It seems D.C. is in the midst of a snowpocalypse. Metaphorically speaking, anyway. The metro’s not running in D.C., the air flights are grounded, but the Congress is still in session, blowing snow with abandon. When all is said and done, the snow is expected to be the heaviest in our nation’s capitol in 70 88 years.
This is the view out my D.C. friend Mark Bruzonsky’s window on Van Ness, looking toward the Chinese Embassy and Intelstat.
PS: You’ll find the reasonably amusing Twitter stream “#snowpocalypse” to your right.
And at the flimsier end of the spectrum, Vogue magazine was suddenly overtaken by a giddy moment of populism and decided to let you and me choose the ten best dressed women of the decade.
However, for my money, when it comes to lists pertaining anything of an artistic nature—best books, best films, best music, best television dramas, et al—from a social justice perspective, one work stands out among all the others, and that is the five seasons of David Simon’s The Wire.
Yes the Sopranos was brilliant, Roberto BolaÃ±o’s 2666 is a literary game changer, and Fernando Meirelles’ City of God was astonishing in its portrayal of Rio’s desperate favelas.
Yet, I can think of no other recent work of art—any kind of art— that so successfully gets to the multi-layered complexity of modern urban life and the interwoven nature of its strata. The Wire stands alone.
The truth is, I don’t think lawmakers should be allowed to vote on a single bill relating to issues of criminal justice without watching all five seasons. And, obviously, before they’re let near an education bill, Season 4, is an absolute requirement.
I could rattle on, but instead I recommend that you watch Bill Moyers’ interview with David Simon, recorded last April (Part 1 and Part 2). It’s clip filled and both men get right to the heart of the matter.
“You come at the king, you best not miss.”
For the next few days I’m in the last stages of reading students’ final projects (which are inspiringly good, by the way) and giving final grades, which means I’ve not been doing much in the way of original reporting.
But, never fear, I have a couple of good stories lined up for next week before we plunge into the holidays.
This week there were developments in various crime stories that should be acknowledged. I’m not putting these stories out with any agenda. But simply to say, I noticed. We noticed.
AFTER 3 MONTHS, MITRICE RICHARDSON IS STILL MISSING
On Monday, Sheriff Baca announced that the case was being moved to the homicide desk, not because anybody knows anything dire about Mitrice’s fate, he assured her father, but because the change in designation will get the case more resources.
This is a move that one imagines it would have been helpful to make weeks ago, even though it sounds as if the officers working the case are working hard. More is needed.
Jasmyne Cannickwent with the missing woman’s father to meet with the Sheriff, and has a rundown on where the case stands, and why the fact that 24-year-old Mitrice Richardson is still missing is so very disturbing.
For the back story on Mitrice, read here and here what Anne Sobel has been writing for the Malibu Surfside News.
And, then after you read Sobel’s stories, take a look at the location of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s station from which Mitrice Richardson was released in the middle of the night alone, without a car, a phone, her purse, or any money—in what was likely a disoriented state.
(The LA Times’ Carla Hall reported Sunday that Mitrice’s journal indicates she may have been in the midst of an extreme mental breakdown.)
Most recently, Matrice Richardson’s family are pushing very hard to have the FBI involved in the case, citing other cases they contend would suggest Fed involvement was possible.
DAE’VON BAILY’S STEPFATHER (SORT OF) GETS 25 TO LIFE
After pleading guilty to beating his girlfriend’s 6-year-old son to death in front of the boy’s 5-year-old step sister, Marcas Catrell Fisher, received a sentence of 25-to-life.
A convicted rapist, Fisher had agreed to care for Dae’von and his daughter after their mother, Tylette Davis, put five of her six children in other people’s care. The boy and his siblings had been the subject of 10 child abuse or neglect investigations since 1999 by the time he came under Fisher’s care.
In the last three months before his death, Dae’von twice told authorities that he had been physically abused by Fisher, but both times he was left with the man who eventually killed him.
Los Angeles Police Department detectives said that the boy’s body bore bruises in different stages of healing, indicating that he had been abused for an extended period of time….
Becerra writes that the boy’s kindergarten teacher, Majella Maas, said Dae’von was the most affection-hungry child she had encountered in 28 years of teaching, always asking for hugs.
CUSTODY BATTLE ENDS IN FOUR DEATHS
And finally there is the case, of Elizabeth Fontaine and her two little girls, Catherine, 4, and Julia, 2. who along with Fontaine’s mother, were shot to death in an apparent murder suicide that occurred a few hours after a judge decided to award temporary custody of the girls to Fontaine’s ex-husband’s sister.
Bonnier publishing, a privately held Swedish media conglomerate, which—along with books and newspapers— puts out such magazines as Parenting, Popular Science, Field & Stream, Working Mother, and Saveur, has just released their R & D video titled Mag +.
Those who think about, obsess over…. or are mildly interested in—the ongoing conversation regarding the Future of Journalism (hell, yes, we capitalize that phrase), will enjoy it.
It’s been out for about about 24 hours and is already causing FOJ types to go into Twitter overdrive.
And for good reason. Although much of the technology is still in the fantasy stage, it has a lot of intriguing thinking behind it. (Paper magazines take note.)
Not that anyone asked me, but Esquire and GQ have a smart notion in terms of monetizing their content. Esquire plans to charge $2.99 per month. Good idea. People may not pay to get online what they can get for free, but we are all now very well conditioned to buy inexpensive Aps. It’s a short jump to a subscription as long as the monthly charge feels (however illusory the feeling) AP based. In other words, at the moment, we are more willing pay for the technology and the delivery system that we want, than we are willing to fork over $$ for content.
PS: Note to WSJ: Yes, many of us who are devoted to news reportingwill actually pay for content too, but don’t try to charge us twice. Such moves will cause us to harbor resentments.
(NOTE: The HP ad above was featured on the same page that contained Emily Bazelon’s Slate article below about the sexting and cyberbullying cases, and the juxtaposition struck me as…..um….amusing.)
LOOK, I TOO THINK JOHN YOO IS IN LEAGUE WITH SATAN, BUT GET A GRIP!
A group of lawyers and law students are demanding that Deputy Attorney General David Carrillo, who works in AG Jerry Brown’s office, drop his plans to teach a constitutional law class with the UC Berkeley professor John Yoo next semester.
In case you’ve dozed off on the matter, John Yoo is the guy who wrote the infamous torture memos to justify the actions of the Bush administration when he was a US Justice Department lawyer from 2001 to 2003.
By instructing a class with Mr. Yoo, you are helping to legitimize his illegal and unethical actions,” organizations led by the National Lawyers Guild said Tuesday in an open letter to Deputy Attorney General David Carrillo, a doctoral candidate and instructor at the university’s Boalt Hall law school.
They asked Carrillo either to teach the course by himself, if the school will allow it, or to leave it to Yoo. Signers included the law school’s chapter of La Raza Law Students Association and the Boalt Alliance to Abolish Torture.
Oh, please. I’m all for prosecuting Yoo. If someone can find a legal way to wrap the law around him and squeeze a bit, that’d be excellent. (Unfortunately, I don’t think they can.)
But, otherwise, if some nice liberal guy from the AG’s office wants to teach with him, leave them the heck alone. Good education—particularly a law school education—-thrives on differing points of view.
IN FLORIDA, CLEMENCY IS NOT DEAD
The horrible murders committed by Maurice Clemmons , and the subsequent attacks on Mike Huckabee, have not exactly encouraged the notion of clemency. Nevertheless, Wednesday a Florida woman named Jennifer Martin who was serving 16 years for manslaughter, was set free by a four person parole board that included Florida governor Charlie Crist.
THE 9TH CIRCUIT, THE SUPREMES & THE “PERILOUS FRONTIER OF CYBERLAW”
(I just like writing that: “….the perilous frontier of cyberlaw.“)
Anyway, regarding the two new Supreme Court cases we’ve already talked about here: the Ontario cop sexting case, and the issue with the rights of mean kids who cyberbully, Slate’s legal writer, Emily Bazelon, has written a good column that explores the two cases recently accepted by the Supremes, and notes that the California’s 9th Circuit of Appeals is smack in the middle of both of them. In each instance, the judges of the 9th came down on the side of the rights of the individual.
(In the case of the mean girls, I think they’re right. In the case of the sexting cop…. hmmmmm… maybe yes, maybe no.)
In any event, Baselon’s column engages in an informative discussion of both cases. Here’s a clip:
Before Jeff Quon got a pager from the Ontario Police Department, where he’s a sergeant, he signed a blanket statement that he had he had “no expectation of privacy or confidentiality” when using city equipment for e-mail or the Internet. But then his supervisor put in place an informal policy that undercut the official one. The supervisor told cops who had the pagers that they could send 25,000 characters worth of text messages a month and then after that, pay for the extra messagesâ€”and if they did, avoid an audit. Quon went above the character limit a few months in a row, paying each time. Then his chief started to wonder about whether Quon was wasting time on the job and asked the pager service for the texts. It turned out that lots of them were notes about sex Quon had written to his girlfriend. Quon sued, arguing that the search of his texts was a violation of his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches at work.
In June 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed with him. He had a reasonable expectation of privacy, the court said, given what his supervisor told him about paying for extra messagesâ€”the department’s “operational reality.” The court also found that there were other, less intrusive ways for the police chief to figure out whether Quon was frittering away his time: Warning him ahead of time to quit sending so many messages, asking him to count the characters himself, or asking him to cross out the personal parts before the department reviewed them.
This ruling, by Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw for a panel of three judges, implicitly recognizes that company pagers and e-mail accounts often turn into personal ones. Sometimes, that saves employees’ time: If I’m not toggling back and forth between my Slate e-mail account and Gmail, my day is more streamlined (or so I tell myself). If your boss says you can use company technology for your own business, then you should be safe from unnecessarily intrusive searchesâ€”even if he’s contradicting some official blanket disclaimer in which you signed away your privacy rights without really paying attention.
SF SUPERVISOR CHRIS DAILY DROPS F-BOMB ON GEORGE GASCON’S HEAD
Also in the SF Chron, it seems that new San Francisco police chief, George Gascon, was roundly cussed out by Supervisor Chris Daly.
(Gascon, if you’ll remember, a longtime LAPD cop, used to be the Assistant Chief under Bill Bratton. Before he took the SF job, Gascon was rumored to be the front runner to replace Bratton as the L.A.C.O.P. So we in LA we are justified as viewing him as one of ours.)
In any case here’s a clip that explains the situation:
Supervisor Chris Daly got up from his seat, approached GascÃ³n, cut him off to introduce himself and was heard dropping the f-bomb as he left the chambers in a huff. GascÃ³n looked surprised, said it was nice to meet Daly and continued testifying.
Apparently GascÃ³n hasn’t reached out to Daly since taking the job several months ago, despite his focus on cracking down on drug dealing in the Tenderloin, the heart of Daly’s district.
“I don’t know if it’s good politics or not, but if I was a new department head, I would certainly reach out to every decision maker,” Daly told us.
He said he appreciates the focus on the Tenderloin, but disagrees with the “nickel and diming” approach of going after low-level users which is overcrowding jails and causing the Sheriff’s Department to go over budget. He’d like to see the bigger fish nabbed instead.
We heard reports that Daly said “F- you, F-you!” as he left the chambers. So was the f-bomb directed at GascÃ³n? “I was muttering to myself, yes,” Daly confirmed. “I think probably it was more like f-ing a-hole. It wasn’t directed at him, and you know, I’m sure very few people could hear it.”
CE Assistant Secretary John Morton said in a statement that the new policy, which changes the agency’s stance on locking up people who ask for protection when they arrive at border crossings, is part of ongoing efforts to reform immigration detention.
“These new parole procedures for asylum seekers will help ICE focus both on protecting against major threats to public safety and implementing common-sense detention policies,” he said.
The new guidelines give the government authority to allow asylum seekers who have not been formally allowed into the country to remain out of immigration jail if they meet requirements determined by an asylum officer or an immigration judge. Normally foreign nationals who seek entrance into the United States but are without a visa or other valid travel documents are not permitted into the country.
Here, for example are a couple of a stories from earlier this year done by CIR and the LA Times, about a Mexican police officer seeking asylum in the U.S. due to death threats resulting from the Mexican drug wars.
Threats to witnesses for criminal trials has long been a problem in urban centers, Los Angeles specifically included. But according to a new story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, for the city of brotherly love, the witness problem has become a crisis. Witnesses are winding up dead, and cases are crumbling, reports the Inquirer.
Here’s the opening of the story:
Martin Thomas looked at the flier and blanched.
“Don’t stand next to this man. You might get shot.”
The threat was scribbled on a copy of his signed statement to police, implicating a man in a murder.
Thomas, then 20, had revealed a buried cache of weapons and named one of the gunmen who killed a man at 22d and Somerset on a summer night.
Now, there were his words to detectives, posted on the wall of a Chinese restaurant in North Philadelphia for all to see.
Panicked, Thomas fled, flagged down a police car, and told the officers he feared for his life.
Police and prosecutors, who described Thomas’ flight from the restaurant, said he had every reason to be frightened. Another witness in the murder case, a 17-year-old, had been killed 10 days after testifying at a preliminary hearing. They said Thomas worried that he could be next.
Witness intimidation pervades the Philadelphia criminal courts, increasingly extracting a heavy toll in no-show witnesses, recanted testimony – and collapsed cases.
“It’s endemic. People are frightened to death,” said District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham. “We’ve had witness after witness intimidated, threatened, frightened.”
It is unclear whether or not Philly’s problem is that much worse than, say, LA’s or Chicago’s. But this story reminds of the nature of the dilemma. What might solve it, is another, much longer conversation.
The show is part of a series of educational events scheduled this weekend that aim to “bring awareness of the impact of the juvenile justice system on children and families across the country. ”
In addition to its charitable and activist ambitions, the concert features an intriguing line up of artists. There is Grammy nominated writer, musician and producer, John Forte, whose story I’ll get back to in a minute.
The night will also included musical performances by such groups and artists as Freddie Gibbs (who was the subject of LA Weekly’s cover story two weeks ago), Terra Incognita, the Bricks, and Broken Ornaments—which was co-created by Mike de la Rocha, musician, poet, activist—and the main legislative deputy when it comes to gangs and juvenile justice for City Councilman Tony Cardenas. (Who knew de la Rocha was also a rocker?)
Oh, yes, and about John Forte.
Forte knows a little something about being behind bars. He started life as a bright, musical kid who won a full scholarship to Phillips Exeter Academy, and graduated in 1993. Two years later, he co-wrote and produced two songs on the Fugee’s multi-platinum and Grammy-winning 1996 album. Three years after that, he found himself in a financial jam and made a colossally stupid decision that landed him a conviction for drug possession and a fourteen-year prison sentence. (It was his first offense, but there was quite a bit of cocaine involved.)
A CALL FOR CONSERVATIVES TO MAKE PRISON REFORM THEIR OWN
In an enormously important Op-Ed in Monday’s New York Times, Ross Douthat calls on conservatives to “… take ownership of prison reform, and correct the system they helped build.” The democrats don’t have the credibility to do it he says, and in many ways he’s right. And few have shown the inclination for fear of being labeled soft on crime. (Witness our California state legislature.)
Here’s how the essay opens:
If you’re a governor with presidential aspirations, you should never, under any circumstances, pardon a convict or reduce a sentence. That’s the lesson everyone seems to have drawn from the dreadful case of Maurice Clemmons, an Arkansas native who murdered four Lakewood, Wash., police officers over Thanksgiving weekend â€” nine years after Mike Huckabee, then governor, commuted his sentence and the Arkansas parole board set him free.
Even before Clemmons was shot dead the following Tuesday by Seattle police officers, a chorus of pundits had declared Huckabee’s presidential ambitions all but finished. His prospective 2012 rivals â€” Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin â€” hastened to suggest that they never considered issuing a pardon while governor. And even observers sympathetic to Huckabee’s decision (Clemmons’s original 108-year sentence was handed down when he was only 16, and for burglary and robbery, not murder) tended to emphasize its folly. Joe Carter, who handled rapid-response for Huckabee’s 2008 campaign, acknowledged that the “prudent tactic would have been to simply refuse to grant any leniency â€” ever.”
DOES YOUR BOSS HAVE THE RIGHT TO SNOOP THROUGH YOUR TEXT MESSAGES?
The Supreme Court has agreed to take its first texting case— a case that originated in California. The question is whether a company—or in this case, a public agency, the police—have the right to monitor text messages if those messages are sent an/or received on an office-issued phone.
The justices agreed to hear an appeal from the city of Ontario, which was successfully sued by police Sgt. Jeff Quon and three other officers after their text messages — some of which were sexually explicit — were read by the police chief.
At issue is whether the chief violated their rights under the 4th Amendment, which forbids “unreasonable searches” by the government. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the issue, due by June, could set new rules for the workplace in public agencies, and perhaps in private companies as well.
While the 4th Amendment applies only to the government, many judges rely on the high court’s privacy rulings in deciding disputes in the private sector, legal experts say.
Last year, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals broke ground when it ruled the officers had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in their text messages. The officers had been led to believe by a supervisor that they could use their pagers for personal use, the appeals court said.
However, the city had a policy that said employees had no guarantee of privacy when they used computers, phones and other devices that were owned by the city.
The 9th Circuit’s ruling has already had an impact.
“It was a healthy reminder to employers that they need to have clear policies in place. And they have to be consistent in following them,” said Mitch Danzig, a management lawyer in San Diego.
PRO PUBLICA INVESTIGATING POST KATRINA NOPD SHOOTINGS—WANTS CITIZEN HELP
Pro-Publica has launched what they are calling a major investigation,together with the New Orleans Times-Picayune and Frontline. They are looking into the New Orleans Police Department’s efforts to investigate its officers’ use of deadly force in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, efforts which Pro-Publica’s reporters say are deeply flawed.
The reporters write, “Many of the facts surrounding the post-Katrina police shootings are murky. But the available evidence suggests they’re part of a broader pattern of violent encounters between police and civilians, one that is now under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.”
Now Pro-Pubica is calling out for eyewitnesses who may have knowledge of any such incidents to call or email one of their Phone & email tip lines (504-826-3775 and email@example.com ).
The first of the series of stories may be found here.