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Executions in CA Still on Pause, Virginia Gives Vote to Some After Prison…and More on DOJ/Media Spying

June 3rd, 2013 by Taylor Walker


The CA stay on executions will remain in place after a three-judge panel of the lst District Court of Appeal in San Francisco upheld a lower court ruling that the CDCR has failed to comply with procedural law when establishing lethal injection regulations.

The Sacramento Bee’s Denny Walsh has the story. Here’s a clip explaining what might come next in the process:

Steve Mayer, lead appellate counsel for the condemned inmates challenging the regulations, estimated it will take “at least nine months to a year, and maybe longer,” if the state decides to craft revised regulations and jump through the rule-making hoops set out in the Administrative Procedure Act.

On the other hand, if the Brown administration petitions the California Supreme Court for review, Mayer said, “we are looking at anywhere from two to four years” before the court issues an opinion. It depends on how long it takes the seven-member court “to get four justices to sign off on something.”

Mayer said the case is unique in that “the CDCR did such a bad job. There wasn’t a single step in the process they did right, so it’s not surprising there is no case law right on point.”


Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announced that he would automatically restore the voting rights of disenfranchised non-violent offenders who meet certain criteria–a big step in the right direction for a state where over 7% of the adult population is disenfranchised.

In California, voting rights are restored automatically once a person is released from prison and discharged from parole (probationers can vote). You can look up the voting laws for ex-offenders in the rest of the states here.

Here’s a clip from an NY Times editorial on restoring the voting rights of the disenfranchised:

Governor McDonnell’s order, which could cover more than 100,000 people, reflects a growing awareness that disenfranchisement serves no rehabilitative purpose — and may, in fact, contribute to further criminal behavior by forcing former offenders to the margins of society.

In all, nearly six million Americans — about 2.5 percent of the voting-age population — are barred from voting by a confusing patchwork of state laws that strip convicted felons of the right to vote, often temporarily, but sometimes for life. Nearly two dozen states have softened their disenfranchisement policies since the late 1990s, with several states repealing or scaling back lifetime bans.


To address the controversy over recent outrageous cases of spying on journalists by the Department of Justice, Attorney General Eric Holder assured media editors in a private meeting that the administration would push for a federal “media shield ban” to protect journalists from unreasonable and invasive subpoenas. (Thanks, Eric. Nice to know that you plan to protect us from…um, you.)

Wall Street Journal’s Devlin Barrett has the story. Here are some clips:

Mr. Holder and aides said they were open to changing the guidelines the department uses to broaden the circle of officials who have to agree that subpoenas are justified as a last resort. The officials also said they were open to annual reviews with news organizations, according to a Wall Street Journal editor who attended the meeting.

The department’s guidelines haven’t been revised in more than two decades, and the officials said they needed to be updated to deal with significant changes in news gathering that have occurred in that time.


Mr. Holder and the other Justice officials told the editors they were committed to protecting the role journalists play in reporting on the government. Mr. Holder and his top aide, Deputy Attorney General James Cole, have been criticized by press organizations and First Amendment advocates for what have been called overly broad seizures of reporters’ phone records, as well as a search warrant to read one reporter’s personal emails.

Mr. Holder and his aides also said the administration would throw its weight behind an effort to pass a federal media shield law, though such legislation would likely have little impact on the two cases at the center of the current controversy, according to the editor.


And with good reason, we think.

Here’s a clip from the Huffington Post’s story about why NYT’s Executive Editor Jill Abramson decided the paper wasn’t going.

Jill Abramson spoke out on Sunday about the New York Times’ decision to boycott Eric Holder’s meeting with news organizations, saying that the newspaper is worried that “the process of news gathering is being criminalized.”

Attorney General Holder recently met with outlets to review the DOJ’s guidelines for investigating journalists. The meeting, however, provoked even more controversy when it was announced that it would be off-the-record, prompting the Times among others to abstain from attending.

“To have this private meeting with the attorney general and not be able to share anything about it with our readers didn’t seem to have a point to me,” Abramson told Bob Schieffer on Sunday’s “Face the Nation.” “The Times and our readers are quite concerned about the six active criticism leak cases that the Obama administration has pursued. That’s more than all the other administrations combined. And, you know, we are concerned that the process of news gathering is being criminalized.”

Later, she added that it was important to remember that the public is probably less invested in the case than journalists, and more preoccupied with other issues like the state of the economy and the cost of health care.

The AP and the Huffington Post were among the other outlets that declined to attend once it was announced that the meeting was off-the-record—an extraordinarily tone-deaf decision on the part of the the administration.

At the meeting Holder reportedly announced to those assembled that, regarding the whole spying-on-media thing: “I get it.”

And yet the meeting remained off-the-record— although finally Holder agreed that journalists could report “in general” on what was discussed.

This leads many of us to believe that, although Holder is trying mightily to diffuse the media’s anger toward him and the DOJ, he still doesn’t, in fact, “get it.”

Posted in Death Penalty, Government, journalism | No Comments »

Calling on Arianna and Co. to Do Their Part for California

June 17th, 2009 by


    Where’s Sacramento? Who cares? You’d find better ideas for solving the budget mess on this crowded 720 bus on Wilshire Boulevard.

Pardon me, but I’m on a long ride around town trying to come up with ways to help the state budget. Here’s my list that calls on sacrifices by everyone from Arianna Huffington to annoying golfers who stifle American productivity by playing their silly game. Hold on, these taxes would also address some of the major problems, personality and otherwise, plaguing L.A. and the state.

Hypocrisy Tax: Charge every board member of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority $200 every time they drive a car and fail to take a bus or train to a meeting. Revenue estimate: $500,000

Mental Health Tax: Let’s admit the psychological benefits of tobacco and open smoking rooms in all public buildings. Admission would be $5 a day or $300 for an annual pass. Revenue estimate: $1 million a year.

Rudeness Tax: Charge elected officials $1,000 every time they get distracted at a public meeting and start talking to their colleagues instead of listening to a staff report or a member of the public during the ever-dwindling time for public comment. Revenue estimate: $35 million, with half of that paid by chatty L.A. City Council members.

Newspaper Burial Tax: One cause of the decline of newspapers in America today is Arianna Huffington, the Brentwood online publisher who steals much of her content by telling writers she helps their reputations instead of their pocketbooks. Now she’ll pay $2,000 for every piece she runs without compensation. Revenue estimate: $10 million.

Golfer’s Tax: Anyone with four of five hours on their hands to hit springy balls hundreds of yards around water-sucking lawns in the middle of our desert, and avoid real exercise by riding in a cart, can afford this $100-a-game fee: Revenue estimate: $30 million

Sky-is-falling Tax: Blogger and secession activist Ron Kaye must pay $1,000 a day if he ever fails to file a post that in some way pushes for felony indictments of what he likes to call the bums at City Hall who are robbing his valley residents blind. Revenue estimate: $1,000, for that day every year when he writes about the birds nesting in his yard.

Jack Weiss Lecture Series: The unloved and prickly failed candidate for city attorney shares his tips about meeting constituent needs and forging alliances during his tempestuous years on the L.A. City Council, in monthly forums in Taper Auditorium at the main public library. Admission: $25 or $100 for the annual series of five lectures. Revenue estimate: $125, assuming his family shows up.

Posted in Future of Journalism, Government, transportation | 27 Comments »

Driven (Partly) Sane by Congestion Pricing

June 12th, 2009 by


    Ugly Secret: They never were free

If it were up to me, trucks and solo drivers would be banned from all L.A. freeways during rush hour. Carpools would not be two people; they would be a driver and at least two passengers. Buses would be free for all. Fares would be low for light-rail and subways. We would be happy to pay higher taxes because the 20,000 premature deaths blamed every year on air pollution would drop.

Believe it or not, we’re headed there–slowly, and in very small steps. For the next couple weeks, the public will be weighing in on a congestion pricing program that will allow solo drivers to pay to drive in carpool lanes on stretches of the I-110 and I-10. Ladies and gentlemen, you can deal with it. The revolution has not begun.

Of course, foes abound. I suspect that L.A. Times’ columnist Tim Rutten represents the thinking of many people as he tried to tear apart the plan this week. He was not particularly well-informed and chose either to ignore important elements that address low-income drivers, public transit, the environment and health benefits, or maybe he didn’t read the entire plan. But fully weigh his views, particularly his demeaning example of a fictional mom working downtown who is rushing to care for her sick child at a Westside daycare. Here’s his column.

Make sure you read this overwrought line about the poor mom:

A society that can rationalize the imposition of such pain doesn’t need to worry over how to define equity; it needs to worry about its soul.

Note to Rutten: Rework the soul scold after doing some research on ultrafine particle pollution and learning how millions of microscopic specks that can fit on a nailhead find their way into lungs, hearts and brains of Los Angeles residents. These particles contribute to the respiratory ills that sicken and kill thousands every year. No society can allow this to continue.

Rutten’s screed got the attention of the public affairs department at Metro. Score one for Marc Littman and Rick Jager. They posted a response to Rutten’s shallow and misleading arguments on Metro’s Web site today.

They shot down his arguments by addressing the full range of alternatives offered by the program:

This program provides the single mother with additional choices, some of which may be preferable to her. Through the $200 million in transit improvements along with the creation of the ExpressLanes, one new choice would be to take better and more reliable transit to avoid the highway traffic. Another choice based on the program would be to enter the toll lanes and save essential time. That choice could be made easier if she uses credits that she has built up by using transit, an element we’re including in the program specifically for lower-income commuters.

Mr. Rutten seems to suggest single moms will have difficulty making decisions when facing traffic congestion. Single moms respond every day to changing circumstances and choices that are far more complex. Traffic doesn’t have to be like the weather. We may not be able to transform it altogether, but we can have choices to make it better — for everyone. That’s the point of this program.

Pick a side, any side, and show up at a public hearing, starting Saturday. Here’s the schedule.

Posted in environment, Government, health care, journalism, Los Angeles Times, transportation | 15 Comments »

Spitzer and the Creep Factor

March 13th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


I never imagined I’d comment on this.
..but the latest wrinkle in the story has gotten under my skin.

For the last few days the Eliott Spitzer hooker scandal has been juicy
and distracting in a schadenfreude kinda way. We felt bad—and angry—for Spitzer’s wife, Silda, an attorney who gave up her career when her husband ran for office and had to stand beside the weasel Eliot twice as he did his mea culpas. But, had it not been for the fact that Spitzer fashioned his career based on a holier-than-thou, corruption-busting tough guy image, it was hard to get too upset about the fact that the governor went to a high priced call girl.

I mean really. Prostitution, at least at the call girl level,
is a victimless crime. (Young immigrant women in the back rooms of massage parlors who are little better than indentured sexual servants are something else again.)

Other than the fact that it’s, well, illegal, the hooker thing seemed morally preferable to say…..carrying on with a young intern.

Then yesterday, we learned a little about Spitzer’s pricey paramour, courtesy of the New York Times.

It turns out that “Kristin,” the fabulous. thousand-dollar an hour call girl that cost Eliot Spitzer his job as governor, is in reality 22-year-old Ashley Alexandra Dupré (born Ashley Youmans).

A pretty girl with a poignant and hopeful MySpace page,
Ashley says she left home at age 17 , and that there was abuse. After bouncing around, being “broke and homeless” she eventually headed to New York in the hope of finding a career in music. After a bad boyfriend ran out on her, she was looking for a way to survive financially and evidently somebody mentioned the escort option.

So the fabulous $1000-an-hour “Kristen,” while a pretty and rather winning-looking young woman, was not some drop dead gorgeous, exotic sex goddess, but an emotionally banged-up New Jersey girl young enough to be Spitzer’s daughter. Literally.

Spitzer has three daughters ages 13, 15, 17.

Bottom line: Spitzer has, over the years, spent possibly $80 to screw young women just a few years older than his eldest kid. (And exactly the age of my kid, and my kid’s friends.)

What a CREEP! What a lousy, selfish, narcissistic jackass!

A pox on you, Eliot Spitzer.

(Okay. Next post will be about gangs and other pithy issues. But I just couldn’t let this pass without saying something.)

Posted in Government, National issues | 23 Comments »

Hillary’s Macha Problem

October 18th, 2007 by Celeste Fremon

NOTE: As we swing deeper into election season, I’ve agreed to do some semi-regular posting at the Huffington Post’s Off the Bus section, looking primarily at how social justice and related issues intersect with the Presidential race. (Blogfather and good friend, Marc Cooper, lured me into this.) So, if you’ve got tips or topics you think I oughta tackle, bring ‘em on.


It has been clear for some time that, whenever she debates her democratic rivals,
Hillary Clinton is determined to position herself as the toughest guy in the room. But, now that—rightly or wrongly— she appears to believe she’s headed for a lock on the democratic nomination, her advisers admit that she’s begun to campaign beyond the primaries to the general election. This means that, instead of merely trying to out-macho Obama and Edwards, HRC is now focused on demonstrating that she’s a manlier man than Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson or Mitt Romney. This would all be fine and dandy if it were not for the fact that Hil’s way of proving she is ultra buff—politically speaking—has some very unfortunate downsides.

A prominent example is her vote late last month for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, a nasty, war-mongering little measure that urged the State Department to declare Iran’s 125,000-member Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. This Dick Cheney-dream of a move is the rough equivalent of, say, Russia declaring the U.S. Marines a terrorist group. In other words, it’s a stance that is provocative at the least and, at worst, a back door, tacit agreement that it’s okay for the President to order tactical strikes against Iran’s military training bases without Congressional approval. Obama and Edwards both came out against the resolution (although Barak wasn’t there for the vote). Yet, Hilary has declared that her YEA vote was simply to “put some teeth into all this talk about dealing with Iran.” Right, Hil, just like the Iraq war resolution.

More recently, there has been Hillary’s waffling on torture. In last week’s interview with the Washington Post, she gave a stupendously fuzzy answer when asked what she thought about torture in general, and the CIA’s special interrogation methods, specifically: “It is not clear yet exactly what this administration is or isn’t doing,” HRC said. “We’re getting all kinds of mixed messages. I don’t think we’ll know the truth until we have a new president. I think [until] you can get in there and actually bore into what’s been going on, you’re not going to know.”

When a full transcript of the interview was released, we saw that Hil also said the US should draw a “bright line” about the torture issue, a specifics-challenged stand that doesn’t really differentiate itself from that of George “We don’t torture.” Bush.

This past Monday, Hillary appeared on The View where she was again questioned on the torture issue and had a brand new opportunity to say “No waterboarding,” no “rendering” people to countries that do practice torture. She didn’t take it.

In some ways, Hillary’s macha routine is understandable.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Civil Liberties, Gangs, Government, National politics, War | 15 Comments »

Been Taking the Weekend Off….

October 7th, 2007 by Celeste Fremon

(NOTE: Above graphic shamelessly heisted from Ross Blog at

I’ve been in a non-blogging state of mind
….working on another deadline, and generally enjoying the lovely fall weather. But will be back in full force tomorrow morning.

In the meantime, aside from the various news stories
on Blackwater, gang “rent” payments, and DWP rate hikes, out of Sunday’s papers, I recommend the following:


The Facebook Revolution – No this isn’t a social justice issue, but it’s an interesting read anyway, unless you’re planning to live like Christopher McCandless, the Into the Wild guy. (And things didn’t turn out that well for him anyway.)

Militant Atheists are Wrong – an anti-anti God essay that has some interesting and discussion-provoking points to make. “Their assault on religious faith amounts to an attack on the human imagination,” writes author Lee Siegel.


On Torture and American Values - “Truly banning the use of torture would not jeopardize American lives,” writes the NY Times, “experts in these matters generally agree that torture produces false confessions. Restoring the rule of law to Guantánamo Bay would not set terrorists free; the truly guilty could be tried for their crimes in a way that does not mock American values.” Expert opinions on this matter are pretty close to unanimous. So why does American policy dictate otherwise?

Race Gap: Crime vs. Punishment - An interesting and nuanced essay that asks the questions: IF criminal legal proceedings seem to turn out differently for people of different races, when does a constitutional problem exist?


The WaPo has its own torture-memo-related editorial, but the big Must Read from today’s Post is this story: An Exit Toward Soul-Searching: As Bush Staffers Leave, Questions About Legacy Abound.

AND ABOUT CERTAIN SPORTS DEVELOPMENTS having do with (cough) damned Stanford (cough), I have no freaking comment.

Posted in criminal justice, Government, Guantanamo, Life in general, National politics, prison policy, race, Religion | 6 Comments »

Who is Mukasey? Read for Yourself.

September 16th, 2007 by Celeste Fremon


In the next few days and weeks much will be said
and written about 66-year-old retired federal judge, Michael B. Mukasey, George Bush’s choice to replace Alberto Gonzalez as Attorney General.

Mukasey will assuredly be confirmed as he was on the Democrat’s short list of possible AG candidates, and within an hour or so after Sunday’s leak of Mukasey’s name, Chuck Schumer was already gushing mightily over him.

The guy is reputed to be a fair-minded, smart, experienced judge, committed in general to the rule of law.

But, before we issue any blank checks, let’s look a bit further.

In addition to many, many published opinions, Mukasey has a couple of op eds that give you a peek into the man’s thinking in his own words. You can find them here and here.

So, who is Mukasey? You tell me.

Here’s my first bounce take. Ninety percent good, conservative jurist. That other ten percent? A bit too willing to trust the administration on issues relating to terrorism. And anybody who doesn’t trust Bush Co on such issues…well, they just don’t get it.

To wit:

More recently, a statute called the USA Patriot Act has become the focus of a good deal of hysteria, some of it reflexive, much of it recreational.

My favorite example is the well-publicized resolution
of the American Library Association condemning what the librarians claim to believe is a section of the statute that authorizes the FBI to obtain library records and to investigate people based on the books they take out. Some of the membership have announced a policy of destroying records so that they do not fall into the hands of the FBI.

In addition to the library association,
many towns and villages across the country, notably Berkeley, Calif., and Amherst, Mass., have announced that they will not cooperate with any effort to gather evidence under the statute. A former vice president has called for the statute’s repeal, and a former presidential candidate has called the act “morally wrong,” “shameful” and “unconstitutional.”

Right. Hysterical librarians. Berkeley and Amherst.
In other words, (gasp) liberals who are too stupid to read the Patriot act…and who don’t understand the dangers that the Big Boys see.

Oh, please. I’ve got news, Michael, honey.
Among those “hysterical” library associations who passed resolutions stating that they would not adhere to section 215 of the Patriot Act, you’ll find associations from the state of Montana, and that hoary bastion of crazy liberalism, Idaho (credit where credit is due, Larry Craig was supportive of Idaho’s librarians), and Georgia, North Carolina, Utah, North Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming….and all the rest on this list.

But, hell, I’m sure they didn’t read it, (and don’t get it). They’re only librarians.

In short: although, in many ways Mukasey seems to be a reasonably independent thinker, he has blind spots. He’s not a Bush insider, which is a relief. And he’s actually far better than the first names floated. But, still I say cuidado.

What do you say?

Posted in Government, National politics | 32 Comments »

Overplaying the Secrecy Card

September 16th, 2007 by Celeste Fremon


Sunday’s Los Angeles Times
has an excellent opinion piece that flags the dangerous trend among U.S. judges to rubber stamp any and all claims of the state secrets privilege by the executive branch. The op ed is written by my writer pal (and UCI boss) Barry Siegel.

And just to help you put Barry’s piece in recent and vivid context, a little memory refresher:

On September 26, 2002, Syrian-born Canadian citizen, Maher Arar,
a computer engineer with a smart, pretty wife (who has her own PhD in economics), and two young children, was detained at JFK airport. Arar had stopped in New York on his way back to Ottowa after vacationing in Tunisia. Without allowing Arar real access to a lawyer or anything resembling due process, US officials claimed he had ties to Al Quaeda and, despite the fact he held a Canadian passport, shipped him to Syria as part of the US’s shadowy “rendition” policy. In Syria, Arar was kept in a cell that measured approximately three feet wide, six feet deep and seven feet high—in other words, just about the size of a grave. “The grave,” is how Arar came to think of the place where he would spend the next year of his life, brought out, by his account, only for interrogations, beatings and occasional torture.

Arar was finally released on October 5, 2003,
and flew to Montreal the next day, 375 days after U.S. immigration officials arrested him.

When the Canadian Commission of Inquiry
issued its report into Arar’s case, Justice Dennis O’Conner stated catagorically that there was no evidence at all that the engineer, father of two, was involved in any kind of terrorist activity. His arrest and subsequent imprisonment, beatings, and torture was an artifact of false and fuzzy info passed to US officials by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that the Americans never bothered to examine at all before shipping Arar off to Syria.

Arar sued the US government for damages over his detainment and rendition to Syria. In February of 2006, US Judge David Trager ruled that the case couldn’t go forward because the court couldn’t possibly interfere in a case involving crucial national security issues. “The need for much secrecy can hardly be doubted,” wrote the judge.


It’s exactly this kind of blind, “the king can do no wrong” judicial acceptance that Siegel questions.

The retreat of the judiciary has also meant that accused enemy combatants and victims of “extraordinary rendition,” such as Maher Arar and Khaled El-Masri, have not been able to protest their treatment in court. Nor have a variety of penalized whistle-blowers and federal employees making discrimination claims against the government. Nor have contractors embroiled in business conflicts with the military, a scientist defamed by accusations of espionage or a sixth-grade boy investigated by the FBI for corresponding with foreign countries during a school project.

Over time, the desire to protect military secrets has started to look a good deal like the impulse to cover up mistakes, avoid embarrassment and gain insulation from liability.

Anyway, read the whole thing. Barry is particularly equipped to do this commentary as he has just this month turned in the final draft of his new book “Claim of Privilege,” about the 1950 case of U.S. v. Reynolds, and the 1953 precedent-setting Supreme Court decision that started it all.
That historic case, writes Siegel, concerned the crash of an Air Force B-29 two years earlier near Waycross, Ga.

A lawyer for the widows of three civilian engineers
who died in that crash wanted the Air Force’s accident report, expecting it would shed light on the cause of the disaster. An assistant U.S. attorney balked, arguing that the report could not be released without seriously hampering national security….

The case went up to the Supreme Court
and the secret keepers won. Reynolds became the landmark case invoked ever after whenever an administration wanted—for good or for ill—to keep information hidden.

In the nearly half-century between the Reynolds case and 2001, the U.S. government has invoked the privilege in a total of 64 cases.

In the last six years, the Bush administration has invoked it 39 times.

Many of us have come believe that, more often than not, this knee-jerk claim of secrecy has far more to do with maintaining power at all costs, and covering mistakes, incompetence and negligence than it does anything relating to the safety of the citizens of the United States of America.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of cover-ups, Barry has this note about the original Reynolds case:

Declassified half a century later, the disputed B-29 accident report turned out to tell a tale of military negligence — maintenance failures, missing heat shields, cockpit confusion — not one of national security secrets about a radar guidance system. The government, it seems, was seeking to cover its embarrassment and hide its mistakes, not to protect the country’s security.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Courts, Government, National issues, National politics, Supreme Court, War | 9 Comments »

The Return of Alan M, the Hinchey Amendment, a Ploy to Cripple Charter Schools, and other Thursday News

July 26th, 2007 by Celeste Fremon

Furious local constituent expresses self

1. THE GOOD NEWS AND THE BAD NEWS about our treasured pal Alan Mittelstaedt
is that…the reason he hasn’t been writing here at WLA (the bad news) is that he was hired as News Editor for LA City Beat (the good news) and his LA Sniper column premiers today. It’s smart, snarky, well informed and will easily become a must read for Los Angeles folks (and anyone else who appreciates smart snark).

In terms of the reactions of those in city government
…? Well, let’s just say I’ve advised Alan to invest heavily in Kevlar.


2. THE HINCHEY ROHRABACHER AMENDMENT (PREDICTABLY) WENT down to defeat yesterday evening. Here is the exact roll call vote. Shout accordingly.

And here’s an except from Maurice Hinchey’s
post vote statement:
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in City Government, Courts, crime and punishment, Government, National politics, prison, prison policy, Public Health, State government | 5 Comments »

Border Justice? How ‘Bout Justice…Period???

July 19th, 2007 by Celeste Fremon

Arizona Shadow Wolves
Shadow Wolf customs agents with drugs seized at another US border

In case you haven’t heard, for the past year, there’s been a rising hullabaloo
about two border agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, who, in 2005, shot an unarmed drug dealer multiple times as he ran across the Texas-Mexico border southeast of El Paso, and then took pains to cover up the shooting, and lied about. (The Houston Chronicle has a good back-story article.)

The men got more than ten years in prison as a consequence—Compean got 12, Ramos, 11—while the drug dealer—whom prosecutors say they were unable to charge, in part because of the bad shooting—was a federal witness and has since recrossed the border several times, possibly bringing another load of marijuana. (Although no one’s been able to prove the latter.)

The case became an anti-immigration flash point,
causing enough powerful people to be upset by the sentencing that earlier this week there was a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue.

The truth is, it sounds like the ex-agents did what they were convicted of doing, and then tried to make it go away. And that’s kinda against the law. The reason for the lengthy sentences (which do seem quite excessive) was that the men (obviously) used a gun in the commission of the crime, which ads an automatic ten years. In other words, the judge and the prosecutor couldn’t have given the ex-agents lower sentences if they’d wanted to.

Such are the joys of the world of over-the-top determinate sentencing laws that paired with automatic sentencing “enhancements” that can produced hideously out-sized sentences with no room for mitigating individual circumstances.

By the way, as these were federal guidelines, they were all set by Congress.

California is loaded with such laws and enhancements
. Three Strikes….the STEP Act….10-20-Life. These laws have produced ou sentencing horror stories by the bushel full. And most of ‘em are waa-a-ay worse than the ex-agents’ 10 plus years.

So did any of the brave Senators present at the hearing do the courageous thing and call for an overhaul of such obviously problematic federal determinate sentencing laws?

Oh, heck no. First some Republican lawmakers tried to push through some nutso, likely-unconstitutional laws to try to get the agents out of the pinta. Then Wednesday, senate Republicans, joined by California’s own Diane Feinstein, wrote letters pressuring President Bush to commute the agents’ sentences. (Why? Because they’re political symbols in the immigration policy debate, that’s why.)

Of course, Bush is in a tricky bind because if he does yet another commutation it will make him look….how to put it?… a tad hypocritical in continuing to oppose sentencing reform. (Plus he knows and purportedly likes the beleaguered Texas prosecutor.) So far, Bush won’t say what he intends.

Stay tuned.

Posted in crime and punishment, Government, immigration, National politics | 2 Comments »

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