by Jack Greiner, Esquire
Hat tip: Sunshine Week
As a young lawyer, I worked for a little while on some of the litigation that grew out of the collapse of Home State Savings Bank (and much of the rest of Ohio’s saving and loan industry) in the mid-1980s. That’s not much of a surprise, since virtually every firm in town was involved in one way or the other. But it was an exciting case to be part of. I remember learning so much from some of the best lawyers in town. And I still recall Marvin Warner’s criminal sentencing.
Warner had been the head of Home State, and by the time the dust settled, he was about as popular as Old Man Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Warner was convicted on a number of charges related to the debacle. When he came before Judge Robert Ruehlman for the announcement of his sentence, he got a taste of what the local folks thought of him. Among other pronouncements, Judge Ruehlman told Warner, who had owned a substantial horse farm, that “[w]hen I get through with you, the only horse you will be riding is one of those horses in front of the K-mart on the little merry-go-round.”
An Interview With Nancy A. Heitzeg
Nancy A. Heitzeg, Ph.D is a Professor of Sociology and Program Co-Director, Critical Studies of Race and Ethnicity at St Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Angola 3 News: Please tell us about your recent visit to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola this past month.
Nancy A. Heitzeg: I was at Angola with a University-level off-campus class I was teaching on Racism in the Criminal Justice System. Students and I were in New Orleans for a week where we met with Sister Helen Prejean and did some work for the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana. I had been to Angola once before and both tours were comparable.
I should say that it is surprisingly simple to get a tour at Angola – just call the Museum, fill out a form and just turn up. No background checks, no IDs and no trips through metal detectors—which, of course, I have experienced at other prisons even when I was an invited speaker. You can and we did even drive our own vehicle through the grounds on the tour with a tour guide who rides along. Of course matters would be much different if one was at Angola to visit an inmate.
A3N: What happened during the tour?
I spoke about my crime and how the parole board labeled me the “worst of the worst” – but that my victim didn’t want me in prison, my judge didn’t want me to do all that time, even the prosecutor said he was OK with me getting out, but the parole board wouldn’t let me out. That put a glaring light on the parole board and their “because we can” mentality. The parole board scored me as a “-1 risk factor” for ever returning back to prison and yet they wouldn’t release me. They were the only ones that didn’t want me out and that left them alone in the limelight.
I also told them that as taxpayers, they should be outraged. Because I spent so much time in prison needlessly, the taxpayers paid for 5 years of college for me and numerous programs.
I told them that Terry Collins was asking for money to help the non-violent offenders stay out of prison and for money to overcome the overcrowding, including giving the new law people 5 good days a month. But I said that Terry Collins didn’t need any money. He had millions and millions of dollars he could save by letting the old law people go. If he let them go, he could close two prisons. (Did he forget that “slight” detail?).
To address his requests for help for those non-violent offenders, I also told them that there are programs in prison already to help people on drugs, including AA and NA, which are both free to the state. And chances are by the time these new people arrived in prison that Terry Collins wants money to help keep them out of prison, they ‘d have already gone through numerous drug programs before even coming to prison.
Paul Craig Roberts
Ronald Cotton spent 11 years in prison because Jennifer Thompson provided eyewitness testimony that he was the person who raped her. On March 9, National Public Radio revisited the story.
It turned out that Thompson was completely wrong, DNA evidence indicated that it was not Cotton but another man who had bragged about the rape.
Thompson asked Cotton for forgive-ness, and he gave it. The two became friends and collaborated on a book. On NPR, Thompson said that eyewitness testimony is incorrect 70 percent of the time.
I am familiar with psychological studies that conclude that eye witness accounts are wrong half of the time. That is enough to discredit eye witness testimony as evidence; yet, police and juries always bank on it.
Rape victims tend to be angry, and they want someone to pay. When shown a lineup, they tend to pick someone, naively believing that if it is the wrong person the police investigation will clear them.
Witnesses to crimes who are not themselves victims want to be helpful to the police. Consequently, they also tend to deliver up the innocent to justice.
And then there is the purchased “witness” testimony that prosecutors pay for with money and dropped charges in order to close a case. A favorite trick is to put a “snitch” in the cell with a defendant. The snitch then comes forward and reports that the defendant confessed.
Law and order conservatives think that the only miscarriages of justice are effected by liberal judges and liberal parole boards who can’t wait to release dangerous criminals to prey on the public.
The absurd idea that the justice system doesn’t make mistakes about those it convicts, except when they are let off by liberals, has made it impossible for innocent people wrongfully convicted to be paroled.
by Rady Ananda
In 1925, the US jailed 1 in 100,000 women. In 2006, it jailed 1 in 746. The 1984 Sentencing Reform Act and mandatory minimum sentence laws need to be repealed for the protection of families, communities and society as a whole. The film, Perversion of Justice, highlights the experiences of one family victimized by these laws.
A film by the Reverend Melissa Mummert
Border Walk Productions
Changemaker Award at the 2008 Media That Matters Festival
Run time: 30 minutes
In Perversion of Justice, filmmaker Melissa Mummert potently calls for prison sentencing reform. She highlights the victimization of one family caused by extreme penalties imposed for peripheral support of small time drug dealers. Examining the social costs, Mummert exposes the rank injustice and provides action links for battling outrageous terms meted for nonviolent crimes.
The story of Hamedah Hasan and her three children exemplify the need to repeal the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, and the mandatory minimum laws. Legal commentators bolster the argument, including the trial judge. The film asserts that the public cost for warehousing nonviolent prisoners is $30,000 a year. A review of legal documents reveals that over a four-year period, the drug selling operation earned $180,000. Divided among the three defendants, that’s $15,000 a year in earnings. Society deserves a more judicially and fiscally sane policy in dealing with drug offenders.