You Could Be Wrongfully Imprisoned If Governor Schwarzenegger Vetoes SB 511 and SB 609

(I am helping ACLU of Northern California and The Justice Project to get three very important bills signed. Right now there are three bills that the California legislature has passed and are ready for Governor Schwarzenegger to sign. But he might not sign them. These bills will help stop wrongful convictions. So we are trying to get some public awareness that these bills are waiting to be signed. These bills are SB 511, SB 609 and SB 756. This is another guest post toward that end. — Dave J.)
You Could Be Wrongfully Imprisoned If Governor Schwarzenegger Vetoes SB 511 and SB 609
By Harold Hall
Last month, I celebrated an untraditional anniversary. August 17, 2007 marked my third year of freedom from wrongful imprisonment. I spent nearly twenty years in prison for a crime I did not commit.

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Governor Schwarzenegger: Make California a Leader in Improving the Criminal Justice System

This is a guest post by John Terzano, The Justice Project

Health care reform may have stalled in California, but Governor Schwarzenegger still has a chance to make the state a leader in fixing a national problem: wrongful convictions. Three major criminal justice reform bills are now on the Governor’s desk.  The measures are designed to safeguard against wrongful convictions by making practical changes to eyewitness identification procedures, reforming the process by which confessions are attained, and regulating the use of jailhouse snitch testimony. 

With more than 200 exonerations to date in California it is critical that measures are enacted before more mistakes are made.  The governor has the ability to not only protect the innocent but enhance public safety and the integrity of California’s law enforcement by signing these important bills into law, and setting a standard for the nation.

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California Needs Higher Standards for the Use of “Snitch” Testimony

This is a guest post by John F. Terzano of The Justice Project
Harold Hall was only 18 years old when he was sent to prison. He spent nearly two decades of his life in a California prison for crimes he did not commit.
Hall was wrongfully convicted of double murder in 1985 based in part on evidence provided by a jailhouse informant who fabricated a confession Hall allegedly made to him.
Jailhouse informant testimony is widely regarded as the least reliable form of testimony in the criminal justice system, but unfortunately in Mr. Hall’s case and numerous others, uncorroborated testimony from unscrupulous jailhouse informants, or “snitches,” is still used by prosecutors to obtain convictions.

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California Needs Interrogation Reform to Prevent False Confessions

This is a guest post by John F. Terzano of The Justice Project
David Allen Jones spent 12 agonizing years in a California prison for a crime he did not commit. Then DNA exonerated him.
Mr. Jones was convicted of three murders he falsely confessed to after being interrogated by a team of detectives and taken to each of the crime scenes. During the intense interrogation, Jones was prodded by detectives and corrected when he gave statements that contradicted the evidence.

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California Needs Eyewitness Identification Reform

This is a guest post by John F. Terzano of The Justice Project
Herman Atkins suffered for 12 years in a California prison – for crimes he did not commit. Then DNA exonerated him. Mr. Atkins was a victim of faulty eyewitness identification.
Mr. Atkins’ wrongful conviction for rape and robbery began when the victim and a witness identified him as the perpetrator after seeing his picture on a wanted poster for an unrelated crime. Then, the photo array used later by police also contained the wanted poster photo, which had already been viewed by the witnesses.
Watch three minutes of Herman’s story on YouTube:

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Proven Innocent After Spending 8 years, 11 Months, and 19 Days

This is a guest post by Kirk Bloodsworth of The Justice Project
My name is Kirk Bloodsworth, and my case was the first capital conviction case in the United States to be overturned through DNA testing. I was exonerated in 1993 after spending almost nine years in prison, including two on death row, for a crime I did not commit.
Eyewitness misidentification played a pivotal role in my conviction and is now a major issue in the case of Georgia death row inmate, Troy Davis . In Davis’ case, seven of the nine eyewitnesses have recanted or contradicted their original testimony. The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles will review his case on August 9 but he faces execution.

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Skank Bolton

I’ve been grousing to myself, as I so often do, about yet another Bush appointment: John Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. This was announced after Rice swept across Europe full of protestations that the U.S. would turn over a new leaf, and work respectfully with others. Well, that didn’t last long. Bolton! Only a punk would nominate Bolton.

Now I read a story that lends substance to my churning and inchoate disgust. This article recounts the sorry history of the biological weapons treaty. Work on an enforcement mechanism for this treaty began in 1995. After initially signalling support, the Bush Administration sabotaged it at the 11th hour, sending Bolton, after six years of work, with the message that the U.S. did not support an enforcement protocol. This was really about the U.S. claiming full freedom to do any and all work on bio weapons which it chose. Academic experts were horrified and predicted a bio weapons arms race. Here is where it gets interesting:

A year later, China discovered SARS and tried to hide it. Three months later, terrified of the possibilities of its spreading throughout China and the world, it notified the World Health Organization, which immediately organized an emergency response on a scale unprecedented for any new illness. The WHO, too, was obviously terrified.

SARS was brought under control, but within the WHO, suppressed by pressure from a certain superpower, was an analysis of the SARS virus showing it to be an artificial creation designed to kill fast and furiously.

The conclusion was that it had somehow escaped from a military lab, which explained why, for three months, the Chinese authorities had hoped to counter the threat, ultimately in vain.

In the end, the Chinese were only too happy to have the analysis suppressed, and the superpower in question averted a major worldwide debate on the need for a bioweapons treaty with an enforcement mechanism.

I wish this were only about Bolton! Clearly he is a substantial contributor to the decline of international cooperation. Unfortunately the real story is the resulting decline in security which effects each one of us.


Rolling Stone (via /.):

A review of fines levied by other federal agencies suggests that the government may be taking swear words a bit too seriously. If the bill passes the Senate, Bono saying “fucking brilliant” on the air would carry the exact same penalty as illegally testing pesticides on human subjects. And for the price of Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl, you could cause the wrongful death of an elderly patient in a nursing home and still have enough money left to create dangerous mishaps at two nuclear reactors. (Actually, you might be able to afford four “nuke malfunctions”: The biggest fine levied by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last year was only $60,000.)

Bush loves Lieberman, torture lover

As Bush walked the Senate reception line, he greeted most senators with a smile or handshake. But when he got to Joe Lieberman, Bush puckered his lips and gave him a big KISS!

Why was Bush so grateful? We note that earlier in the day, Lieberman had (as he usually does) deserted his party and voted for the pro-torture Gonzales’ confirmation.

Lieberman – DINO (Democrat In Name Only)

Defined benefits and defined contributions

Guest-poster Camilo Wilson lives in Monterey, California. He has had a long, long career in computers and software, including writing the popular VolksWriter word processor and publishing Correct Grammar and the American Heritage Dictionary. He is the founder of his very privately held He studied political philosophy in Berkeley in the 60’s and incorporated that world view into a self-designated fiscally responsible liberal in 1980. He likes living in the forest.

Currently, Social Security pays a predictable amount until the end your days, just like a “defined benefit plan”. The privatization proposals take 2/3 of employee contributions and invest them in a classical “defined contribution plan”.

This terminology is important, as many people who care about retirement understand the difference perfectly well. A defined benefit spells out what you’re going to get, and it is the government/employer’s problem how it will meet its obligations, not yours. A defined contribution plan relieves that burden from the government/employee and transfers it squarely onto you, who now must make wise investment choices to make the money last until the end of your days.

The need to invest aggressively guarantees that people will make poor choices, and makes them specially vulnerable to greedy promoters. With the privatization option, you’re giving up a rock solid, predictable pension for the rest of your life in return for a small amount of money you can gamble put to work today.

More on Americans missing in the tsunami

Some trolling Rethuglicans jumped on me for my cynicism about Administration motives in not preparing the American people for traumatic casualty counts in the tsunami. Get a life, one advised. I’d be curious as to how such folks would have reacted to the suggestion, Get a life, after 9-11.

Well, Powell, one of the few grown-ups in the Administration, has touched this political hot potato.

“The number of private citizens or citizens unaccounted for still lingers around 4-5000,” he said, adding the figure was based on phone calls from relatives or friends inquiring about their whereabouts.

Mr Powell said this did not mean they were necessarily casualties in the catastrophe.

But he added: “We can’t ignore the very distinct possibility that there are Americans within this number who have lost their lives. We just don’t know that”.

Recall there has only been one missing victim recovered alive in the last 24 hours.

What about American Tsunami Casualties?

Well the Swedes have declared a day of mourning for the Swedes who died in the tsunami. The Germans are preparing their citizens for the worst. The American government, concerned as always more about image than death and suffering, has acknowledged 12 American dead, and advises the thousands of Americans missing to call Mom as soon as possible.

Yeah, right. Why does this picture remind me of the Administration allergy to the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq? Cover up the bad news as much as possible. Keep voters from the truth, so the Rethuglicans and friends can keep their lock on power and continue looting the country.

When are we going to have a government that gives a d*mn about the American people?

It’s a shame, a real shame.