t taken into account how being arrested and jailed would affect him, or others like him. “They were looking for awards and promotions,” he told me. “We’ve still got to go on and live, even afterward.”
Mitchell began researching the practice of jailing victims in New Orleans and learned that, in some ways, he’d been lucky. He’d spent one night in jail, whereas some crime victims—including an alleged child-sex-trafficking victim—had spent months locked up. And the subpoena that Mitchell had signed appeared to be a legitimate legal document; some of his fellow-plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including Renata Singleton, discovered that the “subpoenas” they’d received from the D.A.’s office might not be lawful in the first place. “This district attorney’s office has a policy of employing illegal tactics to coerce witnesses,” Chamblee-Ryan said. These tactics included “the use of fraudulent subpoenas in serious cases and minor cases, too, to deceive people into thinking that they are required to report to the D.A.’s office for interrogation.”
Singleton was crying when she arrived at the Orleans Parish Prison. Officials ordered her to strip, and handed her an orange jumpsuit, white underwear, and a sports bra. In her cell, Singleton found an empty top bunk. “I couldn’t sleep,” she said. “A million things were going through my mind.” She found the food in the jail “inedible.” She feared that the other inmates might attack her, until she noticed that many of the women received steady doses of medication and slept almost constantly. A cellmate eventually explained, “You’re in the psych ward.”
One anxiety supplanted another. “The fear that someone was going to hurt me got replaced by my worries about my kids and my job,” Singleton said. She was afraid that she’d be fired for missing work. She called home. “I could hear my daughter on the phone,” Singleton recalled. “She just held the phone and cried, never said a word.” When Singleton finally saw a judge, she entered the courtroom in handcuffs and chains. She spotted her mom, a tax accountant, in the audience, crying. “I just felt so embarrassed,” Singleton said. As a victim, Singleton was not entitled to a public defender, so her mother had hired a private attorney.
Singleton’s bond was set at a hundred thousand dollars. She was shocked; there was no way her family could afford such a sum, and it was more than ten times higher than the bond of her ex-boyfriend, the alleged perpetrator. Her private lawyer wrote, “Defendant has three small kids, ties to the community, and a job that she is in danger of losing.” The judge agreed to let Singleton out, provided that she wear an electronic ankle monitor, abide by an 8 P.M. curfew, and come to court the next day to testify. Singleton had already been locked up for nearly a week.
On the way home, Singleton told her mother, “Let’s stop at King’s Chicken.” She’d lost eight pounds while in jail. “I was so hungry,” she told me. But when her chicken fingers arrived, she stared at them: “My appetite wasn’t there—my body had gotten used to not eating.” At home, she found bellbottom jeans to hide her ankle monitor and wrapped a blanket around her legs at the kitchen table. Still, one of her sons asked, “Where’d you go? Why’d you leave and not tell me?”
Only much later, after Singleton began speaking with attorneys from Civil Rights Corps and the A.C.L.U., did she discover that the subpoenas used to justify her jailing were apparently fraudulent. This past April, the Lens, a New Orleans news site, reported that the district attorney’s office had been issuing fraudulent subpoenas to “order” attendance at private meetings with prosecutors, alongside a warning: “A FINE AND IMPRISONMENT MAY BE IMPOSED FOR FAILURE TO OBEY THIS NOTICE.” The “subpoenas” were, in fact, improvised documents created by the D.A.’s office; they lacked full legal authority. The D.A.’s office told the press that they would stop using the fraudulent subpoenas, which they call D.A. “notices.” Bowman repeated this claim to me, adding that the use of such documents stretched back decades, across many jurisdictions. “This was not limited to Orleans Parish,” he said. Just last month, Cannizzaro claimed at a city-council hearing that the D.A. notices hadn’t actually been used to jail people: “Show me one person who was ever arrested and convicted with one of those D.A. notices!”
Renata Singleton, the lawsuit alleges, received one of these fraudulent subpoenas—and she did, indeed, end up in jail. Singleton told me that “the craziest part” of the whole experience turned out to be her ex-boyfriend’s hearing. She arrived at court early, ready to testify, only to learn that he had already pleaded guilty, avoiding jail time altogether. Her testimony wasn’t needed after all. He’d agreed to a six-month suspended sentence, with one year of inactive probation. “I was so violated, so upset and hurt that I had to sit in jail,” Singleton told me. “So, when I found out he took a plea and didn’t have to do anything, I was, like, ‘Are you serious?’ ” She gave a wry laugh. “I wish I could have had that deal.”
When I asked Singleton about the residual effects of her detention, she replied, “I probably won’t call the police again, as long as it wasn’t life-threatening.” She tried to imagine what she’d do if she ended up in another physically dangerous situation. “Even if I get choked, I’ll hope they don’t kill me,” she said. “I’d rather get choked and survive than go back to jail.”
Why Are Prosecutors Putting Innocent Witnesses in Jail? | The New Yorker
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Monday, October 16, 2017
"In the 1930s, the Germans were fascinated by the global leader in codified racism—the United States.
There was no more extravagant site for Third Reich political theater than the spectacular parade grounds, two large stadiums, and congress hall in Nuremberg, a project masterminded by Albert Speer. From 1933 to 1938, he choreographed massive rallies associated with the annual conference of the Nazi Party, assemblies made famous by Leni Riefenstahl’s stunning documentaries of 1933 and 1935, The Victory of Faith and Triumph of the Will. Nuremberg was the setting for the September 1935 “Party Rally of Freedom,” at which a special session of the Reichstag passed, by acclamation, legislation that disqualified Jews as Reich citizens with political rights, forbade them to marry or have sex with persons identified as racial Germans, and prohibited any display by Jews of national colors or the new national flag, a banner with a swastika.
Just eight days after the Reich Citizenship Law, the Law on the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, and the Reich Flag Law were formally proclaimed by Adolf Hitler, 45 Nazi lawyers sailed for New York under the auspices of the Association of National Socialist German Jurists. The trip was a reward for the lawyers, who had codified the Reich’s race-based legal philosophy. The announced purpose of the visit was to gain “special insight into the workings of American legal and economic life through study and lectures,” and the leader of the group was Ludwig Fischer. As the governor of the Warsaw District half a decade later, he would preside over the brutal order of the ghetto.
Every day brings fresh reminders that liberal and illiberal democracy can entwine uncomfortably, a timely context for James Q. Whitman’s Hitler’s American Model, which examines how the Third Reich found sustenance for its race-based initiatives in American law. Upon docking, the Germans attended a reception organized by the New York City Bar Association. Everyone in the room would have known about the recent events in Nuremberg, yet the quest by leading Nazi jurists to learn from America’s legal and economic systems was warmly welcomed.
Whitman, a professor at Yale Law School, wanted to know how the United States, a country grounded in such liberal principles as individual rights and the rule of law, could have produced legal ideas and practices “that seemed intriguing and attractive to Nazis.” In exploring this apparent incongruity, his short book raises important questions about law, about political decisions that affect the scope of civic membership, and about the malleability of Enlightenment values.
Pushing back against scholarship that downplays the impact in Nazi Germany of the U.S. model of legal racism, Whitman marshals an array of evidence to support the likelihood “that the Nuremberg Laws themselves reflect direct American influence.” As race law’s global leader, Whitman stresses, America provided the most obvious point of reference for the September 1933 Preußische Denkschrift, the Prussian Memorandum, written by a legal team that included Roland Freisler, soon to emerge as the remarkably cruel president of the Nazi People’s Court. American precedents also informed other crucial Nazi texts, including the National Socialist Handbook for Law and Legislation of 1934–35, edited by the future governor-general of Poland, Hans Frank, who was later hung at Nuremberg. A pivotal essay in that volume, Herbert Kier’s recommendations for race legislation, devoted a quarter of its pages to U.S. legislation—which went beyond segregation to include rules governing American Indians, citizenship criteria for Filipinos and Puerto Ricans as well as African Americans, immigration regulations, and prohibitions against miscegenation in some 30 states. No other country, not even South Africa, possessed a comparably developed set of relevant laws.
Especially significant were the writings of the German lawyer Heinrich Krieger, “the single most important figure in the Nazi assimilation of American race law,” who spent the 1933–34 academic year in Fayetteville as an exchange student at the University of Arkansas School of Law. Seeking to deploy historical and legal knowledge in the service of Aryan racial purity, Krieger studied a range of overseas race regimes, including contemporary South Africa, but discovered his foundation in American law. His deeply researched writings about the United States began with articles in 1934, some concerning American Indians and others pursuing an overarching assessment of U.S. race legislation—each a precursor to his landmark 1936 book, Das Rassenrecht in den Vereingten Staaten (“Race Law in the United States”).
Whitman’s “smoking gun” is the transcript of a June 5, 1934, conference of leading German lawyers gathered to exchange ideas about how best to operationalize a racist regime. The record reflects how the most extreme among them, who relied on Krieger’s synoptic scholarship, were especially drawn to American legal codes based on white supremacy. The main conceptual idea was Freisler’s. Race, he argued, is a political construction. In both America and Germany, the importance and meaning of race for the most part had been determined less by scientific realities or social conventions than by political decisions enshrined in law.
But even indisputable evidence of the Germans’ intense interest in American models doesn’t clinch a formative role for U.S. racial law, as Whitman himself is careful to acknowledge. After all, Nazism’s intellectual and political leaders may well have utilized American examples merely to make more legitimate the grotesque designs they already planned to pursue. In any case, answering the question of cross-national influence is ultimately less important than Whitman’s other goal, which is to examine the status of racial hierarchy in the United States through Nazi eyes. “What the history presented in this book demands that we confront,” he writes, “are questions not about the genesis of Nazism, but about the character of America.”
His disturbing report thus takes its place within the larger history of the United States as a polity founded on principles of human equality, Enlightenment reason, and constitutional limits on state power, yet molded by the prodigious evil and long-term consequences of chattel slavery based on race. To read Hitler’s American Model is to be forced to engage with the stubborn fact that during the 1933–45 period of the Third Reich, roughly half of the Democratic Party’s members in Congress represented Jim Crow states, and neither major party sought to curtail the race laws so admired by German lawyers and judges.
How to understand the relationship between race and democracy has been a pressing question ever since the United States was founded. The deep tension between the two—summed up in the irony of a plantation named Equality in Port Tobacco, Maryland, filled with slaves and owned by Michael Jenifer Stone, one of the six members of that state’s delegation to the House of Representatives in the First Federal Congress—puzzled the great student of American equality Alexis de Tocqueville. In Democracy in America, published precisely a century before the Nuremberg Laws, he began a discussion of “the three races that inhabit the territory of the United States” by announcing that these topics “are like tangents to my subject, being American, but not democratic, and my main business has been to describe democracy.”
Whitman invokes the work of political scientists who, in the separate-spheres spirit of Tocqueville, distinguish what they call a white-supremacist order from a liberal and egalitarian order. But his own book shows that such a division is too clear-cut. We must come to terms with race in America in tandem with considerations of democracy. Whitman’s history does not expose the liberal tradition in the United States as merely a sham, as many of the Third Reich’s legal theorists intimated when they highlighted patterns of black and American Indian subordination. Rather, he implicitly challenges readers to consider when and how, under what conditions and in which domains, the ugly features of racism have come most saliently to the fore in America’s liberal democracy. Conversely, we might ask, when and why have those features been repressed, leading to more-equal access for racial minorities to physical space, cultural regard, material life, and civic membership?
Liberal-democratic ideas and institutions in America, unlike in Hitler’s regime, have always been both vulnerable and resistant to racist exclusions. Although the United States entered the 1930s as the globe’s most established racialized order, the pathways from Nuremberg and Jim Crow unfolded very differently, one culminating in mass genocide, the other, after much struggle, in civil-rights achievements. Yet none of these gains, not even the presidency of an African American, has taken issues of race and citizenship off the political agenda. Current debates over both sharply remind us that positive outcomes are not guaranteed. The very rules of the democratic game—elections, open media, and political representation—create persisting possibilities for racial demagoguery, fear, and exclusion. As Freisler and other Third Reich jurists understood all too well, racial ideas and racist policies are profound products of political decisions."