Book Review: You Have The Right To Remain Innocent by James Duane

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You Have The Right To Remain Innocent

“Any lawyer worth his salt will tell the suspect in no uncertain terms to make no statement to the police under any circumstances.”-Former United States Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, Watts v. Indiana

Many times, we hear about convicted offenders who confess to crimes, who would later admit they didn’t commit the crime and it turns out that they weren’t lying. Some suspects feel pressure by the police to talk, during the interrogation process. Even in simple traffic and pedestrian stops like we now call stop-n-frisk citizens give out too much information, that might find them in the nearest jail or prison because one didn’t know when to keep their mouth shut.

I have always said, if I commit a crime let’s say hypothetically robbed a bank I won’t say a damn thing to the police If I’m picked up and question as a possible suspect in the crime and I’m innocent, talking to the police is the worse thing one can do. Let’s use the Central 5 case as an example, where five young black men were interrogated for hours, and eventually confess to a crime they didn’t commit. What should have happened in that case is that all of them shouldn’t have said a word. Once the parents arrived, the parents should have requested their kids to be released or charge. Otherwise, everything (especially talking to the police) is off the table.

Well, author and law professor James Duane breaks down when a citizen should talk to the police, which is in very rare circumstances in the book entitled You Have The Right To Remain Innocent. Duane let’s the readers becomes aware that the police’s job is to use one’s words against you and that one has the right to remain silent.

Real cases are discuss and evaluated to give the reader an understanding at what’s at risk when one discloses too much information to the police. Some of these real life stories are nothing short of how the criminal justice system needs revamping in the worse way. It’s frightening how so many innocent people are caught up in the criminal justice system, who were innocent because they just couldn’t keep their mouth shut. In other words, the things one says can be used against you.

This book is a guide, that should be followed especially in the event that one finds themselves in the presence of the police being peppered with questions. If one wants the extreme short version, a simple Google search of James Duane on YouTube would be suffice in getting the same information that is in this short guide, but it’s still worth the read. Lastly, this guide is imperative to those who need to get familiar with one’s constitutional rights as it relates to interactions with the police, and it drives home the consequences of those who talk to much to them, which can be used against you.

Rating 4 out 5.

-Ms Scripter

Just blogging for the masses, ya dig?

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Sharanda Jones: Crack-Cocaine Sentencing Guidelines & Clemency

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OPINION- President Obama started his yearly Presidential tradition by granting clemency to those who are serving time in prison with emphasis on non-violent offenders. One particular case that I wasn’t aware of until now is Sharanda Jones, who was sentenced to life in prison for conspiracy to distribute crack-cocaine. Jones was a first time offender, and when crack is involved expect a sentence that a murderer or rapist should endure.

The tough on crime guidelines with emphasis on crack-cocaine possession and intent to sell were obviously racially bias. It didn’t take long for many to notice that the individual(s) who were more than likely have possession of crack-cocaine would be Black because it was a cheaper drug sold in urban poor communities compared to whites. What makes this disheartening is that crack-cocaine didn’t just pop into urban communities randomly – it was by design.

To sentence a non-violent offender to life in prison isn’t just a horrific thing to do, but it’s downright inhumane. The United States loves to inform other countries about how inhumane they are like China and Russia, but the U.S. is practicing that right now in their back yard. The United States prison population surpasses China’s by a mile!

Jones crime was being a middle-women between a buyer and a drug supplier of cocaine. The prosecutor added that Jones should have known the cocaine was going to be converted into crack, which automatically provides a harsher penalty if convicted. The crack-cocaine sentencing guidelines were the starting point of mass incarceration in this country, backed by then President (you know the first Black President, some of you would say) Bill Clinton. It boasted the prison population, which in turn produced a lot of free labor. Once again, this was all by design.

A lot of people may think that if one got themselves in this situation like Jones did, she has no one to blame but herself. One would hear a person say that everyone has a “choice,” which is true. Until one is faced with these choices, being judgmental doesn’t help much. I can be a back seat driver too, but I prefer to look deeper than chastising and finger pointing.

The unemployment rate for Blacks back when Jones was arrested compared to now has reached enormous levels. Jobs (manufacturing) that were usually appointed to Black people were sent overseas never to return (just look at the automobile industry). When that happens desperation kicks in with the lure of financial prosperity in the crack business. Sometimes those same people who are doing well enough to keep afloat, but the allure of more money can be tempting for some. Fast money can cause those to make mistakes and that is what Jones did that got her into serious trouble.

Jones had grown up poor, raised by her grandmother after her mother was left quadriplegic by a car crash.

But Jones, who started working when she was 14, had an entrepreneurial streak, opening her own hair salon and a burger joint before starting a Southern-style restaurant in Dallas with a woman from Terrell who was a Dallas police officer.

A friend told Jones she could earn thousands more if she “got into the game.”

“It was fast money,” she says now. “Biggest mistake I ever made.”

Sure, Jones should have known better especially since she appeared to be on the right track. Sometimes the decisions we make aren’t good ones, but in Jones’ case a lifetime of punishment wasn’t warranted.

Remember, a prosecutor is the most powerful person in the criminal justice system. Unfortunately for Jones, the prosecutor in this case demonstrated how powerful they were with a barrage of charges levied against Jones:

Her license for a concealed weapon amounted to carrying a gun “in furtherance of a drug conspiracy.”

Enhancement.

When she was convicted on one count of seven, prosecutors said her testimony in her defense had been false and therefore an “obstruction of justice.”

Enhancement.

Although she was neither the supplier nor the buyer, prosecutors described her as a leader in a drug ring.

Enhancement.

The penalties for being caught with crack cocaine were so harsh it had a rippling effect and hurt the Black family. It’s astonishing that violent offenders don’t get as much time as a non-offender when convicted of crimes. The criminal justice system needs to be dismantled and reconstructed. The fact that these sentencing guidelines lasted this long, without it being addresses sooner are a tragedy to those who have been in jail for decades and at times are first time offenders. It also should be a wake-up call to those who voted for decades the same politician over and over again, when one had family members faced with the same situation as Jones. One would think; they would hold their politicians accountable, to ensure laws like the crack-cocaine sentencing guidelines would change.

Although no drugs were ever found, U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis determined that Jones was responsible for the distribution of 30 kilograms of cocaine. He arrived at that number based on the testimony of the co-conspirators — the couple who received sentences of seven and eight years, and the Houston dealer, who got 19 1/2 years.

All have since been released.

The judge determined that Jones knew or should have known that the powder was going to be “rocked up” — or converted to crack. Using a government formula, the prosecutor said that the 30 kilograms of powder was equal to 13.39 kilograms of crack cocaine.

Jones, who had a young daughter at the time she has been in prison, is now an adult. The cruel hand the crack-cocaine sentencing has dealt, has made life hard to those children who’s parents are locked up for life, and have missed out on their children’s development. Thanks to Obama granting clemency to Jones, she is now reunited with her daughter, and now she has to catch up on the 16 years she has missed. Clemency for Jones is a great feel good story, but there are countless others just like Jones out there. First-time offenders have no business being sentenced to life imprisonment for crack-cocaine possession or any other non-violent crimes for that matter. Every non-offender should be released, who were sentenced under the crack-cocaine sentencing guideline not just a handful – but everyone. When they are released, there should be opportunities made available for those to get back on their feet and make a positive contribution to society.

A few grants of clemency to a handful of people is just a band-aid. A complete reform of the criminal justice system should be created, before the next Sharanda Jones who made a first-time mistake, receive a life time of punishment.

[SOURCE]

-Ms Scripter

Just blogging for the masses, ya dig?

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Book Recommendation: I Am Troy Davis

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September 21, 2011, is the date of execution of one of the most controversial capital punishment cases that created national attention. I Am Troy Davis is a book written by Jen Marlowe and Martina Davis-Correta and Troy Davis. It documents the story of Troy Davis and his childhood, and what led up to the moments that were captured during his conviction for murder, and his subsequent death by the state.

Troy Davis was accused of shooting police officer Mark MacPhail, who was moonlighting as a security guard when he attempted to break up a fight with two other men. Davis was placed at the scene of the crime and was accused of being the shooter, by eyewitness testimony. A manhunt ensued, and Davis turned himself in and didn’t realize that the criminal justice system would convict him and put him to death. When reading how Davis was convicted based on no DNA evidence (even the gun that was used was never found), would frustrate the reader. One knows that the criminal justice system was about to give Davis a raw deal that would lead to his death, based on reading how unethical the case was handled from the very beginning.

After Davis’ conviction, his sister Martina Davis-Correta did everything remotely possible to prevent the state from killing her brother. The chapters discuss the stay of execution for Davis, as he was preparing to take a walk to his death. The back and forth that the state put this family through was torture until the end, where he was finally put to death, proclaiming his innocence to the bitter end.

This book highlights capital punishment and makes one thinks how many potential innocent defendants, are placed on death row, and executed. We read it every day how many defendants that are on death row are exonerated because of their innocence. The Troy Davis case made me look at the death penalty differently. Some would say they should get rid of capital punishment entirely. I would go on to say, no one should be put to death based on only eyewitness testimony, which includes only circumstantial evidence.

There are special cases that I wouldn’t mind seeing a needle embedded in the human flesh. For example the killer (who we won’t name) that entered a church in South Carolina and executed the majority of the people inside, while at bible study. I’m sorry, I’m still stuck in the middle of the capital punishment argument, but again, circumstantial evidence is unacceptable when evoking the capital punishment on defendants. The risks of innocence is too great to appoint the death penalty based on weak evidence.

I Am Troy Davis is a very emotional piece of non-fiction, and it’s become one of my favorite books that I’ve read in 2015. Not only does the reader gain incite on Troy Davis’ life, but it also highlights his family and their fight for the truth, while the alleged killer gets away with the murder. It also makes one angry at the bias police department, that coerce eye witnesses into framing their stories, just to lock up any Black face imaginable, without having integrity when performing their jobs. Lastly, the sad ending of those involved should resonate with the reader and make one seek an end to the corrupt system. Black Lives Matter is a new movement, but it started centuries ago. In Troy Davis’ case, Black lives didn’t matter to those who sought to give Davis the ultimate punishment, no matter how flimsy the evidence.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

-Ms Scripter

Just blogging for the masses, ya dig?

 

 

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Episode 23: Interview with Legalshield Director Wendel Cutler

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FTM_logo2-Small1.jpgIn this episode, Chris and Debbie interview Legalshield Director of the NYC branch office – Wendel Cutler. We discuss the importance of obtaining the services of Legalshield, the various options that Legalshield has to offer. Various situations may occur involving the help of legal representation. From drafting of wills, power of attorney documents, help with fighting housing, mortgage issues, etc. Lastly, we discuss the latest news from sports entertainment and current social affairs like the update concerning the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

Songs used for this episode:

  • Stevie Wonder – “Living for the City”.

-Ms Scripter

Just blogging for the masses, ya dig?

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Remembering Rodney King & What He Meant For Black America

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When I heard the news of Rodney King’s passing, my thought process immediately ran to his legacy and what he meant for Black America. King was not just the face of police brutality, but the face of a deeply flawed criminal justice system.

I remember watching the video over and over again of King. The repetitious swinging of a police officer’s baton on King’s body appeared to be a normal thing for Black men to endure. The only difference is that this latest case of police brutality, was captured on video for the world to see. The beating reminded me of what an attempted lynching would look like if it had taken place in the 60’s. The white police officers representing the KKK who was about to lynch him. If George Holliday elected not to videotape that incident, King would have never made history and would have just been another faceless Black man brutalize by the police and forgotten.

One would think with this video, the police officer’s involved would certainly be convicted – which we now know didn’t take place. 10 Whites, 1 Asian and 1 Latino was the make-up of the jury pool. Not one single Black person represented in that jury. The prosecutors should have ensured that the racial demographics would be fair. Of course, nothing is ever fair and impartial when it pertains to Blacks receiving justice in America and sometimes the prosecutors pander, so that they can appear to be on our side. The acquittal led directly to the L.A. Riots – the destruction of property and lives we lost and changed forever.

I’m going to admit that the riots needed to take place. I do not agree about burning down our own neighborhood, but responding in a peaceful way would not have made an impact at all. We needed to get angry, we had bent up rage from other past events and the history of the LAPD and their treatment of Blacks was taking a toll. That anger needed to be released and the way the LAPD ran like cowards when we showed that anger, indicated we had taken control, and now the roles were reverse. If only we would have demanded sweeping changes, to the way we are treated in the criminal justice system then I would have felt better about the riots. After the riots ended, we went back to our daily lives and continue to accept our mistreatment as the norm. I am not advocating rioting, but a threat of more civil unrest probably would have cause elected officials to meet our demands.

Rodney King would always be the symbol on what a Black man has to experience when interacting with police. We, in fact, call Rodney King the Emmett Till of the 90’s – but at least with Till we responded effectively and changes were made and leglistation was created. With King, the only changes that were made were that the LAPD enacted some sort of reform – but corruption was still in the form of a psychotic police unit called C.R.A.S.H. In 1999, that same unit shot and framed drug dealer Javier Ovando – which left him paralyzed.  The corruption case of Rafael Perez who was the one that framed and shot Ovando open the flood gates to a more broad investigation, that led to other corrupt LAPD officers who went to prison. So if we call this reform then I’m afraid we been bamboozled. In 1996 Abner Louima was sodomize by NYPD officer Justin Volpe, which shocked and upset many. After Rodney King, we were still being brutalize, case after case of police brutality, racial profiling, stop and frisk, and the shooting of unarmed Black men continue to take place. Therefore, we dropped the ball after the Rodney King beating, by allowing things to go back to normal.

I do embrace the fact, that without courageous citizens video taping police – many cases like King would have probably been swept under the rug. Now with technology such as our camera phones, video taping is easier and has help innocent citizens proved their innocence against corrupt police officers. We still have to worry about police officer’s confiscated our camera phones, but with so many applications out now – one can video tape incidents and  the video can automatically be stored in another locaton – regardless if the police erase the evidence.

King lived a very troubled life especially after the beating – which I do not believe anyone can psychologically fully recover from a tragic event like that, regardless of a multimillion dollar settlement that is tossed one’s way. King embraced drugs and alcohol – probably to ease the pain just like a war hero would do, once they had witness or were a part of a tragic event. King blew away his fortune and died under strange circumstances. The investigation into his death I’m sure will be analyze, because quite frankly I have a hard time believing his fiancée, Cynthia Kelly’s story.Furthermore, Kelly was also one of the jurors in his civil trial – which automatically makes me a bit uneasy about his death, until an autopsy is completed.

For a man who lived a hard life, he always remained up beat and in interviews he never indicated that he had any animosity toward anyone. King said it best, “can’t we all just get along?”. Many Black men who are harassed, stop and frisk by the police on a daily basis, sadly are asking that same question 20 years later.

-Ms Scripter

Just blogging for the masses, ya dig?

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