THE NY TIMES SAYS JERRY BROWN SHOULD SIGN THE CALIFORNIA TRUST ACT
The Trust Act is one of the bills that are sitting on Jerry Brown’s desk awaiting a signature. This weekend the NY Times features an editorial explaining why he should sign it.
Here is how the NYT opinion piece opens:
There is a significant and immediate step Gov. Jerry Brown of California can take to protect community safety and civil liberties in his state.
He can sign the Trust Act, a recently passed state bill that prevents local police departments from turning their jails into immigration holding cells for noncriminals or minor offenders whose sentences are up or who should otherwise be out on bail. The act would require the police to let such people go, even if Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have issued voluntary requests, known as detainers, that they be held until they can be picked up for deportation. Only those who have been convicted of or charged with serious or violent felonies would continue to be detained at ICE’s request.
The purpose of the act is to bring state enforcement in line with federal deportation priorities — which is to focus on dangerous criminals, national-security threats and repeat offenders. It was prompted by a troubled ICE program called Secure Communities, which enlists local authorities in immigration enforcement by doing checks on everyone they fingerprint. The program has led to the deportation of tens of thousands of minor offenders or those with no criminal records. The Trust Act is one state’s way to prevent such overkill.
Most of the state’s sheriffs, LA’s Sheriff Lee Baca most prominently included, oppose the Trust Act saying that it would force them to decide whether to violate State law or federal law.
Baca has gone so far as to say he won’t enforce the thing, even if it is signed by the governor.
Only Santa Clara Sheriff, Laurie Smith, has broken from the pack to announce that she is fine with the Trust Act. In fact she took the same stance that the LAPD has long taken with Special Order 40, maintaining that forcing local police to engage in immigration enforcement to makes immigrants less likely to report the kind of serious crimes that are a genuine threat public safety, simply because they’re fearful of being deported.
And about the claim that the Trust Act, if it is allowed to go into effect, will force local law enforcement to break either federal or state law, according to more than 30 legal scholars, this either-or interpretation of the law’s potential affect is utter nonsense. Here’s the letter the profs from such schools as Berkeley, Stanford, Yale, NYU, Penn State, Davis, Georgetown, UC Irvine, Hastings, Brandeis, and more, sent to the governor on the issue.
The letter is 8-pages of legal language, which you may find interesting, but it’s bottom line may be found in the following two statements:
The Constitution does not allow the federal government to command that local sheriffs enforce a federal regulatory regime. The regulation of immigration is no exception to this rule.
The Immigration and Nationality Act makes clear that local participation in immigration can only take place with the consent of localities.
SO IS THERE A $$$ ANGLE TO ALL THIS LEGAL CONTROVERSY?
Interestingly, while most of the state’s sheriffs oppose the Trust Act and embrace Secure Communities or S-Comm, many police chiefs, like San Francisco’s and Oakland’s— are in favor of the Trust Act.
LA’s Charlie Beck has long expressed concern about the potential negative effects of enforcing S-Comm while, as mentioned above, Lee Baca is an ardent S-Comm supporter and says, if the Trust Act is passed, he won’t enforce it.
So what could cause such a difference in perspective between county and city law enforcement agencies?
Perhaps Riverside County Sheriff Stanley Sniff has the key. Sniff, who wrote an letter urging Brown to veto the Trust Act, told David Olson of the Press-Enterprise that the bill would “… jeopardize federal funding to help pay the cost to house illegal immigrants.” Riverside, he said, has received up to $1.8 million annually for S-Comm enforcement. In other words, not locking up as many immigrants would make most or all of those nice dollars vanish.
So maybe the Trust Act isn’t a legal problem for the sheriffs as much as it is a fiscal one.
The governor has until Sept. 30 to jump one way or the other on the bill.
THE UNENDING FASCINATION WITH THE JEFFERY MACDONALD MURDER CASE CONTINUES
On Tuesday, Sept 4, the third major book on the Jeffery MacDonald murder case is being released. It is called A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald, and in it, author Errol Morris, pretty much decides MacDonald is innocent of the murders of his wife and two young daughters, although Morris concedes he cannot prove MacDonald’s innocence to a certaintly.
When I say Morris’s is the third major book, I mean there have been several lessor volumes other than the two well-known examinations of the case, Fatal Vision, the monster best seller by The Selling of the President author, Joe McGinnis, and The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm, a book that—love it or hate it—is now a staple in non-fiction literature courses.
The author of the newest book is, of course, the highly regarded writer/director of such stellar documentaries as The Thin Blue Line, which actually exonerated a man after it was released, and The Fog of War, which completely reframed the reputation of Vietnam war architect Robert McNamara while winning Morris an Academy Award.
Sunday’s NY Times, the Daily Beast, the Atlantic and others have features on the new book.
Here’s the opening of the story in the Atlantic:
It was not quite the case of the century, but Americans of a certain age are likely to remember the savage, 1970 murders of Army doctor Jeffrey MacDonald’s wife and daughters and his subsequent convictions on first and second degree homicide. Or, they remember the story of the case popularized by Joe McGinniss in Fatal Vision and, perhaps, the story of McGinniss and MacDonald, told by Janet Malcolm in The Journalist and the Murderer.
Now comes documentary filmmaker Errol Morris with his new book A Wilderness of Error, a devastating expose of the incompetence and corruption that enabled MacDonald’s conviction and continues to obstruct his appeals. MacDonald, now 68, has been imprisoned for 30 years, denied parole because he continues to deny his guilt, as his efforts at exoneration continue, decades after conviction. Last April, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new hearing in his case, scheduled in September 2012.
As Morris observes, it’s impossible to know “with absolute certainty” whether MacDonald is guilty or innocent. But evidence of innocence wrongly excluded from his trial, including multiple confessions from other suspects, seems considerably stronger than evidence of guilt, and Morris, a dogged, discerning investigator, makes clear that MacDonald was “railroaded.” Personally, I don’t have a shadow of a doubt that in a fair trial, a relatively unbiased jury would not have found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt (and I’ve contributed to his defense fund).
What went wrong in this case? The short answer, Morris suggests, is that military police and, eventually, civilian prosecutors assumed a conclusion and selected evidence to support it. “When police arrive at a scene, like any of us, they try to formulate an idea of what happened … they take the seeming chaos of a crime scene and interpret it. Often the explanation is based on convenience. It’s easier to pick one narrative about an explanation than another.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Just to be clear, we aren’t taking a side in this. We’re just noting that the case continues to fascinate and frustrate a bunch of smart people, each of whom seems to read a different answer in the facts available.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE U.S. SUPREME COURT HAS TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO STOP AN EXECUTION
In Tuesday’s NY Times Adam Liptak takes a look behind the metaphorical curtain to find out what kind of process the Supremes and their respective staffs go through when they deal with requests to stay executions.
This isn’t a news story but rather a peek backstage to look at one small part of the way SCOTUS works and it’s quite intriguing. Here’s a clip:
John Balentine was an hour away from being put to death in Texas last month when the Supreme Court granted him a stay of execution.
The unseemly and unsettling spectacle of a last-minute legal scramble in the shadow of the ultimate deadline, with the condemned inmate waiting for word of his fate just outside the death chamber, may suggest that the Supreme Court does not render considered justice when it is asked to halt an execution.
But it tries. Indeed, the court goes to extraordinary lengths to get ready, and its point person is a staff lawyer named Danny Bickell.
“Cases where there is an execution date,” he said with a sigh, “that’s where I come in.”
Mr. Bickell’s formal title is emergency applications clerk, but capital defense lawyers have an informal title for him, too. They call him the death clerk.
In remarks at a conference of lawyers specializing in federal death penalty work at a hotel here last month, Mr. Bickell provided a rare inside look at the Supreme Court’s oversight of the machinery of death in the United States.
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